FRIDAY, Nov. 30, 2007 - Henry Hook

Friday, November 30, 2007


Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Henry Hook has a great crossword constructor name, in that his last name is vaguely synonymous with "theme" (which most crosswords have), and it's also associated with pointy painfulness - particularly (if you are a fish) a pointy painfulness you did not see coming. Whenever I see his by-line, I know that some amount of struggle lies ahead, and that the struggle will (likely) be worth my while - that it will tax my brain in pleasurable ways. This puzzle did not disappoint. It was Friday-tough, and yet there were hardly any esoteric answers in the whole thing. There's a joint in the NW that's a bit tricky if you don't know (or don't pick up on) the crossword-common ABIE (30A: Mr. Levy of 1920s Broadway fame) or the mildly exotic EMS (25A: Bad _____, German resort), or (like me) you have never (or barely) heard of the ODER-NEISSE Line (3D: _____ Line (German/Polish border)). Other than that, all the words and phrases are reasonably to completely ordinary. And yet they are lively.

I wonder if R. CRUMB (41D: Fritz the Cat illustrator) ever drew a strip about CLERGYMEN (40A: Cloth workers?) who CROSS DRESS (58A: Undergo a change of habit?) because they think they LOOK BETTER (1A: Show signs of improvement) that way? R. CRUMB is one of the two or three most important comics artists of the 20th century, and his influence (a fearlessness with taboo subjects, a hyper-observant eye for detail, the use of arrow boxes to direct the reader's attention around the panels, etc.) can be seen All Over most non-superhero comics. See especially Alison Bechdel's Fun Home (my favorite book of the past ... well, many years) or anything by Lynda Barry (whom I Adore - several pieces of her original artwork adorn the walls of my home).

Who fell asleep on the keyboard when they were assigning CLAES Oldenburg his name (43A: Sculptor Oldenburg)?

I realized while doing this puzzle that when the white part of the grid gets out to 5x5 or larger, the puzzle gets a Lot harder for me to solve. I feel like I'm just swimming in open space, and tentative answers look much more pathetic, and much more doubtful, when they're so painfully exposed. It's like I get puzzle-agoraphobia. Hence, today, the NW and SE were notably harder / slower than the other parts of the puzzle (particularly the other corners, which I locked up in no time).

In the SE, I had DENT for 39A: Minimal change (cent), which, as you can see (I hope) makes total sense. Sadly for me, that one little mistake was positioned right at the gateway to the SE, and so I hobbled along, trying to get any kind of purchase. Oh, what's worse: I flubbed the Other gateway to the SE. Confidently wrote in EASY AS PIE for 32D: "Nothing to it" ("Easy as ABC") - then wrote in AND for 53D: Clause connector. Considering that that made three strikes, I should have been out, and I was, for a bit, until somehow, from one "K," and a "P," I got BOOKKEEPER (56A: One who's happy when things look black - a devilish clue). After that, no problem.

Here's how the puzzle started:

First answer: 11A: Second in a series (beta)
Second answer: 13D: "I did it!" ("Tada!")
Third answer: 11D: Department (bureau)
Fourth answer: 16A: 1,575-mile river known to some locals as the Zhayyq (Ural)

The hardest part of the puzzle, for me, was the NW, where I went into a complete freefall with everything above EMS and west of ESTEE (6D: Name on a bottle of Beyond Paradise) completely blank. I had the very close DO YOU THINK? for a while at 17A: "Well, duh!" ("Gee, ya think!?"). Aargh. Wanted EPEE for 1D: Olympics item ... or the winning word in the 1984 National Spelling Bee (luge). In fact, once I let go of EPEE and guessed LUGE, everything finally started to fall. My earlier guess for 2D: Civilians eligible to be drafted (One A's) turned out to be right, and every other answer up there ended up being quite ordinary, although UNDERSCORE (15A: Indication of stress) made me snarl in frustration - very fair clue, but ... [slams head on desk repeatedly] ... couldn't see it couldn't see it couldn't see it ... until, of course, I saw it.

