SUNDAY, Mar. 23, 2008 - Robert W. Harris (ALLY MAKERS)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Common Interests" - phrases that might be of "interest" to two different groups (phrase must be taken both literally and punnily)

I did not enjoy the puzzle and I'm not really sure why. Maybe because it was late and I had just done a Sunday-sized puzzle (the Boston Globe) and had just returned from a reasonably heavy meal. There is nothing particularly unlikeable about the puzzle. I just know that I didn't have fun. Every section felt like a bit of a slog, few of the answers really sizzled, and the cutesiness of the theme answers was more annoying than amusing to me. I will write off most of my bad feelings about his puzzle to tiredness.

I had an uncharacteristically hard time getting into the NW (pretty wide open white space for a Sunday puzzle). Couldn't get the front end of EXOTIC PORTS, and even with the obvious STATERS cutting right through there, nothing was coming. I did not know TEVIS (5D: Walter _____, author of "The Hustler") - though I must have had an inkling, as I instinctively wanted NEVIS - and could not remember the very basic / boring ERIC (6D: Prince in "The Little Mermaid"). Even after I figured out RSVP (7D: Answer) and thus TEL AVIV (23A: Home of the newspaper Haaretz), I was still stalled until I looked at the capital "M" in the clue 30A: Some Millers and finally considered its beer-ness, giving me LITES. Both 1D: Like a guardian (tutelar) and 2D: Kept from home (in exile) were clued in such a way that I had no idea what they could possibly be getting at. Wanted something baseball-related at 2D. And TUTELAR just sucks. Bad. I like TIPSTER (1A: Track figure) - just wish it had come to me sooner.

Theme answers:

  • 24A: Electrical engineers and news anchors? (current events)
  • 26A: World travelers and wine connoisseurs? (exotic ports) - wife had PORT last night after her meal. I had un-Irish coffee (was gonna go with the alcohol, then changed my mind at the last minute, having already had a gin martini with cucumber) and we shared an apple cobbler that was far more apple than cobbler, but was still OK.
  • 44A: Geologists and music video producers? (rock bands) - why "video?"
  • 52A: College students and mattress testers? (spring breaks) - I'm on mine right now.
  • 82A: Old West outlaws and aspiring thespians? (stage coaches)
  • 89A: Beat-era musicians and orthopedists? (hip joints)
  • 110A: Fort Knox officials and pop singers? (gold records)
  • 113A: Comedians and parade directors? (straight lines)

There were surprisingly few answers that I simply didn't know. The TEL AVIV newspaper was one, though at least I knew what TEL AVIV was. I have no idea who this HOOKE guy is (59A: Robert who introduced the term "cell" to biology). I hear he introduced the term "cell" to biology. Good for him. Also didn't know the ensuing Across clue, 60A: Where the antihelix is (ear), but that was very easy to infer from crosses. Clearly, I have biology blind spots. Oh, and I did not know CRTS (98A: PC screens, for short) - had to look it up to find out that it stands for cathode ray tube. It's not an initialism I've ever heard spoken out loud, to my knowledge.

Here are some wrong answers I had:

  • REED for RAIL (107D: Symbol of thinness)
  • TELEVISE for TELECAST (91A: Show on the small screen)
  • ESTATE for ESCROW (8D: Mortgagee's concern)
  • ACRID and then ACERB for ACUTE (9D: Sharp)
  • HOOTS for HONKS (38D: Sounds of anger and jubilation) - if HOOTS is bad, HONKS is no better

And a word about 15D: Cambodian money (riel). Is it any wonder I botched the spelling here? Look at all the different countries that have some slightly variant versions of RIAL (from Wikipedia):

Having the "A" where the "E" should have gone kept CURRENT EVENTS (groan) hidden from me forEver.

The rest...

