THURSDAY, May 17, 2007 - Alan Arbesfeld

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: BOXED SET (55A: Special CD release ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme) - Rebus puzzle wherein "SET" is "boxed" into one square at five different places in the puzzle.

A very enjoyable, if very easy, puzzle. If you started in the NW (you know, where 1A is ... doesn't everyone start there?) and got that quadrant filled in, then you had SIAM... as the lead-in for 17A: Ones with a family connection? and really what else is that going to be but SIAMESE TWINS? Not enough letters? Must be a rebus - but which letters are rebafied? I thought maybe WIN, but no, SET. At this point, however, I didn't know why SET had been rebuscated. I thought the theme might end up having something to do with tennis, and I would see GAME and MATCH rebusted at other points in the puzzle. But no ... just SETs - five of 'em:

  • 17A: Ones with a family connection? (Siame SET wins) c/w 18D: Begin (SET out)
  • 10D: Fail to keep tabs on (lo SET rack of) c/w 19A: Takes root (SET sin)
  • 36D: Be very, very sorry (cur SET he day) c/w 46A: Much higher than normal (fal SET to)
  • 64A: Shrewd bargainers (hor SET raders) c/w 65D: Scrap (SET-to)
  • 41A: Former European money (pe SET as) c/w 30D: Decimal (ba SET en)
My favorite of these is FALSETTO, as the answer appears to come out of nowhere - no obvious musical frame of reference to the clue. CURSE THE DAY seems slightly off as an answer for [Be very, very sorry], in that the latter could stand alone and the former ... couldn't. Had a hard time with PESETAS and BASE TEN because I figured that since the theme was BOXED SET, and I already had four SETs in the grid, and one side of a box has four corners (are you following this logic?), then all sets must be accounted for. Put PESOS in where PESETAS should be ... but I figured out my mistake in pretty short order.

Not much in the esoteric department today. Didn't know 15A: _____ Ben Adhem (Abou) - he was a Sufi saint about whom James Henry Leigh Hunt wrote a poem (mid-19th century):
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An Angel writing in a book of gold:

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?" The Vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."

"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the Angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one who loves his fellow men."

The Angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And, lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest! (quoted from Wiki)
I don't really know 62D: Famed Ferrara family (Este) - and yet I knew it. That's what we call Crossword Knowledge. Totally superficial.

There are some good clues and answers in the grid. I had a ton of trouble with 23A: It's not forked out (soup) ... even after I had SOU-!!! I decided SOUR and SOUL didn't make any sense, then I decided I should just leave it and come back to it. I think the "P" was about the last letter I put in the grid. SOUP. "Not forked" - ah ... yes. Nice. I am a sucker for Bette Midler's "THE ROSE" (5D: 1980 Bette Midler hit) - I think it is probably my favorite thing she has ever been involved with ever. (For my least favorite, please see "Wind Beneath My Wings," the movie Beaches, etc.) I never understood what "THE ROSE" was doing in a pseudo-biopic of Janis Joplin, in that the song seems very unJoplinesque. But I was ten when that movie came out, so what do I know? I enjoy the bold colloquialism of HETERO as an answer to 20A: Straight. Also love the subtle trickiness of 50A: Single, for one: Abbr. (syn.) - great, unexpected twist on the very conventional cluing phrase "for one." Why do I know that 27D: Bing Crosby's label is DECCA? Seriously, it was a gimme, but he's waahaaay before my time and to my knowledge I have never spent any time thinking about his recording career.

Perhaps the most interesting section of this puzzle is the Far East, where the vibrant CACKLE (31A: Not just laugh) opens up a triad of interesting Downs:

  • 32D: French military hats (kepis) - more Crossword Knowledge. If it's not BERETS it's KEPIS, which makes me laugh because it makes me think of KEWPIE dolls (Kreepy!).
  • 33D: Big name in '60s counterculture (Leary) - remember when drugs could set you free, man? I don't. For me, growing up, here is what I thought of drugs: drugs = death. Do not pass Go. Thanks, mom!
  • 34D: The first Mrs. Woodrow Wilson (Ellen) - a jillion ways to clue ELLEN - and this puzzle goes the route of Presidential History. And why not? I like a little education with my puzzle.
Happy to see AMERCE (59A: Punish by fining) in the grid, because I knew it this time (unlike last time). I didn't exactly know that LAPP was a 10A: Relative of Finnish, but I've been doing puzzles long enough to know that LAPP is something up there in the North. I'll give a little shout-out to AUSPICES (9D: Patronage), because it's a spicy, slippery, somewhat uncommon word that was very difficult for me to pick up (hard to see without the "U" in place). ADAMANT (45D: Not taking no for an answer) is nice, but is always better when clued as ["Goody Two Shoes" singer] than when clued as a plain ol' adjective.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

