THURSDAY, Aug. 16, 2007 - Alan Arbesfeld

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "From / Start to Finish" (10A: With 37-Across, theme of this puzzle) - the letter "T" is moved from the "start" of four common phrases to the "finish," creating a new absurd phrase, which is clued

What is with the super-easy puzzles? This one was far more enjoyable than yesterday's, primarily because the theme answers are pretty rich, but still, I expect a little more challenge on a Thursday. I barely slowed down FROM START TO FINISH. Well, actually, I stopped. About a 1/4 of the way through, I took a clean puzzle in to my wife for her to solve, and there we had a conversation about yesterday's puzzle (she thought TREWS was just fine, had no problems, what was I going on about?, etc.), then I returned to my home office, sat down, and finished the puzzle. I left the timer running the entire time, and still, when I was done, it read only "10:30" or something close to that - which means that, conservatively, I did the puzzle in 8 minutes. Actual time was probably closer to the 6-7 minute range. And I wasn't really trying. Once again, there's not a lot here to challenge an experienced solver, except maybe the theme itself, which I cracked pretty early on.

If the theme is FROM START TO FINISH, then why is the only letter that gets moved FROM START TO FINISH a "T?" Seems like "T" is part of the theme, but the description does not indicate that. What am I missing?

Theme answers:

  • 18A: Reason to renovate an opera house? (rust in Met - reformed "Trust in me")
  • 20A: One cauterizing a skin blemish? (heater of wart - reformed "Theater of War") - this was the first theme answer I got, and it's quite disgusting. I like it.
  • 54A: Narc operation on Amtrak? (railways bust - reformed "Trailways bus")
  • 57A: Dropped "The Simpsons" from the TV schedule? (ended Bart - reformed "tended bar") - this, of course, is my favorite theme answer by far.

Lots of two-word phrases in the NW, but all of them pretty standard: RUSH TO (1D: Hurry in the direction of), ANTE UP (2D: Make a stud payment), and the ubiquitous ICE AXE (3D: Climber's chopper).

ENYA must die (6A: 2001 Oscar nominee for the song "May It Be").

There's just nothing very difficult to talk about today, nor anything particularly scintillating. The clues I found most challenging were:

  • 6D: Battle of the _____, in the Spanish Civil War (Ebro) - actually, not very challenging. Once I had a cross or two, it was easy. My knowledge of Spanish geography is pretty limited. In fact, it doesn't extend much beyond EBRO.
  • 30D: From the beginning (ab ovo) - had this completely filled in and thought the final "O" must be wrong; shouldn't that be ABOVE. Then I reread the clue and parsed the answer correctly.
  • 33A: Prefix with warrior (eco-) - OK, again, not actually hard, but weirdly modern and unexpected.
  • 55D: Word with house or Carolina (wren) - not a bird man. This mystified me, and I had to get it almost completely from crosses.
  • 62A: Iris's place (uvea) - I had LENS. Dumb.
  • 60A: Florence's _____ Vecchio (Ponte) - Had PONTO. Dumb. Also had ANNOY for ANGER (63A: Tee off)

I appreciate the interesting letter combinations in Q-TIP (64A: Wax remover), C-SPAN (52D: Hearings airer), T-BONE (53D: Steakhouse selection) - they definitely work better as a set than they do on their own. Would have liked ARMLOAD if I hadn't seen it clued exactly the same way fairly recently (34D: Big bag of groceries, e.g.). SKI BUM is an original, colorful answer, oddly clued (43D: Slopes devotee). It's a pretty noble puzzle, with Paris from the ILIAD (36A: Poem about Paris, in part) and KNIGHT (31A: Caballero), and then REALM (40A: Kingdom) right next to a (partial) quotation from Shakespeare's "Henry VI" - 41A: "When I am dead and gone, remember to _____ me...": "Henry VI, Part I" ("avenge").

