MONDAY, Apr. 7, 2008 - Randall J. Hartman (BROTHER COMIC SHAWN OR MARLON)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "COVERS EVERY BASE" - four theme answers go from FIRST to HOME in their first words

Well this took me two minutes longer than last week's. There was much flailing about, and then a resentful stubbornness set in, which made me stop speed-solving altogether. The theme is fine. Not particularly remarkable, but OK. But there are numerous little things that irked me. Where to start? Well, let's try the theme answers themselves:

  • 17A: Bess Truman or Barbara Bush (First Lady) - yeah, that's alright.
  • 25A: Question after the fact (second-guess) - at this point I had the theme down, or at least had a general sense of where it was all going.
  • 40A: Takes care of all possibilities (covers every base) - this I did not like, for reasons that both are and are not legitimate. You COVER ALL THE BASES (as my wife rightly pointed out), you don't (or shouldn't, or don't as often) COVER EVERY BASE. That just sounds wrong. Which brings me to my illegit [wink] complaint: when do you ever "cover" a base in baseball? OK, I can answer that. A fielder might cover a base, in the sense of being present at that base in order to receive a throw from another fielder. But one fielder cannot COVER EVERY BASE. A team could, I suppose, but I'm trying to think of a situation wherein that would happen. I guess it happens on every at bat, but then ... that's just called "playing baseball," isn't it? It's not particularly special. The other way one could COVER EVERY BASE is with a tarp, as during a rain storm. I wrote in TOUCHES EVERY BASE, or at least wrote in TOUCHE-, at which point I realized my phrase would not fit.
  • 52A: Grilling (third degree) - fine.
  • 65A: 1990 Macaulay Culkin film (Home Alone) - got ahead of myself and wrote FOURTH in here without even looking at the clue first. Then realized that FOURTH is not a base.
You want to hear some more of my complaints? Of Course you do. OK, here they are. I do not like it when the 1A clue tells me to look elsewhere, especially without providing me any salient information whatsoever. This is where my time troubles began - as soon as I see a clue like [See 48-Down] in the 1A position, my immediate internal response is "f@#$# you, no way, I just started, I'm not jumping somewhere else for you, stupid puzzle." And then I go on. The payoff for this [Look elsewhere]-type clue is weak. "Oh boy, it's the evil dictator again. Huzzah." (48D: Infamous Ugandan dictator => IDI AMIN)

Nextly, there was 14A: Not loco (sane) - excuse me, but no. You need to make a decision. You went with this EXACT clue little more than a week ago, but there, your answer was SANO. And then today, it's SANE? Grrrrr. Now, I think SANE a far better answer, but jeez louise, make up your mind. That "O" from the very wrong SANO gave me a "Your puzzle is incorrect message," which, ultimately, is my fault for not checking the Down cross (4D: Place for eggs - NEST), but still: grumble. Man, no wonder I couldn't get [Place for eggs] - not having looked at the IDI AMIN clue, and having SANO where SANE was supposed to go, I had -OST as the answer here. Totally ridiculous.

More frowny faces: 8D: Brother comic Shawn or Marlon (Wayans). What the hell is a "Brother comic?" I am now laughing out loud (literally), wondering if the racial implications of the clue ever occurred to anyone writing / editing / printing this puzzle. My brain turned this enigmatically phrased clue into [Brother of comic Shawn or Marlon], so I was wondering why DAMON wouldn't fit (oh yes, that's right. I know my WAYANS brothers). "Hey, have you heard that new Brother comic? I hear he is def. Quite def, indeed."

Lastly in the ugh department, there was GOONY (55D: Foolish person, slangily). Uh ... what? Wife says this is a British thing. I say this is a Cyndi Lauper thing, at best. Yuck. Oh, and the horrid abbreviation COR (33D: Where streets intersect: Abbr.). Then there was my own problems with misreading and misunderstanding. Thought 3D: Put aside for later (in reserve) was looking for a verb, and I read only the first two words of 66D: Bygone Russian space station (Mir) and promptly entered MIG (Russian fighter jet).

