Thursday, January 31, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Break [Blank]" - circled squares within 7 theme answers spell out a word that can complete the phrase "Break _____"; circles appear at beginning and end of their respective words with a "break" (get it?) in between

Odd to have a long "Note" explaining what the theme of the puzzle is. Usually the theme is implicit, or is indicated in a clue or answer somewhere in the puzzle. This particular theme made the puzzle much easier to solve than it would have been otherwise (that is, had it been themeless). I got 1D: Cellist Casals (Pablo) and 2D: "That's _____!" ("a wrap") instantly and filled in the rest of the circles in 16A and 22A immediately thereafter. Very very handy to have a way of getting the last letters in a clue when you have only the first, and vice versa. This puzzle made up for this solving crutch by adding some very odd, cool, exotic fill. My one quibble with the theme itself, as it's expressed in the grid, is that 23D: Music download source has a circle at the beginning and the end, but is Not a theme answer. Annoying anomaly. Further, NAPSTER? Way to build a bridge to the 20th century. Though it still exists, its very name feels supremely dated, like it comes from some pre-iPodic time.

Theme answers:

  • 16A: *Not just stupid (BR aind EAD)
  • 22A: * Setting in Sherlock Holmes's "The Man with the Twisted Lip" (OP iumd EN) - BRAIN DEAD and OPIUM DEN are a Great opening thematic pair.
  • 10D: *Orchard part (FR uittr EE)
  • 59A: *Dessert made from a product of a 10-Down (AP plet ART) - clever.
  • 37A: *Perplexed state (WI tse ND) - breakfast table! come on!
  • 49A: *Informers (RA tfi NKS) - another great answer. You could build an entire pulp fiction narrative out of these theme words.
  • 33D: *Fairy tale meanie (EV ilque EN) - interesting; the "meanie" in this clue is almost Always an OGRE. Nice change of pace.

As for today's exotica, I was particularly fond of KIRIN (52D: Popular Japanese beer), YAO MING (20A: N.B.A. center who has pitched for McDonald's, Pepsi and Visa), POMPEII (57A: Major Italian tourist site) and (once again) IBIZA (38D: Resort island ESE of Valencia) - one of the three Balearic islands off the coast of the Iberian peninsula. Two more vivid bits of exotica - WAHINES (37D: Some luau dancers) and LIEBE (58A: "Ich _____ dich" (German words of endearment)) excited me slightly less because they intersected at an innocuous vowel and so I had to guess (though I suppose it wasn't much of a guess, in that I didn't have much doubt that LIEBE was right). Good stuff all around.

Other puzzle elements of note:

  • 18A: Where William the Conqueror died (Rouen) - I think this city gets clued this way repeatedly. I could be wrong. It's up there in French city frequency with CAEN and NANTES, though nowhere near as popular as weekly favorite ST. LO.
  • 14A: Score just before winning (ad in) - really wish this were AD OUT, because that would be BREAK POINT.
  • 13A: Object of a manhunt, maybe (AWOL) - Here's a riddle: What do you get when you cross an EWOK with an ASOK?
  • 15A: Skylit courts (atria) - crossword vocabulary 101 - also parts of hearts, along with the similar-looking AORTA. Ditto 27D: They replaced C rations (MREs) - Meals Ready-to-Eat.
  • 17D: 1890s gold rush city (Nome) - more crossword commonness hiding behind interesting-sounding clues.
  • 26A: Les Trois Mousquetaires, e.g. (amis) - a French fable about three mosquitoes, if I'm translating correctly...
  • 64A: "Finnegans Wake" wife (Anna) - not in my memory bank, but supremely easy to get from crosses. Same with ANDY (8D: Granatelli of auto racing).
  • 6D: _____ Hugo, 1975 Isabelle Adjani role based on a real-life story (Adele) - this answer made me laugh out loud, as I just said - earlier this week - that the only grid-worthy ADELE in existence was Fred Astaire's sister. Rather than contradicting my assertion, this clue would seem to prove my point. Emphatically.
  • 42D: Cigarette box feature (flip top) - took me a little while to get. I quit 16 years ago, so I haven't really looked at a pack of cigarettes in a good long while.
  • 48D: Planetary shadow (umbra) - beautiful word. Inherently poetical. I also enjoy the word PENUMBRA.
  • 51D: Author Zora _____ Hurston (Neale) - one of the most important middle names in all of crosswordville. Look at all those juicy "Wheel of Fortune" letters. There are a couple of other ways to get NEALE - [Football great Greasy] and [Wimbledon champ Fraser] - but neither is as popular.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


