Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Rhymes with "SWAYZE" (or, "Theme? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Theme")

Before I begin today's write-up, two things. Well, three. First, I'm reminding you to register for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I'll probably do this several more times between now and late February. There is a link in my sidebar (see all the red lettering over there?) that will take you (eventually) to the necessary forms. Second, for those of you who have been missing Emily's drawings lately, those too are available through a link in my sidebar (under "Crossword Sites"). She has given me permission to reprint any drawings I like, and I will undoubtedly do this from time to time, but if you like her stuff, just make a point of going to her site every day after you read my write-up (or before, I suppose). Third, I must thank a certain reader in San Diego who - I found out only yesterday - sent me the kindest, most thoughtful Christmas gift as a token of his appreciation for this site. That gift: a gift card to IHOP! So sweet. Honestly, it was quite touching. I got it only yesterday because it was sent to my office, which I've steered clear of for nearly a month now (our winter break is Long). Anyway, San Diego reader, your thank-you card is already in the mail, but I wanted to acknowledge your generosity as soon as possible, in case you somehow imagined that I was enjoying pancakes at your expense without so much as a thank-you. Now on to the puzzle...

I loved this puzzle. It was a bit too easy, and the non-theme fill was not as inspired as Hook puzzles often are, but something about the brazen looseness of the theme makes me very happy. Is there something connecting these long answers beyond the fact that they could be used to make a limerick? "There once was an actor named SWAYZE," etc. I especially like the final theme answer, as it has an "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" feel, like "how many damn '-AZY' words do you think I can fit in here...?" Overall, the puzzle was light, fun, playful, and entertaining, even if it took far too little time to do.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: "She's Like the Wind" singer, 1988 (Patrick Swayze) - I feel as if Mr. Hook is taunting me, trying to get a most horrible late-80s pop song stuck in my my head. Thankfully, the only part of this song I remember is "She's like the wind...," which I think is the first line of the song and possibly the last line of the chorus. I beg you all not to fill me in here. PATRICK SWAYZE is (far) better known as the co-star of the movie "Dirty Dancing" (1987).
  • 36A: Aster (Michaelmas daisy) - I had no idea that this was another name for "aster." What I love most about this clue is that it takes an exceedingly common bit of fill ("aster") and uses it as a clue for a very unusual, even gaudy answer.
  • 55A: Like some days of summer, in song ("lazy, hazy, crazy") - I don't think I know this song, but I inferred the answer easily enough.

Let's take a little tour of the puzzle:

