MONDAY, Jun. 18, 2007 - Randall J. Hartman

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "[blank] of the [body of water]"

This took me way longer than it should have, and I blame 1A: #1 number two who became the #2 number one (Adams), which is the kind of stupid riddle I can't do even when I'm not rushing through the puzzle. I made the mistake of actually stopping to pay attention to this clue, which did me no good. To my credit, I sensed it had something to do with the Vice Presidency, but I couldn't make GEORGE H.W. BUSH or AL GORE fit, so I moved on, only when I came back, I couldn't get two of the Down crosses to behave:

  • 2D: "Are we agreed?" ("Deal?")
  • 5D: Sag on a nag (swayback) - dear god more of this @#$#-ing "cute" cluing; I don't want my Monday puzzle in a box with a fox, I just want it smoooooth.

DEAL just wouldn't come - no good reason - and SWAYBACK isn't exactly in my vocabulary, though I can infer what it means. I don't have much first- (or second-) hand experience with horses. SNEEZE AT (9D: Take lightly) was somewhat elusive as well - In general, I wasn't expecting so much multiple-wordiness and clue chicanery in my Monday puzzle.

Theme Answers:

  • 20A: She offered Excalibur to the future King Arthur (Lady of the Lake) - I teach a course in Arthurian Literature every so often, so this wasn't hard
  • 37A: Popular canned tuna (Chicken of the Sea) - we ate Starkist
  • 48A: Columbia, in old patriotic song (Gem of the Ocean) - I have No Idea what the clue is getting at. Columbia the city? Columbia University? Patriotic like "USA" patriotic? What song?


Best Answer in the Grid: ETOUFFEE (38D: Crayfish dish)

No idea who this MACRAE person is (25A: Gordon of "Oklahoma!") and barely know GREER (32D: Garson of "Mrs. Miniver") - this puzzle feels like it skews toward an older demograhic. The CBS-watching, "Murder, She Wrote"-loving crowd. Even the SEX is old (58D: Topic for Dr. Ruth). Not that there's anything wrong with that. And I guess the puzzle does get youthified a bit with MY BAD (10D: "Oops! I made a mistake") and the fabulous POSSE (31D: Rapper's entourage).

Overly cute cluing held me up on EMAIL (46D: Earthlink transmission), and HEADCASE (39D: One who could use a shrink) got held up because I thought for sure that BED (the "D" cross) was BEE (47A: Quilt locale).

That's all on this one.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orange 10:12 PM  

Do people still use Earthlink as an ISP? It seems to show up far more often in crossword clues than in my e-mail in-box.

Thank you for sharing my befuddlement about the GEM OF THE OCEAN business. I asked my husband, who was in his high school marching band, if he knew the song—he didn't, either. Maybe Dr. Ruth knows it.

In Googling up an explanatory link for SWAYBACK, I did an image search. There were far more pictures of people with scoliosis than pictures of old horses! Can't say I ever hear people use the word in reference to scoliosis, though.

Karen 11:27 PM  

Huh. Per wikipedia, '"Columbia" was commonly understood as a poetic name for the United States of America at the time [late 19th century].' That makes some sense. I'm more familiar with 'Hail, Columbia' (in it's incarnation as a space shuttle song).

Linda G 11:41 PM  

Rex, we were so on the same wavelength today, although I had [something] of the [body of water]. Also named ETOUFFEE as best word, and had BEE for quilt locale (rather than bed).

Except I loved 1A, once I got enough of the downs to figure it out.

Since BRA made another appearance, I linked back to your post a few days ago. It was even funnier the second time around ; )

Anonymous 6:17 AM  

Rex, you make me feel ancient. Poor Gorden, forgotten afte all these years. How do you get "posse" for 31D? Rapper's entourage? And My Bad 10D? What's that? Somebody help me, I'm slipping into senility. However, I found this the easiest crossword in many moons

Anonymous 6:57 AM  

A very popular patriotic song around the turn of the 19th to the 20th century was "Columbia the Gem of the Ocean"; second line: "The world offers homage to thee." My, how times have changed.

Scott 7:53 AM  

I guarantee you you'd recognize the tune to Columbia The Gem Of The Ocean if you heard it. A staple of movie and cartoon soundtracks.

MY BAD is certainly trendy, but POSSE? Isn't that rap term at least two decades old? Do gangstas even use it anymore?

Wendy 8:27 AM  

Well, apparently Will Shortz thinks they do ;)

Jerome 9:21 AM  

I zipped thru this puzzle, only having to look at a few down clues. Immediately got ADAMS after peeking at 1D. Being of an older generation (still hated Murder, She Wrote) knew Joel MACRAE and sang COLUMBIA, THE GEM OF THE OCEAN in elementary school. The only rough patch (where I had to look at three down clues to get) was 31A...since when is the PGA (or for that matter the AMA, the ADA or AARP, etc) a club?

Anonymous 9:33 AM  


Linda G 9:37 AM  

Anonymous at 6:17,

MY BAD is an expression, used often by a younger crowd, although I've used it recently. It means roughly the same as "I'm bad" but it sounds better. As for POSSE, I was as confused as you. Not into rap.

rock rabbit 9:37 AM  

I loved the clue SAG ON A NAG, but I admit that I have a Seussian sense of humor -- and I always love animal clues! So needless to say, I was happy to see MR ED, long of tooth and SWAYBACK himself, make an appearance. Along with a menagerie of companions--- Cheetah The CHIMP, and the unnamed EMU (Emmy Lou, maybe?) and foal.

