SATURDAY, Oct. 27, 2007 - Brendan Emmett Quigley

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

This was the hardest puzzle of the year for me. I thought I had post-yoga brain melt yesterday when I took forever to do DQ's puzzle, but now I don't know. Maybe I am in a serious slump - or I'm not eating right or sleeping enough. Whatever it is, I am off my game. This was hard to begin with, and by the time I got down to the final SE corner, it turned borderline impossible.

The one clue that annoyed me most because I picture the cluer with a smug, self-satisfied grin on his face:

45D: One who's waited upon (Godot) - now you know that once people get the "G" - from SIG EP (44A: Member of a popular college frat) - they're going to take one look at that clue and write in GUEST. When the "T" in GUEST turns out to be correct - the first letter in TOMATO RED (65A: What green might ripen into) - they're going to keep GUEST in place, naturally. And for a Long Time. For many many many minutes, my entire SE corner had only the following entries in it:

  • GUEST (wrong)
  • TOMATO RED (correct, but only because my stepmom used to drive a convertible red BMW with the license plate "TOMATO" - or was it "TOMATAH"? One of those)
  • ASK TO (48D: Provide an invitation for) (this one went in and out and in and out; the cluing on it is superlatively awkward)
  • LUNAR (49D: Kind of cycle)
  • SMILE (wrong) - actual answer is EMOTE (50D: Mug, e.g.)

I should add that originally I had BOUT for SUMO (55A: Heavyweights compete in it), and getting SUMO was a huge part of getting any traction down there. But still, I was stuck badly until I gave up SMILE. If only I had remembered SALEM (47A: Parliament rival), I don't think I would nave had Nearly as many problems. In fact, once I finally got it, the corner fell reasonably quickly. I just couldn't think of a cigarette starting in "S." And then when I had SMILE where EMOTE was supposed to be, I thought the SALEM clue might actually be SALSA ("Is there a cigarette called "SALSA?" I haven't smoked for 16 years ... maybe there are new brands...").

I just started writing a story with a couple friends (OK, students) of mine; we started with a sentence we found somewhere, and then one of us wrote a sentence and passed it to the next person, who wrote the next sentence and then passed it on, and so on. I told someone about this ridiculous project yesterday, and he said "Oh, like an EXQUISITE CORPSE." I was like "???" Never heard the term. And then last night: 39A: Classic laugh-inducing parlor game with writing or illustrations (exquisite corpse). Super-weird coincidence. Technically, I think an EXQUISITE CORPSE game involves each new contributor not really knowing much about what other contributors before him/her have done, so our story doesn't quite fit the definition. I think. To see the sentence we began with, go here and play the audio file of the sample sentence (under "Word Tutor"). If it hadn't been for the audio file, this project would never have happened. Be warned, once you play the audio file, you might want to keep playing it over and over again because of its inherent hilarity.

I would like to thank the following words, which were either gimmes, or which came out of the blue like a weird revelation. Without their help, I might still be trying to solve this @#$#!

  • 8D: Range option (Amana) - the only answer I ever considered. Came to me instantly. Our fridge is an AMANA.
  • 31D: Factory seconds: Abbr. (irrs.) - again, the only answer I considered.
  • 42A: Vintner's prefix (oen-) - gimme
  • 32A: It served the Mid-Atlantic until 1976 (Reading Railroad) - I was dying in the middle of this puzzle until the "LR" way over in the Kentucky section of the puzzle made me consider RAILROAD as a part of this answer (I had previously entertained AIRLINES) - and READING was the first RAILROAD that came to mind.
  • 62A: Sent regrets, say (RSVP'd)
  • 64A: Priceless instrument (Amati) - both of these were easy, and made the SW by far the easiest part of the puzzle.
  • 14D: Band with the highest first-week album sales in music history (*NSYNC) - Not sure if I'm ashamed or proud of how easily I got this. Came to me as readily as AMANA.
  • 24D: Some religious fundamentalists (Shiites) - kept putting it in and taking it out; for a time, this was the lone answer traversing the empty middle.

