FRIDAY, Sep. 14, 2007 - John Farmer

Friday, September 14, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

In retrospect, this is a mighty admirable puzzle, but I assure you that there were times while I was solving it when I would not have been inclined to say many nice things. This is because of some thorny patches (not to be confused with SOUL PATCHes - 61A: Frank Zappa or Dizzy Gillespie feature - which was one of the puzzle's more awesome entries). The NE was by far the most ruthless part of the puzzle for me, with a full four entries that ranged from barely known to utterly unknown. I had all those 7-letter Downs in the NE and still couldn't do a damn thing with those last ten squares - mocking 2x5 blankness. OK, I got the front of ASSAY easily enough (18A: This is a test), but for some reason, the others wouldn't budge

  • --ROL didn't look like it could be any word I knew. I apparently forgot about ENROL (24A: Register)
  • --POR really wanted to be STUPOR or TORPOR, but ... not enough room. SOPORific is one of my favorite words, so I don't know why it took me so long to come up with SOPOR (10A: Lethargy). O wait, now I remember - it's 'cause I've never seen SOPOR standing alone before.
  • --ARO is a little cigar that most of you probably got right away, but not me. I gotta start smoking more (16A: Light smoke - CLARO)
  • -TTA was just pure mystery. Eventually LOTTA (21A: Old-time actress Crabtree) was about the only woman's name I could get to make sense there, though the (cruel) intersection with another mystery actress, OLSON (11D: Actress Nancy of "Sunset Boulevard"), meant that my last solving act was deciding between OLSEN/LETTA and OLSON/LOTTA. I guessed right.

This is a puzzle where I was saved by knowing my three-letter crosswordese. If you are a constant solver of puzzles, then today was a day where you were probably actually grateful for familiar faces like RAJ (44A: Indian viceroy's authority), ARI (28A: Uris hero), ENO (25A: Brian known for 33-Across music [33A = AMBIENT]), and MR. T (20A: Muscleman with a 1980s cartoon series) - O, who am I kidding, I'm always grateful for MR. T. He was the first answer in the grid for me. As usual. MR. T got me DIMMER (7D: Certain switch) and ENO got me the lovely FOR TWO (3D: Like a romantic dinner), which meant that despite some fierce resistance from VERKLEMPT (17A: Choked up - I wanted EMOTIONAL) and the brutal, vile-sounding GAVAGE (1D: Forced feeding, as with a tube), the NW fell fairly quickly. Colorful entries up there include OBERON (2D: Moon or Uranus named for a Shakespearean character) and the four-word (!) GO FOR A DIP (1A: What you might do at the beach) - which pairs nicely, by the way, with another longish answer in the SW - 33D: Swimming, surfboarding, etc. (aquatics). Nice clue on GOWN (22A: Subject of interest in the question "Who are you wearing?"), and I had no idea what the "Gramercy Five" were; sounded like a gang or other group of criminals, so was surprised to see ARTIE Shaw involved in something so untoward (19A: Shaw who led the Gramercy Five). Turns out it's just the name of his jazz combo.

In addition to the pairing of ENO with AMBIENT and GO FOR A DIP with AQUATICS, I really really enjoyed the stacking of entries that begin with the improbable letter combination TS-. TSUNAMIS (30A: Waves with long wavelengths?) over T.S. ELIOT (37A: "Ash Wednesday" writer)! That's ambitious. While we're talking about improbable letter combinations, let's talk about LAO TZU (43D: "The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao" philosopher), who, despite his deep wisdom, is beginning to annoy me with his varying English incarnations. First he's LAO TSE, now he's LAO TZU. Is it wrong to expect greater stability from the founder of Taoism? Perhaps.

Taking daughter to school again. More later.

And I'm back.

