MONDAY, Feb. 11, 2008 - Ken Bessette (WENT BY DUGOUT)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Job Opening" (59A: Want ad heading ... or a hint to the starts of 17-, 25-, 38- and 49-Across) - first word of all theme answers can be followed in a familiar phrase by the word "JOB"


Whew. OK, I just had to get those potential theme answers out of my system. Now, on with the commentary. Since I cannot for the life of me get the NYT applet to work this morning - thereby allowing me to fill in and then print a fresh, crisp, completed grid - you all are going to have to settle this morning for ... a HAND job. [Hey, don't blame me; blame the puzzle]

I don't remember much about this puzzle. Did it quickly last night. Here's what I remember: it took me about an average amount of time to do, and I liked some of the non-theme fill, particularly certain symmetrical and otherwise paired answers. Oh, and there's some pretty "hoity-toity" (that's me quoting myself from last night) fill in the east. All in all, a fine Monday puzzle.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Snoop (NOSE around)
  • 25A: Felix and Oscar (ODD couple)
  • 38A: Carouse (PAINT the town red) - my favorite theme answer
  • 49A: Symbol of purity (SNOW White) - don't like the clue ("symbol?"), but maybe the clue is exaggerating the purity issue to draw a sharp contrast with SNOW'S rhyming counterpart, BLOW (interestingly, both SNOW and BLOW are slang words for cocaine).

I tripped on my shoelaces right away with this one. Never seen a black border around an OBIT (1A: Black-bordered news item), but guessed OBIT anyway, but then 1D: To have and to hold (own) had to be WED, right? So I second-guessed OBIT. Absolutely hate the 1D clue. It's out of the damned wedding vows, and I don't OWN my wife. Second, I OWN many things that I don't "hold." As misdirection goes, this clue is crappy. But it's not as if all this held me up much. It's Monday, after all. North was a little easier, and I ended up getting HECHE (5A: Anne of "Wag the Dog") and ECLAT (15A: Fanfare) without ever seeing the clues. Pulled a similar no-look move at the tail-end of CANOED (27D: Went by dugout). Was missing a letter or two at the end, took one look at the word, and decided it was CANOED. The middle of the puzzle was probably the thorniest for me, as ZITHER (43A: Boxed stringed instrument) took a couple passes to get (despite the fact that one of my star students plays the ZITHER professionally), and I never know how I'm supposed to spell MATZOH (29D: Passover bread). Today, I opted for MATZAH. [failure buzzer sound]

Thought the stacked pair of DICTUM (47A: Judicial assertion) over TROPE (54A: Figure of speech) was pretty high-end for a Monday. Not illegal, just ... fancy. There were several other pairs I liked. Note the symmetry for TEE (42A: Golf peg) and OFF (35A: Down, usually, on a light switch), which together form a phrase that means "to make IRATE" (65A: More than steamed). Very, very nice. Adding to all this symmetrical anger are the (again) symmetrical pair of MAD AT (23D: Furious with) and FED UP (37D: At the end of one's patience). So, a testy puzzle, but an elegant one. One last pair worth mentioning: NUDIE (50D: Peep show flick) and O-RING (51D: Circular gasket) - now, I know these don't really go together, but man, the proximity of NUDIE somehow makes O-RING sound a whole lot dirtier than it is. Oh, then, to counteract the porniness of NUDIE / O-RING, in the opposite corner of the puzzle, we have the wholesome pairing of 12D: "_____ Love," 1957 #1 hit by 13-Down ("April") and 13D: Singer Pat (Boone).

