WEDNESDAY, Feb. 20, 2008 - Chuck Hamilton (RACE SITE SINCE 1711)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "DOUBLE" - 65A: It can precede the first words of 17-, 28-, 35-, 47- and 61-Across

This was the easiest Wednesday puzzle I've done in a while. I'm pretty sure I did it faster than I did Monday's - can't be sure; did this one on paper without a clock in sight (kind of refreshing, actually). I had one snag, early on, in the Far North (for today, let's call it ... Winnipeg, in honor of the surprising number of Canadians who read this blog). So up there in "Winnipeg" I tripped when I tried to high FIVE someone who was merely WAVE-ing at me (7D: Hi sign?). I should have seen that the "Hi" was spelled like "Hi" in "Hi and Lois" and not like the "high" in "High Noon." The erroneous FIVE resulted in ICE crossing ICES (8D: Sews up), which seemed very sub-Shortz, even on his worst day. I tried to think if I'd ever hear anyone use "ICE" to mean 15A: Very close friend, in slang. Seems like it could be street slang - and it is, when it refers to diamonds. I tried to imagine my prisoner-students referring to each other as "ICE," but that didn't work. Finally I figured out that 7A: Rug, so to speak must be WIG, which made the [Hi sign?] answer WAVE and the slangy friend answer ACE. All that drama on such a tiny patch of land. The rest of the puzzle was a cakewalk.

Theme answers:

17A: "Back to the Future" subject (time travel)
28A: Fans often have it (team spirit)
35A: Earthquake site (fault line)
61A: C-E-G triad, e.g. (major chord)
47A: Flaky sort (space cadet) - got this without ever looking at the clue, with just three or four crosses in place. Not sure if that is appropriate or ironic, i.e. if it confirms that I am a SPACE CADET or if it or proves the opposite. I'll let you be the judge. One bit of evidence you might want to consider - I have this matchbook cover hanging off the top of my computer screen (along with a Batwoman action figure and a bendy Homer Simpson toy):

Today's puzzle surely breaks some kind of record for "Most Uses of 'helter-skelter' in the Clues." That record now stands at: 2.

12D: Enters helter-skelter (piles in)
45D: Not helter-skelter (orderly) - nice contrast, and not a single reference to Manson or the Beatles. Well done.

Unlike yesterday, when I derided the puzzle for its crosswordese cacophony, today I would like to sing a hymn of praise to a few of my favorite olde tyme crossword words. Now, as I look over this puzzle, there are a number of stale entries. You've got your SNO and your REPO and your APB and your HUR and your LOA and your ASTI and your EKE (which, by the way, I used in conversation yesterday, completely unironically; as my wife said, "you've really got to have ELAN to be able to use EKE and get away with it" - indeed). So, you've got all those. But they don't matter today, because ADIT (16A: Miner's entry) is in the house! I miss this answer so much. Back in the old old old days (i.e. the Maleska era), ADIT became, for me, the paradigmatic example of "Krazy Krap You Must Know to Solve Crosswords Effectively." I remember exchanging emails with my friend Shauna where we would sign off not using "Yours" or "Sincerely," but "ADIT" or "ETUI" or the like. You don't see ADIT much anymore (or so it seems to me), but I love it just the same. After all, you can't get into or out of a mine without it. We also have my favorite marine raptor in the puzzle today: ERNE (26A: Marine raptor). Someday I will retool this site with a new logo and everything, and the ERNE will definitely be my official mascot. I like the TERN, but I think ERNEs might eat TERNs, so there's really no choice, mascot-wise, as far as I can see.


  • 1A: Cause of a skin rash (eczema) - flashy 1A for a Wednesday. I think I have ECZEMA on my left shin, but my wife says it's just an abrasion.
  • 31A: Moonshiner's setup (still) - learned this word from "M*A*S*H"
  • 42A: Fraternal org. (BPOE) - the Elks! I remember the first time I saw this initialism in a puzzle - completely threw me.
  • 57A: Simon Wiesenthal's quarry (Nazis) - "quarry" is disturbing to me. It's like he's come home from a long day of NAZI hunting with a bunch of dead NAZIs in his knapsack. Wiesenthal's last appearance in the puzzle was when he suffered the indignity of having his name used to refer to one of The Chipmunks (who can forget the Chipmunks' surly Uncle Wiesenthal?)
  • 60A: Defaulter's loss (repo) - seems oddly, even awkwardly clued.
  • 2D: Some newsletter pictures (clip art) - never seen this answer in a puzzle before. Love it. If you love the current president and the war and all that, you should definitely not read this comic, comprised almost entirely of CLIP ART.
  • 27D: 2003 Will Ferrell title role ("Elf") - I am slightly embarrassed to say that I saw this in the theater. And I do not have the excuse that my daughter really wanted to see it, as she was too young. And ... I kinda like it. I saw it with two other adults who may or may not have been high at the time. They really seemed to like it.
  • 32D: Prada and Fendi (labels) - metonymy! The LABEL stands for the whole product line. That is what metonymy is, right? (asked the English professor)
  • 36D: Food pkg. markings (UPCs) - no redundant UPC CODES today.
  • 39D: Offerers of arms (escorts) - love this clue and answer, though "offerers" is a fairly painful word.
  • 44D: Spanish capital under the Moors (Cordoba) - Don't think I knew this. All I can think of when I see this name is "Rich Corinthian Leather," which, as you can see, makes no sense.
  • 48D: Parts of analogies (colons) - on SAT tests, yes, OK. When I make analogies, they tend to lack COLONs. I'm trying to imagine making an "air COLON" the way people make air quotation marks. Kind of awkward - people might think you're making some new-fangled profane gesture.
  • 49D: Automaker Ferrari (Enzo) - someday I will sit down and get my "Italian Men's Names in Four Letters That Start with 'E'" straight. My main confusion here is between ENZO and EZIO.
  • 54D: Race site since 1711 (Ascot) - also a stylish neck garment.
  • 6D: Far from klutzy (adroit) - ironically, this word looks and feels klutzy.
  • 58D: It's "stronger than dirt" (Ajax) - high value letters for such a small word. Love the clue, though wish it had used the word "sloganeer."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[drawing by Emily Cureton]


Anonymous 9:08 AM  

Speaking of four letter men's names beginning with E and ending with O, there's also Erno. But I think that's Hungarian.

PhillySolver 9:52 AM  

I did a Double Take when I saw this puzzle!

ADIT is common in the "xworld" but in the NYT it shows up an average of once a year in the Will Era (WE). CLIPART has been seen before, but SPACECADET is making its bow today.

I am getting a bit better at checking my work and corrected an error BEFORE I clicked finished. I had aba (American Bar Association) for the court clue and just about any four letters could be an Italian man's name (really). I just recall we saw him in the past few months so ha! I also had guessed Dare for Horror movie staple (and in the teen populated ones, it is common) and I wasn't sure of how to spell CORDOBA, but EEG saved the day there.

Good first effort. When Jim's new site is up, I hope to find out how many constructors have their debut on a Wednesday. It seems a good start.

Your commentary on COLON brought to mind the Victor Borge routine on punctuation. It had them rolling in the aisles in the 70s.

Orange 9:55 AM  

Rex, we're gonna have to use air colons (which need a better name, because that sounds...flatulent) at the tournament. It could be the secret club hand signal for your readers.

"Rich Corinthian leather" makes no sense in that there is no such thing as Corinthian leather, but it ties directly to the Chrysler CORDOBA.

Alex 10:04 AM  

I had the ABA/EAZO cross as well and though I did the rest of the puzzle in near record time it took me quite literally (and by quite literally I mean rather figuratively) forever to find that mistake.

Doug 10:06 AM  

Rex, I had the exact same experience, flew threw the puzzle, but had "five" for 7D, had to go through the alphabet till I got to W and "wave" made sense.

JC66 10:10 AM  

Thanks to Mo for emailing me the link to the Chronicle article. I found the piece interesting and it came very close to explaining why I'm an every day reader. Too bad it didn't include (Rex's) picture. Anyone interested can get Mo's email address near the bottom of yesterdays comments.

Rikki 10:20 AM  

No Corinthian leather? Then I'll take the crushed velour.

Air colons is hilarious. I can see all of you at the tournament pointing two fingers at each other surreptitiously. Reminds me of The Sting (a perfect movie), where the secret signal was to tap the nose with one finger.

Happy Birthday to Billnutt. Have a great day!

I liked this puzzle. A good first effort, despite some of the usual suspects. Hi sign? was my favorite. If it's itchy, Rex, it's probably eczema. If it stings, it's an abrasion. (That'll be $300 and I take all major health insurance.)

It must be incredibly difficult to construct a puzzle without using those boring common words, since it happens so rarely in the early part of the week. I do miss adit from the Maleska Era (ME).

Lastly, I don't care if you can see a watch on someone's wrist and sneakers in the crowd, I loved the movie Ben-Hur as a kid. Charlton Heston... yum!

Bill D 10:26 AM  

My wife found me this site after I spent three days (unsuccessfully) trying to complete Saturday's puzzle; the first I couldn't do unassisted in a couple of this is my first post. As a hockey fan, I loved 3D:Zamboni; I can't remember the last time I saw it in a grid; along with Enzo it gave the puzzle an Italian gent bent. Also thought parapet and clip art were unusual and welcome answers. Theme didn't help me at all - double was almost the last one I filled in! I found 67A: It may leave marks (pox) both clever and creepy. Originally had vigils for carols in 52A, but 40D: spare me soon did!

Rex Parker 10:28 AM  

Woo hoo, new commenters! Always nice to see new blood ... that sounds gross, but you know what I mean.


Anonymous 10:33 AM  

I'm pretty sure I learned about moonshine and STILLs from the Andy Griffith Show....

Jim in NYC 10:36 AM  

Curmudgeon here. Are there people who say a close friend is an "ace"? In what sense is "sews up" the same as "ices"?

PhillySolver 10:36 AM  

@ bill d

Indeed, welcome! Here you just ask and you shall get any number of conflicting truths. ZAMBNONI last appeared in 2004. I was in grade school. :-)

Anonymous 10:49 AM  

I learned about moonshine and stills from my Uncle Zeke.
God Bless him.

Bill W. from Hazelton.

Bill D 10:51 AM  

Jim in NYC - "ices" can mean "sews up" especially in a sports connotation - "That interception ices the game for the Dolphins!" I wasn't crazy about "ace" as a friend in slang, but sometimes conquering the clue writer's foibles is all part of the solving.

Rex and Phillysolver, thanks for the welcomes - I will assume the "woo hoo" was said with Homer Simpson's emphasis; my grade school days are half a century gone...

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

One quibble: Eczema is a skin rash or a type of skin rash, not a cause of skin rash.

Ironically, ADIT was my entry into the wonderful world of crosswordese, but it has been missing for so long I couldn't come up with it for some time.

Mary 11:03 AM  

Thank you for the link to the CLIPART comic strip. Very funny. I wish I had thought of it.

joaneee 11:07 AM  

Rex, your writeup today was priceless (I mean that in the nicest possible way - made me laugh a lot). The clipart cartoon link was great - love that stuff. Where do you find these things? (rhetorical question only - no response expected).

Doris 11:21 AM  

I think that you were thinking of cordovan leather, the name of which does originate from Córdoba, Spain.
Cor·do·van [kawr-duh-vuhn] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
1. a native or inhabitant of Córdoba, Spain.
2. (lowercase) a soft, smooth leather originally made at Córdoba of goatskin but later made also of split horsehide, pigskin, etc.
3. of Córdoba, Spain.
4. (lowercase) designating or made of cordovan.
[Origin: 1585–95; Cordov(a) + -an]
The pedant strikes again! (I'm still angry about Mischa Auer.)

Jim in Chicago 11:29 AM  

I wasn't a huge fan of this puzzle. Beginning by filling in ECZEMA just put me in a bad mood, I guess. BTW, anybody else remember "the heartbreak of psoriasis" commercials?

The entire NE just makes me wince. You have four overused words - TAPS, ADIT, HOLA, and SNO, combined with some really ugly ones like AIRER for "TV Station", APTEST for "best suited" aptest?!?!?!, and my least favorite of all STARTTO for "Opening of", I just don't like that clue/answer combination.

