SUNDAY, Oct. 14, 2007 - Elizabeth C. Gorski

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Go With The Flow" - all theme answers contain a state, and that state is then crossed by the name of a river that runs through that state: 65A: Robert Redford film ... and a hint to what occurs at 23-, 28-, 54-, 77-, 111- and 116-Across ("A River Runs Through It")

[NOTICE: If you are confused about why there are discrepancies between this puzzle and the one in your paper, contact your paper - there were apparently some syndication screw-ups. I have no affiliation with the NYT or any newspaper so don't ask me what happened.]

I went to bed last night not understanding the theme. That should give you some indication how tired I was. I thought "so ... theme answers contain states, and those states contain rivers ... what state doesn't contain a river?" I somehow never paid proper attention to all the clues that ended in "stream" cluing the river names that intersect the state names. In fact, understanding the theme was what woke me up this morning. A lightbulb went on and I was suddenly wide awake. Yes, one of the dangers in writing about crosswords every day is that sometimes you dream about them, or contemplate them in the half-sleep of early morning.

Today is my wife Sandy's birthday (happy birthday, honey) so I gotta dust this commentary off quickly so we can get to IHOP (only the best for my wife).

Theme answers:

23A: Base for many French fries (Idaho potato)

  • RIVER through "Idaho" - 3D: Gem State stream (Snake)
26A: 1987 Nicolas Cage/Holly Hunter film ("Raising Arizona")
  • RIVER through "Arizona" - 26D: Grand Canyon State stream (Gila)
54A: 1950 #1 hit for Patti Page ("Tennessee Waltz")
77A: Lead-in to "Show me!" ("I'm from Missouri")
  • RIVER through "Tennessee" and "Missouri" - 36D: Volunteer State and Show Me State stream (Mississippi)
111A: 1915 song that popularized the phrase "Hail! Hail! The gang's all here" ("Alabama Jubilee")
  • RIVER through "Alabama" - 97D: Heart of Dixie stream (Mobile)
116A: Ice cream treat (baked Alaska)
  • RIVER through "Alaska" - 109D: The Last Frontier stream (Yukon)
Since I'm short on time this morning, I'm just going to shoot through interesting / puzzling / infuriating answers in no particular order. The Lightning Round starts ... Now!

  • 15A: Having no cost, in Cologne (frei) - I learned this word in rather gruesome fashion - from the phrase "Arbeit macht frei," written over gates to a concentration camp. I learned about the phrase from reading Primo Levi a long time ago.
  • 27A: C2H4, e.g. (alkene) - the intersection of this and LUPE (5D: 1966 hit "Little Latin _____ Lu") was one of a handful of places today where I just guessed. I mean, it was an educated guess - what else was that letter gonna be but "E"; and yet the intersection felt fragile.
  • 31A: One of two school colors (along with heliotrope) of New York's Purchase College (puce) - stupidest school colors ever. Is this a School of Design?
  • 38A: "Nearer the Moon" author Nin (Ana├»s) - don't recall this title, but this woman's books were all over my house when I was growing up. . .
  • 48A: Setting of Blackmore's "Lorna Doone" (Exmoor) - I just love this word and the way it looks in the grid.
  • 58A: Tenor in "The Flying Dutchman" (Erik) - ??? another intersection - at the "E," with 40D: Zaire's Mobutu _____ Seko (Sese) - that felt Very shaky.
  • 88A: Tedious (prosy) - !?!?! Yikes. What? This was probably the hardest answer for me to get, both because I never hear the word, and second because it gets its "P" from VAMP, a word I apparently did not know the meaning of - 66D: Improvise. I thought it meant something somewhat more ... sinister.
  • 96A: Toscanini's birthplace (Parma) - came quickly; not sure why.
  • 99A: Anwar's successor (Hosni) - my most favoritely named world leader, by a long shot. There was a time when my cat's pet name was HOSNI.
  • 102A: She was wild about Harry (Leona) - ??? Helmsley?
  • 119A: "Bee Season" star, 2005 (Gere) - never heard of this movie. One of my students thought Richard GERE would make a good Gawain if "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" were ever made into a modern film (a little casting project I had them do...).
  • 1D: Poem that ends with the funeral of Hector (Iliad) - My kind of 1D. Sweet!
  • 9D: Funny Fields (Totie) - "fool me once ... shame on you; fool me ... can't get fooled again!" I got beaten by TOTIE before. No more, ma'am. No more.
  • 12D: They get props for their work on Broadway (stage crew) - cute clue
  • 13D: 1998 French Open winner Carlos _____ (Moya) - great on clay, not as great on other surfaces.
  • 29D: Modern home of ancient Medea (Iran) - I can't pass up ancient clues. I just can't. If I had been a smarter, more industrious guy, I would have been a classicist.
  • 80D: Body of water seen in Munch's "The Scream" (Oslo Fjord) - a thing of beauty, this answer. Should get some kind of award for "Most Elegant Non-Theme Answer."
  • 91D: Supermodel on the cover of Sports Illustrated's 1982 swimsuit issue (Carol Alt) - her last name is crosswordese. Or was.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.

