WEDNESDAY, Jul. 4, 2007 - Patrick Blindauer

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: U.S.A. - "Notepad" indicates that if you shade in 35A: July 4th message to America ("Happy Birthday") and every square where any of the letter in HAPPY BIRTHDAY appears, you will get 3 lines and 3 letters - turns out that the letters you get are U.S.A. I have no idea what the lines are supposed to be.

A rather clumsy July 4th stunt puzzle. Was it supposed to be a metaphor for American foreign policy? If so, I loved it. Otherwise, not so much (with apologies to Patrick Blindauer, who is good puzzle constructor and fine human being).

Maybe someone can tell me where "Notepad" is in the applet (on-line). And by someone I mean ONE person, in the Comments section, not a million people sending me e-mails or saying things in Comments that many, many people have Already Said. I absolutely love that my readers write me and fill me in on things, or correct me - just make sure that whatever you are telling me hasn't already been completely covered (i.e. if you want to write in - which I encourage - you might actually Read The Comments to make sure your comment still has relevance).

I'm a little sore this morning because I spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening at our friends'/neighbors' house being repeatedly assaulted by bean bags and pine cones and other assorted objects in what the children involved likely imagined as a game of "Kill the Giant" (or perhaps "Hurt the Dorky Grown-Up Who Thinks He's Still a Kid" or, more likely, "Smear the Queer"). I think it was 7 boys against 1 man (me). Only two people ended up crying, and none of them was me, so that's good. I hit John Henry (7) in the face with a pine cone - and then when I was tending to him to make sure he wasn't blind, rather than abide by the Geneva Convention, the other kids wailed on me, soaking me with water and knocking my glasses clean off my head. Later, this one kid (whom I kept calling "helmet boy," as he never bothered to remove his bicycle helmet) pointed this long foam rocket launcher thingie right at me, from about 6 feet away. I told him in a calm voice that if he pulled the trigger, I was going to chase him down and beat him with the foam bat I was holding. He pulled the trigger. You can guess what happened next. Let's just say ... I don't lie: when I say I will do something, I do it. Have you ever had an 8-yr-old boy call you "child abuser" at the top of his lungs? It's not an experience I would willingly relive. Luckily, all the adults (particularly the moms) totally backed me up. And I didn't really beat the kid. I just ... sort of whacked him once, after running him down, which he seemed really, really surprised that I could (and would) do.

The Puzzle? Oh yeah. First of all, what are the "stripes" supposed to represent? I asked Amy, and she suggested that they might be the three branches of government, but I think she was being generous (and/or facetious). The fact that one of the lines goes through the "S" just makes the whole grid look messy and ridiculous.

There are no Theme Answers beyond HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

The two other "Stripes" are-

  • 18A: Knocking sound (rat-a-tat-tat) - this is a machine gun strafing sound, in my book
  • 55A: Memorable title film role of 1971 (Dirty Harry) - arguably, these two stripes ARE thematic. U.S.A. stands for violent revenge. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, punk!

Before I even bothered looking at the "Notepad," I really disliked much of the fill I was encountering. Turns out that every bit of fill I didn't like was directly involved in the "Notepad" stunt, i.e. crappy and/or insane words were used in order to get the USA/3 Stripe picture at the end.

2D: Having a gap (hiatal) - o my god this hurt (though not as bad as a HIATAL hernia - which is the Only Phrase In Which Hiatal Is Ever Used, as far as I can tell). The NW was incredibly bad for me, as LINA (13A: Wertmüller who directed "Seven Beauties") wanted to be LENA (which is actually in the puzzle at 26D: Horne who sang "Stormy Weather") and LANA and LOLA and LENI and anything but what it was supposed to be, and I thought 29A: Classic Mercedes-Benz roadsters were SES - no, SE is a model of Toyota Camry, I think. The Mercedes are SLS. Further, never heard of 20A: Solid alcohol (sterol), so I was well and truly screwed in the NW for a while. Oh, and the NW is where you find the shaded letter "U," the western half of which is 5/6 of HIATAL.

I had no problem with the "S"-related fill, except 43A: How many teens got to movies (on dates), which seemed a stretch.

The "A" was almost as bad a the "U" for creating crappy fill. Actually, now that I look at it, the only truly crappy answer down there is 46D: Denmark's _____ Islands (Faeroe) - an answer made much, much worse by the fact that these islands have an annual whale-slaughtering festival, the very gory details of which are available here. What the hell?

