FRIDAY, Aug. 31, 2007 - Paula Gamache

Friday, August 31, 2007

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: "GH" words (or, none)

I had a horrible time with this puzzle, possibly because I did it first thing in the morning - literally, rolled out of bed, went to my desk, and started the puzzle. Even with some fairly substantial gimmes, it took me a while to really get going, and then at about the 2/3 mark, I got completely stuck, with the NE and the far W being wide open and recalcitrant.

Started with MAHALO (15A: Hawaiian "thank you") - if you ever go to Hawaii, you learn this word. We had a sign inside our condo that said "MAHALO for taking your shoes off." Only other true gimmes for me were DANTE'S (37A: "_____ Peak" (1997 Pierce Brosnan film)) and RICHTER (8D: Scale developer), though I managed to get SOUTHERN CROSS (33A: Constellation seen on the flags of Australia, Samoa and Papua New Guinea) very quickly, with just the last two letters in place. Still, after many minutes, only the Eastern portion of the puzzle was substantially filled in.

This puzzle was admirably tough, with lots of crafty cluing and colorful answers, but still, there were some answers that bugged the hell out of me. What in the world is a HUG-ME-TIGHT (29D: Short, close-fitting jacket)!? I mean, I'm guessing that it's a short, close-fitting jacket, but Damn. Ugh. Come on! Google Image Search doesn't even turn up an image of one of these - nothing that makes it clear what species of jacket we're talking about. There appear to be pictures of hand-knitted something-or-others, but... the term only gets 25K Google hits, period, which is tiny. So this answer was Rough for me. Same goes for "LAUGH AT ME" (28A: 1965 Sonny Bono hit), which stretches the meaning of "hit" to the breaking point. I don't believe I've ever heard this song, and I spent the entirety of my junior / senior years in high school listening to oldies stations. This title was really really hard to divine from crosses. The "G" was giving me fits - was it "LET GO OF ME"? So I struggled a lot. Didn't help that HUG-ME-TIGHT and "LAUGH AT ME" intersect!

Other "GH" words / phrases of note include RIGHT ARM (16A: Exchange for something you really want?) - a tough but perfect clue; TOUGH (47A: "Deal with it!"); and HEIGHTEN (59A: Opposite of diminish).

Clues that gave me trouble:

  • 38A: Parliamentary address? ("Madame Speaker") - I had SPEAKER, but ... couldn't figure out how "address" fit in. Wrote in SENATE SPEAKER and kept it for a while. :(
  • 42A: This, in Thuringen (diese) - don't speak German
  • 5D: Hockey player Tverdovsky (Oleg) - Where's Cassini when you need him?
  • 6D: Youngest of the Culkin brothers (Rory) - Where's Calhoun when you need him?
  • 19A: Wrestler Flair (Ric) - Where's Ocasek when you need him?
  • 9D: One-room house, typically (igloo) - a one-room house is not typically an IGLOO. An IGLOO is typically a one-room house
  • 44D: Tree with double-toothed leaves and durable wood (red elm) - I knew it was some kind of ELM, but ...

Really really disliked the following (and again, intersecting) pair of simple answers with insane, trying-too-hard clues:

  • 21D: It has many functions (math) - ... ? OK. It sure does. I mean, I get it, but ... are the "functions" of MATH actually finite? Can you count them, such that "many" makes sense? If so, how many functions?
  • 24A: Runners with hoods (autos) - my least favorite clue. As with MATH, it occurred to me, but then seemed too ridiculously easy or ordinary to be correct. I think I don't like that both MATH and AUTOS are abbreviations too (of a sort). Just got a rubbed-the-wrong-way feeling off of both these answers

Loved the twin skin pic clues:

  • 10D: Skin pics? (cheesecake)
  • 12D: Skin pic? (tat)

If I ever got a TAT, there's a high likelihood that it would involve CHEESECAKE. So far, though, I'm TAT-free - except for this temporary TAT of the local minor league baseball team's mascot that I'm currently sporting on my left hip (long story involving daughter). In addition to the 2x skin pics, nice doubling of Teddy Roosevelt on 34D: Home of Theo. Roosevelt Natl. Park (N. Dak.) and 46A: Regulation targets for Theodore Roosevelt: Abbr. (RRs). Another great doubling effect is the intersection of PIGPENS (40D: Dumps) and DIRT POOR (50A: Hard up). PIG PEN is my second-favorite "Peanuts" character behind Franklin.