Signed Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 8:47 AM  

My nyt puzzle does not match yours. I have the same theme, but I think the editing screwed up. the numbers are all off.

Whitey's mom 9:42 AM  

RP, that's how I knew "frei" too. Sad commentary. And thanks for all your hard work elucidating the ins and outs of the NYT crossword puzzles.

billnutt 10:01 AM  

Based on this puzzle and Friday's puzzle, can we assume that heliotrope is the new black? Never heard this as a color before, and now it's been used twice in three days.

"Vamp" is mainly used in musical improvisation, I believe.

You're right. "Leona" being wild about Harry is a reference to the recently deceased Leona (so-called queen of mean) Helmsley, who was married to Harry Helmsley.

"Little Latin Lupe Lu" was a hit for the Righteous Brothers. It's included on a WONDERFUL compilation called FRAT ROCK! God bless Rhino Records!

My two favorite renditions of "Alabama Jubilee" are by Leon Redbone and R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders.

My favorite version of "Tennessee Waltz" is, of course, by Spike Jones, although the Tom Jones/Chieftains version has its appeal.

There have been a spate of spelling bee-related films/plays. The movie BEE SEASON came out at almost the same time as AKEELAH & THE BEE. I saw (and enjoyed) the latter, but didn't see the former. I loved the documentary SPELLBOUND, though. And try as I might, I can't persuade my wife to go see THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE on Broadway.

This seemed pretty easy for a Sunday puzzle, or was it me? I'm terrible at geography, but once I got Baked Alaska/Yukon, it seemed fairly straightforward.

I'll stop now before my comments get too prosy.

jlsnyc 10:10 AM  

adding to billnutt's post and your query:

102A: She was wild about Harry (Leona) - ??? Helmsley?

from her msnbc obit:
The press portrayed them as an adoring couple, with Leona calling Harry “gorgeous one” and “pussycat.” Friends and acquaintances described her as generous, charming, playful and having a good sense of humor.

She threw parties on his birthdays at which guests wore buttons that said “I’m Just Wild About Harry” and he wore a button that said “I’m Harry.” The couple would dance until dawn.
in its entirety:

she's just wild...

and a gracious good morning to all!



barrywep 10:13 AM  

Carol ALT-
Supermodel replaced by computer key (in crosswordese). A sad commentary on our times.

Alex 10:14 AM  

Very easy Sunday. I think this must be the first time I've ever known the theme within two minutes of starting it.

Screwed up IDAHO POTATO with IDAHO RUSSET but that was enough to see the IDAHO/SNAKE connection. RAISING ARIZONA was a gimme and I didn't get GILA for a while but when I saw the crossing theme answer I figured out how it was supposed to work.

So having TENNESSEE WALTZ, MISSISSIPPI, A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, BAKED ALASKA, and YUKON as gimmes really opened up the puzzle.

The only slow spot was the SW corner. Given a four letter actor's name with G-R-, I believe that crossword tradition requires the answer be GARR. Sadly, it was not. Unaware that MSN is an ISP and not just a collection of web sites DSL went in there. Those two mistakes triggers a cascading failure in the area that took a night of restful sleep to resolve (as soon as I returned to it this morning all was immediately clear).

Joaneee 11:30 AM  

Thanks, syndication screwup! For once I can comment. Sadly little to say, cuz I found this one pretty troublefree, but "foo fighters"? Who knew. Too lazy to google it. btw thx, Rex, for your wonderful and excellent blog.

Rex Parker 11:51 AM  

You are welcome.

FOO Fighters are a very popular rock band. They had a very famous video many years back (for the song "Big Me") that parodied the Mentos ads. Awesome.


