SUNDAY, Jun. 10, 2007 - Bob Klahn

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Relative difficulty: Hard

THEME: "All About National Public Radio"

I liked almost nothing about this puzzle. I disliked it so much, in fact, that I'm barely going to write about it [again, this ends up being a lie]. I'll let you all have at it. I do, however, have to detail some stuff that I think is terrible.

But first: It was just HARD for me. Fully three places in the puzzle had me utterly stuck, sometimes because of Terrible cluing, other times because of my ignorance.

Place I got stuck #1

93D: Capital of Valais canton (Sion)
92A: World's biggest city built on continuous permafrost (Yakutsk)

These intersect at the "S." By any standards, these are both geographical obscurities. It's bad enough when obscurities intersect, but obscurities from the same area of knowledge? Bad form. I guessed correctly, somehow.


Place I got stuck #2

16D: Words of endorsement ("sign here")

Now, my rage at this clue is offset somewhat by my own sloppiness. I had SIGN and wrote in SIGN ME UP, because, well, it's not a good answer, but it implies that the speaker "endorses" something ... unlike the actual answer, which are words encouraging another party to endorse something. You have to torture that clue to make it cough up SIGN HERE. I had a huge gap around the bottom of this answer for a Long period of time because of my error.

And #3, The Biggest Problem: The Montana region of the puzzle...

  • 5A: K.G.B. predecessor (OGPU) - never heard of it
  • 6D: "Just a _____" (Marlene Dietrich's last film) ("Gigolo") - know it only as a David Lee Roth song
  • 7D: 1914 Booth Tarkington novel ("Penrod") - barely barely barely heard of it. Of all the Booth Tarkington novels ... look, if you can name one Booth Tarkington novel, that novel is "The Magnificent Ambersons." If you can name another, maybe you can name this one. I sure couldn't.
  • 34A: Doc's wife in "Come Back, Little Sheba" (Lola) - no idea. Just ... none.
  • 8D: Disentangle (unpile) - this is the mud icing on this trash heap of a cake. Not aware that UNPILE was a word, and certainly not aware that it meant anything approaching "disentangle"
So my ignorance plus super-iffy cluing = unpleasant time. I also Hated the fact that the title of the puzzle tells you the theme. I actually got the "NPR" aspect of the theme answers before I ever looked at the title - and then when I did, felt totally deflated, as it took all the fun out of figuring the gimmick out myself.


Theme answers:
  • 23A: Tax relief, e.g. (campaigNPRomise)
  • 39A: Mary Shelley subtitle, with "The" ("ModerNPRometheus")
  • 58A: TV star who directed the 1999 documentary "Barenaked in America" (JasoNPRiestley)
  • 83A: Fall event, usually (seasoNPRemiere)
  • 101A: Matter of W.W. II secrecy (ManhattaNPRoject)
  • 121A: Serigraph (silkscreeNPRint)
  • 3D: Contortionist (humaNPRetzel) - best of 'em all, and I somehow got it off of just the "H"
  • 66D: Russian literary award established in 1881 (PushkiNPRize)

Here are some (more) ridiculous "words"
  • 52A: Free, in a way (unpeg) - ugh - well, it's a step up from UNPILE, I'll give it that
  • 63A: Consume piggishly (englut) - well now you're just making words up. What's next, monkeys banging on a keyboard?
  • 76A: Answers, for short (sols) - short for "solutions," I get it. Just ugly.
  • 88A: Palatable (sapid) - got it off just the final "D" and groaned as I typed it in
  • 111A: Permanently (in pen) - horrible. Some pens erase now. Maybe you've heard. And just because something's "in pen" doesn't mean it's "permanent."
  • 128A: _____ cards (ESP testers) (Zener) - aha, there we go! Monkeys typing!
More unknowns:
  • 43D: Flag raiser (halyard) - never seen the word in my life
  • 40D: World's smallest island nation (Nauru) - I'm including this, even though it was in the puzzle just a day or so ago, because, well, it would have stumped me last Sunday.
  • 105D: Second-highest mountain in the lower 48 states (Elbert) - how the hell can I Never have heard of the second-highest US mountain not in Alaska!?
  • 100D: The whale in "Pinocchio" (Monstro) - Haven't seen the movie in forever, had no idea. It's a nice, colorful answer, but with so many things killing me today, I didn't need one more, however fair.
  • 48A: Big letter (epistle) - not a requirement that it be "big"!!! Formal, yes. Big? Sometimes ... but not always. Many classical epistles aren't that long. I had EPSILON here for a while. Not sure why it would be "big" either ... but it is a letter.
  • 9A: Crookspeak (argot) - now I know what ARGOT means, but ... it doesn't mean this! Or, rather, it doesn't mean only this. Any kind of specialized language might be called an ARGOT. Here's a definition of ARGOT I lifted from Wikipedia, attributed to Bruce Sterling, that I think is way way more accurate:
"the deliberately hermetic language of a small knowledge clique.... a super-specialized geek cult language that has no traction in the real world."
I live among academics. I know of where I speak.

Now I'll tell you the stuff I liked. I've already mentioned HUMAN PRETZEL - beautiful. Also really loved 59D: Initial sounds of a relief effort? ("Plop plop") - "... fizz fizz, oh, what a relief it is" - I'll take advertising jingles any day of the week, Alex. Lastly, the cluing on PEC is superb: 14D: Lifter's rippler. I'm off to try to forget this puzzle.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

57 comments:

Chris 9:08 PM  

Those are all perfectly cromulent words.

jlsnyc 9:52 PM  

well, the rex rant made me laugh -- because so many of your "complaints" were mine. though i feel fairly certain i actually *enjoyed* the puzzle more than you did.

to put a more positive spin on the solving experience, i see the constructor as that cagey klahn with his arsenal of arcana. fair? unfair? taking mellocat's lead: ymmv.

"big letter"? thought it was gonna be "capital b." too many letters for that, however. oh, then "capital." wrong again...

my one "real" complaint (such as it is), is that it took me so damned long! (so what else is new?...)

;-)

janie

p.s. "cromulent" -- perfect!

Jerome 10:32 PM  

Loved your rant.

This puzzle was, In a word: HARD!!!

Especially since I didn't get NPR unitil I read your blog.

BTW, when lawyers or accountants send forms to be signed, they sometimes attach little red arrow stick-ons that say "SIGN HERE."

In football, when the running play up the middle is over, the mass of players UNPILE.

As a long ago boy scout, I knew LANYARD.

Liked Kurt denial - NEIN.

Didn't know PAVANE or OSLO (never hear of the Storting).

These aside, your comments were right on.

Thanks. Your post made up fo an excrutiiating puzzle solving experience.

Wendy 10:51 PM  

I'm with you. Big time ugh. I got tired and didn't even finish. Maybe I should have waited until the morning - let that be a lesson to me. I think I've been ENGLUTting too much on the puzzle. I don't know what my life would be like if I did more than one daily. I'd probably have to join a 12 step program.

Part of my angst concerned one of my favorite artistes, Paul KLEE(S). I didn't recognize the titles, dammit, so something that should have been a gimme, wasn't. That made me madder than a hornet's nest coupled with the double-edged sword of the Energy Star clue. In connection with this morning's ALBEDO, I deal with Energy Star frequently and know that it is a joint program of the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy which is clearly spelled out on the web site. So the answer could validly be either EPA or DOE (as it is known) and I had the latter.

I don't know whether you'll take it as good news, Rex, that I read Ally of the Cheyenne as a proper name, as in Ally McBeal. I honestly didn't 'see' the word "ally" at any point in my deliberations. One of those brain farts that gives me a good laugh in the face of adversity ;)

Linda G 11:46 PM  

I'm glad you were able to figure out the theme without even seeing the title, Rex. I couldn't see it even when I was finished. I was checking your Saturday comments and saw that you had already posted Sunday...and that's how I learned the theme!

Not nearly as enjoyable as last Sunday's which I did leisurely on the road to Denver/Longmont.

Norrin2 12:15 AM  

If you'd ever played the board game Risk, you'd know about Yakutsk.

Orange 12:45 AM  

Ah, here's where we differ. I approach a Bob Klahn puzzle with great anticipation: "Oh, good! I'm going to have to struggle to get through this one!" Hard puzzles are my favorites, and I sure wasn't disappointed. Hell, I even singled out a few more deadly crossings at my blog, on top of those you listed. (I didn't mention LOLA and UNPEG but had the same thoughts as you.)

You can Google up the entire book of Penrod. Having just been to a kid's birthday party today, I skimmed the "Birthday Party" chapter, and it is insane. "For the first time in his life he [a 12-year-old] knew the wish to be sand-papered, waxed, and polished to the highest possible degree"? Oooo-kay. I think that means a Brazilian.

Crazy puzzle with a zillion "what the..." spots and a theme with no real surprises, and yet I loved it.

profphil 1:58 AM  

Rex,

Thanks for your blog. I was feeling really stupid as it took me a ling time to complete and had to Google for Miro and the Paul Davis clue. What I hate about this puzzle was that even after I had the answers, many made no sense to me which is why I was so reluctant to put those answers to begin with: OGPU, Halyard, englut,Elbert, Zener and Otsego. As you said Nauru would have been on the list had it not recently been in the puzzle. Luckily I had then looked it up and read that it was the smallest island nation. This actually reminded me of the erstwhile puzzler Eugene Maleska. Answers that may be real words but are neither cross word regulars nor recognizable even after one gets them. That to me is a bad puzzle.

However, reading your blog took the sting out of my slowness and googling -- thanks.

Anonymous 2:00 AM  

Jerome,

It's Halyard, not lanyard.

Anonymous 3:37 AM  

If you've ever been on a sailboat you know that a halyard is a line used to pull a sail to the top of the mast, over a pulley ("block" in sailorese). A flag halyard works exactly the same way, hence the same name.

Evad 6:38 AM  

My moment of disbelief in this puzzle was having --G-UT for "Consume piggishly" and assuming that it would be "something OUT" (like PIG OUT, but that would be too close to the clue, so I just put the O in first).

That left me with POOPP-OP (not having the crossing DWELT yet) for "Initial sounds of a relief effort"...you can probably see where my mind was going then!

akakii 7:43 AM  

This was just plain painful for me, too. I solve early Sunday morning - I find it a nice way to wake up - but today it made me just want to go back to bed. Ugh.

The OGPU answer really irritated me. OGPU was the predecessor of the NKVD, which in turn spawned the KGB. I suppose technically the answer is correct. I should be thrilled with a puzzle that has several Russian answers, but this thing really irked me.

Rex Parker 8:47 AM  

Orange makes a good point - sometimes a "holy crap!" puzzle can be just the kind of senses-jarring experience that a jaded puzzler needs. And at least this puzzle isn't boring.

I had just heard "I GO Crazy" on Friday while poolside at my friend's house. She has the Awesomest mix of Top 40 pop music circa 1978-1980, which is one of my pop culture sweet spots anyway. Bring that @#$# on!

"If I could fly / I'd pick YOU up..." Anyone?

rp

barrywep 9:38 AM  

Rex is just being pissy again and should be embarassed that he didn't know PENROD which even I , a chemistry/political science major remembered. This puzzle was tough but fair. I knew YAKUTSK from the board game Risk (a favorite of my kids) and the clue brought MONSTRO back into my head from who knows where. As Amy said on her blog the NPR theme made it more like a themeless but when I got it most of the way through it helped with one answer and provided a check on the others.

It was just Klahn beeing Klahn.

Orange 10:01 AM  

Barry is obviously on crack. I, as an English major, did not know PENROD. Tarkington may have won the Pulitzer, but I'll bet most English majors have never read anything by him.

Orange 10:20 AM  

(At least, most English majors in my and Rex's age group.)

Fitzy 10:41 AM  

Terrible clues this week...

Wendy 10:44 AM  

And I was an English major in the 70s and never read Penrod or anything by Tarkington either ... I'm not embarrassed by that at all ;)

Linda G 10:46 AM  

I didn't have to read anything by Tarkington in college (not an English major), but we had to read Seventeen in high school. What's up with that?

Now I have to download "I Go Crazy" because I have that one line stuck in my head ; )

Norrin2 10:56 AM  

I don't know about English majors, but I'm a college dropout and I've read "Penrod" as well as the sequel "Penrod and Sam" and "The Magnificent Ambersons" and "Seventeen" and "Alice Adams." Tarkington actually won two Pulitzers, but I guess it's true that his reputation has not held up well, and some of his work would be considered racist today. (Penrod hung out with a couple of black kids named Herman and Verman who spoke in an almost unintelligible dialect.) But if you're as fascinated by the 1920's and the 1910's as I am, reading Tarkington can be rewarding.