Other stuff:
  • 9A: Frank of the Mothers of Invention (Zappa) - ah, this I liked. He was wacky. His kids' names are wacky. And his name has a "Z" in it. The Down cross is pretty great too: ZANE GREY (9D: "Riders of the Purple Sage" author).
  • 31A: Old letter salutation (Sirs) - that's "old?" I was expecting "Salve!" or the like.
  • 34A: Competitor of Dove or Camay (Lux) - though I feel I've made this exact comment before, I will say again: Lux? I've heard of Dove and Camay, and while I've heard of LUX, I feel as if I've heard of it in the way I've heard of IPANA toothpaste, e.g. I've heard of it in the context of a bygone time.
  • 44A: Pan-cooked brunch treat (crepe) - yum. I myself have had one too many pancakes today (for breakfast ... and then leftovers as my dessert after dinner).
  • 13D: Peruvian peaks (Andes) - I first knew ANDES as a rectangular chocolate mint candy in a dark green wrapper that semi-fine restaurants might offer you with your bill (this was in the 70s/80s).
  • 32D: U.N.C.'s athletic org. (ACC) - easy, but then erased part of it for my wrong TOUCHES ALL THE BASES foray into 40A.
  • 42D: German river in a 1943 R.A.F. raid (Eder) - all from crosses. European rivers, still not my specialty.
  • 51D: Mother of Castor and Pollux (Leda) - I know this, but still couldn't think of anything but HERA to go into a -E-A.
  • 54D: Ballroom dancer Castle (Irene) - learned about her from xwords. Very common crossword name.
  • 32A: "God's Little _____" (Erskine Caldwell best seller) - oh he was saucy, Caldwell was. He was a huge seller in the nascent American paperback industry. His paperbacks went through an obscene number of printings, and as the 40s turned to the 50s, the covers got more and more racy.
Good night,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS I'm in Patrick Merrell's latest comic. Sort of. Check it out.

PPS Emily, knowing my love of ERNS, just sent me this - expect to see another version of it soon, possibly in my site banner or in the form of a logo...

[drawing by Emily Cureton]


Orange 10:26 PM  

Aw, too bad COR didn't get a "cor blimey" clue. That would have been peachy-def.

barrywep 10:30 PM  

Wow! Two paperback covers in one blog. And on a Monday too.

My reaction to and solving of this one mirrored yours. I skipped all the downs to fill in COVERSALLTHEBASES after getting SECONDGUESS, only to find it didn't fit and thereby lost any chance for a fast time.

Don't understand your rant about whether "cover all the bases" is a valid baseball phrase. You are too young to remember the 1962 Mets--my first baseball love--a team that NEVER seemed to cover all the bases.

arb 10:38 PM  

Perhaps next time, "ROUNDS THE BASES."

Agree about SANE/SANO. Was expecting the latter.

Re: Frank Zappa, I helped my mom with a puzzle a few months back, assuring her repeatedly that Moon Unit was indeed his daughter's name.

PhillySolver 11:09 PM  

I know this may not reflect well on me, but another paperback brought to mind is Red Dwarf, which is based on one of the alltime top BBC comedies of the same name. The only surviving human in the universe travels on that ship and uses the word GOONY on several occasions to refer to his hologram companion.

I did notice ZAPPA and UNIT (as in Moon) made it, but her sisters, Diva, Dweezil and Ahmet do not appear today. What is MAINE doing in the Idaho section of the puzzle?

I am now going to research to see if there is such a thing as a Lemon Hex.

Anonymous 11:09 PM  

I too thought of the sano fromlast puzzle but decided that for a Monday sane would do.


jae 11:20 PM  

I also had SANO at first for the same reason. COVERSEVERYBASE didn't bother me except that I was looking for THIRDsomething in that spot and I erased ACC for that reason. Didn't read the past tense on 58d so had KNEELS which slowed me down in SE. (Speed often does kill solving time for me.) I did like the puzzle, however.

Philly -- I believe Dweezil and Ahmet are brothers.

jae 11:27 PM  

Oh, and I completely agree with Rex on 1a, not the way to start a Mon. puzzle!

ds 11:54 PM  

I agree that 40A did not work (even though I am also a Mets fan). I kept trying to figure out how to make COVERSANYBASE fit.

You are obviously not a Fred and Ginger fan - one their many movies together was about Vernon and Irene Castle.

To be fair, you should point out that the Patrick Merrell comic refers to both you and Orange. Congrats to you both!

PhillySolver 11:55 PM  

Hex, I mean Rex

With apologies, for your further reading...

@ jae, you are right, that should have read siblings.

ronathan 2:45 AM  

Rex, why did this puzzle get a rating of medium? Wouldn't that imply the same level of difficulty as Sunday's (also rated a medium)? I thought this one was much easier, but I admit that's just my opinion.

I completely agree with you, BTW, about 1A, and I also immediately put down SANO for 14A instead of SANE, so you are not the only one. Also noticed the return of ACC, TOGAS, ANAT, and ESS, and SSE, all of which have been used in the not-too-distant past. Give us some new answers already, Shortz!

