SUNDAY, Jan. 13, 2008 - Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Baby Talk" - theme answers are familiar phrases that have their "L"s turned into "W"s, creating wacky phrases, which are then clued

I was groaning audibly (and not in a good way) from the second I got WEST WE FORGET. My only hope - maybe the the rest of the theme answers will feature different forms of "Baby Talk," like a lisp or something ... but no. "W"s for "L"s, all puzzle long. Let me suggest that the kid who says "W" for "L" is also likely to do something similar with "R" - and thus WED ASTRAY, said by an actual baby-talking kid, would pwobabwy sound more like WED ASTWAY. Or maybe that's Tweety Bird I'm thinking of. Whatever. This theme was not especially to my liking.

I had an error - though I assure you this is Not the reason I was unhappy with this puzzle. I was unhappy from the get go, well before I ever made my error. Actually, there were two squares at the end of the puzzle where I had to guess. One was the ARIANA (116A: National airline of Afghanistan) / CERIUM (100D: Metal that may ignite if scratched) intersection - though, to be honest, I was 95% sure about that guess. CERIUM certainly sounded more like a metal than any other form of that word I might put in there, and ARIANA ... I'm pretty sure I've had it in my puzzle in the past year. So I guessed "I" there and was correct. I was not so lucky at the crossing of FREEH (82A: F.B.I. director appointed by Clinton) and PHIZ (79D: Illustrator for Charles Dickens). I had heard FREEH's name a million times, and was sure that it was FREED. Louis FREED. Of course this turned the illustrator's name into more of a rapper's name (P-DIZ), but let's be honest: it was rapper's name to begin with. This intersection of two very oddly spelled proper nouns at an impossible-to-intuit "H" is a sign of weak / desperate construction, and yet - I have no one to blame but myself here, not so much for missing FREEH (god that looks wrong) but for missing PHIZ, which I am 99% sure I've seen in my puzzle before.

Theme answers:

  • 28A: The old frontier you and I don't remember? (west we forget)
  • 45A: Climate that's copy-protected by law? (patent weather) - patentED weather?
  • 65A: Merlin on an Imax screen? (giant wizard)
  • 89A: Eyelid moistener at a museum? (Art Winkwetter) - this one hurt most of all
  • 107A: Rouse a beloved English queen? (wake Victoria)
  • 3D: Better half takes the stage? (wife goes on)
  • 6D: Married in error? (wed astray)
  • 16D: Tush made of shuttle thread? (weft behind)
  • 69D: Stick one's foot in Chardonnay? (toe the wine) - that's almost good
  • 75D: Development of amnesia? (memory wane)
  • 81D: Fabric that needs serious mending? (sick weave)
I got up late this morning, so I'm going to have to blow through the rest of the puzzle if I don't want blogging to eat significantly into the fat, lazy part of my day. There were many highs and lows - let's check them out.

  • 23A: Like some titmice (tufted) - I really really like this clue; my first reaction was "???" Then I got it, and it's perfect.
  • 27A: Mark who won the Masters and British Open in 1998 (O'Meara) - a gimme for me, but my wife knows squat about golf, so she's currently downstairs trying to slay the NW corner. I have to say, that "O" was crucial for my getting NATO (1D: Group with a secy. gen.), which I blanked on many times.
  • 35A: _____ d'amore (oboe) - my wife's comment, mid-solve: "[laughter] ... well, clearly I have something wrong here." She explained her "error" to me, and I told her it wasn't an error at all. Nice that this intersects with NATALE (4D: Christmas on Capri).
  • 60A: Like some grasses (awned) - this one made me wince more than any other. It just ... hurts. Made me long for the days when we'll see PWNED in the puzzle - when gamers take over the universe. PWNED already seems like more a word than AWNED.
  • 72A: Like Java man (erect) - I stared at this clue for So long wondering how to say it. Was it hep cat speech?: "Like Java, man. Cool. Crazy." Was "Java man" some animated spokesman for the coffee industry? No, apparently it's an anthropological term for early man. OK.
  • 87D: Bond poster (bailsman) - this hurt too, though not as bad as AWNED. Seriously, AWNED is gnawing at me this morning way worse than the whole FREEH/PHIZ phiasco. (I'm now going to put Lupe Fiasco on my iTunes just to set a mood)
  • 98A: Cuddly sci-fi critter (Ewok) - I hear he's a character in "Dilbert"...
  • 100A: Algonquian tongue (Cree) - wanted OTOE, as I always do. I have an itchy OTOE trigger finger.
  • 105A: Mover left or right (arrow key) - good, clever. Had the ARR- and was still blinking at this one for a while.
  • 110A: Nocturnal insect (earwig) - gross
  • 113A: Buggy drivers (Amish) - we have buggy road signs around this area (nearer to Ithaca), but I've never seen one.
  • 118A: Singer Des'_____ (Ree) - Ha ha. Insane. But I knew it, and it's bold, so I like it.
  • 35D: Florida county seat (Ocala) - your all-purpose Florida city. Learn it, know it, love it.
  • 48D: _____ Epstein, Red Sox G.M. starting in 2002 (Theo) - sweet. See also 67A: Fall mos. (Octs.).
  • 56D: Word before and after "a" (mano) - clever. Not sure why I thought that "A" had an accent grave over it. It's a Spanish term, not a French one.
  • 58D: Prell competitor (Pert) - I'm sorry, the answer I was looking for was "Head & Shoulders." Better luck next time.
  • 63D: Former Israeli president Weizman (Ezer) - did not know, but the crosses worked, so I let it stand.
  • 67D: Viscera (offal) - got it Right Off The Bat. Love the clue and the answer. Both horribly beautiful words.
  • 88D: Suffix with buck (a-roo) - wanted -EROO. Not sure what the rule is with the A/E in this particular suffix. BUCK-A-ROO, SMACKEROO...
  • 90D: Bird whose name sounds like its soft call (nene) - love it. Way to dress up crosswordese in something pretty.
  • 104D: Dr. J was one (Sixer) - he sure was. The face (and 'fro) of 70s basketball.
  • 106D: Part of DKNY (Karan) - notice that DONNA and KARAN are both five letters.
  • 109D: "The Simpsons" bus driver (Otto) - he loves to get blotto.