Norrin2 11:00 AM  

Oh, and I'd much rather read Tarkington again than listen to that horrible "Into the Night" song Rex referenced, the one where that borderline pervert talks about flying with his 16-year-old girlfriend. Yuck.

Anonymous 11:10 AM  

I glommed on to YAKUTSK because of the board game. However, I was plagued by not remembering the name of the board game. So thanks commenters for providing the name RISK.

Jerome 11:22 AM  

Anonymous.

I had halyard in the solution. Thought I remembered it from the Boy Scouts but obviously confused it with lanyard. Freudian slip?

Thanks for pointing it out.

Anonymous 11:51 AM  

Sorry to differ, but I liked this puzzle. found it to be just the right degree of hardness and didn't google. BUT I had forgotten that Alka Seltzer commercial and could NOT believe that such a scatological clue and answer would turn up in the venerable Times Sunday, or any day puzzle!!

BlueStater 12:15 PM  

Thanks, Rex, for getting me over the fear that I was alone in finding this puzzle to be simply dreadful, one of the worst in recent memory, particularly for a Sunday. This kind of puzzle belongs in Games magazine; it has no place in a general-circulation newspaper.

Norm 12:19 PM  

I liked this puzzle a lot -- especially since I started with "pigout" where "englut" ended up, which meant I was trying to answer "Initial sounds of a relief efforts" starting with "poop" and I couldn't believe that could be right. Fortunately, it wasn't. Knew Zener cards from college psych course, halyard from sailing, OGPU from spy novels, etc. And, yes, that final "s" cross of "Sion" and "Yakutsk" was hard, but guessable. All in all, a decent way to start out a Sunday.

mydogischelsea 12:46 PM  

OH MY WORD. I couldn't agree more---this puzzle sucked! I mean, truly sucked. And the theme? "NPR"? That's it?!?? Lame. I kept thinking there'd be some other hidden aspect to it, but no.

I got HALYARD, but only because I'm a sailor.

profphil 12:50 PM  

Jerome,

Better: A Freudian slip-knot.

M. Murphy 1:22 PM  

Is Klahn being Klahn like Manny being Manny?
Is Penrod related to Nimrod?

Howard B 2:24 PM  

With Norrin on that song... creeps me out quite a bit ("Into the Night", singer = Benny Mardonez? very early 80s?) Memory's fuzzy, but Norrin described it nicely, although it does admittedly remind me of summertime some years ago, when they seemed to play it all the time. So that's not a bad thing.

Oh yeah, the puzzle. Agreeing with Orange on this one, except for the literary and geographic arcana - that gave me some serious trouble. Although it helped to recognize YAKUTSK from a little bit of Risk-playing, I couldn't parse the clue for PECS until a few passes through the puzzle. So a mixed bag otherwise. PENROD might as well have been any string of letters to me, and I now keep reading it as 'Pernod', which doesn't help matters.

Agree with Rex on the theme giveaway, one of those where you got it from the title, or you just weren't going to see it. Either a giveaway or no help at all, with not much in between.

Finally able to solve Klahn's puzzles (with difficulty), and I can say it's worth the fight to get through them - most puzzles afterwards seem a bit kinder and gentler, so it's a learning experience for sure. For what it's worth, he was a really nice guy to meet in Stamford - he seemed to take my anguished description of his style in stride. ("Oh, I've seen your name before, your puzzles torture me! I now suffer from Klahnophobia!" etc.). I'm sure he'd heard it all before, and didn't try to run out the door. I didn't know at that point he had a tournament puzzle waiting for us... luckily it turned out to be a notch or two milder than this one.

Incidentally, Dr. Klan is the name of the villain in the Bruce Lee sendup skit featured in Kentucky Fried Movie - if you've seen that obscurity, that character kind of fits this puzzle. Trust me.

Andrew 2:49 PM  

I would think that between Klahn and Kahn we could get a "Khaaaaaan!" over herre.

Alex 4:56 PM  

You've never read Penrod, never been on a sailboat and never been to Yakutsk. can't find argot among all your knowledge...?

How did you get to be an authority on this?