29 comments:

jorge 10:05 AM  

There were a lot of crossword knowledge and random knowledge for me in this puzzle. I got Abou off the bat because I'd seen it in lots of puzzles before, but I still had no idea who he was. I got Kepis off the bat (well, I knew the answer, but not the spelling) because I saw a documentary about the French Foreign Legion on the Military Channel once, and their kepi blanc is the equivalent of our green beret, pretty much. Then there was pesetas, which I've now seen enough that it doesn't give me many problems. I got that one from the -AS. There was also amerce, which stumped me a few weeks back. So yeah, good puzzle that made me feel like I have a solid foundation of crossword/random knowledge.

Linda G 10:11 AM  

Don't know how I missed AMERCE a few weeks back. I didn't get it on the acrosses, but the downs took care of it.

For some reason, I was able to recite the first two lines of the poem, so ABOU was a gimme. Why is it that I can remember things like that but forget the important stuff?

I started nailing things in the NE, so LOSES TRACK OF was the rebus giveaway for me.

Not difficult at all, and very entertaining.

Alex 10:16 AM  

As mentioned on another blog the fact that I had RUE THE DAY for "Be very, very sorry" before I had figured out the theme really threw me off.

And doing it in the applet when I stupidly changed it to RUES THE DAY (while complaining about the constructors wrongness on the clue which should then be "Is very, very sorry;" so my apologies to Alan Arbesfeld for the doubts) so that FALSETTO would work I couldn't see that I was actually putting in RUES E THE DAY. It took me forever to fix that typo which allowed me to stop trying to figure out what RENT A --E could possibly be.

DONALD 10:21 AM  

Agreed on ADAMANT!

mmpo 10:48 AM  

Well, Rex, I went through exactly the same process that you described in your opening paragraph. Here's what I jotted down last night...
I spotted this as a rebus puzzle as soon as I had SI_ME and the clue to 17A. But I also had just read the clue to 1D and...spelled 17A like this: SIAMESE T[WIN]S. When I got 10D and 19A, I didn't really get how SET related to WIN (well, I did start to think there might be a tennis theme), but I left it like that until I had most of the rest of the puzzle solved, including the hint 55A - BOXED SET. Nice. Once I rearranged 17A to read SIAME[SE T]WINS, everything fell into place.
I like how OSLO is right below LAPPland in the far north.
Also OPAL AFIRE
PITA ABOU
NIP AT / TASTE
EDGY NINA--as in NINA Simone? :)
Also there's, WASN'T __ a SIAMESE HETERO? Yikes! That could get us in deep trouble.
Anyway, I found this puzzle exceptionally enjoyable. Objectively, it may have been more difficult than yesterday's (what do you think?), but for whatever reason, this one went quite smoothly while yesterday's had me tearing my hair out.

barrywep 11:17 AM  

The English prof in Rex emerges. He learns a new poem and can't help sharing it.

Howard B 11:23 AM  

No drugs...
Don't drink, don't smoke - what do you do?
(Subtle innuendos do not follow).
[/end of 80s flashback]

OK, puzzle commentary. Enjoy rebuses (rebi? Reba?!?), love the inclusion of BASE TEN, along with the other words mentioned already. AMERCES made me cringe for some reason.

Have fun, all.

profphil 12:26 PM  

Rex,

I enjoyed the puzzle and completed it but did not find it easy. I did not get much in the NW but had the NE quickly and figured out the rebus from there but still took me a while to complete.

Query: How did you get "set" inside the square? I do the puzzle on line.

Jerome 12:33 PM  

PROF,

I think you hit the "esc" button.

mmpo 1:31 PM  

In Across Lite, you hit the INSERT key. In the applet, I've just been inserting the first letter of whatever word (in this case, SET). This registers as correct when you submit.
Just tried ESC in both platforms.That didn't work. Neither does INS in the applet...

