TUESDAY, July 17, 2007 - Natan Last

Monday, July 16, 2007

Linda G here, filling in for a couple of days while the King of CrossWorld is away (62A: Not at home).

The first time I guest-blogged for Rex, some time in early April, I made the mistake of saying that I was excited to be Queen for a Day. It caused quite a stir, and I never (well, rarely) make the same mistake twice.

I don't recall seeing Natan Last's name on a New York Times puzzle before. If this is a debut, Natan...job well done. [Update: Thanks to reader, Liffey Thorpe, for sharing the following: "According to Will Shortz's post in today's puzzle comments, Natan Last is a high school student and the fifth-youngest constructor to be published in the NYT."]

The theme is revealed at 64A: How the answer to each of the nine starred clues repeats (at both ends)...and the nine theme answers are:

17A: 1942 film with the line "What makes saloonkeepers so snobbish?" (Casablanca). I remember the movie but not the line.

24A: Bench sharer (teammate).

41A: Japanese grill (hibachi). Everyone had a hibachi in the early seventies. I don't remember the last time I saw one--either the word or the grill itself. Great fill.

56A: Underwater creature whose males give birth (seahorse). If humans reproduced that way, how do you suppose it would affect the birth rate in this country?

10D: They live on acres of Acre's (Israelis).

11D: Rick Blaine in 17-Across, e.g. (lead role). Two theme answers connected...very nice.

27D: Many-acred homes (estates). We had 30 acres in Arkansas, but I don't think of that as an estate. The house would have had to be larger than the 1,200 square feet that it was.

39D: Classic Chinese military treatise, with "The" (Art of War). I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't know this. I haven't had a history class since the late sixties, and I just didn't retain that bit of information.

40D: Fearful 1917-20 period (Red Scare). According to this article, there was a second period from the late 40s to the late 50s.

Other things I didn't know...but was able to get from crosses:

1A: Rocker Ocasek (Ric). Many of you know that he was the lead singer for the Cars, but I didn't have a clue until I looked him up here.

31A: "Illmatic" rapper (Nas). I don't do rap.

3D: Sportscaster Bob (Costas). If it isn't Howard Cosell, I don't know him...which in no way implies that I liked Howard Cosell.

58D: Mario __, Nintendo racing game (Kart). I know as little about Nintendo as I know about sports.

49D: River nymphs, in Greek myth (naiads). I actually know the word. I just never remember how the @&%# to spell it. Those vowels make absolutely no sense.

But did you notice how many times X appeared in the grid? Three times, for a total of six X words--four of them all in one area. Would that be the Texas portion of the grid? My geography isn't very good, either...the last geography class I took was around the time of John Kennedy's assassination. Anyway, the X words:

9D: Instrument that wails (sax). Guitars, for the record, gently weep. Sax crosses with 19A: Look inside? (Xray).

59A: Fort __, N.J. (Dix), crossing with 60D: More, in commercialese (Xtra).

65D: Be a pugilist (box), crossing at 72A: The "S" in WASP (Saxon). That's awfully close to sax, but I'll allow almost anything for an X in the grid.

I always enjoy multiword answers. Today we have 15A: Walt Whitman's "__ the Body Electric" (I Sing), 48A: When Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr dueled (at dawn), and 14D: Start liking (warm to).

Not a multiword answer, but when I look at the grid I keep seeing it as one. 69A: Bor-r-ring voice (drone) keeps looking like Dr. One.

In addition to Casablanca, there are several other film-related answers, including:

44A: "Me, Myself & __," 2000 Jim Carrey film (Irene). Didn't see it. I can only take Jim Carrey in small doses.

46A: Peter of "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (O'Toole). Read the book, didn't see the film.

55A: Actor Milo (O'Shea).

8D: Christie who created Hercule Poirot (Agatha). Books and films.

Favorite clues include 37A: You might crack one while playing (smile) and 36D: It might need to be settled (score).

While I'm filling in for Rex (today and tomorrow), this post will also appear at my site, Madness...Crossword and Otherwise.

See you tomorrow.

Linda G


Anonymous 4:04 AM  

The eponymous album "The Cars" came out around '80, and it turned out to be the last of my ten-year fling with rock and roll. Didn't like the downward spiral R&R was going into. So Ric Ocasek's name was branded deeply in my mind. (I now listen only to classical.)

Rockonchris 7:33 AM  

Thanks for filling in for Rex, but I must make a correction. "Seahorses" is singular, both to fill the grid and to repeat correctly at the end.

hobbyist 8:39 AM  

Nice puzzle but don't get the Israeli Acres connection unless Acre is a city in Israel?

Linda G 8:43 AM  

SEAHORSE was correct in the completed grid...I've now corrected it in the post as well.

Orange 8:45 AM  

Yes, Acre is a city in Israel. (One of those things I learned from crosswords...)

crossnerd 10:43 AM  

Thanks for posting the info on Natan Last. I too wondered if this was his NYT debut, and am happy to know a little more about him.

campesite 12:29 PM  

Nice post today Linda.
Wow, this was the first puzzle for Natan Last and he's in High School? Very impressive.

frances 1:28 PM  


You referenced Liffey Thorpe referencing "...Will Shortz's post in today's puzzle comments..." Is there a site where we can read Will's comments each day?!!

Great job reigning over today's Crossworld. I'm glad to see you do the grid by hand; I thought I was the only one who finds it oppressive to sit in front of a screen filling in virtual squares.

Orange 1:57 PM  

Frances, Will pops in at the NYT's Today's Puzzle forum when he has something to say publicly, which is probably less than once a month. (Weekly radio appearances notwithstanding...)