  • 8A: Din-din (eats) - the theme is cutesy enough. Do I have to suffer through "din-din" too? Plus, I think "din-din" is a cutesy thing you would say to your dog, whereas EATS is something you'd see on an olde tyme diner sign. They don't substitute well.
  • 12A: Nautical line (tow rope) - I normally suck at things nautical, but I got this pretty quickly - though I briefly thought it might be TOE ROPE because I couldn't get the "W" Down ...
  • 14D: Salon option (wave) - makes sense now that I look at it, but in four letters I'm gonna tend to want TINT or PERM.
  • 19A: Ally makers (uniters) - another off, clunky clue. Whom/what does it describe? Was Carter a "UNITER" when Sadat and Begin shook hands? Those guys weren't exactly "allies."
  • 31A: It may be pinched (toe) - oh come on. So may anything, I guess. I just pinched my arm, so apparently it "may be pinched" too.
  • 42A: Classic Hans Christian Andersen story, with "The" ("Red Shoes") - this makes me think only of the Loretta Lynn story-song "Little RED SHOES," off of her amazing "Van Lear Rose" album. I can't even remember the plot of the Andersen story, but I can tell you everything that happened to Loretta.
  • 65A: Choir stands (risers) - took me a number of passes to get.
  • 72A: The Gamecocks of the Southeastern Conf. (USC) - also known as "The Other U.S.C."
  • 106A: Huge, in poetry (enorm) - I have a weird affection for this lopped-off word.
  • 119A: Lettered top (dreidel) - almost ... almost ... symmetrical to TEL AVIV.
  • 10D: Craggy peaks (tors) - I miss this word. Used to be in every other puzzle (I learned it from puzzles back in the Maleska era) and now you just don't see it as much. I believe you might find an AERIE in a TOR. Do ERNES make their AERIES in TORS, 'cause that would be awesome.
  • 35D: 1976-1980 Wimbledon champ (Borg) - he of the long hair and sweat band and wooden racket. His first name, BJORN, is really more deserving of crossword inclusion than the cyber-sounding BORG.
  • 54D: Gangster's gun (roscoe) - sweet. Crimespeak. Wish GAM or MOLL were somewhere nearby.
  • 74D: Religious pilgrimage (Hadj) - HAAJ? HAJJ? HELP.
  • 94D: Dog after the winter, e.g. (shedder) - The lack of any qualifying words before "Dog" makes this clue sound really strange. Still, I got this easily enough, quite possibly because the winter is ending and my dog is shedding like mad.
  • 95D: How Calvin Coolidge spoke (tersely) - Just did an 11-year-old NYT puzzle that featured a quip about Coolidge, something like "Calvin Coolidge didn't say much, and when he did, he didn't say much."
  • 99D: Less accurate (falser) - there's a word we can all agree to hate.
  • 108D: Attire not for the modest (mini) - MINI-What!?!?! I know that you mean MINI-skirt, probably, but there are MINI-dresses, and MINI cars and MINI mice, come on!
  • 112D: Prefix with zone (Euro) - Where the hell is the EURO-zone? Is it at all related to the continent I know as Europe? "You are now entering ... the EURO Zone [cue thumping dance music] dance dance dance dance..."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


arb 8:47 AM  

95D: How Calvin Coolidge spoke (tersely) - Just did an 11-year-old NYT puzzle that featured a quip about Coolidge, something like "Calvin Coolidge didn't say much, and when he did, he didn't say much."

I love this one:

A possibly apocryphal story has it that Dorothy Parker, seated next to him at a dinner, said to him, "Mr. Coolidge, I've made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you." His famous reply: "You lose."

Leon 9:12 AM  

In Biology there is something known as the Coolidge Effect:

The term comes from an old joke according to which President Calvin Coolidge and his wife allegedly visited a poultry farm one day. During the tour, Mrs. Coolidge inquired of the farmer how his farm managed to produce so many fertile eggs with such a small number of roosters. The farmer proudly explained that his roosters performed their duty dozens of times each day.

"Perhaps you could point that out to Mr. Coolidge," replied the First Lady in a pointedly loud voice.

The President, overhearing the remark, asked the farmer, "Does each rooster service the same hen each time?"

"No," replied the farmer, "there are many hens for each rooster."

"Perhaps you could point that out to Mrs. Coolidge," replied the President.

Bill from NJ 9:14 AM  

For the second day in a row, the NW gave me problems: had ARCTICPORTS and OTOE which completely threw me for about twenty minutes.

When EXOTICPORTS suddenly occurred to me, the log jam broke and the puzzle fell in fairly short order, for me, in roughly an hour.

CURRENTEVENTS came next and I had no further problems with the theme answers.

