TUESDAY, Jun. 12, 2007 - Jonathan Gersch

Monday, June 11, 2007

Relative Difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Knots" (36A: Word that can follow the starts of 17-, 23-, 51- and 59-Across)

I plodded through this deliberately - no hang-ups, and yet I was not the hot knife through butter I like to be on a Tuesday. Got off to a terrible start with 1A: Former U.N. chief Javier _____ de Cuéllar (Perez), which I did not know at all, and which took what seemed like a long time to come together, especially since I originally had two of the crosses wrong (LAST for PAST at 1D: Previous, and MOB for ZOO at 5D: Madhouse). Oh, actually I had a third PEREZ cross wrong, but this one didn't affect PEREZ - off the "R" I wrote in RAIN GEAR for RAIN WEAR, which may seem minor, but it kept @#$#-ing WINDSOR CASTLE hidden from me for far too many seconds. Anyway, none of these problems was severe. But no record time today. Not even close (high 5's).

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Spoonerism, usually (slip of the tongue) - stumbled on this one, as I initially thought the answer itself was going to be a spoonerism
  • 23A: Sight along the Thames (Windsor Castle)
  • 51A: Hoedown folks (square dancers) - somehow "folks" threw me; "participants" would have clued me in better - I wanted HILLBILLIES or something less pejorative
  • 59A: San Francisco tourist attraction (Fisherman's Wharf) - born in S.F., know it well.
Featured Five

12D: Crews' craft (sculls)

Got confused because "craft" is singular and "sculls" feels plural. This answer goes nicely with 39D: Crew's leader (coxswain), which took me a while to get (I wanted COXSMAN). COXSWAIN looks great in the grid but really wrong as a word.

15A: Gutter site (eave)
8D: Grandmother of Enoch (Eve)

Nice homonymic crossing. Speaking of "gutters," we really really need to clean ours. I think there are miniature trees growing out of them.

37D: "Happy Days" put-down ("Nerd!")

Strangely, I don't have a clear recollection of this term's being used on "Happy Days," which I watched Religiously as a child - it's the first primetime show I can remember watching: "Happy Days," "Laverne & Shirley," bedtime. I was really hoping the answer would be "SIT ON IT," which I have never heard or seen used except on "Happy Days."

49A: Like some dental floss (unwaxed)

Had the -ED and could think only of WAXED and wondered what other types of floss there were. MINTED? GLOSSY? CINNAMON? Interesting to go with UNWAXED - it's strange to require a qualifying adjective to refer to a thing in its unaltered state. If you follow. I'm not sure I do.

57D: Gaelic language (Erse)
58D: Newts (efts)

Two old guys just hanging out in the corner, remembering the good old days and making fun of the young whippersnappers like YAHOO (7D: Popular e-mail provider) and the highly dubious WHA!? (62D: "Huh?"). ERSE and EFTS have been through the wars. In their day, candy bars cost a nickel and I think you still had to crank your phone to get it to work. I'm saying they're old old oldskool is what I'm saying. I have a strange affection for them.

And I'm done.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Linda G 11:13 PM  

RAIN GEAR caused me the same problem.

I didn't remember NERD from Happy Days, either. Curious to see if anyone did. You're right...sit on it...the ultimate put-down.

Also liked the EVE/EAVE crossing. Wasn't sure if you'd love it or hate it.

profphil 11:25 PM  

I first had raincoat, then raingear and finally rainwear.

Rex, suprised you did not comment on the Ned from the Simpsons clue.

Anonymous 12:23 AM  

The "Happy Days" episode I recall was the one where Joanie had a crush on Potsie. She sent him notes as a secret admirer in which she called him "Dren," which was her way of saying that he was the antithesis of the nerd that everyone said he was. Of course, I recall thinking better to be called a nerd than called Potsie.


Anonymous 3:02 AM  

"Sculls" IS plural. "Craft" can be either singular or plural (collective).

