SATURDAY, Aug. 25, 2007 - Myles Callum

Friday, August 24, 2007

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

This puzzle was brutal, but in a beautiful way. So many of these clues were painfully elusive, but in ways that provided genuine, admiring "aha" moments. There were a couple parts that were just plain hard, bordering on unfair, but overall, this is a near ideal Saturday puzzle. I had to work for it, and it was worth it.

Thought I might tear through this one, as I solved the SE corner in about a minute. Had LENA for 57D: New Wave singer Lovich (Lene), and though it was wrong, it (along with ERNS - 58D: Shore scavengers) helped me get the long UTNE READER (60A: Magazine that hands out annual Independent Press Awards) and RAGGEDY ANN (65A: Little redhead). UTNE is often in the puzzle, but UTNE READER - first time I've seen it. Ditto ORONO, MAINE (13D: Northeastern city named for a Penobscot chief). ORONO is supercommon, but not with its state name attached. The most fabulous answer in the SE, however, was GOOGLY EYES (67A: Puppet glue-ons). So cool and imaginative and apt. Apt! Though there was one patently obscure answer in the SE - 62D: Vietnam's _____ Dinh Diem (Ngo) - the whole section fell lickety-split.

And then came the waiting game ("... oh, the Waiting Game sucks! Let's play Hungry, Hungry Hippos!") [sorry, gratuitous "Simpsons" reference]

I had some scattered answers, like UMA (33A: Player of June in "Henry & June") and NCR (7D: Money machine mfr.) and ECOL (3D: Green's concern: Abbr.) and SERA (66A: "Buona _____!"), but I couldn't get much traction. Finally I saw a nice juicy gimme in ELAYNE (20A: Comic Boosler) - remember her name and its spelling, because it's not uncommon in late-week puzzles; from there I half-guessed 11A: "...there are evils _____ to darken all his goodness": Shak. ("enow"), and ORONO, MAINE popped into view. The rest of the NE fell from there pretty quickly. Could tell from the clue that 14D: One concerned with the nose had to do with wine, but needed the "W" from ENOW to see that it was WINE TASTER. Absolutely love 12D: Response to "I had no idea" ("Now you know") - this was a clue that bugged hell out of me until I saw the answer. That's just ... good. Damn good. Couldn't sing the line about LASSES in "Deck the Halls" if I tried (21D: Some of those who "hail the new" in "Deck the Halls") and never ever heard of ELIAH (11D: Son of Elam whose name means "God the Lord") - though, to redeem myself biblically, I totally nailed HOSEA (49D: God commanded him to marry a harlot) off just the "A." O, I left out that the little Pantheonic EWER (47A: Prize cup, maybe), really really helped me solve the NW. Seriously, EWER. I MEAN IT (40A: No-nonsense cry). Hey look, there's EWER, and there's SEWER (22A: Place of refuse). Wasn't SEWER (as in, "one who sews") in yesterday's puzzle? No, that was Thursday's puzzle, and it was SEWERS.

More colloquial goodness in this puzzle:

  • 25D: Cry "nyah, nyah!" (rub it in) - best variation on the [Schoolyard taunt] variety of clue that I've ever seen
  • 1A: "That may be true, but ..." ("The thing is ...") - that's just bad-ass. I mean, unfair badassery. When idiomatic expressions like this show up, and they are clued in such a spot-on way - it gives me the kind of joy I can barely express.

The last part of the puzzle to fall, and the part wherein I had one incorrect square, was the SW. That's a good place to begin my list of the answers in today's rather large "WTF!" department. We have:

  • 28D: Outlaw band member (Allan-a-Dale) - that's right, two dashes in his name! He was a wandering minstrel who joined up with Robin Hood's band of Merry Men, it seems. More often called one-L "Alan-a-Dale"; so this answer is super-obscure and a variant. Ouch. Cool that the "outlaw" here crosses the "rebel" E. LEE (64A: Part of a rebel name). However, it also cruelly intersects...
  • 48A: Jazz pianist who played with Satchmo (Fatha) - O FATHA, who art thou? I had FOTHA and ALLAN O'DALE (the famous Irish ... outlaw) at first.

Other magical mystery answers include:

  • 4D: Italian tenor _____ Schipa (Tito) - He's a Yugoslavian president, he's a Jackson, , he's a Latin American percussionist who once appeared on "The Simpsons," and he's an Italian tenor. Beware the many faces of TITO.
  • 6D: Soap actress Kristen and others (Ilenes) - you must be joking. Who???
  • 30D: Saki story whose title character is a hyena ("Esme")

And finally the king of all insane answers:

  • 23D: Arrow of Light earner's program (Webelos) - Holy Moly. Just look at that word. It makes my head hurt. Is that the name of a cereal? I thought for sure it had something to do with computer programming, but it's something to do with Cub Scouts (which is what I wanted the answer to be here) - short for "We'll Be Loyal Scouts."

