Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "DATE AND TIME" (65A: Invitation info ... or two alternate endings for the starts of the answers to 18-Across, 10-Down and 24-Down)

This theme is weirdly complicated, in that it's not complicated at all once you sort it all out, but when you're flying through the puzzle ... figuring out where the theme answers were and how parts of those answers were supposed to relate to each other reminded me of doing long division. Still, the theme works perfectly. I think I would have said "possible" rather than "alternate" in the DATE AND TIME clue, but no big deal. This puzzle had fewer unknown words in it than yesterday's, but still took me longer. Two main sticking points: I had SHOE for SHIN (49D: It's usually over a foot) and I could not for the life of me figure out what 18A: Furniture within easy walking distance of the kitchen was going for. I consider all the furniture in my house to be "within easy walking distance of the kitchen," so ... the answer here was not obvious to me. I am comforted by the fact that my wife's initial answer here was DINNER PLATE. I don't know what I would have entered had I ventured a guess, but I know it would not have been that silly.

• 18A: Furniture within easy walking distance of the kitchen (dinner table)
• 10D: Popular Sony product (Playstation)
• 24D: Spy who lives dangerously (double agent) - as opposed to those lazy, cowardly spies who take no risks and swill beer on the couch all day

Had one of those great puzzle coincidences last night - you know the kind, where you're doing the puzzle and some answer comes up that you were Just talking about an hour earlier ("... and I hadn't thought about OCELOTS in years ... isn't that weird"?), or your run across a word and someone on the radio or TV utters that word at that exact moment? Well, last night I was pushing at the puzzle while "Family Guy" was on in the background (I rarely watch this show any more, so ... I must have been waiting around for "The Daily Show" to come on). I noticed that the background music was really familiar, but I couldn't place it. Then I hit 57D: Mt. Rushmore's locale: Abbr. (S. Dak.) and about one second later someone on "Family Guy" utters the words Mt. Rushmore and then I realize that the music that was so familiar was familiar because I own it - it's the soundtrack to "North by Northwest," and the "Family Guy" episode that's on is an enormous parody of that movie (entitled, I later found out, "North by North Quahog"). The top secret film at issue in the parody is "Passion of the Christ 2: Crucify This," which Peter is trying desperately to save the world from ever experiencing.

Listy:

• 20A: Actor Mos _____ (Def) - he is also, notably, a rapper. Expect to see his name (first and last) in puzzles now and forever.
• 31A: Show of lowbrow taste (kitsch) - hmmm. Only high/middlebrow people would ever use this word.
• 40A: Pimpernel or prairie clover (herb) - no idea. I thought The Scarlet Pimpernel was just his name ... like ... Sir Pimpernel. My wife thought this was a much sillier idea than DINNER PLATE (see above).
• 43A: Cheer competitor (Tide) - seems as if almost ALL detergents have short, puzzle-worthy names. One of my favorite "Simpsons" episodes involves Principal Skinner standing in front of a laundromat detergent dispenser trying to decide which kind to buy; he recites each name in a methodical, slow, monotone, and it goes on Forever. Since I can't find a clip of that, here is perhaps the greatest one and a half minutes of Homer Simpson footage you'll ever see. Premise: Homer chances upon an overturned sugar truck and decides that seizing the spilled goods will surely make him rich ... somehow.
• 50A: African heavyweight, for short (Rhino) - couldn't think of any African boxers. Reading book on Jack Dempsey, so "heavyweight" skewed toward boxing even more than it likely would have otherwise.
• 53A: Perennial teenage feeling (angst) - Sadly, tellingly, this was a gimme. I got it without even looking at how many letters it was.
• 60A: Popular place (in spot) - feels off. IN CROWD. HOT SPOT. Here is a local diner, which as you can see, is The Spot to eat. My wife picked up this card for me because it looks so old school. My first reaction: "It looks like a Robert Crumb drawing."
• 2D: Geneva-based watchmaker (Rolex) - lots of other watch brands would fit here.
• 12D: It's cheap, proverbially (talk) - we just had some variation of this very clue, didn't we?
• 19D: Corner piece (rook) - I had NOOK until the bitter end, the bitter end being "What's a DINNEN TABLE?"
• 32D: Weapon in a gang fight (shiv) - by far my favorite crossword weapon. UZIs are cliché, AXEs are far too messy, and ADZEs are just pretentious.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PhillySolver

A nice Tuesday puzzle and other than a typo, nothing to slow me down. One of the books we discussed here was on a recent Trivia challenge. Name the top ten best selling fictional books. I am sure we will have to do non-fiction soon so here is a link for both. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_books
Any way, a novel on teenage angst, Cather in the Rye is on the list. Roget's book is on the nonfiction list.

artlvr should have a good time with this one. Big soccer match today and I have to work ;(

ArtLvr

Yes, Phillysolver! Yesterday STOATS and STALK, plus the "cheap commodity" TALK last Saturday... Today YAKS crossiing TALK (with similar clue) in the NE, plus more critters RHINO and GATOR and some KITSCH. The Ark with hippo should return for chat and animal cracks around the DINNER TABLE? Very amusing anyway.

I was delighted that this one went as smoothly and quickly for me as yesterday's puzzle, changing only "nook" to ROOK at the end. I'd started with the not-so-common MEADE and EXUDE in the NW and then the theme answer DOUBLE AGENT leapt out from just the initial D -- nicely echoing the double-duty DATE AND TIME.

re SHIN -- Worked widdershins (great old word for counterclockwise) and found more double D's in NOSEDIVED and GODSEND (had wanted "clouded over" for stormy weather sign, but it was a tad too long). Why fixated on D's? Maybe it had to do with the drenching downpour and the deck piled with hail in the late afternoon -- diamond debris so huge that the piles lasted several hours after the sun came back out!

Other wordplay favorites: SOP 'n HOPS, drippy teens' dances? INNS over INSPOT and OASIS for higher-class TENOR, but not mere RMS.... An ominous PLAYSTATION with SHIV attached -- yikes! Finally, AGING ANGST (old pol who's never used a computer vs a web-savvy young 'un)...

∑;)

Opus2

Record fast Tuesday for me. Clever theme, but I didn't figure it out until I had completed the puzzle and logged my time.

Joon

philly, i feel like "fictional book" isn't quite the right term--i think "fictional book" should be like the encyclopedia of tlön or outside the town of malbork. also, which soccer match were you talking about? i assume italy-france but it could easily end up being meaningless.

this is a cute enough puzzle, but i was a little surprised at how straightforward it was for the most part. it definitely felt like a monday, and my solving time is usually pretty different on mondays and tuesdays.

favorite fill: GODSEND, ALLAY. oh, and of course DEF.

chomskian sentence of the day: ANGST ATE TEN OAT R(oo)MS.

i really wanted NOSEDOVE to be a word.

Jane Doh

Nice theme. Had to finish the puzzle to work it out. Enjoyed the nontheme fill, too. Like how the theme answers intersect. Don't much like the dangling cul-de-sacs with only one way in and out at the NW and SE corners.

Great clues for RHINO and SHIN. Clue for MRS is neanderthal -- oh, wait, who knows if cave people had such societal concepts. Sexist?

PhillySolver

Joon Yes, works of fiction would be a better term. The Italy-France match may mean nothing to the European Cup, but it should be a fun reprise of the World Cup finals.

Learning lots of SHI words here.

Larry

My first guess was: dinnetteset.

Anonymous

Nice breezy Tuesday. I agree that the theme did not help the solving. I, too, had a head-scratching moment over "nosedived" but had to concede that nosedove would just be wrong at least in the spoken word.
Just a couple nits to pick on the clues. 38D I wanted Rashly (or some adverb) and 18A to be more than a single piece of furniture.
Perhaps I should try my hand at constructing before being so critical.
Two Ponies

Jim in Chicago

I also had DinetteSet for awhile.

