SATURDAY, Jul. 21, 2007 - Raymond Young

Friday, July 20, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

I thought overall this was a great puzzle. Tough, but doable, with lots of interesting fill. But the whole thing is marred, for me, by the very first clue in the puzzle.

1A: Faux pa? (stepfather)

I had SPERM DONOR. Why? Well, it was closest thing I could think of to "faux" where fathers are concerned. "Faux" implies not only fake, but cheap. A cheap fake. A knockoff. An imitation. Not as good. Less than. Ersatz. As a STEPFATHER myself, let me just say that this clue is officially invited to bite me. It's phenomenally insulting. Why not make the answer ADOPTER, or GOD - I mean, since you've already gone to the trouble of demeaning non-sperm-related paternal relationships, why not go all the way? I can barely bring myself to refer to Sahra as my "stepdaughter" because it feels like I'm qualifying something - it feels like I'm diminishing my love for her, actually. It's accurate enough, but the qualifier "step" ... almost feels like a betrayal when I say it. It's fine that she refers to me as her "stepdad" - she has a perfectly good biological father, so she needs to distinguish. But I don't. Anyway, if I'm a "faux pa," then she's a "faux daughter," and just try telling me that to my face. I am almost as committed to non-violence as a Quaker, and yet I would seriously kick your ass.

Whew. I feel better. On to the good stuff.

Crossing AMORIST (12D: Love lover) and EROTICIST (22A: Purveyor of hot stuff - HA ha) - genius. I wish the clue [Purveyor of "Hot Stuff"] had also been in the puzzle, with the answer DONNA SUMMER.

I got started on this puzzle with 16A: Not yours, in Tours (à moi) - thank you H.S. French. This got me nothing. The weirdest gimme of all time - and the one that confirmed that the awkward TEAMERS (7D: Special-_____ (football players used only in specific situations)) was in fact correct - was 8D: French novelist d'Urfe (Honoré). I am going out on a limb and saying that I am the only person among all 4000 of us reading this blog today who has not only heard of but actually written about this guy. Actual, published, I-got-paid-to-do-it writing. Finally some of my super-obscure knowledge pays crossword dividends. Seeing this answer here was a little like the time I took a break from my weekend-long Ph.D. exams (40 pages of writing in 3 days) on medieval Scottish literature only to walk into a movie theater and see a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Mel Gibson as the Scottish hero I had just been writing about, not two hours earlier. My dusty corner of the library turned Hollywood blockbuster before my eyes. Surreal. I was so delirious from exam anxiety that I thought I might be seeing things.

TEAMERS and HONORE confirmed the sad correctness of STEPFATHER at 1A, which made the rest of the NW pretty easy. I didn't know that PEENS were 4D: Tool parts for bending and shaping. I thought they were just the parts of hammers that you struck with. TITLING was a bit forced for 2D: Calling. Ditto, though to a lesser extent, ENTENTE for 3D: Dove's desire. SNAP PEA (1D: Stir-fry vegetable) is, in fact, snappy.

ORIENTATED (56A: Became adjusted) is a really ugly word with apparently superfluous letters. What's the difference between ORIENTED and ORIENTATED? The only SUMAC (48D: Cashew family member) I know is Yma SUMAC. Are there really edible, cashew-like things called SUMACS? SEA EAR (25D: Abalone) is also new to me. IRENIC (44D: Peaceful) is not new, but highly unusual. I had EDENIC until RIO DE La Plata at 43A made that impossible.

You could make a really odd dinner menu out of this puzzle: open with MANICOTTI (11D: Italian for sleeves") and SNAP PEAS, close with TAPIOCA (36D: Dessert Calvin doesn't like in "Calvin and Hobbes") and HOHOS (47D: Snack cake brand since 1967).

Both OPERA MUSIC (50A: Libretto accompaniment) and HAND CAMERA (54A: Little shooter) feel really weird. Neither the OPERA nor the HAND appears to really want to be there. It's as if they're being coerced into making an appearance just to make the grid work, not because they make for a perfect, in-the-language phrase.

Two mysteries:

  • 53A: French painter of Napoleonic scenes (Gros)
  • 30A: "Moesha" actress Wilson and others (Yvettes) - this gets my vote for most hilariously arcane pop culture clue of the year

Best clue / answer: 38A: Something often looked for on a rainy day (taxi cab). RAINBOW would have fit, but "rainy" in the clue seemed to preclude that answer. Thankfully, I had the "X" from today's mountaineering clue (seems like there's at least one a week), 23D: Scaling aid (ice axe), so I was in good shape to get TAXI CAB.