PILESIN was redeemed by the association with ORDERLY directly below it, so I've forgiven that one.

I feel that for a Wednesday many of the answers could have been more cleverly clued. Far too many of them were obvious. As one example, the clue "Old Master's work" for a three letter answer can really only be one thing - OIL. But, there are probably a hundred other ways it could have been clued. Ditto with DEI, STILL, and the ones I already mentioned above.

Finally, a couple quibbles. do "pox" "leave marks"? I thought the pox WERE the marks. And, I've never though of Mediums as claiming to have ESP in particular. Don't they claim to have some avenue to the "other world"? I would think that most mediums claim to be clairvoyant, which to me is different from ESP.

Jim in Chicago 11:33 AM  

I just did a little research, and it appears the Clairvoyance is a form of ESP. Nevermind.

PhillySolver 11:35 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
miriam b 11:41 AM  

@Anonymous, 9 AM: Yes, Erno, properly spelled with diaresis over the "o", is Hungarian. Elmo is Muppetish.

As to 4-letter Italian names: I went to high school with an Enio, and I've heard of Elio.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

ACE was used way back in black street slang, originally "ace tight", meaning best friend. Ace for number one, and tight for well, we're tight, homes, as it was explained to me.

PhillySolver 11:57 AM  

The leather controversy is settled...(maybe)
Car Ad Site

Alternatively, you can cut and paste this link:

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

Team Spirit has nothing to do with fans...strictly the team.

Matthew 11:58 AM  

"Used to be my homie,
Used to be my ACE,
Now I wanna slap the taste out ya mouth"
-Dr. Dre, Dre Day

Just in case anyone was in need of a citation for that :D

Love the blog, Rex.

Dick Swart 12:27 PM  

Helter-skelter: what overtones - Elvis, Manson and its cousin 'harum-scarum'

For an interesting entry on reduplicatives:

Please note plentiful use of colons!

Peter 12:54 PM  

Along with UPC Codes, don't forget ATM Machine.

Agree with the easiness sentiment here, though I did really enjoy the puzzle.

mac 12:59 PM  

Way too easy for a Wednesday, but somehow it was fun, in spite of the old standby's. Maybe because this may have been my fastest solving of any puzzle.
Btw, Rex, I met and later listened to a reading and lecture by Joyce Carol Oates, and she is very, very funny in a quiet way.

parshutr 1:04 PM  

VIN number (Vehicle identification number number) is my favorite in the Department of Redundancy Department.

karmasartre 1:11 PM  

I'd hate to have an ACE up my sleeve, unless it was a very, very special friend.

El Cordobes (the guy from Cordoba) was a national hero in Spain in the '60s. Bullfighter. Supply the accent mark at your leisure.

@parshutr -- speaking of DORD, you must appreciate it when the announcer says "it was a good golf shot".

PhillySolver 1:20 PM  

In the world of pleonasm, the practitioners call the repeating of a word after an Acronym RAS Syndrome (Redundant Acronym Syndrome).

So an ATM Machine requires a PIN Number, and today, you can find them using your GPS System, you know, located near your LCD Display on the dashboard of your SUV Vehicle...somebody stop me.

Bill from NJ 1:50 PM  

@Anonymous 10:49: greetings to a "friend"

Breezed through this puzzle like it was Monday. I had all the quibbles that Jim from Chicago had so I won't repeat them.

Nice to see the returm of ADIT

doc John 2:08 PM  

I'm not thrilled about calling an EEG a brain scan. That's like calling an ECG a heart scan. CAT, MRI or PET would be much better clued by "brain scan".

Also, medically speaking, POX are the sores that some from the disease and then they can leave scars when they have healed.

Speaking of M*A*S*H and STILLs, how about Radar O'Reilly in that episode where he goes on about being SLAKED by this nurse he's interested in?

I also fell for the five/WAVE trap although as a baldie, I had a feeling that [Rug] was going to be WIG!

Catherine K 2:17 PM  

Rex, today's blog was even funnier than usual. Made me laugh out loud several times!

PIN Number is another gem. Here in Canada we have Social Insurance Numbers, rather than Social Security, so "SIN Numbers" is another cringe-worthy phrase here "in the Far North".

