FRIDAY, Jan. 4, 2008 - Raymond C. Young

Friday, January 4, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

I have one criticism of this otherwise delightful puzzle. It's super crappy to have a baseball team that most Americans have never heard of intersect another word at a vowel where two different vowels result in technically acceptable spellings. I had LICEY (36D: Tigres del _____, Dominican team that has won the Caribbean World Series nine times) and SHYEST (48A: Having the most social anxiety) in those answers, but then could not Conceive of a Spanish word ending in "Y" for some reason. I know that's idiotic - "Y" is its own word in Spanish, after all. And yet LICEY looked ridiculous, which made me want to put in and "I" for LICEI, which also looks ridiculous, but somehow seemed more suitably Spanish (although now that I look at it, it's really more Italian/Latin-looking). I went with the "Y" only because ... well, it just seemed like the most acceptable spelling of SHYEST. And I was right. But ugh, I did not like having to make that decision.

The rest of the puzzle was a breeze. Some careless reader of mine commented on today's puzzle before I'd posted, and so ruined it for me (slightly) by claiming how easy it was. This user, thankfully, realized his/her mistake and deleted the comment, but the damage was done, to me anyway. At every point where I got slowed down, I would think "this is supposed to be Easy!" But in the end it was pretty easy, and I was done in under 10, which is just fine for a Friday.

Looking the puzzle over, I'm surprised by how easy it felt - there are a good number of answers I simply didn't know:

  • 22A: Candlemas dessert (crepe) - got it from crosses. Like that it intersects CREME (22D: _____ de fraise)
  • 29A: Forensic indicators of the presence of blood (hemins) - nope. Knowledge of root words helped me put in the HEM-, though, so that was good.
  • 2D: Horse of the Year that won the 1949 Preakness and Belmont (Capot) - ????? No way.
  • 4D: Soprano Albanese (Licia) - also, no way.
  • 13D: London locale of Prada, Dior, Gucci and Giorgia Armani (Sloane Street) - I'm sure this is super-famous, in its way, but it was entirely unknown to me. Figuring out the STREET part helped me change PERPETUATE to PERPETRATE (32A: Cause).
  • 24D: Olivia de Havilland film of 1949 ("The Heiress") - what's the obsession with 1949? Yeesh.
  • 35D: Claudia _____, 1984 Olympic gold medalist in shot put (Losch) - come on. You don't really expect more than four people on the planet to know this, do you?
  • 43D: _____-80 (classic computer) (TRS) - needed every cross. Not sure I've heard of it before.
  • 1A: Like the reading on a thermometer (scalar) - true enough, I guess, but not only would the word not come readily - I realized I didn't really know what it meant. Seems related to "scale," obviously, but meaning is more specific. From Wikipedia:
A scalar is a variable that only has magnitude, e.g. a speed of 40 km/h. Compare it with vector, a quantity comprising both magnitude and direction
  • 45A: Strength of a chemical solution (titer) - one of those words that I know without knowing why I know it (see also SCALAR). Thank god I knew it, because it intersected bloody TRS.

Then there were some pretty iffy-seeming words:

  • 10D: Ones without a chance in the world (no-hopers) - where the hell does this come from? All the top Google hits are dictionary hits (not a good sign for the street-worthiness of your "word").
  • 44A: Observatory doings (telescopy) - I have no doubt that this is a perfectly valid word. I also have no doubt that I've heard it exactly 0-4 times in my whole life.
  • 38D: Fall times: Abbr. (Septs.) - oh, you hate to see that. [Wince]
  • 6D: Plant on after a wildfire, say (reafforest) - the more I look at this, the more OK it seems, but while I was solving, I was like "WTF are they doing to the damned FOREST?!" Actually, earlier on, I had the -OREST and placed a "T" on top of the "O" and thought "hmmm, 'something TO REST' ... interesting."
  • 8D: Producing some clouds (vaporific) - this sounds like the rejected slogan of Vicks Vapor Rub: "It's VAPORIFIC!"

