MONDAY, Apr. 21, 2008 - Janet R. Bender (DRUG-YIELDING SHRUB)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Cleaning up - six theme answers all begin with a word that can refer to a method of cleaning

This was a Tuesday puzzle. I did it in under 4, but I'm not sure how, as I stumbled and stutter-stepped all over the place, in between picking my jaw up off the floor after seeing multiple astonishing clues and answers. The theme is well conceived, but stretched too far, at least for a Monday. SCRUB OAK is not terribly familiar, SWEEP HAND is equally marginal (really annoyed my wife), and WASH SALE ... an absolute novelty to me. I'll give the puzzle credit for originality, and for ambition. But I have to question why there are so many high-end words, normally seen only in late-week puzzles. I have recently blogged about at least three different words in this puzzle, and how puzzling / annoying they were to me, but none of those words had the gall to show up on a Monday. And here they are ... like some kind of gang, a roving pack of puzzle undesirables.

29D: Legendary Washington hostess Perle (Mesta) - "Legendary?" She's not the Loch Ness Monster.
50A: Hasty glance (apercu - actually aperçu) - that killed people when it turned up in a Friday. Monday? Monday? Wow. OK.
24D: Actor Tom of "The Girl Can't Help It" (Ewell) - this sap is lame enough when he's clued via the (at least familiar) "Seven-Year Itch." In this guise ... he's unbearable. Throw him back!
63A: Drug-yielding shrub (senna) - more flora I've never heard of.
32A: Fugard's "A Lesson From _____" (Aloes) - soothing plants can teach us so much ... and yes, the plant is in fact what the title refers to: a collection of ALOE plants. It's ... a metaphor for something, I'm sure.

I'd be surprised to see any of the above answers on a Monday. All of them together ... freakish. Weirdest Monday experience I've had in a long time.

Theme answers:

  • 18A: Symbol of a new start (clean slate)
  • 20A: Low-growing tree found typically in rocky soil (scrub oak)
  • 33A: It indicates the seconds on a clock face (sweep hand)
  • 40A: Small whirlwind (dust devil)
  • 52A: Stock transaction done at a loss for tax purposes - I wonder how many people, having no idea what either this or 52D: Pantywaist (wuss) means, will be inclined toward CASH SALE here...
  • 57A: Old radio part (vacuum tube)

There are some high-end clues for basic answers. I particularly like the clue for ERIE - 39A: _____ Lackawanna (bygone railroad) ("Bygone," by the way - another great crossword clue word, à la "slangily" and "sloganeer"). MEALS is also clued a bit fancily - 38A: Three squares, e.g. I was unhappy with a couple answers because they seemed off, clue-wise. First, isn't HAZMAT (26A: Dangerous cargo) an abbreviation? Shouldn't "briefly" be somewhere in this clue? Then there's RIFLED, which I also don't like, as it doesn't substitute well for the words in the clue - 44A: Ransacked and robbed. "Ransacked" is enough here, isn't it? "Robbed?" If you rob someone with a "rifle," I guess. . . Today is yet another day where syntactically linked clues bring me no joy. If REAP's counterpart had been SOW, maybe, but SEEDS (13D: Does some spring farmwork)? Meh. (REAP = 1A: Do some fall farmwork ... I didn't really read the "farmwork" part and immediately wrote in RAKE)

Et Alia

  • 16A: Actor Murphy of old westerns (Audie) - familiar to me, but wife got very thrown by the intersection of this answer and 11D: Red who fought oil well fires (Adair), neither of whom she knew (she grew up in the Antipodes, people, give her a break).
  • 43A: "As You Like It" forest (Arden) - pretty uppity literary clue for Monday. I had an English professor named ARDEN Reed. Sadly (as far as aptness goes), he did not teach Shakespeare. He taught British Literature II. Pope, Swift, etc. Also Romantic poetry. Probably still does. I remember misspelling Jonathan Swift's name on a paper (I wrote JOHN ...) and getting it back with a comment that he (Professor Reed) was particularly sensitive to this misspelling, as Jonathan was his son's name. D'oh!
  • 45A: Seer's gift, briefly (ESP) - I think of "seers" as ancient and ESP as modern. Not sure why.
  • 59A: "Stronger than dirt" sloganeer (Ajax) - I cannot resist a clue with "sloganeer" in it!
  • 2D: Prez or veep (exec) - how I discovered my 1A - RAKE - was wrong.
  • 5D: Debutante's date (escort) - see also 30D: Lover (swain).
  • 8D: Fat farm (spa) - well that's not ... nice.
  • 27D: Baseball's Felipe or Jesus (Alou) - the most common baseball name in crosswords at one point. I have to give editors credit - they have kept my puzzles nearly ALOU-free for a good long time now. So much so that I'm almost happy to see ALOU today.
  • 44D: Usher again (reseat) - oh come on, that's terrible. At least the clue wasn't [Ush again].

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS I have a bet going with myself, and it starts ... now.

PPS Well, that took exactly four minutes - I bet myself that someone would make a NABES comment inside of 15 minutes (49D: Local theaters, in slang). Commenter Mimi made that 15 minute mark look ludicrously high. Thanks, Mimi.


Mimi 8:50 AM  

How could you miss NABES after your diatribe of last week???

Crosscan 8:55 AM  

What no canadian sports reference? (Other than Ernie NABES)?

What day is this? Surely not a Monday.

Rex Parker 8:56 AM  


I miss nothing. That NABES-omission was a little experiment. [see my PS, and now PPS]

Thanks for ending the experiment so quickly. Now I can go make coffee.

Best wishes,

Squash's Mom 8:56 AM  

I'm guessing your bet had to do with either how many people or how soon people would be talking about NABES. Since you specifically left it out of your comments. And there ya go!

I put it then immediately took out RAKE for 1A. As it's a huge fall chore here in the midwest, I wasn't sure they would do it on a farm. It seemed like too much work.

There was a lot of non-Monday stuff, but since I'm not a big speed solver, a little 'thinking time' was OK by me.

ArtLvr 8:56 AM  

Too funny, getting NABES again after the hissy-fit recently: once was goofy, now and evermore a gimme!