Liked the cluing on PICKETERS (43A: Striking figures) and GYM SHOES (20A: They might just squeak by in a basketball game) and PRICE TAG (7A: Shock source, sometimes), though that last one should probably be STICKER, since that's the phrase that's in the language: sticker shock. There were a couple of ancient clues that might have proved tricky for some - 2D: Pantheon heads? (capita) and 23D: Ancient meeting places (agoras); actually, that last one should be a near-gimme for frequent solvers.

I have never in my life seen POE's name written thusly: E.A. POE (31A: "Berenice" author, briefly). Feel about HAIR (36D: Eyebrow makeup) the same way I feel about MATH and AUTOS, above. Boo! Never watched "Entourage" so didn't know 13D: Agent Gold on HBO's "Entourage" (Ari) - I guessed IRA at one point, which is anagrammatically correct. Super happy to remember 32D: Desert Storm reporter (Arnett), even if I did have him as ARNESS to start. Lastly, and most embarrassingly, it took me For Ever to get what should have been the gimme-est of gimmes for this erstwhile medievalist - was looking for something much more generic at 3D: Fights with knights (The Crusades). JOUSTS? TOURNAMENTS? I studied this stuff for Years!!! So sad. And yet ATRA (22A: Grooming brand introduced in 1977) I got almost instantly. Can't remember what he studied in school forever, but shaving products he knows only from TV ads ... those leap straight to the front of his mind.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


mmpo 10:19 AM  

It seems to me that the noun form of DO OVER is DO-OVERS. But it's a colloquialism--I don't see it in my dictionary--so who can say?
Thanks for explaining (by example) what a TAT is. I would've liked to see something like "fair trade for a tit."
I also didn't know what a Seraglio or an ODA were, but looking up Seraglio, I recall that ODA is standard crossword fare. However, it does not appear in Webster's Unabridged!

Jerome 10:35 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerome 10:39 AM  


Great blog. Get up early more often.

I agree that this puzzle was rough. Either the clues were beautifully sneaky or the solutions esoteric (at best); just the way a Friday should be. Many AHA moments and a few WTF ones, too.

BTW, also liked your choice of graphics.

pinky 10:48 AM  

".... Same goes for "LAUGH AT ME" (28A: 1965 Sonny Bono hit), which stretches the meaning of "hit" to the breaking point."
Laughing out loud, Rex.

TAT? What's that? So a sneeze is an ACH? A one room house is an IGL?

And could someone please explain RIGHT ARM to me? I like my own invented word solution better....RIGHTURN. (Sounds very this century)

Lots of fun ones, including those Rex mentioned.

easl 10:59 AM  

I had several problems with todays puzzle, but will mention only two. One: 42A. The german word 'DIESE' is plural, whereas I believe 'THIS' is singular. Second: 18A. In which dictionary is 'ECLECTIC' defined as 'CATHOLIC'? Maybe it's my language problem, as my blog nickname may suggest. Finally, Rex, I think you are missing two stars in your Australian flag.

Sandy 11:04 AM  

Did you know you have not one, but two New Zealand referenced today? There's the flag image (NZ not referenced in the clue, but how many Pacific nations can one clue hold), and Peter Arnett, the Gulf War CNN reporter, is a Kiwi.

karmasartre 11:06 AM  

LAUGHATME was on the charts six weeks in '65 and reached #10.