Norrin2 7:18 AM  

I remember the word "nerd" being thrown around on "Happy Days". Once somebody even wrote "Fonzie is a nerd" on the bathroom wall at that diner they hung out at.
(Or was that in one of the "Happy Days" novels I read? -- speaking of nerds)
The word nerd was of course coined by Dr. Seuss in his classic "If I Ran the Zoo."

Orange 8:18 AM  

Hey, look, it's a picture of Howard B.! Undoubtedly grumbling about kids these days and their crossword doodads.

"Sit on it" raises the question, "Sit on what?" I can't believe the FCC let that one fly in the '70s.

Maybe UNWAXED floss counts as a retronym.

Wendy 8:46 AM  

I was all set to wax eloquent about how I love it when apparently plural answers can fool you by having no S (ala 3D) when I realized I too had raingear instead of RAINWEAR making WINDSOR CASTLE a problem to nab. The whole top half of the puzzle, in fact, was elusive for the longest time. I also thought the answer to 17A was going to be a spoonerism.

FINIS for 'that's all' was kind of a head-scratcher since there was no indication the answer was to be in a foreign language. My thought process on the dental floss was the same as yours, too, Rex.

Liked SQUIRE, PURSED and JOT. And FIST, which took me a while to tap into.

Happy Days had novels??!?! And I did not know that Dr. Suess was the coiner of the term NERD, despite having read If I Ran the Zoo ad nauseum as a child. He was so ahead of his time.

mmpo 8:50 AM  

12D: that's the trick. What's the plural form of craft? (Although I've often seen "aircrafts" in English-language documents written by foreign speakers of English.)
Had a similar reaction to yours, Rex, on 49A (unwaxed), except that I did not attempt anything else...so, yes, I think I follow...
I do remember "nerds" as being a term from Happy Days. Don't remember it from Dr. Seuss. Also, kids at my high school picked up on "sit on it," and it was quite common for awhile--often embellished to "sit on it and spin." To Orange, I think that's the censor's mindset. Generally you can say just about anything as long as you don't use certain words.
I also expected 17A to be a spoonerism, or at least a clever play, but not so much that I didn't go ahead and write in "tongue" when I saw that it fit. Actually, I wrote down "slips of the tongu" because between glancing at the clue and writing the answer, the "usually" in the clue had transformed "spoonerism" into "spoonerisms."

Jo 9:08 AM  

Does anyone know how Seuss's NERD came to have its current connotation?

I don't think I have ever seen a picture of Seuss's NERD. Can anyone provide a picture of it?


Rex Parker 10:49 AM  

Strangely - very strangely, considering the NERD talk, above - today's NY Sun puzzle has both "If I Ran the ZOO" and "The FONZ" in it.


mgeorgestevenson 11:01 AM  

Off topic, re Penrod (just read the post) -- I'm Norrin2's age and not only was it frequently included on HS reading lists, it was a frequent gimme in the years of Weng and Maleska.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

mmpo incorrectly uses "awhile." It ought to be "a while." I am a pedant but so is mmpo.
Dullish puzzle with interesting comments from Rex.

jlsnyc 11:21 AM  

cut 'n' paste: one seuss nerd, comin' up!




Ultra Vi 11:55 AM  

Never watched Happy Days...well, maybe half an episode once. However, I did watch plenty of reruns of Bewitched, starring 69A: AGNES Moorehead as Endora, the wacky witch mother.

There was a lot to like in this puzzle: REDS and OREO (reminding me of Orioles) for my baseball fix, VIOLS and KURT (Cobain) for my music fix, and the SSS to remind me how time passes. My son is 18 and just had to register for the Selective Service System.

Wendy 12:55 PM  

Wikipedia's discourse on NERD is hilarious, says in its first decade of use "the definition was consistent—a dull person, a synonym of 'square', 'drip' and 'scurve.' During the next decade, it took on connotations of bookishness as well as social ineptitude ... "

It goes on to mention that the first recorded use of an alternate spelling was at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where it became "knurd," - 'drunk' spelled backwards, i.e., someone who studied rather than partied. RPI is my father's alma mater; were he alive I'd love to ask him about this.

