TUESDAY, Oct. 2, 2007 - Oliver Hill

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Mind your P's and Q's" (60A: "Behave!" ... and a hint to this puzzle's theme) - three theme answers are two-word phrases where first word starts with "P" and second word with "Q"

Not a lot to say about this one. If I'd known the theme upfront, I would have saved myself some miscues, like PERSONALITY TEST instead of QUIZ at 17A: Cosmopolitan staple. Also hesitated at ___ QUARTERBACK at 26A: N.F.L. star (pro quarterback). PATCHWORK QUILT was a little easier than the others (47A: Colorful bed cover). I had all those theme answers without having any clue as to the theme (wasn't thinking about it much - typical of early-week puzzles). Wrote MIND ONE'S P'S AND Q'S at first, which would have been the right answer if the clue had not been written in quotation marks, i.e. "Behave!," implying a command and thus the second person YOUR (not ONE'S).

Annoyed this morning because I tried to tape the one-game tiebreaker playoff game last night between the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres, but the TiFaux (my DVR) was set to record for only three and a half hours, and the game went to thirteen (!) innings (4:40) and so the exciting ending got cut off. Happy the Rockies won, if only because I tend to root for the underdog, but I cannot continue to root for a team that wears those stupid-looking muscle-shirt jerseys. Horrible. Terrible. Get a real jersey, you jackasses. One other baseball fashion rule of mine: I cannot root for a team that has teal as one of its major colors. Purple is also not good. I nearly rooted for the Yankees in 2001 and 2003 just because their World Series opponents' uniforms were so @#$#-ing unbearable. The following uniform is a perfect storm of awfulness:

Back to crosswords. Hmmm. SAM I AM is of course great (1A: "Do you like green eggs and ham?" speaker). Much better than the Sean Penn movie I AM SAM. The only other answer that gave me much pleasure today was WENT SOLO (14A: Broke from the band, maybe), which pheels like a phresh phrase. Arcanity was kept to a minimum today. Falling under that category are the double-E forces of SPEE (24A: W.W. I German admiral) and AGEE (2D: Author James), the third-string Greek peak MT. IDA (53A: Highest peak of Crete), and the stabby-looking ORYX (56D: Straight-horned African animal). Had serious trouble only in the dead center of the puzzle, where I did not know 25D: Bull Moose party: Abbr. (prog.), and assumed it ended in "S," which gave me ---KAS- for 37A: Period of human benightedness (dark age); that answer took me longer to uncover than any other. It's a weird clue; I can't imagine what's being referred to. I need an example of a dark age (as opposed to The Dark Ages). I guess it's just being used as a general term, but the "human" part is freaking me out - feels redundant. Maybe I just don't like the word "benightedness." Yes, that must be it.

Had AT. NO. for AT. WT. at 35D: 1, for hydrogen: Abbr. and LOGE for ROWS for 39D: Theater seating. Took me many crosses to uncover 45A: Relative of a mole (shrew).

I'm off to try to cultivate my TYPE-B (15D: Easygoing) side. Wish it weren't so much work.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


rick 8:50 AM  

be-NIGHT-edness would be a clue to DARK?

Penny 9:33 AM  

Some background on O. Hill by Will:

Tuesday's crossword is a debut by Oliver Hill, 17, who's a high school senior from my hometown of Pleasantville, N.Y. He lives around the corner from me and drops off his puzzles in person!

Now that gives it a personal touch! It's a wonderful day in the neighborhood :-) Seventeen years old. Jeez.

Atomic weight got me too and continued to think of mole as someone with a listening device instead of the sad little gray-brown creatures delivered to my living room carpet by Dood the cat.

Seventeen years old. Jeez.

Jim in Chicago 9:55 AM  

A reasonably enjoyable puzzle, although I'd have rated it as easy rather than medium. Kudos to the - apparently youthful - puzzle author for handling all those "Qs" in a fairly elegant fashion.

The only groaner for me was "Period of human benightedness". I really hate this clue for some reason.

profphil 10:04 AM  


There are other "dark ages" besides "The Dark Ages." For example, there is a period of ancient Greek history from the fall of Mycenean Greek culture to the birth of the Greek alphabet, ca. 1150 to 750 known as the Greek dark ages.

Beata 10:50 AM  


moles are black and live underground... what your cat brings in, is probably voles or SHREWS, both of which live above ground and thus are easier to catch (they are all related species)

Jerome 10:55 AM  

Yes, congratulations to Oliver Hill. Great firsat puzzle at any age.