JudyO 9:50 AM  

As a bayou-dwelling fossil, I recogonized Macrae, but thought the "crayfish" clue was sad...if you're going to all the trouble to make etouffee, please know that you'll be using CRAWfish! You're all invited to my house for dinner.


Orange 10:11 AM  

Actually, allow me to rebut Linda. "My bad" doesn't mean "I'm bad" so much as "mea culpa" or "sorry, my fault."

As for POSSE, I went to (a hiphop magazine) where a search for the word yielded about 250 hits. Here's one usage. The word's also included in some artist names: Insane Clown Posse, Prophet Posse, and Hypnotize Camp Posse.

Jerome 10:14 AM  

Doesn't POSSE = entourage?

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

I thought that "mybad" was already passe and was falling out of use, I haven't heard it much lately.

My head hurt when I saw 1A so I just passed it by after briefly thinking it had something to do with Avis/Hertz, and then easily got Adams once I had a few more things filled in.

I've been humming "Columbia the gem of the ocean" all morning, so it is in my memory bank from some childhood experience, don't know what and haven't thought of it for years. This page has all kinds of information about it, including kinds to sheet music and sound files. It's from the Library of Congress:

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

Thanks Linda and Orange for clearing things up.

Anon at 6:17

Samter Petuel 11:34 AM  

Here is what a google search on MYBAD turns up:

'My bad' came into widespread popular use in the mid to late-1990s in the USA via the 1995 movie “Clueless”. This starred Alicia Silverstone and contains what seems to have been the first use of the phrase in the mainstream media. The 1994 'Green revision pages' for the movie script has a scene with the Alicia Sliverstone character learning to drive:

"Cher swerves - to avoid killing a person on a bicycle. Cher: Whoops, my bad."

profphil 1:07 PM  

I knew "my bad " must be passe as I finally started noticing it this year and even saying it once or twice. Just last week,I heard a newscaster stumble over a word and he said "my bad." Then when I saw it in the crossword I knew it must be on it's way out or at least so a part of the language that it's not "new." It just amazes me that I must have been hearing it for a decade without realizing it or fully understanding it.

Rex Parker 1:16 PM  

"My bad" is the new "bling." Once a slang phrase becomes well known among white folks over 30 (or the second it's used by Oprah, whichever comes first), you can bet that it's already dead.

"Clueless" is a Great movie, though. It features ... Paul Rudd.


Orange 6:42 PM  

Paul Rudd was a tasty delight in Clueless.

kratsman 6:47 PM  

I agree "sag on a nag" is a bit too cutesy a clue. But as for "swayback"--let me just say that whenever the Three Stooges had occasion to ride horses, you could be sure Curly would always be riding a swayback.

R. Kane 9:05 PM  

The last (and best) of Greer Garson:

Anonymous 12:26 AM  

"my bad" simply means "my mistake." and i think it's archaic if it's considered slang now. when i played pickup hoop games in the late 80s and early 90s, it's use was widespread. -- nunyo.

Anonymous 12:39 PM  

I found this to be my easiest Monday puzzle yet (been doing the NYT puzzles for about three months now). Maybe it's because I'm older (and maybe because "swaybacked nag" is a familiar term to me).

Tim 4:20 AM  

Rex, I also am a beginner at Xwords and finished this in less than an hour. I thought it was the easiest one i've done to date (started NYT's four months ago.)

Maybe this one should be called the "Beginner's Luck" puzzle.

Anonymous 11:49 AM  

6WL ::::::

I found this one extremely easy. I enjoyed the 1a clue. I didn't care for "sag on a nag", because in my experience, the nag is referred to as a SWAYBACK, not the sag itself.

I agree with the above complaint about the PGA being a "club". That would be the PGC.

My good.

Waxy in Montreal 8:35 PM  

From the future:
Like anonymous 6 weeks ago, I found this the easiest NYT crosswords ever, in my case in the 2 years I've been attempting them.

Never heard of ETOUFFEE (38D) - obviously from French for stuffed or smothered - but it was readily yielded by the crosses.

PGA as a "club" is indeed an error except perhaps in the sense of the extremely few professional golfers who are able to get their card to actually play on the PGA circuit - but that's a stretch.

Incidentally, Gordon Macrae's wife Sheila became the 2nd Alice Cramden in The Honeymooners, replacing the immortal Audrey Meadows in the role on the Jackie Gleason Show. As far as I know, you never see any retro TV Honeymooners episodes starring Sheila Macrae for whatever reason.

For an old fuddy-duddy, POSSE was still my first thought in answering 31D (Rapper's entourage). An excellent clue methinks.

Anonymous 8:48 PM  

waxy :::

I never knew there was a second Alice. I guess the first one went to the moon....and not on gossamar wings. Thank you.

Anonymous 4:43 AM  

You've never heard of "O Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean". It was a very famous song. I don't remember who wrote it, but I know it was on one of John Philip Sousa's albums

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