TUESDAY, Jan. 1, 2008 - Adam G. Perl

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: FOUR-H (38A: Kind of club that's a hint to this puzzle's theme) - four theme answers begin with one of each of the Four H's: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health

Good morning and welcome to 2008. My first entry of the new year will be a reasonably brief one, both because there's not much to say about this puzzle, and because new year's pancakes await. Since there is nothing tough about this puzzle, I'm going to focus on the answers that wouldn't come to me immediately - the ones I had to hack at a few times before I got them to fall. These are the answers that puzzle me, because they are clearly what is standing between me and truly great solving times. For instance, I absolutely devoured the top part of this puzzle, until I got to:

13D: Fit snugly (nest) - go the "E," then the "ES," then the "EST," and still I was blinking at this clue. Took me somewhat more than I would have liked to get the cross, LOAN (10A: Money to help one through a tight spot) because the clue is over-specific. My car LOAN, for instance, did no such thing. (Our car will be paid off in 2008, hurrah) NEST is a perfectly good answer to that clue, but it did not snap out of my brain and onto the page. Then there was

28D: Taken wing (flown) - had the "L" from LAITY (35A: Pastor's flock) and immediately wrote in ALOFT. Now, in retrospect, ALOFT is an adverb and "Taken wing" is the pluperfect form of a verb, but still ... whatever, my brain went to ALOFT. Very hard to undo quickly, because I got DAUNT (29D: Intimidate) right along side it, and then wrote in AIRER (30D: Station with a show), then those words didn't look good together, so I decided that the iffiest of these three was ... AIRER. And I took it out. Remember, this is all happening in a flurry, but it's still significant. I estimate that there's about 2 minutes of fat still left in my puzzle-solving. Some of it is just unavoidable - you're always going to have some hesitation - but ... I can trim that fat. What else?

  • 48D: Stick of gum, e.g. (chew) - had the "CH" and still thought "... nah. That can't be right." CHEW as noun. For tobacco, OK, but gum? Live and learn.
  • 41A: Colonial settlement (towne) - Ye Olde TOWNE? I had the -OWN- and "knew" this was right, but still wrote it in very gingerly, like the puzzle was going to bite me for writing down something so preposterous.
  • 25D: Hard on the ears (harsh) - why did something so clear not jump out at me. Took me all the way to HAR- before I figured it out.
  • 24D: Straight: Prefix (orth-) - didn't come immediately for legitimate reasons - it's fairly uncommon. Don't mind being slowed down by odd uncommon stuff.

Crosswordese On Parade:


DOGLEG (44D: Links bend), which I love and which is not yet crosswordese, is turning up what seems like an awful lot lately.

Stuff I liked:

  • 19D: Like Lincoln, in physique (lanky) - my sister used to call me "the LANKY lurker," for reasons I don't fully understand. Well, the LANKY part I get. Not sure where I was "lurking."
  • 27D: _____ to mankind (a boon) - I don't so much like it as I want to know why in the world it was a gimme for me. Where's this phrase from?
  • 7D: "_____ Jury" (Spillane novel) ("I, The")- nothing like a little Mickey Spillane to start off the new year.
  • 58D: _____ 9000, sci-fi computer (Hal) - common enough answer, but I never tire of seeing it.

And your theme answers:
  • 17A: Daydreamer's state (HEAD in the clouds)
  • 25A: Joseph Conrad novel (HEART of Darkness)
  • 43A: Vocational school instruction (HANDS-on training) - this one took me the longest, by far - didn't yet have the theme figured out (this happens when you rush) - knew it had to do with "H"s, but that's all.
  • 57A: Common employment benefit (HEALTH insurance)
For the unfamiliar, here's the explanation of FOUR H from Wikipedia:
4-H in the United States is a youth organization administered by the Cooperative Extension System of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with the mission of "engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development."

The goal of 4-H is to develop citizenship, leadership, and life skills of youth through mostly experiential learning programs. Though typically thought of as an agriculturally focused organization as a result of its history, 4-H today encourages members to learn about many topics, such as youth leadership, youth-adult partnership, geographic information systems, and public speaking.