dbg 8:59 AM  

Even owning up to a mistake-I really thought the word was spelled Wahini- I thought this puzzle should have been rated as easy for a Thursday. The puzzle was easy enough on its own but with the added note at the beginning explaining the theme it made it much too easy for a Thursday. The few obscure answers were easily figured by the down answers. To me, more a Tuesday or Wednesday puzzle.

parshutr 9:08 AM  

I got OLIO "This and that" from crosses, but is this Italian, or what?

Hydromann 9:35 AM  

Parshutr, Olio is as common as dirt in crosswordese, but, as is the case with much crosswordese, not in any langage that real people actually speak!

Like an idiot, I failed even to notice the fine print at the top of the puzzle, although I was trying, as I filled it in, to figure out what the circled letters meant. And the it was, in the fine print, all the time!

Still, I managed to solve almost all of it in what was, for me, a decent Thusdat time--30 minutes.

I say "almost" because the only problem was in the SW, where my lack of knowledge of Roman locations, and of German sayings, left me in the dark at the 54D/58A cross. Even had I read the fine print, that would not have helped there. Oh well, there's always tomorrow...

PhillySolver 9:42 AM  

Maybe the connection was that Shaun Fanning (founder) used his Napster service to BREAK the law.

This was a fun puzzle and had one rough spot for me in the midlands. Some hula dancers might have been BREAK dancers, which would have been ILL. I had never heard of WAHINES, however Orange tells me it is in her vocabulary (what isn't?).

I have an image of ANDY G. in a trench coat holding a screwdriver and promoting STP in the early days of TV advertising. I was maybe 8, but I thought, that guy is ALIEN!

parshutr 9:44 AM  

Thanks, Hydromann. The fine print, as RP mentioned, made for a lot of gimmes (and confirmation of guesses).
Had a Personal Best Thursday time of 16:49. I'm only about 50% to complete a Thursday-Saturday puzzle.

Alex 9:55 AM  

What was otherwise a pretty easy puzzle devolved to random letter insertion in the last spot.

I knew neither IBIZA nor The HITE Report so every vowel (particularly A) seemed perfectly acceptable.

I'm disappointed that break A LEG wasn't in the puzzle and didn't like having the theme explained before I looked at my first clue. Old me wouldn't have seen it but I've been trying lately to pay more attention to the constructor's name.

Once again the implementation of the theme comes very close to being symmetrical but is just off enough to seem lopsided in a way that it wouldn't if it was just semi-randomly distributed.

Jim in Chicago 10:01 AM  

Very easy for a Thursday, felt like a Wednesday to me.

I filled in PABLO and OPIUMDEN immediately and was off to the races. Not getting LAVA for 5A, made me work my way sound, which went very quickly, I then sped across the south like Sherman on his way to the sea and then worked my way up the east coast. The north then fell and I only had a couple bits of fill in the center and I was done.

Things I circled:

LUST, clued as "the hots" just barely passes the breakfast table test.

Still under the influence of the Seven Sisters clue, I stumbled for a moment on "Ivy League school in Philly" and tried to shoehorn Bryn Mawr in there before having a "duh" moment.

For "Blunders" I first had "SLIPSUP" instead of "SLIPUPS" and that gave me a bit of trouble.

I got APPLETART before I was "Orchard Part" and at first thought the answer was "APPLETREE" which made me think "Apple twice?" - another "duh" moment for me.

I was really hoping that one of the themed answers would be "ANEGG" making a nive tiein with yesterday, but no.

All in all, a fun puzzle, but way to easy for Thursday.

Orange 10:17 AM  

Philly, I'm pretty sure I learned WAHINE from crosswords!

