MONDAY, Jan. 28, 2008 - Michael Blake (DRAGON BALL Z GAME COMPANY)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "The Chipmunks" (55A: Singing group suggested by the starts of 20-, 28- and 48-Across)

Did this movie come out yet ("Alvin and the Chipmunks," I mean)? I sure saw plenty of previews for it at the various children's movies I took my daughter to in 2007. It looked ... oh, what's the word ... terrible. "Unnecessary" may be the better word. In the preview I saw, one chipmunk tries to pass off the ... droppings ... of another chipmunk as a raisin by putting it in his mouth, pretending to eat it. I'll need confirmation on this, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this is likely the first time that coprophagia has been featured so prominently in mainstream children's comedy. I don't know why David Cross agreed to be in this movie, as he is very, very funny. I'm guessing $ had something to do with it.


Ah yes, puzzle. I rated this one "Medium," though in truth only two answers separate this puzzle from "Easiest Puzzle I've Ever Seen in the NYT" - those answers:

ALVIN TOFFLER and ED WHITE.

I've never heard of either of these people. I'm sure they are national treasures and household names and what not, but ALVIN TOFFLER only dimly rings a bell as a name I may have heard some time in my life, and ED WHITE is meaningless to me. ED WHITE sounds like a name any one of my neighbors might have. "I was talking to ED WHITE over in Human Resources" or "I got a good deal on this Buick from ED WHITE Automotive." Those are sentences I can imagine someone saying. I cannot imagine someone saying "Holy @#$#, ED WHITE is walking in @#$@ outer space!"

Theme answers:

  • 20A: "Future Shock" author (Alvin Toffler)
  • 28A: Late hunter of Nazi war criminals (Simon Wiesenthal)
  • 48A: "Sister Carrie" author (Theodore Dreiser) - and the English professor gives a sigh of relief in response to a 15-letter gimme.

My wife is getting Much better at puzzle-solving. She's now doing Mondays in well under 10 minutes, and (she remarked gleefully last night) she is finally finding out what it's like to a complete puzzles without ever seeing some of the clues. Unlike me, she knew who ALVIN TOFFLER was. Though like me, ED WHITE may as well have been ED ASNER as far as she was concerned.

Your Curious X-word Words of the Day:

  • 47A: _____ dye (chemical coloring) (azo) - it's weird to me that this has become a Monday-level answer. Weird only because it was Entirely unknown to me before I started doing crosswords. I still do a slight hesitation before filling it in, as ADZ and ARIL and ANIL all seem to want in on the act (and again, like half my vocabulary, apparently, those are all words I learned from crosswords).
  • 71A: Actress Falco and namesakes (Edies) - why "namesakes" and not the more common "others" - "namesakes" implies some kind of meaningful connection, as opposed to mere coincidence. EDIE will be in your puzzle forever. Luckily, she is a very good actress, so seeing her name every other day does not annoy me.
  • 54A: Directional suffix (-ern)
  • 67A: Superlative suffix (-est) - very disappointing that these two Common answer are both clued as suffixes. Go suffix with one, but let the other have some life. Let the ERN fly free. Let EST enjoy its Latinity, or its brief life as a 70's self-help movement.
  • 51D: Accustomed (inured) - OK, today's lesson: what the hell is the difference between INURE and ENURE: hmmm, the answer is fascinating. Here is the definition of ENURE from my highly authoritative big-ass dictionary: [enure - var of INURE]. This is easily one of the shortest entries in my nearly 2700-page dictionary. So now you know - There Is No Difference.

And the rest ...

  • 61A: Dragon Ball Z game company (Atari) - "Dragon Ball Z" is a Japanese anime series popular with young kids. Also a trading card game. And now, it seems, some kind of computer game from ATARI. This from gamespot.com:

Dragon Ball Z has been Atari's most prolific licensed property in recent years, bringing in $85 million in the company's fiscal 2005, according to its latest annual report.