I'll conclude with the remainder of the stuff I didn't know or sort of knew but struggled with:

  • 26A: John who succeeded Pierre Trudeau as Canadian P.M. (Turner)
  • 59A: Oslo Accords concern (Gaza Strip) - man, that looks good in the grid, especially over SOUL PATCH - "Barber, give me a GAZA STRIP SOUL PATCH." I wonder what that would look like.
  • 23D: Fundamental energy units (quanta) - had the "Q" off of the (beautiful) Q.E. II (23A: Modern-day monarch, for short) and wrote in QUARKS - this caused all kinds of problems, including an -XOK- run in the middle of a word that was supposed to be QUIXOTIC (38A: Starry-eyed), which is one of my very favorite words but one I had trouble getting here because I associated "starry-eyed" with being "star-struck," not with being "foolishly optimistic." Where was I? Oh, QUANTA. Never heard of it. Plural of QUANTUM, and "QUANTUM physics" is something I have heard of. I have also heard of QANTAS Airlines.
  • 35D: Whitewall, maybe (bias tire) - it's been many months since I first learned the term BIAS TIRE right here on the pages (screen) of the NYT puzzle. Thankfully, I didn't even see this clue until 7/8 of BIAS TIRE had already been filled in, or I'd have blanked on it all over again.
  • 39D: Largest of the ABC islands (Curacao) - today I learned that the ABC islands are Aruba, Bonaire, and CURACAO, and that they lie just off the coast of Venezuela. CURACAO, according to Wikipedia, "belongs to the Netherlands Antilles, a self-governing part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands." Official languages = English, Dutch, and Papiamentu, the last of which would make a delightfully brutal puzzle answer.
  • 45D: Not accented (atonic) - hmmm. Musical, I guess. Meaning lost on me. What does "tone" have to do with "accent?" (if you're actually going to answer that, please do so in Comments, thanks)
  • 57D: Sonny's partner in "Dog Day Afternoon" (Sal) - never saw it. Got it solely from crosses. I know this movie has the "ATTICA" chant in it. That is all I know.
  • 42A: Spell checker? (amulet) - Great clue / answer. Since I had QUARKS for QUANTA, I had this answer starting with an "S" for a while instead of the "A" - very annoying. S--LET??? Trust me, Nothing wants to go in there.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

62 comments:

Anonymous 9:15 AM  

Was this, as I think, a very good run of puzzles this week?

Rick

Rex Parker 9:22 AM  

Well, yeah, except for Monday. Man, did that puzzle suck ... [kidding!]

rp

mmpo 9:22 AM  

Well, I enjoyed this puzzle thoroughly, but...what the heck kind of word is verklempt? OK...a quick Google search tells me it's Yinglish. Is this quite familiar to other readers? Apparently, familiar enough to you, Rex, that you made no particular comment. I kept looking for other possibilities in crosses, as I couldn't make sense of VERKLEMP- or QEI-. Now I see.
I loved SOPOR when it emerged. I don't think I've seen it standing alone before either. I will make this word part of my active vocabulary. I don't think I can say the same for verklempt.

jlsnyc 9:27 AM  

mmpo -- mike myers made this word famous on snl when he portrayed "linda richman":

cawfee tawk

;-)

janie

Mary 9:39 AM  

Timely. I only just learned this word, verklempt, last weekend.

ASSAY eluded me, I had ESSAY and would not budge.

Alex 9:41 AM  

The offset stacking of TSUNAMIS and TS ELIIOT was the first thing that really jumped out at me. I leave it to better minds than me to somehow complete the stack:

TSUNAMIS
TSELIOT
TSETSE
TSUBA
TSAR
TSK

Google was my friend on this puzzle though I did try to use it very sparingly, and really only after my best solo effort really screwed things up.

I knew enough about the Oslo Accords to put in PALESTINE instead of GAZA STRIP. That was brutal but they have three letters in common, all of which were relative gimmes on the downs (CURACAO, GASP, MALTA) which really locked it in. So that mistake really destroyed me in the SE.

The NE was brutal to me too. I had PASTRAMI and ROYALIST but ruined it by putting in RATIO for "100 to 1, e.g." instead of SCALE. Eventually looking up LOTTA Crabtree was the only reason I was able to get that corner fixed.

