MONDAY, Nov. 26, 2007 - Andrea Carla Michaels

Monday, November 26, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: H-CK - every theme answer begins with this letter combination, with the vowel in the second spacing changing, in alphabetical order, as you move through the puzzle

Another fine birthday puzzle for me. Last year I got a Manny Nosowsky Sunday puzzle - this year, an Andrea Carla Michaels Monday. I finished this one much more quickly, but not without a similar amount of joy. Part of that joy comes from the genuinely entertaining fill; the other part of that joy comes from Smashing my old solving time record by a full 20 seconds. 3:21!!! No idea how that happened. There always seems to be some luck involved (i.e. never even looked at the clue for HUCKABEES - just filled it in from existing crosses - and knew HOCKNEY from just the -EY only because, well, I like art, etc.). All my first guesses ended up being correct, and the only answer that even mildly held me up was 33D: Flax-colored (golden) - and I wasn't held up long. As someone who a year ago was happy to solve a Monday in under 6 minutes, I can tell you that lots of practice, over time, will in fact make you a better solver. All the studying in the world cannot beat the simple act of doing puzzles, over and over. This is also true of GRE / SAT - type tests, but I digress.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Bean-filled bag moved with the foot (HACKy-sack)
  • 25A: Comedy club razzer (HECKler)
  • 37A: Like some hams (HICKory smoked)
  • 52A: Pop artist David (HOCKney)
  • 61A: 2004 film "I Heart _____" ("HUCKabees")

I am curious about the length of theme clues. It seems odd to me that two of the theme answers are very short (seven letters) and positioned directly across from other NON-theme seven-letter answers - e.g. HECKLER's across from MISS YOU (23A: Postcard sentiment) and HOCKNEY's across from ROMANIA (54A: Bucharest's land). I'm not saying this is illegal, but it seems quite uncommon for theme answers to be matched in length by non-theme answers running in the same direction. I'm somehow less bothered by the Longer non-theme answers running Down - all of which are at least good and two of which are gorgeous, by the way:

  • 11D: Oil conveyor (pipeline) - good
  • 12D: Abated (lessened) - good
  • 37D: 3-D picture (hologram) - gorgeous
  • 38D: "You don't say!," after "Well" ("I declare!") - gorgeous

There are many multiple-word phrases in this puzzle. I especially like the juxtaposition of EARN A (63A: _____ living) and A MESS (66A: What _____!" ("It's so dirty!"), with their reversed placement of the indefinite article. I also especially like the near-juxtaposition of BOK (4D: _____ choy (Chinese green))and WOK (8D: Chinese cooking vessel).

Lastly, today, I'm going to point out some words that are XWORD 101 words. Stuff that you should know if you want to zip through crosswords, including stuff that I learned Only from doing crosswords:

  • 14A: Creme-filled cookie (Oreo) - but you knew that
  • 15A: Wine: Prefix (Oeno-) - comes up not infrequently
  • 20A: Honor bestowed by Queen Eliz. (OBE) - Order of the British Empire - learned it from xwords
  • 26D: Early MGM rival (RKO)
  • 55D: Schindler of "Schindler's List" (Oskar) - even if you know the name, you are likely to spell it with a "C" if you've never thought about its spelling before. Very helpful to know about the "K."
  • 39D: Actor Calhoun (Rory) - he actually doesn't come up a hell of a lot; I just like his name because it reminds me of the time Mr. Burns likened one of his many greyhound puppies to this actor:

    Burns: There you are...there you go, little fellow...and you.
    [one of the puppies stands on its hind legs]
    [gasps] Smithers, look: he's standing up. I've never seen
    anything so adorable! Do you know who it reminds me of?
    Smithers: Benji?
    Burns: No.
    Smithers: Lassie?
    Burns: No, no, no, a person. You know who I mean.
    Smithers: Snoop Doggy Dogg? Bob Barker? David Brenner?
    Burns: No, no! The person who's always standing and walking.
    Smithers: Rory Calhoun?
    Burns: That's it!


