SUNDAY, Jun. 17, 2007 - Tony Orbach & Patrick Blindauer

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Rear Axle" - "LE" is taken off the end ("rear"?) of a word in a familiar phrase, and that "LE"-less phrase is then clued.

Took me a while to cotton on to this theme - I couldn't do a damn thing with DANG CARROTS, no matter how hard I tried, and had to say "TRICK DOWN THEORY" over and over to myself a few times before the familiar phrase TRICKLE DOWN THEORY popped into my head and the "Rear Axle" thing finally made sense. DANGLE CARROTS? Really? That one is bad, as is BREAD AND BUTTER PICK. What the hell is a BREAD AND BUTTER PICKLE? I see that it is something (from Google) but it's not a phrase I ever remember hearing, ever.

Theme answers:

  • 23A: Yosemite Sam's cursing of Bugs Bunny's food? (dang carrots)
  • 28A: Explanation for why some pillows do weird things? (trick down theory)
  • 47A: Basic food choice? (bread and butter pick)
  • 68A: Short-term worker who causes utter disaster? ("Temp of Doom") - I read "utter" as "udder" and spent much time trying to make the answer cow-related
  • 86A: Jazz-loving entomologist? (boogie woogie bug boy) - best theme answer, one which I got off of just the final -GBOY
  • 112A: Meal for the Three Little Pigs? (family-sty dinner) - knew it involved STY immediately, but it still took some hacking away at the crosses for me to figure it out
  • 118A: Work on analytical psychology? ("The Jung Book") - good one

In non-crossword news, I saw "Knocked Up" today - not as good as everyone says, but very funny nonetheless. I have the biggest man-crush in the world on Paul Rudd. I confessed this to my wife this evening - she understands.

Mistakes I made:

  • IN A RUT for IN A FIX (2D: Stuck)
  • LETS GO for LOOSES (58A: Frees)
  • HEMO- and EXACTO for HEMA- (22A: Blood: Prefix) and EXACTA (49D: Bet to win and place), respectively

Hardest crossing:

121A: Czech composer Janacek (Leos)
96D: Melodic (ariose)

These cross at the "S," and man they are both weird-looking. Nearly succumbed to the "N" (LEON looks like a real name), but LEOS was my gut instinct and ARIOSE ... well, if OTIOSE is a word, why not ARIOSE? And so I guessed correctly, hurrah. In Janacek's honor, I'm listening to Renée Fleming sing selections from his opera "Jenufa" right now. It's ... freaky. This is actually a pretty composer-heavy grid, with James THOMSON (92D: James, who wrote "Rule, Britannia") [correction: THOMSON is the poet who wrote "Rule, Britainnia"; ARNE set it to music ... which I knew if I'd thought about it for two seconds] and ERNEST Bloch (100D: Swiss - American composer Bloch) joining LEOS - none of these guys are really A-List composers - but there are more familiar musical answers in the puzzle, like ARIA and EROICA (8D: Beethoven's Third) and ENRICO (60D: "Lucia di Lammermoor" baritone) and SKA (6D: Some Jamaican music), plus LPS (65D: Providers of cuts - nice clue) and the FRUG (71D: Dance seen on TV's "Hullabaloo"), which are at least music-related. Add these to the aforementioned BOOGIE WOOGIE (BUG BOY), and you get a very ARIOSE puzzle - hummable, if not entirely danceable.

Random Notes:

15A: 1954 sci-fi movie with an exclamation point in its title ("Them!") - a gimme that made me laugh; for some reason this movie remind me of my friend Andrew. Maybe he knows why. Whenever I see this movie mentioned anywhere, I can hear him doing an imitation of someone in the movie screaming "Them!" and pointing to the Giant Ants that are Destroying The World. As I write this, I have a sense of déjà vu - pretty sure I've blogged "Them!" before.

32D: "Falcon Crest" co-star (Lamas) - why oh why couldn't you have referenced "Renegade" here? You would have made my weekend.