Although I got it from crosses, I still don't understand 21A "Enclosure with a MS" (SASE). Am I wrong, or is SASE a "Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope"? Again, altough I got them from crosses, I admit I did not know (or had never heard of) the EDSEL or LUX. I Googled them after the fact, and have now added to my repertoire of knowledge obtained via xwords.

Also thought that 36D ""Sweet" age in ancient Rome" (XVI) was the cleverest clue in the whole puzzle.


ronathan 2:49 AM  

Add to the list of answers that have been used in the recent past: EELS, OAR, and ETA.

Again, new answers please, NYTimes!

-ronathan :-)

Anonymous 6:00 AM  

You want new answers? Wait till Friday and Saturday.
Old answers are what makes it a Monday -- doable for most people!

Eli Barrieau 7:25 AM  

Just as the rest of the NYT has to refer to untried suspects as "alleged", I also think that the crossword has to start phrasing things like -brother "alleged" comic Shawn or Marlon- Klunky yes, but also more truthful.

ryanfacestheworld 7:33 AM  

Thought it was a little odd to have a baseball-themed puzzle at the beginning of the SECOND full week of the baseball season. Why not run this one last Monday? Surely Will must have known that was the first day with a full schedule of games. Or doesn't he get the paper? :)

jannieb 7:41 AM  

@ronathan - I think it's standard practice to enclose an SASE when submitting a manuscript (MS) in hopes of getting it and a reply in return. Also, Rex rates the puzzles relative to the day they appear, not each other. So for a Monday, this was a "medium". Were it to show up on Wednesday or later, probably an "easy".

Thought the theme of this was fine if uninspired. Agree with the rants on covering the bases and sane/sano.

Would much prefer a pepppy, energizing Monday puzzle to get my week off to an upbeat start. While a fine effort, it just didn't excite me.

DONALD 8:23 AM  


Can't be avoided, that stuff's just default fill exhausting all definition.

Coop 8:25 AM  

I agree with Rex that it was very irritating, especially for a Monday puzzle, to have to go elsewhere in the puzzle to solve very first clue. Rex: When you said you became stubborn and stopped speed-solving, what does that mean? What characterizes speed-solving? Did you turn your timer off?

Rex Parker 8:37 AM  


There is just a locked-in zone I go into when I'm really trying to finish as quickly as possible. It's almost a no-thought zone. I came out of it completely very early on, and simply ... solved. Which is what most people do every day, and what I like to do about half the time, so that I don't get overly obsessed with speed. I actually think that methodical solving - observant, mindful solving - helps with speed-solving. Your basic skills (both solving skills and grid navigation skills) get toned and fit. Working on the fundamentals makes speed much more attainable, eventually. Methodical solving was how I placed 55th at the ACPT, up among solvers who were clearly faster than I was, but who made mistakes.

Sorry for the roundabout answer.


Anonymous 9:14 AM  

I would have NEVER known the Zane Grey book had I not been listening to a repeat of " A Prairie Home Companion" yesterday while driving. In a skit about the two cowboys Lefty and Dusty there was a reference to this book.

It's like free money.

Joe in NE

Scott 9:51 AM  

Count me among those who does not like 1 across referencing something else. My exact reaction when I saw it was, "this had better be part of the theme!" -- It was not, and I was disappointed.

Ulrich 9:53 AM  

I understood "covers all bases" to refer to the puzzle, not to baseball--like in "I covered all questions" meaning "I dealt with all questions". So the overall layout seems fine for a Monday: two theme answers above the center, two symmetrically below, and the center itself a hint about them.

I agree with all complaints about the clueing, especially 1A: This is just infuriating.

Jim in NYC 9:55 AM  

Is TEN-HUT (49D) a word? I thought it was a sound, a mispronunciation, not something with an actual defined spelling. It should have had a cryptic clue.

Rex, I'm not sure you've made a persuasive case against COVERS EVERY BASE. Seems OK to me. I don't think there's one mandatory phrasing for this concept.

ronathan 10:09 AM  

@anonymous and donald

I don't mind if an answer gets recycled every so often, but we have seen many of those answers too recently. I would just appreciate a longer span of time before they appear again, that's all.

-ronathan :-)

Margaret 10:21 AM  

In spite of the jump (and topic) of 1a, I thought this was a fun puzzle. Much more so than yesterday which felt like a long slog. But once I got the theme, I figured today must be opening day of baseball season. I agee w/ ryanfacestheworld that this puzzle should've run last week. (Course, since I'm in Memphis, we are all consumed with basketball!)