Rex, re TiVo. A number of years ago there was a big bruhaha when the Acadamy Awards ran way late and many of the attending egotists missed getting themselves on tape. TiVo changed their software and now, both my TiVo and my cable company's DVR (Time Warner's TiFaux) allows one the option of extending the end time of certain programming, including live sporting events. Lacking that option, if you plan to record any of the upcoming Bosox/Yankees playoff games, which typically run well over 4 hourss, just program to record the following programs(s) as well.

Anonymous 11:09 AM  

What is the origin of today's theme? When I mind my P's and Q's what, exactly am I minding?

Rex Parker 11:16 AM  

Here's an article on the origins of the phrase "Minding one's p's and q's".


Anonymous 11:24 AM  

Thanks Rex, I like the "please and thank Q's" the best.

Joe 11:32 AM  

I am guilty of jumping ahead and saw "personal shopper" as a cosmopolitan staple. Then had ballyhoo as "todo" and a malfeasant as a "suer." Ended up back on course in all cases. Am not familiar with Spee.

bright age 11:33 AM  

Satisfying but easy Tuesday puzzle. My only hang up was where SPEE crosses PROG: didn't know either / smee and snee weren't working, and the P was pure guesswork. I liked PUTTY for "It can be silly" after the spate of answers based on "inane" lately.

Jim in Chicago 11:38 AM  

And, the best part was that we have an OMARR-free day!

Rikki 11:47 AM  

My mother was a fountain of "sayings" and used "mind your Ps and Qs" to mean "mind your own business" rather than "behave."

I hated benightedness. I get the night for dark part, but is that even a word? When I found out the author was so young and it was his first puzzle, all was forgiven. Kudos to you, Oliver.

I missed one letter in that spee/prog cross. Didn't know Spee and had no idea the Bull Moose party were progressives. Thought maybe it was some sort of lodge thing with funny hats and secret handshakes.

jae 12:30 PM  

Seemed about right for a Tuesday. Congrats to the young constructor. I knew Spee from the German WWII battleship Graf Spee which was named for said Admiral. I also had ATNO for ATWT, I suspect these are two different things except perhaps for hydrogen?

Penny 12:34 PM  

How shrew'd! Thanks, Beata. I believe what I have (had) is called a Northern Short-Tailed Shrew. The shrew is described as one of earth’s most frenetic animals - another Type A?

The words Graf Spee came immediately to mind even if shrew did not. The WWII battleship named after the admiral was probably part of my puzzling world years ago and was kind enough to surface again this morning.

Orange 1:02 PM  

I thought this puzzle was two smidgens easier than the typical Tuesday puzzle.

And I'm fond of the word "benightedness," or at least "benighted." I actually use the word. Here's a dictionary def: "in a state of pitiful or contemptible intellectual or moral ignorance, typically owing to a lack of opportunity." Let me use it in a sentence: Those poor benighted souls who think they're too good to watch TV or engage with pop culture are actually shutting their eyes to a lot of good stuff.

Fergus 1:06 PM  

Hydrogen is the only element where the ATNO and ATWT could be the same since most forms of hydrogen don't carry a neutron. ATWT = number of protons (same as ATNO) + number of neutrons. Isotopes are variations in the number of neutrons from the most commonly occuring variety. So hydrogen, when it carries an extra neutron or two, becomes dueterium or tritium, which when combined with oxygen becomes 'heavy water.' Carbon 12 is by far the most common type but occasionally will have the isotope Carbon 14, which is what decays to settle into the Carbon 12 state. Could go on and on here, but just felt like clarifying for all those who have forgotton elementary physics and chemistry.

And speaking of chemistry in that part of the puzzle I thought the Mole had something to do with the Chemical meaning of the term: the number of gas molecules in a cubic meter at normal pressure and (probably room) temperature. And that would be Avogadro's Number! But what's a relative of that?

I had fun teaching a little science class to 6th graders recently, so I'm in sort of 'professorial' frame of mind. Me, and my high school diploma.

Very agreeable, well-crafted puzzle today. Only quibble was on PRO QUARTERBACK. I can think of a number of starting QBs wh aren't stars, and what about the back-up signal callers? That's probably just an editing imperfection. Well done, Oliver Hill. This was a good puzzle regardless of your age.

wendy 1:17 PM  

I want an ORYX.

Fergus 1:47 PM  

I like and use 'Benighted' too, but carefully lest it sound too supercillious, patronizing or benighted in its own way due to too brash a dismissal.