  • 9A: Some Spanish Surrealist paintings (Mirós) - I don't think of him as a surrealist, but I guess I'm wrong. He was included in a surrealist exhibition I saw in Edinburgh a few years ago. I guess you were supposed to enter DALIS here and be frustrated at your presumption, but I already had the "M" before I saw the clue, so that didn't happen.
  • 24A: C's in shop class? (clamps) - I learned what a "C-clamp" is ... from crosswords. It's true. It's one of the handier tools for crossword constructors, for whatever reason. Good way to refer to the letter "CEE" ... gets you an odd opening "CC" if you want it ...
  • 43A: Part of the Dept. of Homeland Security since 2003 (FEMA) - their very name reeks of incompetence now.
  • 35A: Soul singer Corinne Bailey ____ (Rae) - welcome to the RAE family, Corinne. Say hello to Charlotte RAE, explorer John RAE, and "Quest for Fire" star RAE Dawn Chong.
  • 49A: Hadrian's predecessor (Trajan) - I like that his name looks like a typo.
  • 51A: Musical based on a T. H. White novel ("Camelot") - really wanted "SPAM-A-LOT."
  • 58A: She said "Don't get mad, get everything!" (Ivana) - as in "Trump," as in ugh.
  • 62A: To say in Spanish? (decir) - weird clue. It's literal (but for missing quot. marks around 'to say') and yet it's got a question mark. Usually "?" clues are misdirective somehow. Can't see that here.
  • 63A: La Cittá Eterna (Roma) - Not sure if I've heard this phrase before, but it makes sense.
  • 1D: Michael of R.E.M. (Stipe) - had a reader wonder aloud yesterday when she'd get the R.E.M. clue she's been longing for (after the barrage of recent rap references). And here it is. STIPE is not new to the puzzle, though his band's name is far more common.
  • 3D: Travis who sang "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" (Tritt) - I love STIPE and TRITT up here together in the "Seattle" portion of the puzzle. They should sing a duet. No one would see that coming.
  • 7D: Willa Cather's "One of _____" ("Ours") - don't know it, but had the O--S before I ever read the clue, so it was an easy guess. I think one of the things that separates good from very good and very good from great solvers is their guessing instincts. The more puzzles you do, the better they get.
  • 9D: Its motto is "Manly deeds, womanly words" (Maryland) - what a bunch of Marys. . . I love this motto, and I especially love that the state keeps it despite its being all kinds of embarrassing.
  • 10D: Resort island near Majorca (Ibiza) - one of the Balearic Islands, along with Mallorca and Menorca. IBIZA is a very popular European tourist destination.
  • 11D: Longtime "Hollywood Squares" regular (Rose Marie) - she was also a "Dick Van Dyke Show" regular.
  • 25D: Cellular biology material (plasm) - this word is creeping me out this morning. I really want to put an "A" on the end of it.
  • 33D: Winter carnival structure (ice palace) - is this a thing? I mean ... are PALACEs in particular a common ice sculpture subject, or could his have been ICE anything? ICE CASTLE comes to mind. ICE TEPEE? ICE ... well, you get the picture.
  • 38D: Sister magazine of Jet (Ebony) - They are sisters and synonyms. This only just occurred to me, as, growing up, I imagined that JET had some kind of aeronautic or space-age frame of reference. Not until I read the Donne line "cloistered in these living walls of jet" (from "The Flea") did I know that JET meant "black." Now I've known that for a while, but somehow never applied that knowledge to the magazine title. And now I have. Fascinating.
  • 50D: Title girl with a gun in a 1989 Aerosmith hit (Janie) - must you keep bringing me back to the late 80's, Mr. Hook. Thankfully, this time (unlike with the SWAYZE clue, above), the referenced song is Much more pleasant to remember, despite its highly disturbing lyrical content.
  • 53D: A high flier may fly in it (ozone) - that's pretty damned high. What flies in the OZONE? I thought planes flew well beneath it, while most spacecraft flew through it. For future reference, you might like to know that O-ZONE is also the name of a Moldovian (?!) pop trio. I learned on a recent "Daily Show" that Moldova is, according to scientific studies, the Least Happy Place on Earth.
  • 54D: English drama critic Kenneth (Tynan) - the only answer today that I flat-out didn't know.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Emily has an artist friend / colleague who does her own version of NYT puzzle-related art every day. See it here.

Today's other puzzles:
  • NYS untimed (C) - "And the Nominees Are ..." by "Roger DePont" - RECOMMENDED: a fun, super-current puzzle, which, you will see, was clearly written in something under a day.
  • CS untimed (P) - "Lingo" by Patrick Jordan
  • LAT untimed (P) - Venzke and Daily - RECOMMENDED: four colorful 15-letter theme answers, with a thematically-related "K"-laden throw-in to boot. Nice.


Kathy 9:00 AM  

I'm with you, Rex, on the "She's Like the Wind" pain. I know one more line than you, but I will spare you.

Fun puzzle regardless of the painful 80s song reference...


Spencer 9:11 AM  

I managed to misread the clue for 64A as "Superman's girlfriend" and so wrote LANE, giving me TYNEN for 54D, which seemed perfectly plausible. Error checking after clicking "Done" eventually found it. Sigh.

rick 9:19 AM  

Enjoyed today's puzzle and didn't think it was difficult but it still took me a long time to do.

Looking over the puzzle gives me no idea what slowed me down.

Always enjoy seeing Henry Hook as the author; you know the fill is going to be fresh.

lislepammysue 9:28 AM  

LAZY HAZY CRAZY days of summer was sung by Nat King Cole. Those days of pretzels and beer! Also, I liked the YZ of 20 across and the ZY of 55 across. And Rome is known as the Eternal City.

PuzzleGirl 9:31 AM  

I, too, had the one line from the Swayze song in my head. Thank God for Travis Tritt and Aerosmith (whom I have collectively seen perform live a total of 15 times in the last 15 years!). A Tritt/Stipe duet would, indeed, be interesting (and, as you note, surprising). Travis does have a duet with John Mellencamp on a recent CD. A message song about political tolerance called "What Say You." Mellencamp sings the left-leaning lines and Tritt sings the right-leaning lines. Then the song has a completely different feel to it when Travis sings it by himself in concert.

I think the DECIR clue was supposed to misdirect us to an answer like TRANSLATE, but didn't exactly do what it was supposed to do.

And, yeah, I made the DALIS mistake.

Orange 9:56 AM  

I completely missed pop music between mid-college ('86) and grunge. I sense that I really didn't miss much worthwhile in the late '80s.

"Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer" was in the soundtrack of Scandal, the '80s-ish movie about the Profumo affair.

Oh—Corinne Bailey Rae should not forget her aunt Norma.

Parshutr 10:02 AM  

About some bad guesses I made today...filled in CABARET instead of CAMELOT, REVERSAL instead of AFTERALL...
DALIS and DADAS were bad guesses, too, and calling Miro a surrealist...mebbe.
And since I had no idea that Patrick Swayze would be the right answer, I kept thinking...HenrickSwenson...nah, doesn't fit...
Took a LOONG time, and several breaks to get back to work, to solve this mutha.
But fun.

rick 10:07 AM  

Maybe the theme could be "A to Z"?

Anonymous 10:11 AM  

I live in the Minneapolis area, and every year St. Paul has a winter carnival, sometimes with ice palaces. Check out this site for some pictures:

Thanks for your blog. I'm a rank amateur and find myself peeking at your site when I get stuck.


PhillySolver 10:36 AM  

A little warmer here today on the coast, so going out to enjoy our governor's press conference. I will be thinking, why can't I guess correctly more often...I do think it is instinct...I mean I thought Lane was a fine answer for Superboy as I have no connection to his pre-Gotham days and I bet you could pick a dozen British critics that I haven't heard of and have me guess one missing letter and I would be wrong more often than right. I like the J W X Y Z usage here and think it must be a Scrabble player's nirvana.

Anonymous 11:25 AM  

Oy, veh -- so many red herrings today...

DALIS instead of MIROS... CANDIDE instead of CAMELOT... VIRGIN instead of CAYMAN... and on and on...
I feel so stupid...

Rikki 11:35 AM  

I'm with Rick on this one... it wasn't hard, but it slowed me down, as Capt. Hook often does. Miro is buried on Ibiza, so that was a fun cross and I happen to be heading to Majorca in March so the area was on my mind. @Philly, my one letter mistake was assuming the first theme answer would end in Y, after getting the other two easily, giving me Rosy someone from a show I never watched. Tricksy Hook. Also balked a bit at 13D what a mess! That sounds like a quote to me. A mess would have done the job.

Didn't know Trajan or Tynan, but they were so gettable as was everything eventually. Listened to Corinne Bailey Rae after the fact and loved her voice, sort of Rikki Lee Jonesish, getting Janie's gun out of my mind... well, not yet, I guess.

Can't resist the challenge, Rex...

There once was an actor named Swayze
Whose mom thought him lazy and crazy
So he cleaned up his sty
And swept his lanai
And sent her a Michaelmas Daisy

All together now... groan.

doc John 11:37 AM  

I should have known this was a Hook puzzle when I had more trouble than usual for a Wednesday. That and coupled with unusual words like ENTENTE and ANATHEMA. I have no idea who Hadrian or TRAJAN are but I'll look them up now.

Not heard of Kenneth TYNAN, either, but now have an image of Alan Alda from "The Seduction of Joe Tynan" in my head.

@ Rikki- I liked your limerick!

Squash's Mom 11:39 AM  

I'm bracing myself for this weekend's annual onslaught of hundred of thousands of visitors to my little town in Michigan for it's annual Ice Festival. Unfortunately, no ice palaces are made, just lots of sculptures.

Put me down for Dalis and Caberet as well. Took a few minutes to clear those off.

I'm glad you mentioned that part about making better guesses. I was just having that conversation with a friend who just started doing the puzzle daily. I am coming up to my 1 year anniversary of doing the daily puzzle and I've noticed that I guess correctly a lot more often, though I'm still excited when my first guesses are the answers.

rick 12:18 PM  


good job

squash's mom,

At least they won't be melting this year (I live right down 275 from you, if you live where I think you do)

Dan 12:30 PM  

Rikki - hilarious!

I knew a kid named Trajan from nerd camp (CTY) in elementary school. He turned out to be a basketball star.

Zipped through the puzzle faster than most Wednesdays - until I got to the NE, where I couldn't see MARYLAND (had MARYJANE for a while - sounds like an obscure women's mag), IBIZA, ROSE MARIE, or ...DAISY for the life of me! CLAMPS set me straight a few minutes later. Hook rules.

dk 12:56 PM  

soooo mannny zzzzzzs and so little time.

My mom also said I was raised by apes

Anonymous 1:07 PM  

Bravo Rikki! White's Once and Future King is one of my favorite novels. I didn't know Swayze ever sang. Perhaps it's just as well. Two Ponies

mac 1:11 PM  

There once was an actor called Swayze
girls called lazy and hazy and crazy
But he didn't care,
and thought he was fair,
as fair as a Michaelmas daisy.


Leon 1:12 PM  

Nothing fugazy about this puzzle.

Rex Parker 1:14 PM  

Just out of curiosity, is anyone else out there who uses the Firefox browser finding that my site (and my site alone) freezes it? I've disabled image-loading, and that seems to have settled things (except ... no images, of course).


Frances 1:23 PM  

Yes! I tried to access you on Firefox three times in the past 20 minutes, and got frozen out each time. There was nothing else I particularly wanted, so I've no idea if your site is the only jinx. As you can see from the fact that I'm here, Safari worked like a charm.

Orange 1:32 PM  

Rikki, I know a a more typical non-rhyming theme doesn't lend itself so obviously to limericks, but I, for one, hope you'll write more!

jae 1:35 PM  

A delightful puzzle. It had a Friday feel but with an easy Wed. difficulty level. Add me to the CABARET DALI list (although I've read the White book -- guess I saw musical and had the letter C and ...).

Speaking of Moldova (where my sister and her husband currently reside), its great to have Stewart and Colbert back on the air.

@rikki -- excellent limerick!

fergus 2:17 PM  

Rex, the only problem I experience with Firefox is that sometimes when I open it up it will present a previous day's page and be reluctant to reload to the current day. So I just go to IE, which has a few differences in presentation, most notably a lack of spell-check.


Next thing you know the puzzle will be labeling Kandinsky a surrealist, or Kirchner, or Franz Marc? Anyway, I think of the signature theme of Surrealism as the expression of the subconscious, and that a more exacting art historian should be part of Will's team. Of course this is mere subjective bluster, and I'm aware that the idea is not to hit the nail on the head every time.

I've now morphed the CRAZY days of summer into Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime," which might relieve (or infuriate) those with the other referenced songs' internal reverberation.

Concur on the DECIR odddity, and wonder how much of the puzzle was reclued from the original? I suppose Mr. Hook can also just play around, rather than torment, which I've noticed is his more customary practice.

PhillySolver 2:55 PM  

@ Rex

I use Firefox exclusively and have never had a problem and that includes today.

As we are talking about browsers I do wish you had an alternative site for my Treo and Palm's Explorer browser. It takes a very long time to load the full week's worth of pictures and puzzle images. I do like to check in when I am traveling, but it is sometimes frustrating. Perhaps, someone else has a solution to this one.

jls 3:09 PM  

another foxfire user here -- on pc at work; on imac at home. noticed yesterday? monday? evening that i was having trouble accessing the site from home. also, sometimes on weekends i get the sense that there's something else running in the background that slows everything down (computer "motor" becomes audible). but that's been a weekend rp phenom only...

am joining the numbers who loved today's puzzle. and rikki's fab limerick!!


janie (unarmed!!)

doc John 3:14 PM  

re: browsers-
Just to check I tried every browser I had (I have a Mac). The site came in great on every one:

Admittedly, that is with just opening the site once (I regularly use Safari). Maybe there's some quirk with those browsers when they visit the site on more frequent bases (like the one poster who has trouble getting the current day's page to load). I remember there's a "forced refresh"-type command in IE, something like shift-ctrl F5, so maybe there's an analog in Firefox.