My writing timer just went off, which is good because I don't have much else to say. Here's some fill I liked - AVES (19D: Greetings of long ago - Latin! So much better than cluing this answer as an abbreviation for "Avenues"), KOOLS (50A: Mentholated cigarettes - I'm a sucker for a wacky "K"), and WESSON (48D: Big name in oil) - best clue/answer pairing in the whole damned grid; makes me think of Florence Henderson (aka Mrs. Brady) and her Wesson commercials of the 70s/80s: Wessonality! - now THAT is some crossword fill I would love to see. Has it been used? If not, consider this a challenge.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 9:55 AM  

I thought the non-Happy Birthday lines were thrown in there because there was a line through happy birthday, and it would look even odder if that were the only line in the puzzle. I'd assume that it's also pretty difficult to avoid using A,I,R,T, and (less so) D and Y in an entire quadrant and still have it work out OK, so instead of just randomly sprinkling them around the puzzle, he arranged them into lines.

Orange 10:01 AM  

Far as I know, there's no Notepad functionality anywhere in the applet. When you see that note, it's a cue to go back to square one and download the puzzle again in Across Lite, which does have the Notepad. Alternatively, it's your cue to go buy the newspaper and see what extra note or clues are included.

Gretchen 10:23 AM  

What's the matter with me today? I am such a puzzle snob that I don't usually do Wednesdays, sometimes do Thursday's, and only really enjoy Friday's and Saturdays. I brag about that to show that I am not a novice and usually "get" the clever quirky aspects of some puzzles. But this one!!!???? Sorry! I don't get it! I was able to fill in all the suqares (albeit with some of the smae angst you encountered), but then I crossed out all the H's, A', P's, etc. in "Happy Birthday" and made a mess of the whole thing with no "lines" and "stripes" visible. Then I checked your site and see that I was to cross out all the letters in the clue? Now practically all my squares are blackened in (permanently, as I always do the puzzle in ink). But I still don't get the point even after reading your site. What's the deal? Hey! And, by the way, I love your site! Gretchen in Florida

Rex Parker 10:27 AM  


If you shade in all the letters in HAPPY BIRTHDAY wherever they appear in the puzzle (that is, all H's, A's, P's, Y's, B's, I's, R's, T's and D's), then you will see three stripes and three letters formed by the shading.

Orange 11:05 AM  

I posted a picture of the grid with the shaded letters circled—it's not pretty, but it gets the general idea across visually.

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

The "notepad" is a little rectangle on the same line as the date of the puzzle. Click on it

Caren 11:26 AM  

I'm an avid knitter, and I didn't even know about the whale thing. So to me, a reference to the Faeroe Islands means knitted lace shawls:

jlsnyc 11:39 AM  

oh -- your "kill the giant" rant made me laugh indeed. did you happen to see peyton manning on "snl"? i'm speaking specifically of his "public service" plug. i think you'll relate -- and worth the cut 'n' paste --



kratsman 11:45 AM  

The "little rectangle" only shows up if you're working the puzzle in AcrossLite, not on the "timed applet." That may have been already stated, and, if so, I apologize.

The link to the Faeroe Islands was truly depressing. People do the most vile things in the name of god/tradition.

Your account of your battle with the kids was pretty funny. Kids that age (particularly boys) can be such pricks sometimes. Gotta remind 'em who the alpha male is. Laughed imagining the scene of you getting shellacked.

Dan 12:30 PM  

sorry to be an idiot. i was able to finish this puzzle, but i'm not sure what some of the answers mean. can anyone explain "IVE" for "Correct ending?"? "IRAs" for "Some nest eggs" (I was thinking of different kinds of eggs, etc., here). Finally, "EDs" for "Masthead names"?
thanks for your help!

Alex 12:37 PM  

Speaking of kids being surprised by speedy adults, it reminds me of a personal story (I don't have much to say about the puzzle; NW was hell the rest was easy).

When I was about 12 I was apparently feeling pretty full of myself. We were all out in the yard and my mom told me to do something. I have no idea why but my response was "go to hell." When she took a step towards me she could tell I was going to run and said "You better not make me chase you."

To that I answered "you can't catch me" and honestly thought she couldn't (I apparently didn't think through that even if she couldn't I'd still have to come home at some point).

Took her about a block and a half to catch me.

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

I am totally with you in your wailing on the kid. I am from a long tradition of big boys beating on smaller ones as an accepted rite of passage. I know it is not PC. I do, however, have a certain grudging admiration for a threatened 8-year-old pulling out all the self-protective stops he could think of by screaming CHILD ABUSER.
Janie, my son and I watch the Peyton manning United Way skit all the time. that and the Justin Timberlake song are tthe two funniest skits since STRATEGERY.

Steve M.

Wendy 1:02 PM  


IVE = suffix/ending to 'correct' makes 'corrective'

IRAs = Individual Retirement Accounts and thus nest eggs

EDS = plural abbreviation of 'editors'

Here's where you groan ...