The rest:
  • 56A: Mutual of _____ (Omaha) - Nebraska, where Obama Krushed Clinton this past weekend, winning 68% of the vote. Unfortunately for Obama, only about 12 people actually live in Nebraska, and Texas and Ohio still loom heavily on the horizon.
  • 20A: Steak that a dog might end up with (T-bone) - I don't eat meat, so maybe someone can tell me why I'd give the T-bone to my dog? What am I, a Rockefeller? Or are T-bones dirt cheap?
  • 32A: 1980s video game with a maze (Pac Man) - icon of my adolescence.
  • 67A: Brain readings, for short (EEGs) - "Electroencephalogram" - measures electrical activity of the brain; EKGs (or ECGs - Electrocardiograms) measure the electrical activity of the heart. I have, sadly, been known to confuse them in puzzles.
  • 69A: Safecracker (yegg) - as I've said before, one of my very favorite words.
  • 4D: Men's fashion accessory (tie tac) - I've never understood why the "K" got dropped on "TAC." Wife got completely stumped by this answer. Well, not completely - she worked it out. She had it right, just didn't understand it (also didn't understand CANOED, though - she asked me what it meant, saying the word with stress on the first syllable and a long "O" sound).
  • 11D: CliffsNotes version (recap) - this is bad, if not utterly wrong. CliffsNotes summarize. As novels (and other works of literature) do not happen in real time, they cannot be RECAPped. You would RECAP a sports event or the news, things that occur over discrete periods of time. A novel is always there. Always present. You summarize; you do not "RECAP." I understand that RECAP is simply short for "RECAPitulate," and an argument can be made that a summary is in essence the same thing as a RECAPitulation. I'm saying that the way RECAP is used colloquially in this country makes it a completely inapt (inapt!) description for a summary of a literary work.
  • 24D: Pitcher of milk? (Elsie) - wife tried to get EWER to work somehow...
  • 26D: John Donne's "_____ Be Not Proud" ("Death") - I teach it every semester.
  • 39D: Take-home pay (net wages) - something about this phrase feels off. I had NET and wanted only PAY to follow. But PAY is in the clue. And wouldn't fit.
  • 63D: Respond to a really bad joke, maybe (gag) - OK, look, puzzle, if you want me to refrain from making "BLOW job" jokes in reference to today's theme, you cannot give me GAG as the final answer. I'm only human.

Breakfast test = Failure. My apologies.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[drawing by Emily Cureton]


PhillySolver 9:21 AM  

I took it that those doggies get the bone from the steak as in t-bone. Maybe I am not literal enough. Half way through the puzzle, I was sure there would be a reference to a man in the Bible who loses everything. I also think we got the clunky NETWAGES because that's what you earn from your JOB and then you DREAWUPON that until they publish your OBIT. I liked the balancing YEGG and EGGS in the bottom corners, but perhaps that is ZITHER here nor there.

James F 9:44 AM  

My main quibble with the cluing is that I associate "Squirm" (40D) with the relatively positive, e.g. "Squirm with pleasure at the sight of the NUDIE with the ORING," and the correct answer with the truely negative: WRITHE in pain or torment.

Otherwise, I agree that this is a fine Monday puzzle. My only problem was inking in TOM, and then painstakingly trying to make the T and O look like I meant J and I from the start.

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

Yes -- the dog's would get the BONE part of the steak -- although I seem to remember that one shouldn't give dog's either t-bones or porterhouse bones (another larger version of the t-bone) because after cooking they are too soft and the little pups can crack the bone and choke or something?

DONALD 9:57 AM  

anonymous 9:48

Dogs eat bones when they can't get the real goods -- splinters lodge in throat, stomach and intestines and can cause death. A soup bone that is gnaw-able is somewhat safe, but nothing else.

Jim in Chicago 10:06 AM  

I'm not feeling the love for this puzzle, which I would actually rate "hard" for a Monday. This felt much more like a Tuesday, and looked that way when I was half finished, with sort of splotches of fill all over the puzzle. There were several places where I had to stop and come back to, which is unusual for a Monday.

I did like the cross of OBIT with BIO, and the symmetry of EEGS and YEGG on the bottom row,but those are about the only things that made me even smile in this puzzle. NUDIE did make me raise an eyebrow, but I missed the connection with ORING since I didn't fill them both in at the same moment. Shocking I say, simply shocking. Off with Will's head. ;)

Some of the cluing is a bit obtuse for Monday. Fanfare for ECLAT, Judicial assertion for DICTUM and Figure of speech for TROPE all belong much later in the week.

I find the clue "Down, usually, on a light switch" for OFF to be an oddly American-centric clue. In many parts of the world you push down on the switch to turn the light ON.