Lastly, after watching a little "SportsCenter" this morning, I had a revelation, which I would like to express in the form of a birthday wish: I would like ESPN to promote correspondent WENDI NIX to a position prominent enough to render her crossword-worthy.

That is all.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

53 comments:

rick 8:28 AM  

Didn't even notice a theme until I read your post.

wendy 8:28 AM  

Happy birthday, fellow Sagittarian!

Favorite word of the day - BOSCO. What dark alley of commerce did that erstwhile product blast out of?

I support your campaign for WENDI NIX's crosswordworthiness, which would be a huge step forward for all broadcasters named Wendy(i). I myself was named after a dj in Hartford, Connecticut, for whom my father apparently had a penchant. Or so goes the family lore.

mac 8:50 AM  

I won't even start on the puzzle until hours from now, but wanted to wish you a happy birthday!

jlsnyc 9:05 AM  

happy birthday, sweet sixteen!!

loved the faq post, btw. re: #7 and "how could you not know...?" your revelation about knowing hockney and liking art is really telling. imoo. i like music (and art...) and have been exposed to lots of it, especially in its pre-1980 varieties. now i could seriously use more exposure to the contemporary scene -- but -- it's my *liking* music and knowing a little about it that gives me a kick when there's a "musical clue" in the puzzle. i still have a good way to go 'til i see 80, and i'm tellin' ya -- one course in western music and you'd be even closer to the head of the class! imoo.....

point taken with the reminder to practice puzzling. and/but, and/but, and/but...

again -- happy birthday and *many* happy returns!

;-)

janie

Pinky 9:33 AM  

13A. Margaretta Large Fitler Murphy Rockefeller a.k.a.,
25D An annual celebration of aging
44A Tyranossaurus_____

Johnson 9:34 AM  

Happy Healthy Biirthday and many happy acrosses and downs!

Orange 9:36 AM  

Bonne anniversaire, Rex!

Because Rex loathes Seinfeld, I won't mention the BOSCO episode of that show in which George's ATM PIN is BOSCO, and since when are PINs five numbers long and not four?

Rex Parker 9:42 AM  

Admission: I don't actually *loathe* "Seinfeld" (though I probably have claimed "hatred" on at least one occasion). I am just particularly contrary when it comes to that show because people gush and gush and gush about its greatness. A show about four loathsome people holds little interest for me, though I acknowledge its occasional funniness, and certainly its superiority to the vast majority of stuff on the air, then or now.

Thank you all for the very kind birthday wishes.

RP

Jim in Chicago 10:13 AM  

Maybe I'm just grumpy, but the scarecrow wanted "a brain", not "brain". other than that, a fairly fun easy Monday romp.

Two nicely confusing clues threw me momentarily, I had EDGE instead of ABUT for "border on", and LOTS instead of ALOT for "loads".

Do hubcaps really cap hubs? Is there such a thing as a hub? Never really thought about it before.

Jim in Chicago 10:15 AM  

Oh, happy birthday Rex.

Rob G. 10:27 AM  

Orange,

I think ATM codes can be any number of digits in the 4-8 range, most people just choose four. It never occurred to me that some people might use words instead of numbers to remember their codes before that episode, though.

Happy Birthday Rex! I just knew you'd reference the Greyhounds episode of The Simpsons when I saw 39D.

Mary 10:57 AM  

Have a fine birthday, Rex.
I never saw the theme but I enjoyed seeing the word HACKYSACK. I made me think of a brief scene in To Catch a Thief when the goons who are supposed to be conducting a surveillance on Cary Grant let him and Grace Kelly get by because they (the goons) are playing with a HACKYSACK.

Michael 11:08 AM  

Wendi Nix is a great crossword name. If puzzlers need NIX, though, I wish they'd reference Nix Check Cashing, because just as Rory Calhoun evokes that Simpsons reference, Nix reminds me of the Beastie Boys lyric:

I'm charming, I'm dashing, I'm metal car bashing
I'm phony paper passing at Nix Check Cashing

hank heijink 11:26 AM  

Happy birthday, Rex!

And congratulations on the new record time! I'm still happy to have solved this one in under 8 minutes, but it's like you said. Not too long ago I'd have been happy to solve it at all.

