FRIDAY, Jun. 29, 2007 - Mike Nothnagel

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

There were a Lot of answers I did not know in this puzzle, and yet (as with all well-constructed puzzles) crosses helped me piece them all together - and in pretty decent time, too. Not great, but decent. I would have been faster, but I stopped - out of sheer frustration - after 1A: Sitcom character with a leather jacket that's now in the Smithsonian refused to be FONZIE, which I knew to be correct. ARTHUR F? FONZERELLI? What the hell? Eventually I gave up in frustration and went elsewhere, only to come back and eventually get my duh/aha moment with THE FONZ (a great answer). As you all know by now, I watched every episode of that show from about 1977-80; what you may not know: I legitimately thought THE FONZ was cool, and I remember absolutely Loving a FONZ coloring book I got as a gift for my birthday circa 1977. How badly do I wish I still had it? (A: very)

Had some trouble in the North when I put in AFFIX for the much lamer but correcter INFIX (20A: Fasten firmly). Also had no idea what the answer for the nearby 24A: Quintillionth: Prefix was (turns out, it's ATTO! Stupid math constructors with their math terms, mathing up my puzzle!). NE took a while to come together, as STEIG (8A: The New Yorker cartoonist William), while my first guess, felt iffy, and I had ARE TOO instead of ARE NOT (15A: Childish retort, ugh), which gummed things up good. Also had UNI for ISO (22A: Prefix with lateral - how many prefixes are you allowed in one puzzle? There oughta be a rule. I hereby declare the answer to be: 2). Thankfully, BAHT (25A: Thai currency) just came to me (from crossword experience, no doubt), and though I didn't have INDIA for the longest time, I did have the INK part (11D: Drawing medium), so the NE eventually gave way.

Wasn't that thrilled with 14D: Omaha and Spokane were once in it (Kentucky Derby), more for the clue (too deliberately tricky) than the answer. Really liked the crossing of another multi-K long answer, ANAKIN SKYWALKER (35A: 2002 sci-fi role for Hayden Christensen), which was the real tipping point for me in this puzzle ("Nerd!"). HELL WEEK - both the answer and the clue phrasing (13A: Taxing preinitiation period) are Fantastic. Deceptive (I was thinking of CPAs...) and yet spot-on, and nicely surprising. I've ordered many a DESK COPY (39A: Teacher's request of a publisher) and yet had to take several passes at that clue before it fell.

Stuff I didn't know:

3D: California air station where Nixon landed after resigning in 1974 (El Toro) - what a weird bit of trivia. My only experience with EL TORO = a Mexican restaurant in Fresno called "EL TORO Tambien" ("The Bull as well..." ... ???)

56A: Seat of Hillsborough County, N.H. (Nashua) - once applied for a job in N.H., so had a very vague and distant memory of this place name.

41A: Dancer Limon (Jose) - seems like something I should know; I didn't.

54A: "David _____" (1934 Will Rogers film) ("Harum") - because [Procul _____] and [_____ Scarum] would have been too easy, I guess.

25D: Player of Dr. Kiley on "Marcus Welby, M.D." (Brolin) - going deeeep into the Brolin archives for that one. Nice.

58A: Nintendo game with exercises for mental acuity (Brain Age) - never heard of it. Completely inferrable, though, which I appreciated.

55D: "As I Lay Dying" character (Anse) - OK I know I've blogged this before, so it's weird to complain, but I remembered only about 3/4 of this answer. Between ANSE and EULA, Faulkner gets on my nerves.

Now the stuff I really liked: NL WEST (29D: Giants are in it) beats hell out of the more typical NL'ER. I love "Nancy" - it's super-genius comic art - so was happy to see SLUGGO (46D: Ernie Bushmiller comics character) in the puzzle. Q*BERT (52A: Classic arcade game character who hopped around a pyramid) brings back happy memories of playing video games in the 80's. We had a home version of Q*BERT for our Intellivision system. I'm pretty sure my sister was better than I was. 5D: Mouse catchers (owls) was nice in that the answer was not CATS. We recently saw an owl on one of our walks in the woods - it was pretty awe-inspiring.