3D: Stuntwork? (bonsai) - sensational clue

120D: Poet/musician Scott-Heron (Gil) - superhot answer. He should be better known. He's also an author. My favorite poem/song by him is "Whitey on the Moon."

And finally, stuff I didn't know:

  • 76A: Boat propeller (screw) - ???
  • 9D: Occult (witchy) - knew it, but !?!?! The only appropriate use of "WITCHY" that I know of is in the title / chorus of the Eagles' song "WITCHY Woman"
  • 16D: Pleasure-filled (hedonic) - I think you missed the -IST-...
  • 55A: Noontime service (Sext) - Once I got this (from crosses), I knew it was a "service" in the Catholic sense (you know, like "matins" and "vespers"), but I sure didn't "know" this answer
  • 40D: Designer Pucci (Emilio) - Probably had it before, probably won't ever remember it
  • 80D: 1953 Wimbledon winner Seixas (Vic) - better clue = [Actor Tayback] or better yet, [Mel portrayer on "Alice"]
Happy Father's Day.


Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. there's a new NYT Crossword blog that is very much worth checking out - smart, well-written, and completely unpretentious. It's called "Crossword Nerdity" - I've put a link in my sidebar. Enjoy.

P.P.S. while I'm plugging things, I may as well direct your attention to a very funny comic called "The Horse Killer," written by a little girl I know. Available exclusively here.


Anonymous 1:21 AM  

Usually only a ship's propeller is referred to as a "screw" (because it screws its way through the water). A boat's propeller is referred to as a (are you ready for this?) "propeller". The difference between a ship and a boat is: a boat can be carried on a ship's deck.

profphil 1:45 AM  

James Thompson was a poet and not a composer. His poem "Rule Brittania" was later set to music.

Anonymous 7:38 AM  

Remember well the bread and butter pickle from back when mom used to slop a few of them beside my grilled-cheese sandwich.

Didn't care too much for them then but these days consider indispensable to same.

"Rule, Britannia" was composed by that old crossword stalwart ARNE.

Pen Girl

Caren 9:39 AM  

Bread and butter pickles ROCK with tuna salad. Sigh... For some reason, I made it through the whole puzzle with 4 half-empty words in the NW driving me crazy for 20 minutes, until I went away and came back an hour later to have Libels and Bonsai smack me in the face. (P.S. I liked the Jung Book and Bug Boy clues too.)

jlsnyc 10:09 AM  

ditto, ditto, "bug boy" and "jung book"!!

fwiw -- my college roommate often referred to her parents as "the fossils." i know the derogatory usage exists, but never had the sense that she ever felt they were "has beens."

i also associate "fossilized" with second- and foreign-language learners who have reached their learning limit (with the new language). in essence, their comfort with their native language has "hardened" them to absorbing more information. hmmm -- guess this isn't unique to language learning...

happy fathers day to all you fathers out there. rex.



Wendy 10:41 AM  

In re: your man-crush, if you happened to see PR on The Daily Show a week or so ago, you'd have noted that Jon Stewart has the same affliction ;) I too love the guy; he chews the scenery in everything he does. That schtick with him and Seth Rogen (You how I know you're gay? No, how? ... ) in the 40 Year Old Virgin has to be one of the most hilarious comedy bits in movie history. I think I first saw him in Clueless and fantasized I was Alicia Silverstone (very age-inappropriately, probably).

Anyhoo, back to the NYT, I enjoyed hacking through this puzzle despite missteps. One of the most notable was Swim for FRUG and Tron for THEM! (so I was several decades off, what can I say?). Also Era for EST (still not sure what that is), leading me to try to fathom how radium could be an ingredient in baking powder (before I got DE SOTO).

I think it's high time we retired the word SHAWL in the context of grandmothers. Most grandmothers today are very young, comparatively speaking, and aren't sitting in rocking chairs with their grizzled aspects and hair in buns, trying to ward off the cold. Find another clue.

Also, isn't the envelope abbreviation ENCL, not ENCS? It is in my office. That caused me a good bit of trouble.