This is not at all a Scrabbly puzzle, but given the amazing feat of 4-stacking 10 letter answers in both the NW and SE, I'm willing to let it slide. Yesterday's puzzle had enough Scrabbly letters for one weekend.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

43 comments:

Bryce 1:04 AM  

I only filled in FATHER at the end of 1A, thinking that STEPFATHER might be inappropriate--I guess they just really liked the pun. I'm not a father myself and am not easily offended, but I was a bit surprised. Your answer was niftier (with apologies to any fatherly sperm donors).

I really liked this puzzle--pleasantly hard, but not too many crossing obscurities. The only thing that really got me was my guess of CANNELONI in the NE, which yielded some correct crosses but LONgitude instead of LATitude.

I think someone told me once that ORIENTATE is more common in the UK.

Your site is great, by the way. I subscribed to the NYT Crosswords 3 weeks ago to see if I would like it...now I will probably shell out for a year. This is, in a very small part, your fault (this "your" is plural, and includes the cast of commenters).

Rex Parker 2:24 AM  

If only I could get a percentage of that subscription money ... like a referral fee or something. Remind me again why I pay for a service that I then promote for free??? Most blogs with my kind of traffic have been "monetized" in some way (i.e. they earn money from ad / subscription revenue). My inner sell-out is getting restless...

rp

DONALD 4:37 AM  

Some sumac are poisonous, but not Yma!

Anonymous 5:35 AM  

The fact that cashews and sumacs are taxonomically related doesn't imply that sumacs produce edible nuts.

For me the key to this puzzle was Hohos for 47D. It allowed me to get all the 10-letter answers in the SE quadrant.

I was pleased to learn the literal meaning of "manicotti" as this is one of my favorite Italian dishes.

Struggled for a while with 38D "To order". At first I couldn't imagine a word beginning with "toor".

Can't imagine why Calvin, one of my all-time favorite comic-strip characters, didn't like tapioca.

I hate clues that incorporate brand-names, viz: sealameal and hohos.

Really liked 55A clue of "shaker formula" for NACL. Didn't know the Shakers (rest easy Ann Lee) had formulas.

Anonymous 6:54 AM  

Rex,

I put in Santa Claus for faux pa? as my very first entry. I wondered when the answer revealed itself whether anyone would be offended. Superb blog today.

Steve M

luigi 9:12 AM  

I give up on puzzles like today's and yesterday's. Got the lower left corner after cheating on Antwerp. One of the few clues I did get was stepfather. Our children were adopted and this didn't phase me-guess there's too much other stuff I get steamed about. I feel a lot of these clues are just lame. I try to be open and to keep in mind that this is a NYer puzzle but a taxicab is just not someting I look for on a rainy day here in Ohio. My spouse says a better definition for manicitti is "Little sleeves". I could rant some more but I think that's enough. If this blog were not available I would definitely throw in the towel. Thanks for doing it and giving me a space to blow off steam when the crossword frustrates the !#%$ out of me! They should definitely give you a cut of the pie.

barrywep 9:43 AM  

LOL. I usually don't like your rants, but loved the one today. I hope Raymond and/or Will give you and other step (er..non-biological) dads the apology you deserve.

(I had SANTACLAUS too by the way).

barrywep 9:45 AM  

Of course that clue was better than "Woody Allen, e.g.".

Scott 10:08 AM  

I'm also a STEP FATHER, and join you in being miffed at "Faux pa?" Although I always thought "faux" meant false, rather than, say, ersatz, so that "faux pas" meant false move or false step.

On the other hand I was delighted by the clue "DC figure." I was thinking president, supreme court justice, sexually abused intern, or something of the sort. Had almost all the crosses done before I realized I should have been thinking Hawkman and The Green Lantern.

Orange 10:44 AM  

Rex, you've probably seen 10- to 15-foot-tall sumac bushes along the roadside. Sumac looks like this, only the foliage turns brilliant red in autumn.

Wendy 11:01 AM  

Luigi is correct that we don't think to hail cabs much here in Ohio, in rainy conditions or otherwise, but that doesn't mean I have no experience with such things.