Karmasartre 5:03 PM  

Wendy, worse than reading Ally as a McBeal was my reading of it as an "alley". Confusion ensued to be followed by humiliation. Why was Ms. McBeal's name pronounced like Alley rather than Ally anyway.

Had enough MONSTRO to think maestro...more confusion. Never heard of a cheesenip...like a catnip? And I was so flustered by where YAK was headed I completely blew the RUST gimme. Had GIGOLO and yet still couldn't get OGPU.

Unenjoyable, but at least there were a few educational things I'll forget in the next five minutes, like ZENER and where the Storting sits. I assume the Storting also "stands" in Oslo, like when a major Cheesenip enters to deliver a speech.

I prefer the ones where I use my brain rather than my google....

Anonymous 5:57 PM  

Blog comments are comments. Blog posts are posts. Was no one else bothered by this?

smat 6:25 PM  

I'm convinced the Times simultaneously published Lee Iaccoa's infinitely more satisfying, not to mention [explitive] sane, crossword on it's site to make amends for Bob Klahn's [stronger explitive] irritating attempt at same in print today.

Orange 6:47 PM  

I disagree with bluestater. This Klahn puzzle has no place in Games magazine—I sure wish they published tough regular crossword puzzles (non-variety grids) like this one, but they don't. They've dumbed down in recent years.

Anon 5:57, I too like to call posts posts, and comments comments, but approximately a zillion people call comments "posts." (Sigh.)

Zener cards are those "Do you have ESP?" cards they were using at the beginning of Ghostbusters. Remember that scene?

Linda G 6:51 PM  

Norm, I was going in the same direction after the incorrect PIG OUT. But seeing it in print was even funnier than when I was there alone : )

Cheese Nips were my favorite cracker snack as a kid. Had to give up on them when I learned about trans fat. Bet they make them without it now.

I think I'm mixing up Into the Night and I Go Crazy into one song in my head. I'd better get to the bottom of this.

Jerome Gunderson 7:39 PM  

Rex- you've become a long-range nuclear bore. At one time you were fun, fresh and interesting. Somewhere along the line you became a grumpy young man. It's a sad thing to see, someone who has gone from cool to the pantheon of an inane blog.

Jerome Gunderson

barrywep 7:58 PM  

Klahn being Klahn is like Manny [Nosowsky] being Manny [Nosowsky].

BlueStater 8:06 PM  

Keep on truckin', Rex, and ignore the carping. You're a fresh new voice about the NYT puzzles, which badly need a commentator who's willing to be critical of them when they deserve criticism -- and, of course, laudatory of them when they deserve praise, as they do much of the time but not all of the time, as one might conclude if one read only the Times Forum.

Wendy 10:07 PM  

How uncouth! You can't just sail in here and unleash personal attacks on the blog host. Jerome Gunderson, if you don't like the blog, you don't have to read it. I daresay those of us who come back day in and day out have better things to do with our time, if the blog is so inane. Which it's anything but.

Orange 11:25 PM  

Jesus Christ, Jerome Gunderson! Have you never heard of such a thing as a writer's persona? Have you never heard of such a thing as manners? Have you never heard of such a thing as changing the channel, closing the book, or not navigating to a website if it doesn't strike your fancy any more?

Plus you're sullying the name "Jerome," which another commenter also uses.

Howard B 12:12 AM  

Amen to that.
(I'm tired, so I'm terse for once).

Fitzy 12:23 AM  

Do I always agree w/ Rex 100%?
Heck no! But he is more often than not right on the money... Rex is King!

Anonymous 3:49 PM  

I agree with Rex on this one. Too many obscure names and places - not enough word usages and word play. Think a mix of 30/70 makes for a whimsical tough puzzle. This was almost 50/50 which made solving the obscure names and places almost impossible. Had to Google SION and YAKUTSK... hate that.

je[son 2:36 PM  

From my week late vantage point...Jerome, you're way off base. Perhaps you started off in a worse mood than Rex after he did the puzzle? Keep up the work, Rex!! I enjoy it!

Anonymous 2:39 PM  

A week later . . .

I'm with you on this one. It's great that professionals like Orange get to stretch their minds occasionally, but this one is too tough.