Finally saw the theme with TRICK DOWN THEORY, must have gotten in touch with my inner Reagan economist. It wasn't that enthralling, except for the BUG BOY.

Liked MENSA clued as it was, and proud that I figured out where that clue was leading. A few months ago that would have wrecked me.

I just now understood why SWIPED was the answer to 82D! I was going to ask, then it just percolated to the surface after all this time staring at it. I also didn't initially see the context of DISSENT, as I was looking at "decision" in the sports context, not judicially.

For a change of pace, I wanted 'singer K.T.' to be Tunstall, not OSLIN, but the former doesn't use periods after the initials.

Fitzy 11:08 AM  

I think that is just classic that "mensa" means stupid in Spanish... LOL! ... speaking of Spanish, there is always a bit of a problem when the word "año" appears because if you don't use that tilde over the letter "n" you have a very different word... "ano" is Spanish for "anus"... so an "ano
nuevo" is actually a ... well, you get the picture... and it's one you'd rather not have at that proverbial Sunday morning breakfast table...
fun puzzle this week...

Scott 11:45 AM  

DANG CARROTS Bugs me; somehow the phrase "dangle a carrot" falls apart when pluralized

I'm also irked when they drop the tildes from Spanish letters (NIÑA and NIÑO also frequently come in for this treatment). Somebody ought to tear Shortz a nuevo ano.

barrywep 11:53 AM  

I think the THOMPSON/ARNE connection was an inside joke. Not sure if it was Will or the constructors. My guess would be Blindauer.

What happened to the no time for bloggers shorter entries? Not that I'm complaining.

profphil 12:37 PM  


est for established (usually followed by a year-- e.g., est. 1908). As to encs both enc and encl are used for one enclosure and encs and encls for more than one. However, enc is by far the more popular one these days.

Anonymous 1:23 PM  

I've always considered a ball park figure an estimate.

Wendy 1:28 PM  

Anon, I think you've got the right interpretation. I was thinking a baseball ballpark instead. And I *use* that expression myself! Just didn't kick in.

Anonymous 2:45 PM  

Thanks for the swell write up. I've never heard 'cotton' used as a verb, so I guess we're even! Seriously, I have to hand it to Nancy Salomon who helped us hone this theme. She's a real gem. Some alternate theme entries that were considered were SOUPLAD, PELTGUN, HENOFTROY, CABNETWORK, GETTHEADOUT, APINGLIZARDS, CLEOPATRASNEED, BIBBEATER and RUNTHETAB.

Anyhooch, I also want to give a shout out to Tony for being an all-around swell guy (as well as a dyno-mite collaborator), and to Will for making our clues fit for public consumption.


Anonymous 3:06 PM  

I don't get the cleopatrasneed

Rex Parker 3:10 PM  

Cleopatra's Needle - there are three of them:'s_Needle

HEN OF TROY would have been glorious.

Anonymous 3:19 PM  

Thanks for the link!

Bread and butter pickles are sweet pickles. Their name is a bit mysterious-- they're not meant to, say, be eaten on buttered bread. This I can tell you for certain, because I tried it once when I was little. Yuck.

Not my favorite theme fill today either, though. :P

-Nikki (the crossnerd)

Linda G 3:26 PM  

The ano comment reminded me of an essay I wrote for a Spanish class. To doublecheck, I entered the Spanish text into a free translation site, without using the tilde. Instead of the character being 37 years old...well, you can guess what it said about him ; )

Anonymous 3:26 PM  

Thanks from the rest of the team as well. I had to laugh at the discussion of ano above - my initials happen to be ANO, and my non-Spanish-speaking mother once gave me a monogrammed leather box for my birthday, which gave my working-on-fluent-in-Spanish teenage daughter quite a laugh.

Return of the shout out to Patrick, for the same reasons - looking forward to other puzzles we have in the hopper.

Lastly, a few other unused entries we had a fondness for: SINGWHITEFEMALE and MORTARANDPEST -and, another odd-person out for the LE in the middle of a word, GAMINONESEYE. The clue might have needed a BETTY GRAB-- reference...