Today's Puzzles:

  • NYT: 4:33 (C)
  • LAT: 5:10 (C)
  • CS: 4:29 (C) - RECOMMENDED: "Nu Beginnings" by Raymond Hamel
  • Newsday: 3:30 (C)
  • Universal: 5:04 (P)

Happy New Year,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[drawing by Emily Cureton]


marcie 9:14 AM  

My time got lengthened by 43A. I was looking for an instruction given to vocational school students (i.e. "hand in your *something*"...) rather than a definition of the clue. I also got the Coen brothers mixed up with Harry Cohn and the Warner Bros. for movie people and had a weird H up top for a minute.

I wasn't crazy about Towne nor chew. I always thought a plug of chewable was called a "chaw". Which brings me to Towne Crackers...

hooka took my soda cracker
does your mama chaw tabaccer..
by Chubby Checker.


PhillySolver 9:49 AM  

I found this pretty easy and then I looked at the clock. I guess I really do leave the cares of the world behind for awhile as I engage the crossword. No problems, but I didn't look for the theme clue so it took longer than had I known. I knew the 4-H motto, but I was almost finished before I read that clue as I chased the blanks from words I had a letter or two in the series. I hope I learned a lesson. My time wasn't good, but it really was more like a Monday to me.

I do like to start with the first clue being something I can enter without hesitation. ABBA, yes! I see another letter word to watch for now...a TSLOT?

PhillySolver 9:51 AM  

P.S. LOL at Emily's art work. Very funny.

jls 9:59 AM  

># 24D: Straight: Prefix (orth-) - didn't come immediately for legitimate reasons - it's fairly uncommon.

am thinkin' you maybe never had to visit the orthodontist. ;-) then again, we lived next door to one -- and my brother grew up to become an orthopedist....

for "a boon" -- that came to me via the kingston trio's rendition of "three jolly coachmen":

see last stanza



wendy 10:01 AM  

Well ... I think the FOUR H answer is a tad misleading, because, as you point out, the org's name is 4-H. That last answer was staring at me for the longest time - and I thought sure I had some kind of error going because AIRER was not sitting well with me - before it finally dawned that the H's corresponded to the 4 cloverleafs of 4-H. As an urban girl all my life, this wasn't much on the radar screen, although I vaguely recall knowing people who had been involved in the group at one time.

Other than that, I enjoyed the puzzle. Always a fan of ENNUI, which is one of my favorite words. Anyone who is a fan of Edward Gorey will know the line from The Gashlycrumb Tinies - "N is for Neville, who died of ennui." If you want to see something truly jaw-dropping, see this brilliant "adaptation" of GT. I honestly can't figure out how it was done.

Happy New Year to one and all!

wendy 10:16 AM  

Oh you know what Emily's drawing put me in mind of? Winsor McKay's Dream of the Rarebit Fiend from your post of last June 3rd. It would insert nicely in the heated exchange, don't you think? (My favorite line remains, "I mean what I say, you cheap bleached scarecrow.")

Pinky 10:34 AM  

Here's a fifth H....Happy New Year everyone...
Emily, I love your work. Thank you, and thank YOU, Rex for hosting this lovely site.

jls 10:39 AM  

wendy -- wow. thank you for that link.

and emily (via rex) thank you always for your provocative, evocative, totally terrific take on the puzzles!



Cea 10:51 AM  

Never, ever, ever heard of a Four H club, which meant I finished the crossword bar one square and was so obsessed with the FOUR_ that I couldn't figure out how ORT_ would end either. Frustrating because otherwise it was a breeze.

artlvr 10:56 AM  

Easy, yes, but enjoyable -- I always start with a quick look at the blanks or little ones like "rebellious Turner", then zero in on the SW and expand over and up from there. Thus 57A was something "insurance" and its first part was too short for medical. Likewise the end of 43A was "aining" so "hands-on training" was what fit. Thus a bodily theme was emerging, giving 25A "heart of darkness" and I knew 17A had to start with "head", no problem. Since I know rivers like "Arno", my only hesitation at the end was was the NE cross of "opus" and "opie". I don't know comics, but my subconscious got me there, made me think of Rex's dislike of the copra /OPA cross a few days ago!
BTW, now I've signed up for the online crosswords and downloaded everything as suggested, I still can't fit the parts together! Maybe my son or a friend will be on hand to show me the MAC tricks soon...