Fergus 2:28 PM  

Concurring with Frances that it was a pleasure to find the grid filled in by hand. I, too, prefer the manual method though today my handwriting was a bit sloppy, plus I had to change Seatmate to TEAMMATE. Every so often I'll do the puzzle with a fountain pen on the newsprint, leaving no aesthetic allowance for a mistake.

The ART OF WAR was something Tony Soprano cited as worthwile for running his waste management business -- much more instructive than Prince Machiabelli, he said.

Kitt 5:03 PM  

Really nice Tuesday puzzle and so neat to hear it's new constructor and a young'n (however you spell that!). Cool!

You know, (Amy or whoever might know) I find the NYT Puzzle Forum very difficult to navigate (and I'm pretty good with Message Boards/blogs etc). Is it just me that feels this way and/or is there something I missing about how to work with it. I've tried several times and gave up in frustration.


Anonymous 6:35 PM  

And how about "Inaner"..... I don't buy it for "more inane"
I suspect Rex would have taken issue with a word like that.

Anonymous 6:37 PM  

Gilbert ARENAS plays basketball and yells "HIBACHI" when he scores. Great!

judith8 6:41 PM  


To see Will's comment, go to:

In the middle of the page, select "Search Forums". Then search on "wshortz".

Here is what he wrote:
Young constructor
Tuesday's impressive crossword debut is by a high school student from Brooklyn, Natan Last. He's the fifth youngest constructor known to have been published in the Times, and the fourth youngest since I became editor in 1993.

Natan is spending the summer in Guatemala doing social work, so he probably won't see the Times today, but his father is saving a few copies for when he returns. He promises to send more puzzles this fall.

For the record, here's a list of all the teenage constructors known to have been published in the Times over the years. The list gives each person's name, birthdate, date of first publication, and age at that time:

1. Mike Miller, 11/20/62, 12/6/76, 14 yrs 0 mos
2. Tyler Hinman, 11/5/84, 7/4/00, 15 yrs 7 mos
3. Ethan Cooper, 3/23/83, 5/17/99, 16 yrs 1 mo
4. Will Nediger, 12/4/89, 5/27/06, 16 yrs 5 mos
5. Natan Last, 11/13/90, 7/17/07, 16 yrs 8 mos
6. Michael Shteyman, 5/9/84, 2/13/01, 16 yrs 9 mos
7. Kyle Mahowald, 3/7/87, 3/22/04, 17 yrs 0 mos
8. Merl Reagle, 1/5/50, 2/11/67, 17 yrs 1 mo
9. Michael Doran, 9/28/84, 9/16/03, 18 yrs 11 mos
10. Jeffrey Harris, 8/22/85, 8/30/04, 19 yrs 0 mos
11. Zach Jesse, 9/1/84, 1/19/04, 19 yrs 3 mos
12. Henry Hook, 9/18/55, 5/23/75, 19 yrs 8 mos

--Will Shortz

Linda G 7:31 PM  

Thanks to all who answered questions posed while I was working today...away from a computer. Gasp!

Dan, you're so right about INANER. I meant to mention it but completely spaced it. Rex would have gone ballistic...well, maybe he'd take issue ; )

Kitt 8:28 PM  

Thanks so much Judith -- I appreciate the link! My point however is that the NYT Puzzle Forum is difficult to navigate just in general. And I'm wondering if it is just me or if I am missing something.

Kristen F 10:26 PM  

Kitt, I agree about the NYT puzzle forum. Very cumbersome, hard to follow threads, etc. I don't bother with it anymore.

Rex (I know you're not there, you're here, in Boston) -- thanks for such a great blog. It is very entertaining and motivates me to do the puzzle every day. I love your snarky, irreverent approach.

Linda G 8:32 AM  

Kristen, I've also referred to Rex's take on things as irreverent...but I really like snarky ; )

Spencer 1:58 PM  

On "Mario Kart", coincidentally, this web comic (xkcd) came out the day before with a reference to Mario Kart. So that one was a gimme for me. Warning: "strong" language in the comic title may offend.

Laurie K 6:52 AM  

Thank heaven's for Rex, his blogs, and his guest bloogers! If not for the blog, I would be banging my head against the wall!

I am 6 weeks behind most of you, since I can't seem to get the NYT puzzle subscription to work on my Mac.

The difficulty with the puzzle today, for me, is that until I reached 64A, I didn't know there was a theme. Of course, after reading 64A, i was no further enlightened.

The clue in the paper said: 64A How the answer to each of the nine italicized clues repeats

This would have worked had any of the clues been italicized...or starred...or something. If not for Rex' blog, I would be clueless until tomorrow, when the answers are printed.

Does anyone know if Mac intoshes can access the current puzzle? Black Ink for the Mac only accesses "classic" puzzles.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

6WL ::::

Laurie, the current NYT puzzle is available on my Mac. You have to be a NYT subscriber. Their screensw are a bit confusing. I do the current puzzle against the clock (slowly). I'm still doing the six-weeks-old syndicated puzzle in the Seattle P-I...I'll catch up to myself soon and live in the present. The P-I had the nine clues italicized. Must be your local...

Did OK on the puzzle but failed on OSHEA because I couldn't get the string of vowels in NAIADS. Looks dumb now since I had OSHE...not many options other than A, eh?

Waxy in Montreal 7:40 PM  

Geez, Laurie K, I thought it was just my newspaper, the Montreal Gazette, that left out the italics. Guess it was more widespread - maybe the syndicated version 6 weeks on just gets short shrift from the NYT people.

Anyway, great puzzle today for a Tuesday, especially coming from a HS student. Well done, Natan Last!

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