Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "HERBS" (39A: Things hidden in 17-, 23-, 49- and 57-Across)

I normally really like Peter Collins puzzles, but this one fell PREY (68A: Zebras, to lions) to the Tuesday Curse (I wrote earlier about how Tuesdays puzzles seem to go awry far more often than puzzles from other days of the week - Tuesdays are also always my lowest-traffic days. Connection?). The basic conceit of this puzzle is fine. Hide the HERBS. Got it. ("O @#$#, it's the cops - Hide the HERB!") But the phrases used to do the hiding are flat and / or do not have much linguistic life as self-standing phrases. I'M IN TROUBLE (23A: "Uh-oh") is the best of them all, but PARKED ILLEGALLY (17A: In front of a hydrant, say) just looks like two words randomly pulled out of a sentence. Ditto LENGTHY MEETINGS (57A: Business sessions that drag). And PRESS AGENTS (49A: Publicists) could not be duller if it tried. So many "Wheel of Fortune" letters.

The bigger problem in this puzzle, though, is not just that the crosswordese is Everywhere - it's that it All Starts with E. I mean, look at the north! E. LEE (14A: Gen. Robt. _____), ELL (7D: Pipe joint), and EEL (8D: Epitome of slipperiness)?! Three answers using just two letters? Amazing. Throw in EEK! (4D: "Horrors!") and ESL (12D: Course for a recent emigre: Abbr.) and, as you can see, it's a E-for-all up there. Total mess. Let's look at how many other E-words there are:

  • 19D: The Oscars of magazine publishing (Ellies) - @#$#$@#$#@#$!!!! WTF! OK, I'm annoyed first because I've never heard of this, and second because I had to endure ELL ... and then ELL-IES? That's like having to endure the REY (13D: King in un palacio) and LE ROI (3D: "Vive _____!") in the same puzzle (which, as you can see, also happened).
  • 33A: Atlanta university (Emory) - common
  • 33D: Maker of introductions (emcee) - very common
  • 45A: Umberto who wrote "The Name of the Rose" (Eco) - exceedingly common
  • 48A: Aurora's Greek counterpart (Eos) - reasonably common
  • 28D: Board members, for short (execs) - common
  • 40D: Lake _____, outlet of the Maumee River (Erie) - beyond exceedingly common
  • 58D: TV's Longoria (Eva) - common; saw it yesterday, in fact
  • 64A: Israel's Abba (Eban) - very common
  • 18D: Contestant's mail-in (entry) - possibly the most interesting of the non-ELLIES E-words ... which is sad.

If I left one out - who cares? Then there's OREOS (35D: Snacks dipped in milk), and IMP (62D: Little troublemaker) and SRO (20A: Notice for late ticket-buyers, maybe), and on and on. I'm also growing a bit weary of SATYR (66A: Mythological reveler). Then there was the iffy cluing at 15A: "Look both ways before crossing," e.g. (rule) - it's a command, a recommendation, but a RULE? Is it written down somewhere? Will you be penalized for not doing it? Then there's the puzzle's negativity, with grating / depressing answers all bunched up together. The BOSSY (44A: Dictatorial) / CHORE (37D: Dusting or taking out the garbage) / HOCK (41A: Pawn) / DRESCHER (36A: Fran of "The Nanny") nexus is particularly repulsive. Then there's the fact that I now have the horrid neo-sea chantey "IRIS" (46A: 1998 song by the Goo Goo Dolls that was #1 for 18 weeks) stuck in my head. Another example of how the 90's were a cultural wasteland. Again, let's not go back. As a non sequitur, allow me to remind you that today is Super Tuesday.

What I liked:

  • TIGRE (52D: Un gato grande) crossing PREY. Hot.
  • BOL (11D: Ex-hoopster Manute _____). I always felt vaguely sorry for this guy. He was something like 7'7" and weight about a buck twenty. He and Spud Webb (5'7") were in the league at the same time, if I recall. Tweedle Tall and Tweedle Short.
  • Like the consecutive "Father" clues: BEGET (44D: Father) and PARENT (47D: Father, e.g.). Both wife and I had PARSON at first for that second clue.
  • OGEE (5A: Decorative molding) - it's Quintessential Crosswordese, but I can't help but love it.
  • III (56A: Only Super Bowl won by the New York Jets) - mentioned it in yesterday's post, and bam, here it is today. It's like I'm magic. Or something.
  • PEPSI (1D: "Taste that beats the others cold" sloganeer, once) - I don't really like PEPSI; I just like the word "sloganeer"