Doug 2:00 PM  

Had no time to ponder the origin of my mistake in the center east, so had ADAS instead of ESQS, ATNO not ATWT and there went the puzzle. Lead me to DARKANA (sounds reasonable!) and was trying hard to think of another Mexican sauce alternative to mole sauce that fit T_REN. Why a Mexican sauce? T_REN clearly didn't resemble an animal or a spy so had to be a foreign word from a language I don't speak.

0-2 early in the week, my head hangs low.

Anonymous 2:13 PM  

I don't know who clued it but I thought 10D was great. Ballyhoo fot TOUT.

I would also like to see MTIDA clued as "Neighbor of Mayberry" someday.

kgee 2:27 PM  

In honor of "Banned Book Week", why not start "Banned Clue/Answer Week"

My short list from today's puzzle:
LEI-clued any "Hawaii+flowers" way
EEE-just sounds cheaty
TAO-enough already

Good Tues. puzzle though. Really liked OAK("Yellow ribbon holder in song") It got me hummin' and knockin' to TO&D for a while.

Anonymous 2:42 PM  

LANA Turner and URI Geller should be retired. Also, I wouldn't mind not seeing SERA again. It makes me feel OOZY for some reason.

rick 3:17 PM  

The one that really gets me is ALEC. Whether a Baldwin, Waugh or Jedi, I'm just sick of him.

David 4:17 PM  

I too failed at the SPEE/PROG crossing - went for NROG, figuring it was the "Natural Resources ..." party or some such.
So..wondering...should I have know this was incorrect because the clue said specifically "abrev.", and not "for short" or something like that? i.e., will Will use "abrev." when the answer is an acronym? Anyone know (or does it happen all the time and I've just never noticed it?)

PS. Put me down on the "loved it" side of the "benightedness" clue. Thought it was a fine math for "dark age".

PPS. Shouldn't clues for answers that are "MTblah" have some indication that the answer is abreviated?

Anonymous 4:50 PM  

Seventeen years old. Jeez.

DS 5:11 PM  

Two things that made this so enjoyable:
1) using the theme answer to complete the other long answers (always a pleasure)
2) thde multi-word answers (SAM I AM, WENT SOLO, EVEN UP and DARK AGE).

I am pleased to find so many baseball fans among the blog's commentators. I love the game, although as a Mets-in-Mourning fan, I am having some difficulty reading the paper in the morning.

As always, wait til next year (okay - that was originally the cry of the Brooklyn Dodgers, but Queens isn't that far away).

Karen 5:54 PM  

I thought the puzzle was easy but enjoyable. I think I'm on Oliver's wavelength, even on the dark ages.

Sorry kgee, for Banned Books Week you would be celebrating the banned clues (pfui, Ally McBeal, and Omarr). Or perhaps taking in an X-rated puzzle.

Anonymous 5:58 PM  

I used the same criterion as Rex to determine who should win last night's game but came to the opposite conclusion: I think that San Diego's tan away uniforms are dreadful. The vest look, while not optimal, is less objectionable as long as they wear a shirt underneath.

Kitt 6:47 PM  

OK Wendy: I found you an Oryx and am trying to get your address so I can ship him to you....Be warned --he's not litter box trained.

You make me laugh, Wendy.

Anonymous 7:40 PM  

Hi Rex:

This puzzle is a good debut for a novice constructor -- regardless of age.

The fact that Mr. Hill is 'only' 17 makes this even more remarkable.

Still, I thought the NYT puzzles were supposed to be the best of the best -- not a venue for new constructors to cut their teeth upon.

Mozart was five (apparently) when he composed that song of his -- still doesn't mean I have to like it.

But I have to say that this puzzle is as good as many I have seen lately in the NYT, if not better -- although I would hate to damn someone with faint praise.

Pen Girl

jae 7:45 PM  

Yesterday Flailer and I had different takes on the amount of crosswordese in the puzzle. I thought it was on the low side. I realize that early week puzzles need to incorporate a fair amount familiar stuff to render them easy and quick to solve. So, lack of crosswordese is a relative attribute. My rough count for yesterday's was around 7. Today's, a perfectly fine puzzle, had around 15. My argument is that to have 10 or fewer on a Monday and still have it be a true Monday takes some clever construction. BTW I recall that the one Rex objected to a few weeks ago was loaded with the stuff.