I was at a semiformal event in Manhattan a few years ago wherein a sudden rainstorm at the end of the evening made it impossible to get anything other than a so-called "gypsy" cabdriver - one operating illegally and, in our case, noticeably inebriated. But we were desperate. I honestly feel we would have been standing there all night had we not taken the risk. He only drove about 10 mph in traffic so if he'd crashed we'd probably not been hurt too badly - at least that was how I justified it at the time.

I was a complete failure today. MATT Groening was my only gimme. I couldn't even remember Calvin's loathed dessert offhand, and that's probably my favorite comic strip of all time. I think all week my solving skills have been worsening. Must get Orange's book ... must get Orange's book ... and maybe some ginkgo biloba ...

I appreciated your rant, Rex. Sometimes the lack of sensitivity in these clues can be pretty appalling.

hobbyist 11:09 AM  

Faux pas really comes from the French and means something that one must not do. Faux comes from the verb "faire" w means to do, make etc. Not the same as faux in sense of being fake or ersatz. I agree that the clue is highly offensive and I am not even a false father, although have made the odd faux pas in my lifetime.

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

Special TEAMERS was first in and I immediately jumped to your favorite "faux pa" by crossing with BIGBROTHER... which I still think is a more apt answer. Overall I liked the puzzle, especially 15A NINEONEONE. Great blog, Rex
New Bern Frankie

Linda G 11:42 AM  

Calvin didn't like tapioca because he could be so dramatic about it...saying he had a thermos full of phlegm. He was one gross little boy and I loved him.

I'm almost embarrassed that I got STEPFATHER right off the bat. I didn't stop to think about the insensitivity of the clue. As the parents of two adopted children, we've heard all of them. "If they were your real children, how would you handle that?" was the most offensive.

Barry's comment about Woody Allen was perfect!

campesite 11:47 AM  

Rex, your entry today is excellent, and pretty much the reason I still do the crossword puzzle every day is to read your blog.

I really didn't like today's puzzle from 1A to the end. Mainly because it kicked my ass, but it just didn't seem that clever to me. Yes, the multiple 10 letter stacks were a feat of construction, but I never got had any great chuckles or aha moments. I did like the crossing of AMORIST and EROTICIST though.

judgesully 11:51 AM  

Having sat in Divorce Court for four years, I know something about "faux pas," and stepfathers do not fit the bill. There is no more difficult calling. Remarkably, the first answer I hit upon was "Antwerp" Isn't it amazing what sticks in your head after all these years? I went through Antwerp 5-6 years ago and noted that they had remembrances of the 1920 Olympics.

campesite 11:53 AM  

I did like the DC Figure: SUPERHERO answer. I was unable to force in Lobbyist, Senator, Politician et al.

Michael 12:26 PM  

The second I filled in STEPFATHER, I knew there would be people annoyed with that clue. Maybe the makers of these puzzles should read blogs like this first. Surely there would be a less insulting clue? Like "early Terry O'Quinn role"? Okay, perhaps only us diehard fans of "Lost" would know that the Emmy-nominated actor's previous work...

liebestraum 1:11 PM  

Given how yesterday's puzzle ate me for lunch, I was happy to be able to finish this one - in between breask of grading test papers.

I think this is the first time in a while where I was able to get all the clues I did not know (e.g., manicotti) by finding some of the crosses and then having the "aha" moment.

I join the rest of you in agreeing the first clue is clunky (even though it took me awhile to figure it out).

And, Rex, even though I've been doing NYT's puzzles on-line for quite a few years, I only discovered your Blog a couple weeks ago. I honestly think your comments (along with those who post here) have actually helped me get better with the Friday and Saturday puzzles. Thanks.

lieb

crossnerd 1:30 PM  

Ha. You're right about HONERE.

At one point I was serioiusly considering GODSFATHER for the "Faux pa" position. It made sense at the time.

Anonymous 1:33 PM  

Actually, the first choice in Italian for "sleeve" is "manica." "Maniche" in the plural. "Manicotto" actually means "muff." It is also another word for "sleeve," but not a first choice. However, opera lovers will recognize "manicotto" from the last act of La bohème when Mimì asks for one to warm those same hands that were cold in Act I. The literal translation of "manicotti" is "baked" or "warmed hands." So there.

Opera Pedant (and loving it)

Wendy 2:22 PM  

Thinking in the same vein as Michael ... another way to have clued STEPFATHER:

"You remind me of a girlfriend in Detroit ... but you look more like her _________" - Curly Howard in Three Little Twirps

Yeah, I know that clue's too long, but it is a whole lot funnier than faux pa. ;)

Jerome 2:36 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerome 2:38 PM  

Rex,

Excellent blog, today, as are many of the comments.