I swam - like, for exercise, at the gym - for the first time ever today, and it is the first time I've ever considered the possibility of buying SPEEDOS (63A: Some shorts) - the other (i.e. real) swimmers wore them; I don't quite have the body for them, but if I keep swimming ... no, it's not going to work. I guess if I wore them EXCLUSIVELY for gym swimming, that might be OK. All the non-swimmer guys at the gym are pretty lumpy, so I can probably get away with it. PS swimming is @#$#-ing hard. I am in decent shape - I'm lean, I eat well, I do some form of exercise nearly every day ... and I was winded after four laps.

I don't think I understand NEO as the answer to 6D: Latin leader?, but NEO looks like a prefix so I'm going to have to call a violation of my recently instituted prefix rule. Ten points from Gryffindor!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orange 12:00 AM  

I know EL TORO strictly from the movie Independence Day. Who says pop culture isn't informative?

Ten points to Rex for the "Ten points from Gryffindor!" line.

profphil 12:47 AM  

Could Neo be a reference to The Matrix? I couldn't make sense of it. I had a hard time with the puzzle but after some hard work I all but completed it. The South East corner required some Googling had Brain--- and only the N for NASL. After those 2 Googles the rest fell. I'm still a newbie when it comes to Fridays.

Even though I never heard of anaker skywalker or any of the Sports references (i know nothing about sports) along with all the ones you too were clueless about, I still was able to figure most of them out even without Googling. That is definitely an impotant criterion for me as towhat makes a puzzle entertaining.

Anonymous 3:15 AM  

Latin leader = Latin prefix, i.e., Neo, meaning new.
I was too old for QBert, but all the crosses work.

Anonymous 5:05 AM  

I get that "neo" is a Latin prefix, but the "leader" always--in my experience--means that you affix the answer to the clued word--in this case, "Latin." Isn't that the convention? That leaves you with "neo-Latin," which is not a word I'm familiar with.

Anonymous 5:15 AM  

"Neo" is Greek, not Latin. The correct interpretation is that "neo" is the prefix in "neo-Latin".

Enjoyed the puzzle, but one more video game and I would have screamed. I pretty much know only up to Dig Dug.


Rex Parker 7:48 AM  

I understand (by now) the convention of "leader" meaning "prefix." And I'm well aware that the prefix "Neo" means "new." NEO-LATIN is just not a familiar enough word to clue as [Latin leader?]. Not by a LOOOOOOONG shot. This answer should have been CAPITAL L or maybe NE(R)O.


PS Q*Bert appears only one year later than the hilariously-named DIG DUG.

Squash's Mom 8:34 AM  

It always makes me feel better when you stumbled on the same parts that I did. The whole Fonzie/The Fonz thing was making me pull my hair out.

I had a total crush on James Brolin on Marcus Welby so I got that one right away.

Direct from wikipedia -
"Classicists use the term "Neo-Latin" to describe the use of the Latin language for any purpose, scientific or literary, after the Renaissance."
- Now we know!

Alex 9:34 AM  

Can I get an explanation of ONED being "Linear, briefly." I'm sure I am yet again being lame, but I'm not getting it.

Southwest took forever because of that one, the fact that I've never heard NEON LAMP (NEON LIGHT, but not LAMP) and that I misread the clue for SMORES as "Treated similar to Mallomars."

I have no idea how people treat Mallomars.

Rex Parker 9:37 AM  

ONE-D = one-dimensional.


jlsnyc 9:41 AM  

alex -- one "d" -- as opposed to, say, "a way to see some movies" -- in 3-d...



Anonymous 10:13 AM  


"WE WON!" was likely the exclamation heard round the world as people opened the paper this morning to find Nothnagel's name underneath a beautiful grid. My thought: "IT'S ON!".

The upper left fell in about 30 seconds (!) and for a brief moment I thought "maybe I'll finally only be double Amy's time instead of quadruple". Things flowed nicely until the lower right, which was my downfall. Didn't know HARUM, ANSE, SLUGGO, NASL, BRAIN AGE or BROLIN. This made for an awful mess, and as usual, I was quadruple Amy's time. Another day of her crushing my sad ass.