I agree with Rex, an uninspiring, kind of clunky puzzle

PhillySolver 9:26 AM  

I welcomed this puzzle to finish the weekend on a higher note. The new constructor (new to me, anyway) gave us eight common phrases that I thought were clever in that they were not shopworn phrases. A few struggles including the NW for me. I surprised myself by knowing/guessing (hard to tell the difference anymore)including GNU (really?) and DREIDEL.

Happy Easter.

Ulrich 9:30 AM  

I liked the puzzle OK, if only b/c it didn't give me any real problems (I'm still at a stage where I appreciate this;-)). My biggest complaint about the theme is that it is so obvious in connection with the title that for the first time in my memory, the first answer I wrote down was actually a theme answer (gold records). I like it when I discover how the theme works more gradually. Solved the puzzle in the standard fashion--from NW to SE.

Encountered at the end a word I had never seen, dreidel, but didn't question it because it looked like a word, possibly Yiddish, that could exist. And sure enough, there is such a thing acc. to the Wikipedia. Furthermore, the word comes from Yiddish "dreyen", which has the same origin as modern German "drehen" (to turn).

Jim in NYC 9:50 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doris 9:51 AM  

It's a good thing that most people don't remember the actual Andersen "Red Shoes" tale. It doesn't pass your "breakfast test." The little heroine's feet get chopped off in order to stop her dancing over hill and dale in those shoes. Wooden feet are substituted, but she dies after spending most of the rest of her life on her knees, praying in church. The 1948 Michael Powell film of the same name (my favorite movie of all time, and a favorite of Martin Scorsese, who ought to know) omits this detail.

Jim in NYC 9:52 AM  

Interesting (YMMV) how "Western tribe" at 27D can be answered with either the singular OTOE (Dan Quayle's spelling?), or the plural OTOS, having a different spelling of the root.
Get outside, everybody!

Ulrich 9:55 AM  

@Rex: The Euro-zone is the zone where the Euro is the currency, which does not include all members of the EEC.

Alex 10:09 AM  

The NE to SW line was relively simple (not fast but slowly it all fell together). Three mistakes got me in trouble in the NW and SE.

With ----IC PORTS what I saw was SCENIC PORTS. Wine drinkers say all kinds of crazy things about their drink of choice so it didn't seem too horribly unreasonable.

In the SE, TELEVISE was so obviously the correct answer (as opposed to the really correct TELECAST) that I actually at one point said "Too bad that's TELECAST, because I really want to put CALORIC in there."

But the really big mistake was putting in A STRIDE for "Defeat in a derby." I was reading "Defeat" as a noun" and you certainly could lose by a stride. Of course, I was completely failing to notice that it was crossing ASTRIDE (93d, "On") at the I.

johnson 10:28 AM  

Don't forget "Mini-me"

ArtLvr 10:42 AM  

Had some of the same false starts as others, plus "status ports" for a while instead of EXOTIC PORTS, so yes -- thed NW took the longest to do.

There were little bright spots: I like SALLIED but it needs "forth" somehow? And SORCERY "in which spelling counts" was amusing, though you don't spell someone with the verb, just cast a spell on... To spell a person is to take over a chore for a bit.


artLvr 10:46 AM  

p.s. I seem to remember a film version of RED SHOES with Moira Shearer in which she ends by leaping from a balcony onto a track with oncoming train? Am sure you cine buffs will set me right!


Doris 10:49 AM  

I just mentioned the 1948 Michael Powell film in my comment. See above 9:51 a.m. Moira either jumps or falls (it's left ambiguous) from the theater balcony that conveniently overlooks the Monte Carlo train station They do take the red shoes off her bloody feet, but her feet remain on.

Anonymous 10:49 AM  

Nice puzzle. CRTs are kind of archaic, yes? I'm with the recent poster who's "computer obliterate," but I don't think computers have used cathode ray tubes for a while now.

Now I'll be hearing "Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay" all day -- and on Easter, yet.

Strange that I knew Telaviv immediately, never having heard of Haaretz, but then doubted myself and took it out for a while. I felt sure 2D involved "exile," but tried to put the "X" too far up.

Shockingly, I actually knew the sports names today.

Emily 10:52 AM  

Ulrich - a dreidel is a top traditionally played with at Hannukah - players take turns spinning it, and depending which face is up when it falls over, you either take gelt (or peanuts, or pennies) out of the pile in the middle or put some in. (Youtube has some...umm... "creative" versions of the dreidel song if you're curious.) Perfect for Easter morning.