Miscellaneous:

  • 23A: Sci-fi author McIntyre (Vonda) - Never read her, but I knew this once, as I have friends who are fans
  • 32A: Holders of big pads (easels) - not sure what the "PADS" are here ... oh, of paper? Hmmm.
  • 46A: Game craze of the late 1980s and '90s (Tetris) - big when I was in college. Never played it myself.
  • 51A: Island nicknamed the Gathering Place (Oahu) - never saw the clue; tore the SW up too fast.
  • 12D: Greenland colonizer (Eric) - the Red? Good clue. I wanted ERIE for about half a second, thinking there was perhaps some part of Native American history I had missed completely.
  • 14D: Pianist Templeton (Alec) - ALEC wants entry to the Pantheon; this ALEC is new to me.
  • 21D: Visual PC-to-PC files (PDFs) - ooh, good one. I had PEGs (as in JPEGs) at first ... yes, it's a bad guess.
  • 24D: Classic Packard model with a numerical name (one ten) - well, without the "numerical name" part, I'd have been lost. Had the "O" so new ONE was involved. Not too hard to piece together the rest.
  • 26D: Pompadour, for one (Madame) - Had this ending in "U" for a while (from my CLAUS for CLAES mistake), making the right answer Very hard to see.
  • 29D: Tentlike dwelling with a conical roof (yurt) - HA ha. "The Yurt" was some kind of structure on the campus of Pitzer College. Maybe still is. Hippies...
  • 38D: Hybrid fruit (ugli) - also (as I may have told you) the acronym for the Undergraduate Library at UMich (and perhaps elsewhere).
  • 39D: Where cooler heads prevail? (crisper) - "PREVAIL?" Over ... ? It's a daring clue, I'll give it that.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

57 comments:

Olde School 8:57 AM  

Loved this. A solid piece of work.

Had trouble getting off of MINDFUL OF and A DEAL (instead of "mindfully" and "a date"), but otherwise relatively smooth sailing, especially once I got the SCORE in UNDERSCORE.

kratsman 8:59 AM  

Very nice write-up today. I found this one about average for a Friday, but I ended with mistakes. Had RKRUMB which gave me KLAUS which gave me MADAMEU. Looked funny, but so did KLAES. If I had worked the puzzle on the applet, I would have tracked down that mix-up pretty quick, I think. As it was, I ended with wrong letters--defeat. But an enjoyable Friday, nonetheless.

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

A little help with WSJ please? I know it doesn't stand for "Wacky Jesuits"

Whitey's mom 9:11 AM  

Not bad at all for a Friday except for Klaus/Claes which trap I fell into.

rick 9:27 AM  

Wall Street Journal

rick 9:28 AM  

Enough with ALEC. I had no idea on 14D and, again, put ALEC in for the heck of it and the whole corner fell.

Alex 9:41 AM  

EASY AS PIE also brought the southeast to a halt for me. Finally began to question it when I got the -----E-PER in BOOKKEEPER and decided it had to be GRIM REAPER. It wasn't, but it made me give though to PIE alternatives.

How much must it suck to make it all the way to the final two in the National Spelling Bee and then lose on a four-letter word?

ABIE/EMS/ODER-NEISSE created a big guess at the EI in NEISSE but fortunately I guessed right my first time. Any combination of A, E, and I seemed to work.

Pete M 9:41 AM  

No way I would ever get the RCRUMB/CLAES cross. I settled for RARUMB/ALAES, which looked wrong just as plausibly as the all the other possible wrong (and the right) answers. Also had a problem with ABIE/COS/BOIL, where I had ARIE/CAS/RAIL. Still, a nice puzzle overall; and significantly easier than today's NYS, which I still haven't broken open.

Jim in NYC 9:42 AM  

Great puzzle. Loved the "minimal change" (cent) clue. Many other really clever clues too.