Rex, UMBRA is also a seller of household objects with good design. I have a few of the Garbino trash cans designed by Karim Rashid. Cheap and cute! (Ours are white and violet.)

Rikki 10:37 AM  

Although I'd like to say that it bothered me having the theme explained up front, I'll take all the help I can get, and it did help in some of the peskier places. I loved the puzzle. It was loaded with great and unusual fill: braindead, opiumden, witsend, ratfinks, yaoming, appletart, pompeii... on an on. Beaucoup d'amusement, Mme. Gamache. Merci.

Tadpod 10:51 AM  

My solving experience felt off-kilter, easy but not quite right, the right cadence, I don't know. Maybe "Napster" sealed it. A constructor who has been hiding under an umbra from another planet?

Pete M 10:53 AM  

Here's a riddle: What do you get when you cross an EWOK with an ASOK?

Umm... an AWOK? An ESOK, perhaps?

Nice puzzle. My only hang-up involved starting with KAHUNAS instead of WAHINES.

Toothsome 10:59 AM  

I didn't read the theme note (or get the theme) until I'd finished and looked at Rex's blog - and still finished this in record Thursday time (for me - 13 min.). So.....kinda easy for a Thursday, for me. Good because I gotta get outta here and see my dentist, without knowing what you get when you cross an ASOK and EWOK.

rick 11:01 AM  

Learned wahines and kahunas from Gidget

Noam D. Elkies 11:15 AM  

Jim in chicago (10:01):

> LUST, clued as "the hots" just barely passes the breakfast table test.

All the more so crossing with AROUSED (clue "stimulated")!


profphil 11:23 AM  

I was not able to read the theme related note. It was incorporated in the top of puzzle and said: Note: The circled letters in the stai... I then tried clicking notepad but nothing in it. I was stuck in the NE having put in appletree instead of fruit tree. Had to Google for Rouen and that helped but feel had I had the full theme clue, I could have finished without Googling. Frustrated.

How do I access the full theme clue?

Orange 11:31 AM  

Profphil, in Across Lite, you'll need a widescreen monitor. Just widen the Across Lite window and slide the divider bars in that line to expand the box with the note in it. The Across Lite note is ridiculously long—the shorter one that appeared in the applet (Circled letters refer to phrases that start with "break") certainly sufficed.

jae 11:40 AM  

Fun puzzle. I knew WAHINES from surfing culture (Beach Boys?), NEALE and IBIZA from crosswords, and LIEBE from movies using the phrase "my LIEBESHEN" (sp?). What I still don't know is how 36a ADV fits with its clue?

BTW I printed this one out from acrosslite and the note specified that only the * clues were part of the theme.

Chip Ahoy 11:41 AM  

Breaking news! He opened, breaking the ice, I'm breaking my back shoveling snow, up in here. This storm is breaking all records. Pardon? You're breaking up. Woo to the .puz

Chip Ahoy 11:52 AM  

As to the three musketeers, I always thought they should be called the three swordsmen.

*braces self for pedantic explanation on how muskets figure is Dumas's book.*

Anonymous 12:11 PM  

Re: 36A - Advertiser is sometimes a newpaper name. There may be one called "The Weekly Advertiser" or "The Daily Advertiser".

Rex Parker 12:16 PM  



Alex 12:31 PM  

Chip Ahoy,

I have no pedantic answer. Muskets are never used or mentioned in the book. Musketeers were still trained in swordcraft since muskets were only useful in a kind of battle (between groups at a distance) that was never necessary in the books (where they were acting as personal bodyguards).

Here you can find how the French Musketeers became a military group of some renown such that they'd be written about 80 years later by Dumas.

jae 12:37 PM  

ADVerb!, D'oh!, Thanks Rex.

Karen 12:47 PM  

I thought I finally had OLEO/OLIO straight in my head, but mixed them up on this puzzle. I also worried about my guess on the Italian/German cross in the SW.

I'm thinking I learned WAHINES from the Brady Bunch go Hawaiian--y'know, the one with the cursed amulet?

Alex 1:01 PM  

I learned "wahine" by going to graduate school at the University of Hawaii where all the female sports teams are referred to as Rainbow Wahine. Back then the men's teams were still Rainbow Warriors but at least the football team (and I believe all the male sports) have removed the word "Rainbow" from the name. I know rainbow warrior doesn't strike fear into an opponents heart but I liked it.