And a miniskirt is often just referred to as a mini, just like a t-shirt can be called a tee; no problems there.

kathy 10:58 AM  

Coincidentally, I did some research on Calvin Coolidge last night, when my father told us a story about him firing the Boston police in 1919 when they went on strike. He was the governor of Massachusetts at the time. Who knew?!

In addition to talking tersely and hitting Dorothy Parker with bon mots, he had a pet raccoon.

Agree with everyone on the puzzle--nothing inherently offensive, but just...meh....


Joon 11:05 AM  

i agree with rex for the most part. today's puzzle was fine, but largely unmemorable. the NW was also the last part of the grid to work out for me.

CRTs are indeed pretty old-fashioned by now. but it's definitely an acronym that gets (got) spoken out loud pretty regularly. before there were LCD screens and plasma TVs, all televisions and monitors were CRTs.

robert HOOKE is one of history's most fascinating scientists. in addition to coining the term "cells," hooke described the law of elasticity in physics which is now named for him. he was also a prominent architect who helped christopher wren rebuild london after the 1666 great fire. hooke was a great rival of newton, who despised him so much that after hooke's death, newton bought up and destroyed all portraits of him, so that now we have no idea what he looked like.

miriam b 11:28 AM  

I'm another solver who was initially hung up on EXOTICPORTS. After that dawned on me, all was well.

@joon: Thanks for the fascinating color commentary on HOOKE. Possibly he was one of the men mentioned in these lines of Eric Bentley's:

Sir Christopher Wren
Said "I am going to dine with some men;
If any one calls,
Say I am designing St. Paul's."

Anonymous 12:00 PM  

Some fun moments.

A question re EXOTIC PORTS. Port is produced in one area of Portugal. Does that make it exotic?

bill from fl 12:05 PM  

I liked this one a lot more than Rex did. Pretty hard, but with enough clever answers to keep me entertained. I didn't see "mantra" until I got down to one missing letter, but it was worth the search.

Robert Hooke is a major character in Neal Stephenson's massive Baroque Cycle. To those who like historical fiction, I recommend at least the first volume, Quicksilver.

John Reid 12:06 PM  

I had quite a few troubles with the solve here. Lots of mistakes that slowed me up - televise for TELECAST, roars for HONKS (38D), -na for EAR (at 60A, I figured given the helix reference that it was probably dna or rna), perm for WAVE (14D), and just like Rex I went in succession from acrid to acerb to ACUTE, which in hindsight is the simplest-sounding of all those choices!

I finished in about 26 minutes, which is slowish for me for a Saturday - but at least quarter of that time was spent just trying to make my way through the small NW corner! I agree with the general consensus that that was rough going. I wanted the P for -PORTS, but just couldn't think of any way to make 7D end in P. I had STATERS, and wanted REDSHOES (which makes me think of Kate Bush rather than Hans Christian Anderson), but couldn't get anything else. Finally thought of LITES for the Miller clue. Then I started stumbling on 3D. Tried AVIATED, but the -VT- at 19A looked bad, so changed it to FLITTED which looked ok. Then sat and stared at it! *Finally* got in by cracking INEXILE, which gave me the X for EXOTICPORTS, fixed 3D to PILOTED, guessed UNITERS, twigged to RSVP (ouch!!!), and, even after all that struggling, *still* ended up pondering -ELA-IV for what felt like forever. What a brutal little corner!

I was amazed when the applet accepted my solution because I wasn't one bit happy with TUTELAR. Could that sound any wrong-er?

Another wrong-sounding entry to me was RECUSED at 32D. Is it just me? Looks like a portmanteau of recessed and focused!

@Joon - I second Miriam's thanks for the wonderful info on Robert Hooke. [I actually got that clue in the puzzle off just the K by thinking 'Hmm, maybe it's the same Robert Hooke who Hooke's Law is named for.' Lucky guess for sure!] I had no idea that he was at odds with Newton.

A few of the theme answers here had me chuckling, in particular HIPJOINT which I did think was quite clever. Even EXOTICPORTS I think is wonderful in hindsight, although some of its appeal was lost on me during the solve because I was a bit frustrated by that little region of the grid. And I also liked the SORCERY clue! Good fun Sunday stuff.

kate 12:27 PM  

Had everything but the NW filled in quickly, but also got a little stuck at the front of EXOTICPORTS. Even after I finally guessed INEXILE. I stared at the X for a bit and finally the light went off.