Other fixes may include clearing the cache or saved files.

miriam b 3:26 PM  

Miro seems to have been classified willy-nilly as a Surrealist, though he insisted that his style was unique and that it had many influences - including Surrealism.

At first I thought of that other great Catalan artist, but soon realized ny error when I embarked for ORK.

dk 4:33 PM  

echo Doc John's results for Safari (works fine)

Karen 5:35 PM  

I had no problem with the DECIR clue. I thought the use of the question mark was in place of (the more obvious) quotation marks.

I use Firefox at home, and sometimes if I check the site early (within an hour of going up) there are no pictures; they are there later in the day, I've been thinking that Rex puts the graphics in after the words.

I didn't know either ROSEMARIE or Ms RAE; since I had ROCKY in for RISKY I had a hard time parsing out that name.

Uncle Charley 6:54 PM  

All you arty types with your surrealist misdirects - the true misdirect was ROSEMARIE. My first guess (and first answer of the puzzle) was PAUL LYNDE - the center square!

Michael 8:10 PM  

Here's a book about ice palaces written by a college friend and her husband

Michael 8:12 PM  

looks like my attempt to give a link to a book about ice palaces failed...
oh, well

chefbea 8:14 PM  

rex - i use firefox and couldnt get to anything on the blog today til now.... 8:00pm here in stamford ct

karl 8:56 PM  

hey we talked about the flea in class today. donne is a baller.

Howard B 9:28 PM  

Not too many Firefox problems here.. an occasional posted comment gets eaten, and an occasional slow load, but that's likely more of an ISP/connection problem then anything.

Although I have had trouble loading the Times applet on occasion, but that's not something you can exactly control (can you? Free IHOP for life if you can figure that out).

ackpack1 12:38 AM  

I can't resist responding to your ozone comment. The bottom of the ozone layer in polar regions is relatively low and commercial jets flying polar routes frequently intersect it. The ozone layer in the tropics is quite high and not reached by aircraft. Spacecraft fly though it on launch but never it it. Sorry for running on but that's what you get for letting science types play with words.

Oh, yeh, I thought the puzzle was pretty easy even though I messed up the LANA answer like a few others. Seems like a rant was in order about having two obscure clues intersecting.

Anonymous 7:33 AM  

As silly as this sounds, this puzzle made me feel cool for a day. My last name is Swayze, and I never saw it worked into a puzzle before.

Anonymous 7:42 AM  

I use Firefox and have never run into that problem.

Squash's mom,
I call my daughter Squash or Squashi sometimes. Her given name is Alexandra and her nickname is Sasha..that morphed into Squash when she was a little girl and even though she is all grown up now--I still call her that.

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

50 Down Title girl with a gun in a 1989 Aerosmith hit

reminds me of this movie called


Janey was played by Chyler Leigh

and Chris Evans' character Jake Wyler was told that if he wanted to woo a girl he should sing a song with her name in it so during art class he goes the football field and belts out Janie's got a gun and she is wrestled to the ground by school security.

I had a laugh when I thought of that song this AM!

jpChris 1:09 PM  

Hi Rex,

Try SeaMonkey(v. 1.1.8) instead of FireFox. I've tried both and I much prefer SM. It seems to load quicker and render pages better. Plus, there's and IE plug-in so that when you get to a page that's IE friendly only, you can click on the icon in the lower right side of the toolbar and the page will be rendered in IE. It's a little trick to install, but anyone at or other forum can help you: even me.

Try it. If you don't like it, you can easily uninstall it.

Six Weeks Later Cathy 4:41 PM  

TRAJAN's Column is in the Citta Eterna (ROMA), and we saw it there last year, so that was easy.

Not knowing how to spell PAULLIND made me think it was not long enough and I waited for a few of the crosses to reveal RoseMarie, since WHOOPIGOLDBERG was also too long.

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