Anonymous 12:05 PM  

finished the puzzle with little trouble...thought the "stream" was a poor synonym for 'river' ... but all fell into place from crosses... even the teetering vamp/prosy... all in all a bit tuesday for sunday

Anonymous 12:14 PM  

This was the easiest puzzle ever for me. I have only been getting the Sunday NYT for about 5 months. At first the puzzles seemed very difficult, but lately they have been much easier. It is just me and repetition or have they reaally been pretty easy the last month or so? When they are too hard, I always turn to you Rex. Thanks!

Ulrich 12:28 PM  

Well, congratulations to all who are smarter than me. Like Rex, I had the whole puzzle solved without seeing the rivers running through states (well, in the grid, not necessarily geographically, where they sometimes form a border), only to get the idea in a flash during the night.

jlsnyc 12:28 PM  

foo fighters were the musical guests on the jon bon jovi-hosted snl last night...



angloliberal 12:43 PM  

I was absolutely SEETHED about the Red Sox game last night, which I stayed up to watch in its (horrible) entirety. I was glad to get this puzzle in my hands this morning because it allowed me to not think of the game for a while. A pretty painless Sunday xword...

Annielee 12:53 PM  

Zipped right through this one for a change. Got the theme right away. It felt too easy to be a Sunday puzzle.

There was a film, "Sword of the Valiant", about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in 1984, starring Sean Connery as the Green Knight. It wasn't very good.

jae 12:57 PM  

Pretty easy for a Sunday. The SESE, ERIK, KIRI intersection was a bit tricky but doable from the crosses. Fun puzzle and a nice change of pace from yesterday's.

Anonymous 1:19 PM  

In "Bee Season" Richard GERE played a Hasidic scholar. UGH!!!

RAlbert 1:20 PM  

I agree w/prev. posters, this
seemed like a Monday puzzle
& for $4 I want some difficulty.

had trouble w/prosy for tedious
altho that is what I put in.

Fitzy 1:25 PM  

From time to time a crossword “answer” will come to me in a dream too, Rex… funny how the mind works…

As a geography buff, I had fun w/ this puzzle… maybe it was a little on the easy side… but it is rare that I can get more than half the puzzle on my own w/o
going to the Internet… I think there were only 4 or 5 I wasn’t able to come up w/ on my own…

While the Righteous Brothers apparently had a hit w/ "Little Latin Lupe Lu”, La Lupe had a minor hit w/ “Unchained Melody”… my students are working on
a project about La Lupe for Latino Heritage Month … so it was cool to see her name today, even if she wasn’t “clued” per se…

Didn’t Gere once play Lancelot in a movie… w/ Sean Connery as Arthur?

“Alt” also happens to be my favorite style of beer… a top-fermented ale popular in Dusseldorf…

TimeTraveller 1:40 PM  

There were no discrepancies between this puzzle and the one in the stupid Vancouver Sun, but there were apparently some syndication screw-ups--notably that the Oct. 14 Gorski appeared in the Oct. 13 Vancouver Sun instead of the Oct. 7 puzz we were expecting. WTF?

Rikki 1:46 PM  

Happy Birthday Sandy! My parents used to take us out for pancakes for our birthday breakfasts...loved the blueberry ones!

I did the puzzle last night while listening to the Sox on the radio (I don't get television). The game had me on the edge of my seat. I love a close game with lots of scoring, especially in the playoffs, though, of course, love it more when the Sox win.

The puzzle was pleasant without being prosy (new word for my vocabulary) and getting the theme with all those long state gimmes made things move along. Like Jae, the only corner that gave me pause was the SESE, ERIK, KIRI one, but I guessed correctly, remembering somewhere in the depths of my "gray matter" that Erik was the tenor in Dutchman (or making it up and being right).

Happy Sunday!

awol 1:55 PM  

"heliotrope is the new black?" Good one billnut!

Anonymous 2:03 PM  

aaagh! another victim of syndicator screw up. same theme but the clues don't match the numbers

wendy 2:10 PM  

Do people still say PHAT? Just curious. If they do, then let me just say the results of last night's Indians-Red Sox game were as PHAT as they can possibly be.

Your parents must have been very enlightened, Rex, to have ANAIS Nin lying around the house; she mostly wrote erotica or in her diaries about her erotic adventures. I saw her in person at The Ohio State you-know; for her talk from the stage, she stood with a long purse dangling from her wrist like someone was going to steal it from her. Very eccentric woman to say the least.

If you'd had more time, I know you would have shown us an IBIS.

mac 2:12 PM  

Much too easy Sunday puzzle, sorry I finished it already..... One mistake, I think, the German "frei" means free as not locked up, the other free would be "gratis" or "umsonst".

Chip Ahoy 2:21 PM  

Actors and movies, bleh. Reminds me of TV Guide.