One quibble: Although many citizens may refer to non-stop flights as being "direct" (49A), that is not the usage in the airline industry. Shouldn't we look to the relevant industry for the meaning of the word? Still, it was easily gettable and by that standard it was fair for a weekend clue.

dk 9:52 AM  

Had Nile for the river.. sigh
Had easy as pie... gee ya think

Over all a good time on a Friday morning.

Regarding Pitzer College: While at Claremont Grad Sch. a friend and I did a reenactment of the Swimmer (Cheever) crossing the campus pool by pool at about 2 AM. Although I do not remember... but we may have inhaled while at the Yurt.

Karen 10:27 AM  

I had no knowledge of any of the NW triumvirate, althouth I knew EPEE could not be a spelling bee word; I'm surprised that LUGE was. I also knew that BAKSHI did Fritz the Cat; unfortunately, wrong medium, right number of letters. I'm happy to see VONDA McIntyre here; her post-apocalyptic novel 'Dreamsnake' won several awards.

Is there any defining difference between ONE A and A ONE, in drafts or otherwise? Thankfully, I'm too young to know much about the draft.

Orange 10:58 AM  

The national spelling bee has apparently grown much more challenging in the last decade, eh?

Rex: I too made a DENT in the PIE with my EPEE.

wendy 11:16 AM  

Karen, yes I-A is a very specific draft classification from the Vietnam-era Selective Service. There were numerous classifications corresponding to one's situation - I-A-O and I-W were two types of conscientious objector status; I-D was a reservist or student taking ROTC; I-S and II-S were two types of student deferments; II-A was an occupational deferment; IV-F was what you got if you were mentally or physically unfit for service; there were quite a number of them up to V-A, where you were registered but too old to serve. (I was a draft counselor in college; my then-boyfriend was planning to become a conscientious objector, but his lottery number ended up being too high).

I echo Rex's assessment of R CRUMB; to this day I can quote whole passages of various Zap Comix. And I can also endorse Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, which I read at Rex's previous recommendation. It blew me away. I am a major comics and graphic novel fan, though, so I don't know if these would be everyone's cup of tea.

ren 11:51 AM  

Anyone else confused by THOU (48D: Grand total?)?

Madame george 11:57 AM  

Great puzzle and I recommend Hook's "Terribly Twisted...." books I first saw referenced on Orange's site. They contain challenging versions of the sorts of oddities sometimes seen under the Sunday puzzle (not Acrostic).

I made various of the aforementioned mistakes, and the "hairdo" (MADAME) and "easy as pie" (EASYASABC) goofs seemed to take ages to extricate myself from. Loved GEEYATHINK. And "fell asleep on the keyboard when...CLAES" -- that got me laughing, Rex.

Rikki -- if memory serves, I got you (or someone?) singing "Ficus Benjamina" (Gary, Indiana) a couple weeks back. Of course, the same thing happens with ODERNEISSE and "Edelweiss".

GK 12:06 PM  

Ren, it's the beginning of "thousand," as I figured out after some head-scratching.

GK 12:10 PM  

Rex, in the commenting process I can no longer hyperlink my nickname to my web page!

Spencer 12:23 PM  

Oh, yeah. I had all of EPEE, NILE, ADEAL, EASY AS PIE, AND (but before that I had ACCOUNTANT for BOOKKEEPER). I had ODER_EISSE, couldn't remember the consonant for some reason. CLAES was easy because there was an Oldenburg sculpture on the campus at Oberlin when I was there (I presume it is still there.) I think my first correct full answer was EMS (not counting the incomplete ODER...)

I'm surprised that you didn't comment on the ridiculous abbreviation TCHR.

It was a slog, and I, too, finished the NE-SW section first, then had to slowly fill in the NW and then SE.

GK 12:35 PM  

Spencer: yes, Oldenburg's "Giant Three-Way Plug" is still here on the Oberlin campus. When younger my kids loved to clamber on it.

Phil 1:04 PM  

WSJ = Wall Street Journal. COS = Companies.

dk 1:05 PM  

Oldenburg's spoon and cherry can be found in Minneapolis and seen on old Mary Tyler Moore show.