TOUGH doesn't begin to describe this puzzle for me.
If I could have a DOOVER, I wouldn't want it. GYMSHOES fit right where I had "sneakers". How could something like SOUTHERNCROSS help so litlle with the crosses? I did a DIRTPOOR job. The RIGHTARM cluing was very clever -- today I can't say the same for me.

Jim in Chicago 11:19 AM  

I have no problem with TAT, which is in fairly common usage as shorthand for tattoo. I'm pretty sure that I've CATHOLIC used to mean eclectic, as in "he has catholic tastes", but I can't find a reference at the moment, the OED is silent on that usage. I also do not understand RIGHTARM at all, can someone explain?

karmasartre 11:27 AM  

"I'd give my right arm to be able to do today's puzzle"

Spencer 11:54 AM  

easl: Diese can be the form of "this" used before feminine gender words. It is also the plural form for all genders. See for details.

Jim, "Right Arm" is what you would trade for something. It's a tricky clue, I agree.

Easl, if you have "eclectic tastes", you like lots of things. In other words, you have "catholic tastes". They're not quite the same, as eclectic implies more "wide ranging" where as catholic implies more "universal." I didn't like the cluing, either. The example is courtesy of Orange at

It's not the Australian Flag, it's the New Zeland flag. See, for example. The oz flag has, as you note, two more stars, and they're white (

There was a lot of misdirection in this puzzle. I fell into an number of the traps (sneakers, for example).

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

Spencer - Nevertheless, they're both representations of the same constellation: the SOUTHERN CROSS.

MATH indeed has many functions. How about SIN, COS, TAN, COTAN,SEC, COSEC, SINH, COSH, TANH for starters?

Not too many three-letter Indian tribes. Put in OTO immediately, but it didn't help at all, what with the hideous DOOVER.

Had REDOAK for a while, before dropping the OAK for ELM, the only other tree I know with three letters. But with the elm disease prevalent in this country, I'll bet very few people know of the character of its wood, DURABLE.


Gimmes were ATRA, TAT, ETCS, RICHTER, HOSE, TMEN, ODA, AGORAS (although the last letter could have been E), DOGE, RIP, AHS, ECHO, ATEE.

All in all, the most challenging puzzle in many weeks.

Anonymous 1:31 PM  

No need to show off. What's wrong with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division? To Rex, "function" is a mathematical term, and in math, refers to those posted by myself and the above poster, along with many others, like square roots and factorials. There are a finite number, though a complete list would be quite long.

Orange 1:35 PM  

Ah, Jerome, if only you could edit your comment after posting. Erase "WTF," insert "what in tarnation?" All the cool kids are using WIT now.

Fergus 1:35 PM  

A real hum-dinger this was. At least an hour of, I must say, respectful and compelling frustration.

Wrong tree barks: Evacuate instead of ABROGATE; Widow's for DANTE's; Tecs for TMEN; Snappy, Snippy, Snarky rather than SNARLY; Pigstys for PIGPENS; Right One, not ARM; etc, ETC. If it weren't for the SOUTHERN CROSS I would have been lost. Have to admit I put in IVE GOT YOU for the Sonny Bono hit.

When one SPUTTERs, is this really speaking explosively? OPENER for Handle? I still don't get it, except for using a kitchen cabinet drawer handle to pop the top off a bottle. Is that it?

Also liked PICKETERS, PRICE TAG, CHARGE and ECLECTIC. Catholic is one of those commonly misunderstood words I find, since many people think of 'catholic tastes' and being rather narrow.

Finally to the North West, which I will probably see in my dreams tonight since I engaged in the full complexity of possibly having anything go with everything else. Even CAPITA I wavered on, since that's Latin and Pantheon is Greek. (Now I know that Agrippa built one in Rome -- it's also a Paris Metro stop I seem to recall.) But I really got stuck on keeping FLY in for the Cool, in a way clue. Not knowing MAHALO left me ungracious. As I mentioned above, is there any more credible connection between Handle and OPENER?

Jerome 2:06 PM  

Orange, my memory isn't great, but I recall that Rex uses this term quite frequently, so I did, too? Anyway, I'll be happyt to rephrase in the future.