I found myself going faster than usual, more aware of speed competition thanks to Rex and friends. It didn't spoil the spotting of fun words or appreciation of a spring-cleaning theme at the end! I assume one includes the odd coins found in the picking-up process to get 52-A's CASH as part of the theme?

Great Monday adventure... My favorites were DUST DEVIL, SWEEP HAND and admittedly French APERÇU. Also like the clue "three squares" for MEALS!


ArtLvr 9:01 AM  

P.S. I see my error -- WASH, not CASH, and WUSS not CUSS. I thought of a little cuss being a "pantywaist". Ah well...


Crosscan NABES 9:02 AM  

Guessed what the bet was but Mimi beat me.

Is there an over/under on how many comments will mention NABES.

Would we like it if it was clued anagram of BEANS?

Kathy 9:02 AM  

Good one, Rex, on the nabes! I knew your omitting it had to be intentional.

I knew it was hard (er than usual for a Monday) while I was doing it, but seeing your list of clues/answers made it even more obvious.

It's interesting that sometimes Friday and Saturday puzzles are more difficult than usual, but we don't complain, but we want our Mondays easy, dammit!


Anonymous 9:04 AM  

How about ALAR and ARAL?

Mimi 9:05 AM  

I would bet she put NABES in just to rile Rex, but surely the puzzles are submitted far in advance. Quirky coincidence.

PuzzleGirl 9:10 AM  

It's been a long time since I've worked a puzzle and when I was done felt that I had absolutely nothing to say about it.

Rex Parker 9:10 AM  

I'm quite sure NABES was not inserted as a big joke on me. That said, I find it hard to believe that BET/BABES wouldn't be far more likely than NET/NABES to show up in a constructor's initial submission.

RET/RABES would be truly horrible.


mike 9:11 AM  

I was waiting to see what you said about NABES I kept refreshing to see what you said, then remembered a recent post where you said you posted your blog at 9 am so I waited to refresh at 9 and knew, the bet was about NABES. You must have posted at 8:35. If you had posted at 9 I would have made the comment immediately. I don't post often.

I bet sure Will used NABES because of last fridays comments.

It went from being killer fill to a gimmie in one weekened.

PuzzleGirl 9:26 AM  

GET/GABES is another (more reasonable) possibility. I choose to believe that NABES was used as a shout-out to you (us). Oh Eeellllen ....

ArtLvr 9:30 AM  

p.p.s. Since I was a full-fledged stock broker for five years, in one of my nine career-lives incarnations, I can add a partial justification for CASH SALE, as a year-end technique relating to tax returns for the current year. This was the equivalent of a Same-Day settlement, as opposed to the then-normal three business days required for a stock sale to be effective... This term works better for the clue, in that the result would be more inclusive of profit or loss, not just a "wash", and still take IRS into consideration. However, I admit it was a stretch as far as the Theme went -- though I enjoy frequently finding coins lying around when cleaning!


Anonymous 9:31 AM  

I donno the problem today, found it a rather normal Monday for me, solving in my usual Monday time.

Did pause a bit at apercu and wuss, but maybe the lack of Rex's preferred music and sports gimmes in favor of mine gave me another perspective.


PhillySolver 9:36 AM  

I did think the puzzle was unusual for Monday, but I liked it. As others my age would say, ADAIR, MESTA, AUDIE are commonly known. When I finished (in my usual Monday time) I did go to Google to review APERCU. I know some French phonetically and that C is pronounced as an S. I find I am torn on whether it should be in an early week puzzle. I am going to vote yes this time because I wouldn't want it mixed in with a bunch of hard fill later in the week.

I am looking forward to a puzzle on Diacritical markings so I can fill in answers from an old test. I admit I could have this wrong since it was 40 years ago.

ç is a cedilla
â is a circumflex
à is a caron
é is acute
ñ is a tilde
ë is an umlaut(trema) or in English a diaeresis, I think.
I don't know how to make a breve.
N is the square that shall not be named.

Going to go clean the house.

ArtLvr 9:47 AM  

@ Philly -- è in French is an "accent grave", whille the é in French is "accent aigu" = acute. (Don't know "caron")... In my earliest incarnation I taught languages, mainly French!


Wade 9:49 AM  

I’d call this a challenging-difficult (and very fine) Monday, but maybe I’m a wuss (I can’t believe that made the puzzle! Has it outgrown the scatological [if that’s the right word, which it probably isn’t] pedigree of its etymology and is now considered acceptable in polite company?) I actually have a blank at the crossing of Fugard and the Washington hostess. I’m a bit grumbly about the crossing of two proper names/works you either know or don’t, but I’ll take the hickey since I know that hostess is pretty widely known (maybe the Fugard thing is too, but I don’t know it) and I just can’t remember the first vowel in her last name.

I’ve never heard the term SWEEPHAND either. It made me think of the SNL skit from many years ago about the pizza guy who comes to the door with “a pizza for Mr. Asswipe” and who is coolly corrected: “It’s pronounced Ah-SWEE-pay.”

Though I’ve dropped my obnoxious-Texan routine from a few weeks ago (couldn’t get anybody to take the bait; I guess y’all are just too classy. Or maybe you just felt sorry for me. That’s fine, I’ll accept your pity), I must mention the NE crossing of two iconic Texans, Audie Murphy and Red Adair. According to Wikipedia, Murphy’s movie “To Hell and Back” (in which he plays himself) was the highest grossing movie of all time until “Jaws” in 1975. Not sure if that’s correct—later in the same piece it says it was the highest grossing film “for Universal” until Jaws came along—but if it is, it’s pretty surprising; I’d have thought GWTW would be the obvious answer. I also didn’t know that there’s a competing claim for the title “most decorated American soldier” (Matt Urban, another WWII veteran and Medal of Honor winner, though he didn’t win the DSC.)

Orange 9:55 AM  

Well, Ellen blogged on Thursday that she'd finished the NYT puzzles on Wednesday. So I believe that means today's puzzle (and all of this week's puzzles) was laid out, proofread, copied into Across Lite, and finalized before the Friday puzzle had been published. I can't envision a last-minute change over the weekend strictly to get NABES into a Monday puzzle.