Good stuff:

  • 7A: Molly who wrote "Bushwhacked" (Ivins) - recently deceased. Sadly, I could not spell her name correctly, which really held up IN THE PINK (9D: Fit).
  • 19A: Service for moviegoers (Moviefone) - fresh and modern; nice, just like...
  • 34A: Modern marketing aid (email list)
  • 25A: "In a hurry, are we?" ("Where's the fire?") - love it; plus, it was easy to get, and goes nicely, somehow, with ...
  • 30A: Makes a fraidy-cat (out of) (scares the heck)
  • 25D: Pilferers from ships and port warehouses (wharf rats) - LOVE this answer. Perhaps my favorite of the day. Colorful and unexpected. A pleasant surprise when it revealed itself.
  • 26D: Alabaman who wrote the Best Novel of the Century, according to a 1999 Library Journal poll (Harper Lee) - took me an embarrassingly long time to piece the letters together. Parsing was difficult. So many generic letters.
  • 30D: "The first network for men" sloganeer, once (Spike TV) - like "denizen" and "slangily," "sloganeer" is one of those words you see almost nowhere but crossword clues.

Off to do the day's other puzzles. Tune in again today at 2pm EST for the announcement of the 2007 ACCA Awards for Crossword Puzzle Construction. See you then.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Today's other puzzles:

  • NYS 30 min. (C) - "Vwllss Crsswrd"
  • LAT 8:03 (C) - ["dine away from home"]
  • WSJ failure (C) - "International Food Fest" [idiotic mistake]
  • CS 5:04 (C) - "Standing Out" (quip)
  • Chronicle of Higher Education 8:09 (C) - RECOMMENDED: Larry Shearer, "Academic Transfers"

[drawing by Emily Cureton]

45 comments:

Karen 9:02 AM  

How about the EPIC TALES for Homer's relatives--I mean relations? I tried to put in the Simpsons, but not enought letters. Then I decided it was probably the greek word for relative.

I really liked the GA area, with EMAIL LIST and TELESCOPY; I tried EMBELLISH first, but found EMBROIDER pretty quickly.

Pinky 9:12 AM  

Gee I was feeling proud of myself cause I didn't think it was all that easy...in fact the first few passes left the board pretty empty.

The NW was the only one I googled, but after post-googling LIDIA (post-googling=looking up a guessed word, as opposed to pre-googling=looking up the word's clue) I found a few sites with that spelling so that threw me....ALong with SCALED instead of SCALAR

Still a satisfying puzzle

Evad 9:13 AM  

HARPER LEE's full name is Nelle Harper Lee (she figures prominently in the recent Truman Capote biopics)...no E. in the middle, nor any likely relation to the Lees of Virginia.

rick 9:19 AM  

I went for the I in SHIEST, it made LICEI seem more latin for some reason.

Rex, TRS-80 has been used more than once in puzzles. Its nickname might help you remember it. It was commonly called the TRaSh-80.

Breezed though most of the puzzle except the NW. Spent more time there than the entire rest of the puzzle. There seemed to be a lot of partials that could be filled in today which made things easier.

HEM to start 29A, TELE in 44A, FOREST in 6D, WH in 25A, etc.

I am suprised you did not comment on the multiple appearances of THE.

Alex 9:21 AM  

I got it from crosses but it wasn't until well after I was done with the puzzle that I realized EPICTALES parsed as EPIC TALES. Until then I had been reading it as a single four-letter Greek word: ee-pic-tuh-lees and just assumed that was the name of some other ancient storyteller I didn't know.

The other word on that horizontal line did the same thing, though I figured it out faster as I tried to figure out where the Upthe River is.

Initially had SCARES THE CRAP and was set to be pleasantly surprised but IN THE PINK set me straight.

foodie 9:58 AM  

Felt like two puzzles with two different levels of difficulty... Sailed through the bottom three-quarters in spite of Licey and Losch as neighbors. But Capot, Licia and Ivins got me, especially since they intersected with unusual crosses- reafforested and vaporific. Needed to Google them and voila!
A great Friday puzzle nevertheless. I agree with everything you liked about it, Rex, with special appreciation for "where's the fire" intersecting with "vaporific".