Ulrich 2:54 PM  

Being from Cologne, I would say: Yes, the dominant meaning of "frei" in German is "free", and it definitely means "free" over the infamous Auschwitz gate. But "frei" CAN mean "no cost", as in "Eintritt frei" (which one would translate, nevertheless, as "free admission", not "no cost admission"). I think the constructor just wanted to make things more complicated.

Michael 4:36 PM  

I was going to comment that this a very easy, not-very-exciting puzzle. But I didn't get the theme until looking at this blog and now I think the puzzle was clever (if still not-at-all hard).

Anonymous 6:52 PM  

Vamp also means "do something to fill time" as in, "We have 2 minutes left and no script, so vamp."

Orange 7:20 PM  

Happy IHOPpy Birthday, Sandy!

I stayed at the Hotel Ibis in Vienna a decade ago. It was not frei.

If Purchase College's official colors are heliotrope and puce (both purply shades), how come their sports teams wear royal blue and gray? Is it because the heliotrope/puce combo sucks?

wendy 7:23 PM  

Hotel Ibis. I like that.

jae 7:45 PM  

Nice to know I'm not alone in dreaming about crosswords. Mine usually involve filling a grid devoid of clues and numbers.

rick 8:21 PM  

There were a lot of really long gimmes in this puzzle. 28A, 54A, 65A, 77A, and after getting those 116A and 23A. That's a huge portion of the puzzle.

I really liked 25A MAYIGONOW, four words!

May I go now,


Orange 8:37 PM  

Jae, you're apparently a crossword constructor in your dreams! If you can copy it all down in the morning, you just might be a transcendent cruciverbal genius.

billnutt 10:16 PM  

Thank you, awol!

I double-checked. "Heliotrope Bouquet" was written by Louis Chauvin and Scott Joplin. Chauvin was a talented young composer who died of syphillis at age 24. He wrote the first two movements of what became "Heliotrope Bouquet," and Joplin wrote the last two themes.

mike 12:04 AM  

Thanks for the LEONA link. I had no chance on that one. Too east coast!! I wanted Sally as in "When Sally met Harry". I also wanted Sally Fields for funny Fields, WC didn't fit. Who the heck is Totie?

I found this to be a hard Sunday. I agree with the TV guide comment.


Aaron 12:10 AM  

I think this theme was far cleverer than the credit it's been given thus far in the blog/comments. The rivers intersect the state names themselves, even, not just the answers containing them. If only the rivers were symmetric too...

Anonymous 2:59 AM  

Thank goodness I found this site. I've been doing the NYT Sunday puzzles for some time now, and have been getting better and better at completing them.

Then this morning, I was able to get "Ilsa" and "Iliad". That's it. Nothing else matched up.

I was afraid I'd suffered a stroke!

Darned syndicators......

liebestraum 7:39 AM  

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz after attending a conference in Katowice, Poland (about 30 minutes away). Walked under the gate where "Arbet macht frei" stands.

A very sobering, humbling experience. Interestingly, the pictures I took turned out crappy. Just as well.


Anonymous 10:56 AM  

I'm confused! I usually do the Sunday times puzzle one week late, in syndication in the SF Chronicle Saturday paper.

Saturday's Chronicle ran this week's NY times Sunday puzzle--a day before the times. Is this a one-time screw-up or are they going to be running the Sunday puzzle concurrently from now on? Among other problems, this means I missed last weeks puzzles.

As long as I'm complaining/asking, the SF examiner, now a free rag, is no longer running the weekday Times puzzles in syndication (3-4 weeks late). So there's no point in me picking up that paper--for now I'm buying the NY times each day starting Wed.

Judge Sully 4:19 PM  

Doppel Zimmer Frei? Seems that that was all the German you needed to know in Germany when I toured there some 20+ years ago.

Anonymous 10:47 PM  

Totie Fields was a stand-up comedian from around the 1950s or 1960s. I remember her from a whole lot of TV shows in the late '60s and '70s. She lost a leg (to cancer or diabetes, I forget which), but she continued to do routines; in fact, she made it a big part of her humor. She has since died, but I don't remember when.

I want to say she was one of the Borscht Belt comediennes, but I can't say for sure.

Anonymous 2:32 AM  

Totie Fields was the first answer I entered as I randomly skimmed the clues. I could see her in my mind's eye, may she rest in peace -- she died too young, almost 30 years ago, after suffering so many health setbacks -- funny little chubby comedienne! I guess that dates me.

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