Rex is right--BET/BABES would've been an easy change to knock off one of the not-quite-Monday-level answers. No fewer than three crossword bloggers have talked about the non-Monday fill peppering this puzzle, with plenty of "amens" from commenters.

Anonymous 9:57 AM  

I'll second your comments about the two name crosses. I guessed wrong on the two Texans. (I put a G rather than a D.) This puzzle seemed more like a Tuesday/Wesnesday, so I enjoyed it more than a usual Monday.

Thanks for the reminder of the SNL skit. Now I'm off to search for it on YouTube.

Joe in NE

Anonymous 10:00 AM  

It's not just having Aloes (as part of an obscure play name, not as the usual gimme) and Mesta in a Monday puzzle. Maybe they could be forgiven. But CROSSING them?

Also, I often disagree about some little Rex rants (Scrub Oak is extremely common), but I'm right there with you on Nabes. I'm still steaming about last Friday. Again, Net Lease is obscure but fair for Friday, but crossing it with Nabes?

Anonymous 10:01 AM  

Wade, I liked your Texan routine. In fact, I enjoy all of your posts.

I was surprised to find this described as anything but "EASY" even for a Monday. But then I often find difficult the same things you guys find easy. I did this one in record time for me -- the speed I associate with a puzzle I fill in as fast as I can read the clues and type the answers. Granted, "NABES" would have hung me up if we hadn't just had it, ditto "EWELL," but both were obvious from the crosses anyway.

Rex, I'm used to seeing "RIFLING" used to mean pawing through something for the purpose of spoiling or robbing it.

PhillySolver 10:15 AM  

I think today's puzzle is the result of Bill from NJ's post saying Mondays were too easy. Thanks Bill. ;)

I think the theme for the puzzle is 59A.
Is anyone willing to have my phone forwarded to your until after the Primary tomorrow? I promise you will get lots of calls from famous politicians.

Pete M 10:16 AM  

@artlvr: In my earliest incarnation I was in diapers, sucking my thumb; you must have been an amazing child. :)

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

Since I know a little bit about taxes, I'll say something about "WASH SALE": the clue makes no sense. A "wash sale" is one in which a loss is specifically disallowed for tax purposes because the seller repurchases the securities within too short a period of time. (Selling and repurchasing is said to be "a wash," I guess.) Thus, if your wash sale is "done at a loss for tax purposes," you're in for a surprise when your accountant tells you that you can't use that loss. Maybe back in the good old days people did this for tax purposes, which is why the rule now exists as a loophole-closer, but it doesn't work now.

Scott 10:26 AM  

At the risk of being just another "Amen", there is no way I would have finished this puzzle if I hadn't been doing the later week puzzles for 6 months now. Almost like this puzzle was teasing regular solvers.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

I thought a "wash sale" was one in which two items of equal value were traded. We say "it's a wash" to indicate that no ground was gained or lost, everything just cancelled out. But I wasn't paying that much attention to the clue. The term seemed familiar and the crosses made it inevitable.

Something can be undertaken for tax purposes other than to create a loss. For instance, the idea may be to realize gain or loss immediately that might otherwise have been deferred into a less convenient reporting period. So a wash sale might trigger a realization without noticeable economic consequences. But who knows. Ask a CFO, not me!

With this crowd, the puzzle can get away with all kinds of obscurity in sports, opera, or botany, but the business clues play to a very cold house!

Margaret 10:37 AM  

Wow. Flashbacks to childhood TV. First, I could almost hear John Cameron Swayze, pitchman for Timex ("Takes a licking" SLOGANEER), extolling the virtues of its "sweep second hand." [Was that during Wide World of Sports? I think so.] And then moments later, I'm singing the entire Ajax slogan. That white knight on horseback was cool but I always liked Mr. Clean better. Even as a kid, I thought he was kind of hot. Which is kind of funny since I was never into the Bad Boy John Bender type. Curious, though, that a skinhead with an earring would be an effective symbol for "clean!"

Jim in NYC 10:37 AM  

If you read the instructions that come with your watch, or ads for watches, you'll see the term "sweep second hand," but I don't recall "sweep hand" (33A).

Yes, "ransacked" would have been enough clue at 44A. And "robbed" in that clue represents a common misunderstanding. "Robbery" is theft from a person. It's a more serious crime than "burglary" (theft from a place). (Although I expect you can find a colloquial definition for "robbery" that is broader.)

Wade 10:39 AM  

By the way, Rex's post today reminds me again that I want to issue a challenge to all the constructors out there to come up with a clue using as many of the "crossword only" words you can put in there. It would be, like, totally awesome if the answer turned out to be a pantheonic word, but that may be overreaching. So I'm asking all you bygone cager sloganeers to step up to the plate. Second prize is a tripe taco at the greatest taco truck north of I-10 (in the vacant lot next to Wendy's on Durham.) First prize is you don't have to eat a tripe taco at the greatest taco truck north of I-10 (in the vacant lot next to Wendy's on Durham.)

ArtLvr 10:43 AM  

@ pete m -- ha ha, those were career incarnations.. I don't count the diaper stage, but doubt if I was allowed to suck my thumb.

I do have a few weird stories from some of my adult pursuits, and the one you may recall from later TV retelling was finding out years afterward that an Ob-Gyn prof with whom I was doing some medical research in the DC area turned out to have been using himself as donor for his infertility patients... Quel scandal!


John 10:45 AM  

I've never heard of or seen PITH (42D).
I've never seen APERCU in a puzzle (50A).
I've never heard of or seen SENNA (63A).
I've never heard of or seen SWAIN (30D).
I've never heard of Tom EWELL, AUDIE Murphy or Red ADAIR.
"A Lesson from ALOES"????

I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone doing this puzzle...