Anybody else notice that you type "red dwarf" using only your left hand?? David Allen (the productivity guy) says he always picks computer passwords that can be typed w/ one hand -- just for ease.

PhillySolver 10:43 AM  

@ margaret

In the world of trivia, left and right handed words often appear. You have to know which states, capitals, Presidents and other items can be typed with just the left or right hand. I learned that the longest left handed word is Tesseradecades (groups of fourteen and easy to remember because it has 14 letters) and the longest right hand word is Johnny-jump-up, a flower...and a long word using the just the top row of letters on the keyboard is typewriter.

mac 10:50 AM  

Agree with everything you said, Rex, and had some trouble in the sase/sdi area. Got red dwarf but had never seen it before in a puzzle. I lived in England for a total of 5 years and never heard or read the word goony. All in all, I miss that lovely sense of accomplishment I had last week.....

@artlvr: have you read Sara Caudwell and Margery Allingham?

Joon 10:55 AM  

i felt that this was actually a "hard" or maybe even "challenging" for a monday. not that it should cause most solvers any difficulty, but there's a lot today that's not monday-easy: ZAPPA, ZANEGREY (i feel bad for people who have never heard of either--how the heck will they guess that Z?), WAYANS, IRENE, LUX, EDER, COR (?!?), GOONY (?!?!?), SONIA, ... plus i counted five (!) "?" clues (OAR, EDSEL, EDIT, XVI, USABLE). not that any of them were particularly tricky, but ... on a monday? that's mighty unusual. plus, there are two non-theme 8's and two non-theme 9's (INRESERVE, SAINTJOAN, ZANEGREY, REDDWARF). you usually don't see long fill in a monday, because it's generally harder (and none of these four are gimmes--i fell into the same INRESERVE trap that rex did).

i chose to block SANO out of my memory and filled in SANE without a second thought, as i will continue to do in the future. let's all just pretend SANO didn't happen, shall we? the problem is certainly not with today's SANE clue or answer.

overall, i liked this puzzle quite a bit. the theme was fine (i had no problem with COVERS EVERY BASE), i liked the trickier clues and longer fill relative to most mondays, and i felt like i learned some things. no, i didn't enjoy starting with a cross-reference at 1A, but believe it or not, i got over that relatively quickly and just solved the puzzle. :)

Joon 11:00 AM  

does anybody else here use the dvorak keyboard layout? i actually find one-handed words much more difficult to type (which is why i use nonsense strings that are easy to type in dvorak for passwords). dvorak was designed with all the vowels on the home row of the left hand, and the most common consonants on the home row of the right hand, so that you'd be alternating hands as frequently as possible. i believe the longest one-handed word in dvorak is PAPAYA. the only lefty consonants are pyqjkx, so it would be relatively tough to make a long lefty word, and pretty much impossible to make a long righty word.

ArtLvr 11:15 AM  

Love Rex's comments, and everyone else's too -- I had put "sano" out of my mind, so had no trouble with SANE. Didn't (much) mind looking for the actual clue to 1A further down. My only misstep was thinking "fourth" was coming, like Rex -- soon corrected by the rest.

I always have to hesitate over choice of Leto or LEDA, going through complicated mnemonic, i.e. Leto and Apollo both end in O, so she's his mother; LEDA is mother of the duad (twins) so reverse the last two letters of the latter...thus Leto has the T. If that's GOONY, so be it. Never mind that "duad" is only my oldest dictionary...

Easy! ∑;)

ArtLvr 11:22 AM  

@mac -- I like Allingame very much, but am not so familiar with Caudwell. Also am a fan of Ann Perry's Victorian detectives... Meant to note that ZANE GREY was a gimme, along with IRENE Castle and other "oldies"!


John Reid 11:29 AM  

@phillysolver - I always find your comments very interesting. However, I'm going to take issue regarding Red Dwarf: I don't remember Dave Lister ever using the word 'GOONY' in reference to Arnold Rimmer. I can easily *visualize* it having happened, mind you - I just don't remember it. 'Smeg-head' yes; 'goony' no. [I wouldn't even bring this up except that the GOONY entry was one of my least favorite in the puzzle. The only time I think I've ever heard this word is either in the title of, or in some form of reference to, the movie 'The Goonies.']

By the way, for the uninitiated, Red Dwarf certainly was one of the classic British sit-coms - and perhaps the only scifi based sitcom ever made. I spent quite a while yesterday watching 'Flight of the Conchords' clips on YouTube - you can probably find some Red Dwarf excerpts on there too, I'll warrant.