I was particularly impressed with Q*BERT - an entry I have wanted to put in a puzzle for many years but never had the guts to because I assumed Shortz would axe it faster than he did my most glorious entry ever: X GAMES X (Athletic event of 2006). Other prettiness included ACTNOW and HELLWEEK.

As I've said many times before, this kid is the Fresh New Hotness In Puzzledom (trademark 2007).


wade 10:26 AM  

I failed. Not only did I blank QBERT (despite having _ _ ERT), NASHUA (had NAS and guessed NASSAU) and PRESS (had PR), but I guessed HARUF instead of HARUM and had YACKED instead of YAKKED, which made Skywalker's first name ANACIN. This puzzle was biased toward video-gamers and Star Wars nuts. I'm 40 years old and have played only Donkey Kong, twice, in 1983, and have never seen a Star Wars movie. (THEFONZ, on the other hand, was a piece of cake. I still dream of Leather Tuscadero. I think Suzie Quattro was a puzzle answer some years back--great crossword puzzle name.)

Tough puzzle for me. I'm getting too old for this stuff.

crossnerd 10:27 AM  

Speedos aren't really meant to be flattering on anyone; they're meant to reduce drag when you swim, which's why competitive swimmers favor them.

(I can't explain Europeans.)

The Speedo brand puts out some very fine swimsuits overall, though, and I'm pretty sure they make men's suits that are a little less... speedo-y.

And yeah, swimming does take it out of you. I swam competitively throughout high school, doing this race called the 500... it's 20 laps of the pool, essentially. For fun, I swam it a year or two ago on my own. Thought I was going to die.

Howard B 10:50 AM  

Woohoo! Q*Bert! One of my favorites. A cool part of the original arcade game was that, if you forced your poor Q*Bert character to jump off the pyramid onscreen (and shuffle off Q's mortal qoil), there was a mechanism located at the bottom of the machine which would make a loud 'Smack!' sound a second after the fall (much like the sound some pinball machines make if you win a replay).
Real nice touch; this mechanism is often not working if you manage to find an original arcade Q*Bert these days.

So now you know. And knowing is usually half the battle. Although in this case, it's entirely useless.

Harleypeyton 11:38 AM  

As someone who grew up there, I'll take my Spokane clues anyway I can get them. And I don't mind the misdirect.

Alex 12:22 PM  

Oh, and I initially had BOOTCAMP for HELLWEEK. But the crosses quickly scrubbed bootcamp (though the right answer didn't show for a while).

1-D. I knew it would be obvious, it almost always is.

blue stater 1:19 PM  

Like Wade, I really felt my years on this one (and I have, um, lots more years than Wade). What killed me weren't the popcult items, most of which I got from crosses, but the marginal clues/answers. 36D (NEONLAMP -- light, but not lamp, IMO) has already been mentioned; 38D "Avalanche," SPATE, come together only in the metaphorical sense; 45D "Not stout," AFRAID -- a stretch. But the one I really don't get is 32D "Snap," PIC. Huh? And I didn't get 1A until the very end because I wanted it to be DAFONZ.

Orange 1:26 PM  

Blue stater, Wikipedia has a whole article on the neon lamp. I agree it's not the term used in the vernacular, but it's technically valid. Themeless puzzles are the cruciverbal home of the metaphorical sense, so the avalanche/SPATE pairing works for me. A spate of blog comments? Sure. Rolling like an avalanche.

Snap, short for snapshot = pic, short for picture.

Anthony 1:47 PM  

I believe the game is Brainage, not Brain Age...

Nothnagel 2:16 PM  

Hi folks.

While living in Louisville last year, someone asked me if I had ever played Brain Age, which I hadn't. (I never really thought of it as a video game, either, but I guess it is.) Anyway, the name stuck in my mind, and when I decided to use KENTUCKY DERBY in a grid, the B was there, in just the right place. So BRAIN AGE went in.