I solved most of the puzzle before seeing JOBOPENING, and would argue that this particular puzzle had no need for a hint, since all four themed answers were easily filled in without even realizing there WAS a theme to be found. Indeed, JOBOPENING serves not as a "hint" but rather to reveal the theme after the fact.

Finally, for my "oops" of the day, I threw in TOM as Huck's raftmate without clinking and eyelash.

ramsey 10:16 AM  

'past experience', like 'past history', makes me wince. shame on the NYT.

jae 10:40 AM  

Also thought this was a fine Monday. I agree that TROPE, DICTUM, and ECLAT seem like later week words (I've never seen TROPE before and had to look it up after finishing). ECG can also be EKG (from the German).

Shuka 11:04 AM  

Why-o-why is there an apostrophe in : Magazine V.I.P's? I've noticed this alot, and can't get my head around it. Thanks -


(And don't Cliffsnotes include a recap within their bowels?)

Bill from NJ 11:06 AM  

Finished this in 4 minutes. Found it to be a nice mixture of simple and later-in-the week clues.

Makes up for my abject failure with the Saurday puzzle (I think).

Rex Parker 11:06 AM  

Well, if CliffsNotes actually have a section *named* "RECAP," then I would have to retract my objection to the clue/answer.


Roger von Oech 11:17 AM  

I liked seeing your own written work-- notes, scrawls, and all. Greatly humanizes the process. Why not do the same for a Friday puzzle. Would be fun to see!

Frances 11:28 AM  

Another high-end usage for a Monday, it seems to me, is ACRO for 19A: "height;prefix." "Re-re-re-remind" is a refreshing way to clue NAG.

Eric 11:51 AM  

Rex, I also tripped on 1a. I thought of "Pull," which I believe is a highlight from the main article that summarizes some info or requotes something pithy and is usually enclosed in a black box.

RIP to Roy Scheider, who's OBIT appears today.

Doris 12:03 PM  

To answer Shuka:

The Chicago Manual of Style says it should be VIPs, no periods, no apostrophe. But there are other house styles that aren't clued in and still use that apostrophe. Very irritating.

BTW, it's never "alot," despite what you may see. It has to be "a lot." It's like the incorrect "alright," which you see everywhere, including, of course, the Stones movie title. It has to be "all right," although most people don't know this anymore.

Just trying to forestall disaster. And probably not succeeding. But at least CROSSWORD PEOPLE should know these things! AAARRGGHH!

BT 12:13 PM  

hmm... my "parental control" software is blocking Rex's site today for some reason...


Jim in NYC 12:59 PM  

Doris, I loved your post. You'll be on my wavelength forever.

On another topic, I used AcrossLite last night instead of printing out the puzzle. Do some of you imagine that this can actually be faster than working the puzzle by hand? If so, how is this even plausible?

You've got cursor placement and directional control to deal with (2 mouse buttons), in addition to looking at the clues and looking at the grid, and typing the answers(using your second and third hands, I presume). Clearly, the extra mechanics of operating the computer must add something to your solving time.

OK, seriously, what's the fastest method of entering answers and navigating the grid in AcrossLite?

Megan P 1:18 PM  

Jim in NYC: Jumping to the next word and changing directions can be done pretty nimbly with the arrow keys on your computer keyboard.

Would someone explain to me what a "lurker" is? Is it sinister of a person to visit blogs w/o leaving a comment?

I love this blog.

Orange 1:19 PM  

Jim in NYC, once you get used to the online solving thing, if you're not a slow hunt-and-peck typist, it definitely can be faster. It helps if you learn to begin filling in letters wherever you are and take advantage of the automatic movement from the end of an entry back to the first open square. I.e., if you've got the T and C in TALCUM and find yourself in the fifth square, quickly entering UM AL finishes the word without using the mouse or arrow keys.

Adding to what Doris said: The NYT's house style uses periods in abbrevs you pronounce the letters for (e.g., F.B.I.). It uses small caps and no periods for the abbrevs pronounced as a word (e.g., AIDS). And when it gets to a certain length (I forget if it's 5 or 6 letters), the NYT turns an abbrev into a not-all-caps word: Nascar, Nasdaq. Drives me a little bit nuts. (Don't get me started on the apostrophized plurals. Which I use irregularly when pluralizing a letter, as in "this puzzle has three X's.")