Final note: Always good to see a Zappa reference. The man was a musical genius. I fear that since his death, some of the powers that are in control of his estate may have been too quick to release some of the remaining recordings (of which there certainly are MANY). Simply put, there is now an enormous catalog of his music out there, but if you search amongst the proliferous volumes you will find some true gems. Try the 'One Size Fits All' album for starters. Brilliant!

billythemountain 11:34 AM  

This my be my last post here, being a died in the wool paper solver.
'Cause I might be movin' to Montana soon, Gonna be a dental floss Tycoon.

Rex - You didn't watch the Yankees on Thursday. Giambi was up, they had the shift on, the third baseman covered second on a single to right, so Abreu went from first to third because they didn't have all their bases covered. That being said, I forced Touches all Bases to fit by misspelling Touches.

ArtLvr 11:44 AM  

p.s. It helps that Leto with the T was a Titan... Also, re LEDA, note that Castor and Pollux (Polydeuces) were only fraternal twins, and only Castor was mortal. At least the Google reference below says so; it also says Helen of Troy was immortal, which I don't recall hearing before!

"LEDA -- in Greek mythology, wife of Tyndareus, who was king of Sparta, and the mother of Castor and Polydeuces, Clytemnestra, and Helen of Troy. After the god Zeus had wooed Leda in the guise of a swan, she laid two eggs. From one were hatched Polydeuces (also known as Pollux) and Helen, who were immortal children of Zeus, and from the other Castor and Clytemnestra, who were mortal children of Tyndareus."

Sorry if that's more than you all want to know! ∑;)

Bill from NJ 11:45 AM  

I opened this puzzle in Across Lite and no theme name was given. I never seem to get a theme except for Sunday which I received as SOUND MOVES.

This puzzle wasn't difficult except I confused SDI for SDS at 22D and had COVEREVERYCASE for the long across in the middle.

Took me about 10 minutes to get everything straightened out which totally blew my time.

How could I make that kind of mistake? After all, they are polar opposites for God's sake.

patdugg 11:48 AM  

This puzzle was ruined for me when I got COVERSEVERYBASE. That's just not a phrase. Crossings like LUX/XVI and the overabundance over mundane names: ASNER, SONIA, IRENE, GRETA, LISA, ELLEN didn't help the matter either. Since when is COR an abbreviation for corner? Ew.

The puzzle felt clunky in general in my opinion, and I prefer my Monday's simple and smooth.


Kim 11:49 AM  

Oh to hear the sound of a human voice when you call a place of business - how I miss it! So I had to LOL at "PRESS 1 for other options."

I have heard that there is a web site address which informs you how to reach someone human at a variety of companies. Does anyone know it?

Also happy to see ZAPPA in the comic strip. I am sorry to admit that it took my husband about 10 years to convince me of his genius but I have am now one his belated fans.

patdugg 11:51 AM  

bill from nj,

Only Sunday puzzles have titles hinting toward the theme.

Monday-Saturday have no title at all.


PhillySolver 12:09 PM  

@ kim

I use although there may be others...and I do use it. Press 1 for more options...

Kim 12:20 PM  

@ phillysolver

Thanks Phillysolver "get human" is on My Favorites as I write this. Here's to human contact!

I just realized this whole thread is a bit ironic after yesterday's You Tube video by the "Flight of the Conchords" entitled .....

Anonymous 12:36 PM  

I don't quite get the objections to the cross-reference in 1A. How hard is it to skip to 48D, people? Especially when you see it's an easy clue -- how many other infamous Ugandan dictators does anyone know about? 1A is 4 letters and 48D is three letters so you know which one is which. With "AMIN" in place, "NEST" comes to mind easily at 4D, avoiding any "SANE"/"SANO" confusion.

Jane Doh 1:32 PM  

OK puzzle for a Monday, and all nice long non-theme entries. IDI AMIN -- ugh and ick first thing (literally -- at 1A) Monday morning.

Re SANO/SANE, it's good to see that the NYT has a self-correction mechanism ... or does it? Need one more close encounter to know the answer. Maybe next week?

Anonymous 1:49 PM  

Perhaps this isn't really a baseball theme, but rather a reference to the baseball-related terms used to describe the dating rituals like getting to first base, etc trying to get HOMEALONE. The Urban Dictionary defines all of the terms. Think 'Paradise by the Dashboard Lights' by Meatloaf.

What's it gonna be boy, yes or no?