ADA would have been better clued as [Nabokov novel] - far more Thursday than 28A: Abbr. on a toothpaste box. I assume that anyone who has ever worked a word processing program of any sort knows that Helvetica is a FONT (10D: Helvetica, for one). I really like the clue for OWL, because even though the word's not exciting, at least I learn something (44A: Hieroglyphic symbol for the ancient Egyptian "M"). The wrinkly CASABA (33A: Wrinkly-skinned fruit) has been in the puzzle recently (tons of people searched for the answer, according to my sitemeter account), as has MST (13D: Boulder hrs.) (as recently as Sunday, I think). A FEW (35D: Some) and A TAD (56D: Slightly) make one too many A phrases, though I did like A-TTACK (9D: War cry). Speaking of cries, I didn't know OLE (12D: Soccer cheer) belonged to soccer. I find the intersection of RED (40D: Brave opponent) and DYE (48A: Salon supply) exciting, if not SEXY (37D: Hot).

All in all, a pleasant, well-conceived puzzle that just NEEDS (66A: Can't do without) a little added spice.

The next person to use ENYA in a puzzle gets NEUF (7D: Nine, in Nantes) lashes with a wet BEET (15A: Sugar source). Crossword Vengeance.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 11:40 PM  

Ah. Cale not Kale. Casaba not Kasaba. Thank you. G'night, Rex.


Anonymous 12:34 AM  

Never even seen Enya, but by god I know she's out there. How? The NYT xword tells me so.

Doug 2:39 AM  

Boy, the SE had me going. RAILWAY-STING instead of -BUST, which nicely crossed with the incorrect PUNTED instead OUSTED. ANNOY not ANGER, the list goes on.

Middle East (hey, how about the fact that SHAH is in the Middle East zone, on purpose?) was a mess: LAW not ESL, GTO (probably not a Ford anyways) not LTD, ITBE not ILIE, the list goes on.

Middle West was the same, GEL not DYE, FOE not RED.

Suffice to say, I threw in the towel at about 75%!

Anonymous 7:38 AM  

Hi Rex,

Good blog this morning, except the bird in the picture is not a Carolina wren. A Carolina wren has a long white stripe above its eye and an unmistakably curved bill. They have a rollicking song ("teakettle!-teakettle!-teakettle!") and both male nad female sing. I'd send you a correct photo, but my school's mail server seems to be down.

Liffey Thorpe

Anonymous 7:41 AM  

Yikes! Foolish me! I wasn't even thinking about a House wren, which is what's pictured. Sorry, Rex. You've bested me in the bird department this morning.


Karen 7:54 AM  

I think of 'May it Be' as a Fellowship of the Ring song, not an Enya song, so I don't mind that clue.

Other Spanish geography I've run into lately in crosswords...Avila, Leon.

Before I got the theme, for the skin blemish treatment I had THE ART OF WART, which would make a good answer in another puzzle.

Wendy 8:06 AM  

Where does the line form? (for the NEUF lashes)

Anonymous 8:33 AM  

Although the "ole" cheer has long been associated with bullfighting, the "ole,ole,ole" soccer song/chant swept over the world several World Cups ago. You'd have to live in a bubble not to have heard it--check out the mp3's, ring tones, etc.


prshutr 8:48 AM  

Not so easy for me; WTF is ESL (nightschool subject)?
Also had "FIT" instead of NUT for buff.

liebestraum 8:49 AM  

Did not get the theme at all - even after I'd filled in the "Start to finish" clue. Managed to fill in the entire top 2/3's of the puzzle, but without understanding the theme, I could not fill in the "Ended Bart" clue.

Today, I am not ashamed to say, is the first time I"ve had to check Rex's solution to help me finish. I just wasn't in sync with this puzzle at all.

This does not bode well for me heading into Friday and Saturday's puzzles. I may end up getting cruciverbed.

And, now that you've explained "ab ovo" - I get it. I was completely convinced I'd screwed up royally somewhere.

Thanks for all the insight, Rex.


Howard B 8:56 AM  

While some of these puzzles may be easier than others from week to week, also consider that you are likely improving at these things by the day, scary as it may seem. You may not even realize (at first) that your solving methods and thought processes are becoming more fluid, that you're getting stuck in less places, all that sort of thing.

Of course, it could also just be an easy puzzle. Didn't seem especially easy or tough from my point of view, but each puzzle is a unique experience for each person anyway. Your mileage may vary, offer void in Delaware, and all that junk ;).

jlsnyc 9:04 AM  

prshutr -- esl stands for "english as a second language." and those initials show up pretty frequently as xword fill.

cheers --


jlsnyc 9:06 AM  

p.s. -- rex -- is that final photo a personal sugar source?