Alan 11:03 AM  

Today's puzzle was a breeze.Thank you for this wonderful site.It gives me much pleasure.a happy and a healthy New Year to everyone.

bougeotte 11:03 AM  

Happy New Year all, and thank you for the link Wendy, enjoyed the Gashlycrumb Tinies immensely.
Thought the puzzle was ok, I too did not like chew. My mind resisted putting it in even though I knew that it was the answer.
Kudos to Rex for Emily's great drawings. Here's to a new year of puzzling.

paul in mn 11:36 AM  

It did feel like an easy puzzle today but nonetheless enjoyable. Had a couple trouble spot. Filled in TOLL for 10A which seemed quite logical at the time. And had CHIT instead of CHEW for 48D which was just wrong.

Happy new year and thanks for the blogging!

lankylurker 11:38 AM  

Aloft is an adverb, not an adjective.

Earliest source for "a boon to mankind" -- ”For boons bestowed on mortal men I am straitened in these bonds.” (Prometheus’ lament, having stolen fire from Zeus to give to man)
Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus, 430 BC

Jim in Chicago 11:49 AM  

Happy New Year all, and especially to Rex. How were the pancakes?

I'm not going to quibble today, in the spirit of the holiday.

The first thing I filled in, after a quick look around was RATS, and this clue/answer still makes me chuckle. I just like it.

karmasartre 11:57 AM  

Another very easy one...rushed right through and finished in about eight-plus minutes. This speed thing doesn't bother me. I know where I stand. You always reach your level. Like entering High School, where I first thought I was a good football player, and was suddenly thrust together with much tougher competition...I can still see the face of the guy who ran me over like I was an asparagus spear. And someday, Orange will be faced off against the Deep Blue crossword computer....

Had to stare at FOURH for a bit. I've heard CHEW as well as (to me) the more common Chaw.

@janie/jls -- great Kingston Trio reference! (And they decided -- to have another YARD) Thank you. I do recall some circa 1960-joke about "He was Daniel to his Mother, but a Boon(e) to all the girls".

TOWNE did feel odd to me, and Rex wrote a perfect description of said oddness.

One of Ms. Cureton's finest, in my unabbreviated opinion.

Leon 12:12 PM  

This puzzle nailed the weather in NYC: clouds, rain, and darkness. Just the right weather for a penguin.

The plural of opus is opera.

Opie ,played by Ron Howard, got into a tiff with Opus Dei over The da Vinci Code. I'm sure the laity laughed at the crossing.

profphil 12:54 PM  

Ortho came immediately to me: orthodox, orthography, orthotics in addition to orthodontist. The etymology course (Latin and Greek derived words in English) I took in College keeps on giving.

billnutt 1:55 PM  

Happy New Year, y'all! And special thanks to Emily for her art and to Rex for hosting this shebang.

I really tried to get through this puzzle quickly, since I'm hoping to go to the tournament and want to at least be able to hold my head up. I didn't even notice the clue for FOURH - I just thought the clue was "h" words. This was cleverly done, now that I see that. The FOUR-H is relatively big in the part of New Jersey where I live.

Always happy to see the Coens and Edward Albee. Although I'm not a fan of ABBA, a couple of people I like (Luka Bloom, Marshall Crenshaw) have covered their songs. I see that a movie version of MAMMA MIA with Meryl Streep will be opening in 2008.

Enjoy the rest of the day, everybody, and here's to a happy '08.