Many happy [Computer key]s.

Dick Swart 11:34 AM  

Happy Birthday, Rex!

Re: Hockney. If you have a present left coming, his 'Secret Knowledge' is a terrific dissertation!

boba feta 11:39 AM  

Like jim/chicago, I had "edge" in ABUT's spot. (Also had to ink-over PutTO-rest (LAYTO)). And, I was wondering about the nature of hubs and what actually gets capped.

The other bit that struck me was REAR UP. If a horse "stand(s) on the hind legs", its front goes up. Hence FRONT UP, no?

An enjoyable puzzle, and my times are hovering nicely in the 5x-Orange, 4x-Rex stratosphere.

Happy birthday to Rex!

rafaelthatmf 12:31 PM  

HBD Rex!
I don’t see a point to posting without a gripe so let me start with personally I detest birthdays – maybe my wife demanding birthmonth celebrations has something to do with this but I do hope you enjoy yours. All the best.
jim in chicago: The tire (well the rim to which the tire is attached at least) of a car is fastened to the hub of the axle by lug nuts – lugs are headless bolt like projections embedded in the hub. The hub cap then covers either the hub itself or a part of the tire’s rim and hub connection.
And my usual clue peeve on 24D: SYNC is a shortening of Synchronization. Do we not need the clue to hint at abbreviation? My standard nit.

Rikki 12:36 PM  

I join the others in wishing you a happy day, Rex. Practice and reading this blog have, indeed, improved my puzzling skills and I flew through this fun Monday without even using any of the down clues and beat my own Monday best. I loved Bosco, but I'm certain that commercials showing a stream of rich, thick chocolate mixing with cold, frothy milk induced my preference for Bosco over the less expensive Hershey's in a can that my mother kept handy. I can tell I was hungry when I did this puzzle, since I was picturing chocolate milk with a nice ham sandwich and fries, maybe an apple for dessert.

Alex Ogan 12:40 PM  

I thought one of the clues was really pretty awful: "Say 'Do this,' 'Do that' ... blah, blah, blah"

jae 1:22 PM  

Cumpleanos Rex! A delightful Monday effort. I also thought the theme answers were arranged a bit oddly. I'd forgotten about the Simpson/Rory Calhoun link but the Seinfeld/Bosco episode came immediately to mind. I did this one slowly because I was working on a lap top late at night in a dark room and kept hitting the wrong keys. Still finished in around 12 min.

Anonymous 1:26 PM  

Happy Birthday Rex! Many, many more.

Profphil

Anonymous 1:33 PM  

Rex - If you don't like watching four loathesome people, you must truly hate The Sopranos, which has nothing but loathesome people, with the exception of the psychologist, who is merely unethical.

Pinky - What puzzle are you commenting on???

Leon 1:45 PM  

Happy BD Mr. P.
41 42 and 43 viewed across spell out ROD ALOT EGO, obviously a message for A-ROD of the Yankees.

Evad 1:56 PM  

A throwback entry for those of us born in the 60's (I just barely fall into that category...and not on the good side of it) might be Huckleberry Hound.

Orange 2:23 PM  

Rafael, "sync" is in the dictionary as an informal word in and of itself, not merely as an abbreviation followed by a period.

Anon. 1:33, Pinky is merely making up clues for HAPPY, BIRTHDAY, and REX, not talking about a particular crossword. (And way to get cranky about pop-culture preferences, which, yes, must abide by firm policies or else.)

pianodan 2:37 PM  

As a musician, I cringe a bit when there's a "harmony" angle to a SYNC clue - SYNC really applies to rhythm. The best answer for [not harmonizing] is "out of TUNE"!

Happy birthday Rex, from a recent convert to your blog... (whose dad's birthday is also today!)

barrywep 3:09 PM  

Orange:
My citibank PIN is five letters. Not BOSCO, though.

Rex:
Happy birthday! Are you going to IHOP to celebrate?

campesite 3:09 PM  

Dear Rex,
Happy Birthday, and thanks for doing this blog everyday.
Mark

Anonymous 3:20 PM  

Orange - Thanks for clearing up Pinky's comment. I guess I'm too linear to get things like that.