I remember a man from our church bought a Chrysler Cordoba in the mid 70s. Every time this guy would come into the parking lot, we teens would say things like, "Ooh! Look at that soft Corinthian leather!", in Ricardo Montalban's accent of course.

Orange 2:20 PM  

Air colon!

Same thing, with the bottom finger swooping: Air semicolon.

chefbea 2:34 PM  

jim in chicago - i do remember the heart break of psoriasis.

Phillysolver - thanks for ricardo montalban in the cordoba

Frances 2:34 PM  

The opposite of repeating the last word of an acronym has to be eliminating the word entirely. Around here, Social Security numbers (SSN, per many a crossword puzzle!) are widely used for medical identification. Without exception, every medical receptionist I've encountered recently has asked "What is your Social?"

Anonymous 3:30 PM  

Anyone thing "APTEST" should be considered "AP TEST"? Having spent many hours cramming for those in high school, I read the answer as such after gettting it from the crossings. For me at least, AP Test is far from the crosswordese that is aptest.

Anonymous 3:31 PM  

think* ; getting*

PhillySolver 3:40 PM  

Ok, for the visual people (right brain) solvers, here is your next lesson:

Air Punctuation

or copy this link:

Fergus 3:53 PM  

Don't forget Sebhorrea in the trinity of skin disease. What was the product that was meant to remedy all three? Maybe relief from the heartbreak came through a different product?

Why can so many Americans readily see through all the crap of soft Corinthian leather, and still be so suckered by compassionate conservatism, say, or supply side economics?

So it's ROBES that the Krishnas are wearing? At one point we lived just a block away from one of their temples, so have a heavy imprint of the jingle of their bells. ROBES is too fancy a term for their attire ..., drapery was more like it.

And when offering secret signs, make sure not to confuse the air colon with the air umlaut.

PhillySolver 4:09 PM  

Oh, my! I'd forgotten the term "rock dots" until fergus wrote about umlaut.

How do you write Motley Crue on this page...

Ü Ö (ALT 153 and ALT 154) maybe

Jim in Chicago 4:12 PM  

The psoriasis product was Tegrin. This from Wikipedia:

The phrase "the heartbreak of psoriasis" is often used both seriously and ironically to describe the emotional impact of the disease. It may include both the effect of having a chronic uncomfortable disorder and the social effects of being self conscious of one's appearance. The term can be found in various advertisements for topical and other treatments; conversely, it has been used to mock the tendency of advertisers to exaggerate (or even fabricate) aspects of a malady for financial gain. While many products today use the phrase in their advertising, it originated in a 1960s advertising campaign for Tegrin, a coal tar-based ointment.

All this gives me a great idea for a themed puzzle - skin diseases. Or, maybe not.

Catherine K 4:21 PM  

PhillySolver, thanks so much for posting the link to that Victor Borge bit! I've seen it so many times over the years, and I still laugh my head off every time. It never gets old.

Anonymous 5:04 PM  

I have a real problem with the clue for ACE. To me it would be used a) ironically b) paternally c) cheerfully but with a stranger/acquaintance/coworker.

Used to mean "very close friend", never.

green mantis 5:22 PM  

Definitely learned about moonshine and stills from The Dukes of Hazzard. One of many truly bad shows that, for some reason, are irresistible when you're young. Others in this list include Three's Company, Designing Women, and Hart to Hart. And The Golden Girls. Puns!

Karen 5:39 PM  

From the medical world, let's include HIV virus and AIDS syndrome in the redundancies.

I'm proud to say I haven't seen (air colon) ELF.

billnutt 5:44 PM  

An easy puzzle for my 49th birthday. (Thanks for the wishes, Rikki!)

Anyone else remember the "Quien es mas macho?" episode of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE? To the question, "Quien es mas macho - Ricardo Montalban or Lloyd Bridges?" the response was "Ricardo Montalban. Porque el Cordoba es un automovil muy macho." That's a very long explanation for a bit that you probably had to have seen to appreciated.

I digress.

Loved the cluing for SPAREME. Nice to see a non-political clue for GORE, too.

Count me in among the folks who learned about stills from ANDY GRIFFITH and/or BEVERLY HILLBILLIES.