And then the SW was made difficult for me by a couple synonyms I don't really see. Are IDIOT and jerk connected as anything other than names you might call someone? And how is SPEED a synonym for "gear"? A gear controls speed, but I don't think a gear is speed.

mmpo 9:50 AM  

Gears on bicycles are commonly called speeds. :)

jackie 9:55 AM  

De-lurking to say that I hated the cluing for ATONAL, which usually refers to weird avant-garde music, and has nothing at all to do with accent. I wanted "Not accented" to be something to do with rhythm or speech and it took me forever to admit that it was a sucky clue and to put ATONAL in. Gah!

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

The way I figured it was atonic not atonal. To me atonal could mean monotonous sounding.

barrywep 10:14 AM  

I f the timing were different I would suspect this puzzle of being Shortz/Farmer revenge for Rex being so cranky. It killed me. My worst time in months, having numerous hard to find mistakes: VERKLEMPT/VERKLEMPT, ESSAY/ASSAY, LOYALIST/ROYALIST.

easl 10:16 AM  

The german word for inhibited (mostly in the sexual sense) is VERKLEMMT. So, I guess, one could read it in a way meaning "Choked Up". However, I don't know why one of the M's was substituted with a P. To make it fit into the grid?

Rex Parker 10:18 AM  

It IS "ATONIC" - I stupidly typed in the wrong word in my commentary. Mistake fixed. Thanks,

RP

BlueStater 10:22 AM  

"Brutal" and "cruel" are spot on labels for this dog's-breakfast of a puzzle. Having GAVAGE and VERKLEMPT [not exactly mainstream Yiddish, and I lived in NYC for ten years] in the same corner struck me as w-a-a-a-y over the top. Likewise SOULPATCH. Does that phrase have any other meaning than its literal unpacking: a "patch" (i.e. stretch) of music that has soul in it? This one struck me as being hard for the sake of being hard, not for the sake of enjoyment. Feh.

Jerome 10:26 AM  

Rex,

Great blog. But if this is only MEDIUM-CHALLENGING, I'd hate to see challenging.

I thought today's puzzle was really hard and while struggling through it (with limited help from Google) had the fleeting thought that John & Will were striking back because of the kerfuffle earlier in the week. (-:

After finishing, I could only admire the finished product. What construction. Amazing, even with some unknown and "far out" fill.

Rex Parker 10:28 AM  

Bluestater-

SOUL PATCH is that little bit of hair underneath Dizzy Gillespie's bottom lip. It's an accepted term for that particular formation of facial hair.

VERKLEMPT was easy enough - I've seen too many "Coffee Talk" segments on SNL not to know the word. GAVAGE, however ... the very word makes me gag a little. Still, to be clear, I enjoyed the puzzle overall.

rp

Jerome 10:31 AM  

Barry,

About timing. Sorry, I was typing my comments while yours were being posted. Great minds!?!?

Karen 10:31 AM  

Bluestater, a soul patch is a teeny tiny beard just under the lip. Some think they look cool, some dorky.

A pummeling puzzle.

Howard B 10:33 AM  

Whole LOTTA trouble in the NE for me (CLARO, SCALE, ASSAY, those actresses), so this one had me VERKLEMPT. VERKLEMPT wasn't the one that killed me though, since I can recall my family occassionally using that word. Like most Yiddish terms, however, the transliteration can go a whole bunch of ways. I thought it somehow began with an 'F'.

I'm with you on BIAS TIRE. Even with my car in the shop, I still couldn't catch the wavelength on that one.
One hell of a challenge, though, and that's usually a good thing :).

Beata 10:48 AM  

VERKLEMPT is new to me (and I am NYC are Jew)

Knew GAVAGE, used to work for a pharmaceutical company... that's what one does to rats and mice to test new drugs... hated it... glad I'm out of it ...l

karmasartre 10:59 AM  

I never heard the term SOULPATCH before Apolo Anton Ohno surfaced. But what do I know, I was trying to squeeze "moustache" into the SOULPATCH spot. The fact that one of you (Orange?) recently listed the 5 or 6 spellings of LAOTZU helped, as I started with the "-tse" spelling. I didn't know if Sonny's dog-day partner was SAL or Sol, mainly because I was trying to get GAS...... into the GAZASTRIP spot, thinking an Oslo Accord would pertain to eco-something like gasguzzling. Changing the S to a Z in LAOTZU was my final square. What a SE corner. Like it was hurricance season in the SE.