Rex: Boy, I wish you hadn't jotted "LUBE?" so close to your HAND? and BLOW? jobs.

James F: Squirming can also be negative. Unpleasant questions during a job interview or interrogation might make you squirm. They would not, however, induce much writhing.

Orange 1:22 PM  

Doris: Many bloggers groove on the conversation with their readers, and lurkers like it's a magazine or something. However, if every reader left a comment on each post, the blogger would run screaming into the hills and never be seen again.

rick 1:46 PM  

@jim in nyc,

I'm a horrible typist so theoretically I should be faster on paper but something about the layout in Across Lite makes the puzzle easier for me to do.

I've had Saturday's when I have been stuck in one corner and could not finish so I open it in Across Lite, fill in the surrounding answers and finish solving that way.

I've had some CWs where I have been stuck for hours and this method has let me finish sometimes in minutes.

Don't know why.

As far as my typing: I did today's puzzle in 6:50. Decided to try the applet after I knew all the answers and it took me 5:51, so in my original puzzle I spent 5:51 typing and 0:59 thinking.

karmasartre 2:04 PM  

@doris -- re. "the Stones movie title", do you mean "the Stones' movie title" (with the apostrophe)? Or The Who's movie title? Unclear to me.

PuzzleGirl 2:20 PM  

@jim in nyc: I use the tab and arrow keys to move around in Across Lite.

@James F and Orange: And just as squirming can be negative, I would argue that writhing can also be, um, pleasant. ;-)

@megan p: Nothing sinister about lurking. In fact, I wish more blogs/message boards required it. Lurking for a while -- getting a feel for the culture of the place -- helps you to avoid blurting out something stupid, obviously unwelcome, already rehashed to death, etc.

Doris 2:23 PM  

Karmasartre: Not using Stones as a possessive. Just employing it in an adjectival sense, accepted in casual usage, meaning the movie "The Kids Are Alright," about the Stones. As we might say "the
George Clooney movie," e.g.

Orange: Won't leave comments on others' posts anymore. (Hangs head abjectly.) Even though others seem to do it all the time. 'Bye.

Fergus 2:25 PM  

It was interesting to see Rex's handwritten grid, with highlights and fragments of commentary. Further insight into another's mind at work during the crossword trance. Salacious commentary leads me to guess that there must be some pretty ribald Xwords out there ... ?

I balked at RECAP, too. And thought the SNOW WHITE Clue not good. Glad to finally learn what a TROPE is after years of assuming it meant something more concrete.

doc John 2:32 PM  

I thought this puzzle was pretty easy until I got to the SE. DICTUM, TROPE and even CRANNY made me have to step back a sec and regroup. And YEGG? Never seen it before but in the future I'll DRAW UPON this experience. Good thing I guessed that a bad joke would make me GAG and not go "GAA"! I also fell into the JIM/Tom trap.

Speaking of [1A. To have and to hold] there is also a related fill: 44A. I DO.

As for apostrophes (the misuse of which is one of my personal pet peeves), there is a very informative (and humorous) book by Lynne Truss called "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" that covers this subject (as well as other grammar) very well. A fun, quick read.

P.S. Nice to see Rex's thought processes on the handwritten version.

P.P.S. The movie in question is "The Kids Are Alright" (1979) and it's about The Who.

Jim in NYC 2:33 PM  

Doris, I think Orange's 1:22 post was meant as an answer to Megan P's question about lurking. I think it was misaddressed to you.

ArtLvr 2:43 PM  

Thought this easy even for a Monday, because the crosses made an unknown word come out, e.g. Anne HECHE. Did the same instant inking-over of Tom to get JIM.... and thought a moment about a "Nudnik" because of the TIETAC ending, though I knew it was EEGS at bottom left. MATZOH might better have been "Challah", if not too long!

I have an idiosyncratic preference for an apostrophe with letters' and dates' plurals or possessives -- the 20's for Nineteen-twenties, even if '20s would be more logical.... but I'd never write "a lot" or "all right" as one word, promise!