Anonymous 9:14 AM  

My 4yr old daughter has an "official" mascot from Athens olympics that plays the "ole, ole" song

btw, even if Enya gets overused in puzzles, I really like her music. You gouys should try it before trashing her without even leastening

Orange 9:25 AM  

I linked to a video of Enya's Oscar-winning song on my blog. It' know the saying "There's no there there?? That's how I feel about Enya's music, and New Age music in general. You can listen and decide for yourselves, of course.

Have heard the rousing "Olé, olé olé olé!" cheer at a Chicago Fire match. Muy futbol!

Doug: My 7-year-old kid loves cars. I asked him, context-free, "What kind of car is a GTO?" He replied, "Pontiac! It's not even hard, y'know." (He has a book about muscle cars and has studied well.)

Pete M 9:28 AM  

Three tricky spots for me: GTO instead of LTD led to the very crosswordese poem "ILIAO" (didn't even notice the bogus "ESG" crossing... oops!). Had ABOVE instead of AB OVO, figuring EWL was some hieroglyphic term I hadn't heard of. And finally, couldn't parse "Buff" right, so I had SELA/NET, instead of SULA/NUT.


Laurie K 9:59 AM  

The From Start to Finish theme explanation I formulated is lame, but it does work: The first letter, or Start, of the first phrase--always a T, btw--is moved to the end of the second phrase, or Finish, if you will. (I'm using only your blog for this, since I won't see this puzzle for 6 weeks.)

Look back: Tended Bar = Ended Bart. Trailways bus = Railways bust.

prshutr 10:06 AM  


Thanks everso for explaining ESL.

Jim in Chicago 10:09 AM  

I never got the theme, but must say that I slogged through 98% of the puzzle anyway. I had trouble in the NE, first by having ANYA instead of ENYA, which in comnination with not knowing the Spanish Civil War answer and missing the theme left me with a couple blank squares.

Ditto on the SW, where I had ENDEDBART (simply because "ended" seemed to fit with "last") but I still have no clue why NUT is an answer for Buff (just got it, I think - buff, as in "film buff" is like someone being nuts about something??) and I just didn't know the Toni Morrison answer, again leaving a couple blank squared.

Beata 10:52 AM  

HI ,

My first time posting.... wanted to thank all of you (especially Rex). I'm definitevely not a good puzzle solver (I google stuff I don't know, etc), but since I started to read this blog a few months ago, I IMPROVED tremendously ! I even started tackling Saturday puzzle (I was so intimidated before, I wouldn't even look at it)

Thanx all (oh, and b/w I like Enya )

ayoung 10:58 AM  

I finished the puzzle easily but that was no big deal as I missed the theme completely. Nothing more deflating to the ego than to stare at a completed puzzle and not get it. Hey Jim in Chicago, your definition of nut sounds good to me.

ayoung 11:06 AM  

I should have gotten the hieroglyphic symbol for "M" right away as I'm wearing a cartouche that I bought in Egypt in May that has the owl inscribed on it for the beginning of the name Martie. Oh, well.

jwpjwp 11:07 AM  

I'm with you, ayoung. I actually had all the answers filled in and just stared at it for a while, trying to make it work. I finally gave up and came to the blog to figure out where From Start to Finish played in.

Ugh, I hate it when it doesn't click.

Wendy 11:14 AM  

Anonymous 9:14 - who said we were trashing ENYA without having listened to her?

A bit of weirdness continued from yesterday: today in my inbox completely unrelated to crossword puzzles came the fact that there is
a band called the Trews from Canada. What are the odds?

Anonymous 11:43 AM  


Collectively you ARE trashing ENYA. Some said they never even heard of her, except for puzzles (and hate her)

Anonymous 9:14

Rex Parker 11:52 AM  

Are you ENYA's mother? Jeez, relax.

And thus concludes discussion of ENYA. Further comments about her will be deleted.


Orange 11:55 AM  

I wanna go to a football game and hold up a sign that says ANONYMOUS 9:14, in response to the inevitable JOHN 3:17 (or whatever) signs.