AMULET was tricky. I had AppLET for a while: completely wrong tangent. Had AirporT at first in AMBIENT's spot (B. Eno did "Music for Airports").
Speaking of ENO, he was a producer for the Talking Heads (51a).The last two letters of VERKLEMPT were pretty elusive. I also fell for LOYALIST instead of ROYALIST.

Alex - I enjoyed your TS...stack. Perhaps the last entry could be "TS". Whoops, not enough letters.

Wonderful puzzle even though at times I felt like an IDIOT. For me, it was the type where plugging away led to many "aha" momnets. Plus, it made me remember Keir Dullea saying "Open the pod bay doors, HAL". Good stuff.

barrywep 11:11 AM  

I meant VERKLEMPT/Ferklempt.
When I finally got GAVAGE it seemed better than GAFAGE, but barely.
Jerome:
Thanks for the compliment.

Paloma 11:19 AM  

Just wanted to comment on the "atonic". I think it refers to phonetics and grammar for languages such as Spanish or French that take accents. When a word or syllable is not accented, it is said to be atonic as opposed to atonal which refers to music.

Thanks for posting every day. It's always a great read and sometimes help me in my solving (I try not to peek unless I am really stumped!

Anonymous 11:21 AM  

Don't be too happy you've learned the names of the ABC islands. If the same clue appears again (especially in the Sat. puzzle) it might refer to the Alaskan ABC islands.

Deborah 11:39 AM  

Is there any chance the NY Times would put the Crossword puzzle page in their list of contents on the front page? I do the crossword in the paper and for the first time since I've been doing it, it was in the front (A) section. I searched the entire paper (Arts section twice) before looking in the front.

Brian D 11:45 AM  

I'm surprised that I'm the first in this bunch to mention this, but...

Since when is DIMMER a type of switch??? A dimmer switch, as purchased at your local electrical shop (or home improvement store) is a combination of two electricity-controlling devices: a dimmer (formerly called a rheostat) and a switch.

DIMMER is not an adjective, modifying the word switch, DIMMER SWITCH is a compound noun.

I'm quite surprised this slipped by Will Shortz.

ayoung 12:51 PM  

Thanks everyone for the help on soul patch and verklempt (ugh) but how is Brian Eno and ambient music connected? Somehow I always thought of him and the Beatles.

ayoung 12:52 PM  

Whoops, that's how are not is.

ProdigalT 1:01 PM  

The "Jerk" clue for IDIOT took me some time, but if you look it up, "jerk" really is a close synonym for "idiot." For example, see Steve Martin's movie, "The Jerk."

Beata 1:17 PM  

Brian Eno is known for his AMBIENT music

Barrywep: FARKLEMPT makes a lot more sense to me than VARKLEMPT

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

Atonic is actually from linguistics referring to not having stress (accent) on a syllable.

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

GAVAGE

If I had to choose a word to be not familiar with, this is the one I would choose. No complaints from my little corner of the world.

As my dad used to respond to all inquiries regarding his health:

Still able to sit up and take nourishment :-)

Definitely an excellent puzzle week so far ... except for sucky Monday, of course.

Don't know about anybody else's but my sense of humor is the first thing to go when I am challenged or sucker-punched. Such a valuable asset but in my case, such a wimp, as well. Always a joy when it manages to find its way home.

Penny

Howard B 2:12 PM  

brian,
I think DIMMER falls into the category of 'in-the-language' words and phrases; if you hear it in spoken English and it's not generally offensive, or it's listed in a dictionary under some valid meaning, it's pretty much fair game for late-week puzzles, even if not correct from a technical standpoint. I think the same would apply to a phrase such as KOALA BEAR - a zoologist might holler that it's not a bear (correctly), but it's been incorporated into the language anyway.
I have heard DIMMER used to refer to a dimmer switch, but that's coming from someone who is mechanically challenged enough to be content to screw in a light bulb correctly. So take my words with a huge pile of salt ;).

scriberpat 2:20 PM  

Deborah and ayoung:
In the newspaper on page 2 under the section "News Summary" there is a subsection every day titled "TODAY'S CROSSWORD" and it gives the page number upon which you will find it.
The Brian Eno/ambient music is what you see when you google Brian Eno. The puzzle editor or constructor perhaps knows that we will google for help.

