SATURDAY, Oct. 13, 2007 - Barry C. Silk

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Here's how it went down.

The NE fell first, and quickly. Had YEAS for 11A: All in favor (pros) but that mistake hardly mattered. The "S" gave me the easy SNEEZE (14D: Cold response?). Then I took one look at 11D: Some dance honorees and immediately tested PROM QUEENS - it fit, plus it gave me Q--Z for 24A: It's often administered orally (quiz). Easy. That corner was done in about a minute or two, even with fancy odd words up there like RAGOUT (12D: Cousin of goulash) and OIL LIT (13D: Like some old-fashioned lamps) and the oddly-clued BUTTE (28A: Birthplace of Evel Knievel and Martha Raye).

Got ASTAIRE (30A: "Follow the Fleet" co-star, 1936) off just the final -RE, which helped open up the middle. With just the final "A" in place, I got the very easy O CANADA (9D: Preceder of many hockey games), and that gave me access to the back ends of all the NW Across answers. But I could get only the ends, not the beginnings, so left the NW and went to the SE, where waters were much calmer. The gimme NICO (42A: One-named singer with the 1960s Velvet Underground) - well, I actually couldn't remember if it was spelled with a "C" or "K." But when ICED OVER was the first thing I thought of for 36D: Like some streams in winter, I thought NICO must be spelled with a "C." Guessed ADA (50A: Lovelace who was called "The Enchantress of Numbers") because I'd heard her name before - from a Saturday puzzle, I think, many months ago. I quickly had everything east of AT IT (54D: Buckling down) in place in the SE.

I left out a stage - the clue 49A: "I'll be Doggone" singer, 1965 caught my eye and I began humming the song to myself. "I know that voice ... who is that? ... hmm hmm hmm 'well I wouldn't be doggone .... I'd be long gone ...' who is that? Aha! Marvin! Marvin GAYE. Woo hoo!" GAYE was surprisingly helpful, because down went SAY HI TO (40D: Greet) and SWEATER (41D: Producer of some beads) instantly, and since I already had IPOS (31D: Corp. capital raisers) in place, I had the back end of GUESS SO (38A: "Seems that way" - nice triple "S," by the way), which made it very easy to guess. I balked at SCANNED (39D: Like many supermarket lines?) - then realized the "lines" must be the UPCs, not the people waiting in line at checkout. Still don't like the clue. Anyway, between 39-41D and 35-37D: from the far SE, the long, boring Acrosses in the SE fell easily. Never even saw the clue for 49D: "Life is Beautiful" hero (Guido).

The NW was harder for me. Back ends of all the Acrosses didn't help - well, eventually I stumbled into AMEN TO THAT (17A: "I hear ya!"). I had tried I HEARD THAT! but then realized "hear" was in the clue, so that couldn't be right. Eventually figures out that 1A: Classic sports lineup was some kind of FORMATION, but ... I? V? Who could say? Ended up being "T." REPUGNANCE (15A: Antipathy) was a word that Just Would Not Come To Me. I had all but 3 letters - -E-U-NANCE - and still couldn't see it. Had to abandon the NW for the SW.

Had trouble getting in to the SW. Had only the S--G at the beginning of the long 26D: 1959 #1 hit for Lloyd Price, and I needed that answer to open things up down there. Got a little help from the astonishingly easy 51A: Cossacks' leader (tsar) and 58A: Natural healer (aloe), but still, the Lloyd Price song wouldn't come. Then STAGGER LEE just popped into my head - from the same place I had kept "I'll Be Doggone" stored, i.e. the part of my brain that stores songs from the oldies / Motown station I listened to almost exclusively when I was 16 years old. SW went down from there.

Then I returned to the NW to make my last stand.