Blue Stater 1:04 PM  

I'm kind of surprised no one picked up on 34D, "Put back in," STET. "Stet" doesn't mean that; it means "let [it] stand," and usually is a correction of a correction -- that is, it's an instruction by an editor to a typesetter not to make the correction that is being undone by "stet." So it's not putting anything back in, because nothing has yet been taken out. I wouldn't niggle at this were it not the case that this is another pointless swerve -- one that, as is too often the case in pointless swerves, leads to an admittedly minor error.

Otherwise, a pretty good puzzle; I agree that giving away the gimmick was superfluous.

Hobbyist 1:17 PM  

I was sure that the place where one would eat was IHOP and thought it a lagniappe to Rex for his touting of this eatery and of the puzzle and of the tournament.
Nothing underhanded suggested but I DO think Rex merits credit for his web and his ability to "reach the people." I am going to the tourney all because of Rex.
Can't wait to meet all of you .

*a leg 1:28 PM  

If aroused and lust seem not to pass the B.T. test, how about *wind in the center?

Brian in Brooklyn 1:39 PM  

He may have died in ROUEN, but William the Conqueror is buried in CAEN. I don't know if he ever went to NANTES or ST. LO.

doc John 2:12 PM  

I, too (along with Rikki and others), thought that it was kind of weird giving away the theme at the beginning. But, when I was stumped in Seattle, having that theme finally enabled me to finish the puzzle. The R in A WRAP and AD at the end (wasn't absolutely sure about VIA) finally allowed me to get BRAIN DEAD which gave me PABLO which gave me OPIUM DEN and that was that. Also, I was stuck on I NEVER for [5D. "Well, ____!"] so that wasn't helping me any.

Thanks, Phillysolver, for reminding me from where I knew ANDY G. I think that's why I know Mario Andretti and Parnelli Jones, too. Were those commercials on during Wide World of Sports, maybe?

Some trouble in the SW, too, but once I got ALUMNAE, it was smooth sailing.

Onward to the weekend!

Peter 2:18 PM  

Since I haven't seen it on here yet, Napster has since become a legitimate Itunes-esque kind of online music store.

Once the guy that created the original Napster was sued out of existence, he sold off whatever assets he had, including the Napster name.

JC66 2:31 PM  

I think it was Mario Andretti in the STP commercials ( he was a part owner), not Andy

Anonymous 3:02 PM  

When was the last time you saw a crossword in which "break wind" was, at least an implied, answer? LOL

Frances 3:26 PM  

Has anyone else had trouble accessing today's Comments on Firefox? The blog comes up fine, but clicking on "comments" just causes an abortive splutter. Switching to Safari did the trick, as it did several weeks ago when Rex posted a note about an access problem on Firefox.

Frances 3:26 PM  

Has anyone else had trouble accessing today's Comments on Firefox? The blog comes up fine, but clicking on "comments" just causes an abortive splutter. Switching to Safari did the trick, as it did several weeks ago when Rex posted a note about an access problem on Firefox.

PhillySolver 3:53 PM  

I am just older than most others as Mario was a baby when I was watching TV. I confirmed the linkage in a few other places but here is what Wikipedia reports..."Granatelli eventually became very visible in the racing world in the 1960s as the entrepreneur of STP oil and gasoline treatment products, appearing on its television and radio advertisements as well as sponsoring race cars. He clad his pit crews in white coveralls with the oval STP logo scattered all over them, and once wore a suit jacket with the same STP-laden design."

I may be old, but my memory still...wait, what was I writing?

Orange 4:31 PM  

Joan of Arc was killed in Rouen—or so the crosswords have taught me.

Sundance 4:39 PM  

I'm a long-time Firefox user and have never had any problem accessing any part of the blog including the comments.

foodie 4:43 PM  

I had "wits'end" and thought, no, it can't be "wind", they'd never put that in the puzzle... I finally succumbed to the inevitable...