Fergus, doesn't one pull on the drawer handle to open the drawer (I knoew it's lame, but...)?

ayoung 2:19 PM  

Me, too, Rex. Knew I was in trouble when the first run through gave me one answer--oda (53A). Didn't like E. A. Poe either; threw in Dante for the heck of it but, of course, Brosnan's film title threw that out. Kept trying to figure out how giving a watch could fit into 48D, obviously not knowing what a stemwinder was.

Anonymous 2:46 PM  

STEMWINDER refers to a speech so long that listeners take out their pocketwatches (very dated objects, to be sure) and wind the stems to be sure they're working.

My Webster's Unabridged (1994) defines "hug-me-tight" as "a woman's short, warm, close-fitting jacket, usually knitted or crocheted and often sleeveless."

Andrew 2:55 PM  

Here are the answers to your three questions about functions.

1. Are the "functions" of MATH actually finite?

If you are asking if there are only finitely many functions in math, then the answer is No.

2./3. Can you count them, such that "many" makes sense? If so, how many functions?

There are infinitely many functions, and in fact we say that there are uncountably many. It is possible to compare sizes of infinite sets. The set of natural numbers 1, 2, 3, ... is said to be a countably infinite set. The set of functions, however, is far larger, in that it is infinite but cannot be counted like the previous set.

jae 3:22 PM  

I really enjoyed this one. Lots of staring but no googling, so TOUGH but doable. I'm with Rex on AUTOS but thought HAIR was just cute Friday clueing. I spent some time trying to imagine what a gun with a silencer sounded like. SOUTHERNCROSS came quickly but HUGME... took forever. Anon 2:46 thanks for letting me know it wasn't completely made up! TAT and ARI were gimmes but NE still took a while as did SW. Had BRIGHTEN for HEIGHTEN for a while.

Fergus 3:35 PM  

Of course, f(x)=0 could yield an infinite number of choices for the function f, just to be mathematically pedantic and lenient, at the same time.

Fergus 3:38 PM  

... and I believe the proper term for multiplication, subtraction, etc. is Operation, and not function.

mmpo 3:47 PM  

Thanks Fergus,
I didn't get "OPENER for Handle" either, until you suggested "???except for using a kitchen cabinet drawer handle to pop the top off a bottle."
How about using the drawer's handle to OPEN the drawer? :)
I also first tried pigstys, thinking "is it pigstys or pigsties?" :]

Also first thought of I('VE) GOT YOU for 28A but quickly decided that I was an unlikely last letter for 1D.

Was also somewhat befuddled by RIGHT ARM, as I was emphasizing the really in "what you really want"--as in "this gift is lame; I'm going to exchange it for what I *really* want" and not "I really want that thing--so bad in fact I'd give my right arm to have it."
(Sorry, fellah, the PRICE TAG on this item is an arm and a leg.)

Hey, I knew another Spencer who was fluent in German. Whitman College, class of 82 or so...I don't suppose this Spencer is that Spencer...

Pete M 4:31 PM  

What's with DO OVER right above DO TELL? Isn't that a no-no anymore? I initially rejected it as a possibility for that very reason.

Orange 4:48 PM  

Pete M, Will Shortz demonstrates again and again (well, several times this year, anyway) that small repeats like that are not deal-killers for him. It would appear that if he likes the puzzle, either he overlooks the repeat or he and his testers don't even notice it.

Hey, Jerome, I was just joshing. I use WTF myself, but some people grumbled when WHAT IN TARNATION was in the Thursday puzzle because it's a quaint old phrase. Let's bring it back! And hippify it with an Internet abbreviation, WIT! Hey, these things have to get their start somewhere. Rex coined IMOO here, so I'll take on WIT.

Sue 4:55 PM  

Lots of great commentary today. Thanks to many of you for the details about math and German which have long since slipped my brain.