Going by quadrant: as I hated the MYSPACE clue yesterday, so I hated the 1A MARK CUBAN clue today (1A: Billionaire sports entrepreneur who heads HDNet). Quit corporatizing the clues. Yesterday at 1A we had News Corp in the clue, today HDNet. Is the puzzle taking money from sponsors now? Why are corporations getting 1A billing so often? This quadrant fell pretty easily. AMANA allowed me to guess both TIME and BAG as parts of the Across answers:

  • 15A: Within the next few minutes, potentially (at any time)
  • 17A: Case made for a shooter (camera bag) - hate the forced trickiness of the clue

Loved: ATARI (2D: Breakout maker). Did not know CYR (5D: France's Saint-_____ l'Ecole).

The NE was tough at first, but came around eventually. It's actually a nice, lively corner. I like ELFIN (10A: Like some seasonal helpers - should say, "fictional" or "mythical," but whatever) over ROLLS (16A: Some piano players) over ROILY (18A: Agitated) - lots of energy up there. Toy-making energy. I had no idea Anita LOOS was a playwright (11D: "Happy Birthday" playwright). I have a great paperback of "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Behold:

All right, that pretty much covers the puzzle. Here are the smiley faces for the day:
  • 34D: Old Spice alternative (Aqua Velva) - both of these, er, "scents," will forever remind me of cheesy, possibly mustachioed men from the 70s and perhaps early 80s. [update: You must watch this now!]
  • 33D: Foreignness (exoticism) - right next to AQUA VELVA - these two answers look Great together.
  • 26D: Old settings for many out-of-tune pianos (saloons) - Best Clue of the Day
And finally, the Question Marks:
  • 25A: Dr. Seuss's "Too Many _____" ("Daves") - my pop culture cred takes a hit on this one. I had No Idea.
  • 30A: Marathon runner Gebrselassie (Haile) - if you've seen one "selassie," you've seen 'em all, I guess.
  • 9D: Ben-Gurion setting (Negev)
  • 20A: Its motto is "All for our country": Abbr. (Nev.) - I had NRA
  • 29D: Connecticut city on the Naugatuck (Ansonia) - absolute worst answer of the day. WTF!? If it's going to be a mystery place, it could at least look or sound like something I've heard of before.
  • 37D: "The Mischievous Dog" author (Aesop) - blecch. Could have been anything - I got it only after getting the -OP from crosses.
  • 43D: "Lady for a Day" director, 1933 (Capra) - easy to get from crosses, but I've never heard of the movie.
  • 46D: Ecuador's southernmost coastal province (El Oro) - uh ... no. but unlike ANSONIA, at least this answer contains familiar letter combinations - in this case, actual, recognizable Spanish words.
  • 59D: Takeaway game (nim) - ?????????????????? Played by rats?

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


DONALD 8:43 AM  

Thanks for the Loos! Great cover, or lack of it!

marcie 9:28 AM  

tough puzzle. I didn't much like it for a couple of reasons. Too many abbr.'s... even one not clued as an abbreviation (gridiron datum) ended up being an abbreviation. I don't care for the word "roily" (it just feels forced) and have an inherant dislike of "orientate". I always felt one went to an orientation class/meeting to become oriented, not orientated. Orientated to me feels like a word that evolved from people trying to use big words where shorter ones suffice. crab crab crab

I still don't get "nim" = takeaway game. Anybody help?

Never in life have heard of "exquisite corpse" but it was obvious from the crosses.

Took just a while to harken back to "There's something about... an AQUA VELVA maa aaan" commercials.

IOU Moth 9:50 AM  

I used to encourage people to try the Times puzzle, saying "It makes you think. You don't have to know things like 'Ecuador's southernmost coastal province'...they never ask anything that obscure."

I should have been saying "If they ever use an obscure answer, e.g. 'Ecuador's southernmost coastal province', most likely it will be derivable from cross answers."

After today's puzzle, I know to say "Don't do the puzzle. Stick with Sudoku. When the answer is obscure, such as 'Ecuador's southermost coastal province', not only will you not know it, you are destined to never know it. If you try to retrieve the answer from a blog, or by googling, your computer will freeze up. Save yourself the misery."


One of my disasters was entering Eastern Airlines along the READING RAILROAD track. Crossing with SALOONS was good enough for me. Bad move.


Some questions:

Do the ROLLS actually play the piano? Not the way it worked on our '36 Steinway Duo-Art...there was electricity involved, if memory serves.