Breakfast time.

Take care.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Today's other puzzles:

  • You must do Henry Hook's "Cross Words" puzzle (Boston Globe) and Merl Reagle's "Spaced Out People" puzzle (Philadelphia Inquirer). Go to Ephraim's "Puzzle Pointers" page (always in my sidebar) and get them. Super clever, super fun. I laughed out loud while solving HH's puzzle at least three times, and smiled the most of the rest of the way. I recommend highly bouncy music as an accompaniment to both puzzles. Worked for me. I was using Lupe Fiasco and K-OS, but you can substitute according to your own taste.


[drawings by Emily Cureton]

53 comments:

Doris 8:30 AM  

I, too, thought immediately of Tweety Bird, who had a lot of problems with consonants, e.g., "I tawt I taw a puddy tat." Great minds, etc. Pretty easy, except that I was flummoxed by "Amish" for "buggy drivers" until the very end. Should have been obvious, but wasn't. Probably because I'm a Manhattanite, coming into contact with the threatened Central Park carriage drivers and those **#%% pedicabs and couldn't think of our rural brethren.

paul in mn 9:05 AM  

I missed the CERIUM/ARIANA crossing, but in retrospect only an I makes much sense there for the metal (especially if it's an element).

I stumbled out of the gate with the fill, getting "NOW NOW" (with a few crossings) and assuming that the BABY TALK entries would all be with repeated words. That slowed me down. Once I got the theme I found several of the entries to be quite forced. (ARK WINK WETTER - Double groan.) The one theme fill that I enjoyed was WAKE VICTORIA, but it would have been more fun to see it clued like "Lift a Guinness to an English Queen."

I did know the spelling of FREEH, but that did not make me any more comfortable with PHIZ which was completely unknown. But I guess PHIZ makes about as much sense as BOZ.

Pinky 9:13 AM  

OK I totally missed ART WINKWETTER and had ARTWORK WETTER, which actually makes no sense, because the eyelid part isn't there.


But then the crosses PHIZ and NENE don't sound any more familiar than PHOZ and RENE, so I didn't catch the error until I checked in here.

rick 9:22 AM  

There has got to be a comedy routine or something about the tufted titmouse because I got it with almost no crosses.

I have this vague recollection of Hans Conried doing "An Ode to the Titmouse"

Rex, the character is not EWOK, it's AMOK. He broke out of the last panel and is now playing the part of Cully Vale in Milford.

ArtLvr 9:47 AM  

Same hang-ups as Rex, with SE a bit worse even though I had "earwig" and "karan" and "gash". I wanted "we cede" for 81A (pull out formally) and that led me to try some baby-talk form of rick-racks for 81D (fabric that needs serious mending), some kind of "snarls" at 124A -- thus worse and worse at the start. Not helped by wanting 75D (development of amnesia) to be a form of "memory loss", though "wane" fits the progression idea of development much better!