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

Class dismissed?! Poor Rex!

johnson 12:27 PM  

I was going to go to the store and buy a delicious "dasana" fruit until I read the blog and found out I'll have to buy a "casaba" instead! "A novo" sounds better than "ab ovo" - to me anyway. And what kind of first name is "Cale"? Is it short for "Caleb"? I guess I'm not as much of a crossword "nat" (buff) as I thought.

Wendy 12:31 PM  

Johnson, according to his bio, yes, CALE is short for Caleb.

campesite 12:31 PM  

Perhaps it was the wine, but I really was not attuned to this puzzle. It felt clunky while I was doing it, and really didn't get the theme until I'd finished, but ultimately I thought it was actually a pretty good puzzle.

As for Enya, Anon 9:14 (that's not a passage from the bible, is it?), the essence of this discussion is the inclusion of the artist in the puzzle and really has nothing to do with her music. (Unless, like me, you've listened to a lot of her stuff and would be qualified to trash it, which I wouldn't do.)

campesite 12:32 PM  

Whoops, I posted just before I saw Orange's posting about Anon 9:14 and Rex's post.

Norrin2 1:01 PM  

Love that Iliad cover -- Gore! Glory! Greeks! Way to sex up the classics.

Chip Ahoy 1:06 PM  

Loved this puzzle.

Knew better than to brashly type in "cane" on the first pass then have to change it to "beet" on that same pass in order to wedge in "neuf".

flailer 1:37 PM  

Johnson-- I also had A NOVO instead of AB OVO! It sounded sort of latinate, like "de nuevo". Esperanto, maybe. ;-)

And can't resist saying that I lived in Argentina where futbol is a Big Deal. Even in non-World Cup situations and even outside the stadium, you would hear 'ole ole ole' chanted all up and down the block, from the balconies upstairs-- and horns blaring from every taxi in Buenos Aires. It was Awesome.

Damon G. 1:44 PM  

I'm with the finished the puzzle/didn't get the theme. Even with the T at the front the theme fill seems A TAD weak (other than THEATER OF WAR which is nice).

Also, in response to johnson, sometimes you can tell that it's going to be a less common name (e.g. CALE instead of DALE) by how it's clued. DALE can be clued many other ways (Chip's friend, valley, etc.), so there's a decent chance that a somewhat obscure racer (NASCAR champ from long before NASCAR was popular) probably isn't the clue for it.

Orange 2:49 PM  

Ah, damon's observation is an astute one! A clue referencing someone fairly obscure is often a sign that there's only that one quasi-famous person with that name, and that the name doesn't double as a regular word. If there were a better-known person or a regular word with the same spelling, the editor would opt for that.

Anonymous 2:59 PM  

Having put gaucho for caballero thinking that the answer would be in the same vein (language wise) as the clue bogged me down in the east.

I agree with Rex on the theme...the puzzle's theme answer should have included the 't' somewhere in the answer. Thought that might have been an awkward fill if it read: FROMSTARTTOFINISHT.

Aaron 4:10 PM  

I thoroughly detested this puzzle. I first got (or thought I got) the theme from ENDEDBART. I figured I had messed up and it was supposed to make BARTENDER. Since when is "tended bar" a common phrase? But then the rest of them only had the T flipped from the start to the finish, so it couldn't even be "bartended".

Tramways bus? The first google hit is a link to a French site that doesn't use the term anywhere, and the next is about some Canadian relic. Plus, I'd rather say "trust me" than "trust in me". Unless it's a quote that I'm too young to have heard of, I think this is also borderline unacceptable. The only okay-ish theme answer was HEATER OF WART, which I kept trying to make HEATER OF A ZIT since I thought "start to finish" had something to do with A and Z being near each other, or at least A being adjacent to lots of late letters (Z, Y, X, W, V - was that all just a coincidence?).

Final gripe: A NOVO is way better than AB OVO. One means "from the beginning", while the other means "from (i.e., since being in) the egg". I wasn't pleased that I remembered CASABA from previous puzzles.

And like Doug, I tried to make STING work instead of BUST, even though T-BONE was jibing (hi, puzzlegirl) with everything else.

Fergus 4:54 PM  

Got to thinking there was something Spanish going on, so wondered whether ABOVO could actually be like the lame, ersatz Spanish I once spoke. Like: ella camo beforo para ella esta ABOVO on el listo. Of course, I put in a bit more effort before I went to Spain.