  • 8D: Cadavers, slangily (stiffs) - morbid, but I love it. "Slangily!"
  • 26D: Kind of class for expectant mothers (Lamaze) - you know ... to balance out STIFFS. Life/death ... it's very Taoist, this puzzle.
  • 29D: "Put me down as a maybe" ("I might") - Who knew this phrase was fill-worthy? I like it.
  • 32D: Country rocker Steve (Earle) - I own his latest album, "Washington Square Serenade." Apparently some long-time fans were not very happy with it (over-produced? not enough "rocker"? Too ... happy?). I think it's lovely - which may not be an adjective a "rocker" wants associated with his work, but there it is.
Lastly, I want to share with you an exchange I had with fellow xword blogger "Orange" yesterday, because it exemplifies the kind of insane, back-and-forth word-geekery I have with her (and others) every day of my life. This is what solving 6-10 crosswords a day will do to your brain:

Subject: Sunday's Boston Globe puzzle

Me: What was Hook smoking? ELOGE and ELUTE???? Egads.

Orange: I like ELUTE. It takes me back to my dental editing days, reading about eluting and glass ionomers and composite resins. ELOGE, however, can bite me.

Me: I think these words (ELOGE and ELUTE) should be clued [Online theater seat] and [Online Attic instrument], respectively.

... etc.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

51 comments:

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

Ed White was on of the 2nd group of Astronauts (early '60's) after the "Mercury Seven". He was unfortunately killed in the fire on the launch pad during one of the later tests of the space capsule.

As my college days were a decade or two before yours, this was a "gimme" for me.

Another example of your "one's gimme" is another's "WTF" is I read Toffler when it came out but Dreiser was unknown to me.

Enjoy your comments, in fact one of the added joys of doing the puzzles is predicting which clues/answers you're not going to like. Somedays score better on the latter than the puzzle itself.

PhillySolver 9:31 AM  

"Future Shock" was a BIG deal in 1970 when it came out. Everyone read it and we thought we were the smartest and most adaptive generation in the history of the world. What we failed to gleam from the theme was that information is exploding and each generation will know more than the next. Implied in that was that Tyler Hinman was bound to happen. Very easy and zipped through it but at double the speed of the gen x guys.

Orange 9:44 AM  

Thanks for the Ed White lesson, anon. I didn't recognize the name.

Rex! I linked to that very same coprophagia wiki last week! (It was relevant for the Onion crossword.) The Chipmunks movie came out in December, and the first time we'd seen a preview for it, I informed Ben that I would not be taking him to see it.

Whitey's Mom 9:48 AM  

Didn't actually time the puzzle but if it took more than 5 minutes I'll be surprised. That's a record for me. Probably because I knew who Alvin Toffler is/was?

Jim in Chicago 9:55 AM  

Interesting about the timings and the difficulty.

For a Monday, I'd actually rate this one hard (remember, its relative).

My monday scale is:

Easy = start in the NW and don't stop until the SE.

Medium = do all the acrosses you can and then do the downs, repeat, fill in 2 or 3 empty squares and you're done.

Hard = as above but you wind up with a couple spots you actually need to think about. This was me today.

I also failed the "bus test" today. On Monday and Tuesday I really should be finished when I get off the bus (trip = 12 minutes), but today I needed to ponder over those last couple squares at my desk.

Pinky 9:58 AM  

It was a pleasure to see ED WHITE today.

Yesterday was the 41st anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire on the launch pad that killed Ed, Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee.

Oddly enough, the anniversaries of the Challenger (today) and Columbia disasters (Friday) all are this week as well.

Ed White loved his spacewalk so much, he didn't want to come back into the capsule. Although he made it look like a cakewalk, the astronauts following him found it almost impossible and nearly met with disaster.

PhillySolver 9:58 AM  

The world works in strange ways. I just finished the NYS xword, whose theme is a novel by William Burroughs (name not given so you can enjoy the puzzle), but I recall there is an example of coprophagia in that book.

Bob Blake 10:11 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle immensely but then, Michael Blake is my younger brother and I'm quite proud of his NYT debut. Look for his work again next week when he has his first NY Sun effort published.

I really enjoyed Rex's commentary. I'm glad he was unaware of Messrs White and Toffler lest this would have been his easiest puzzle ever. And those were the gimmies to those of us of a certain age.

emily cureton 10:13 AM  

i believe there was a chipmunks movie from the 80's as well.... uhuh- the great chipmunk adventure of '87. creepily enough, i remember trying to emulate britney, the alpha chippette...to wit- when one likes a boy, just pull his baseball cap over his eyes and run away.

BT 10:22 AM  

congrats bb's brother.