Same "ugh" before even beginning too! I didn't want to deal with Baby Talk, so of course 73A "go mad" was the first thing I filled in! After all was done, my favorite cross was Art Wink Wetter/Toe the Wine and the image of Weft Behind. (tush again!)

Minor quibble: the cluing for 56A (word before and after "a") is too vague: I could see it was "mano", but lost time as thoughts wandered to other phrases possible, like "poco a poco"... Overall opinion: "now now"! (No more kid stuff!)

russalka 9:49 AM  

I also had Artworkwetter instead of
Artwink, didn't know the name of illustrator for Dickens. Who are
Alsorans? I am not American, English is not my mother tongue and I live in Europe, love doing NY Times
Sunday crosswords, which I get on
Saturday at International Herald Tribune. So I patiently wait till Sunday to get on Rex Parker's blog and check the results.

ArtLvr 9:59 AM  

p.s. On Thanksgiving, making my way to a friend's place near Cooperstown, I passed three one-horse buggies with lanterns lit, though how the faint light would help in the snowfall wasn't clear. At least Rte. 20 has a wide-enough bicycle lane to accommodate the Amish vehicles safely single file. The spritely horses were loving it!

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

russalka... the Alsorans are a tribe of politikos currently residing in our smallest state, Ignominy (not shown on any maps.)

tongue-in-cheek.

Also Ran = lost (ran but didn't win) in an election.

Jerome 10:37 AM  

artlvr

I think maybe the lanterns are there to alert other driver's of the buggy's presence, not to illuminate the way.

dk 10:51 AM  

Why would Art WinkWetter be in a museum?

And, at this point in time I do not think you can Patent Weather.

Groaners for me, but FANTA (soft drink we love to hate) more than made up for it.

I also like the NO W NO W for number 1. A self correcting puzzle clue.

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

I got messed up with "center of success," since I put cce (3 center letters) instead of cee. Also had artworkwetter.
--Steve

artlvr 11:04 AM  

@Rex - Thinking of horses and illuninating the way, here's a delightful book for your daughter: "Panda: A Guide Horse for Ann" by Rosanna Hansen. True story with pictures of the amazing miniature horse (black and white, of course, hence the name) who lives with a blind lady near here and has replaced her long-cherished Seeing Eye dog!

Anonymous 11:44 AM  

The baby talk theme madew my teeth itch. I soldiered on and finished the puzzle in short order, probably to get it over with. I'm a retired chemist and have a granddaughter named Arianna (two "n"s) so CERIUM/ARIANA was no problem.

The diagramless, by contrast, was probably the best and cleverest I've ever seen - challenging, but well worth the time spent on solving it.

jae 11:44 AM  

I circled the I in ARIANA figuring this was a potential error but like Rex guessed right. The only place I got hung up was in the PHIZ/FREEH area but finally remember FREEH (it takes a while for things to surface when you are older). My first shot at 89a was ARTWANDWETTER thinking it was a baby talk version of ARTS AND LETTERS. Nice to see NENE and OBOE clued in novel ways.

Anonymous 12:23 PM  

Can't tell you how much I wanted 9D to be "What a DUMP!". "What a MESS" doesn't quite have that same campy flair..
:)

Anonymous 12:32 PM  

cerium held me in stasis for a long time. I put cesium, the stuff they use in atomic clocks, which made me want to fill in gasbug across and memorybane down. Not knowing a damn thing about football, I was perfectly happy to go with unts (punt without the p?)

and just what the hell is an alsoran? nader/perot

billnutt 12:37 PM  

As someone whose wife once played Martha in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, I also wanted ADUMP instead of AMESS.

Dont' know why it took me so long to get THRU (for "Traffic").

Anymore, when I do a puzzle, I end up thinking WWRS (What will Rex say). Had a premonition that he wouldn't be crazy about this theme.

Still, it's a puzzle with Jimmy Olsen in it. Who am I to complain?

joaneee 1:07 PM  

Down where the Amish hang out, I had ASS for 113-D (Back), which led to SANTA for Coca-Cola trademark (well, isn't Santa in some of their ads?) and then SWEET for Seventh-grader, often (can't be right)...

profphil 1:16 PM  

Rex,

Once again your error was my error. I too finished the puzzle with the last letter of Freeh but put in Freed instead. I did not think it was correct because of PDiz so Googled and got the correct answer. Was annoyed as it was all correct before Googling but for that letter. Also felt iffy with Ariana and Cerium but they at least felt right and was not suprised to confirm by Googling. My new rule is if I finish the puzzle before Googling with the same errors as Rex, I consider that a perfect puzzle.

