FRIDAY, Oct. 19, 2007 - Frederick J. Healy

Friday, October 19, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Blogger is being SUPER slow this morning - I type a sentence and the letters take forever to appear on the screen - so I'm going to wrap this up quickly to keep from punching my computer. Liked the puzzle, though thought it was really inconsistent, difficulty-wise, from one quadrant to the next. My time was avg-to-slow (just over 10), primarily because I lost a ton of time during a free fall in the NE. If I had to rate the puzzle's difficulty by quadrants (and I don't, but I will), I'd say they broke down like this:

NE: 8 (out of 10)
NW: 5
SE: 2
SW: 2

Primary problem of the day for me was 10A: "Unbelievable!" ("Oh, wow!"). I had written in "NO WAY!" (a much, much better answer, btw) and then had the "W" confirmed by WAIT A SEC (12D: "Hang on!"), so NO WAY hung around for a while. Too long. Started to realize my problem when I couldn't think of any Chinese place name in five letters that began with "O" (11D: Changsha is its capital - HUNAN). I was helped by a clue that was one of my most favorite gimmes of all time: 21A: 1984 hit parody of a 1983 song ("Eat It"). I am the perfect age to know that answer, as I was a teenager enthralled by MTV when both the original (Michael Jackson's "Beat It") and the parody came out. But DUANE was unknown to me, and ON TIPTOE (13D) is not an expression I've ever heard used to mean "Eager." [Like someone getting a box down from a high shelf, perhaps] would have been a more suitable clue. My daughter's favorite comic strip is "Garfield," and yet I completely zoned on ODIE (10D: One of Jon Arbuckle's pets), forgetting that Garfield's owner-man is Jon Arbuckle. The only Arbuckle that was registering was of course Fatty. Loved the tricky clue 14D: Things that may be shot in stages? (westerns). Not as fond of the trickness involved in 25A: Area below the hairline (nape), even if it is quite literal. I wanted PATE at one point. Only a NOB (54A: Fat cat, in England) would say PATE in the 21st century, I think.

Rest of the puzzle went much more smoothly. Had trouble getting traction in the NW, but nailing SQUEEGEES (1A: Windshield wipers) right off the bat helped, even if it did take me a while to confirm the "Q" (2D: Like successful orators - QUOTED). . .

I am in a time crunch this morning - which is happening more and more, ugh - so I'm going to throw down the clues that I found most difficult, and then I'll add more commentary later in the day if I have time.

  • 15A: Darwin's home (Australia) - had wrong Darwin on the brain
  • 16A: Superrealist sculptor Hanson (Duane) - New to me
  • 23A: Four-time Vardon Trophy winner (Snead) - got it off the "SN-" - a wild guess
  • 31A: Narrows: Abbr. (str.) - mistakenly went looking for a plural
  • 34A: Clam (simoleon) - got easily, but couldn't spell ("-EAN?" "-IAN?")
  • 59A: "Eight is Enough" wife (Abby) - the nice, vaguely hot stepmother
  • 66A: Garb symbolizing youth (knee pants) - wanted SHORT PANTS, as that's the phrase I've heard
  • 3D: James Forrestal was its last cabinet secy. (U.S. Navy)
  • 6D: Slalom targets (gates) - easy enough, but "targets" feels weird to me here; maybe it's supposed to
  • 8D: Astronaut Collins and others (Eileens) - no clue
  • 9D: Toasted triangle topper (salsa dip) - TTH (Trying Too Hard)! Alliteration taken to unpleasant, confusing lengths
  • 24D: "La Reine Margot" novelist (Dumas) - unsure - it was gonna be him or DURAS
  • 48D: Natural (inborn) - had INNATE a first
  • 51D: 10 kilogauss (Tesla) - good example of the "nutso-looking-clue / familiar-answer" trick
  • 59D: Mar makeup (agua) - Love that "Mar" is also an English word. Love also that I got this instantly despite having very shaky Spanish skills

All for now,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

37 comments:

wendy 9:26 AM  

Great puzzle challenge-wise. I had Air Drying for AIRING OUT and Knee Socks for KNEE PANTS, though, so that slowed me down. And though I got it, since when is a CONCOURSE part of a park? Maybe it's just that I've spent way too much time in airport concourses the past two weeks, but never heard of this usage.

Loved NONE AT ALL for zip.

wendy 9:38 AM  

ps, the original wife on Eight is Enough would have been an acceptable answer too, I suppose, since her name was Joan. She was played by Diana Hyland, who died during the making of the show, and was also the young John Travolta's (much) older lady love.

rick 9:56 AM  

I had a hard time again, third Friday in a row. I finished the entire lower half in a few minutes but the NE and NW took over an hour.