Yes the clues are fair once you see the answers, but there have to be some gimmies to get you started. I need to google a few times towards the end of most weeks, but on this one I had to google just to get an opening. That feels like piling on--running up the score to humiliate your opponent. Pfui.

BTW, please note that Linda G is giving a pointer to the syndicated puzzle. This is user-friendly to those of us in the time warp. It also means that we don't glimpse things while paging down that we might remember one week or six weeks later--clues, so to speak. Cheating. (I don't want to feel like that guy at the ACPT who held his paper up to the light.)

I'd say "Great blog, Rexy" but I'm no DQ. I just like your work, Rex. Lots.

TimeTraveller

Anonymous 3:02 PM  

Well, we don't get the puzzle until a week late, so probably no one will ever read this, however....
Booth Tarkington novel (1914).
Uh uh. Penrod was published, according to my source, in 1922.
Rockey & Misty

Rex Parker 3:15 PM  

Two seconds on Google proves you wrong. It's 1914. Here's a page with a facsimile of the original to prove it:

http://books.google.com/books?id=rqcXAAAAIAAJ&dq=penrod+tarkington&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=mZqjm7F9qG&sig=Av9hySpShcZlxghAYDNv2YViwCQ#PPP4,M1>br/>
"Copyright, 1914, by Doubleday, Page & Company"

Anonymous 9:26 PM  

One Week Later in San Diego

Halyards were essential in the days of Sailing Ships, when masts were crossed with "yards" to stretch out the sails. Halyards were lines (ropes) that literally "hauled" the tops of the sails to the yards. Flags and pennants were also hauled to the yards to be visible to other ships from a distance. Bad sailors were sometimes hanged from the "yardarms."

jae 11:53 PM  

I'm at the point on the puzzle learning curve where there are three kinds -- those I know I can do, those I think I'll eventually need to google but don't, and those that I google. This one fell into the latter category. For me a good puzzle is one that challenges but is ultimately doable unaided. Its not hard to make an impossible puzzle. What's hard is to make a hard puzzle that is doable by more than just the Amy's of the world. This puzzle almost got there. Rex already pointed out the problem areas. I had to google 2 1/2 times. Once in SE for PUSHKIN PRIZE (my background is psychology focusing on memory research not literature/english), 1/2 in the middle for the Shelly subtitle (half because I knew it was Frankenstein but couldn't remember the subtitle), and once in Montana for the KGB predecessor. Glad I played Risk or I might have googled more.

Anonymous 1:54 AM  

I googled admiral who went down with the Scharhorst and it was not Spee !

Anonymous 1:49 PM  

wasn't really that bad...got the theme immediately which proved to be a big help...sailing and risk backgrounds help...currencies are often pegged, bu8t OGPU and ENGLUT are too much for hollywood...

sis 5:13 PM  

The only reason I found this page, Rex, is because I googled "lifter's rippler"... I thought it was abs but it didn't work with the other words! I completely agree with your comments, although I did figure out the theme very early on, I still had a very hard time with this puzzle. I normally refuse to google anything until I have carried the puzzle around for days but this time I was just tired of looking at it. I hate when I feel like they just make words up and that was how I felt as well. As for the K.G.B. predecessor, I think it's an acronym for "Oh Gee, P!U!" because that just STUNK! Anyway, I enjoyed reading ALMOST everyone's comments, but Jerome Gunderson.... didn't your mother ever tell you if you can't say anything nice... yada yada yada...? M.Murphy, I think we found the definition of"Nimrod"!!

I like it when these puzzles challenge me too, but this one was a bit much for my pea-sized brain! I will have to check out these blogs again the next time I'm stumped! Thanks!

pks 1:38 PM  

After 3 weeks and a lot of googling, I finally finished this miserable thing. I agree it is one of the worse puzzles I've ever waded through. Ditto on all of your comments!

Anonymous 8:49 PM  

I'm with Rex. HATED IT! Just so many words that sounded made up. I wouldn't even TRY to get away with "englut" in a Scrabble game!

Anonymous 8:19 AM  

I, like Sis, found this blog when I googled Crookspeak. I agree with most of you, this was a really difficult puzzle. Haven't played Risk in years. Never heard of OGPU. I, too, got the theme before I even started the puzzle. My strength is in word play, not geography. I love crostics, anyone else?I've been
Great site. I'll visit more often. Thanks, Rex.

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