FRIDAY, Jul. 20, 2007 - Barry C. Silk

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

This one played like a Saturday for me, with many many answers I didn't know. Thank god for gettable crosses - and for my D&D / medievalist background, which helped me get POLEAX (27A: Hacker of the Middle Ages) off just the final "X." Speaking of "X," this puzzle is a pangram, which means it contains every letter of the alphabet at least once. And yet, strangely, it doesn't feel like a very Scrabbly puzzle. I was a bit dismayed at one point at how many damned 1-pt letters I had floating around the grid, giving me next to No help with the crosses. None of the fill is very daZZling, so maybe the Scrabbly letters don't stand out as much for that reason. Who knows?

Didn't know:

15A: Like some fruit bats and petrels (tube-nosed) - not sure what a "petrel" is, frankly. Ah, I see it's a sea bird, not unlike the ERNE. Kind of a TERN / ERN hybrid.

12D: Cousin of a hyena (aardwolf) - !!!! I think this was in my D&D "Monster's Manual." WTF?

4D: Female role in "Chicago" (Velma) - likely a gimme for the millions of you who have seen it. I have never cared to see it. To me, VELMA will always be, first and foremost, a character on "Scooby Doo."

9D: City on the Permian Basin (Odessa) - never heard of this "basin." At least I've heard of ODESSA. It's ... the birthplace of Yakov Smirnov, if I remember correctly.

30D: Work unit: Abbr. (ft. lb.) - if it's not ERG or DYNE, I don't know it.

35D: Poet Seeger (Alan) - not ringing any bells

45D: It's massive and relatively hot (B-star) - To me, this was "insert-letter-here"-STAR. Put MOVIE between B and STAR, and I'd be very happy with this bit of fill.

43D: Drinks a toast (skoals) - knew it, just couldn't spell it (SKULLS?)

46D: _____ Waitz, nine-time New York City Marathon winner (Grete) - knew it, just couldn't spell it (GRETA?)

49D: Artist John, known as the Cornish Wonder (Opie) - I can't wait to see what tomorrow's clue for OPIE will be (see yesterday's less obscure but still non-"Andy Griffith"-related clue for OPIE). Some obscure ode to a pastry, no doubt.

52D: Malay Peninsula's Isthmus of _____ (Kra) - as in "This answer sticks in my ...."

What I loved:

  • 1D: Opportunities to run away from home (at-bats) - fantastic baseball-related clue
  • 37A: Tough companions? (molls) - the very last thing I got, and worth it
  • 44A: Botanist's beard (awn) - just happy that I remembered it (even if I did initially confuse it with Prince Valiant's son, ARN)
  • 31D: Black-and-white (squad car) - nice misdirect with the adjectival-looking clue
  • 41A: Relief may follow it (bas) - great clue
  • 10A: Vacuum maintainers (seals) - another misdirect, but one I saw through quickly
  • 24D: First home of the University of Nevada (Elko) - I'm sure I told you about the one lonely night I spent in ELKO with my sister on a cross-country trip when I was just 18 (she was 16). It was ... memorable for its seediness. Old people on gambling junkets had taken every respectable motel room in town. Anyway, we survived our phone-less motel and its curbside streetwalkers. Come to think of it, I think that motel was in WELLS, just outside ELKO. The gambling elderly kept us out of ELKO.
  • 57A: Loser in a casino (snake eyes) - just a great, vivid expression, and one that's hard to get without the right crosses in place.

The end. Working all day tomorrow, and off to bed now.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 11:46 PM  

Funnily enough, for the BAS [relief] clue, I initially filled in GAS, already having the A and S.

Orange 12:05 AM  

I never saw Chicago either, but the other female lead is also 5 letters long: Roxie. As far as I'm concerned, Velma is always to wear an orange turtleneck sweater, a mini-skirt, and chunky glasses.

There are certainly more exciting things that could be described as massive and relatively hot.

Michael 1:54 AM  

What screwed me up on this puzzle:

1. I thought the Chicago female role was ROXIE, not VELMA. To me, VELMA was the nerdy chick from Scooby Doo.

2. 200 mg. I thought was ONECC. I don't know my units of measurements. You can imagine how I did with the FT. LB. clue.