For ear- wig I first filled in the last 3 letters as bug once I got the G. Took me a while to correct it but did from the downs.

What does OCS stand for?

russalka 1:22 PM  

Thank you, Anonymous, for deciphering Alsorans. Politicospeak
is not my forte. Neither is blogging. It's the first time that I've succesfully sent a comment, then came to a deadend, when had
another try!

jae 1:28 PM  

@profphil -- OCS = Officer Candidate School

Karen's Mom 1:34 PM  

For some reason I was "sure" that the FBI director was Freer thus violating the important rule that you should never get too attached to an answer.

The same thing happened a few days ago when I held onto "under the RADAR" instead of "under the KNIFE" far too long.

I fear that Karen is going to smoke me in this year's ACPT !

profphil 1:34 PM  

jae

Thanks.

Profphil

PhillySolver 2:05 PM  

What was Wex thinking?

Why not Fwower and Wooney and Offaw and Wah?

Oh, well, C U waiter!

PhillySolver 2:19 PM  

It was Sunday, July 22, 2007 we last saw Ariana.

This is the first occurrence of Phiz and the other Dickens trivia BOZ was in hiatus for three years. It was nine years ago we needed Cerium, so it seems like the construction ran into a problem in one area...or maybe we should be thankful for the addition to our storehouse of almost useless knowledge.

Ralbert 3:01 PM  

I made alot of mistakes as previous posters including our illustrious Rex. Freed, Artworkwetter which I knew didn't
make sense.
Immed got buggy drivers & a few others; sometimes all the little
cells are hitting right on.
More or less of a wousy time.

Alan 3:01 PM  

Loved this puzzle.It had me grinning ear to ear.O nly snag was freed for freeh and I had to google phiz fot Dickens illustrator.

dbg 3:06 PM  

This why I love this blog. I get such a kick out of so many people making the same mistakes and getting mired down in the same places.

I also guessed right with the i in cerium and ariana, but guessed wrong with the spelling of Freeh's name and went with Freer even though I knew it didn't look right.
My only surprise was that the crossing of Freeh and Phiz didn't whip up more of a controversy. Maybe everyone is a little gunshy after Friday.

leon 3:19 PM  

BMI for EMI and moistens for glistens made me phizzle for a time.

Alley oops oops - oops-oops.

The strip is no longer in NYC papers. I'll have to read it on the net.

Orange 3:50 PM  

DBG, I don't see why Louis FREEH should kick up a firestorm of controversy here. A search for his name at the NYT site summons up 893 articles, and Will Shortz has always said that what's in the paper is fair game for the crossword. PHIZ is nutty, yes, but I suspect Will expects NYT solvers to be able to pull FREEH's name out of the dusty recesses of our minds.

ASOK gets only six hits in the NYT archives, none of them for Dilbert references. (His fame is outside the Times.)

Rex Parker 4:17 PM  

I too think there's no need for controversy over the FREEH / PHIZ intersection, though I disagree with Orange completely about the question of whether people know FREEH or not. Like many many many people, I'm guessing, his name came to me reasonably quickly - the spelling (which is from outer space) did not. It's a bit condescending to point to how often his name's appeared in articles and then suggest that for that reason people should know how his name is spelled, especially since he's not been in the news for a while. I do think he's fair game, but not nearly so many people would be having a screw-up here if his name were spelled like it seems to sound in conversations (FREED). And I think having the weirdest part of his name (the "H") intersect with a far far weirder name is a design flaw. Minor, but there. Again, I don't think this is a Huge issue.

When you are one of the fastest solvers in the world, I think you lose sight of how many of the rest of us poor schlubs see things.

rp

PhillySolver 4:48 PM  

To the point, FREEH has appeared about five times and all of the crossings were much easier including the first occurrence when the crossing H was 'Bill's Partner'...HILLARY!

Dave 5:46 PM  

Except for that WINKWETTER jazz, it was a pretty good puzzle. Someone had mentioned ARTWORKWETTER and that was my undoing.

Michael 9:17 PM  

I did this puzzle on an airplane between LaGuardia and O'Hare. Although I thought the puzzle was fairly easy, for some reason (hard to fathom), a seat in economy class didn't seem to be the optimal place to do a puzzle quickly.

I've just read the 101 comments on Friday's puzzle. For what it's worth, I think Godel is a totally fair answer (even with a hard cross). To repeat what others said, if obscure tv actors and baseball players of long ago can occur in puzzles, why not the pre-eminent mathematical logician of the 20th century (especially after being featured in Douglas Hofstadter's book)?