I would like to take the time now to bow before two of the cleverest pop culture clues and answers I've ever seen. Brutal, but brilliant:

  • 34A: Title locale of five 1980s films: Abbr. (Elm St.) - had the "M" and "T" and could make Nothing out of it. The "Abbr." part just mystified the hell out of me. But as soon as I got the "S" from ESME, it became obvious. The "Nightmare on Elm St." series is iconic 80s horror goodness. Freddy Krueger is a horror movie legend. I would tell you about the time "The Simpsons" parodied the "NOES" series, but ... I'm trying to limit my "Simpsons" references to one a day.
  • 41A: King's second ("Salem's Lot") - I'm a bit in awe of this one. Such devastating cluing. Is it a King in chess? Checkers? An actual, political king? Martin Luther King, Jr.? I considered all these. Never considered Stephen King. Wondered what kind of SLOT could be a "second," then parsed it correctly and marveled at the result.

Less great, but still fun, pop-culture-wise, were 45A: She had brief roles as Phyllis on "Rhoda" and Rhoda on "Dr. Kildare" (Cloris - as in Leachman), 16A: _____ Lemaris, early love of Superman (Lori) and 35D: Felix, e.g. (tom cat) - wasn't sure if "Felix" was going to refer to the Cat or the neat freak from "The Odd Couple." Had THE CAT in there for a while, which I love even though it didn't quite make sense given the clue. Ooh, and one more great, somewhat pop-culturish clue: 5D: Routine responses? (hahas) - as in, responses to comedy routines. Good stuff.

There was a clunker here and there in this puzzle, like RELOAN (19A: Advance further?) and SERUMS (31A: Shot putters' supplies?) - that last one is painful in that the clue is tortuous and the end result is a substandard plural. But those answers are a very small price to pay for the greatness that is this puzzle. Myles Callum - as a constructor, he's no SMALL TIMER (29D: Insignificant sort). This puzzle was A HOOT (26A: Tons of fun). Those who were prepared to bury The Times and declare the The Sun the new King of Puzzles (you know who you are) might want to rethink that stance, because the past two days have provided two of the very best themeless puzzles I've seen all year, in any publication.

I'm done.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS I love The Sun puzzles, and mean no disrespect. I actually think the "which is better?" argument is pointless - we should just count ourselves lucky that there are two such outstanding daily puzzles out there.

28 comments:

GK 1:58 AM  

I agree, quite a workout. I hardly had a toehold (NGO, GAYE, not much else) until my daughter came up with BABUSHKAS on the basis of no crossings at all! These Saturday entries are hard even when they're in one of your favorite domains, e.g., my wife and I both said, yes, tenor Schipa, we've heard the name on historical opera recordings but couldn't come up with the first name. But oh the satisfaction to finally realize that --GG has to be the start of RAGGEDYANN, or to parse --BI-IN properly. For "chic" we had all the vowels and none of the consonants. Rex, I actually was a Webelo in a distant segment of life.

I'd rate the "Girl from Ipanema" puzzle from a couple weeks back as a notch above, but this was a good one.

Regarding NGO, it seems to come up pretty frequently, and if you're old enough it's a name you can remember from the newspapers. JFK basically assented to Diem's assassination barely a month before his own.

prshutr 7:00 AM  

Unfair to the point of puking. I know it's breakfast time, but I almost lost my PBJ with this one.
Knew a lot of the proper names (SLYE [LEONARD was his first name], UMA, TITO, GAYE, NGO...) had HINES in for FATHA...but I quit and read your solution, and wtf...Alan a dale??
Probably won't play golf this morning, thunderstorms abound.

liebestraum 9:47 AM  

As I predicted, I paid for yesterday's romp in the park with this puzzle.

This was a great way to start my Saturday - a big cup of coffee and 90 minutes of pure crossword hell.

Its going to be a good weekend, I think.

lieb

Anonymous 11:34 AM  

I always thought when I was a cub scout 50 years ago that WEBELOS was a reference to WOLF, BEAR, LION SCOUTS, but We'll be Loyal Scouts is a better acronym.

Excellent writeup for a very challenging puzzle.