Jerry20020 10:16 AM  

Since only about 200 people solved the puzzle in Play Against The Clock, statistically this was not at all an easy puzzle. Rex: your time of 10 mins puts you in the top 20 solvers (including some obvious fakes). I flat out dismiss the idea that anybody could do this puzzle in 1/3 Byron Walden's time. No way in hell.
Lee's Mockingbird is no literary gem. I've heard comments that the movie brought the story to life and thus 'saved' the novel from oblivion.

PhillySolver 10:18 AM  

I had to resort to Google to get the NW. I sure didn't know LICIA and CAPOT.

The women who shopped in London's high fashion area were called Sloane Rangers when I worked there. I see someone else remembered the Trash 80 which required a tape player to download programs! So I was making progress until the SE. I Googled again for the world famous female shot putter and Olivia's movie because I wasn't going to the movies in 1949.

Would you want to be on a baseball team whose short name is LICE? Even if it is a mean Tiger Lice?

28D was nonsense to me and got TITER and VISES because the Roman Numeral I is the only one that fit.
I would say sure it was a hard Friday puzzle, but I thought it was only so-so because the good parts were hurt by the minutia in two corners.

Jerry20020 10:33 AM  

The Heiress was a film adaptation of Henry Jame's Washington Square.
His novels do not translate well into the film medium.
'Reforestation' is a common word but the verb form is strange and took me a long time to arrive at.

billnutt 10:33 AM  

"Wharf Rat" is a song by the Grateful Dead, for anyone who cares.

Ah, Molly Ivins. I miss your wit and your insights.

The NW of this puzzle killed me. I assumed "Relations of Homer" meand EPICPOEMS, assumed the soprano's name was LUCIA, and hen assumed that the thermometer was ANALOG. Assumed that "put in to start" meant PRIME.

When you assume...

I agree with you, Rex, about REAFFOREST.

On the whole, though, this was ONE FUN puzzle!

profphil 10:36 AM  

Rex,

Had a perfect puzzle except for the shiest mistake. Was unsure of spelling and had a sense that it may be y but chose I and Googled the Licei to discover it's Licey-- I say Lousy (not Licey) cluing.
Also made almost the same missteps.

why wasn't "emeer" clued as a variant? If I recall from other puzzles the standard spelling is "Emir." I guessed it pretty quickly but felt unsure as there was no variant indication. I did have a nice aha moment as once I learned emeer etymologically means commander I thought of the cognate in Hebrew: Ahmar- which means to say ergo to command.

Orange 10:50 AM  

Rex, if you were three years older, you'd remember the TRS-80. I was lucky—in junior high, I was part of a small group that got to leave math class to hang out with another math teacher and toy around with the TRS-80 for "enrichment." Such a fancy computational device! (Aside from the TRS thing, I am in near-total agreement with your other remarks.)

Jerry, there were some other obvious cheaters at the top yesterday—and they're gone now because those user names do get blacklisted. I don't think ggaveras is long for this world...

Hobbyist 11:01 AM  

Had to google Capot. Puzzle okay but WHY do these cheaters cheat? As in golf, they are playing against their own ability and track record, so what's the point I ask? A dishonest score or time or whatever is without meaning.

karmasartre 11:33 AM  

Challenging for me. Never heard of SPIKETV, though the TRS was a gimme. Different eras mean different errors. Nothing much to add here, the NW and LOSCH LICEY areas did me in. Oh, and HEMINS was tough to commit to.

@hobbyist -- re. cheaters / golf analogy...would one google be a Mulligan for some solvers?

jae 11:44 AM  

An odd puzzle, mixing the very easy with the very very obscure. My first entry was IVINS (an amazing lady) but I too was unsure of the spelling and left the second "I" blank to see what transpired. The long answers were practically gimmies while many of the short ones ... well Rex already said it. I guessed right on LICEY/SHYEST but got tripped up in NW. I did get REAFFOR... but wasn't happy with it and guessed LIDIA for the soprano. A post-solve google check fixed it and made sense out of EPICTALES. Too bad you can't rate this easy-challenging (NW only). This one was a bit too bi-polar to be truly enjoyable.