The long Downs up there, but were much harder than they needed to be because two of the short Acrosses that cross them were completely unknown / ridiculous-looking to me. I had TRANS FAT (1D: Dietary danger) and FEMININE (2D: Like some charms) in place, and wanted to commit to OPEN AREA (3D: Range, e.g.), but that would have given me SNA for 22A: Winter fall, in Falkirk, and I just couldn't accept that that is how the Germans spell "snow" in their language [of course it's NOT how they spell "snow" - SNA is @#$#-ing colloquial Scottish ... "kirk" should have clued me in! Ugh]. Further, and worse, OPEN AREA would have given me ANET for 29A: Dill herb. ANET is the least herby-looking word I've ever seen. I checked all the crosses, thought over all my options, and decided to stick with SNA and ANET. Turned out to be the right move. ANET is possibly the most obscure word I've seen in the grid since ZYZZYVA. No dill references on first Google. Googled [anet herb] and got a paltry 26K hits, the third of which directed me to a book titled A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, etc. by one James Orchard. It was published in 1889. And that was one of its later printings (book first appeared mid-century). So ... ANET was archaic one hundred and fifty years ago. Not sure what that makes it today, except Not Welcome In My Puzzle (unless it's clued via Van Halen - see yesterday's puzzle).

Let me look over the grid to find any great / horrible stuff I missed.

  • 23A: Fortune 500 company founded in 1995 (eBay) - again, supereasy for a Saturday
  • 32A: Precursor to a historical "party" (Tea Act) - knew instantly that the Boston Tea Party was the "party" in question, but could think only of TEA TAX at first. Speaking of Boston ... Sox destroyed the Tribe yesterday, and Josh Beckett, who should win the Cy Young award, beat C.C. Sabathia, who probably will win the Cy Young award - for reasons that no one has made clear to me yet. Anyway, it's just one game, but an important one. Meanwhile, the insane Colorado Rockies just refuse to lose. They've won 19 of their last 20!!! They're up 2-0 on Arizona and headed to Denver.
  • 48A: Home of Gannon University (Erie) - good example of Saturday cluing for a Monday word.
  • 60A: Revolutionary War general Thomas (Gage) - seems like every week I'm writing in the name of some four-letter general I don't know.
  • 5D: Company keepers: Abbr. (mgt.) - killed me 'cause it didn't end in "S."
  • 10D: Like a snood, commonly (netty) - god I hate this. I hate the word "snood," and I don't like the word NETTY much better. Its claim on adjectivity seems quite weak.
  • 37D: "Isn't anyone interested?" ("No takers?") - fabulous. Love it almost as much as AMEN TO THAT.
  • 43D: It can give people flight reservations (jet lag) - this clue hurts me, physically. Part of a general phenomenon I refer to as TTH - Trying Too Hard.
  • 43A: Decision maker (judge) - I had OPTER, which is a horrible odd job, but certainly no more horrible than DETERMINER (59A: Decision maker).
  • 44D: Legendary Christian martyr (Ursula) - just a cool name.
  • 45D: It's open for discussion (dialog) - god I hate the non-"ue" spelling.
  • 57D: Org. with its own insurance agency (AMA) - possibly the least interesting clue ever written.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 9:24 AM  


Is it possible for you to write a program that calculates the average number of Comments for a given constructor? Yesterday's MN had 55 when I checked moments ago and that's mighty high. Just wondering which constructors drum up lots of controversy/excitement.


dann walsh 9:26 AM  


i can't believe you didn't have issues with UNHAT...


Whitey's mom 9:28 AM  

I think Falkirk is in Scotland. Anyway, amen to all that!

pinky 9:35 AM  

Rex why is the NW corner what would appear to be the NE corner on a map?

That said, do other people often have trouble with NE corner? (NW corner on a map) . That's the one that always stumps me.

marcie 9:44 AM  

Could someone connect the dots for me on 19A... Low square = nine? I don't get it.

I was cooking along fine having decided that work period = shift giving me tethers for ribbons and repugnEnce for antipathy. I am clueless about hockey so ocafada (obviously some bizarre pre-hockey ritual) was good enough for me, until google couldn't find any references to confirm. A walk-away/return had ocanada jump at me and change to stint, tatters and correctly spelled repugnance.

Orange 9:44 AM  

ANET = dill is totally old-school, the sort of crossword fill that was common 25 years ago. One of my blog commenters (Evad) pointed out that NETTY relating to nets would have forced Will to use crosswordese ANET rather than the partial phrase, A NET.

Orange 9:45 AM  

Marcie, 3 squared = 9. As far as square numbers go, that one's pretty low.

marcie 9:55 AM  

orange... THANKS! My forehead is duly slapped.

Rex Parker 10:01 AM  

RE: UNHAT - Yeah, that's not that great.

RE: Falkirk and SNA - I am an idiot. I've fixed the annotation.


wendy 10:06 AM  

IMOO, my answer to 53D was *much better* than TIRE. I had Dime, as in, buddy can you spare a ... and I was certain that was right for the longest time. Especially because I so hoped that the ultra-boring DETERMINER was not the answer that it proved to be.

I did uncommonly well for a Saturday, able to intuit lots of iffy stuff that I wouldn't normally. Like SWEATER, SNEEZE, TATTERS, GRID, RAGOUT, even the offending NETTY.

I think my first of few gimmes was O CANADA. GAYE, NICO, thank god for them. Couldn't get PROM QUEENS to save my life, even with the UEE in place; how dim is that? Someday I'd like to see Drama Queen as the answer.

Loved NO TAKERS, which I got, and AMEN TO THAT, which I got only part of. I wanted I Heard That too, knowing it wasn't gonna happen; I had a boyfriend once who said that so much it was a catchphrase and now I'll be hearing him in my head all the livelong day. Oh joy.

rick 10:24 AM  

You could write the computer program in ADA, named for ADA Lovelace nee Byron.

Liked this puzzle except for NETTY and OILLIT. A room may be OILLIT but you don't light a lamp with oil. You use a flame to light an old-fashioned oil lamp.

I had RELUCTANCE for 15A which threw me for a while until TFORMATION kinda popped out giving MGT (I had already put in an "S" for the plural).

I too put in TEATAX but had GRID already. The G_X_ just didn't look kosher so I changed act and got GATE. In the beginning I also tried TAXACT but didn't like the dangling "X".

Is there anyone besides me in SE Michigan experiencing serious slowdowns with Road Runner broadband?

Anonymous 10:51 AM  

Pinky ... personally I find the whole NW, SE thing confusing and would prefer top left, bottom right. (Not that it's up to me.)

GK 11:18 AM  

If it's OK to continue commenting on Friday's puzzle, I agreed with the folks who wrote they never heard anyone say "wheel" for "important person." But last night there was a phone message on my machine from my father-in-law, who twice referred to Keith Bildstein as "one of the wheels up at Hawk Mountain."

Anonymous 11:24 AM  

gk -- I didn't do the Friday puzzle, but would like to mention the Fats Domino classic: "I'm Gonna Be a Wheel Someday."

Rex Parker 12:20 PM  

As you all should know by now, I am occasionally E/W dyslexic. I fixed my errors ... I think.


mike 1:36 PM  

I wanted Decision maker=GEORGEBUSH for 59a.

jae 1:41 PM  

This was easy-challenging for me. I did this pretty much the same way Rex did. I got the East half very quickly and struggled with the West. I also had the "STAGGERLEE pop into my head" experience which helped close out SW. But, even with STAG.., TRANSFAT, and OCANADA (a gimmie) in place NW was tough. So my questions are, (1) Does NETTY refer to the fish or the derisive jesture? and (2)How is either NETTY?

This was not as much fun as yesterday's by a long shot.

frances 1:50 PM  

Pop culture clues are always difficult but usually do-able for me, but it really is going too far to make a major vertical answer depend upon a 48-year-old song whose words Dick Clark considered too violent for broadcast on American Bandstand

Fergus 2:36 PM  

Pretty much followed the same path as Rex through this one, though not with such fluency nor facility. That Pacific NorthWest was most recalcitrant. When RUNE finally came back from the ancient past I leaped up to the next square from the FOUR I had, got NINE -- it all dropped in spite of my shared REPUGNANCE with the multiply maligned NETTY ANET.

Errors were DIAS instead of ANOS (since my calendar only has one year?); the more general ANTHEMS rather than the Canadian one; non-profit BOT (Board of Trustees) and not MGT; and thinking that the "Ya" in 17A indicated a non-standard spelling. That's way more than enough to butcher that quarter.

Didn't know PREVIN did movie music but I knew he was in LA for quite a while, so it was a reasonable and quite helpful guess. A number of good outlying clue/ANSWER combinations: my favorite was 33D Breaking need / CUE. And happy to mention (furthering a little crusade), continued judicious restraint in the use of the question mark in any but the broadest stretch for a clue.

I love clues like 55A Break, which can have so many possible answers. Put several of these in a stack, and you fall into the perfect crossword spell.

jlsnyc 2:48 PM  

"...but certainly no more horrible than DETERMINER."

or even no more horribler....



jae 4:12 PM  

Ignore my questions, seems I mixed up snood and snook.

livebug 4:37 PM  

Rex, how can you hate the word "snood"? Say it five times fast; it starts to get a little tune of its own. Now NETTY, that's a word to hate.

I guess I'm food-paranoid, but I thought TRANSFAT almost before I was done reading the clue.

Anonymous 5:52 PM  

"Easy-Medium"? I know your descriptions are informed by the day of the week, but that NW territory was a bear! I played possum and then came to the blog for help in that corner. The rest just took me a lot of time.

Rex Parker 5:57 PM  

NE and SE felt Easy, NW and SW felt just right, Saturday-wise. Hence "Easy-Medium."


Kim 7:21 PM  

I am a science teacher so would like to ask a few questions to any history profs or history buffs out there. First I believed that cossacks were a pretty independent bunch and would not regard a TSAR as their leader. Wikipedia claims cossack leaders are called HETMAN or ATAMAN. Is this just crosswordese?

Second, I thought what precipitated the Boston Tea Party was the TEA TAX not the TEA ACT. Please comment if you can help me understand this.

Michael 7:40 PM  

I think this was a fair Saturday puzzle -- challenging, but for most part with good clues and a lack of obscure words. However...

Rex discussed "anet" and all I can do is agree with him

"unhat" is awful

I got stuck halfway through and had to look up "astaire" -- after that it wasn't too hard.

jae 9:06 PM  

I know ratings are subjective and, while I'm not arguing with Rex's "medium", this one drove Orange to google (STAGGERLEE).

Kim --the tea tax was the result of the British TEA ACT. To the extent that the TSARs ruled all of Russia I assume they ruled the cossacks. I realize this is a bit weak. Maybe someone else can help?

Nancy 9:12 PM  

Here's a link to an MP3 recording of Stagger Lee:

Nancy Shack

Kim 9:15 PM  

Thanks Jae that does help me understand the reasoning.

Rikki 9:23 PM  

Kim and Jae,

I don't think The Tea Act of !773 actually levied a tax on tea, but it essentially forced the colonists to buy tea from only the East India Tea Company. They were already fuming about the Stamp Act of 1765 that put a tax on any piece of paper issued, so they saw the Tea Act as another example of taxation without representation. When the ships showed up with the tea, they refused to unload it and planned the little midnight party.

I was bamboozled all around the country today with dias and shift confounding the NE, but prom queen and ragout got me going. Then I plodded south and got hornswoggled by uncap for unhat (hate it) and said a lot of "what the..." until finally getting determiner (hate it). The SW fell and I only eeked out Stagger Lee from crosses, having never heard of it. Then I did battle in the NW and was lost on repugnance and ocanada until a huge aha when I got rid of shift and changed dias to anos.