Anonymous 1:13 PM  

Did anybody else notice the ACDC(30D) crossdresser(58A) link?

Joe 1:16 PM  

What is the only word in the English language with three consecutive double letters?

Anonymous 1:23 PM  

Bookkeeper or bookkeeping?

Orange 1:31 PM  

dk, I doubt Spoonbridge and Cherry is seen on the '70s Mary Tyler Moore Show—I believe it arrived in the '80s.

Bechdel's Fun Home is one of several books I'm halfway through but have been neglecting for the past month or two. For shame!

rick 1:50 PM  

SUBBOOKKEEPPER

Rockonchris 1:54 PM  

Loved this puzzle! I'm new to this (since March) and just recently started saving the puzzles by author and adding my thoughts. When I saved today's, I saw that I liked Hook's last one a lot.

So I was expecting a great puzzle and wasn't disappointed. Exceptionally inventive and confusing cluing, yet always ultimately fair. So many head-slapping "aha" moments! No matter how impossible I think some of the answers are, with Hook if I stick to it long enough, I can figure out almost everything.

I took 90 minutes today, couldn't complete the NW, had 1 or 2 other minor errors, but still feel like I succeeded.

I was just wondering, do all solvers eventually know puzzle authors by name and have favorites?

wendy 2:21 PM  

rockonchris, speaking only for myself, yes, in the span of a year I've gone from someone who knew zero puzzle constructors by name to, when I download the puzzle each night, someone who looks at the name before anything else. I definitely have my favorites (as well as ones I dread) and add to that list all the time.

Graeme 2:44 PM  

Please can someone explain to my ignorant brain why "crisper" is the answer to 39D?

Victor 2:48 PM  

Ren and GK: Colloquially, when speaking of money, a "grand" is $1000.

Graeme: Heads of lettuce in a crisper will be cool heads.

For 52A (Jump the Gun) FALSESTART fit perfectly, and held me up forever as I didn't want to give it up. Ugh!

Anonymous 2:50 PM  

Very easy for a Friday. Didn't know Vonda (there was a female singer on the hated Ally McBeal show named Vonda) but got it from all the easy crosses.

Big coincidence with BOOKKEEPER a prominent answer in this puzzle and BOOKKEEPING a very prominent answer in today's N.Y. Sun puzzle. Highly recommended.

Don't quite get the meaning of BLUNT as SNUB (57A).

rafaelthatmf 3:01 PM  

The Packers lost. I had to Google. ACDC and DIS together - death to all unreferenced abbrs.! (I know Orange I know!) Never heard of Queues pertaining to hair. Moping more than complaining.
To whom (not who right?) ever asked yesterday – though Green Bay does feel foreign at times (in the other worldly sense), I reside in Wisconsin not the UK.

profphil 3:32 PM  

Anon: one of Snub's meanings is blunt, as in a Snub-nose.

Alex 3:44 PM  

I was just wondering, do all solvers eventually know puzzle authors by name and have favorites?

Personally, I don't. I've now been doing the NY Times every day for about 13 months and despite seeing Rex occasionally call one out by name I still couldn't say the name of a single one. I just never look at that part of the screen. Heck, I still generally get about halfway through the Sunday puzzle before I remember to look at the title and see if that helps at all.

fergus 5:21 PM  

Having looked this puzzle over I got the sense something diabolical was afoot. But with REKINDLE stepping up as a pretty obvious clue, deconfusing the ELBE and the ODER, and sussing out CLERGYMEN, filling in the rest of it was nothing near as devilish as I had ANTICIPATEd. There were many places that could have harbored a variety of crossing answers but those criss-crosses were in harmony rather than discord, like in the crossing of VISAGES with USAGES.

But there was some tentativeness about YURT, since I've only seen them with Domes not Cones, the IOU as a Marker, and slowness on starting with LIVE when the Clue was Prerecorded. As an oxymoron, I thought this would be Clued with a ?. That's OK, this isn't the best case to UNDERSCORE (for which, an excellent clue) quibbles on this issue. Was a little suspicious about MIND FULLY until seeing it as one word.