Happy puzzling,
Tony Orbach

Isabella di Pesto 4:49 PM  

Enjoyed reading the comments on this fun puzzle. But because of all the opera or musical clues, I was thinking Plácido Domingo for 30A. Maybe because I've been listening to him singing "Carmen," and I couldn't get his glorious voice outta my head.

Speaking of Spanish, his name could roughly be translated as "Peaceful Sunday."

Hope all the Dads have a great Plácido Domingo.

Kitt 5:17 PM  

I really enjoyed the puzzle -- thanks Tony and Patrick!

I figured out the end "le" pretty quickly. I got "Bread and Butter Pick" first and made the mistake of thinking the "le" would be at the end of each phrase instead of possibly at the end of a word within the that stumped me for a bit.

Thanks, Rex, for "Whitey on the Moon" very provactive and I had not heard of him before. I appreciate you giving tips like that.

Anonymous 5:26 PM  

i'm thinking the EST for ballpark figure is an estimation -- not the standard "established." pro sports leagues generally count no-shows as part of the attendance with the rationale that the tickets were purchased. (in nfl exhibitions, there are tons of no-shows since most of the games have the lesser-known players vying for final roster spots. and, of course, the games mean virtually nothing.) -- nunyo.

Alex 7:50 PM  

Really didn't like the theme today, but overall found the puzzle enjoyable.

I assume that "dangle carrots" is in the form "shady investors dangle carrots before reticent investors to scam them into risky investment."

If so then I really don't like its inclusion in the puzzle since the source phrase for each other is a stand alone noun whereas "dangle carrots" only makes sense in the context of a larger sentence.

Anyway, my great grandmother made the best bread and butter pickles in the whole world. Though hers were the only ones I'd ever tasted until about a decade ago when I started seeing them in stores. Hers were still better.

Fitzy 9:58 PM  

Tony... sorry about your initials... and I thought my elem. school classmate Anthony Steven
S_ _ _ _ _ had it bad! Good for you for being a good sport about it!

LEIGH 10:00 PM  

help! what page number is the crossword on?

Anonymous 3:25 PM  

I can't believe no one complained about 39 down: sup for "how ya doin?" but then again "Them" was the scariest movie I'd ever seen as a child - so I'm one of those shawl people.

Orange 6:43 PM  

Leigh, the Sunday crossword's near the end of the New York Times Magazine. On weekdays, it lurks in the Arts section.

barrywep 10:57 AM  

No offense to the Nerd, but that's more than one too many crossword blogs for me. Especially if Rex continues to renege on his promise to cut back.

Rex Parker 11:14 AM  


Nobody cares what you will or won't read.

You are officially invited to stop reading this blog and give other blogs a shot. I'm not hurting for readers at this point, so I can afford to spread the love.


Anonymous 8:22 PM  

The reason I read this blog is because of a link that Amy posted.

As a consequence -- I don't read Amy's blog as much as I used to. (Sorry, Amy -- I love your blog but there's only so much time to spare).

And Rexy here puts so much more on the line, opinion wise -- as do the commenters.

With that said, I want to say that I don't know why Rex bitch-slapped Barry the way he did. Personally I find Barry's comments a welcome reprieve from (some commenters') mindless ano-kissing.

Obviously, Barry is a fan of this blog and so am I. I don't think he was trying to be nasty.

Rex: You are the King. Please don't trade that for the title of Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Pen Girl

PS: (I understand the invitation extends to me as well...).

Rex Parker 10:21 PM  

Pen Girl,

You scare me a little, frankly. Ever since you went out of your way to "bitch-slap" my writing style that one day, I don't know what to expect. It was such a weirdly unprompted, vaguely personal attack. That said, I always like comments from you, because, well, who the @#$# knows what's coming? You have an edge and aren't afraid to use it. That's cool. Mostly.