I got most of the theme answers by just guessing the answer, rather than discovering them from the crosses. It's more fun to have to work for the joke.

Dan 12:55 PM  

I liked the puzzle - not flashy but clever.

NW killed me too - literally half my solving time was spent there and in the SE (where fixing TELEVISE worked things out pretty quickly). I had TELAVIV, REDSHOES, even TEVIS and ERIC, but I stared at that empty block for a long while. Guess I'll chalk it up to crappy cluing...

jae 12:59 PM  

Rex almost exactly described my solving experience (including missteps) and feelings about the puzzle. NW opened up for me when I finally got tired of staring and called my 9 year old granddaughter (who has recently started doing puzzles) for the Little Mermaid prince. She knew it of course and NW fell with some misgivings about TUTELAR.

Bill from fl 1:04 PM  

Recused refers (I think exclusively) to a judge who withdraws from a case because of an actual or apparent conflict of interest. I knew a judge who always pronounced it "re-scused," apparently getting it jumbled up with excused.

Tom from IA 1:34 PM  

Recused is a word I remember from the 2000 presidential election. In Iowa, court justices would have had to RECUSE themseleves if their relatives worked for interested parties in a case to be tried. Apparently that did not apply to the SCOTUS justices who had many relatives working for candidates.

Noam D. Elkies 1:35 PM  

I liked this puzzle (being blessed with a much higher affinity/tolerance for puns than Rex's), though many of the entries/crossings/clues felt tough for a Sunday puzzle, including many common entries where the clue seemed deliberately obscure. Some of these were pointed out already (e.g. the fact that 110D:GNUS are striped was gnus -- er, news -- to me); other examples are 81A:RAD (could also be BAD), 96A:MAINE, 104A:BAN, 40D:GDS (ick), 41D:LSAT (could also be MCAT -- I was working up), 50D:TRISTE (familiar in French, rare in English), and the clue for 115D:IOU. Oh, and the clue "Desex" is a long way to go for 105A:ALTER, especially at breakfast time...

For 52A I had the ending ...REAKS and extended it to STREAKS (which is of interest to at least *some* college students) before the crossings pointed me in the right direction.

Nice to use "eked" for once as clue (to 66D:SCRAPED), not fill; to put 85A:KNEEPAD near (albeit not below) 89A:HIPJOINTS; and to clue 96D:MANTRA "You can say that again" (though I may have seen that clue before). Not sure what's so terrible about 38D:HONKS -- think about car horns either in jammed traffic or following a big sports victory.

Can somebody tell the folks at BBC radio that the paper's name is Ha-AR-etz, not haa-RETZ? It means "the land/country" and is used idiomatically to mean "Israel".


Anonymous 1:36 PM  

Lavish showed up in a clue (for dotes, as lavishes) and as an answer. Kind of annoying when that happens, since I'm always tentative to fill in that answer.

Doug 1:46 PM  

Looking back at the clues and answers, it seems like a perfectly solid puzzle with just a few screwy fills (HADJ, OTOS, GDS, ORT, ONEACTER) but there were some combos that I really didn't like: Boffo-HIT,
Less accurate-FALSER,

I thought the theme was quite inventive and once I figured it out (at long last with GOLDRECORDS) they fell in order. I like to do Sunday puzzles on Saturday night and treat them like an uphill climb with welcome discoveries along the way that keep me going. When I made the discovery in this one it was more like "Ugh, finally" instead of "Wow, now that's clever!" The Rat-NAMESNAMES clue from yesterday? is a lovely combo, for example. Let me put it this way, if the mechanical clueing of this one is a "Coolidge" then I'll opt for a "Bill Clinton."

ArtLvr 2:17 PM  

For those who can access the other puzzles today I recommend the Philly Inquirer -- talk about high Scrabble values! Whew..

Rex, I had to chortle at the desex/alter because it reminded me of your recent play on words geld/gelt etc., and all the discussion that entailed.

Also enjoyed the comments above on Hooke (with book recommendation), and Coolidge. Thanks again for this blog!