I could not think outside the box today. DARWIN Australia just wouldn't come, I kept trying to guess Charles' home town (East Anglia?)

had POLES for GATES, didn't notice the ED on toasted (9D) so I was looking for something you eat on toast. The only thing I could come up with was SAUSAGES (breakfast). If that was going to be the answer I was going to be upset - how could I know Fredrick's eating habits - would catsup be a topping for cheese cake in the next puzzle?

Finally changed POLES to GATES, stopped trying to remember the french term for months and put in ETES which gave me SQUEEGEES and the rest of the corner (toasted tortilla, AHA, although I think they're fried)

Had 10D,18, 21 and 25 A but they were no help. The C in PALACES stopped me from filling in 40A for a long time. Eventually guessed HUNAN and, having the DU, DUANE which finally gave me that corner.

PHEW

Orange 10:04 AM  

Not to mention a real tortilla chip is more of a quarter circle (cut from a round tortilla) than a triangle. Sure, Doritos are triangular, but (a) they don't need salsa, and (b) they're not chips made from tortillas.

Hobbyist 10:20 AM  

I found this one really cinchy for a Friday. Liked simoleon but not knee pants.

anoa 10:37 AM  

I was giving myself agita trying to figure out how "agua" is a term for someone's messed up makeup.
Thanks to you, Rex, I finally understand the clever clue.

Spencer 11:35 AM  

My total time on this crossword was horrible. But part of that was due to falling asleep in the middle. :-)

kratsman 11:54 AM  

I must've been on the constructor's wavelength, 'cause I flew (for me) through this one in under 9 minutes. Lots of flat-out gimmies. Started in upper left and went around the grid counterclockwise, pretty much non-stop. Had a write-over at 53D where I entered SAVOR instead of SPICE, and another one at 12D where I entered JUSTASEC instead of WAITASEC, but even these didn't slow me down for long.

SethG 11:55 AM  

So weird. I got the NE _immediately_, the NW took a while longer, then had a bunch of trouble in the SE.

Overall ~35 minutes pretty good for me on a Friday, but my troubles were different than others'.

enya eno 11:57 AM  

I found it very challenging...but eventually had it all except the DUANE / ODIE "D" crossing. SE was most difficult for me. GETAgrip instead of GETALIFE took some undoing in SW. Not very good at surrealist sculptors. Did Hanson scultp "Mmmmm...bop"?

Some clever cluing: "...shot in stages", "Cry before storming out" (though that was my few gimmes), "Portions of les annees" rather than the usual "hot time on the Riviera", "Mar makeup".

Weird Al references always welcome.

On [62d Letter run] -- NOP, I first entered "rst". Isn't it usually "rst"? I'll have to check Agent Orange's excellent book...or maybe this was just my own misguided guideline.

Now, to go discover who this other Darwin is....

enya eno 12:08 PM  

It's good to be back doing the puzzle and enjoying Rex's recap. My family did an intervention, sent me to CAR (Crossword Addictiion Rehab), where I was off the grid / away from puzzling for a couple weeks. Like the Malcolm McDowell character in "A Clockwork Orange", I was strapped down, my eyes clamped open, and had to watch "Wordplay" non-stop for three days. Love the movie, but now have an aversion. When I opted out at baton-twirling, they realized I was unbreakable, so we cut a deal: I get to do the NYT, but no others. Just one per day. No more Peter and Gordon music for me. But I still feel blessed by my five-step program:

1. Do the NYT puzzle,
2. Read Rex's always entertaining blog,
3. Read the always interesting comments,
4. Write my own drivel/comments,
and, best of all ----
5 CHOOSE AN IDENTITY!

Jim in Chicago 12:12 PM  

First posting after a week-long holiday.

I also have problems with GATES as the answer to "Slolom targets", since I believe the gates are what one tries to avoid.

Now, I seldom need to put the crossword down while I have a good laugh, but it happened this morning. When I reached the question "Hiking aid" I already had the KN in place, and my first thought was KNEECAPS, which, of course, are of great assistance when trying to hike but were clearly not the intended answer!

dk 12:28 PM  

Hi Enya, Just watched and then reread Clockwork Orange so welcome HOME.

My issues was thinking a toasted triangle was a toast point so I up moved uptown for a topping.

Liked calm-simoleon as I always think of them a plurals.

All and all a fun and good time for Friday.