It wasn't the easiest Monday ever for me. I don't have "azo" in my brain (red dye, red dye) and having the cross of "Lemans" didn't help.

But seeing a bunch of pregnant women racing cards would be interesting.

Johnson 10:29 AM  

Excellent debut...I completed but certainly not in my fastest Monday time. I too had to search around about til I got my footing.

Wanted ALVIN TOSTIG (the father of Levon in an Elton John Lyric)

Keep up the good work!

Orange 10:58 AM  

* wondering which bus route Jim in Chicago takes *

joaneee 10:59 AM  

I'd go along with medium for Monday - had a hangup with Steve Earle (never heard of him). (Had to get it from crosses - I plan to give a listen to the album, tho.)All the rest was duck soup. Loved the RP-Orange dialogue segment!

rick 11:12 AM  

Knew all the names and with the movie blurbs The (annoying) Chipmunks came easily.

Had a normal Monday time.

We've seen a lot of debuts in the last few months it seems.

Congratulations to Bob's brother.

karmasartre 11:53 AM  

Rex -- enjoyed your description of your reference book, and I think the acronym HABAD* should appear as an answer some day.

ALVINTOFFLER was age appropriate for me but I screwed it up anyway thinking (at first) there was one F in the last name. And, I had to get very Cross with AZO to solve it.

Good to see a trio involving a Simon that did not also include a Paula and a Randy.

* (Highly Authoritative Big-Ass Dictionary)

Anonymous 12:16 PM  

"I Have Never Forgotten You" is a great video memoir of Simon Wiesenthal. Thankfully I knew Earle from Springsteen covering "State Trooper" or I would have mashed the i-e in Wiesenthal.

On one of his stand-up comedy records, Robin Williams spoonerized Lamaze to Le Mans and did play-by-play for a birth in the manner of Jackie Stewart, the Scottish auto racing announcer.

Sadly, unless they are supervised my dogs practice coprophagia (GROSS!), especially our Vizsla, who compounds the insult because she loves to (try to) give big on-mouth smooches.

Mile High Muddy

Rikki 12:27 PM  

Eloge and elute = big laugh

For me, Toffler was a gimme as was Dreiser, azo has just been added to my list of things I learned from puzzles, Weisenthal had to come from crosses, but I knew where the puzzle was going from Alvin and Simon. Thought it was zesty and fun for a Monday. Kudos to Michael Blake on his debut.

Slightly off subject, but not so much considering that coprophagia was mentioned, someone brought up Life of Pi on this site, piquing my interest. I'm in the middle of listening to it and it is fabulous. I highly recommend.

I will not be adding raisins to my cereal today.

Dick Swart 12:54 PM  

I try to do the puzzles top-to-bottom, left-to right, so on an easy Monday all I was thinking was what the heck do Dreiser, Weisenthal and Tofler have in common. When I got to the bottom it was a real delight to find THE CHIPMUNKS! Notice I have used fondly remembered Owen Meaney emphasis from yesterday's puzzle which passed on a nice tie-in opportunity - 'Virginia's own?'.

Austin 1:12 PM  

Not only is the Chipmunks movie out, but it will likely break $200 million sometime this week. What is this world coming to?

jls 1:37 PM  

mile high -- "Robin Williams spoonerized Lamaze to Le Mans"...

actually, in this case, i think the technical term is "emily litellafied."

;-)

janie

Doug 2:07 PM  

Here's a name that I can see some sadistic constructor smiling fiendishly about already, "Saoirse Ronan", she is the 13 year old best supporting actress nominee from "Atonement". I predict that vowel run in her first name will give plenty of us fits when we first encounter it. Remember, you've been warned!

doc John 2:24 PM  

Again, thank God for Rex and his blog! After finishing, I was wondering who THEODORE D. REISER was. Had to guess on the I in that one, too- INURE or ENURE? Reeser didn't look right so I guessed right- kind of a hard thing for a Monday. Fortunately, I'd heard of the other two big names, at least.

As for ED WHITE, I didn't remember his name but when I got all the crosses I thought, "Oh yeah."

Liz Ellis 3:08 PM  

I agree; Alvin and the Chipmunks did look terrible...of course my question was why on EARTH did Jason Lee agree to it?! Desperate times my friend, despirate times.
And one sidenote: I happen to like "She's Like the Wind" even though the movie it comes from is hideous.