Had GIFS momentarily for Visual transfers but what bugged me was the ACDC circuits. My understanding was that circuits could be either Alternating Current or Direct, but not both at the same time. That would sorta screw up Electricity. But maybe one of those AC/DC converters is broadly considered a circuit since the current is being passed through? Anyone care to be the final authority on this?

The huge baseball bat outside Yankee Stadium is by Oldenberg, is it not? And an enormous Clothes' Peg? It took me a while to appreciate this type of sculpture.

green mantis 5:28 PM  

Does someone want to tell me how the "undergo a change of habit?" clue works for cross dress? Are civilian clothes ever called habits? Am I stuck in a clergy-related box that somebody would like to extricate me from? Please to help, because right now I'm trapped in a visual of transvestite nuns and it's not pretty.

Wade 5:38 PM  

Good puzzle with lots of fun misdirection. The only thing I got with any confidence on the first pass was YURT, and that's only because I went through a yurt fetish a few years ago and was ready to uproot wife and kids and live in one of the things. The only demerit I give it is the ABIE/ODERNEISSE/EMS crossings, which was asking too much.

wendy 6:03 PM  

Regarding CLAES Oldenburg, I completely forgot to mention that here in Cleveland we have the dubious distinction of having
the world's largest rubber stamp which he created. As indicated in the copy, it can be viewed any number of ways; I tend to fall in the "eyesore" camp, but whatever.

Anonymous 6:20 PM  

please tell us why pompadour is madame.

hairdo?

madame george 6:41 PM  

At the new sculpture park in Seattle, we are blessed with Claes Oldenburg's "Typewriter Eraser, Scale X". A massive version of the old red rubber wheel eraser with attached brush. Very weird.

Green M -- sorry, can't help you...unless a visual of a typewriter eraser does something to extricate you.

Wade -- congratulations! The word "yurt" has never been followed by the word "fetish" until now! You win a hunnert dollars!

girl from europe 6:52 PM  

to anonymous from girl from europe

Madame de Pompadour was a courtesan. She was one of the mistresses of King Louis XV.
During her time as a Royal mistress, Madame de Pompadour got the title of Marquise; she became politically rather powerful, before eventually falling from grace...
a fate not all too uncommon to many a courtesan

fergus 7:00 PM  

Madame de Pompadour was one one of the Roi Louis (seizieme?)'s chicks. Could have been the original transvestite nun, with that Reagan hairstyle, but I doubt it.

campesite 7:07 PM  

Ditto Wendy on becoming acquainted with the names of the puzzle constructors now that this blog and Orange's have become daily reading. Henry Hook is a puzzle maker I respect, but I know is likely to work me (which is what happened today).

Rex Parker 7:25 PM  

Wendy,

I'm pretty sure that CLAES Oldenburg Rubber Stamp is visible in the movie "American Splendor," which is all about Harvey Pekar, who wrote many comics that were illustrated by ... R. CRUMB. Puzzle circularity! Those answers even Intersect. Of course CLAES also intersects UGLI. Not sure what Hook was saying there.

Also, I may have completely misremembered the movie. It happens. I just know I've seen Pekar near that Stamp in one medium or another.

rp

wendy 8:18 PM  

God I didn't even notice that until now - the intersection. Rex, do you watch No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain? Harvey definitely was seen at the Stamp while touring Bourdain in Cleveland. I don't remember seeing the dang thing in American Splendor, but that doesn't mean anything. I loved that flick with a purple passion, and I wasn't expecting to at all. Paul Giamatti is a god, IMOO.

Leon 9:34 PM  

Never heard of syrup of IPECAC. Now know it is used to induce vomiting. Maybe, when you've eaten too many UGLIS...