I've been my kids' father, though not bioligically their whole lives (well over 30 yearrs) and could be considered a FAUX PA, but don't find the term demeaning or insulting. I can understand why you've reacted as you have, but maybe when Sahra s my kids' age, you'll have a different perspective. Or maybe it's just the meaning one puts on FAUX PA.

Chris 2:45 PM  

I never knew that orientate was a real word. I always thought it came about from people throwing in the extra "ate" because of the noun form. It still sounds wrong to me, though.

Wade 3:27 PM  

I got STEPFATHER right away. Now I realize that that makes me a bad person. The puzzle went pretty smoothly for me throughout, though I got hung up in the NW because I had SNOWPEAS instead of SNAPPEAS.

SUMAC, by the way, is pronounced "shoe-make," at least in Texas. I was in college before I realized that the word I was reading (and pronouncing) as "sue mac" was the shoemake I'd grown up with. Had a similiar experience with bois d'arc. The bodark trees in our front yard (also called horseapple trees) turned out to be the same thing as those "boys de ark" trees I was reading about for years.

While I'm in confessional mode, it was a college girlfriend's smug older brother who pointed out to me that "superfluous" wasn't pronounced in such a way to indicate that something was very, very fluous. (Look at my dumb country ass now, Tom. Bet you can't finish the Saturday NYTimes crossword.)

Anonymous 4:06 PM  

Hi Rex

Sumac, when not poisonous, makes a great spice (middle eastern). It's a little tart and gives zing to many salads. A good recipe is to heat some olive oil and toast some pinenuts, add some chopped onions and then a bunch of sumac powder (which turns the onions a cool purple color). You can put that on baked chicken, etc... Try it! I would not add another faux hint to your day.

Fergus 4:32 PM  

ORIENTATED -- Yeah, that's used just like Oriented is used in the US. However, my very petty gripe about the match between clue and answer is that Orientate assumes a direct object and is therefore a transitive verb. The way the clue is used, at least the way I interpret it, makes Adjust an intransitive verb. That inconsistency is what left some of us a bit DISORIENTED, if not a bit squeamish about the answer/clue connection.

Oh, and I have a lovely old ball-PEEN hammer, which clearly puts the peen opposite to the smashing head, which must have a similarly quaint name.

Ditto on STEPFATHER having poor or NO TASTE, but it did set me up to go nicely round in counterclockwise blocks. You suppose 13D was an explicit admission of same?

jlsnyc 5:14 PM  

re: quaint name for the smashing head -- that simply appears to be "face":

15. a. In implements, tools, etc.: The acting, striking, or working surface. (oed)

try the hex acrostic for yet another take on this topic -- from an entirely different world.

;-)

janie

green mantis 6:33 PM  

This puzzle beat me up for a while. I thought of stepfather right away, and although the implication of fakeness felt wrong, I also inferred a bit of sheepishness into the question mark in the clue, thereby releasing the author from liability and allowing me to fill it in. I didn't, though, because I really thought "calling" was destiny and really really wanted it to be destiny, so spent about a half hour trying to make "faux pa" adopted dad or something. Brutal.

I have long been anti-orientate, but I've been watching a lot of Man vs. Wild lately, and my new hero, a Brit, says it quite a bit, so I've softened. He also shows me how to suck sturgeon spinal cord fluid for nutrients when stranded at sea.

Finally, how is a font a "rite aid"? I wanted idol, then fast once stepfather insisted upon itself. Fonts are type styles, right? Rites are rituals, right? Rite?

Orientate me, please.

Rex Parker 6:44 PM  

A FONT can also hold water, which may be used in any number of "rites" (baptismal, for instance).

rp

Wendy 6:45 PM  

green mantis, I love your posts.

To ORIENTATE you, a font is also a basin used in baptisms, and perhaps even other rituals.

I meant to mention earlier that Orientate frosts my butt, just as Administrate does. But the dictionary allows it.

jae 6:54 PM  

This one went pretty fast for me. Things go quickly when you guess right e.g. ANTWERP off the RP, SNAPPEA off the P in PINS. While I didn't think about it at the time, STEPFATHER for faux pa is a bit ugly. All my initial guesses for that involved something negative e.g. FAKE.., BAD...