Never having moved in Frat circles, do people really say things like SIGEP? Sounds weird and lame.

If one is to move on after a humiliating defeat, why would one counts one's losses? Move on equals dwell on the negative? I'll check on

How does one live to be, uh, a certain age, with reasonable awareness of one's surroundings, culture, etc. (other than Frat circles and Rap), and absolutely never hear anything like EXQUISITECORPSE? I'd think it would have popped up somewhere by now. It seems like a good clue for Charades (parlor game category). It probably wouldn't be considered "classic", but I was thinking Pictionary.


And, while we're on "There's somthing about an Aqua Velva Maa...annn", I would offer:

"Old Spice means quality
Said the Captain to the bos'n
So look for the package
With the ship that sails the ocean."

Anonymous 10:13 AM  

nim is a neat little logic game i played briefly with my brothers as a kid. it involves two players and three rows of objects--we used to use poker chips. one row has seven items. one has five. one has three. the player who goes first can take any number of items from one row off the board. the important points are that he can only take items from one row on each turn, and he has to remove at least one object. after the first player takes his turn, the players alternate until all the objects have been removed. the goal is to not take the last object off the board. the reason the game is interesting--until you figure out the trick--is that the person who goes first can always win the game if he plays it right.

marcie 10:25 AM  

thanks, anon 10:13. I can see that my game-playing education has serious voids... two in one puzzle that I never heard of!! But I did know that Atari made breakout...once I got over trying to fit four-letter acne into five spaces.

marcie 10:27 AM  

haha IOU Moth... I might even be able to pick out the melody on the out-of-tune piano at the saloon!

kratsman 10:47 AM  

Vic Tayback (I think) was in that Aqua Velva commercial. He of the TV series "Alice" fame. Funny.

Never heard of exquisite corpse.

Very good write-up today.

And a very nice Sat puzz.

rick 10:49 AM  

I've been to two other NYT blogs (early riser today) and I have found no one who has heard of EXQUISITECORPSE (except for BEQ and Rex, yesterday)

And it should be CUTYOURLOSSES. Have never heard "count your losses", it makes no sense as a substition in the clue.

Yesterday, as for PET being regional: I'm from the midwest but did spend a few years in Virginia and may have picked it up there or from my ex who has lived in the south for the last twenty odd years.

BEQ, please use EXQUISITECORPSE again, because now I'm ready.

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

I didn't know exquisite corpse was a game but the phrase rang a bell because it's the name of a poetry journal (

foodie 11:31 AM  

If you google "cut your losses" you get 214,000 hits. If you google "count your losses" you get 754, and most of them refer to taxes, weight loss and such.

I had: To Cut One's Losses" for the longest time, but then AquaVelva forced me to change. I accepted Count reluctantly, but truly, it still sticks in my throat..

kratsman 11:31 AM  

I don't get the disagreement with CUTONESLOSES. After a humiliating defeat (in battle) don't we count our losses? CUTYOURLOSSES is an entirely differnt context and not apropos of the clue, seems to me.

kratsman 11:33 AM  

Buthered that comment---first ref should be COUNTONESLOSSES.

kratsman 11:35 AM  

Apparently, I can't spell today. Forget I ever posted.

Peter 11:43 AM  

Ugh... I taught an exquisite corpse drawing in class YESTERDAY and could not think of the word.

iou moth 11:48 AM  

If anyone is confused, Old Spice is the one married to David Beckham.

billnutt 12:42 PM  

It was fun to see Vic Tayback do something besides threaten William Shatner or sling hash at a diner.

I had NEVER heard of Exquisite Corpse, either, but it sounds interesting. I have my students do a round-robin story such as the one you're doing, Rex.

I'm pretty sure that "Lady for a Day" was the movie Capra made right before "It Happened One Night."

I was afraid that the "band with highest first-week sales" would something to make me cringe. I was right.

The SE in today's puzzle was a mess, though not the trainwreck I had yesterday with Bob Hope.

Nothnagel 1:11 PM  

Two commentaries in one, today, to make up for missing DQ's puzzle yesterday (Rex, I also fell into the deep, dark chasm of academia):

First, BEQ: I really liked this puzzle, despite the fact that after 3 and a half minutes, I only had HAI and NSYNC filled in, along with a couple of random "-S"s and "-ED"s.