Anonymous 1:40 PM  

Thanks, I use Across Lite.

Profphil

Howard B 1:41 PM  

Quick note about the NY Times applet (it's somewhere in their FAQ):
In the NY Times applet, to enter two letters, you press '+' followed by the two letters. For three letters, '++', and for four letters, '+++'. The NY Times applet doesn't support more than four letters per square right now, unlike Across Lite.

If you choose this route, you have to enter all the rebus letters correctly, as you would for any other letters, for the submitted puzzle to be accepted. There may have been problems with correct puzzles not being accepted by earlier versions of the app, but I'm not sure - I've only used it for about a year.

Wendy 2:05 PM  

Adam Ant? Oh Howard!!!!

klochner 2:36 PM  

loved the puzzle, but also had some trouble until my "aha" moment with "loses track of". Rue the day killed me for a while, and the NW/SE corners were tough for me.

Ultra Vi 2:37 PM  

At least a few of Rex's readers are old enough to have heard Janis Joplin in concert, expanded our minds with toked substances, and followed the dictum to make love, not war.

Now we are working to record and produce boxed sets of CDs of respectable composers like Beethoven!

Ah, the good old days...

klochner 2:39 PM  

can someone clue me in on the syn/single connection?

Ultra Vi 2:41 PM  

klochner,

I had trouble with that, too - think it means that "single" is a synonym (SYN) for "one."

Tricky, yes!

Anonymous 4:22 PM  

I'm an elementary school teacher and in my classroom we are currently discussing base ten and decimals (as well as other bases just for fun) so base ten was the first boxed set I got.

Anonymous 6:46 PM  

Have you told them about the 10 types of people in this world, those who understand binary and those who don't?

Anonymous 7:34 PM  

Hi Rex:

I like this puzzle, except for CURSE THE DAY.

Also prefer symmetrically placed theme but no big thing.

Surprised to see such harsh condemnation of drugs here...do you mean booze too?

Not trying to pick a fight but I'm a big supporter of legal marihuana and I hate to see anti-drug hysteria especially as espoused by one I hold in high regard such as yourself.

(Please don't ban me...).


Pen Girl :)

Rex Parker 7:40 PM  

You'd pretty much have to be high to think I was espousing anti-drug anything. What a weird thing to say. The whole passage is saturated with the past tense and clearly refers to me as a boy, "growing up."

rp

Anonymous 7:46 PM  

Okay...guilty as charged...sorry.

PG :)

Anonymous 7:54 PM  

*In my defense I do find the wording slightly ambiguous.

Given a close reading, it is not clear whether or not you mean "thanks mom" in a sarcastic sense or a genuine one.

Also, the "free, man" bit seems somewhat derogatory or mocking.

But obviously I misread...FWIW I did preface my comment by saying I was surprised.

So I hope my comment seems less weird now...

Best,

PG :)

Rex Parker 8:27 PM  

OK, so maybe the perfect clarity of tone was in my head more than on the page.

rp

xwd_fiend 1:59 AM  

Enjoyed this one - must have been easy as my best ever time for a Thursday fell by about 30% (As an occasional NYT solver, Thurs is about the limit of reliable finishing for me.)

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

regarding the friday puzzle--was really hung up on 31 across because retton was not the 1st woman on the wheaties box---it was elinor smith!!! retton was the first woman athlete!!!

francois 4:34 AM  

Not being a native, I found this puzzle pretty difficult. Could somebody please explain 60 down for me (REPS for "gym count") as well as 12 down (PLIE for "bend at the barre")?
I also have a gripe with MEDIA for "press". MEDIA is a plural form, and the press is just one medium, along with TV and radio (among others).

Rex Parker 6:34 AM  

Hi Francois,

REPS = repetitions
PLIE = a ballet term (with an accent aigu ... I'm pretty sure that's from *your* language...)

PRESS and MEDIA are interchangeable here insofar as they are words used to describe a group of reporters.

And anonymous is right about Elinor Smith's being the first woman on a Wheaties box ... but apparently didn't read the clue, which specified "first woman on the FRONT of a Wheaties box" - that's RETTON.

francois 8:31 AM  

Thanks, Rex, it's all crystal clear now! PliƩ means "bent" or "folded" in French, so I should have known, but the accent aigu not being there is what threw me off.

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