My on-line dictionary offers ECLECTIC as a synonym for CATHOLIC, but I think the latter term also implies "broadly inclusive" as well as "wide ranging." This was one the last section to fall for me. Good lord, what will Saturday bring?

flailer 5:06 PM  

I agree with Sue and Spencer that "catholic" in its less common usage usually means something like "all inclusive" rather than "random" or "various." (ECLECTIC) That bugged me, despite the many awesome clues in this puzzle, as many have mentioned (RIGHT ARM, THE CRUSADES, etc.).

The only thing that paid off for me in this puzzle was a summer obsession with Entourage and the inimitable ARI Gold. Embarassing, but addictive.

luigi 5:37 PM  

I think handle and opener could be referring to its usage on CB radio. Found the following at wikipedia:

"Handle" – the nickname a CB user uses in CB transmissions. Other CB users will refer to the user by this nickname. To say "What's your handle?" is to ask another user for their CB nickname.

And your name is kind of an opener in conversation. That's kind of a stretch but then this whole puzzle was just that for me. I had to cheat for most of it.

Jerome 5:51 PM  

Orange, sorry for being so dense & taking you seriously and thank God I can continue to use wtf here (I'll use wit on your blog). BTW, bought your book as a gift for my son. We both read it, enjoyed it & got a lot out of it. I recommend it for solvers at all levels.

jae 5:54 PM  

one more thing .., What made this one more fun for me than yesterday's was that today's was more about navigating through clever clueing than about inferring/guessing unknowns from crosses, i.e. yesterday's had close to twice as many
googlable(sp) clues as today's.

R. Kane 5:59 PM  

Australia Flag is blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant and a large seven-pointed star in the lower hoist-side quadrant known as the Commonwealth Star, representing the federation of the colonies of Australia in 1901; the star depicts one point for each of the six original states and one representing all of Australia's internal and external territories; the remaining half is a representation of the Southern Cross constellation in white with one small five-pointed star and four larger, seven-pointed stars

The flag illustration shown in today's post is The Flag of New Zealand which is a defaced blue ensign with the Union Flag in the canton, and four red stars with white borders to the right. The stars represent the constellation of Crux, the Southern Cross, as seen from New Zealand.

Not a lot of difference, but not the flag in the clue.

Pea soup or split pea soup?

R. Kane

Orange 8:30 PM  

Oy! Too many people have pointed out that the New Zealand flag is depicted even though it's not mentioned in the clue. Rex's lovely wife is from New Zealand and he likes to toss in Kiwi references where he can. I believe it's a sweet thing rather than a fit of geographical ignorance.

Jennifer 10:52 PM  

This one had me stumped. I couldn't get inside Paula's head. First clues I got (in order) were Mahalo, Diese, Opener and The Crusades; then Rory and Spot Remover. After that I cheated by googling and found your blog!!!!!! I had no idea it existed, so imagine my delight. Now my pride doesn't feel quite as bruised knowing a maven such as you came up against some obstacles. Being an expat Brit, I have no idea about Cheesecake in relation to erotica.
I look forward to my next visit! (But not as much as I am looking forward to Sunday's crossword).

Orange 11:52 PM  

"A maven such as you"—ha! There are what, a good 165 people in the universe who are faster solvers than our Rex?

Nagappa 3:37 AM  

Hi Iam Nagappa
Iam In bangalore in India. Kannada is the local langauge. One A.N.Prahlada rao has created 18,000 crosswords in kannada including 4500 crosswords based on Kannada cinema. His crosswords is publishing 3 local dailies every day and 4-5 weeklis. Pl. refer some other crossword writers details.

mommiedearest108 11:21 AM  

Who's the sadist who kept me from doing the dishes and making the bed until 10:15?

I'm so astrologically impaired that I the only way that I had southern cross instead of northern is that I was trying to make that jacket some sort of suit thingie. Oops, Australia is in the southern hemisphere; guess I'm geographically impaired too.

arony 5:24 PM  

OK, now I understand the right arm clue. Took me long enough.

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