Say what you want, but EXQUISITE CORPSE is the kind of entry that makes the constructor in me jealous and the solver in me happy.

Now, to DQ: I don't know if I can say that this is the best DQ I have ever done (that's a high bar to jump over), but it was certainly a solid puzzle from top to bottom.

Great entries include MYSPACE, ROCK ON, MR SLATE, SILENT C (a DQ puzzle without SILENT_ as an entry isn't really a DQ puzzle).

And even though some of the other fill entries aren't brand new, I'm happy to solve a grid with stuff like I'M NOT YOU, NETFLIX, E-TICKET, and PGA TOUR. Rock on, DQ.


Anonymous 1:29 PM  

Got 5D CYR by knowing that St. Cyr is the French West Point. Is "l'Ecole" part of its official name or is this a different entity.

frances 1:37 PM  

As Aesop might have said, "one man's meat is another man's poison." "Exquisite corpse" was the first answer I entered, but I never did get NSync. Having "roil_" for 18A, and having no idea about bands of any kind, I decided to make it a verb, not an adjective, (analogous to 'spoilt') so put "t" at the cross of "roil_" and "ns_nc."

The original Exquisite Corpse game, as played by surrealist artists in Paris in the '20s, had each artist make a line drawing and then fold the paper over so that the next person knew where to start drawing his/her line figure but couldn't tell what had gone before.

Anonymous 1:40 PM  

Did anyone else notice that "HAI KARATE" has the same number of letters as "AQUA VELVA"?

Hell is being stuck in an elevator with a bunch of guys wearing cheap aftershave. In August. In Texas.

Drogulus 2:03 PM  

Got the idea for ELFIN as soon as I got ERR, but, being a Tolkien fan, wanted to make it ELVEN, with the vague idea that 'about faces' would be VOLTE-FACES, even though it doesn't fit.

Helped that I rode the Reading Railroad between Philly and the Jersey shore as a kid, but didn't realize it had survived till '76.

Doug 2:23 PM  

Rex, and everyone else, if you haven't seen "Lady for a Day", look for it on TCM, it's an absolutely wonderful movie, very highly recommended! A true classic.
"Exquisite Corpse" is also the name of a well regarded literary journal edited by Andrei Codrescu.

Whitey's mom 2:42 PM  

I was about to become an exquisite corpse when I read your blog for today. So glad I wasn't the only one suffering. Egads!

Fergus 3:21 PM  

'Hai Karate' was a entertaining reminder of 60's TV commercials, including ones for Winston and SALEM. Camel was my choice of brand there, but I guess that space was the place to smoke a soothing menthol. Yuck.

So we learn the origins of AOL -- how about its demise? It took me forever to shed my bitter experience with AOL. Could never quite rid my old computer of all its branding traces, and since it was almost impossible to cancel the service I ended up getting a debt collection call eight months after I thought I'd purged all traces of the "Free Trial." Plus, it used to be close to impossible to go anywhere else on the Web.

Agree with many that Counting one's losses is decidedly NOT Moving on. Glad I got the Chance card to "Take a ride on the Reading Railroad." Otherwise, I might still be puzzling over the equatorial stack.

Not too many complaints about ROILY???, which I thought was such a bad answer that it ought to be expunged. 52A Shot one on/ACED was yet another golf pairing. Golf shows up more frequently than Jai Alai now, it seems.

The NE was toughest for me since I filled in REVERSALS for About-faces. FLIP-FLOPS is not as good an answer since that implies more than one reversal, whereas an About-face is merely a single turn back around. This is, of course, debatable, but that's sort of the point.

jae 3:24 PM  

Two tough ones in a row! MARKCUBAN was a gimme as was MACAW and AMANA so NW went quickly. So did SE as I remembered SALEM which keyed most of the corner. The rest was a bear. For example, I had FLIPFLOPS and erased it because it didn't go with AIRLINES. I'm completely with iou moth on COUNTONESLOSSES. I put it in and quickly eased it because it doesn't sound like moving on, ARRGH! I needed my bride for ANSONIA, Conn. and Too Many DAVES. I lean more towards liking this than not but for me it was borderline unfair in several places e.g. SIGEP/ELORO, NEGEV/NEV/DAVES (I also had NRA for a while) and the NE where I initially had RILED for 18a and BBB for 27a.