Eli Barrieau 2:35 PM  

Re anonymous: Many of us, not just Rex, try to let it fly on Monday thru Thursday and finish as quickly as possible. And quite a few of us, do 1 Across, then 1 Down, 2 Down, etc. Referencing another clue slowed me and others down a few seconds. Actually it jolted me right out of any rhythm and I slogged. I know those few seconds sound very petty, but there it is.

All in all though, I would've considered such a stunt completely fair game at the ACPT, just for the collective groan it would've elicited.

I thought the theme was good, even the much maligned COVER EVERY BASE.

Margaret 3:10 PM  

@ phillysolver

Thanks for the left and right hand words. Never heard of tesseradecades but I know Johnny jump ups are small pansies. (Had to repeat them just so I could type them!)

In the whole "goony" debate, I can't believe no one has mentioned the movie, The Goonies. I believe it was out about the same time as *Iron Maiden* was popular. Sean Astin (long before LOTR) and one of my favorite character actors, Joe Pantoliano (Memento and Matrix.)

Margaret 3:16 PM  

Also, can someone explain the xvi = sweet thing to me? I'm sure it's obvious but I'm not getting it...

Rex Parker 3:16 PM  

I referred to the movie "The Goonies" in my write-up (though I did so obliquely, via the Cyndi Lauper title song).


Anonymous 3:40 PM  

Margaret - Sweet 16

dk 3:44 PM  

Margaret: XVI = sweet sixteen, sometimes refers to a young woman of a certain age or a power boat.

For once my psych degree paid off and I got SANE right away... and because I am a forensic psychologist THIRDDEGREE came easy as well.

Fast puzzle for me, mostly because I did not get cheesed off at any of the answers. Slowed a bit when I started humming "Watch out where the Huskies go, don't you eat that yellow snow."

Margaret 3:57 PM  


miriam b 3:58 PM  

CRAW stuck in my - well, you know. I think it's a revolting word which evokes repellent images. Maybe I'm just feeling a bit crawss.

Like many others, I was affronted by 1A and studiously avoided dealing with it until I had to. And what a reward to reap: Idi Amin.

jean 4:31 PM  

John Reid -- there was at least one other sci-fi based comedy. I think it was called He said, she said and it starred Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss collecting intergalactic trash.

Another possible definition for cor would be cor anglais (English horn), but that wouldn't be a good Monday clue. Still cor for corner? Puhleeeze.

Anonymous 5:14 PM  

I also had "Covers every case", which while obviously wrong in hindsight, really clobbered me. I didn't even realize that "Home Alone" was part of the theme, and was clueless as to why the longest answer wasn't somehow numerical like the other "three" theme answers. Clearly, more solving experience is needed.

By the way, re: "See 48-Down" type clues: on paper it's not a big deal. In Across Lite, on my screen at least, the clue for 48 down is simply not visible while solving 1 across - and it takes a lot of maneuvering to get there and back. So yes, I skip these on my first round-trip through the puzzle (and I still do all the acrosses first, then all the downs). I wouldn't be so upset with "See 5-down", for instance.

chefbea1 5:34 PM  

just got to the puzzle and did it in record time but can someone explain...stick to ones craw? never heard of that

Bill D 5:40 PM  

"It's Dinghy! They've got the Eder dam as well!" One of the great lines from one of the great war movies (The Dam Busters) detailing one of the great aerial missions of all time. When Million Dollar Movie ran this in the '60s, my best friend and I watched it every night and three times each Saturday and on Sunday. Having that clue and Zappa in the same puzzle really made my Monday. We're Only In It For The Money is still one of my top ten albums. Plus, people always said I look like Frank Zappa, but everyone I look like is either dead or not feeling very well.

Another [alleged] SF comedy (SF is the "in" term for Sci-Fi, I'm told) was the terrible "It's About Time" from 1966; The Dam Busters was better.

An awful lot of griping over a Monday puzzle, people - seems a few of us got up on the wrong side of the grid! Yeah, referencing another clue at 1A isn't quite cricket, but you don't want them to just hand the puzzle to you, do ya? I breezed through this without bothering to figure out the theme, which is where a lot of you had your disagreements. Maybe that was my salvation! I had LOONY for GOONY and CASE for BASE originally, but that's the stuff you've got to work through. I wanted LEMON for EDSEL (thought theirs was better); knew IRENE Castle from somewhere deep, and also SONIA Braga, but didn't commit to the "I" in SONIA until crosses verified it wasn't a "J" or "Y". I agree with those who pose the theme is not baseball itself, but phrases with base names in them. I guess that covers every base for now.

Doc John 5:58 PM  

[See 48-Down] didn't bother me- I just skipped ahead to the next clue. I can see where it would vex the ones who do it for time but remember, everyone's in the same boat!

COVERS EVERY BASE didn't bother me, either. I just realized the theme of the puzzle was the names of the bases in baseball; that's when I realized what HOME ALONE was doing there.

Least fave clue (as mentioned before): COR. I guess that the way it was clued was the "Monday-est" way of cluing it (vs. cor pulmonale, say) but still... ugly

Most fave clue: [Car bomb?]=EDSEL They were actually on the market for several years (with several models) before fading away.

ArtLvr 6:02 PM  

@ chef bea -- CRAW is the crop or throat of a bird (or insect), (also stomach of lower orders), the expression "something's sticking in my craw" means I'm gagging...


arb 6:37 PM  

4:31pm jean said...
"...there was at least one other sci-fi based comedy. I think it was called He said, she said and it starred Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss collecting intergalactic trash...."

In 1967, Benjamin and Prentiss starred in "He and She."

"He Said, She Said" was a 1969 game show.

Benjamin starred, minus his wife, in 1977's Quark. *That's* the trash show.

Bill D 7:42 PM  

Reminiscing about The Dam Busters tweaked my memory a bit - didn't the mission's codename (Operation CHASTISE) make it into the puzzle in the past year?

The "Dam Busters" raid was an attempt to knock out the production facilities of the Ruhr valley by breeching three river dams, The Mohne, The Eder, and The Sorpe. Prof Barnes Wallis designed a special "bouncing bomb" which had to be launched from an exact distance and specific (very low!) altitude. Training was done in secret and the mission was carried out over the night of May 16-17 1943. The first two dams were breeched; 617 Squadron's losses were high, however, and the results weren't all the planners had hoped for. Director Peter (Lord of the Rings) Jackson is reportedly working on a remake of the 1954 original - I can't wait!

Leon 7:49 PM  

Covering the bases:

Ilsa was played by Ingrid Bergman who like Greta Garbo was born in Stockholm.

Frank Zappa had a song titled Wonderful Wino:

L.A. in the summer of '69
I went downtown and bought me some wine
Oh, I drank it down under the table
I said: "Watch me now, I'm gonna eat the label!"
Well I'm a wino man
Don't you know I am?

foodie 7:59 PM  


I loved your description of your two modes of solving-- speed solving by getting in a "zone" which comes with some risks, and more methodical systematic solving. Since I don't speed solve (although I try to do it with Sudoku) I have always wondered whether there was a special feeling associated with it. As a neuroscientist, I am trying to imagine what you have to call upon for this heightened focus. I bet that one of the secrets of success is finding ways to maintain being in that zone by being reinforced with successes and ignoring temporary setbacks. I also bet that if someone imaged your brain, or that of Orange, during speed solving some areas would be turned on that are shared with those who are meditating in a highly focused way. I know it might sound counterintuitive, but it would still be my guess.

Thanks for the perspective!

Anonymous 8:16 PM  

I didn't notice the theme until I came here. I often seem to blank on those. I found this easy even for a Monday. It was about as fast as I get, which is to say not very.

Anonymous 8:54 PM  

I love the fact that I thought this puzzle was easy (because I almost always think the puzzles are harder than Rex thinks they are). Maybe I lucked out today because I remember Lux soap from my childhood (Ipana, too) and listened to Frank Zappa obsessively in college. I loved Rex's rant, though, and agree completely that being sent elsewhere on the first clue is a complete drag.

Barb in Chicago

treedweller 9:23 PM  

I like Zappa's "You Are What You Is".

the puzzle, eh, it was fine.

Howard B 9:48 PM  

foodie - That would be a fascinating piece of research. I know it sounds strange, but there have been times during a solve on paper or in the applet that I've carried on a full conversation while solving, finished the puzzle, and not remembered solving at least part of it; other times I've given my full focus and attention to it and have experienced that 'in the zone' feeling of concentration and understanding. There must be some sort of process by which the mind can focus on something very intently, maybe even not entirely consciously... I really don't know. Until then I'll just call it 'caffeine' and leave it at that.

I'm pretty sure that it's something gradually developed over time, though; none of us are born with the innate ability to fill in little boxes (are we?).

Aah, haven't had a good rambling post in a while. That feels much better :).

PuzzleGirl 9:55 PM  

Since I'm late again, I don't have much to add. Didn't like all the same things that you all didn't like.