Orange 8:51 PM  

Pen Girl, Will Shortz makes no secret of publishing the work of many new constructors. Some of my (and Rex's) favorite constructors had their NYT debuts in the last couple years. I imagine that Will is rejecting far more newbies than he's accepting—but when a newbie proves to have talent, why send them packing? (And why let them form an allegiance with a different editor when instead they could provide the NYT with years of good puzzles?) I thought today's puzzle was terrific for a Tuesday puzzle—it's not as if Oliver Hill's crossword was some charity case that Will foisted on us.

barrywep 9:18 PM  

To add to Amy's comments, just because it was his "debut" doesn't mean it is the first puzzle he created or even submitted. I thought it was a fine puzzle.

Anonymous 9:32 PM  

I live in San Diego and was of course rooting for the Padres. That was one of the hardest games I've watched. Boo Hoo. Trevor Hoffman was great in his day but that day is now long gone.

Wished I could have constructed this puzzle at my age - let alone 17. Enjoyed the P's and Q's.

In summation 9:39 PM  

Time for Oliver Hill to replace Trevor Hoffman as the man to step up and provide daily relief.....

Anonymous 9:41 PM  

Gee, I liked the SPEE/PROG crossing! Maybe that's cause I'm a history graduate student and have actually heard of both...

Nice debut puzzle.

Fergus 9:49 PM  

I hope the young chap has 'felt the love' from what often seems to be a fairly tough crowd. As some others have expressed, once you try your hand at construction your critical criteria are recalibrated. And the appreciation of both the effort and result is redoubled in reflection over the rumination you went through.


Fergus 10:01 PM  

... and while baseball has not been very good to me this year, I do want to throw in the comment that the way the Rockies closed the last two weeks of the season was truly remarkable. They're nowhere in my list of teams, but their impressive finish ought to get a bit more press. I can't think of another such streak at the finish line.

mydogischelsea 10:03 PM  

I couldn't agree with you more about the Rockies' uniforms. And the D'Backs', for that matter. The whole softball-esque look was a truly unfortunate style choice, and it's only made worse by the most horrid color palette possible. It's almost as if these newish teams with the heinous outfits are trying to say, "HEY! Look at US! We haven't been around for 100 years but that makes us NEW and FRESH!" except that it backfired. Because teal and sleeveless are just not okay.

Also—pretty sure I've done a Times crossword with this EXACT theme. Granted, it was years ago (maybe 5-10?) but still. I remember it.

Anonymous 10:43 PM  


Well, I never said the puzzle was bad...I guess I could be more accepting of debuts such as this provided we get some REALLY solid puzzles the rest of the time.

I believe the puzzles (as of late) have shown a marked improvement over (some of) the klunkers that we have seen over the past months.

But let's not spare criticism due to sentimentality on behalf of the constructors' age(s).

Obviously, any puzzle in the NYT is superior to 99% of the stuff out there...

Nonetheless, the theme here was weak, and the fill was (imho) wanting in many regards.

For instance, what the heck is SAM I AM? And at the pole position no less! This is a compound phrase that breaks the NYT rules -- and for no good reason as far as I can see.

Okay, so I'm a crossword Nazi. No soup for you.

PG :)

wendy 11:03 PM  

Pen Girl: What the heck is SAM I AM? That's a rhetorical question, right?

If not, your childhood was mysteriously devoid of Dr. Seuss.

Orange 11:05 PM  

PG, SAM I AM is the guy who's foisting green eggs and ham on the hapless Dr. Seuss character, the guy who refuses to understand that no means no. (A terrible lesson to teach children, that hammering away at someone's resistance is worthwhile, no?)

mydog, the Cruciverb database shows a 10/1/98 NYT crossword by Manny Nosowsky with PORCUPINE QUILLS, PREMIUM QUALITY, PATCHWORK QUILT, and MIND YOUR P'S AND Q'S. Me, I think a Cosmo PERSONALITY QUIZ is zippier than the QUILLS or QUALITY, so I wouldn't say the theme shouldn't have been reworked 9 years later.

Not Anonymous 11:14 PM  

orange --

i hope you know your thoroughness and research ability and xword knowledge are appreciated by many (at least one) of us...keep it up! Rex inspires, orange refines.....

Fergus 11:30 PM  

mydog -- your recollection harkens me back to almost that very date in 1998 ... and all else that period recalls. The P&Q theme reminder, even if the rest of this puzzle is nothing like that one, there's nonetheless a lingering echo or aroma from then.

Back then I did the puzzle off and on, once in a while, and this must have been one that was part of the atmosphere that day. Thanks for the memory of ... something that was like nice background music.