3. "Massive and relatively hot" J.LO'S ASS didn't fit.

Flailer 2:34 AM  

Uy, it's racy out here late at night!

I had "SOS" for "BAS." No affinity for Scooby Doo or Chicago. Thought CARAT was QUART-- because, yeah, I have No Idea how to measure things. I don't know how much a gram is, let alone a milligram.

But the big question is: why is the answer to "royal jelly consumer" LARVA? Because....ew.

Anonymous 4:57 AM  

The permian basin is the huge oil field under Texas and Odessa is a city in Texas in the midst of that oil field. Incidentally, Odessa got its name from the Crimean city, bestowed by an emigre.

shaun 9:16 AM  

Royal jelly is produced by bees and found in bee hives, thus the larva food.

Royal jelly is mainly sold in places one finds hemp oil and milk thistle. I'm not sure what its effects are supposed to be. (Honestly, I'm not sure I've seen it outside of Seva restaurant in Ann Arbor, MI.)

jlsnyc 9:29 AM  

yep -- royal jelly is also a beauty product...





Squash's Mom 9:36 AM  

Seva Restaurant in Ann Arbor? One of my faves!

Barely got the SW corner on this one.

Flailer 10:22 AM  

So the 'royalty' in question is presumably the queen bee. And the 'jelly' is presumably some sort of secretion from said queen. Ew again, say I. EW.

Jerome 11:27 AM  


Great puzzle; so many aha moments. More like a Saturday than a Friday. Sports fan that you are, thought you'd mention JERSEY (stadium top).

Wade 11:30 AM  

Great puzzle. MOLLS was the last one for me too--I have no idea what FTLB stands for. SW corner gave me the most trouble, but every corner was sticky for me. Lots of places where I got the last part of a compound word but had to struggle for the whole word, with no inroads offered from crosses (_____NOSED, _____ZERO, _____SPOT). Even though I got some big entries on the first pass (ODESSA, WIKIPEDIA, STARGAZE), there were no avalanches of fill that followed from them. Nice job, Mr. Silk.

Wendy 11:31 AM  

Yeah, I didn't get that. What does JERSEY mean in relation to a stadium top?

Wade 11:35 AM  

Wendy, players in a stadium wear a jersey--i.e., a shirt, or "top."

Mona 11:37 AM  

I've been looking all over for a definition of QUANDA--thought it must be one of those Arab words! Finally found it in a list of acronyms--ahh, the light has dawned.

Wade 11:41 AM  

After further reflection, FTLB is "foot-pound," I suppose.

Anonymous 12:38 PM  

thanks wade, I was going nuts over stadium top. The answer "jersey" gave no idea. How simple when explained.


Anonymous 12:47 PM  

Nasty little puzzle today, following an earthquake that shook me olut of bed at 4:42 breaking something in almost every room in my house (5 miles from epicenter). Anyway, I too hated the corners -- Q and A took me for ever to figure out even after I got it -- stadium top, hopeless... and a couple clues eemed unfair, "tubenosed"? "zees" (rotten clue, shoulda been "couple in pizzas" or "you'll find em in pizzas". ON TO SATURDAY! Earthquakes permitting, John W

Anonymous 12:56 PM  

I was surprised you didn't comment on today's "zees" following yesterday's "efs."

Orange 2:03 PM  

[Couple in pizzas] has no secondary meaning, though, so it would be a bizarre clue. [Couple of pizzas] means "two pizzas," so it's a nice misdirection.

frances 2:35 PM  

In the SE corner, a big league promotional event (41D) could as easily be HATday as BATday. That would put "has" to precede relief (41A). Someone who finds relief might skoal to celebrate!

Anonymous 2:44 PM  

I first put in PIES for [Couple of pizzas], so I fell for the misdirection Amy alluded to.

Thought this was def. Saturday-worthy...had to put it down once before the NW fell, giving me toeholds into my BARREN SW.