Anonymous 2:36 PM  

Eno and the Beatles?

No way. Perhaps you're thinking of Brian EPSTEIN.
Eno also played with Roxy Music before his Talking Heads days. In fact I expect (without bothering to check) that his career began as an art school associate of Bryan Ferry's. I liked the association of ambient and Eno, which seemed quite precise to me.

Wade 2:43 PM  

Hard, hard, hard puzzle! I did not complete the NE. Filled in everything else but had GAVADE instead of GAVAGE (a word I never heard before), because I had DOWN instead of GOWN.

Someone please explain the GOWN clue for me. I had DOWN because I thought "Who are you wearing?" was some sort of animal rights activist slur against somebody wearing goosedown.

Anonymous 3:16 PM  

"Who are you wearing? Dior? Chanel? Ungaro?"

Hobbyist 3:20 PM  

Hard but I finished. Who is the designer of the GOWN you are wearing? Dior, St. Laurent etc.

Sue 3:25 PM  

Wade,

People who are verry concerned about wearing the right designers will identify their clothes that way. "So what will you wear tonight?" "My Calvin Klein, perhaps.

Karmasartre,

I'm glad to know someone else put AppLET for AmuLET. I was prematurely pleased with myself.

wade 3:49 PM  

Thanks! I bet none of those famous designers work in the goosedown medium.

frances 4:07 PM  

Seems to me that the 1945 conference of Churchill, Roosevelt, et al (51d) was held at YALTA, not MALTA. The Talking Heads number (51a) was definitely "Take ME to the river", but the conference site required me to re-word their title to "Take YE to the river."

Anonymous 4:29 PM  

The conference took place at Yalta in the Crimea.

Hmmm. I went with take ME and figured I had the wrong conference.

Penny

Anonymous 4:32 PM  

Malta Conference (1945), between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill at the end of World War II.

HA!

Thank GodI wasn't in charge of the travel arrangements. We'd still be fighting.

Penny

Sue 4:34 PM  

They chose to confer in both Malta and Yalta, just to confuse us. I filled in -ALTA until the cross clues fell.

Mike Sullivan 4:40 PM  

There were both Malta and Yalta conferences in 1945, attended by Churchill and Roosevelt. Yalta also had Stalin in attendance. So Malta is a better answer to the clue, which mentioned only Churchill and Roosevelt.

karmasartre 4:55 PM  

Surprised that with Stalin in attendance they didn't choose to meet at BALTA in the Ukraine.

BlueStater 5:30 PM  

In my (New England edition) copy of the Times, there was a note under the place where they usually indicate on what page the puzzle is to be found (I just discovered this a month or so ago, and you don' wanna know how many decades I've been doing these beasts and paging furiously through the two Friday Arts sections trying to find the blankety-blank puzzle) telling worried readers that because of a production error they had put the puzzle in the A section.

While I'm here, I have another modest complaint. 56A "Doesn't support a conspiracy theory" seems a surpassingly weird way to clue ACTS ALONE. Yes, they're sorta kinda a little bit related, but a conspiracy theory isn't something an actor (in the non-stage sense, someone who does something) has or doesn't have. A conspiracy theory is or isn't supported by people external to the act, not the performers of that act. C'mon.

Thank you, Rex and all, for SOULPATCH. Learn something every day.

Rafael 6:02 PM  

The NW really killed me... Gavage? Verklempt? geez louise... the NE was there on the downs I thought. Great puzzle.

Bill Nutt 6:48 PM  

Brian Eno worked with Talking Heads on the album MORE SONGS ABOUT BUILDINGS AND FOOD, whcih included the song "Take Me to the River." I thought that wa a neat tie-in.