I don't mind what you call puzzle "ass-kissing" from other bloggers / commenters because I think there's an importance to collegiality and community-building. And I really do like politeness, as a rule. One can be critically ruthless while still remaining decent. As the guy in charge here, I'm constantly trying to walk this line between being brutally frank and being kind, generous, forgiving. Honest and yet conscientious. It's ... not always easy, and as I've found out a few times in recent weeks, I do not please all of the people all of the time. Far from it.

I find Barry snide in an un-fun way sometimes. I know he's a fan, and I'm grateful for every one I have. It's just ... There's no need to put down or discourage a new blogger. Absolutely none. I got trashed when I started. Flat-out attacked. So I am defensive of those who put their words / opinions "on the line," as you say, every day, for others to admire and / or carp at. And the new kid has real potential. If you know and appreciate the difference between good and bad writing, and can distinguish genuine thoughtfulness from self-indulgence and solipsism, then I think you might like Crossnerd's blog. If not, so be it. But ignorant, imperious disdain contributes nothing significant to the conversation.

Anyway, I apologize to Barry for my tone, though he seems tough enough and probably wasn't fazed. And as for you, Pen Girl, you're my kind of fan: loyal, but in a non-fawning, bad-cop kind of way.


PS you may not read it as much anymore, but Amy's blog is the real deal - a true hardcore puzzler's blog. And as I've said many times, if not for her support, the only people reading this blog are me and my family.

Anonymous 12:01 AM  


Well, nobody said it was easy.

I appreciate the criticisms (of puzzles) I see here...reckoned you might feel the same...


PG :)

menopuzzler 12:35 PM  

I have been wanting to connect with you, Rex, et al, for weeks. In Seattle ( Times and Post-Intelligencer combine for Sunday) we get the NYT Crosswrd a week late.
So, alone in my cabin across the Strait of Juan de Fuca ( there must be a clue/reference worthy of that august name )in the wild woods,fire blazing,tea steaming,dogs snoring,cat drooling,pen in hand, I do my best. I do pretty well some weeks. Others, I am ready to take the pipe.
Come Monday (Never on Sunday,except today by a flook )I CHEAT my brains out on your blog. Holy XWORD often undoes me. Your blog saves me when I am sure that menopause has killed my every brain cell!
Anyway, wish I could join the up to the moment discussion but I really like reading you and the comments a week later.

REAR AXLE comments inspire me to say: As Death begins in the colon, I want to wish a clean and happy ano to all !

jae 8:28 PM  

A week later. I also like reading the all comments later. Regarding online sovling, for me there is something INTRINSICALLY (IPSO FACTO) pleasing about folding up the newpaper, sharpening a pencil, a settling in a comfortable chair. Also, I often take the weekend puzzles with me when chauffeuring my spouse. She knows if I have a puzzle I won't rush her. I much enjoyed this puzzle and the comments. I would only add that the OSLIN SSGTS crossing was as equally hard for me as the LEOS ARIOSE one. I've never heard of K. T. and there are at least two other types of sergeant (MASTER and TOP) that could fit the S square). Luckily, I guessed right.

Anonymous 6:51 PM  

San Diego Union-Tribune ran this puzzle June 24, Sunday after Fathger's Day, with the title spelled "Rear Axel"!!!Misspelling adds to the puzzle's difficulty, I'd say.

WWPierre 7:57 PM  

It's the next Friday, and I just finished. This was an enjoyable slog for me. I echo jae, and most others pretty much down the line. We have a jar of BREAD AND BUTTER PICKles on hand at all times. TRICK DOWN THEORY was the Aha! moment. Was tempted to google "armpit" but resisted.

Since I started coming here, I am more and more loath to google. Hmmm, I wonder why:)

Thought BOOGY WOOGY BUG BOY was delicious.

Me Again 8:01 PM  

This was a cleverly-named theme. It would be interesting to hear from the constructors lurking here how themes develop in the "Little grey cells."

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

I think I was the only one who had "fled" for 31D-"Ran" instead of the correct "bled"

I knew "fleach" didn't look right for 31A!

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