Doc John 2:30 PM  

Wow, Meryl Streep (a goddess) in a fun movie like Mamma Mia! I'll be first in line.

I thought this puzzle was pretty easy (pretty scary that I could rattle off the cast of "Meet the Fokkers" in my mind) except for the center. Until I figured out the theme and then that section fell, too. FLOWN and DAUNT couldn't come without that FOURH cross.

Does everyone know that "victuals" is actually pronounced "vittles"?

profphil 3:20 PM  

Doc John

Actually saw a trailer for Mamma Mia last night and Meryl Streep must be a goddess as she looks younger now than she did 10 years ago.

ds 4:08 PM  

Like Billnutt, I am from NJ and just thought the clue was four H words (must be something in the water - or the air). I did suspect I was missing something since that is too simple for even a Tuesday puzzle.
As usual, thanks to Rex for coming up with the theme explanantion. However, even after the quote from Wikipedia, I didn't understand the Heart, Hand and Health answers ("experiential" does lead to Handsontraining). The next sentence in the Wikipedia entry makes that clear for even folks like me: "The four "H"'s stand for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health."
Thanks to everyone for making this such an enjoyable site and
Happy New Year.

jae 4:57 PM  

Cute puzzle. I grew up in Ohio farm country so 4-H was very familiar. My two hickups were DUSTIN for DENIRO and NOISY for HARSH.

Wendy, I'd never heard of the Gashlycrumb Tinies, so thanks for the link.

Fergus 5:24 PM  

Saw quite a few treacly TV commercials for the 4H Club, and would occasionally see an earnest youthful member at the county fair with his prize-winning goat.

Unusual to see Bobby Orr as part of the Clue today. The iconic Xword hockey player. I know Rex has cited many such icons in the Pantheon, but it might be interesting to see which are sen as the most iconic, as a sort of corollary listing. Maybe one each for 3, 4, and 5 letter words. ALBEE's got to be the 5-letter Playwright, Arthur ASHE the four-letter Tennis player, etc.

Anyone who hated The HEART OF DARKNESS, when forced to read it in High School, should take another look. It was one of my most stunning re-evaluations of a piece of literature. Wonder whether I'll ever feel the same about The Aeneid?

Sad not to see BLACK-EYED PEAS in the puzzle today.

Rikki 5:38 PM  

Hi all... haven't puzzled for two days, but I'm sure the write-ups have been great and the conversation lively! Can't wait to catch up. Had to close my eyes and scroll to the end so as not to see any spoilers. Just wanted to say happy new year to Rex and all and to wish everyone peace of heart and mind and great puzzles in '08. My resolution and goal: a week without a google!

Emily... I *love* the loon!

PuzzleGirl 6:21 PM  

@doc john: Me too! I'm going "Okay, there was Ben Stiller, Teri Polo -- how do I know this? -- and oh yeah, DENIRO."

I was completely obsessed with Hawkeye wrestling for a couple days (#1, baby!!) so I'm just now catching up.

Hubby and I have canceled our trip for the weekend of the tournament and I'm trying to figure out how I can get to NY instead. (Probably won't work since we canceled our trip to save money.)

Liked today's puzzle. Nothing flashy, but not boring either. (Really Hated the Sunday puzzle, but that's old news by now.) I'm familiar with 4-H and even knew what the four H's stood for, so the theme was easy to piece together.

Happy New Year, all!

Orange 1:36 AM  

Yo, Rex—I went to IHOP today for second breakfast, which is sometimes the most important meal of the day.

Rob G. 1:21 PM  

For You!
For American!

Too full of pancakes and mimosas to do this puzzle yesterday. Liked it well enough, though I was slightly thrown off by the first three theme clues I got all starting with HEA. No biggee though. Onto today's puzzle!

Anonymous 5:22 PM  

Happy New Year + 6 weeks !

Easy money today. Did anyone else have the late great Ike for 36Down "Rebellious Turner?"

- - Robert

Matthew 5:44 PM  

Yeah, took me a while to revisit and change Ike, which held me up considerably.

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