Anonymous 3:16 PM  

Considering I got most of last Friday's puzzle, I have to say this one seemed exceedingly difficult for a Monday. I had trouble with FEN, LEE Iacocca, SIMON, AZO, TLC, and all the extended names: the theme answers, ED WHITE, and Clarence THOMAS, who I severely wanted to be Clarence Darrow, also a lawyer. I can't stand the really obscure stuff, but I guess I'm getting better at the word play.

voiceofsocietyman 4:24 PM  

Hunh. You 'real' xword ppl found this one medium, but I, a Scrabble afishinacodo, had no trouble with it. I loved seeing AZO and didn't find the fill overly 'pop' (sorry Rex). I didn't know two of the themefolk, but they were easily guessed, esp after I got the theme so fast -- don't forget that Monday is always Product Placement Day.

Great puzzle. I really enjoyed it.

jae 4:51 PM  

Really liked this one. Anyone who decides to tie TOFFLER, WIESENTHAL, and DRIESER to THECHIPMUNKS gets kudos from me. Sorry to hear the movie is bad, I like Jason Lee but I guess I won't be renting this for the grandkids.

This was relatively easy for me as I knew all three long answers and had the same "Oh yeah" experience as doc john for EDWHITE. AZO, however, was new to me and took the crosses to get.

Anonymous 5:04 PM  

Since inure and enure are completely interchangeable definition-wise, it doesn't seem very cool to put the ambiguous letter in the middle of an obscure proper noun. Granted, "Dreeser" doesn't look as plausible as "Dreiser."

I notice that Toffler, Dreiser, and Wiesenthal are all Jewish. I wonder if the Chimpmunks are.

Liz Ellis 5:14 PM  

It helps, when one is a writer, to be able to spell the word desperate the same way in one sentence.
And I wouldn't be surprised if the Chipmunks were Jewish.

Anonymous 5:14 PM  

Anonymous 5:04--Chipmonks are not Jewish--there are no monks in Judaism.

billnutt 6:12 PM  

Am I the only one who felt this puzzle was incomplete with out a "Dave" or "Seville" in there?

Steve Earle! One of my faves! I was pleased to hear his song "Someday" prominently featured in the movie version of BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA. (I think WASHINGTON SQUARE SERENADE is terrific, too, Rex.)

I can't hear Dreiser's name without thinking of some of Woody Allen's prose pieces. "The dentist ran out of ether, so he had to anesthetize the patient by reading him some Dreiser."

Yes, I remember Robin Williams' LaMans method routine. "That's where the father has two checkered flags and goes, 'VROOM! You're outta there!'"

Orange 6:16 PM  

And Theodore Dreiser was a German-American raised strictly Catholic. Dreiser's name is hardly an obscure proper noun—his Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy are fairly canonical. I might've even had one assigned in high school.

Howard B 6:46 PM  

Mr. TOFFLER was a new one here. Surprised I haven't run across that book at some point. Making a mental note to check it out.

Kathy 6:52 PM  

I'm with Orange on Dreiser--An American Tragedy could be a contemporary novel...just wonderful, and I read Sister Carrie in college and really enjoyed it.

Regarding coprophagia, I had a golden retriever (may he rest in peace) who used to engage is said practice from the cat box. We laughed about "crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside." C'mon, the breakfast test time is long gone!

Kathy

mac 6:59 PM  

The puzzle wasn't hard for me, but I had to move around a bit more than most Mondays. I'm embarrassed to say I thought there were only two chipmunks (am I thinking of some strippers?).

doc John 7:22 PM  

@ Mac- You may have been thinking of Chip 'n' Dale, the Disney chipmunks or possibly the two very polite Warner Brothers chipmunks ("No, no, I insist.") Who I just found out via Wikipedia are actually gophers.

john f 7:28 PM  

That's a funny Woodly Allen joke above. If you'd rather not read the novels, I'd recommend a couple of old movies.

Dreiser's "Sister Carrie" became "Carrie," a 1952 film starring Laurence Olivier and Jennifer Jones (not to be confused with the Stephen King book or film adaptation). Even better, "A Place in the Sun," an adaptation of "An American Tragedy," came out a year earlier. Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift were never better.

john f 7:29 PM  

That was Woody Allen...but you knew that.

mac 7:35 PM  

Thank you doc john, that was exactly what I was thinkng of. Where did these guys originate?