Ditto to all who have never heard of anet and those who hated netty. Netty? Ya, snoods were made of net and if they were made of silk you might call them silky, but netty?

Loved the poster of Fred Astaire, Rex. He's one of my heroes. He probably could have used some odoreaters!

liebestraum 11:19 PM  

I lost a great deal of my hearing when I was five, so when I get a Saturday puzzle with four music clues, I know I"m in for a long day. Add the typical Saturday clues and I had all sorts of "fun."

Oh well.


billnutt 11:51 PM  

For a fuller story on the song "Stagger Lee," I recommend Greil Marcus's book MYSTERY TRAIN, which looks at rock and roll history specifically through the careers of Harmonica Frank Floyd, Robert Johnson, the Band, Randy Newman, Sly Stone and Elvis Presley. It's sometimes a bit much, but it makes some interesting points.

Add my name to the list of people who regard "unhat" with repugnance.

I had to smile at "low square." I just gave a test in which I asked my seventh and eighth graders to give the square of 4, and a disturbing number gave "2" as the answer, instead of the correct "16."

Is there an Erie conspiracy? Lake Erie was in yesterday's puzzle, Erie was in today. You can tell it's close to Halloween. (Sorry...)

jae 11:58 PM  

riki -- thanks for the clarification on the TEA ACT, I was dredging up high school history memories which have obviously weakened with time. BTW, getting OCANADA early saved me from the SHIFT error but it took me a while to get rid of DIAS.

Hobbyist 4:21 PM  

took hateful puzzle away for weekend trip and never filled in the lower left at all! I am humbled.

Eugene 11:16 PM  

Never heard of ANET. I'm old enough so that STAGGERLEE jumped out at me. Had a lot of problems with CUE, but when I finally settled on it, SW came very quickly

Anonymous 2:31 PM  

It took me exactly 7minutes and 15 seconds to complete this puzzle.

barkertj 2:16 PM  

I also liked DIME for 53D (my answer) much better then TIRE, Wendy!

Am I the only one who got UNLID (mistakenly) for 52D? UNHAT was a groaner for me.

Joining in solidarity with those who didn't care for NETTY and ANET; sadly, I started out in the NW with OPPOSITION in 15A and got all bogged down . . .

I'd like to hear more about the TSAR 51A as the Cossacks' leader -- I didn't see that one matching either! (Maybe it's just the Russia connection?)

For 25A Needle holders, did anyone else erroneously get ETUI?

Finally, for clarification, NW/SW etc. does actually correspond to the map references? (i.e., NW = Upper Left, etc.) Rex, don't worry, I'm left-handed and often say "turn right" when I mean "left" . . . !

TJ Barker, Seattle

Brian 11:24 PM  

ANET = Dill (anethum graveolens)

Anonymous 6:45 PM  

Man, funny how different people find different things difficult. I found NW relatively easy (although I was misled by putting in AMENSISTER at first, OCANADA put me right quickly) but NE stumped me until I resorted to the internet for BUTTE. I got SNEEZE, but couldn't choose between OGLE or LEER, and MOLE or LEAK.

I also took a pretty bad wrong turn when I put DOCMARTENS instead of ODOREATERS. Screwed up almost everything for a while. NOTAKERS was easy, but fooled me into putting 47 across as ERAT instead of STET.

Great job!

Anonymous 6:49 PM  

TJ, yeah ETUI was my first impulse too. And for 53 down, I was toying with GIVE or ALMS

chemist_emeritus 8:21 PM  

Anethum graveolens is the botanical name for dill - I suppose that is where anet came from....

Anonymous 3:32 PM  

A blast from the past, this puzzle also appears in the syndicated version of the NYT crossword on November 26th, 2011.

Will, hope Barry Silk gets extra payment for this double exposure.

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