BTW thanks for the explanations of EXQUISITE CORPSE and NIM neither of which I knew.

Wade 3:26 PM  

Yes, this puzzle was reaching. Some of the answers look like when cartoon characters cuss.

I hadn't heard of EXQUISITECORPSE either, as a game, but I'd heard of the literary journal. So I learned something today anyway. I guess. Plus the Ecuadoran geography. I guess.

And I thought I was going to sail through the thing when I got Mark Cuban right off the bat.

IOU Moth, you're en fuego today. Say something else funny.

Michael 3:54 PM  

When I saw the name Brendan Emmet Quigley on a Saturday, I knew this would not be easy. While I got most of the puzzle on my own, I had to rely on google, a guide to films, and a map at certain key times. Usually when I do this, I feel like I should have gotten it on my own but not this time:

I professionally specialize in Latin America and spent a year in the Peruvian Amazon and still had never heard of El Oro province in Ecuador.

Ansonia, CT is not exactly a large place...

exquisite corpse? Never heard of it and I see that I am not alone

I did know Mark Cuban, but that also struck me as obscure.

maybe this one was bit too hard even for a Saturday.

Karen 4:23 PM  

Things I learned from google and wikipedia due to this puzzle:

St Cyr was a five year old who ran around in a court screaming 'I'm a Christian', so the judge had his head bashed against a wall. Now that's a memorable image.

Ansonia, CT is a town with no notable events or people.

El Oro exports bananas and shrimp. Mmm. It also has a petrified forest.

Not a fun puzzle. But few Saturday ones are.

shaun 4:59 PM  

I'm so happy to learn the origins of the phrase "Exquisite Corpse." Until now I had been holding against Andre Codrescu as a pretentious piece of poetic randomness, but now I see there is at least some meaning to it. I'm sure Andre thanks you for improving my opinion of him.

Alan 5:04 PM  

I positively agree with rex on this one.maybe this puzzle was constructed for only those people who have M.B.A.s hence the corp bias.asc

Bluestater 5:29 PM  

I'm surprised no one has commented on 9D, "Ben-Gurion setting." NEGEV. Assuming the reference is to David Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel, that airport, into which I've flown a few times, is nowhere near (admittedly, in Israeli terms, Israel being about the size of Connecticut) the Negev Desert; the airport is north of Jerusalem and the Negev starts well to the south of it. This puzzle was full of stuff like that, I thought. Roily? Orientate (OK if labeled as British, not otherwise)? Etc. Please.

Anonymous 5:45 PM  

I had gotten to the point of seriously considering canceling my on-line subscription to the NY Times crossword, but your blog and some of the comments made me feel much better. It is so comforting to know I am not alone.
Exquisite Corpse huh? Sounds like something they found in the lots of East New York during my childhood. They found all kinds of corpses there :)
Good Lord, how esoteric are they going to get?

foodie 5:48 PM  


I think the Ben Gurion Negev connection refers to Ben Gurion University which is in the Negev...

anoa 5:50 PM  

Whenever I meet up with a BEQ puzzle, I turn into "the worst solver ever", as comic book guy might say.

I do join the chorus of complaints about "count one's losses". That is just no way to move on after a humiliating defeat. Rather it is something one might have to do before one can move on.

I will now shoo away the poodles, repair to the davenport and take the pose of an exquisite corpse.

Rikki 5:54 PM  

This is the kind of puzzle where I am amazed that I knew as much as I knew and that didn't help me get the ones I didn't. This felt like a whole other level of puzzle that I didn't even knew existed, like for the really very super smart intellectual types who also know obscure things. I've learned a lot from doing this puzzle regularly for the last 6 months or so. So roily didn't bother me and I popped in lots of long and short fills without thinking (Camerabag, Amana, Elfin,FTC, tea, etc.) which allowed me to get big blocks of things, but the gaping holes left when I'd done all I could do humbled me. The fact that it was tough for nearly everyone is consoling.