Badir 12:04 AM  

Rex, I thought you might point out that there was a doubled-letter subtheme. In addition to BOOKKEEPER, among the long acrosses, LOOK BETTER and CROSS DRESS each have two, and GEE YA THINK and MINDFULLY each throw in another. Oh yes, and there's ODER-NEISSE. That's a total of ten doubled letters among the ten-letter entries!

Aaron 12:20 AM  

This was beautifully constructed. Almost no bad fill, either, which (according to Rex, and I don't really disagree) has been really weighing down the NYT puzzles these days.

Orange 12:33 AM  

Green Mantis, habit can also be used to mean non-clerical clothing. There are riding habits, and perhaps more a century ago than now, it has also been defined as:

Outward appearance; attire; dress; hence, a garment; esp., a closely fitting garment or dress worn by ladies; as, a riding habit.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy. Shak.
There are, among the states, several of Venus, in different habits. Addison.

jae 1:22 AM  

I very much liked the puzzle but had many of the same problems (e.g. EASYASPIE) as Rex and many of you. My first two entries were LUGE and LOOKBETTER after which I got almost nothing in NW until the end. The ABIE/ODER../EMS crossing forced me to google (first time in a very long time) for the E in EMS and the I in ABIE. My one mistake was MADAMEU, CLAUS just looked so right!

BTW in the Hook puzzles I've done (yes, I too am very aware of constructors thanks to Rex) he has a tendency to make one area/corner very tough. For me in this one it was NW.

billnutt 2:04 AM  

This one was just UGLI - er, ugly. I mean - ODERNEISSE? YURT? CLAES? The last name of the family in ABIE'S IRISH ROSE? For a while, the only answer I had with confidence was RCRUMB! (I initially had MOST for "Maximally.")

The NW just destroyed me, even though I sorta guessed ONEAS early on. Eventually, I figured that the only four-letter Olympic item that might possibly be a winning word in a spelling be would be LUGE, but even that didn't help much. And I _so_ wanted REIGNITES (rather than REKINDLES) as the answer to 10d.

I thought CROSSDRESS was doubly crafty, first because it was cleverly clued AND because it has four - FOUR! - of those very useful "S"es.

I thought "cooler" might refer to water cooler. Eventually, I remembered that a crisper is that part of a refrigerator where you keep lettuce.

CLERGYMEN was another fun clue, though it posed a problem as a plural that doesn't end in S. THAT was another stumbling block.

I eventually finished it without googling, but MAN....

zaster 6:05 AM  

Can anyone explain how the 'total' part of the clue for THOU makes any sense? If it's refering to thousand, shouldn't the clue be "Grand opening?"

rick 8:25 AM  

Grand and THOU are both slang. The total of a THOU is a grand.

Doc John 6:50 PM  

All I can say is that this puzzle kicked my butt!
Other than IPECAC and PDFS (I'm a doc AND a computer nerd), the rest of the answers came very, very slowly, especially the NW. I had to Google ODERNEISSE which, I guess, finally let me get the NW and finish the damned thing.
LUGE seemed to easy for someone to lose a spelling bee on so I was looking for something more esoteric.
I'll have to keep this constructor in mind- he's a sneaky one!
(Not really sure how "Supra" is EARLIER but I'll just sit back and go with it... I know it as a model of car.)
Cluing BRAIDS with "Queues" is just mean!

Doc John 1:23 AM  

Oops! LUGE seemed TOO easy... Guess I was typing a bit too fast there.

Anonymous 4:49 PM  

Since LUGE was the winning word of the spelling bee, no one would have misspelled it. The winner has to correctly spell the word that the second place finisher had misspelled, and then spell another word correctly to win. Since they won on this word, they must've spelled it correctly the first time they tried.

Jet City Gambler 5:23 PM  

What a fun puzzle! I went quickly from IPECAC down the stairs to RCRUMB and TETRIS, thought it was going to be an easy puzzle.

WHODATHUNK was completely wrong though, and of course I wanted PIE like everyone else. LIVEONTAPE is one of my favorite oxymorons, so that got me going again. All in all, a challenging and fair Friday puzzle.

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