I'm old enough to have instantly thought TRaSh 80 when seeing 43d.

sonic 12:15 PM  

TRS-80! Wouldn't come to me either. I wanted an X in there so bad... I guess I was thinking of the ZX Spectrum. Also old, but maybe slightly younger?

I momentarily forgot the breakfast-table criterion which made me go for SCARES THE HELL and not remembering Molly IVINS' spelling (had IVONS) got ON THE PILL for "fit". With all the doping scandals in sport these days, I thought it wasn't all that far fetched. :-)

Vaporific helped me put things right in the end. Very enjoyable puzzle. Thanks Rex and Emily! Today's picture would also do nicely for Marc Anthony killing Cleopatra if eels were a bit more dangerous.

Leon 1:31 PM  

Harper Lee on embroidery:

Atticus had retreated behind his newspaper and Aunt Alexandra was worrying her embroidery. Punk, punk, punk, her needle broke the taut circle. She stopped, and pulled the cloth tighter: punk-punk-punk. She was furious.

BlueStater 1:48 PM  

Well, my hat's off to anyone who views this puzzle as other than very, very hard. OTOH maybe it's me: am I the only regular who thinks that the puzzles once again have been ratcheting up in difficulty and obscurity over the last, say, six weeks? I've been stuck at least once (and often all three times) on the three difficult days of the week, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and this past week was even stuck on Sunday. Time was when getting stuck was a rarity for me.

I wasn't helped on this one by the "once" curveball on 30D (on my cable system, anyway, that channel is still SPIKETV; it must be the slogan, not the name of the channel, that's "once"); by SLOANESTREET (technically right) instead of the much more common SLOANSQUARE where the Sloane Rangers gad about; by EMAILLIST, EMBROIDER, and TELESCOPY. All of these, of course, led to crucial error in the crosses (no pun intended -- e.g. PERPETUATE instead of PERPETRATE).

All in all, not a happy Friday.

paul in mn 2:03 PM  

This was verrry slow to come together and I eventually gave up on the NE as I figured I should probably do more with my day than solve the puzzle. I had SOPORIFIC instead of VAPORIFIC and that had everything clogged up at the top. I could hear Molly IVINS, but couldn't place her name. I wrote in NO-HOPERS but thought that there was no way that could be right. Had OOPS and OHNO for 20A and HEMICS for HEMINS. Just a comedy of errors.

Other than that, I loved WHERES THE FIRE, WHARF RATS, and MOVIEFONE. Wonderfully fun fill.

Doug 2:14 PM  

Thought my London knowledge gave me an edge when KNIGHTSBRIDGE fit the cross, and it screwed me from there!

Rex, no People Mag and USA Today times in there for you? "Zsa ___ Gabor" and "Curent President _____ Bush" not challenging enough?

DPNFlorida 2:36 PM  

NW brought me down. I kept thinking "reforest" and REAFFOREST still looks made up. I wondered if Homer's relations were going to be some variation of Epicureans, but there was no food pun in the clue. (I also jumped at SIMPSONS and was disappointed to see they were going the highbrow route). And my brain just locked on "facility" -- focusing entirely on the physical plant and not the concept of EASINESS. Although EASE is a much better synonym.

I will say that TELESCOPY (a great weird word) sounds like some arcane intergalactical medical procedure.

OISK 2:46 PM  

I finished all but a single square - like many, had trouble only with NW. I had put "movietone" instead of 'moviefone' That gave me reatforest, which I was pretty positive was wrong...but I have never heard of the word "reafforest."

I follow opera, so "Licia" was no problem...

Eric 3:07 PM  

I dunno what Candlemas is, but thankfully they don't serve TRIPE for dessert as I first thought.

I didn't like EASINESS. I put it down, but thought, "Isn't the real word for that simply EASE?"

rick 3:53 PM  

Warning: convoluted logic follows.

LICEY if clued as an infestation would not pass the Breakfast Table Test so somewhere it was reclued to that which appeared in the puzzle today.

The point: if you have a choice between two letters, as I or Y today, take the one that would create a word that would not pass the Breakfast Table Test if clued differently.