Is there some colloquial phrase for a slap at naughty writing that would be the equivalent of "wash your mouth out with soap"? Scrub with Top Job?


Whitey's mom 2:44 PM  

Sorry to bring up ancient history but after Friday, Saturday, and even Sunday, until I got the theme, puzzles which had more erasures than the first and only time I ever tried Sudoku or whatever, I was glad to have Monday's puzzle which I could blow right through.

Jim in NYC 2:46 PM  

Is there some colloquial phrase for a slap at naughty writing that would be the equivalent of "wash your mouth out with soap"?

How about: "Eschew egregious solecisms, you yutz!"

Hydromann 2:55 PM  

More on T-Bones...

I objected to the clue, because it referred "steak," while the answer, t-bone, refers to the left-over bone in a t-bone steak. The clue, "steak", in any reasonable sense of the word, would refer to the entire hunk of stuff--bone and meat. And, as Rex points out, only a Rockefeller would be servings a $8-$10 per pound piece of meat to a pet!

BTW, I think the issue of giving bones to dogs mainly revolves around whether the bone has been cooked or not. A raw beef bone is generally deemed to be OK, while a cooked bone--especially a slow-roasted one--may present some of the health risk problems discussed above. A broiled steak bone, which typically isn’t heated very long (unless you are one of those cretins who insists meat be well-done!), would probably fall within the first "safe" category.

ArtLvr 2:59 PM  

@jim in nyc -- Have heard of "putz" but not "yutz"... has a lovely sound to it though. Do you want to define it? I guess Top Job is not as well known as a cleanser as Comet.....


ArtLvr 3:16 PM  

p.s. I take it back -- "challah" (var. challa) is leavened bread, so not for Passover; matzo (var. "matzoh") is right for the clue, but the clue should have included "var.".

Anonymous 3:18 PM

ArtLvr 3:28 PM  

Delighted! I have added the Urban Dictionary to my Favorite Places, thanks very much....


Fergus 3:51 PM  

Doc John,

Not long ago I read a fairly scathing critique of that book. One of the regular New Yorker writers (Louis Menand?) wrote the price, and as is often the case, a negative review can be a lot more fun than a laudatory one.

Kathy 3:52 PM  

Not to belabor the dog steak point (not sure if there is a hyphen in tbone, so I'm hedging), but I think beef bones are okay for dogs, but chicken bones can splinter and cause problems.

We had a cat that would pick chicken bones out of the trash and had to be careful to keep our golden retriever from "fetching" them. The GR was more interested in taking Bisquick out of the cabinets and spreading it all over the rug in the living room, however. Oh, and the trash.


Orange 3:52 PM  

Yikes! Doris, come back! Yes, Jim is right—I was replying to Megan's question about lurking. Not trying to shoo you away! Which would be horribly rude, given that this is not my blog. Just saying that if 7,000 people a day left comments here, it would be unworkable. Many blogs get comments from less than 1% of the day's readers, so 99%+ of blog readers lurk on a given day.

Joshua 4:00 PM  

Re: "writhe." I think the only person I've heard of writhing with pleasure was Uriah Heep - and that ruins it for anyone else... gross!

And thanks to Orange for explanation of my "W.T.H's?"


PS (Heard rumors that "alot" and "alright" now have made it in some dictionary as "current usage").

Anonymous 4:37 PM  

Is the applet what runs when you open up the puzzle? Because it doesn't work for me. Does anyone know whether that's because I use AOL? I need to open AcrossLite and do it either on the screen or on paper. I'd love to try the applet sometime and see how much time it takes me.

emily cureton 4:47 PM  

the internet was made for lurkers!

Doris 4:48 PM  

Yikes! It was the Who, not the Stones, of course. Have to admit that pop culture, even "classic" pop culture is not my strong suit. I'm an opera and ballet person, but I fake it with pop and sports.

Will never accept "alot" and "alright." Or "nuCUlar." At least our three leading candidates know how to pronounce "nuclear." (Talk about getting off topic.)

Laura 5:04 PM  

These JOBS were awfully familiar. I was working on constructing a puzzle on Saturday and had ????JO? (where ? is one letter to be determined) to fill, and I came up with the 4-letter answers in the puzzle, as well as your answers and BOOB.

