FRIDAY, Aug. 24, 2007 - Patrick Berry

Friday, August 24, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

This is great puzzle, both in fill and in cluing. Could have been a Little more challenging, but other than that, there are very few flaws. It's weakest in its long Acrosses, strongest in its long Downs, and impressively lively and varied and inventive in the short answers.

Started at 1A: "It's all here" sloganeer, once (CBS), which I half thought was a gimme and half thought I was guessing. Maybe I was right on both counts. Anyway, I got it, and from there the NW fell instantly, with 1D: Continue effortlessly (coast) leading into 21A: The Pacific Ocean's only island kingdom (Tonga). TONGA always reminds me of the very first scene in the very first episode of "The Simpsons," where Springfield Elementary is putting on a Christmas pageant and in the "Santas of Many Lands" segment, Lisa plays "TOWANGA, Santa Claus of the South Seas," juggling torches and dancing while wearing a grass skirt and a tribal mask. Anyway, after TONGA, I got SATAN (3D: "Paradise Lost" character - see also his anagram SANTA - 46D: Stocking stuffer - in the SE corner) but blanked on 2D: Dog in Disney's "Cinderella" (Bruno). Had the "B" and "O" and thought BALTO (that's a movie about a wolf), then BALKO (which sounds like the name of the company involved in the Barry Bonds steroids scandal). The Acrosses in the NW fell next; ORATORIO (14A: "Elijah" or "The Creation") was easy - I think it was an answer in the Crossword Tournament's final puzzle - but the clues on the other two Acrosses made things a little trickier. 17A: Drop a few positions, maybe (automate) was tough, both because of the misdirection of the clue (I was thinking of dropping in the rankings, not axing jobs) and because there's not a direct relation between automating and firing - the latter may be the result of the former, but not necessarily. If you follow. Still, loved this challenge. Also loved 19A: Maker of Kiwi Teawi (Snapple), which is a very original and initially confusing way to clue this common beverage brand.

15D: Highest-grossing film of 1986 ("Top Gun") was the movie I saw on my very first date ever - a rather unromantic double date that was really more like "4 friends going to the movies," but when you've got no track record, no dating history, and you are attracted to one of those friends, and you sit next to her and smell her shampoo and try to make incidental contact without seeming aggressive or creepy ... believe me, it counts as a "date." Reading over that description, even I'm not surprised we never "went out" again. "Top Gun" was awesome, though, so some good came out of it.

As I've said, the long Acrosses were bland:

  • 26A: They're staffed with doctors (universities) - perhaps this bores me because it's about me
  • 30A: Bad time for a tropical vacation (rainy season) - nice enough phrase, but easy easy clue
  • 38A: Country that won the most medals at the 1980 Winter Olympics (East Germany) - I feel like EAST GERMANY was just in the puzzle very recently. Again, this clue is pretty easy. A couple crosses should get you the answer, if it didn't come to you instantly.
  • 40A: Reluctantly accepting (reconciled to) - pretty good, but nothing to write home about.

But the long Downs are another story:

  • 4D: Ultraloyal employees (company men) - a great phrase, and one that conjures up a fabulous and brutal movie called "In the Company of Men," starring Aaron Eckhart of "Thank You for Smoking" ... fame? It's like a longer, extremely sadistic version of "The Office," minus the mockumentary conceit.
  • 8D: Feeling no better (unconsoled) - also (with "The") the title of a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, one of the greatest writers on the planet.
  • 11D: Is clueless (has no idea) - love phrases of three or more words.
  • 27D: Soul singer who is also a coronated king of Ghana (Isaac Hayes) - awesome bit of trivia. I had the "I" and started to write in IKE TURNER. HAYES is best known, recently, for quitting "South Park" (HAYES was the voice of Chef) after the show ran an episode that mocked Scientology - it's a justly famous episode that features the star of "Top Gun" (coincidentally) in a closet (... [cough] ...) for an Extended period of time.
  • 32D: One of the "10 Attic orators" (Isocrates) - I did not know this. Pieced it together from crosses. Sounds like the title of SOCRATES' autobiography. Other names I didn't know but guessed easily were CHERIE (55A: Mrs. Tony Blair), ELIAS (45D: 1981 Literature Nobelist Canetti), COLIN (20A: Mystery author Dexter), and ALEC (58A: _____ Ramsay ("The Black Stallion hero)). Had a hell of a time remembering ALBAN (48A: "Wozzeck" composer _____ Berg). Had ALLAN for a while
  • 29D: Near the bottom of the drawers? (inartistic) - very very cute. "Drawers" = "ones who draw." Same trick is occasionally played when "flower" is used to clue a river.