I remember Arden Reed -- I had him for first-year seminar on Semiotics... the closest I've ever come to taking a class that was post-anything (modern, structuralist, whatever...).

karmasartre 10:45 AM  

@wade -- I've been imagining a grid with every answer a var. spelling....

imsdave 10:45 AM  

@phillysolver - I'm seven years younger than you, and ADAIR, MESTA, AUDIE were all well known to me. When the primary was going on in CT, I got about 12 calls from Hillary, which made me wish the 'do not call' list included politicians.

5 years of french offered me no succor on apercu (sorry, no fancy keyboard skills here), but the crosses were a snap. I cannot believe that NABES was anything other than Shortz screwing around with this blog. Overall, sub 5 minutes and fair (this time, NABES was simply crossed.

Anonymous 10:45 AM  

I've been puzzling for only about 6months and Mondays are generally pretty easy for me now.

Today, though, I had to give up on some answers.

So I agree that Rex called it right at Medium Challenging for a Monday. In fact, it was comforting to a newbie.

Anonymous in TX

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

That all that fumbling, thinking and wussing around can be done in four minutes is worthy of Aesop.

wade 11:00 AM  

Karmasatre, that would be absolutely evil. For some reason, whenever I see "var. spelling" in parentheses next to the clue I always think back on my (utterly detested) MFA-program writer's workshop days and the smug guy who always had some pretentious explanation for why his story sucked. It was never the writer's fault, it was always that the story was just too deep for you as a reader. ("Var. spelling") to me is the same as, "I meant to do that."

anonymous at 10:01, thanks for the love. (That's how I get most of my love: anonymously.)

PuzzleGirl 11:08 AM  

@artlvr: I saw that episode of Law & Order! It was called "Seed" and it aired on 2/15/95. Not that I have a list of all the L&O episodes with airdates and summaries.

miriam b 11:27 AM  

@artLvr 9:47: A caron is also known as a háček in Czech, and by other names in other Slavic languages whch use the Roman alphabet; some Baltic ones, and miscellaneous others. In case this comes through as gobbledygook on account of my lack of skill in transmitting this sort of thing, there's an accent aigu on the "a" and, yes, a hacek on the "c". Means "little hook" in Czech.

miriam b 11:27 AM  

@artLvr 9:47: A caron is also known as a háček in Czech, and by other names in other Slavic languages whch use the Roman alphabet; some Baltic ones, and miscellaneous others. In case this comes through as gobbledygook on account of my lack of skill in transmitting this sort of thing, there's an accent aigu on the "a" and, yes, a hacek on the "c". Means "little hook" in Czech.

Joon 11:48 AM  

medium-challenging? what does a monday have to do to get the "challenging" label? should they have thrown in a SALMAGUNDI or two? ZOLAESQUE? XANTIPPE, perhaps? this was an insane monday puzzle with insane late-week fill and clues, and multiple crossings involving obscure proper names.

i guess i believe ellen/orange about the chronology of these puzzles, but i'm still boggled at NABES here on a monday. the only thing that would make this more obviously a setup is if the clue for NET had been [Like some leases]. in fact--i bet will knew full well what kind of reaction NABES/NETLEASES was going to draw on friday, and decided in advance to screw with us on the following monday. he's that devious.

i actually liked the puzzle overall, but boy was it not suitable for monday-only solvers. this one definitely needed one of those parental advisory stickers.

by the way, the only ADAIR with whom i am familiar is yale physics professor emeritus robert k ADAIR, who wrote the physics of baseball. am i the only one?

dk 11:52 AM  

I agree with blogger Margaret today was nostalgia day. I remember going to my NABE (Palace in East Syracuse NY) on Saturday mornings for the old westerns and in the afternoons to see such kid greats as Guns of Navarone. Oh yeah and it was a quarter.

The woman who ran the theater was always yelling at us to be quiet or she would stop the movie and send us home... and god forbid if you tried to sneak in your own candy or popcorn..

I went back to Syracuse after a 25 year hiatus to visit and the theater (in its neon glory) and the same owner were still there

So 3 cheers for spring cleaning of nostalgia "orts" courtesy of NABES.

Finally, when I clean I dress more like the HAZMAT person than Rex's "sweep hand."

Joon 12:02 PM  

speaking of HAZMAT... it was originally an abbreviation, sure, but it gets used and pronounced just like a word now. if you ask me, it's its own word like E(lectronic)MAIL or SUB(stitute) or DIS(parage), none of which would need a "briefly" clue. ("slangily," yes, for DIS.)

ArtLvr 12:05 PM  

@ puzzlegirl -- I didn't know about the Law and Order episode, but there were a number of places it showed up in non-fictional form. It was only discovered when a batch of high school kids in a small Viginia high school turned up with the same rare genetic marker; I've forgetten now if was Tay-Sachs syndrome or something else. As the investigation progressed, it was determined that many of the classmates were half-brothers and -sisters, and the source was finally tracked down. The devastation was tremendous for the families involved, and on top of everything else all I could remember was how gross the guy was physically as well as in his megalomania. Yet he'd started out with a top reputation, having introduced amniocentesis into this country from the UK.

@ miriam b --re "little hook", what a cute Czech name for the cedilla; I love sidelights like that!


Anonymous 12:12 PM  

45 Down "Roof's Edge"...with the answer being 'eaves', shudn't the clue be plural as in Roof's Edges or maybe Roofs' Edge...or some combination thereof?


miriam b 12:19 PM  

@artLvr: The "little hook" is the Czech name for the caron, though I do think that it describes a cedilla a whole lot better. I have a hunch that "cedilla" means something like "little tail". but I don't know Spanish and will have to look that up after I finish cleaning (inspired by today's puzzle).

I was privileged recently to meet Valerie Paradiz, whose "z" is surmounted by a hacek. She's the author of a wonderful book, Elijah's Cup, about her autistic son. I said that she had an interesting surname, and asked if it was Slovakian. She replied that it was Slovenian. The hacek softens the "z" into a "zh".

I'm fascinated by linguistics - wish I knew more about it.