There's another whole deconstruction at http://home.comcast.net/~brons/NerdCorner/nerd.html

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

I, too, had RAIN GEAR for the longest time. I kept trying to figure out what wouls begin with GIN.

Orange 1:59 PM  

Anonymous jackassery! I nominate the commenter from 11:04 for the Jackass of the Week competition.

Does saying that get me my own nomination?

campesite 2:54 PM  

Good puzzle today with several answers loosely tied (sorry) to the theme in a nautical ('knot'ical?) sense: you'd need RAINWEAR as a COXSWAIN on a SCULL you might put in the water at FISHERMAN'S WHARF, but don't step on the EFTS.

DONALD 4:45 PM  


mmpo 4:53 PM  

Anonymous 11:04 made me chuckle (somehow, being called a pedant prompted that reaction in me). Orange's nomination made me chuckle again. Won't go off on a discussion of awhile vs. a while, but...I've actually trained myself to use the former against my instinct to use the latter. Maybe I need to have another look at this, but it was a conscious decision I made some time ago to choose what I thought was the more widespread usage over what seemed to me to be the more logical choice...If anonymous wishes to point me to an erudite discussion of this matter :), s/he can contact me at markzbyj at yahoo.ca.

mmpo 5:05 PM  

Never mind. I found this:
(and more). Thanks, anonymous pedant, for pointing out a knotty distinction that I had been glossing over...

Wendy 5:09 PM  

Things you find out when you're home sick with a bronchial infection contracted from an abominably sick seatmate on a regional jet:

Solvers who live in syndication land are commenting on the puzzle even though they're not sure anyone will see it. So if you just can't get enough of this witty (and erudite) (and occasionally jackass-ish) repartee, just go back six weeks and earlier for some fresh commentary - in some cases they're responding to things one or more of us said at the time!

Wendy 5:23 PM  

Where would self-improvement be without anonymous pedants? Thanks for that link, mmpo! I have often been unsure of my usage on this as well, and this link lays out a test, despite some lingering ambiguities.
For our next lesson, does self-improvement actually have a hyphen? I'm a fan of the "if it's a noun, no, if it's a modifier, yes," except when it doesn't look right, as above. ;)

Anonymous 6:15 PM  

To mmpo. So good to stand corrected. I am in love with all word people and pedants, esp. those who will accept helpful hints.

kratsman 6:43 PM  

Here's a site, called Common Errors in English, that I like to browse every so often:


Rex Parker 6:45 PM  

The following is in response to the most recent commenter on yesterday's post, and a number of recent comments, and is also directed toward anyone considering commenting in any way in the future:]

Please, everyone within the sound of my voice, listen up:

I Do Not Care If Your Esteem Of Me Is Diminished. Telling Me So Will Change Nothing About What I Do Or How I Do It. You Are Not My Mother (unless you are my mother - she does read this), So Your Disapproval Is Just Noise To Me.

I can't believe people don't have better things to do than write in to tell me how badly I disappoint them.

Disagree with my analysis all day long, but dear god, leave the ad hominem comments out of it (whether directed toward me or any of my many readers).

And here I thought bad online behavior was the province of the internet generation. You geezers really should start modeling the society you claim you want to live in. And yeah, I just ended a sentence with a preposition. Sit on it.

For the record, I can't stand pedants. Sorry. Superciliousness and smugitude make my skin crawl. That Eats Shoots Leaves lady needs a good smack to her head, imoo. If you correct people's grammar / usage, and then add a little judgment about how you can't believe standards are falling blah blah blah, you deserve the punch you will undoubtedly get some day. Lead by example, not by being a dick.

That said, I'm eternally grateful to the people who correct me, PRIVATELY and POLITELY, on a daily basis. I am indeed a sloppy idiot much of the time.