Steve M

Anonymous 12:16 PM  

Misspelled ELAYNE as Elaine. The jazz great is always known as Earl FATHA Hines, leaving off the other two names really confused me. I had very distant memories of cub scouting, but WEBELOS -sheesh.

Thanks for your comments, it was rather challenging today.

Norrin2 12:45 PM  

As one of the bearers of "The Sun is Better" banner, I hope I wasn't one of those who should "know who we are." I have never suggested that the Times was ready to be buried. And I agree with you that we should be very thankful we always have at least two great puzzles every day -- and several more once a week like the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe. I just wish more people knew we have two great puzzles every day.
And this puzzle was a lot of fun. SERUMS held me up for a while cuz I'm so used to seeing it pluralized as SERA and that was already used at 68A.

ayoung 12:57 PM  

Me, too, Rex--the SE corner went easily and that was it. Had to Google from then on. I put in babushkas from the beginning but couldn't make it work so erased it. I actually wore one in Cleveland in my childhood. 41A--King's second was a good one. Thought Roy Rogers' surname was Slay. Webelos? No way.

Kumar 1:42 PM  

Miserable clues. Obscure trivia. Lousy, I'd say.

With a good clue, the solution is only the one correct answer, thought it is not obvious. With lousy clues, there could be multiple answers (such as Fatha or Hines) or the answer refers to some trivial information (such as King's second novel; King could easily have meant other kings, e.g Martin Luther, James, Henry etc.).

Glad you enjoyed it. I am swearing off Saturday puzzles. Too much brain damage for dubious pleasure.

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

I had several holes in the SW that would not solve, so I tried the walk away method. They looked a lot more apparent two hours later (West Coast nighttime) and got it all in who knows how long? But, I had never heard of Kristen Ilene (or is it Ilene Kristen?) nor of Lene Lovich. Got those by crosses.

Rex - An easy way to get the last two letters of a Hebrew name: if the clue inlcudes "God", the last two letters will be "AH". A similar rule applies to Arabic names, only the ending is "LLAH" or "LLA".

Had AOL for 39D for a while, but changing it to DSL gave me SALEMSLOT, which I had a ? next to til I checked my solution.

Mary 2:26 PM  

Just so happy and proud! Got the Saturday puzzle and it's not even dark out yet.

I knew there would come a justification for spending 2 hours of my life last week watching the movie "Spanglish." When the character of the mother came on screen I thought--Cloris Leachman! Havn't seen her in years.

And here she was again today.

And GOOGLY EYES made me laugh and think of my mother who sometimes would sing: Barney Google with the goo goo googly eyes.

As far as We Be Loyal Scouts, I'll have to take yalls word for it. I don't remember anything quite like that in the Brownies.

Thank you Rex, for the delightful commentary.

Myles 3:33 PM  

Thank you all for the comments, pro and con, and special thanks to Rex for the entertaining writeup--enjoyed
it a lot!

Myles

Mac 4:39 PM  

Enjoyed the write-up more than the puzzle...

hobbyist 4:57 PM  

I couldn't get the SW part and why does Buona sera have an exclamation point after it? Good to see that Esme is more than just a Salinger story.
A hoot seems to be somewhat less than tons of fun. A chuckle or laugh, maybe.
Very hard, this one was for me, at least.

green mantis 5:07 PM  

There must be something wrong with me, because I couldn't finish yesterday's puzzle but I sailed through this one. I'm all upside down. Salem's Lot was a complete thrill--I didn't think I was gonna be able to do anything in the SW until I got "case" and then it all went dominoes.

I think Cloris Leachman was in Young Frankenstein, which I am told was the first movie I ever saw, at two weeks old. I'm sure I was a real pleasure to have in the theater. Anyway, such a classic--most films don't age well, but that one just sits around, mellowing, getting fabulouser and fabulouser.

Fergus 5:10 PM  

The Stephen King, Elm St., Boosler, Roy Rogers are not genre examples I usually associate with so, I was serially stumped, STUMPED! by too many crossings of things I simply didn't know. Th East side fell in fairly routinely but the West was killer. For 5D my answer was YAWNS, which I thought was so clever it had to be right. OK That (wasn't true, so for 1A, THEN HANG IT must be right, even if did feel slightly too British. RELOAN I was so reluctant to put in because LOAN is a noun and LEND is the verb. If the clue had been Further advance? since in this context Advance can be either, whereas in the actually clue it can only be a verb) I would accept RELOAN. OK, I know common speech patterns are a formidable force, but this is just one of my pet peeves of word misuse. This puzzle left me feeling snobbish and humiliated, which made me grimly recognize how closely related the two adjectives are. I can let go of this grim sentiment, however, by picturing a RAGGEDY ANN with GOOGLY EYES.