Bill D 12:46 PM  

I too thought this was the most challenging Monday in a long time, but I liked it. The theme was pretty good (six answers!), and pretty obvious, so CASH SALE had to be WASH SALE. Usually touted as a SWEEP "Second" HAND, I hand no complaint with this one, either. Thought SCRUB OAK was common but SENNA not so much - and I figured I knew my drug-yielding shrubs! My granddad worked for the ERIE-Lackawanna for 50 years, so that was a gimme, also Red ADAIR was one of my heroes when I was a kid (read about him first in Reader's Digest, I think!), and although I think of Murphy as a war hero first I guess pop culture cluing is more Mondayish than military history. Some other answers that had given us late-week problems recently (the shall-not-be-mentioned one, ETAIL, EWELL) were rendered toothless by Monday cluing and/or familiarity. However, upon finishing the grid I immediately looked up APERCU, as it didn't make any sense to me except from crosses. I agree that HAZMAT should have had a notation for "briefly" or something.

Now, a confession - I have just given up on Saturday's puzzle, which kicked my can. I was gonna try to finish it when I noticed Bob Klahn's byline, and figured I might as well pack it in, even though I got much further than the "Wrath" puzzle of last year. I can't wait to read the blog on this one!

jae 12:55 PM  

This means that today and six weeks from now I'm going to have to apologize to or avoid my friends who I tell to do the Mon./Tues. puzzles to get a start on solving. Many of them tend to be intimidated by the NYT and I assure them that Mon./Tues. will be fun and doable.

Note to self: work on comeback to "pants on fire" comments.

PhillySolver 1:04 PM  

@ jae

tell them it was Shortz shorts issues an an anomaly.

The Asian Badger 1:21 PM  

Kind of fun for a Monday. After 49D, I wondered how Rex would handle it.
Well done, Rex!!

No problems except for 50A (Apercu), never heard of it (or I don't remember) and got it from the crosses. 11D (Adiar) is one of Rex's "crossword words"...know it, love it, remember it. John Wayne made a movie about Red Adair called "Hellfighters".

I did the puzzle at the airport waiting to pick up a friend of mine. When I hit NABES, I startled the guy next to me 'cause I started laughing so hard. Like some here, wondered if Shortz had changed the puzzle last minute. Walking through the airport, I saw a woman doing the NYT puzzle. I stage whispered "PSST, NABES"...don't know if she heard it though.

Zach M. 1:22 PM  

It's always very satisfying when you struggle a bit with a Monday, then see Rex felt it was hard too. I'm always scared that I'll slog through a puzzle (is slog a word? It should be) and Rex will list it as "Insanely Easy". I suspect sometime in the future there will be a puzzle who's theme is "People who have played the dead guy in the opening scene of 1940s noir films", and my nightmare will come true.

Also, Rex, you are correct - HAZMAT is an abbreviation for hazardous materials. Easy enough to get, but it should have been noted as an abbreviation. I also have a sneaking suspicion that there is something wrong syntax wise (hazmat is a classification, cargo is a noun....something like that), but my grammer-fu is weak.

Sweep hand?! Really?!

Bill D 1:30 PM  

Forgot to mention that I had to put on my Doors "Soft Parade" CD to listen to "Touch Me" which closes with the riff "Stronger than dirt!" (emphasis original) taken from the Ajax commercial. Ah, memories!

billnutt 1:48 PM  

bill d, besides having a great first name, you have commendable ability in recognizing commerical jingles in Doors songs.

Can't really add anything about the puzzle, except to note that today s is the Monday of my school's spring break, and doing this puzzle made me thing I had slept through until Wednesday.

I have a hard time imagining that TO HELL AND BACK was the highest grossing movie at Universal until JAWS. Granted, GONE WITH THE WIND was MGM and THE GODFATHER was Paramount (I think). What about THE STING?

Bill D 2:02 PM  

billnutt - it's a gift!

mac 2:03 PM  

Definitely harder than a regular Monday, but so much the better. When I look at all the theme answers I should have realized it should be wash. I was not at all helped by the cross, I was looking for much more prozaic ansers for 52Down......
No complaints about the Etail?

Wade 2:06 PM  

billnut, according to another listing on Wikipedia, GWTW ($142M)held the title from 1939 to 1965, when "The Sound of Music" ($163M)overtook it. "The Exorcist" knocked of SOM in 1973, then "Jaws" took the lead two years later. So either the Audie Murphy article is entirely erroneous or was in fact just limited to Universal pictures (or the article I reference in this post is wrong.)

Bill from NJ 2:52 PM  

I am a 60 year old man and the MESTA AUDIE ADAIR triumvirate held no great mystery to me. I was glad to see my old friend EWELL clued as something other than "The Seven-year Itch."

I finished in just under 5 minutes with 1 mistake (CASHSALE/CUSS)and some minor quibbles APERCU SWEEPHAND.

I found this puzzle to be a little . . . off for a Monday with an obscure South African play crossing an obscure baseball player.

Doc John 3:47 PM  

I agree with anonymous 12:12 about the cluing for EAVES- it should have been indicated pluralism (is that a word?)

Red ADAIR was made famous after the first Iraq war (which really was war compared to this thing that's going on now). They said it would take years to put out all the fires that Saddam ("I'm taking my ball and going home") started but Mr. Adair did it in a lot less time.

Looks like I got back to SD (and the Times puzzle) just in time last week to see NABES and now it's a gimme! (As is MESTA.) I'll now have to add APERCU to my list of words to remember.

SWEEP HAND and WASH SALE didn't bother me, as I had figured out the theme by then and just went with what fit.

Definitely lots of non-Monday words in this puzzle, though!

opustwotoo 4:02 PM  

Three comments:

PuzzleGirl said...
"and when I was done felt that I had absolutely nothing to say about it." And yet...... :-)

Crosscan said...

"What no canadian sports reference? (Other than Ernie NABES)?"

Felipe Alou certainly qualifies as a Canadian sports reference, since he was manager of the Montreal Expos from 1992 to 2001. And speaking of the Alou reference:

Blogger Bill from NJ said...

"...crossing an obscure baseball player."

How does Alou qualify as obscure? Three brothers (Felipe, Matty, and Jesus) played in the early sixties, and Felipe's son Moises was a star in the 90s (playing for his father for a few years).