Had two initial errors along the way: ERS for ORS (30A: They might be near I.C.U.'s) and ANGOLA (wouldn't stretch) then ALGERIA (right country, wrong word) for ALGIERS (9D: Home of the Casbah). Clearly ANGOLA was just my solver's instinct over-riding reason ("in Africa, starts with "A," more than four letters, ANGOLA!"). Two words I found somewhat hard to get (besides the freakish ELLIES) were OVULE (63A: Seed-to-be) and especially TIPSTER (43D: Racetrack tout), which feels like a word from another era, which may be why I love it.

If you live in a Super Tuesday state, happy voting. Everyone else ... just happy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Got a message from my mom this morning that my grandma had an answer in one of her crosswords that she didn't understand. None of her dictionaries had the word ATOZ in them. Could I explain? Yes ... yes I could. Parsing! So happy to be able to help the woman who inspired my love of crosswords in the first place.

PPS Got an irked (perhaps even IRED) comment on a very old puzzle from a woman scolding me for suggesting that Cleveland's Chief Wahoo is any way a racist symbol. I then traced this woman back to her own website, where I found out that not only is she a rabid Indians fan / Red Sox hater - she has Chief Wahoo tattooed on her ankle in an ankle bracelet that also has her children's names on it!!! No wonder she got angry. Sorry, lady. I retract my earlier comment. Your children's names are not linked to a racist caricature of a native American for the rest of your life. And the Indians did not get humiliated in the ALCS. And Manny Ramirez is not Awesome. Peace be with you. Yes we can!
[drawing by Emily Cureton]


Anonymous 9:02 AM  

maybe so many E words to remind people that it is election day in many states (I made that up to make a public service announcement). I thought the puzzle was fun and easy, good with my coffee.

Rex Parker 9:07 AM  

I can only hope that you are PERI Gilpin of "Frasier" fame, if only because that would mean a common crossword ANSWER was commenting at my site.

Even if you're PERI someone else, thanks for the E-lection plug.


Orange 9:30 AM  

I left the house with my son at 7:59, dropped him off at school, walked to the other side of the school building, ratted out some too-close-to-the-door electioneering, voted, and was home by 8:25. Gawd, I love voting when there are no lines!

Little-known fact: Umberto Eco's real surname is not Eco. He was in so many crosswords that his name became Exceedingly Common, and eventually that was shortened, J-Lo style, to E-Co.

Shaz 9:40 AM  

Happy Super Tues, Rex.
I'm finding your blog very helpful and very entertaining.
Sorry you had to deal with the yahoo, I mean Wahoo.
Yes we can!

emily cureton 10:01 AM  

i sang half that blasted goo goo crap to myself and still had to get the answer from the downs!

Norm 10:02 AM  

Manute Bol should also be noted for his strong commitment to charitable and peace-making causes. He's a very admirable person who was seriously injured in a car accident a few years ago. The SF paper still runs an update on him now and then. Not sure how he's doing at the moment.

Jim in Chicago 10:05 AM  

Wow - only 4 comments thus far. Really a slow day.

Agree with Rex on the "look both ways..." RULE thing. At best, it is a good idea, but I doubt its in any rule book.

I sort of liked the crossing of DRESCHER with UNDRESS, but was disturbed when both LEROI and REY appeared as downs in the top row.

A minor hiccup, when I wrote HIP instead of HEP and put ROOK for "pawn" (yes, I know the Rook is the Castle, sigh) instead of HOCK, which left me with IXEOS for "board members", which in turn took me faaaar too long to untangle.

I'm also not so sure about clueing CREATURE as "Loch Ness monster, e.g." since it almost certainly doesn't even exist.

doc john 10:48 AM  

Wow, this is the earliest I've ever gotten here! Must be because I'm visiting family in the East.

Anyway, I pretty much agree with everything Rex said, the theme being that this was a ho-hum Tuesday puzzle. I also agree with the "is 'look both ways' a rule?" argument.

Speaking of Super Bowl III, we Dolphin fans have that to thank for bring Don Shula to Miami!