Eugene 10:41 PM  

Got STEPFATHER quickly, loved the pun, but thought it was not right on. If I WERE one, I'd probably also be as annoyed as some of you. Also hate ORIENTATED, although I got it fairly quickly. There's another, similar, word which people use which bothered me throughout my working life (I'm now retired), and I CAN'T THINK OF IT! right now. I also thought "DC figure" a great clue, but I was on the right track from the beginning, and got it after the "O" in "TOORDER". Actually, I found this puzzle quite easy, which is strange since I'm always amazed at how many people quickly solve those that take me a long time.

Paulo 12:40 AM  

Ironic, isn't it, that in English we tend to take the faux part of faux pas to mean fake when, as Hobbyist indicated above it is the "pas" that we should use. It is a translation "pas" not a faux translation.

The clue more rightly should have been "pa pas" although just as insensitive. Then faux fur should be fur pas. What then the poor sherpas? Are they not sure?

But I will let it pass or the fur will fly and the furrow follow free.

Literary . . . pas. But then I spent the day in the hot sun at the Champ Car races. A bit addled fur sher.

green mantis 4:30 AM  

Oh yeah, that font. Anticlimactic. How 'bout..."typical sort?" for font? Punchy? No? Nevermind.

Rex Parker 8:13 AM  

Let's be clear. PAS in FAUX PAS means STEP, not NOT.

FAUX= false
PAS= step

I have no idea what all this other talk about the meaning of FAUX PAS is about. From Wiki:

"The term comes from French and literally means "false step". However, it is a formal rather than everyday expression in French and does not generally have the figurative meaning used in English. It is occasionally employed to describe a physical loss of balance or general mistakes (for instance: mes faux pas dans la vie, the mistakes I made in my life). If one uses faux pas with the English meaning in France, people might think it was a slight grammatical mistake with faut pas, the colloquial pronunciation of il ne faut pas, meaning must not in English. For faux pas with the English meaning, the French would usually say gaffe or erreur."

Chris 11:47 PM  

Faut (same pronunciation as faux) is French which basically translates as "must" (it almost always comes as "Il faut...", which means "it/one must"). Pas usually means "not" (usually ne...pas). Many people confuse "faux pas" ("false step") with "faut pas" (not really a term, but it would logically translate to "must not") because they both sound the same and would have pretty much the same meaning, if "faut pas" were a term, which it isn't. That, I think, is where the other talk about the meaning of "faux pas" comes from.

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

I just began doing NYT Crosswords recently. While cheating, I came across your blog. I was so happy when I read the comments about orientated. When I saw this clue I was just about to quit doing these puzzles. As far as I am concerned - there is no such word. When I see it in print I find I just can't cope. I am British and have never seen the word.

Michael5000 10:42 PM  

I was kind of startled by the 1-across clue, too, but Mrs.5000 thought it was a gimme and entered it without comment. I didn't mention that I thought it was kind of a jaundiced clue, and probably won't bring it up now as she is still seething from the way I laughed and laughed as I corrected her "macaronii" to "manicotti."

WWPierre 5:07 PM  

This puzzle was a very pleasant slog for me over three or four sessions. I didn't keep track of the many cups of tea and coffee I consumed while doing it.

The N/W was the last corner completed because at the very start, like Wade, I blithly entered SNOW PEA for 1d and then, thinking how clever I was, SEMINARIAN for the 1a "false father" clue. Of course this locked out the whole sector, and it wasn't until I reluctantly checked Google to see if d'Urfe was yclept LENORE that I was able to complete.

I am a "faux pa" myself, but I wasn't a bit offended by the clever clue. I have referred to my wife Hanne's oldest son Jens as my "stepson" for the last 30 years, but I admit that of late I have been dropping the "step" modifier as it is pretty irrelevent.

Anonymous 7:26 PM  

I had missingans for faux pa originally....

Rudiger 4:17 PM  

Gang - I caught a LOT of flak for recently posting a negative comment in the Cruciverbalist forum about HANDCAMERA. I, too, felt it was rather weak - HAND seemed almost redundant - and included to save that portion of the fill, much like OPERA in the answer above it.

I was informed (scolded?!?) by "experienced" NYT constructors (no names please) that it was NOT a stretch, that a hand camera was a device developed in the Victorian era, and that 21,000 Google hits validated it as a answer. Whatever - based solely on the clue, this history seems irrelevant & I would never have investigated it to learn its background. I did learn that constructors apparently defend their own, at the expense of being condescending to their target audience, i.e., solvers...

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP