THURSDAY, Jul. 12, 2007 - Michael Shteyman

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium-Hard

THEME: BRAIN (65A: Word that can precede the starts of 17-, 35- and 54-Across and 16-Down)

No time today, so this will be very short (for real this time). I did not like this puzzle. The theme is conceptually mediocre, the answers are boring, and the whole thing is asymmetrically executed, with BRAIN hanging out there in the far SE with nothing to balance it out in the far NW except the non-thematic ADAGE (1A:Part of Poor Richard's Almanack).

Theme answers:

  • 17A: It might help you take a turn for the better (power steering)
  • 35A: Ten minutes in a laundry, maybe (wash cycle)
  • 54A: "You'll have to take my word for it" ("trust me on this") - best of the theme answers, by far
  • 16D: Low pressure area (storm center)

Further, once again, there was a distastefully large pile of abbreviations, and this time I got killed by them. I would have found this puzzle much easier if a. I could have remembered HUMERI a LOT more quickly (40A: Upper armbones) and b. I could have parsed OTTO IV (30A: Emperor under Pope Innocent III) as a name + Roman numeral back when I had -TTOI-. I thought maybe ST. TOI-, then thought one of my crosses must be wrong. No, it's just some emperor I never heard of crossing a film clue I've never heard of (19D: Abbr. on a film box - ISO) and a brandy clue I've heard of but completely blanked on (31D: Letters on a Remy Martin bottle - VSOP). OTTO IV, ISO, VSOP - that's just an ugly mess.

Not one, but two playground taunts. Imaginative.

  • 25D: Word repeated in a child's taunt (liar)
  • 50D: Kindergarten comeback ("is too")
Also not so good:

12A: Think over, in a way (replan) - oh, I see ... "in a way." Huh. Hmm. Nope, still doesn't make REPLAN much of a word.

2D: Frying medium (deep fat) - actually love the answer, but ... something about the "deep" part being the "medium" is feeling off to me. The "DEEP" refers to how much fat is in the fryer, not the quality of the FAT, right? I'm going to let this answer off with a warning.

37A: Hangar site (airdrome) - my least favorite thing in the grid. 103K Google hits for this "word," compared with 2.45 million for AERODROME.

Challenging fill:

  • 8D: Yellow spring flower (oxlip) - can't keep my oxes straight, from LIP to TAIL to EYE...
  • 28D: Kind of rate in a bank: Abbr. (exch.) - this isn't hard, but it's yet another abbreviation, and this one would not come to me at all
  • 33D: Jewish month (Elul) - can never remember this. Had EDER and EDEL and ELAL etc.
  • 47A: Nutcases (locos) - I guess ... if you are Spanish, or in the wild west
  • 48A: Pilgrim to Mecca (Hadji) - misread it as "pilgrimage" and so tried to stretch HADJ to five letters by first doubling the D then doubling the J
  • 63A: A Lennon sister (Dianne) - whatever
  • 41D: Egg-laying mammal (echidna) - heard of it, but couldn't draw you a picture if my life depended on it

Best thing about puzzle: crossing of YAO (46D: 7'6" N.B.A. star - I had BOL at first) and TAO (51A: Fundamental of philosophy - wanted ISM at first).

The end.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Sam 8:53 AM  

I'm surprised you didn't comment on "MEEITHER" which struck me as neither gramatically correct nor common usage.

Airdrome is close to pathetic.

I guess I didn't like this puzzle. Me neither.

Orange 8:55 AM  

It's a crossword convention to have the tie-in word (like BRAIN here) in the bottom of the grid without a mate on the opposite side of the grid. When it's anywhere other than the very last Across spot (or alternatively, the exact center of the grid), it looks a little clunky to me.

I forget who the Lennon Sisters are—'40s singers, maybe? Would have preferred a clue citing Sen. Feinstein, the most famous DIANNE.

Orange 9:01 AM  

There's a discussion of ME EITHER here. I like colloquial phrases in my crosswords, and I liked this one. I suspect it's much more common in speech than in writing.

jlsnyc 9:37 AM  

the lennon sisters appeared regularly on ... the lawrence welk show......



p.s. orange -- love yer new icon. perfection!

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

Can someone help me?
Why is the word too ("IS TOO") spelled t-o-o and not t-o.
It's a retort to "is not", so it really means "is so" (rather than "is also").
Can't find reference anywhere. The closest thing I can think of is "to be or not to be", in which case it would be "is to", no?

barrywep 10:38 AM  


It just IS TOO!

I wrote BOL too. Had no idea Yao Ming was 7'6".

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

I agree with Rex on "deep fat". So why give it a pass?

From years of elementary school usage, the retort means "is so" or "is also"; so I don't mind the answer "is too".

"Me either" is quite troublesome. Would you say such a thing? Me neither.

Wade 10:53 AM  

Having DODOS instead of LOCOS (and not knowing the word ECHIDNA, though I recognized it after I saw the answer) made me flunk this puzzle.

"Me either" is common here in Texas, but it's interesting that both that phrase and "is too" came up here. A few years ago it struck me that "me either" didn't make any sense. I'm too lazy to look up the actual dictionary meaning of the word or what part of speech it is, but it should be used with "or," no? I.e., it denotes a choice--either this or that. "Me either" is used to mean the same thing as "nor do I." ("I don't like this puzzle." "Me either.") "Me neither" makes more sense (and is also commonly used), but still. Weird.

"Is too", on the other hand, I had never questioned, but it seems to be of the same type of weird linguistic genetic mutation. "Too" means "also," not "so," but seems to be used as an emphatic in the schoolyard phrase. I wonder what the history of the phrase is.

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

...perhaps the grammatical faux pas with ME EITHER and IS TOO can be attributed to the age and maturity (and, thus, lessened grammatical acumen) of the population that typically utilizes these phrases.

I am in agreement with Rex's spiel on today's puzzle.

- brian

Anonymous 12:32 PM  

Remy Martin is a brandy, not a champagne, and VSOP stands for "very special old pale" a high quality rating.
ISO rating for camera film is its relative speed, similar to ASA, which it superseded.

Anonymous 12:35 PM  

I can't give "deep fat" a pass. "Deep" is not a medium, it is an amount or at best a method, in which case it would be deep frying. I had "pork fat" and then "duck fat" which as you imagine gummed up the works instead of, um, greasing them.

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

Actually, Remy Martin is a Cognac.

Howard B 12:45 PM  

The combination of ME EITHER and ITS YOU totaled me in the bottom-left.
ME EITHER I figured out eventually, and I've even used that phrase before (yeah, yeah, I know. Throw your grammar books at me).
ITS YOU was just an unknown to me, however, and I couldn't infer it from the clue or make sense out of it even when I had half the letters correct. So I ended up erasing correct answers trying to find a way in, to no avail. Eventually I gave in to instinct and just entered everything I thught was correct, and it finally fell.

It's annoying as hell when that brain freeze happens, but satisfying when you work your way through it. Don't give up, people! Worst case, take a break and return to it later, that helps a lot.

frances 1:34 PM  

"Oxlip" really threw me; never heard of any ox-related spring flower besides "oxeye (daisy)". Seems the oxlip is quite similar to the cowslip. Let's just be grateful the clue didn't reference the first entry that Google provides for "oxlip": "Oxford Libraries information platform"!!

Michael 2:08 PM  

I had DODOS instead of LOCOS too (not to). I should've known the Jewish month is ELUL not ELUD. (though I do know another 4-ltr month is ADAR (not EDER)). In any case, if my childhood Hebrew school teacher saw what gave me tzuris today, he'd plotz.

Wade 3:20 PM  

Cognac is a type of brandy, named after the region it's from. Armagnac is a another, though lesser known.

I heard somewhere that "VSOP" actually stands for something else to the French and not for "very special old pale," but I may be wrong. (Ought to be a word for situations in which acronyms slide across languages and get "re-translated" in some approximation of the original's meaning in order to honor the acronym--I can't think of another example, but I know I've come across it before.)

Fergus 3:21 PM  

Got stuck with Magritte instead of MAXERNST.

OXLIP ?? I was sure it should be OXALI a plural form of Oxalis (?), aka sourgrass, which is jokingly known as the California state flower since it shows up everywhere after it starts to rain.

I concur with many on the lameness of ME EITHER. It's a negative concurrence if it's even a concurrence at all.
ECHIDNA brought fond memories of watching nature shows with small children.

jlsnyc 3:57 PM  

vsop -- en francais:

wiki vsop



campesite 5:49 PM  

I agree with the clunkiness of the stand-alone tie-in word being in the very last across clue. I did like many of the answers, including S AND L and FAUX PAS, but not RUERS and OXLIP.

ps: cool new avatar, Orange

Linda G 7:20 PM  

Wade, I know this isn't what you were thinking, but...

When I was in grade school, a classmate said that RSVP meant Reserve Seats Very Promptly. When I later learned the French meaning, I wanted to find that girl and smack her. Fortunately, I never embarrassed myself by using her acronym definition in public.

We could name that sliding translation thing after her, but I don't remember who she was ; )

Orange 7:25 PM  

It's interesting that this many of you find the placement of BRAIN to be clunky. The Queen of Theme Development, Nancy Salomon, has several essays in the "sage advice" section of In "Theme Advice for Novices" she writes:

If your puzzle is running without a title and the solver is going to need some help in finding your theme, a short helper entry is a must. Occasionally a helper is even necessary with titled puzzles. Most editors like the short helper to be in the SE, if possible. The reason is that this location gives most solvers a chance to unravel the theme on their own before getting to your helper. (The worst place for a helper would be in the NW.)

Michael placed BRAIN in the extreme SE corner of the grid—textbook constructing!

It appears that some solvers are not fans of the textbook, but there you have it.

Anonymous 7:37 PM  

The reason the French use VSOP short for English words (very special old pale) is that for hundreds of years the French sold most of their fancy Cognac to the Brits, who demanded that everything be Anglicized. Commerce won out.

nitpicker 9:50 PM  

Wow Rex, I thought you were very tough on this one - agree that abbr.'s are a pain and some of the word crossings were not easy, but it is a Thursday you know.

As for asymmetric entries, I usually don't like them, but I never took a course in (or read the abc's of) crossword constructing - I am just a solver!

Rex, can you forbid anonymous entries on your blog? (at least pick the "other" option, like I do).


jae 11:58 PM  

now coming to you 3 hours later vs. six weeks later

Not a pleasent puzzle for me either! I was most irritated by DEEPFAT. Like others I wanted BEEF, PORK, DUCK...something that actually had fat. This one took too long for a Thursday!

Anonymous 12:43 PM  

6WL ::::

I was sure the song from Music Man was "Marion" which completely blew the SW. Also did the dodo thing, how LOCO of me.

katya 3:16 PM  

6WL / Since no one else is going to, I'm coming to the defense of DEEP FAT. I, too, wanted a kind of fat (I kept thinking of lard, which didn't make sense) but when DF popped into my head, it seemed perfect. I suspect the puzzler meant that MEDIUM was a kind of cooking, i.e., pan frying, braising, deep fat frying, stir frying, etc. I do see the others' point, however.

My bronz cheers went to LOCOS (looneys, yes but locos, no), AIRDROME (stupid!) and that OTTO-VSOP cross. I admit to stalling in NE corner because I was stuck on baseline for SIDELINE. I watch a lot of tennis and you always hear them talking about baseline stuff but very rarely sideline. My goof, tho.

Waxy in Montreal 9:43 PM  

Heck, I'm disappointed that 57D, Salt Lake City daily, briefly, didn't refer to the DESERET MORNING NEWS, one of the coolest names for a newspaper I know of rather than the pedestrian TRIB.

Also, not living stateside, I had the toughest time figuring out what the C.D. in 23A was all about (compact disks at a Savings & Loan...huh?) until Google provided Certificate of Deposits which I assume is the correct reference.

After a fun Wednesday puzzle, IMHO this one wasn't.

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