Was anyone else put off by 49A OKS, clued by Blesses? In my mind, they're too far apart to work as a pair.

Those Egyptians were keen on birds, weren't they? Could lead to a potential heiroglyph rebus puzzle?

Rex Parker 5:20 PM  

Try TRAILWAYS BUS (the actual phrase). You'll get a few more hits.


mmpo 5:56 PM  

Just back from a long vacation that included time in Nantes and a soccer game (football match) in Toulouse, not too far from -- olé olé -- Spain. Thought I'd stop in and say hi.

Robert 6:53 PM  

Since I'm a newbee (having "discovered" the blog about a month ago), I'd first like to compliment Rex on the quality of his articles; I especially enjoy the graphics. Seems to me that solving the puzzle is only a small part of the work involved in publishing this blog. I'm impressed that he can come up with a good article even when the puzzles are pretty much forgettable, such as earlier this week, when they could be solved about as fast as one could read the clue and fill in the blank (except for "TREWS"!) Today, however, was a pain, since I got FROM START TO FINISH, but didn't get the "T" part. I then got ABOVO, and felt it was such an obvious mistake that I stopped, and checked the blog. The story will be different Friday and Sat., when I'll be spending some time with Google first.

Linda G 7:13 PM  

It always surprises me when I read how many people had trouble with a puzzle that I managed to finish in a decent time. Other days, I'll tear my hair out and readers will comment that it was an easy puzzle. It just shows to go ya!

...although I didn't have a clue about AB OVO and thought it was one (stupid) word.

jae 8:47 PM  

I did this pretty quickly and, like others, never got the theme. I came here for my "DOH" experience. I agree that the theme is ATAD weak (but thats probably because I didn't get it). Somehow the joy of getting a correct solution reasonbly fast feels a bit diminished.

karmasartre 8:55 PM  

linda g --

"Shows to go you" was a favoriite of my late father. I lit up when I saw yor entry. Many thanks.

Linda G 10:14 PM  

karmasartre, I'm glad that made you smile. It's nice to have those memory sparks after our parents are gone.

Mary 8:44 AM  

What an idiot. Me. Luckily I am a day late on the puzzle so few will see this and know my idiocy.

I zoomed through this puzzle, got the theme as soon as I saw HEATER OF WART, ewwwwwww.

But then I wrote BUSTED for 46D: Given the boot, instead of OUSTED. As a result, for 45A: Bud's bud, I had LBU and could not figure out what was wrong.

So I came to Rex's house and read his and all yall's comments. And I was amazed that I was the only one who did not know what an LBU was.

So I looked at the answer.LOU.

Proving yet again the direct link between arrogance ("I know my answer is right") and idiocy ("What's a LBU?")

I also had ABOVE for ABOVO, but it looks like I was in good company there.

shelby/mtc, n.j. 8:54 AM  

None of my family or friends share my passion for crosswords. So finding this website was very exciting for me. I must tell you that everyday, for the past 30 years, my wonderful husband has brought the NYT home from his commute from work with the paper folded to the crossword page for me. The feel of a soft pencil on newsprint paper is the most relaxing thing I can do for myself after a long, hard day. He thinks I am a genius (and I won't spoil his illusion!) for being able to do the puzzles, but he is more of a numbers guy, so he just doesn't get crosswords. Your site is one of my new favorites. It is such a pleasure to read. Thanks for such great work.

Rex Parker 9:37 AM  


Some of the best solvers and constructors in the country are definitely "numbers guys" (math teachers aplenty).

Still, the story about your husband is very sweet.


Kim 1:06 PM  

I, too, have improved my xword skills enormously from reading this blog and all the insightful comments. But, whew! .... I had a tough time with this one beginning with COWBOY for CABARELLO.

What an ego-bruiser to struggle for 35 minutes and find that the puzzle is considered relatively easy! Once again, Rex had to explain the theme to me.

Anonymous 12:22 PM  

Thanks for all your insights.
I have a question about xword dated 4.10.07, a niggling one I cannot get. 51 Across is: Like Chopin's "Tristesse" etude
How do I find the solution for as back as April?
Many thanks.

Anonymous 7:48 PM  

To Elizabeth, I don't have the puzzle, but if the answer is three letters, it might be "ine" as the etude is in the key of E.

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