Still chuckling over all the chatter yesterday.

jae 12:40 PM  

This was very easy for me and went fast, but it also confirmed why I will probably won't become a high speed solver. I did this in well under 30 minutes and would have done it even faster if (1) I hadn't misread 34A as Calm and spent some time wondering how SIMOL... might relate to Calm and (2) once I realized my error I had spelled SIMOLEON (SIMOLIAN)correctly. This caused me to spend way too much time in NW. I also had NOWAY at first at felt it was consistent with the Arbuckle pet clue because I remembered that Jon had a cute kitten whose name started with "N", turns out it was NERMAL. My only other hang up was OVERDOSE for 41A which KNAPSACK corrected. I really liked this one. Light on crosswordese and some very clever clueing.

jae 12:45 PM  

Enya -- welcome back. BTW,DUANE was a Superrealist but I'm not sure that makes any difference.

campesite 1:07 PM  

Been solving the puzzle on paper in Mexico for over a week, so it was lovely to get back on the applet and post what must be my personal best Friday time. Which means I loved this puzzle.
As for GATES, the confusion is understandable, but the clue/answer is correct: there are two sets of poles that make up a gate, and if the skier doesn't ski between them he misses his target and is disqualified. We're used to seeing the racer hugging but just missing the inside part of the gate.

mmpo 1:08 PM  

I liked seeing
KNEEPANTS
and
BIG TALK
in the same puzzle,
giving the puzzle a "Blues in the Night" sub-theme.
I hear Woody singing (braying?) as I stroll through the CONCOURSE on a cool summer evening.

Ben in NYC 1:13 PM  

Regarding KNEEPANTS, those septuagenarians amongst us immediately remembered Johnny Mercer's lyrics to Blues in the Night: "My mama done tol' me, when I was in kneepants..."

David 1:28 PM  

Isn't SALSA DIP a little re-redundant? It is just called salsa out here (Oakland). But that aside I think the clue was OK, torilla chips come in every-which shape, including triangles, and I do believe I have seen them being toasted some times.

Liked the puzzle except for the Minnesota region with 3 down names (ELAYNE, EILEENS, and DUMAS) all crossing with an across (SNEAD). I managed to get them all right, but it was more lucky guessing than skilled crosswording.

marcie 2:00 PM  

enya... the "other Darwin" is a capital city in Australia, probably named after Charles, but Australia is "home to" this city. That's how I read it anyways, not being able to fit Charles's actual home into the grid and after consulting Dr. Google.

I got a giggle out of the mar makeup = agua. Even when I had it, it took another few secs to "get it".

Otherwise pretty much I found this one "easy".... for a Friday.

Rikki 2:08 PM  

Hi all,

This was a fun Friday puzzle, easy is some spots, challenging for me in others. Solved the bottom half pretty quickly last night, then fell asleep and woke up to the top where I definitely had my woes, but in a fun way. Had practically the same experience as Rex in the northeast with noway and pate, incorrectly going across and awaiting next to waitasec going down, which fit with eatit but had to go when I got simoleon and palaces. Remembered odie and was on my way with a guess of duane to finish the corner.

Had pep for rev and mois for etes in the NW which held me up, but got elayne and eileens and the whole top fell. Guessed on Australia, thinking Darwin must have moved there at some point and didn't realize Darwin was a place and not a person until a head slap moment a few minutes ago.

Liked the clueing of westerns, agree that salsa dip is redundant, and finally getting simoleon for clam helped open that area, though I loved bivalves there until I realized it was a singular clam.

Fun, fun, fun.

Enya Eno: check out the 12 steps of Crossworders Anonymous on Orange's blog from Tuesday, I think. Very funny.

And, finally:

[Endgame author] [regulations]

BECKETT RULES!!!

Fergus 2:11 PM  

My impressions of the puzzle and the solution sequence were almost an exact match with Rex's today. Only difference was that the NW was more stumble-prone for me, mostly because I firmly inked in MOIS, knowing that JOURS wouldn't fit. Tristram Shandy is such a great book to pick up and read at random (one could say it's written that way, too), and find a wide variety of literary comedy. So STERNE set everything up for the whole of Dixie. Tempted briefly with BROW instead of 25A Area below the hairline, but the sly WESTERNS shoved that notion aside. I reckon that the CONCOURSE was referring to the sort of Park that could also be an Arena or Stadium. A little struggle before PALACES made me realize that there are a whole bunch of terms for stately homes.

This was a decent puzzle but not really up to Friday snuff. My quality criterion for Fri./Sat. is having to leave the puzzle alone, even if just for a few minutes, because there are too many interwoven possibilities taxing my limited ability to keep so many juggled balls in the air.

Glad to have Zelig Enya Eno observations show up again. I particularly liked the guise of Drano Malfoy a few weeks ago. Perhaps the next incarnation will be Ilsa Els, fueled by Moo Goo Gai Pan?

Jim in NYC 2:19 PM  

Toasted hamentaschen?

Jim in NYC 2:19 PM  

Toasted hamentaschen?

Annielee 2:52 PM  

dk, so I'm not the only one who was trying to fit in toast point instead of salsa dip? That makes me feel much better! But since when does anyone refer to salsa as salsa dip? And the tortilla chips we use are strips not triangles.

I had a hard time with the NW, mostly because of my toast points and insisting on trying to make the astronaut Michael Collins instead of Eileen. Never heard of Eileen, whereas Michael was part of the Apollo 11 moon landing crew. Nice bit of misdirection there. I also for the life of me could not see squeegee for windshield wiper. I knew James Forrestal was the last Secretary of the Navy and also knew Elayne Boosler, so that gave me something to work with, but it took a while.

Instead of concourse I wanted bandstand or gazebo, probably influenced by too many Hollywood oldies where the lovers woo in the park at the gazebo.

ben in nyc, I remember Johnny Mercer's lyric, and I'm not a septuagenarian.

All in all a much better time on a Friday puzzle for me. Thanks, Rex!

RAlbert 2:57 PM  

pretty easy for a Fri for me.
Did not like salsadip* ans at all
& misspelled simileon at first
but otherwise enjoyable.
*wanted to put in caviar (too short)or sturgeon since clue
was "triangle"

RonB 2:58 PM  

RE 64A, concourse:San Francisco's Golden Gate Park has a music concourse with a bandshell and stage and picnic area surrounded by the museum, planetarium, aquarium and CA Academy of Sciences.

Dan 3:03 PM  

My order was NW, SW, SE, NE. The big thing slowing me down was having JUSTASEC instead of WAITASEC for ages. I usually have difficulty finishing Fridays so I'd say it was on the easier side.

mac 6:10 PM  

Can you believe, another "rev."?

jilmac 8:07 PM  

This was easy for a Friday! SW corner slowed me up as I had 'savor' instead of 'spice' which worked nicely with 'air vented' !! But not so well with anything else
But 'simoleon' really stopped me dead as did 'last'. When I had 'finished' I still had one empty square - the 'l' of 'last'!!!!

jae 8:12 PM  

I would have preferred 16a to be clued "Virtuoso guitarist Eddy," I'll take semi-obscure rock and roll to obscure art any day.

Enya -- I don't think I could do just one a day, keeping it under 5 seems more reasonable. More power to you!

Michael 8:20 PM  

I liked this puzzle -- especially squeegee on top of australia on top of noneatall. Though I wasn't nearly as fast as Rex, the ways I temporarily went wrong (no way, pate) were similar.

Average difficulty for a Friday, I thought.

billnutt 9:50 PM  

Rex, just so you know, the "vaguely hot wife" from EIGHT IS ENOUGH was played by Betty Buckley, who has since gone on to a successful career on Broadway (she introduced "Memory" in the original prodution of CATS) and in cabarets in NY.

Like Rex, I erroneously went with "no way" for "oh wow." Funnily enough, when I read "Darwin's home," I immediately thought of Australia - this IS a Friday puzzle after all. I'm proud to say that "Eat It" was the first clue I entered.

Seeing "I've had it" and "get a life" next to each other made me smile, for some reason. I also loved the cluing for "Westerns."

I'm embarrassed to say that the only astronaut named Collins I could think of was "Michael," from Apollo 11.

I don't know if I EVER knew that Jon from GARFIELD had the surname "Arbuckle."

After LAST Friday's puzzle beat me silly, I felt ludicrously happy with myself for solving this one without resorting to the Internet or the dicitionary, as I tend to do on Fridays and Saturdays.

Eugene 11:30 PM  

Like others, had trouble with "Mar makeup", got the answer reasonably quick, but didn't figure out why until I sat back. And, like Rex, I had NOWAY, and took a while to get off it.

rhonda from kansas 12:18 PM  

Hello, I'm writing from six weeks in the past. I don't usually bother to comment because I feel there is nothing left to say. However, I did want to talk up Duane Hanson a little for anyone who happens upon this comment.

Rex, I'm surprised that you're not more familiar with him. Here at the Nelson Art Gallery in Kansas City we have his "museum guard" sculpture. It always catches unsuspecting visitors off-guard. He's done a lot of other hilarious ones, such as his "tourists".

Here's a link

impjb 7:40 PM  

This must be an easy puzzle as it is the first "Friday" i've done without any computerized assistance. It took a while though.

All of the mistakes I made were made by others here, which is refreshing.

rhonda, that Duane Hanson sculpture is amazing!

jpChris 1:51 PM  

Was it just me, or did anyone else think HMS Beagle for 15A? I watched Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy last night and Beagle just wouldn't go away.

I got 1A quick and easy, but it wouldn't jive with 15A and the rest of the downs until I got 7D (Elayne) and realized my mistake.

Oh, well.

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