Doc John 3:21 PM  

Happy Birthday, Rex!

I have to say this is one of the easiest NYT (or, actually, any) puzzles I've ever done. Most of the clues were gimmes. I flashed thru it so fast (for me, anyway) that I didn't even realize that I had finished without reading all the clues!
A very fun way to start the week.

Fergus 3:39 PM  

A first-place ribbon is RED in England -- I wonder if it's another color in other countries? In Romania? Maybe it's GREEN in Islamic countries?

This was a very fluent puzzle, with nothing forced. Well, perhaps PRICER. I thought BOSCO was extinct -- I recall it being plugged by Mr. Ned on Bozo's Circus -- since I haven't seen it in decades. Maybe it's only marketed regionally?

Someone slagged off The Sopranos too lightly. It's the tempering of their loathsomeness with sympathetic traits that makes the show so worthwhile. Tony's Russian girlfriend, Irina, lets us know that her favorite painter is David Hockey, which she mentions while pining for her knight in white satin armor.

andrea carla michaels 4:47 PM  

Happy Birthday, Rex!!!!!!! You made my day too and I was born in October!
(re: many posts ago, I have an opal birthstone, one of the only ones I remember! Got BERYL on the abysmal Crosswords show, which Ty complimented me on. But it didn't make up for a lot of other nonsense I'll gripe about when it airs!)
Thrilled people liked BOSCO, and yes, very 60's...I was born in '59...ugh!
(there, now you have my birthday and year, tho not the date or else you'd know MY pin number!)

The odd set up of shorter answers and not being parallel was due to having 5 themes instead of four, so it's impossible to have them all across and it was so hard to make the number of letters work out (as I did indeed have HUCKLEBERRYFINN in my first draft, but it had to match whatever the HACK theme was and HACKENSACKRIVER wasn't nearly as much fun as HACKYSACK, no?)
I fretted over whether or not HOCKNEY was too hard, as I've had my puzzles rejected for having Edgar Winter and, unbelievably, Hello Kitty! And other puzzles where I get a lot of s%@* for putting in too many pop culture references! Glad to see you are a fan!
It's super hard (for me) to get a good theme going AND make all the clues easy enough without then being accused of having too many crossword-ese words in there...personally I thought this was a Tuesday! Just goes to show.
More importantly, congrats again on such a speedy time.
As a girl, I'm still skeptical of speediness of finishing and more into the enjoyment!
;)
Happy Happy Birthday!!!!!!!

Squash's Mom 5:39 PM  

Another Happy Birthday to you, Rex.

There was a theme to this puzzle? I didn't even see it until you pointed it out, thanks.

So I guess if I'm doing the Monday puzzles at 6-7 minutes, then I can expect to be under 4 in a year! Yeehaw! I think having a good memory helps, too, though. Maybe I should start writing down crosswordy clues/answers.

Mmmmmm, Bosco.

boba feta 5:57 PM  

The Bosco jingle was explored at length (short) in the comments section of the 8/29 blog entry if anyone's interested...jlsync provided a link.

Karen 6:09 PM  

My favorite Nix is Garth Nix, the Australian young adult author.

And happy birthday!

Anonymous 6:24 PM  

Am I the only one here who never heard of a "hackysack" before?
Nor knew of "bosco" chocolate syrup?

Jerry20020

Anonymous 6:28 PM  

Boba Feta -- maybe instead of 'rear up' the constructor might have tried to fit in 'rear back'.

Jerry20020

Anonymous 6:29 PM  

Wendy - what is that curious picture on your blog? It seems to have one eye only: Grendel's mother?

Jerry20020

chefbea 6:54 PM  

i raise my glass of bosco chocolate milk to wish you happy birthday
Chef bea

ds 8:53 PM  

I''ll add my Happy Birthday after raising my question:

Is the "YAY" spelling of "yeah" legitimate? It has a certain presence on the web (the Google test gives it 47.7 million votes as opposed to the 193 million for "Yeah") but there is also this from Paul Brians:

YEA/YEAH/YAY
“Yea” is a very old-fashioned formal way of saying “yes,” used mainly in voting. It’s the opposite of—and rhymes with—“nay.” When you want to write the common casual version of “yes,” the correct spelling is “yeah” (sounds like “yeh” ). When the third grade teacher announced a class trip to the zoo, we all yelled “yay!” (the opposite of “boo”!). That was back when I was only yay big.