I recall a humourous anecdote from a Felipe Alou interview. Noting that Felipe hit .327 in 1966, he was asked if that was best in the National League. He chuckled and said "It wasn't even best in my family". (Matty hit .342 to win the batting championship that year).


Kevin Der 5:00 PM  

this was insanely hard for a monday. the AUDIE / ADAIR crossing in particular; MESTA; the cluing for ALOEE and ARDEN; APERCU... and finally NABES was barely acceptable because of its use over the weekend.

Ulrich 5:10 PM  

I'm not sure if Shortz pays much attention to this blog, but to me, today's puzzle looks very much like a response to complaints we have had for weeks that the early-week puzzles are too easy. Come on, we cannot have it both ways: first complain it's too easy and then complain it's too difficult--makes us look really silly.

Rex Parker 5:18 PM  

@ulrich et al,

The NABES thing is surely a coincidence. It's highly unlikely that Will would bother to retool a puzzle so close to the publication date, merely for the amusement of me and my readers.


Joon 5:19 PM  


will shortz definitely reads this blog (and other xword blogs), although probably not as obsessively as some of us do. he's said as much in interviews for various articles about the blogs (see the sidebar about REX PARKER IN THE "NEWS.") but he knows better than to listen to us if we complain that mondays are too easy. generally speaking, the blogosphere solvers are not the target audience of monday puzzles. mondays are supposed to be easy, so that inexperienced solvers will be able to get a foothold in puzzledom. most of us here gamely tackle fridays and saturdays; we're not supposed to have trouble on mondays.

John 5:23 PM  

I agree with the previous comment about the incorrect clueing for WASH SALE.

A wash sale is a sale of a security at a loss, that is accompanied by a purchase of the same security within 30 days (before or after) the sale. Tax law disallows taking a tax loss for the sale transaction (the sale is "washed out" for tax purposes), based on the assumption that the sole motivation for the sale was to register the tax loss. [Your economic intent is deemed to have been in maintaining the investment, based on the fact that you purchased it "soon" (the 30-day timeframe is arbitrary) before/after the sale.]

This being the case, the clue's wording seems wrong, or ambiguous at best. A wash sale cannot be taken as a loss for tax purposes. A stock transaction (legally) done for tax purposes is a "non-wash sale" -- i. e., a loss sale not accompanied by a purchase within 30 days. Unambiguous clueing would have been "stock transaction disallowed (or invalidated) as a loss for tax purposes."

One could argue that a naive investor would do a wash sale at a loss for tax purposes ("purposes" here meaning investor intent, not tax law compliance) ... not knowing that he has run afoul of an IRS trap and his "purpose" would be defeated, if claimed and discovered. This would be sloppy (not clever or tricky) clueing, though, IMO.

Ulrich 5:26 PM  
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Ulrich 5:32 PM  

@joon (and rex): makes sense--thanks. The upshot is IMHO that complaints about these puzzles being too easy are ill-taken--we should only complain if they appear too hard, like today's.

humorlesstwit 5:36 PM  

@Rex - The modesty is nice, virtuous and all, but hey guy, you were handed a once in a lifetime opportunity:


At least that's what I would have done.

andrea carla michaels 5:50 PM  

May I offer a Monday constructor point of view?
Usually it's an absolute must that all the clues are as easy as a breezy all of those APERCU, NABES, ADAIR crossing with AUDIE (tho he is a puzzle regular), ARDEN, etc. WOULD all be no-nos and I'd be ask to rework.

However, now that SIX is the new 3 it seems, at least themewise, it must have been nigh impossible to get an easier fill than APERCU.

So I think that Will was going for (altho I dare not speak for him) the fact that the theme wasn't "more" than a Monday, even if the entries were a tad more tough.

But, that said, I'd say this was more of a Tuesday puzzle on all levels (some obscure clues, 6 theme answers, one of which SWEEPHAND without the "second" was borderline...and I didn't catch my CASH/CUSS mistake till going back and trying to figure out the theme which totally escaped me while solving)

Half of me says "Yay!" when I see a more sophisticated word sneaking into a Monday, thinking maybe now I can use it too, but the other half has spent too many years trying to please Will by trying to get that perfect balance between straightforward but fun-nish theme, yet a puzzle ANY friend can do.

(By the way, I think AJAX was also perhaps a nod to the theme.)

green mantis 5:57 PM  

Um, "fat farm"? Really? I have an overweight friend who, despite her incredible achievements as a person, absolutely withers when people forget their basic humanity and make fat jokes or somehow casually demean fat people. It seems to be okay in our culture to do this; fat people are not really seen--kind of like the more pounds someone has on his/her frame, the less human they become, so you don't even have to count them as having, say, feelings. Or ears.

And this clue seems like an example of that. Fat farm sounds decidedly animal-related: ouch.

My cringe muscle is well-developed in this arena, so maybe I'm being too sensitive, but my opinion is that if you can clue something without denigrating a huge swath of the population, maybe you should. And "spa" most certainly falls into this category. None of us, I would venture, thinks first of the possible auxiliary purpose of weight loss in some medical spas when she thinks of the word spa. Bah, I say.

Or maybe make all the clues equally rude:
Senna is an herb used to stimulate the large intestine into peristalsis (a laxative) so maybe it should have been clued, "poop chute aid for constipated losers," just for consistency.

mw 6:17 PM  

Regarding APERÇU (certainly ridiculous for a Monday): I'd love to see, just once, a foreign letter that is the same in both directions, i.e. if APERÇU crossed SOUPÇON or FAÇADE or something along those lines. I suppose the Ç isn't a terrible letter to have to change to a C, but I hate having to deal with the Ñ, which (in Spanish at least) is considered a different letter from the N. I wince every time I am forced to replace AÑO with ANO (which means something very different, and certainly does not pass the breakfast table test).

treedweller 6:26 PM  

I never really thought of this as tough till I came here. It just goes to show how much you learn about solving puzzles by solving puzzles. I never heard of NABES till Friday, but today it barely made me blink. MESTA was well placed--just far enough from the last time that I had to check the crosses, but close enough that I hadn't completely forgotten.