Apologies for loading up the grid with two video games and a Star Wars reference -- I'm actually not a Star Wars fan at all, but the name looked so good crossing KENTUCKY DERBY. I am a geek, but not of the sort that this puzzle might indicate. (If you are that kind of geek, here's to you.)

And Rex, I'm gonna math up your puzzle at every opportunity I get.


Wendy 2:18 PM  

Rex, many thanks for the Procol HARUM mention -- AND the album cover, an iconic image in my mental landscape. One of the cuts, Repent Walpurgis, was an anthem of my college years and I still play the album today.

Loved the puzzle, despite its orientation to, as wade says, video gamers and star wars nuts, neither of which I am. I could infer a lot that I didn't know (but I *did* know the skywalker thing just from ambient knowledge). I was utterly enthralled that right out of the box I got THE FONZ and STEIG. And SLUGGO -- ooooh what a great word for a puzzle appearance, I was grinning ear to ear filling that one in. As a mondo comics (or as we Truman administration types used to say, "the funnies,") fan, would like to hear more of your take on the merits of Nancy, Rex.

Vive le nothnagel.

Fergus 3:30 PM  

Echoing a quibble, I didn't like SLUGGO crossing with HARUM. Also, I wouldn't put SPEEDOS in the Shorts category, only marginally allow APT as fitting the Felicitous clue, and technically wouldn't cite a PRESS as a basketball defense -- seems to me to be more of an offensive manoeuvre, even if the team doesn't have the ball.

I imagine there's a fair amount of latitude for quibbling and pedantry on this blog?

Orange 3:37 PM  

Speedo sells shorts, too. Who'd a thunk it?

Rex Parker 3:57 PM  

HARUM is obscure, but SLUGGO is not not not. Way before my time, technically, but so iconic that I knew "Nancy and Sluggo" well before I ever got into comics.

PRESS is most decidedly and unambiguously a *defensive* strategy, albeit an aggressive one designed to make the other team cough up the ball, thus putting your team back on ... offense.

I'm off to the gym, but not in Speedos. Stationary bike set to "Cardio" + bright red iPod set to James Brown = me winding down from work week (during which I actually worked, for once...)

frances 4:43 PM  

Speaking of quibbling-

Isn't the corner where you had problems (Steig, are not, etc) NE and not NW? I offer this tentatively, since I often confuse left and right when giving directions!

Orange 4:52 PM  

Hey, Nancy and Sluggo were regulars in the funnies pages when I was a kid.

blue stater 5:22 PM  

Thank you, Orange, for straightening me out re PIC. As for the rest, we'll agree to disagree, I think.

campesite 5:33 PM  

A Nothnagel with the first answer THE FONZ? Good stuff for a Friday.
I really rubbed my temples for the Omaha and Spokane connection thinking it was a defunct railroad or maybe a division II basketball conference.

Rex Parker 5:35 PM  


You are of course correct about my meaning NE, not NW. As I have said before, I am legitimately E/W dyslexic.

Fergus 10:53 PM  

Press in basketball is like a blitz in football. It's defense, surely, but it's not a form of defense, which I thought was implied by the clue. Very loosely, I suppose, one could toss a Press into the bin of what happens when you don't have the ball.

Reckon I'm being too exacting on this one, though -- or stuck with a lingering preconception.

Mona 11:47 PM  

Rex said:
>and I was winded after four laps

I started swimming when I was also running regularly, and I, too, was amazed at how quickly I fagged out. Try swimming slower...pace yourself, as they say. Eventually I was able to swim a mile but never could have learned to do it if I were also trying for speed. Good luck.

Anonymous 12:27 AM  

A wonderful book on swimming: Staying With It : On Becoming an Athlete by the late John Jerome, who decided to become a competitive swimmer at age 47.

Anonymous 7:05 PM  

6WL :::To swim for speed? or savor every stroke? Where have I read this before?

It took ages, but I slogged through. I missed QBERT (never heard of it) and HARUM (never heard of it) and the crosses weren't helping. "Taxing Preinitiation period" (13a, HELLWEEK) was a fabulous clue, making "Have no dinner companions" (17a EATALONE), directly below it, seem even more desultory in comparison.

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