In any event, Happy Birthday Rex .. Yea, Yeah, Yay (no, that is not a quote from the Beatles, either).

BT 9:00 PM  

I'd never heard of Bosco chocolate syrup.

I had the same reaction to "harmony" / sync that a fellow musician does. But most people wouldn't have the objection.

Snarkygirl 9:12 PM  

Many Happy Returns, Rex!

And thanks so much for this blog. I'm returning to crosswords at the age of 47, hoping to preserve my cognitive skills. I've been away since my late 20's. Let's just say that it is not like riding a bicycle...

Today's puzzle freaked me out! Many ideas of reference (IOR), a psychotic symptom in which general things are believed to hold personal meaning. No kidding. Enough to make me paranoid.

HACKYSACK was big in my med school class. I worked with a guy who came from that BOSCO family (he claimed that since the family sold it, he could no longer get it for free). I now live in the wine country. I proposed to my husband that this year we have a HICORYSMOKEDHAM for Thanksgiving. I have an addiction to McDonald's FRIES. My uncle Wallace was an OBE. His wife worked with Geoffrey Holder from the "This is an un-KOLA nut" 7-up commercial from back in the 60's. I work with someone whose last name is HECKLER. I'm a forensic psychiatrist (BRAIN, EGO and LAWS). I'm learning ARABIc. My mother-in-law's name is BEA. I could go on, but then I'd have to be hospitalized.

Were these all PRANKS?!?!?!?!

Pass the thorazine...and the ALES.

Michael 9:22 PM  

I had uskar schindler, which I deserve for doing the puzzle too fast.

rumania instead of romania

wendy 10:14 PM  

Jerry20020 - it's the French Symbolist artist Odilon Redon's painting Cyclops.

Anonymous 10:41 PM  

i'm a non-musician and SYNC is obviously wrong for "not harmonizing." if you're not singing a harmony in a given key, then you are out of TUNE. duh.

i really liked this puzzle, even though it was very easy. interesting phrases over run-of-the-mill words any day of the week.

billnutt 10:54 PM  

Happy birthday, Rex!

The only thing that tripped me up on today's puzzle was "What_______". The Edward Albee fan in me automatically put in A DUMP, which quickly proved wrong. (And before anyone says it, yes, I know the line is originally spoken by Bette Davis in BEYOND THE FOREST.)

MAC 11:09 PM  

Last letter I filled in was the "y" in hackysack (still have no idea what this is) and yay. What are Huckabees other that presidential candidates?
Good night

Linda G 11:38 PM  

I was just notified that the email I sent you this morning has been delayed...whatever that means.

Didn't want you to think I'd forgotten your birthday. My wishes are out there in cyberspace. Hope you had a good one.

badir 12:01 AM  

I'm glad you had a good birth anniversary, Rex!

Squash's Mom, I have been writing down all the clue--answer pairs for entries I didn't know, and I now have a very long list! But I look at them sometimes, and when I go to put in a word I already have, I know it must be important if I'm repeating it, and I make a special effort to learn it. I've been improving a lot over the past year and a half by just doing crosswords. When I started, I could basically just do a Wednesday, and now I've solved a Saturday and gotten close on a few others. I'm also often hitting 7's for Monday.

andrea carla michaels 1:29 AM  

shall I make snarky girl even more nervous by letting her know I live right near her in San Francisco? (Assuming the wine country she was talking about is not in some obscure region of Kentucky)
;)

Aaron 9:08 AM  

I liked this one lots, especially the fill. Happy birthday, also.

Anonymous 1:28 PM  

6wl...

Happy Bday Rex ! My how time flies when you're having fun. Thanks for the help.

- - Robert

Jet City Gambler 2:36 PM  

Six weeks later, belated birthday, Rex!

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