When you pour your brain (and occasionally your heart) out for 4000+ people every day, I guess you are kind of asking for it. And yet, I somehow expect better of puzzle-doers. Pollyanna, but true.


Anonymous 6:51 PM  

Is there a pedant (anonymous or otherwise) out there who with precision can define "while" without looking it up? No half-vast guesses please.

Kitt 7:34 PM  

Rex: great insight here. I want to say a few things. First of all folks that "hit and run" anonymously like some have lately in my opinion are cowards or "trolls" and the least amount of attention paid to them the better (that's why I tend to ignore them). They feed off of any attention even negative attention.

Again, Rex, not to say your statement of guidelines for the blog isn't a good one! I really liked it. Let's just all be careful not to fan the flames.

Rex, you have a huge readership. Some will agree and some will not with your opinions. Personally, reading this blog has dramatically changed and improved my crossword solving experience. I am so thankful for it and also for Amy's blog.

I KNOW I am not alone.


PS. As a side note since there is no "spell check" here that I know of often I look back later and see spelling or grammar errors....I have found this group to be very forgiving of these kind of things. I would hate to see that change. ie: awhile vs. a while Blek!

Ultra Vi 7:47 PM  

Dear Sloppy Idiot,

I still love you. And your blog. And the fact that you are there every damn day.

Sandy 9:03 PM  

What surprises me about the jackassery is that people are shocked when they learn that we don't all know the same things. Do they react so badly because their sense of the world and what is important is being challenged, and thus the meaning they've made of the world is being challenged, and thus their very existence is being challenged?

The more I learn, the more I realize that I will never know everything, and coming here from another country reinforced that there are many different sets of knowledge. Instead what is important is the ability to find stuff out (Rex, for example, goes off to research the answers he doesn't know), and to think critically about the way information is used.

Many of you disagree with Rex, and your comments are often interesting, thoughtful, and analytical, and very very funny. It is that conversation and community that keeps me coming back, even though most of the time I'm just a lurker.

I am less surprised by the incivility of the internet. It reminds me of road rage, where isolation and anonymity make it easy to act without compassion or humility. OK,admittedly road rage is different, because the other party has the power to kill you with their humungous vehicle.


Jo 10:40 PM  

You are a hero to so many of us.

I don't know how you are able to produce such an excellent blog about the NYT puzzle and do it every day and watch over us squabbling readers -- and have a life too!

You must be doing something right inasmuch as the number and length of comments just seem to grow and grow.


Anonymous 10:59 PM  

Ha. I had exactly the same problem with RAINGEAR vs RAINWEAR (and the resulting GINDSOR stumper). Great minds, as they say. :P

Anonymous 10:14 PM  

Palade is an obscure reference but Winged-T (50's college football) filled itself in and completed the sector. The rest of the puzzle was the same way with unlikely T's everywhere being its theme. Eli is crossword filler and Eula, southern gothic trash.

Waxy in Montreal 6:47 AM  

Public Service Announcement from 6 weeks on:

Anyone attemping this puzzle from the Montreal Gazette should be aware that Monday's grid has been published with today's clues, providing way more than Thursdaylike-complexity for a Tuesday!

Waxy in Montreal 6:56 AM  

Update - The Gazette digital version has things OK so someone must have discovered the production error.

Anonymous 1:09 PM  

6WL :::::

Rex, after reading your comments directed to the most recent poster on yesterday's entry, I looked at yesterday, and saw the most recent comments were my rather innocuous ones, it took me a good 30 seconds of confusion before remembering you wrote your comment six weeks ago, and they were directed to some basher, and I wrote mine yesterday. I have to get out of this wacky disconnect! Back to the future! I may need to wait till Sunday so I can get my subscription code off my Sunday NYT in order to be able to get the free daily online puzzle access.

I fell for the RAINGEAR thing and was looking for GIN along the Thames. Don't know anything about Nickelodeon other than the 1950 song "Music, Music, Music (Put Another Nickel In)", so missed out on DORA in the Texas area.

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