One thing about the E clues: at least ERIE was clued in such a way that it wasn't a total gimme (for me). I mean, I had a feeling that a four letter lake was ERIE but not having heard of that river, I wasn't sure until I got another cross. BTW, thankfully (I guess) I have not heard of that Goo Goo Dolls song!

Happy voting everybody- I voted absentee last week (not really sure if it counts but it sure is nice to vote from the peace and quiet of one's own home).

Rikki 10:50 AM  

E-gad! O gee! Pale and amber sent me right to the fridge for another beer (last night) after a day of lengthy meetings with porky execs eating hohos and oreos (well, it was muffins and oreos, but you get the picture).

I know it doesn't bother some people and others actually like it, but I am bugged when there are two of the same clue in a puzzle, such as today's father/father pair.

Loved the movie Waking Ned Divine about a guy who dies leaving behind a winning lottery ticket, and his small town conspires to collect.

The only thing I didn't know was the Goo Goo Band, but the answer came easily from crosses and then I listened to the song and realized I did know it, just not who did it. Trying to get it out of my head now. 18 weeks, eh?

Not the fanciest puzzle, but fun and fast.

billnutt 11:03 AM  

Happy Mardi Gras! Those who want to, pig out (on HOHOS and/or OREOS, perhaps?) before Ash Wednesday. (Dr. John once described Mardi Gras as "the time when you do all the things you spend the 40 days of Lent repenting.")

Never mind the Goo Goo Dolls, I was just happy to see LOS Lobos (one of my favorite bands of the past 20-plus years) in the puzzle!

I think the movie ALGIERS is the one in which Charles Boyer says, "Come with me to the Casbah."

I thought you were a bit harsh on this puzzle, Rex, but it was admittedly on the easy side. Zip zip.

billnutt 11:08 AM  

Oh, and I want to thank kamasartre for correcting me about "Eli's Coming." Yes, of course it was written by the late great Laura Nyro ("And When I Die," "Wedding Bell Blues," "Save the People" et. al.) - why did I think otherwise? I hang my head in shame...

PhillySolver 11:14 AM  

A like Tuesdays, because its just like a box of chocolates. Ok, enough with the Pollyanna stuff. The theme brought to mind some 60's jargon which had me wondering if I remembered the usage of herbaceous correctly. I did, but in checking I found this interesting entry at Answer.com

The word herb, which can be pronounced with or without the (h), is one of a number of words borrowed into English from French. The (h) sound had been lost in Latin and was not pronounced in French or the other Romance languages, although it was retained in the spelling of some words. In both Old and Middle English, however, h was pronounced, as in the native English words happy and hot. Through the influence of spelling, then, the h came to be pronounced in most words borrowed from French, such as haste and hostel. In a few other words borrowed from French the h has remained silent, as in honor, honest, hour, and heir. And in another small group of French loan words, including herb, humble, human, and humor, the h may or may not be pronounced depending on the dialect of English. In British English, herb and its derivatives, such as herbaceous, herbal, herbicide, and herbivore, are pronounced with h. In American English, herb and herbal are more often pronounced without the h, while the opposite is true of herbaceous, herbicide, and herbivore, which are more often pronounced with the h.

BTW, My question for the site was not "what the H?"

Hobbyist 11:19 AM  

Ned Divine was a great flick in spite of critics' disdain. I am a wreck re today's events and hope my favorite is not hounded by tipsters and press agents and does not have to endure lengthy meetings. I am a newish citizen and have become too much involved but do remember the Kennedy influence and that of Trudeau w gave Canada her 15 minutes of fame!!

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

Sorry not to be a clue, Rex. Peri is actually my dog's name (hey, if you can have a nom de crossword, so can I)
best regards
clueless Peri

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

Sorry not to be a clue, Rex. Peri is actually my dog's name (hey, if you can have a nom de crossword, so can I)
best regards
clueless Peri

profphil 11:55 AM  

As to look both ways being a rule, I think it is. I recall learning them in grade school among other "traffic rules." The first rule is cross at the green, not in between. Rule number 2: Look both ways before crossing, etc. Does a rule have to be in a rule book to be a rule?

Rikki 12:13 PM  

Profphil... I agree. Look both ways is one of those rules of life, like respect your elders and eat veggies and don't spit into the wind.