DOG DAY AFTERNOON is a pretty good movie and is worth a look.

green mantis 6:59 PM  

Can someone please 'splain me how an amulet is a spell checker? I get spells/magic, but what about the word checker am I missing?

Anonymous 7:04 PM  

An amulet saves you from bad magic spells. It is a protector.

Spell (magic hex) checker (stopper). Think hockey.

Rick

Anonymous 7:06 PM  

Rex, if you haven't seen "Dog Day Afternoon" try it, although it might be dated.

It is the only movie I have ever seen that is better than the book.

Rick

Wade 7:12 PM  

Rick, here are my nominees for movies that are better than the book:

The Godfather
The Last Picture Show
Bridges of Madison County
Terms of Endearment

Fergus 7:51 PM  

About right for a Friday -- just on the amiable side of diabolical. Any puzzle with QUIXOTIC has a good head start. My dictionary says to pronounce the hard X, but that seems to give the word too much of a clumsy, querulous connotation.

jae 8:06 PM  

Tough one! I had the same thought about revenge. Rex pretty much described how I solved it. I got NW and SE pretty fast and then stared alot. I had ROMANTIC for 38a which really slowed me down as it seemed to good to let go. SE was a bear. Lucky guess of the day was the O in the LOTTA/OLSON crossing. I figured/hoped LOTTA was short for Carlotta.

Bluestater--Remember there was a question mark following 56a. I read it to mean some who is not infavor of conspiring and thus ACTSALONE.

MAC 8:22 PM  

Hi, Penny and Rick, you are not so anonymous after all! Pick a name.
Deborah, to my surprise I finally found the cross word puzzle in the Metro section! Now I know to look on page 2...
This was a very tough Friday puzzle - I like them tough, I learn new words and I can spend more time!
MAC

PeterAtLarge 8:57 PM  

I got stuck on the ERK bit. Only thing I could think of was a J, and that didn't work. Never heard of GAVAGE until Google helped out. And I gor stuck for a while on going for a run instead of a dip. Ah, well.

Penny 9:14 PM  

Ok. I'll bite.

I'll try "other" and put in my name.

one surprised Penny 9:15 PM  

Wow! It works!

Night all.

You know who.

Jim in Chicago 4:02 PM  

Sorry if I missed a previous comment on this, but I don't understand why CURSE is a deleted part. Is this a reference to the 7 naughty words? I actually had CURDS in there for quite awhile and was very proud of myself, but of course you keep the curds and throw away the whey. Sigh.

Instead of GAZASTRIP I had PALESTINE, which seemed to fit since the three letters I had all matched. The Z from LAOTZU finally made me change direction.

I also fell into the ESSAY/ASSAY trap and was quite taken with ESSAY as the answer since it is a kind of test.

Jim in NYC 11:47 AM  

Just looked at page 2 of the Saturday Times. No page number for the crossword!

Yeah, Jim in Chicago, over here we agree "deleted part" refers to a dirty word that of course gets deleted.

Jim in NYC

Anonymous 4:52 PM  

VERKLEMPT??? YGBSM!

WWPierre 12:02 AM  

Six weeks and a day later. Numerous cups of tea and coffee were consumed in the solution of this puzzle. Medium to Challanging?????? try BRUTAL!!! (but enjoyable...)I had RATIO for "100 to 1" and TRY IT for "this is a test" which put me way behind schedule in New England. QUARKS was my red herring in the center, and SOUL PATCH is really a new one for me.

Automobiles used to have a switch on the floor by your left foot to dim the lights for oncoming traffic. That was known as a DIMMER switch, no rheostat.

When I worked as a carpenter in Japan, I learned to use a japanese ink line, which makes a nice fine black line for layout. Much better than the wide line you get from the chalk line used by western carpenters. The instrument consisted of a bowl of india ink soaked cotton batting with a cranked reel of fine thread attached. The thread passed through the cotton and out a small hole on the other side if the bowl. These were usually carved in an exotic wood with a traditional motif, and could be very expensive, or perhaps cheap moulded plastic. (either worked very well) What is he blathering on about? you ask....

It is called.....wait for it....

a TSUMI TSUBO. :)

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