Anonymous 11:34 PM  

Pen Girl Said:

Yes, I know what "Sam I am" refers to -- but is this a proper title of a book by Geisel -- or is it just a memorable (to some) line?

Thus is it an 'in the language' phrase?


But it's a bit steep for a Tuesday...at least that's what I told the cops...

Pen Girl :)

Sue 12:07 AM  

SAMIAM is most certainly in the language, often. It may be accompanied by I DO NOT LIKE IT.

But I like it. The puzzle, that is. Go, Oliver!

Kahlaala 3:02 AM  

Enjoyed the puzzle! Sam I Am was my favorite answer. Made me smile to remember reading "Green Eggs and Ham" to my kids in that singsong chant. Another favorite: Hop on Pop. Yea Dr. Seuss!! I heard that he lived in San Diego and got ideas for drawing those weird plants at the Zoo, which has lots of unusual tropical flora.

Kahlaala 3:05 AM  

PS I never even thought about creating a puzzle until reading this blog. Have any of you tried it? I wouldn't know where to start.

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

To kahlaala (and others):

As a matter of fact I have tried to make a puzzle -- many times.

Moreover, I have had puzzles better than this rejected.

Chief among reasons for rejection was fill being to 'crosswordy.'

Yet none of my rejections ever contained as much 'crosswordese' as this puzzle -- and I even use that term with hesitation here because this puzzle used so many made-up words and obscurities (that can't even rate as crosswordese let alone good fill) that I thought it went beyond the pale.

Of course, for a new (and quite young) constructor this is still a fine achievement.

My main problem with SAM I AM is that it returns to the old PURPLE PAINT issue: some people think a compound phrase like PURPLE PAINT is acceptable in a puzzle (outside of a theme of course) whereas others (purists I say) don't.

To wit: if we allow SAM I AM (rhet) do we then also allow ONE FISH or LITTLE LAMB?

See what I mean?

Anyway, maybe this is all just sour grapes but if you want to play in the big league then you have to accept criticism as par for the course -- and which in this case has been circumvented due to people not wanting to hurt the tender sensibilities of one who is only 17 -- and which is a bunch of crap (in my opinion).

That's because if one is big enough to get a puzzle into the Times -- then one is big enough to handle whatever negative comments such puzzle may engender.


Rex Parker 8:46 AM  

PG - you can't be objecting to compound answers per se. They're a staple of the puzzle. So ... I'm not sure what the objection is to SAM-I-AM. That's his name. He is referred to as "SAM-I-AM" by his interlocutor repeatedly in that book. So ... SAM-I-AM bears no relationship to PURPLE PAINT or even ONE FISH as far as I can tell.

You are right that playing easy with a 17-year-old's feelings would be condescending to said 17-year-old. Not sure if anyone here's doing that. Maybe.


Anonymous 9:49 AM  


Okay. Call me SAM I AM. Got it.

But his name is SAM, no? SAM I AM is a compound, albeit a readily known one -- and as such it exceeds the Times' guidelines (no more than five letters -- A NUT, ODE TO...). Guess it's a matter of interpretation.

Take for instance OSCAR THE GROUCH. Sure, we all know whom this refers to -- but it's not as if they called him that on the show (at least not to his face).

Still, I could live with this -- and it follows that SAM I AM is no different.

So I concede here -- even though I still don't love this as much as you all did.

Nonetheless, I will be quiet now, and perhaps give this puzzle more credit than I originally believed it deserved. Of course, I could go on about other aspects of this puzzle that I didn't like but that would be petty at this point.

Chacon ton gout,


Orange 1:31 PM  

Thank you so much, Not Anonymous!

Really, Pen Girl. You obviously didn't click on the "green eggs and ham" link I posted above. It includes the full text of the story. Here is an excerpt:

That Sam-I-am!
That Sam-I-am!
I do not like
that Sam-I-am!

Do you like
green eggs and ham?

I do not like them,
I do not like
green eggs and ham.

See? Not arbitrary. Sam-I-Am appears as his appellation numerous times. It's not a partial entry at all. And Oscar the Grouch is solid, not merely a descriptive phrase ("Oscar, the green muppet in a trash can" is merely a descriptive phrase.) If ROMEO is suitable fill as a fictional character, so is SAMIAM.

Anonymous 6:42 AM  


Agreed. SAM I AM is perfectly fine, and I said as much in my last missive.

Really, I hadn't read the book for a while, and SAM I AM just seemed weird.

I was wrong. Obviously it's me who's weird.

PG :(

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