PhillyS... I'm reminded of an old Cockney bloke who asked me 'ow to spell 'orse. "H" I began, but he stopped me and said, "I already 'ave the H." Ba da dum! Hey, what do want from me, it's Tuesday and I'm a middle child.

mac 12:49 PM  

There was no line at the voting place here either, but didn't have to rat out anyone, it was raining hard and the supporters were sitting in their cars.
This puzzle was so easy I didn't even bother with the theme until I was all done. Did it even faster than yesterday's, in fact I stopped halfway to have some Super Bowl Party leftovers for lunch to make it last a little longer..... Agree with Rex's comments and most of the above. Hope Wednesday is a bear!

rafaelthatmf 1:24 PM  

I kept waiting for the puzzle to get good. Like struggling through a book with hopes that the ending will resurrect the read from monotony only to have the disappointment deepened by the author’s failing to do so. Too much ease too little elegance.
Hope your vote counts today! Yes we can! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjXyqcx-mYY&3 [Sorry I don't know how to hyperlink here.]

karmasartre 1:24 PM  

I thought I read somewhere (Patrick Berry's Book? Wordplay (the book)?) that there was some "rule" about minimizing the number of continuation type clues, e.g. 51a "Forty-______". There was an abundance today:

Gen. Robt. _________
Waking __________ Devine
Vive ________
Father _______ Sarducci
Manute ______
______ Jean
_______ Polo
Lake ________
Forty ______

They can easy-down a puzzle. Can one of you experts enlighten me (is it really a guideline)? Thanx.


P.S. I have a bunch of "Tic-Tac-Toe loser" tools in my kitchen.

miriam b 1:31 PM  

Easy puzzle, finished well before my glass of Smoky Siberian tea cooled off. It tastes like Hvorostovsky sounds. Yum.

Some assorted thoughts sneaked in (I still refuse to say "snuck" though even the NYT does, on occasion; the word sounds babyish.)

"Herb" brought to mind Manet's Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, wherein l'herbe means the grass. Will someone please lend that woman an extra tablecloth before she gets a chill?

I have never heard of the Goo Goo Dolls, perhaps thankfully, but my beautiful alpha cat is named
IRIS. Loves people, but if you're a feline, don't mess with her.

Several myth references, what with EOS and IRIS and SATYR, as well as a clue naming Nessie.

GHackettNY 2:12 PM  

As someone in the magazine game, I can explain the obscure Ellie. The American Society of Magazine Editors has an annual awards event (general excellence, best photography, best news reporting, best essay, etc etc). The prizes are small (10 inches) Alexander Calder creations in the abstract form of an elephant, hence "Ellies." What an elephant has ro do with a magazine is another question...

PhillySolver 2:18 PM  

Well, in a close contest for Best Photo Spread, the Ellie makes hash out of the phrase "won by a nose".

Anonymous 2:56 PM  

Seems like I've been on a streak of hitting unfortunate crossings. I've missed one letter in every puzzle for a week now.

Today's was 60 down. To me the opposite of "naw" seems more like "yup" than "yep." (I'd say "yep" is more the opposite of "nope.") And of course, the crossing on the crucial letter was some obscure Israeli diplomat! Doh!

BT 3:45 PM  

How come the white Norweigans never complain about the racist Minnesota Viking mascot?

Rafael 3:54 PM  

As a longtime Washington Bullets/Wizards fan, I have to admit I was thrilled to see Manute Bol's name on there. Not only was he on the team along with 5'3" guard Mugsy Bogues, he was also the namesake for my pet newt when I was twelve.

PhillySolver 3:56 PM  


It's one of the valkyries of life.

doc john 4:01 PM  

@ Anonymous 2:56- EBAN is not very obscure, in history or in crosswords. He shows up a lot; definitely one to commit to memory.

Doug 4:03 PM  

I agree that "erie" is exceedingly common, but the cluing of "Lake _____, outlet of the Maumee River" is not common, I don't think I've ever seen that, and I've see ERIE clues in many ways. So I at least acknowledge an attempt to make an easy answer a bit harder. I'm not from the area, but Maumee River is a complete unknown to me.

wendy 4:35 PM  

As an Ohioan, I was impressed with the ballsy alt.cluing of ERIE, because I knew it! But even for Ohioans, it might not be readily obvious, since the Maumee is pretty regional and I'm guessing not a gimme for all Buckeyes.

jae 4:47 PM  

Pretty bland Tuesday and the theme was no help. I did know Maumee from growing up in Ohio (there's also a Maumee College I believe).

No line here in San Diego but they are predicting a record turnout.