(Alas, I eventually changed the O to an E and went with LEARJET.)

Rex Parker 5:05 PM  

Hate to be on the wrong side of Doris, but I have no problem with "alright" or "alot." I probably would never use them in formal writing, but they're colloquial expressions to begin with, so I have no problem with the, let's say, inventive spelling.

Also, I'm on record as having little to no affection for _Eats, Shoots, Leaves_. I can think of few activities more obnoxious than correcting other people's grammar. This is what I do to people when I really really really want to piss them off (i.e. I do it only teasingly, to people I know very well). Lord knows I (like many of you) make plenty of mistakes myself.


jae 5:37 PM  

anon 4:37 -- You need to download Java to run the applet. Its free like pretty much everything.

Leon 6:28 PM  

Smear Job
3: a usually unsubstantiated charge or accusation against a person or organization —often used attributively -a smear campaign-a smear job.

billnutt 6:31 PM  

Sigh - someday, TBONE will be clued as "Grammy-winning producer Burnett." (But probably not until _I_ construct a puzzle.)

With respect to all who feel otherwise, "alot" is like nails on a blackboard to me, and I usually do what I can to discourage my students to use it. "Alright" is only marginally more acceptable. (Pete Townsend gets a pass.)

Today's puzzle was fun. ZITHER - it's about time I watched THE THIRD MAN again. And how can you not like YEGG?

Liked the doubling of Huck Finn clues.

plumpy 6:46 PM  

As I've read it, apostrophes in acronyms were used because if you're writing in all caps, they're necessary. In an all-caps headline, "VIPs" looks like "VIPS" and you need the apostrophe to differentiate. And then it just became house style for lowercase writing for consistency.

I actually finished this puzzle by myself, and I'm a newbie that has never once finished a Tuesday puzzle. So I think this one is "medium" at best, not a "hard" as some are contending.

rick 6:47 PM  


Had an interesting thought about your blog:

Will your practice of puzzles move you better than 166th or will the people who've decided to go to the ACPT because of your blog make you worse than 166?

I'm looking for a Rex pool.

Doc John 7:14 PM  

Geez, and I thought I was just letting the group know about a book that I found enlightening and enjoyable! I never demanded everyone go out and read it.

Orange 7:19 PM  

If you're gonna spell it "alot," I think it's incumbent on you to pronounce it as if it's French.

I'm okay with "alright," though. "Alright already!" "I'm feeling alright. Not great. Just alright." How could you feel "just all right"? Are you all right, or just partially right?

I just taught my son the proper pronunciation of "nuclear." See? A seven-year-old can master it.

Fergus 7:49 PM  

... Traffic (with Steve Winwood and Dave Mason) had a great song called "Feeling Alright." They deserve a pass, as well, for non-standard usage.

Michael 9:20 PM  

This sounds a bit silly, but I thought (along with an earlier puzzle) that this was Tuesday-level. I had to think about some of the clues and started to fill in wrong answers on a few.

Michael 9:21 PM  

oops -- I meant "along with an earlier poster"

Anonymous 9:30 PM  

SHUKA (if you're still reading):

I absolutely agree with your comment -- but, just FYI, there just ain't no such word as "alot." Always "a lot." Cheers.

dk 9:34 PM  


me lurking

The Portland (Maine) Press Herald used to black border the obits and... they were on page 2

Doug 11:10 PM  

Rex, I'm from Nebraska and I can assure you we have at least 14 people here now! It was our first caucus ever, and I must say it was fun and educational. Actually felt involved.
Unfortunately, when the general election comes around our Obama votes won't count, I don't know the last time NE voted democratic.

JEM 11:38 AM  

Love the blog. Don't comment often (that makes me a lurker, I guess.) I'm in the "alright"-haters camp but was under the impression that it was ok in British English (probably because of The Who). Any truth to that?

PS, I thoroughly enjoyed Eat, Shoots and Leaves, being a proofreader-nitkpicker type myself.

rosebud 1:21 PM  

OBIT and DEATH in the same puzzle?

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