Once I gave up on finishing it on my own and googled a key word here and there, I got cooking and was able to finish the puzzle and really enjoyed the challenge of the whole thing. I have to remind myself that it wasn't all that long ago when I couldn't finish a friday or saturday without lots of googling.

I agree with anyone who hated 'count ones losses.' I do believe he just got that wrong. 'Exoticism' seemed like a reach to add letters. And I abhor 'orientate.' Don't use it, you sound like you are trying to use a big word you don't really know. It grates on me like 'nucular.' Why do they let people get away with mispronouncing that word? Even on the news or politicians or in movies!

Lots of great things in the blog today, Rex. The cover is fabulous. The dame is stunning, but those guys??? Who are those guys??? If they're gentlemen then send me the bums. The Pete Rose commercial is great... I actually remember those and AV was my father's ode de choice. The link to Haile Selassie was an aha moment for me. It was either Hawkeye on MASH or Groucho Marx who said, that's "highly selassie" and my husband and I have been using the quote, without knowing the reference, for years.

One great thing about doing the puzzle online is that I can go into the archives and find other MN and DQ and BEQ puzzles and push the gray matter to the limit. Thanks for that. Any other great constructors I should check out?

penny 7:20 PM  

Hey Marcie! If being right gives you pleasure, I thought you might enjoy this:

even one not clued as an abbreviation (gridiron datum) ended up being an abbreviation.


wshortz - 6:24 PM ET October 27, 2007 (#51594 of 51596)

... as an abbreviation for "interception," should have had an abbr. indicator.

Its clue was changed at the last minute, and the "abbr." signal was lost. Sorry about that.

My rule is that abbreviations that are not pronounced (like "jct.," "lbs.," "bsmt.," etc.) are always signaled. There is no intentional looseness on this no matter what day of the week.

Bluestater 8:16 PM  

Thank you, anonymous 5:48. I stand corrected. I still didn't like the puzzle, though.

Kitt 8:28 PM  

Anoa -- this made me laugh so hard!! Thanks.

"I will now shoo away the poodles, repair to the davenport and take the pose of an exquisite corpse."

rick 10:25 PM  

Blue Stater,

How about David-Ben-Gurion as a commander in the 6 day war?

Jim in NYC 10:42 PM  

IOU MOTH: People do say "Sig Ep" as a nickname for Sigma Epsilon Whatever, but I don't think it's for The Times or BEQ to be declaring which fraternities are "popular."

Orange 12:45 AM  

Jim, they're all popular! It's the engineering nerds who are unpopular.

judges sully 9:22 AM  

Did this puzzle while trying to handicap the Breeders Cup races at an OTB. Amazingly, the forced interruptions and delays actually helped me come up with more possible fills. Maybe the secret to these Saturday puzzles is to take as long as humanly possible. Does the brain work that way,i.e., the more you concentrate, the less you come up with?

Jim in NYC 12:17 PM  

orange, I was both in a fraternity and an engineering nerd. So I guess I have the best of both worlds. Thanks for the validation.

polabran 8:36 PM  

my problem in the northwest was thinking a case for a shooter was some kind of marble-playing gear... a camel sack? yuck.

WWPierre 3:10 PM  

Blasting in from six weeks in the past.

Oh Man! A Quarfoot and a Quigly back to back. It is Sunday noon and these have been sitting open on the kitchen table since they arrived. What a feast! I was tempted to make sure of SINATRA in DQ's Friday presentation, but resisted. My only outside help came from my old broken spined Rand McNally atlas, which informed me that EL ORO was the southernmost coastal province of Equador.

The dessert of this mental feast was the visit of Mike Nothnagle to this blog. Then Will himself shows up.

Thank you Rex for the opportunity to rub shoulders, even vicariously, with these great men.

Me Again 3:51 PM  

Wow, DQ showed up to the party as well! I am truly thankful that Will Shortz stands between we solvers and his devillish cruelty.

VicDeakin 5:47 PM  

Re Highly Selassie, I think it originated on the British sixties satirical programme That Was The Week That Was (TW3 for short). The joke was that a British diplomat had travelled around Africa negotiating some accord or other. While there he met all of the countries' leaders. One of these was Haile Selassie... three were moderately Selassie but the rest weren't very Selassie at all. Boom boom.

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