Doug 4:04 PM  

I'd rate this a medium puzzle, like many others my main problems were in the NW, had "scaled" instead of "scalar" which blew it for me. "reafforest" sounds wrong.
Never heard of the TRS-80. "Ivins" was the first one I got, I miss her columns. Only got "licey", "losch", "capot", and "licia" because of the crosses, pretty obscure stuff.

Greg 4:05 PM  

Not sure what everyone's beef is about Los Tigres del Licey... I mean, I have ALL of their baseball cards, with many autographed! (NOT) I actually got stymied a couple of times, once when I had 'scares the life' and couldn't think of 'heck,' and another where I had 'uh oh' instead of 'oh oh!'
Overall, though, I very much enjoyed it! Where is everyone getting themselves timed? I buy the paper and do it in manually - is everyone else here doing it on the NY Times website or something?

Hobbyist 4:11 PM  

Eric. Too funny. I see disgusting tripe in store all the time and wouldn't eat it at Candlemas or at any other time for a dessert, an entree. No mas.
I don't call mulligans cheating if announced but find sly manoeuvres such as moving one's ball, fanning and not counting it, omitting unobserved shots that may have gone only a few yards or feet deceitful. googling is ok if one owns up to having done it. Falsifying one's time or score is not.

Hobbyist 4:12 PM  

Eric. Too funny. I see disgusting tripe in store all the time and wouldn't eat it at Candlemas or at any other time for a dessert, an entree. No mas.
I don't call mulligans cheating if announced but find sly manoeuvres such as moving one's ball, fanning and not counting it, omitting unobserved shots that may have gone only a few yards or feet deceitful. googling is ok if one owns up to having done it. Falsifying one's time or score is not.

Tom 4:28 PM  

Well, if you don't remember the TRS-80, you sure won't remember the Exidy Sorcerer. Those were the days - programming in machine language....

mac 6:37 PM  

Enjoyed today's puzzle, and agree with most of the above. I also tried to put in Knightsbridge instead of Sloane Street, and I have to admit to "scares the hell"......

Doc John 8:32 PM  

REAFFOREST? What's up with that? Google definitions didn't even have it. (Yes, I know, that doesn't mean it's not a word.) The fact that it had 2 Fs in a row made me rethink that whole quadrant and second guessing myself on MOVIEFONE and even STEADFAST. Also tried to check CAPOT but Google didn't know that one, either. Even finally getting EPIC TALES didn't help me (although I did like the clue), not until I realized ANTED was past tense of ANTE (insert enormous "Duh!" here) and I just went with REAFFOREST and hoped I was right.

An iffy fill was OHOH. I mean, I got it form the crosses but does anyone really say that? I think most people would say "oh yeah" or "oops".

I also made the embellish/EMBROIDER mistake but at least in that section I got the Y right! "Shiest" just didn't look right when I wrote it down.
To quote David Byrne from "Once in a Lifetime": "And you may tell yourself, 'My god, what have I DONE?'"

LOVED Rex's comment on VAPORIFIC- something you might actually hear on the Simpsons (to relate this all to the Homer clue).

Doc John 8:32 PM  

REAFFOREST? What's up with that? Google definitions didn't even have it. (Yes, I know, that doesn't mean it's not a word.) The fact that it had 2 Fs in a row made me rethink that whole quadrant and second guessing myself on MOVIEFONE and even STEADFAST. Also tried to check CAPOT but Google didn't know that one, either. Even finally getting EPIC TALES didn't help me (although I did like the clue), not until I realized ANTED was past tense of ANTE (insert enormous "Duh!" here) and I just went with REAFFOREST and hoped I was right.

An iffy fill was OHOH. I mean, I got it form the crosses but does anyone really say that? I think most people would say "oh yeah" or "oops".

I also made the embellish/EMBROIDER mistake but at least in that section I got the Y right! "Shiest" just didn't look right when I wrote it down.
To quote David Byrne from "Once in a Lifetime": "And you may tell yourself, 'My god, what have I DONE?'"

LOVED Rex's comment on VAPORIFIC- something you might actually hear on the Simpsons (to relate this all to the Homer clue).