SWEEPHAND seems perfectly ordinary to me, though. I don't know why I've heard it while many of you have not, but then, that's the way it works so often--my gimme is someone else's WTF?, or vice versa.

Still, after reading the case as laid out by Rex and previous comments, I can see how this was well above the bar for a Monday.

Mike 7:02 PM  

I have noticed in the past that some words get repeated shortly after they are first used, and then disappear again. (I think Will does these repeats to reinforce our learning). Maybe NABES is an example of one of these repeats, and/or Will used it again because he knew it would create a fuss on a friday and used it today to toy with all of us in general and not REX in particular.

I had the same concern with the cluing of WASHSALE and EAVES. I came across the WASHSALE term when completing my taxes last week using turbotax, so it was a gimmie for me.

Mike 7:05 PM  

SWEEPHAND was my first thought but checked the downs before using it because I thought it would be too hard for a monday. All of the hard clues were crossed by easy clues keeping it in at least the tuesday range.

Anonymous 7:40 PM  

Is it my imagination or does Shortz sometimes throw an obscure word in an early/mid week puzzle but have the crossings for that word be easily gettable, and then throw that same obscure word into a late week puzzle in the same week, or was it just one time that happens to stick out in my mind for some reason? With NABES on Friday and today it was the exact opposite. It's also completely crappy fill since no one has used that word (in a serious context) since 19dickety2, and I don't even know if real nabes even exist anymore. Ugh...nabes...

fergus 7:42 PM  

It's great when a post both makes you laugh out loud AND reflect on the wisdom being conveyed. Well done, Green Mantis.

Recently lost an argument with a friend who insisted on RIFLED being pronounced with a short and not a long i. I'm sure I'm not the only one on this blog who enjoys such petty dispute.

Also, I thought that Pantywaist was kind of an old-fashioned signifier of something more specific than WUSS? Anyone got an interesting derivation story?

Being fairly conversant in French, APERCU clued as Hasty glance seemed inaccurate to me. I think of it most closely as an insight, or an encapsulation of information to describe a situation or a scene. Apercu is the past participle (and then a noun, as participles sometimes transform into) of the infinitive, Apercevoir, which I can best translate as to discover, or to have revealed. OK, a hasty glance can lead to a good summary of a lot of information, but usually a hasty glance yields the opposite of any insight.

Anonymous 7:43 PM  

You could also change NABES to LABIA with no problems.

Bill D 8:10 PM  
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Bill D 8:11 PM  

There is a word RIFFLED with a short "i", of course. I believe it refers to an old way of finishing metal by polishing it with a buffing wheel, or at least with a circular motion. The nose of "The Spirit of St Louis" is riffled, eg.

Anonymous 8:28 PM  

Fat farm? You're upset about fat farm? It's a term that has been around a long time and refers to a spa. OK, it's not the greatest term, so it's got the word fat in it, so what? It's not like the clue was "place where ugly fat people go to become beautiful like the rest of us."

Ultra-sensitivity- bah! You and Mr. "Growth problem?" can go sit together.

jae 8:31 PM  

To elaborate my previous a bit, for veteran solvers this was a Mon. I got APERCU (I've seen it more often cued as summary or digest) off the U and finished only slightly slower than my usual Mon. time. That wasn't because of the difficult entries, but because I had a couple of missteps (e.g. OILLAMP for GASLAMP). For the Mon.-Tues. and occasionally Wed. solvers I expect this was a bear.

mac 8:40 PM  

Isn't it fantastic how a slightly tougher Monday puzzle encourages these fantastic and informative blog/comments?
@humorlesstwit, I don't want to be a bore, but your name is inaccurate.
@green mantis, I totally agree with you, spa's don't bring to mind fat people per se, just some of my friends who don't have a life. Janet B., wrong clue.
I do think that eaves are an, and I mean, an overhang.
@anon7.43, you put more bluntly what I tried to convey more delicately at the time.....

mac 8:44 PM  

And.... Anon 8.28, don't you feel powerful to spout with nobody knowing your name. And that goes for all of you anonymi!

Michael 8:55 PM  

This was an easy puzzle, but I agree with Rex and the rest of you that there were a lot of high-end words for a Monday, including one phrase I have never heard of ("wash sale").

Ulrich 9:41 PM  

This is a completely personal note: Yesterday, to my astonishment, several very kind remarks were made about me. I did not respond b/c I was way above my quota. But today, I have one post to spare, and I want to use it to say thanks to the authors.

Bill D 10:18 PM  

You can apparently also RIFFLE through a book, a stack of papers, or a bicycle pack. So if your chest-of-drawers and your desk are both messed up by an intruder, your home may have been both RIFLED and RIFFLED.

green mantis 10:57 PM  

To my anonymous friend: There are Many terms that refer to things, and have been used for a long time, which are nonetheless insulting, hurtful and inappropriate. I'm sure you can think of a few.

Oversensitivity to "oversensitivity" is a special ring of ironic hell.

I've missed you Fergus!

foodie 11:05 PM  

The mini "fat farm" discussion reminded me of this episode from many years ago with my 3 year old, in a doctor's office:

Son staring at an obese woman: " Wow, look at the fat lady!"

Me pulling him outside the waiting room and saying: "Shhh, we can't call her fat, it'll hurt her feelings!"

Son with a totally astonished expression: " You mean she doesn't know?"

foodie 11:06 PM  

The mini "fat farm" discussion reminded me of this episode from many years ago with my 3 year old, in a doctor's office:

Son staring at an obese woman: " Wow, look at the fat lady!"

Me pulling him outside the waiting room and saying: "Shhh, we can't call her fat, it'll hurt her feelings!"

Son with a totally astonished expression: " You mean she doesn't know?"

mac 11:13 PM  

I remember a similar situation many years ago when in a store with my then 3 year old son he commented on the very large behind of a lady in front of us. I was just very lucky that he used a Dutch term.....

Barb in Chicago 11:23 PM  

I thought today's puzzle (with the exception of apercu, which was easily solved by crosses) was pretty easy, but then I noticed that all of the others who thought it easy were "of a certain age."