Geometricus 9:54 PM  

Took me all day back and forth doing errands and chores and tutoring calculus, but I got the whole thing without googling or looking at this blog. I rather like the Elmer-Fudd-Speak [not Tweety-Bird, for goodness sake keep your Looney Tunes lore straight!] since I currently have an adorable five-year-old who can't quite say his "r" cowwectly. Though like you Rex, I thought it rather half-assed that the creators didn't go all the way and Elmer-Fudd-ize all those other "cwazy wetters". Having never attempted to create a crossword before, I can just imagine the difficulties such things would make--for everyone, especially solvers.

Jim 10:47 PM  

Awned is legit I guess. I has the word only from crosses, then asked my wife, the biologist, can grass be awned? She said of course.

Karen 11:57 PM  

I just want to point out that Mom said the same thing before last year's contest. She is now in the category above me.

Put me into the PHIZ/FREEH and KARAN/ARIANA error groups. I also had another error somewhere that I can't recall.

dk, wouldn't the self-referential answer have been NO L NO L?

This is the first time I've seen the name CLU.

Karen, the 166th GCPSITU (2006 ed.)

profphil 1:27 AM  

Awn (Awned) was an answer from the past. It was in the ancient Pantheon usually clued as grain or grass beard, if I recall correctly.

MommaJ 8:23 AM  

I knew Freeh immediately, but can't crow because I don't have any idea what the deal is with 111D, and apparently I'm the only one. Can someone please explain?

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

Why should anyone know some of this crap!

radioguy 12:42 PM  

@mommaj: "INT" is short for interception, when a quarterback ("QB") throws a pass that's caught by a member of the other team. So, INTs are bad for QBs.

Once I realized the themes all had Ws for Ls, the theme answers were easy gets, opening up the rest of the puzzle.

pamjo 12:42 PM  

Mommaj,
INTS=interceptions, which aren't good for quarterbacks (QBs).

matty lite 9:27 PM  

I take some kind of rebellious joy in boycotting spaces like that Freeh/Phiz 'H.' I just put a smiley face in there and refuse to look it up.

MommaJ 10:43 PM  

Okay then, thanks ....I know what QB is and what an interception is, just didn't know that "int" is an abbreviation for the latter. Had everything but the "n". Is there anything more annoying than solving an entire puzzle (legit, no Google) save for one letter???

Bob 8:50 AM  

Wrong theme?
Can't believe no one picked up on the fact that the theme words are how ELMER FUDD talked! Not necessarily baby talk.
Was 54A a sneaky help, or an accident?

Fiona 10:20 PM  

Like another comment-writer, I think the title could have included the word WAITER ("See you waiter"?). Anyone with kids, or anyone who has mat a kid in the past, recognizes that, as Rex points out, the Rs should have been changed, too, and that really threw me for awhile. I hated the FREEH cross (missed it) since it was ungettable with that Dickens illus that no one knows. Ah well. The rest was a cinch (weewee twouble-fwee).

voiceofsocietyman 10:20 PM  

Like another comment-writer, I think the title could have included the word WAITER ("See you waiter"?). Anyone with kids, or anyone who has mat a kid in the past, recognizes that, as Rex points out, the Rs should have been changed, too, and that really threw me for awhile. I hated the FREEH cross (missed it) since it was ungettable with that Dickens illus that no one knows. Ah well. The rest was a cinch (weewee twouble-fwee).

pow6bench 7:30 PM  

I was doing well until I got to 89A. I kept wondering what an artwink letter was. Finally I gave up and typed artwink into google to see what I was missing and that led me to this blog. Happy ending. Love the blog.

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

45 across is a takeoff on PATENT LEATHER (like patent leather shoes, accessories, et al)...bet all the ladies got this one

Anonymous 3:59 PM  

Anyone else surprised to see that phiz is brit-speak for face? Actually it has a lot of strange entries on Google. Hate strange to civilians sports terms, i.e., "ints". And, why wasn't "mano a mano" clued to indicate in another language. Otherwise a good, if annoyingly lispy, puzzle.

CAlady

Anonymous 3:56 PM  

Ewoks are the furry little creatures from the Star Wars films. Asok is the Dilbert character.

Pamelita 5:35 PM  

I don't remember what "Google" got me to this site, but I love it!! Is this something that goes on for all NYT puzzles? I rarely have time to complete a Sunday puzzle, but this helped me to get through this one quickly.
Thanks to all contributors!

Anonymous 8:31 PM  

although I get the Sunday puzzle a week late - I love going back and reading this blog!

I got stuck this week with 56D - "word before and after a" - I had mens - as in Amens and Mensa!

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