@karma -- were you mocking my late night stream of conscious Sport's Night lament or just chiming in?? :)

karmasartre 5:01 PM  

@jae -- I was using your cadence to repeat your sentiment, not about the too-short-lived Sport Night TV show, but about the movie Old Yeller, which popped up in the next message after yours. It was in a double-feature I caught at the Varsity Theater in Palo Alto in the '50s, half (along with "All Mine to Give") of the saddest double-feature ever. I would never mock your late night stream of consciousness because 1) I always appreciate you comments, 2) I know you actually read other comments carefully, and 3) I share your late night predilection (under another name) for loitering @ Orange's blog with other folks who do the puzzle "The Night Before". Damn, I miss the Beatles.

Dan 5:09 PM  

I think PARKED ILLEGALLY is very much an "in-the-language" phrase. LENGTHY MEETINGS, not so much. Knew the ELLIES from reading Gawker (back when it was good)...

Manute Bol is awesome. He started out with Golden State, where Don Nelson had him shooting 3-pointers all the time, which was hilarious to watch. Not only were Bol and Spud Webb in the league together, they sold chicken together!

Karen 5:28 PM  

Thanks for the reminder to vote this morning Rex, I might have been late(r) to work otherwise. Happy Super Mardi Year-of-the-Rat Gras Tuesday, everyone! (I know the Chinese New Year isn't until Thursday, but we're celebrating today.)

I like the Tuesday puzzles...easy on the brain, a touch tougher than Monday. Speedy!

I think Emily's picture for Sunday is the most disturbing one she's done.

Doris 5:46 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
johnson 7:08 PM  

I also liked parked illegally! (Not that I've ever done it)

I'm going to Tevo Orange's program for tomorrow. Is it the kind of program where the winner comes back?

Orange 7:30 PM  

BT, last I checked, the Minnesota Vikings mascot wasn't a ridiculous caricature suitable for mocking, playing into old stereotypes. Does the Viking look subhuman? No. Also, the Nordic people weren't subject to genocide in this country.

I agree with Dan that PARKED ILLEGALLY is utterly "in the language." CIty folks care deeply about that phrase. (Entertaining new TV show on cable: "Parking Wars.")

Johnson, "MGC" is a one-show game show—if you win, you go home. If you lose, you go home.

Anonymous 7:49 PM  

Orange, I won't be able to see the show tomorrow, and I watch so little TV that I don't even have a VCR or Tivo. When it's all over, will you let us know how you did?


ArtLvr 8:31 PM  

My word! Easy, yes, but not without some subtle fun -- BOSSY MARM ORDERS and I'M IN TROUBLE, HOHOS and OREOS, TIGRE crossing PREY, SATYR crossing UGLY NUT, clue "Longoria" crossing LENGTHY etc.

Girls' names EVA, AMBER, NORMA, IRIS, BARB, SISSY -- with ELLIES turning out to be little elephants.

So I voted later than usual (6:30 p.m.) and the parking lot was the least filled I've ever seen it, then came home and zipped through the puzzle in a very good mood because the dear little old poll workers were happily exhausted from the large day-long crowd. Woohoo.

Anonymous 8:45 PM  

i worship your blog rex! how do you do it? i am a freshman and i can only get up to thursday until i have to come peeking at your site for some answers!

i am an amateur constructer (for my school newspaper) and i was wondering if you could take a look at one of my puzzles? see what you think?


Orange 9:19 PM  

A friend is planning to copy my part of the show to YouTube on Friday—will link to it at my blog (in addition to having blogorrhea about the experience).

jae 1:12 AM  

In case anyone cares there is no Maumee College. (Note to self, check before posting.)

@karma -- Me too. Saw Ringo do a couple of Beatles numbers on Craig Ferguson last week. Very moving.

Rikki 2:04 AM  

@Doc John... we're back to agreeing. Abba Eban was an amazing statesman and one of the most erudite speakers ever. If they'd listened to him then...

KarmaS & Jae... re: the Beatles, me too!

Anonymous 7:02 PM  

Orange said,"Umberto Eco's real surname is not Eco."

According to Wikipedia:
His family name is supposedly an acronym of ex caelis oblatus (Latin: a gift from the heavens), which was given to his grandfather (a foundling) by a city official.

Had I understood the 'joke', I would have never had cause to research this.

SW LaGland

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