WHen I saw ECZEMA and ZAMBONI in the NW, I knew this would be a fun one.

dorothysmom 6:13 PM  

I thought I was so clever putting in "huggers" for holders of arms - until I saw that "escorts" is even more cleverer- LOL - (mispeak is intentional)

Ladel 6:14 PM  

For those of you with the issue who missed it, right click on the comments link and go to a new window and your sizing issues are over. Many thanks to Treedweller for this lofty advice.

doc John 6:35 PM  

@ billnutt- thanks for the "Quien es mas macho?" memory. I always liked that skit and thought it was cool that they did it (mostly) all in Spanish.

Ah, Tegrin shampoo! Growing up, I had a friend whose last name was Tagrin, so of course everyone called him Tegrin.

Doug 7:01 PM  

Hey, no wonder you get so many Canadians--You're only 400km from the border. We could hit you with a hockey puck from here! Or invade by tomorrow morning! But if the army did arrive no one could tell as we are cunningly adept at walking transparently among the Americans, speaking y'all's language and watching your football. You'd think we were just a bunch of nicely groomed, helpful Minnesotans in olive drab!

Orange 8:23 PM  

Karen, don't be proud that you haven't seen Elf! It's (a) funny, (b) sweet, and (c) holiday-movie-formulaic-sappy (which is OK if you're in the mood). I tear up at the end every damn time.

I used to work with a guy with psoriasis. The scaly patches on his arms were completely noncontagious, but he still had people ask a flight attendant to reseat them away from him. Heartbreak!

billnutt 10:29 PM  

Docjohn - what I always found funny about "Quien es Mas Macho?" is that it's really first-year high school Spanish. "Digame, por favor, quien es mas macho?" If memory serves, Rick Nelson was the guest host that show and was one of the contestants.

Orange, there's a song by Tom Waits called "Step Right Up" which consists almost entirely of advertising come-ons. On eof hte lyrics is: "It relieves the heartbreak of psoriasis - [cripes] buddy, you don't know the MEANING of heartbreak!"

Rikki 1:25 AM  

@Philly... I can't believe you posted a link to that Victor Borge skit. My husband found it just tonight and showed it to me. What are the chances of that?

Doc John... I thought of Radar and slaked too. Loved that show.

When my son was little, he used to play baseball with his baseball and basketball with his basketball ball.

Anonymous 1:35 AM  


Whenever I hear or read about the heartbreak of psoriasis, I think of the heartbreak of satyriasis (the male equivalent of nymphomania) and laugh.

Marybeth 1:58 AM  


"It saves your life, turns you into a nine year old Hindu boy and gets rid of your wife." I always like THAT line!

I didn't like some of the clueing, e.g for REPO, and ECZEMA. Same complaints as folks above had. I got stuck in the SW so this puzzle took me 1.5 times as long as Monday's.

I'm just starting to do xwords and NYT in particular, and this is the first time that I've done 3 puzzles in a row, 4 if you count Saturday as being in a row w/MTW. I was thinking as I was doing this "Okay, I can do Monday, Tuesday AND Wednesday puzzles with no help", but now I learn that this was an extraordinarily easy Wed. puzzle. Well, at least I can do Monday and Tuesday puzzles with no help.

I'm glad this site exists. I found it on Sat., stuck as could be. This site makes doing the puzzle a lot more fun. I'm in CA and do the puzzle after work, so I'm always the last person (or almost the last) to hit the blog.

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

I was tripped up for a moment on 60a defaulter's loss, thinking "deed" as in "we lost the deed to the farm". I agree with Rex P. that "repo" is a little awkward, but it is a common name for a car that has been reclaimed for lack of payment.

Anonymous 2:18 PM  

CAlady said:
Hey Marybeth you're not last! I do mine in the morning and post before noon. Now to figure out how I'm behind you?
Just wanted to say I love all the new words I learn (or at least I am exposed to) from Rex's erudite fans. Today it was metonymy and pleonasm.

Waxy in Montreal 5:32 PM  

Glad to see Córdoba cited. As Spanish capital under the Moors, with up to 500,000 inhabitants in the 10th century, it was arguably the most populous city in the world at that time.

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