Anonymous 2:34 PM  

What seemed to make the puzzle clunky to me was that the theme clues referred to people, but the answers mostly refer to things. "Engineers, news anchors" are not events. "Students, mattress testers" are breakers maybe, but not breaks.

jae 2:37 PM  

Oh and thanks Rex for the "R" currency list, hope I can remember most of it.

Ladel 3:00 PM  


Haaretz is the name of a daily paper published in Israel, the name essentially means the land. Many Jews refer to Israel as Eretz (slight spelling variation), a term of endearment.

John 3:20 PM  

"Hadj" drives me crazy because even given the difficulty transliterating Arabic into English it isn't right. It's HAJJ. The last two letters are not some strange Arabic letter that can be transliterated multiple ways. They're Js, pure and simple. It's no different than the answer to "Gospel author" being "DJOHN." It's just absolutely wrong. Perhaps easy to figure out, but fundamentally erroneous.


Michael 3:34 PM  

I thought this was easy, but perhaps this was just the contrast with Saturday's harder-than-usual puzzle (even for a Saturday). Perhaps I'm being overcritical (actually I'm sure these examples are unobjectionable) but I didn't much like the following clue-answer combinations:

less accurate -- falser (how many people have ever said "falser"?)

huge in poetry -- enorm (no doubt a zillion citations, but this just seems silly to me)

wallop - baste (both paste and waste seem better, maybe I need this explained)

like some grievances -- unaired (or a whole lot of other adjectives)

Anonymous 4:23 PM  

I don't understand "GDS."

ArtLvr 5:06 PM  

40-D Factory shipments = goods, abbr. GDS

Nitpicker 5:16 PM  

Good concept, easy to crack, but here are my nits:

- All theme entries were plurals, which by itself is not a problem given the theme.
- But, there were additional clunky plurals: uniters, basalts, staters, honers.
- Add falser to the above, and that completes my list of things that detracted from a fine debut.


Orange 5:44 PM  

CF at 2:34, what's omitted from each clue is "Common Interests"—the electrician and news anchor both like CURRENT EVENTS rather than being CURRENT EVENTS. Does that make sense?

John at 3:20, this dictionary lists haj, hajj, and hadj as accepted spellings. And you know the rules—if it's in the dictionary, the crossword constructor can generally get away with it.

william e emba 7:10 PM  

I started with TELAVIV immediately, and then guessed TEVIS on the cross, as the only writer I knew that fit. (He's probably more famous for his science fiction, like "The Man Who Fell to Earth". His short story "Far From Home" is one of the all time greats.)

After that, the puzzle was mostly dull. I wanted to put "AUTO" in for Zone prefix, but I knew it couldn't be right.

Robert HOOKE should be well-known to every educated adult. Isaac Newton's famous quip "If I have seen farther than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants" is considered by some to be a backhand insult to Hooke, who was quite short.

Diana 7:27 PM  

You may not have liked it because it was fairly easy. All but NW was obvious I thought and the combinations were humdrum.
But, oh, that nasty NW corner. That had me hopping, too.

Anonymous 12:13 AM  

I guess I'm the only one who actually had "Baltic ports" for a while, though I know perfectly well Portugal is not on the Baltic...I agree that this puzzle was pretty pedestrian. Like some others, I was able to guess the theme answers (other than exotic ports) right off the bat, without needing the intersecting letters, and then filling in the rest was just a bore.

Catherine K 12:17 AM  

Rex, you said that you always think of "tint" or "perm" as standard four-letter words for "Salon option". Funny, I didn't think of either of those words; the two that always come first to my mind are "afro" and "updo". Sad to say, I've had all four done to me at one time or another...

Anonymous 2:32 AM  

This puzzle gave me a hard time, but in a good way -- I liked it a lot and look forward to more by the new constructor.

Was one of those puzzles which for the first five minutes I could only get two or three answers. Then they started coming faster, until an hour later I was done. My favorite kind.

Most clever: Mantra, exotic ports, gold records, spring breaks.

All in all, fun and challenging. Very relaxing after a busy weekend.

Joe 6:41 PM  

does 'eked' mean 'scraped'? I thought it meant more like 'made do' or 'stretched'. I'm just grumbling, because I guessed dreidel but spelled it dreidl and since it didn't fit thought it must be something else. to give someone a basting is to give them a beating, or 'wallop'. Since Safire had a grammatical mistake in his column perhaps there were sluggish spirits haunting the magazine.

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