Fergus 5:21 PM  

(Pardon the minor typos in last post -- if I'm pontificating I ought not have any punctuation errors.)

jae 5:40 PM  

Great write up for a monster puzzle. When I started this I would have bet $20 that I would be googling. Lots of staring followed by short bursts of activity. Somehow things just kept falling. I was suprised at remembering WEBELOS, FATHA, and SALEMSLOT. MY "its OK to ask my wife" rule helped with TITO and ESME. This one, for me, was right on the edge of difficult but doable.

jae 5:45 PM  

BTW for me the reason FATHA was the only answer for 48A was because the clue used Armstrong' nickname Satchmo.

Wendy 6:29 PM  

I had Felix THE CAT too. I like it better than TOM CAT. I wasn't on this puzzle's wavelength at all today. Probably the heat and humidity has fried my brain. I had no patience for it, preferring to read the blog for my fun than make the effort to solve the puzzle. And in my world, SORREL is an herb, not a color.

Wendy 6:30 PM  

P.S. green mantis, I can only imagine the circumstances under which you ended up a patron in a movie theatre at two weeks old ... lol.

Kitt 6:32 PM  

Today was a tough one for me. And after feeling so good yesterday. *Sigh*

Jae, you know what? Good point about FATHA and I love your "it's OK to ask my wife" rule. That's cute!

Here all I have is the kitty and he's not much help. Maybe I need to get a wife : ) Sandy helps Rex occasionally too. hmmmm

karmasartre 7:37 PM  

fergus -- i stared at your "snobbish and humiliated" phrase for a full minute. I decided it should be the adult version of "dazed and confused". I really like it. Then I started wondering how snobbish merited its second "b". I think I don't pronounce it. The Free Dictionary (first google hit) shows the second "b" in the second syllable but not pronounced. So what is it doing there?

A year ago I met some friends at the Buckeye Roadhouse in Mill Valley for dinner. Flying down to CA, I got to wondering why bingo only has the one "g", since the word is often pronounced with two "g"s. I was explaining this to table mates when the garcon suggeted the "Oysters Bingo" appetizer. Sure enough, bing-go.

As far as today's puzzle goes, I should have played bingo instead.

Linda G 7:46 PM  

Wendy, I'm with you on Felix (THE CAT) and SORREL.

This makes two consecutive puzzles that sent me to Google. I was not happy.

Fergus 9:13 PM  

Reflecting upon Felix as a TOM CAT reminded me why I thought the clues lacked elegance in some cases today. Yes, Felix is a TOM but his gender is not the significant feature of his nature. TOP CAT would have captured Felix much better for his smugness.

I registered complaints already (albeit with my internal proofreader out to lunch), but I have to recognize that there is a multitude of interpretations about what comprises cleverly penetrating and allusive clues to American culture.

Kamasartre: I was making a little reference to Joseph Epstein's book about snobbery (2002), because that was a key point he made. And who the hell knows about spelling? I've got American, English and Canadian versions going on -- so I just submit to spell-checks tailored to the country I'm in, or if I'm feeling contentious, just write in the version I think is right. So seventeenth century ...

Sue 10:47 PM  

karmasartre,

I used to teach English a lot of years ago.

We double the final consonant of a word before we add -ed, -ing, and other endings to show that the vowel has a short sound.

Copping a plea BUT coping with Saturday puzzlies

We only double a consonant if a word ends in one vowel followed by one consonant.

Did your eyes glaze over yet?

I'm on this web site at this hour because the puzzle was brutal.

karmasartre 11:10 PM  

Thank you Sue,

Eyes appropriately glazed. Must reread Lederer's "Crazy English". I agreee about "brutal". What about "bingo"?

Anonymous 11:44 PM  

Sue - Italian doubling rules are so simple: If you hold the consonant sound more than a quick beat, you double it and pronouce it doubly long. Would that English rules (any version) would be so easy.

Jim in NYC 6:52 PM  

Will this comment be read? (I'm writing it Monday evening.)

I finished the Saturday puzzle, as I often do, but that doesn't mean I've nothing to criticize.

The song is "Deck the Hall", not "Halls". An olde tyme manor house had a big hall where everyone partied and some of the peons even slept there. Although no one seems to get the title of this song right anymore, that doesn't mean the title has changed. An error, even an error in common usage, is still an error, forever. The majority does not rule.

I knew Webelos and Lori Lemaris, but there's no excuse in the world for requiring all Saturday Times fans to know such obscure facts. Lori, at least, should have been clued more easily.

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