Cea 7:44 PM  

Medium tough, I'd say. I was only one subway stop away from home when I finished. Didn't help that I'd never heard of Toffler, Dreiser or The Chipmunks, and got azo from the downs.

But I think things have been really odd recently. I got stuck last Wednesday, breezed through Thursday and managed Friday pretty well.

Leon 7:45 PM  

Dreiser's "An American Tragedy" was mentioned in the Times Arts Section today.

Anonymous 7:47 PM  

Thanks pinky for reminding us about Ed White and the tragic launch pad fire 41 years ago.

Barry S 8:08 PM  

This puzzle was a snap for me. As usual, I started the puzzle by looking at the themed words first. Toffler and Wiesenthal were gimmes. After that, the theme was obvious and I had filled in the following before even getting to any of the crosses:

ALVINTOFFLER
SIMONWEISENTHAL
THEODORE.......
THECHIPMUNKS

That kind of start is pretty rare for me.

Great theme and nice debut for Michael Blake.

Fergus 8:29 PM  

I liked this spread, but it brought up a question about which was a more tedious experience: transcribing an interview with Alvin Toffler and his insufferable wife for NeXTworld magazine (remember Steve Jobs' post-Apple computer?) and slogging all the way through "An American Tragedy"? Maybe if I hadn't read "Crime and Punishment" not that long before, AAT might have been more of a riveting book -- but for me it was a painful ripoff and shabby comparison for the psychodrama of guilt and prosecution. Harrumph.

Why is the TE HEE girlish? What distinguishes a TEE HEE from other laugh sounds is the little wink that goes with the joke. Or at least that's what I've concluded is its distinction from HA HA, HEE HEE, HO HO, etc. Not sure whether this question has any authoritative answer, though.

van 9:48 PM  

Useless trivia: The Warner Brothers gophers, though unnamed in early episodes, eventually became Mac 'n' Tosh. Why they do not now work for Steve Jobs is anyone's guess.

PhillySolver 10:06 PM  

Well, as it turns out the Macintosh is now a less attractive piece of furniture than a nice Chippendale. That may be acorn(y) sentence but my wife said gopher it.

With apologies to Rex.

Anonymous 12:29 AM  

Just got to check back in.

janie: "actually, in this case, i think the technical term is 'emily litellafied.'"

It did hit me after I posted that spoonerism wasn't correct. I'll go with litellafied. Or as Emily said, "What's all this fuss about natural race horses?. . . Nevermind!"

Mile High Muddy

andrea carla michaels 3:05 AM  

my god, i love the idea that this puzzle spawns a discussion as to whether the Chipmunks were Jewish, Woody Allen dentist jokes and whatever that fancy word about bad eating habits is!
And karmastura has a great idea about the other Simon trio with Paula and Randy!!!!
Hmmmmm, both American Idol and Randy Jackson have 12 letters! Paula Abdul has 10...if only Simon Cowell spelled his name with one l...or three!!!!! Or she was Paula Abdull...ok, I'll work on it!

literarychica 9:36 PM  

the english nerd in me loved the "sister carrie" clue...especially because not even half an hour before i had plucked that book out of my bookcase.

Anonymous 12:24 AM  

Looked through the comments on Tuesday for this puzzle and didn't see anyone else notice this strange event. A close relative mentioned to me earlier today about a blurb in the Times about Hamilton College where my son currently matriculates. The Times mentioned that the college has published "The Prison Diary and Letters of Chester Gillette". The same Chester Gillette who murdered his pregnant lover in 1906 and, here's the strange part, whose trial inspired the 'THEODORE DREISER' novel "An American Tragedy". I'm sure Times articles have wound up sharing common, present day famous people within articles and the puzzle on the same day but this one was a little too spooky, don't you think.

Six Weeks Later Cathy 1:28 PM  

Eight Crazy Days (Adam Sandler's Hannukah movie) featured a pair of deer feasting after an outhouse fell over, then smiling for the camera. Stuck in my brain forever and still creeps me out. I'll not be seeing the Chipmunk's movie.

I liked this puzzle, took a little long for a Monday, but I was able to get everything either with crosses or good guessing.

Six Weeks Later Cathy 1:29 PM  

Sorry - Eight Crazy Nights (not Days) in case you really wanted to watch it but couldn't figure it out with my error.

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