Anonymous 1:49: Thanks so much for the Meat Loaf reference. Do they still play that stupid song at wedding receptions? I bet they do. I recall several years ago there was an article about Meat Loaf in the Times and, in keeping with the NYT Style Guide, he was referred to throughout the article as Mr. Loaf. Ha!

In 1991 an all-star Zappa tribute concert was held at The Ritz in New York City. The CD of the concert, called "Zappa's Universe," won a Grammy. Although I was never a Zappa fan, I attended that concert because my cousin was playing keyboards! He (my cousin) went on to play and tour with Mike Keneally and Beer for Dolphins. Good times.

Orange 10:39 PM  

Funny you should say that, Howard. I listened to the recent Merl Reagle interview on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" (which you can listen to at NPR's website), and Merl came right out and said (I paraphrase), Some people are born having that knack for filling in crosswords, and some people just aren't. I don't know that I agree with that concept (though I haven't tested it out). My hunch is that any smart person can learn to solve crosswords if he or she wants to, at least with some coaching and plenty of practice. Can anyone just pick up their first-ever Monday NYT and plow through it? No, but I think they could master the puzzles with practice and attention (to trivia, to names in the news, to geography, and to the ways that common crossword answers are clued).

Anonymous 12:07 AM  

I LOVE the irony of you stopping at "touche." Ah, serendipitous wordplay...

Oh, and the restaurant on my street still has Andes mints. Yum!

scriberpat 12:25 AM  

@Margaret 3:10 PM
re: you can't believe no one has mentioned the movie, The Goonies.

Read more carefully -- john reid mentioned it in his first paragraph at 11:29 AM

Ellen 2:30 AM  

Re cross-references: In Across Lite 1, you can type in the clue number and be instantly transported to that clue. This ease of navigation is the main reason I don't use Across Lite 2 (unless forced to).

karmasartre 2:31 AM  

@puzzlegirl -- There is a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Loaf in the recent issue of Architectural Digest.

andrea carla michaels 3:34 AM  

This is the first time I even partially disagree with Rex!
It seemed quite easy (maybe if you had solved on paper, the whole See such-and-such down which normally Will takes great pains to avoid, wouldn't have thrown you off your game, literally. Or at most for two and a half seconds)
I actually wish I had thought of this theme with the simple, yet elegant: first, second, third, home...PLUS cover all the bases which definitely is more a light double-entendre puzzle ref than a baseball ref (or should I say "ump"?)
Five themes, and yet an exact Monday, I thought. (They keep raising the bar, now i can't get away with just three!)

Plus ZAPPA and REDDWARF were way cool!

Howard B 9:04 PM  

I'm past the blog entry's "sell by" date for posting, but Orange, I think you nailed it better than I could.

Natural ability is one thing, but there has to be some factor beyond that which nurtures one's ability and interest, whatever it may be. I suppose that's why we have Cirque du Soleil acrobats, Olympic curlers, and every other sort of vocation.
Except that with practice, as you said, many people could solve puzzles much better than they ever thought if they gave it some time.

Anonymous 12:00 PM  

6wksltr: Wow, Ronathan had "never heard of" the Edsel! Somewhere there must be somebody associated with the Ford Motor Company who would be glad to hear that--that their infamous debacle is no longer at the tip of everyone's consciousness. I assume from R's complaints that he must be Very Young. Don't fret, lad--it passes. ;) Docruth

embien 3:13 PM  

For those, like me, in Syndicationville, here's the link to the article in Architectural Digest about the Loaf household.

Gila 4:06 PM  

I'm still a crossword novice, but have been solving (or attempting to solve) nearly every day now. I hate codependent clues, but seeing that as the first one was more frustrating than usual, particularly as I have never before heard of Idi Amin. I don't remember who it was who commented "How many other Ugandan dictators do you know?" but that assumes that I keep up with Ugandan current events! I had also never heard of "craw" before and originally wrote in "butt" for 5A before realizing that that would be too rude to print. I also messed up on 19A, although fortunately it was only "poked" for "nosed" so only two of my crosses were affected. I saw "letter salutation" in 31A and immediately jumped to "dear", ignoring the prefix "old". I misinterpreted 47A and wrote in "pass". 32A was particularly irksome as I wrote a term paper on Margaret Bourke-White, who collaborated with and was married to Erskine Caldwell. I could have named the books they wrote together, but God's Little Acre must have been published after they divorced. The only mistake I stand by is "brush" for 36A rather than "easel". Why not? Picasso obviously used both. Ultimately, I was able to solve *nearly* the entire puzzle, but not without some cheating.

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