Fergus 2:50 PM  

An excellent, scintillating puzzle. Took forever to get rolling on this one. Numerous possible answers for many clues (56A Name on a Truck could be TONKA, FEDEX, PETER-bilt, UHAUL, some racecar driver's namer that shows up on rental trucks, etc.). Typical of this puzzle was AARDWOLF -- just after you triumphantly fill in Aardvark, you see that it's not going to work. Went very lightly with my ball point today, and still had a mess.

Went SW, NE, SE, then NW with WARWEARY, PLAIT (after Tress, Locks, etc.), SNAKEEYES and BELLYACHE yielded the desired 'avalanche'. That's a great evocative term, by the way, Wade.

I thought a SCARAB was more of a jewel-like coating, derived from beetle shells, and not a carving?

Hooray for the pre-metric system! FTLB, foot pound, being distance times force, which equals Work in a strict Physics/Mechanics definition. And cheers to Isaac Newton, whose NEWTONMETER would also be a unit of Work.

I am now ready for almost any four-letter Kind of party

Rex Parker 2:51 PM  

Yes, it's nice that the grid has fill that basically describes one's solving experience: BARREN ... DEAD SPOT ... DARN IT ALL! ... BELLYACHE ... ENSNARED ...

and then, when you give up, there's always WIKIPEDIA.

Fergus 3:39 PM  

... and if I were on the timer today I would have to pay a LATE FEE after so much interior Q AND A ...

jae 3:42 PM  

A fine puzzle! I've seen QANDA and BAS before so those were gimmies. SE was the hardest for me, had to google aardwolf after I finished just to make sure I was right. I've seen ATBATS clued as "ups" but I liked this clue better. Also, it took AWHILE to get the center. Got fooled by top and had FINKS for Squeals. Rex, in you liner (but not ordinal) difficulty scale is Challenging above Hard but below Yikes??

Wendy 3:43 PM  

Wade, thanks for the down-low on JERSEY. I never saw it coming. Beautiful.

jae 3:44 PM  

Sorry thats linear not liner. Also, did you really take the time make the panagram determination or do things like that just pop for you?

hobbyist 5:18 PM  

I got it except for that awful north west area w was totally hard even though I knew a few things. Thank god for this blog w is of enormous help. I even cheated but couldn't crack that corner. I have no business even contemplating the idea of going to the next tournament...

campesite 6:18 PM  

I'm not sure I get an award for this, but I fell asleep both times I tried to watch 'Chicago:' in the live performance and in the movie theater. I might have to rent the DVD and see if I can complete the trifecta, this time on my own couch.

Orange, I just received your book and it looks great! Congratulations!

Orange 6:23 PM  

Mark, thanks—and you made me laugh with your "Chicago" tale!

David 6:52 PM  

Loved this puzzle - in retrospect! After the 1st 15 minutes I was convinced I wouldn't get anywhere on it, but it all finally came together (after a nap). So refreshing to finally have a tough puzzle that wasn't just full of obscure names crossing each other!

Hey John! That was quite a shaker this morning (also 5 miles from epicenter)

rock rabbit 9:57 PM  

Evil evil puzzle! I finished by pleading with my spouse to peek at the blog to see if a few of my answers could be steering me down the wrong road. NO, Volvo truck was NOT right! And neither was SECY for "firm assistant". Ditto "tells" for squeals. Neither "gene" nor "line" for generation-to-generation info. And yes, thank you, Frances, I had "hat day".... seemed to me more likely for fans to be able to participate in than "batday"! I can imagine that would be dangerous, what with all the beer and enthusiasm. Can you tell I'm not a baseball fan? But I absolutely dug SNAKEEYES, TUBENOSED, and BELLYACHE!

Paula 10:29 PM  

this is a late addition and random, but for a great read I recommend Roald Dahl's short story "Royal Jelly." When his newborn daughter won't eat and is losing weight, the father puts royal jelly into her milk. She does gain weight, but then starts to resemble a bee larva. Think goldblum in the fly, only it's Dahl so it's better!

Rockonchris 2:30 PM  

I think Top of a Stadium refers to the practice of hoisting star players' jerseys to the top. A clothing reference would read Top in a Stadium.

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