Michael 8:37 PM  

I thought this was a fairly easy Friday. I worked steadily, if not particularly quickly, on it and finished without problems. I might have done it quicker if I weren't worn out by all the caucus excitement here in Iowa. Nothing like standing in a crowded, extremely hot elementary school gym while confused people try to count large numbers of people moving around. Fascinating (if off-topic), nonetheless.

puzzlemensch 11:04 PM  

Dreadfulness:

1. REAFFOREST ... No such word!

2. Sloganeer = person who creates or uses a slogan, not the slogan itself.

Jim in NYC 12:46 AM  

I tripped over LICEY simply because my answer, LICEI, is the plural of LICEO (high school) in Italian, which to me made LICEI (and its cross SHIEST) about 2 or 3 percent more likely.

Except for that, great puzzle, amazing tour de force. Only two 3's and two 4's and the rest of the puzzle solid white space. Good job!

Jim in NYC 12:59 AM  

Greg, your local hardware store may be able to get you an obscure item called a *insert Dr.-Evil-air-quotes here* ... "timer."

I myself have discovered a different and I believe previously unknown instrumentality, known as a "wristwatch."

lislepammysue 1:00 PM  

Really wanted SHAFTS for 28 across--like in the really, really old chant "elevator, elevator, we got the shaft".

Anonymous 9:35 PM  

Sorry, this was another one where the writer seems to have completed the puzzle, then consulted google for a suitable clue.

Anonymous 4:48 PM  

Doing this in syndication so I doubt many folks will see it, but....

Ahh, the TRaSh 80! My father's third or so computer, but the first without that tiny little orange screen. I recall he had an account at Radio Shack and spent a poop-load of money on it. He also bought a whole bunch of circuitry there many years before the TRS came out and we built a transistor radio together from scratch!

So I got this answer right away...fond memories!

Anonymous 5:17 PM  

I suspect more folks than you know read this on syndication. I am pretty regular, but I generally lurk.

Anonymous 8:25 PM  

Yes, I too read these long after they were posted. It's like coming across the log of ghost ship adrift on the briny. Last entry, "Today we're going back to see those friendly natives who gave us the garlic soap."

Anonymous 10:40 PM  

from 6 weeks later:

At 11:33 AM, karmasartre said:
"...Different eras mean different errors..."

So true!!!

Hated the NW, but so be it...on to Saturday...

Waxy in Montreal 10:41 PM  

Also from the syndicate -

KERR & SCALAR were the only 2 gimmes for me in this somewhat challenging Friday puzzle. But, alas, SCALAR led me to infer ATEAM for "put in to start" and then HELLENICS for "Relations of Homer?". And, for some inexplicable reason, thought "Soprano Albanese" was MELBA.

Vatta mess vas dat nortvest!! The rest, though, seemed to embody easiness.

impjb 11:36 PM  

Done in early by bad mistakes. Thought I was being clever with SPINSTERS for "Relations of Homer" and INTOPFORM for "Fit". Both wrong - badly wrong.

Aviatrix 6:40 PM  

Six-weeks-plus-a-day club checking in ...

That was beautiful. The prettiness of the grid caught my attention immediately, and I enjoyed the clues and answers too. Lots of long words and no little isolated corners. There were only three American things I'd never heard of (MOVIEFONE, HARPERLEE and IVINS), but lots of good stuff like EMAILLIST and INTHEPINK.

Very good clue for SCALAR, both in terms of accuracy and misdirection. The thermometer is the perfect example. I loved 28D. Not much in the way of misdirection clues, but with things like "fit" it's still easy to misdirect myself.

I had SCARESWITLESS for a while and was pinching my nose at having an answer in a clue. Tried SCARESTODEATH and SCARESTHEHELL before I finally got it right.

I hadn't heard REAFFOREST or VAPORIFIC before, nor "up the river." It's always been creek, but they're believable.

Regarding LICIA, LOSCH and LICEY yes they were obscure, but now you know how I feel about every non-world-famous American team, author, musician and athlete that appears in puzzles.

I knew you were going to say it was easy in the end, but ten minutes! Holy cr*p are you fast. I'm not sure I could cheat that fast. :-)

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