I wanted 'big name in oil' to be something like Cheney or Bushie but I already had too many letters and could see we were going down the path of cooking oil instead. ;)

Stay KOOL everyone!

profphil 1:09 PM  

NW was a killer finally got it all except the "i" in Lina wrote it with an "e" and then Googled Lena Wertmueller and it came up with sites using her name with an "e." Is that a variant or their errata.

Synchronicity always amazes me. I knew Farroe islands immediately as just last week saw a PBS series on the mercury levels in the children that had caused learning disabilities in the children from the pregnant women and children eating whale blubber from their "kill the whale day." I have no sympathy for whale killers but a somewhat mitigating factor, the people on this island have relied on whales for food and it also was the bedrock of their economy. They have been doing this since Viking days. That puts them in a similar category with Native peoples hunting whale. Although, I still don't approve of it.

Dan 1:09 PM  

hey thanks, wendy. as with all crossword puzzle things, those all seem like such obvious ways of looking at the clues now.

campesite 2:37 PM  

Hilarious rant about the kiddie beat-down.
That link to the whaling carnage was disturbing. ProfPhil, thanks for the contribution: it is ironic in the extreme that those whales are poisoned by humans, then slaughtered, and then in turn poisoning humans.
I have to say though I really didn't dig this shading thing, it is nice to have a puzzle wish me happy birthday on my own birthday.

Anonymous 2:45 PM  

Anything with the triangular USA above HAPPY BIRTHDAY-U from GULAG, first S in ESTATES, and A in GULAG?

I think I would've given up on these NY Times puzzles altogether if it weren't for this blog. Thanks for doing it-my husband and I enjoy your comments too!

Orange your grid helped today-had the U and the A, but was having trouble with the letter S-this paper is too marked up and I need stronger reading glasses!

Fergus 3:08 PM  

Re Gretchen and Crossword snobbery -- I recall reading somewhere that Ben Bradlee (Washington Post guy) would have his assistant remove the darkened squares from the grid for added difficulty and style points.

The diagramless puzzle does occasionally appear in the Sunday magazine, but maybe you could turn the early week breeze into more of a challenge?

And by the way, my lettering and shading ended up suggesting a swastika. Further commentary on foreign policy?

frances 3:27 PM  

Speaking of synchronicity--

When the kids at that picnic were flouting the Geneva convention, what they were doing is "whaling" on you. "Wailing" is crying, whereas (see American Heritage Dictionary)striking or hitting repeatedly is "whaling".

AED says the derivation for this usage is unknown; could this derive the carnage inflicted on whales by the Faeroe Islanders?

Rex Parker 3:34 PM  


Thanks for correcting me. There was WAILING involved in my story (by "helmet boy," among others), but you're right, I should have written WHALING. Thankfully, the children did not herd me into shallow waters and then sever my spine with knives because they believed God put me on this earth for them to slaughter. THAT would have sucked.


Anonymous 3:44 PM  

"Lina" is a common enough woman's name. But, what is(10D) "eft" ("pond denizen"?)

profphil 4:03 PM  

Eft is a newt or a stage of a newt's life. Usually a red eft. A salamander -like amphibian hence pond denizen.

Michael 5:16 PM  

I liked the USA highlights, even with the stripes. Anyone else but me get confused by "160, once"? My girlfriend looked over my shoulder and had the answer right away. I'm gonna dedicate a puzzle to her and include the word "Kibbitz".

Wendy 5:38 PM  

Anyone seeking more clarity on the EFT situation need only go to google images and you'll see the creepy little dude. I usually like things that are red, but I don't like it in my pond denizens.

And the word seems very uncreature-like; whenever I see it in the puzzles I think of its more routine context - on my bank statement, as Electronic Funds Transfer, or those payments that are automatically deducted from your checking account.

Orange 6:16 PM  

When children start severing the spines of adults to slaughter them, then we will know that permissive parenting has gone too far.

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

fergus-- can't be the only ones who saw the swastika !! can we?

Anonymous 4:46 PM  

Very simple with the lines: symmetry.

- - Robert

mayes99 7:58 PM  

I am doing the lowly six-week-delayed syndicated version of the puzzle, which came out today. How are you supposed to know to shade in H,A,P,Y,B,I,R,T, and D? Did the original puzzle have instructions?

Waxy in Montreal 10:01 PM  

Thanks Mayes99 for that comment/question. I imagine that since the puzzle appeared on August 15th, they removed anything referencing July 4th, other than 35A.

One interesting factoid concerning the Faeroe Islands - despite being a Danish possession with a population less than 50,000, since 1988 they've had the right to compete in soccer internationally against "real" countries like France & Germany in preliminaries leading to the World Cup, European Cup, etc. Of course, they almost invariably get slaughtered..

pauer 10:26 AM  

Yes, the original puzzle ran with the note: When this puzzle has been completed, shade in the letters of 35-Across everywhere they appear in the grid, revealing three letters and three lines.


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