I agree that umbra and penumbra are lovely and poetic, but the neurologists have ruined penumbra for me, because they use that term to designate the area of brain tissue that is secondarily damaged after a stroke... way to ruin a beautiful word...

PhillySolver 5:02 PM  

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the penumbra of death, I will fear no evil.

Anonymous 5:11 PM  

POINT BREAK! Great reference for today's theme. Dude, surfs up AND the ex-presidents!
Swayze in the Reagan mask! I'll look for ya at Jaws (the break, not the movie).

Cea 6:35 PM  

I kept wanting BREAK DANCE dance to make an appearance, but in vain.

But to be honest I think they got their days flipped again. This was my fastest Thursday time, with cool fill like RATFINKS and BRAINDEAD, a Q and a Z and that LUST/AROUSED combo. Yesterday was much tougher, for someone like me, who is more or less allergic to pop culture.

JC66 6:38 PM  


Oops, sorry about that.

Anonymous 7:11 PM  

One of my favorite inadvertent puns concerns that lovely French town. I was visiting a friend in Paris and I told him that the next day I would be taking the train up to Rouen. He replied, without realizing quite what he was saying, "oh yes, that’s where Joan of Arc finally met her match."

Fergus 7:37 PM  

A real clunker of a Thursday gimmick, though the puzzle was fine. Simply disregarded the Note and forgot about it until just before visiting this blog. Break wind, eh? It seems like quite a long while since there's been some crafty deviant form for the puzzle, especially on Thursday, which is when I'm most on the look-out for anomalies.

Been rereading much of Joyce recently but I really can't be bothered with "Finnegan's Wake." Got a lot out out of "Ulysses" but only because my girlfriend at the time was just finishing her Ph.D. in English, and she was my Virgil, so to speak. There must be something to his final work though, since I'm pretty sure Joyce merely went blind and not crazy in the end.

Had a bunch of MISTEPS, er MESSUPS on 4D since the NW was really quite a lively corner, rich with all sorts of interactive possibilities. For some vestigial crossword reason I was thinking of the more obscure meaning of Throw, as in lose intentionally. That was in a clue or answer just recently, wasn't it?

Chuckled at the reminder of Andy Granatelli. STP was my first lesson in branding and fraudulent advertising, something kids seem to learn at a much younger age in the 21st century.

Michael 8:15 PM  

I use firefox and almost never have trouble accessing the comments. I occasionally (rarely) have problems accessing the site (which implies missing the comments of course).

By telling us the theme, I think we had a bit too much help. Isn't this sort of thing ordinarily done internally in the puzzle?

mac 10:18 PM  

Jae, Liebchen, I really enjoyed this puzzle, basically ignoring the circles until I was all done. The only letter I missed was the Y - didn't remember Yao and didn't know Andy...

Anonymous 12:50 PM  

Bummer. I do the crossword the old fashioned way (in the newspaper), and no theme was provided anywhere so I came to understand the circled letters made new words themselves but did not put the theme to it until I read the blog.

John 4:03 PM  

I could make no sense of the commonality of the words formed by the circled letters. I think without providing the note, it would be extremely difficult to come up with the theme. (I did not notice the explanation until well after I'd completed the puzzle).

Jet City Gambler 4:10 PM  

Six weeks later...

I also do the puzzle in the paper (Seattle PI) and the note was included there.

Fun puzzle, although my lack of knowledge of Italian geography and German endearments left me randomly guessing in the SW.

One thing that bugged me was AWOL ... "Absent With Out Leave" is not a noun, so it's can't be the "subject" of a manhunt, the AWOL soldier is. Maybe "Caught off base" or soemthign would have been a better clue.

It was a little risque, though. LEERS, AROUSED, LUST, TART, and even a fart joke in the middle. Not your typical staid NYT offering.

Six Weeks Later Cathy 6:56 PM  

The NW was my downfall. I had I-NEVER for 5D's "Well,___". Even after i took it out for LAVA, I had all the circled letters but still had to google for ADELE, PABLO, and OPIUMDEN before i could finish. Only 3 googles on a thursday - not bad.

Though I still don't understand 14A - score just before winning - ADIN? A DIN? AD IN? ADI N? Ok, thanks again to google - ADvantage IN in a tennis game.

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