UTAHAN (8A: Marie Osmond or Loretta Young) and MARSALA (35A: Wine used to make zabaglione) might have been harder to turn up if they hadn't both been in the puzzle in recent months. The only sticking point of the puzzle was the SW, where not knowing ISOCRATES meant having to hack away at a lot of Acrosses. Knew YURI (42A: First name in cosmonautics) but EDS (34A: I.T. firm founded by Ross Perot) was totally unknown (or forgotten). Also, had to wait on the last letter of 37A: Member of an extended familia (tio) because it could have been (and usually is) TIA. OILERS (41D: Team that won the first A.F.L. championship) might be hard for non-sports and very young people; they were a reasonably successful N.F.L. team when I was growing up (they eventually morphed into the Tennessee Titans). Another tricky, but very COOL (50D: "Fantastic!") sports clue in today's puzzle is 10D: Pass under the basket, maybe (assist) - I spent many seconds wondering why anyone would walk under a basket.

That's all for HOY (43A: Major U.S. Spanish language daily).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

33 comments:

liebestraum 9:42 AM  

Man, I know a Friday puzzle is (relatively) easy if I can finish it in just under 15 minutes. Might even be a world record for me. I think I just got a taste of how really good solvers work puzzles. And, if regression to the mean is really operating the way it is supposed to, tomorrow's puzzle will take me 2 or 3 hours, with a couple visits to Mr. Google. Bet on it.

I guessed SOVIET UNION for the 1980 Olympics - figuring that since the US boycotted it (stupidest idea ever) that the USSR would clean up. Got it fixed pretty quickly.

The one corner that worried me we the SE - I had no idea what "stare decisis" mean, but when I found out the word ended in W, I figured it had to have LAW in it. I got the rest with crosses.

wade 10:08 AM  

I'd call this one a medium difficulty--I got it in 18:20, which is probably my median Friday time. Almost no gimmes for me on the first pass, but CASELAW got me going, and it went pretty steadily from there.

OILERS. Man, that one made me sad. I grew up a Cowboys fan and still am, at least nominally. (I probably couldn't name two players on the current roster, but when they start winning again I'll start paying attention again, like most Cowboys fans.) But the Oilers, perennial almost-great team through most of their tenure in Houston, where I now live, hold a special place in my heart. Earl Campbell is a poignant figure--a very great player who was overused for so many years that as a very young man he had to start using two canes to get around. He can barely walk at all now. The infamous Houston-Buffalo AFC championship playoff game of 1992 is lodged in my memory. I was driving back from Maine with my then girlfriend and picked up the game at halftime when we reached Texarkana. The Oilers were up 35-3, I think. I listened with increasing incredulity as Buffalo commenced to score five touchdowns and win the game something like 38-35. But it was nice to see Bruce Matthews get into the Hall of Fame this year.

TOP GUN. Man, I still can't believe they killed Goose.

Sad puzzle today.

prshutr 10:12 AM  

liebestraum,
U.S. Boycotted the SUMMER Olympics, and CCCP (Cyrrilic charaters for USSR) did clean up.
The clue was to the WINTER olympics.
Rex,
I missed one square, put in EDP (Electronic Data Processing) which gave me IPOCRATES - thought it was reference to the rough breathing used in Attic Greek to substitute for a missing "H", but wrong is wrong.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa

Jonathan 10:14 AM  

Could 32 Down really be the (#1)Socrates because the answer is One of ten? It's the only thing that makes sense.

Rex Parker 10:15 AM  

IPOCRATES = [The Father of Medicine, to Cockneys]

Rex Parker 10:17 AM  

This also makes sense:

Isocrates @ Wikipedia

Sue 10:19 AM  

There really was an orator named Isocrates. I was hung up on this for a while because I leapt wrongly to the conclusion that 37A was TIA.

liebestraum 10:33 AM  

prhsutr -

D'oh!

Once I get this "reading with comprehension" thing down, I think I might actually get better at these puzzles.

Thanks,

lieb

Howard B 10:59 AM  

Hope things are better in Rexworld today.

Thought this was a pretty tough Friday puzzle, and struggled somewhere in pretty much every area, although most of it was workable (except the ISOCRATES/EDS crossing, yeesh). Felt like a Saturday to me, maybe also because I was doing house cleaning in the hours before solving. I may have been working off a Comet cleanser buzz.

Oh, and I enjoyed the near-symmetry of SANTA and SATAN in those corners. Anagrammatical fun.

karmasartre 11:05 AM  

Is ISOCRATES related to I,Claudius?

I enjoy COLIN Dexter's C.I. Morse mysteries. More depth than the TV show, though John Thaw was wonderful as Morse. I keep a dictionary handy when I read one.

Got EASTGERMANY off the Y. Had no clue regarding the CASELAW clue. so the SE took an extra 10 minutes or so. This puzzle was very clever imo, and very enjoyable.

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

Did this one in record time of 10 seconds, not counting staring at myself in the mirror.

Orange 11:55 AM  

anonymous 11:16 is definitely in the running for today's Jackass Award.

Anonymous 12:23 PM  

hey... can someone explain 44 across: IDEST to me? i dont' know any latin and (obviously) got it from the crosses.
thanks!
dan

ayoung 12:29 PM  

I knew it was too good to be true--breezed through until I came to 32D and 29D. Give me a break. Attic orators? And inartistic is so awkward as an answer even though I suspected the clue had something to do with art. Forget about the southeast corner. Yeah couldn't remember the final initial of Perot's company. Isn't it amazing how Perot has disappeared from view? Is he only a chicken billionaire now so doesn't make the list for the richest people in the world?

Chip Ahoy 12:40 PM  

Deheavyful. I mean, delightful.

Near the bottom of the drawers = inartistic
Drop a few positions = automate

ha ha ha ha, those slays me.

Did NOT know about Isaac Hayes being a king.

mmpo 1:08 PM  

Anon 12:33
Usually, you see i.e.
The letters stand for id est (that is).

Do Attic orators shout from the rooftops (in contrast to basement mutterers, who speak in undertones)? Just wondering...

Howard B 1:29 PM  

I hope I didn't come across wrong when I commented, if so, I feel really badly about that; only realized after I posted that the tone wasn't anywhere near what I intended...

Didn't get stuck too badly on the puzzle, just meant it was challenging and a lot of answers didn't come easily at first or second guess. Wasn't trying to be smug or anything, I swear. I'm not like that at all here when I post, or in real life. Was just commenting on relative difficulty from my own experience, wasn't comparing times or any of that stuff.

Wendy 1:41 PM  

Rex, Rex, Rex - you're the man of the hour! Did you hear me shriek? I have been wracking my brain for the better part of a year trying to remember the title and author of The UNCONSOLED by Ishiguro. I kept looking for things by Kenzaburo Oe but that was clearly wrong. I read it some years ago and was mesmerized by it; however it was either a library book or I gave it away so I lost track of it. I wanted to recommend it to someone but couldn't for the life of me remember those two pertinent items, just that the main character was a musician. Woo hoo!

jae 2:25 PM  

This was a medium for me. I needed many crosses/inferences for a host of unknowns (e.g. ORATORIO, COLIN, ISOCTA..,ALBAN, CHERIE, CASELAW, ALEC, ELIAS, COSSET, MARSALA). Fortunately, all the long acrosses were gimmies and the long downs were gettable from just a few crosses. A really enjoyable and, for me, pretty challenging puzzle. My experience was much like Howard b's (who sounded just fine to me in his post) .

mac 4:47 PM  

This puzzle was too easy for a Friday, I much prefer to spend a little more time on it!

Beata 4:49 PM  

I googled "1980 winter olympics" and the top articles said Soviet Union won the most medals

Anonymous 5:03 PM  

The Soviet Union won the most gold medals, but East Germany had the most overall medals (23 to 22 over the Soviets). The United States had the most memorable one in Olympic history.

Steve M

RonB 5:41 PM  

I love Patrick Berry's puzzles. His Crossword for Dummies has 70 of his puzzles plus a how-to section to design/solve puzzles.

After 70-plus puzzles, I can spot a new PB puzzle within the first few clues.

karmasartre 5:48 PM  

ronb -- I'm working my way through that book and love his puzzles. Seems odd that it would be titled "...for Dummies" as it's anything but.

Fergus 5:58 PM  

Filled in all the squares as rapidly as I could write today, but that's because I found a new method of working the puzzle ... which was doing it while driving. No, not with the frightening heedlessness that the Miles character goes about it in "Sideways", but reading or scribbling while at a red light. And doing bit of thinking en route to my many destinations today. I still prefer sitting down with the clipboard for the uninterrupted trance, but hey, nobody honked his horn at me.

Curious why Rex found such a qualitative difference between UNCONSOLED and RECONCILED TO? Seemed on a par to me.

It doesn't hurt to page through the "Wine Spectator" every so often -- seems like a fair amount of grapes and regions find their way into puzzles. As do fabrics. Was at a party in San Francisco last week and many of the women were wearing some interesting fabrics and garments. Once I got started asking what they were called, and got over any embarrassment such inquiries might cause, I was quite satisfied in learning what Tulle or Crinoline, for example, actually are. And not an eyebrow raised, either.

Mac 9:30 PM  

This is a very slow evening, Rex. I enjoy reading the comments; doing a puzzle is normally such a solitary occupation, it has been wonderful to find these likeminded people!
Hope you are ok.

Anonymous 10:20 PM  

Balto was a Siberian Husky, and he has a statue in Central Park. He was most definitely not a wolf.

livebug 10:48 PM  

LOVED this puzzle, LOVE Kazuo Ishiguro, HATED having to wait until Friday to read your post. xoxo

Anonymous 1:01 AM  

Rex -- sorry to be dense but what was the theme of this puzzle?

Is it the "ny" in rainy, germany, company ?

Mary 10:41 AM  

I had a very early appointment on Monday and have been a day late on the puzzle all week. So when I pull up this blog I have to avert my eyes from the current entry.

i enjoyed this puzzle, especially that I got to do it today, a Saturday.

atp2007 10:32 PM  

I'm surprised nobody mentioned 5 down, the answer being ORAL. Isn't that an adjective and not a noun and thus can't be what is passed on. It may be short for ORAL History but also could stand for Oral Sex, the latter being a more common reference when somebody refers to ORAL these days.

atp2007 10:37 PM  

P.S. I don't get 52 Down, "work within a company, say". I get ACT as the answer but I must be missing something as to what it references.

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

apt2007 - it's act (id est, work) within in a "company of actors".

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