We had sweephands on our watches before the digital era. Red Adair, Audie Murphy, Perle Mesta, and the Alou brothers were in the pantheon. And like Margaret, I can sing the Ajax slogan.

And Rex, thanks for the shoutout for comment of the week. Gretchen in Chicago (the lab who feeds from the disembodied hand) thanks you too.

mac 11:26 PM  

I know I've taken too much space tonight, but I want you to know I'm an Ajax (Amsterdam) and also an Arsenal fan.

fergus 12:07 AM  

I was fortunate to have a Dutch friend in London when our work required so much language interpretation. By his interest in all sorts of international English slang, and the guffaws and asides to fellow (tall) Dutchmen, it made me want to learn the subtleties of imprecation a la Hollandaise. I don't need to any specifics; I would just like to be more in on the frivolity at an Amsterdam street cafe on a warm spring evening, when people are making fun of each other, and no offense could possibly be taken.

Randy 12:56 AM  

A pretty sad pathetic puzzle for a Monday. Let's hope Ms. Bender keeps to her 1 puzzle per year as she's done the past few. I'm sorry but some of us who can barely make it much beyond Wednesday (and who continue to support paying for the NYTimes) should be given a worthwhile Monday puzzle! C'mon, what is this stuff with Nabes, Adair, Audie, Apercu, Mesta, WashSale, SweepHand, etc. This is just non-sense Mr. Shortz -- for a Monday!!!

Bill from NJ 1:01 AM  


To a person who knows little about sports - and their number around here are legion - it doesn't matter how many Alous' played major league baseball - they would all be obscure

Orange 1:23 AM  

I take offense at people who take offense at people who take offense. If someone says "This is hurtful" and you inform them that they are "oversensitive" or that they've "gone overboard with the PC thing," you are an [expletive deleted].

The Cubs have their first Japanese player now. Some people are wearing T-shirts that say "Horry Kow"...because Harry Caray said "Holy cow" and don't you know, it's funny to say that Asians can't say their L's. I was reading the comments on a newspaper column deriding the T-shirts—basically, for every Asian-American who said the shirt was offensive, there were a few others who said "It's not racist, it's funny!!!!" (usually misspelling a few things and overusing exclamation points). If it is offensive to some, it is offensive, period. You just can't tell someone they ought to quit being offended by it because they're wrong, you know?

I think it'll be a few years more before LABIA pop up in a Monday puzzle. The Gray Lady is shy about her bits.

fergus 1:47 AM  

Agree on most points, Orange, but when I agree too much I'll offend someone.

What a ridiculous information loop we're going through sociologically right now ! emphasis

jae 3:45 AM  

@randy -- My point exactly!

green mantis 4:33 AM  

Can I marry all you guys? Nobody else understands me. Sniff, emote. LogCabinotagilly.

randy 8:02 AM  

@jae -- the problem for folks like us, who focus mainly on Mon-Wed puzzles, is that Will Shortz's criteria for one of these puzzles is no longer that of a widespread audience of novice to expert solvers, but rather how fast an expert can solve the puzzle. If Rex can do the puzzle under 4 minutes or Tyler under 2, then its a good candidate for a Monday. Hmmm, seems to me a biased approach that heavily favors the expert with years of experience understanding the nuances and weird clues/answers used in the NYT puzzles. Personally, I don't think this approach does much to sell more papers.

Sara and Armond 9:37 AM  

Rex, I KNEW you would complain about Perle Mesta. Just shows you're under 60. Here in California we are very familiar with scrub oak, it's a common plant outside of civilization . . . theater goers would probably know Fugard's "A Lesson From Aloes" but I messed up over WASHSALE/PITH, and APERCU I only got from the crosses. Keep blogging!

Therapy??!! 10:33 AM  

I struggled with this one big time. I had to come back to it after work, which usually never happens on a Monday.

CAlady 1:17 PM  

Maybe it has to do with how many puzzles you've done in the past, but I walked through this one without any hesitation-tho I admit I never saw some of the clues that troubled others-just filled in the squares with the crosses and didn't look back. Enjoyed feeling all was not lost after being done in by last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday!

juliebee 1:56 PM  

I hate being six weeks behind - but I just can't not comment on a puzzle like this. I have come to rely on this blog for a BIG bunch of my entertainment (in a very short time, I may add). Rex - $$ is coming your way, albeit a small amount.

Nabes??? Nabes???? when I read this, I laughed out loud. Pair it with Ewell, and I KNEW today's blog would be fun to read. By the way, "The Girl Can't Help It" is a very fun movie (not GOOD - but fun), and I wouldn't call it obscure, any more than I would call any member of the Alou family obscure.

I thought it was a great puzzle - I decide that if I have no trouble filling in the puzzle, then it's easy - if I do have trouble it's hard (geeze - what a concept), and I had no trouble at all - I even did in very good time (for me, which is all that's important, after all). If it was a little more clever, that made it not only easy, but fun. Apercu is the only word I'd never heard of, and it was easy to get with the crosses, so...

boardbtr 4:56 PM  

Another six weeks after. After seeing the word nabes several (at least) times a few days ago, the only word that I can recall seeing that I had never heard of was apercu. That isn't to say I knew the rest as answers, but the crosses cleared things up and I had a passing acquaintance with the other words. Some of the words like Perle Mesta and Audie Murphy were in my gimme range. While I didn't associate Ewell with the particular movie, he came easily with the crosses. With the theme identified with scrub, sweep and vacuum, wash sale fell into place with little question. Thus for me, the puzzle was easy, i.e., I got it with no outside help.

Anonymous 6:52 PM  

42 behind.....Why doesn't someone acknowledge the little known fourth Alou? He renamed himself Boog Powell. Why? Because he was tired of being called Boog Alou. I think it's true.

sallyjane 7:03 PM  

Hi, Rex

I'm another six-week behinder as well, but couldn't pass up posting after reading your comments (and the NABES thing from the other day). It always amazes me how our assessments of early week puzzles differ. This was a snap for me, but then I'm a gal of a certain age. In this case I think that helped a lot. Even though there were some harder answers for a Monday, I agree with others who said everything was inferable from the crosses.


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