I actually went immediately and badly astray at 1A when I gleefully put in STE for the title of Bride, since there is a St. Bride, thinking "how clever you are today to catch onto this misleading clue". (But, of course St. Bride is English and so would be St. not Ste.) I then crossed the T with TISOT, which I now realize is TISSOT, and so it went.

Other than that a fairly enjoyable Tuesday puzzle. I also didn't ever use the theme.

Zach M.

Rex, we need to talk. I'm fairly sure you were watching me do this puzzle. Reading your write up was like a walk-through of my solving experience, almost clue for clue. I had all the same mistakes as you, corrected them in the same fashion, questioned the same answers, and was actually talking yesterday about how I used to patron that very diner in your picture. Back off, Rex...I don't wan't things to get ugly.

jubjub

@joon, I wanted tailDoVED for a while, I don't know why.

I don't know that other watch companies are based in Geneva; Switzerland, I'd believe, but not Geneva (I don't know for sure, tho). When I was a kid living in Geneva, there was like an hour long fireworks display on some major birthday of the Rolex founder guy. Best fireworks I've ever seen.

I got DINNERTABLE almost immediately, though I probably had a good portion from crosses. My parents recently had been arguing over where the best place to put the dinner table was, and one of the issues was whether it was close enough to the kitchen.

Coincidence: I was looking for pictures of Japanese KITSCH yesterday, and actually image-googled the word. FYI the more apt phrase for what I was looking for was "Kawaii".

Karen

Record time for me too. I do the downs first on Mon/Tues, as I read about on this blog once.

I remember the scarlet pimpernel being a small red flower...I didn't know it was an herb too. Wikipedia lists it as a weed. Apparently, it can tell you if the barometric pressure is decreasing.

The GODSEND clue (much needed help) threw me as it divides up weirdly into god's end.

ronathan

This was a very fast Tuesday for me as well (a new record, I think). Just like Rex, I too fell into the SHOE/SHIN trap. I'm still not convinced either that IN SPOT is in any way a better answer than ON SPOT, but c'est la vie.

Also got a little bit stuck in the W, because I initially put SEAR for 35D instead of CHAR. When I couldn't figure out what SLOUD OVER meant, or why "Pimpernel or prairie clover" (40A HERB) would clue for a SERB, I realized I probably had a mistake. :-)

Having just taken a trip to Switzerland last October to visit my sister (who now lives there), I can confirm what Jubjub is saying. Switzerland may be home to several big name watchmakers, but in Geneva they are all about ROLEX. Even though companies like Patek Phillipe are also headquartered in Geneva, ROLEX has become (for one reason or another) as emblematic to Swiss history and culture as fondue and international banking.

Cheers,
Ronathan :-)

mac

Godsend was really my only problem: I started pit with Godsent. Doesn't that make sense? I've mentioned this before, I sometimes hear and use expressions without ever having seen them in print, and there you go. Otherwise didn't have any problems, never bothered with the theme until I was done, and it is very nice.
@Phillysolver: we have a great dilemma here: the games are starting at 8.45 (75 minutes from now) and my husband and son want to see the Italy-France match, I the Dutch match (duh, or doh). We were actually at the France-Italy final in Rotterdam some years ago, and it was a terrible bore, which I use as an argument. I'm afraid we will be flipping since there is only one tv in the house, and the closest sports bar is 9 km away up driveway-wide mountain paths....

Rob

Am I the only one who sat there for a minute going "Is there really such a watch as a ROSEX?" :)

Otherwise, record time, nice confidence-building Tuesday puzzle.

Martin

@Karen

"Herb" also means any plant that dies to the ground yearly. This includes all annuals, like the scarlet pimpernel. Many culinary herbs (rosemary for example) have woody stems that persist and are not herbs by the botanical definition. And lots of true herbs are poisonous or otherwise inedible.

The scarlet pimpernel is a very common weed with a beautifully colored but very small (1/4" to 1/2" across) flower. If you look around poorly drained waste areas you're bound to find it. Most people assume that a literary hero would be named for a flamboyant flower, but you need to get close to the ground to find this inconspicuous gem.

dk

I am with the dinetteset, and NOSEDIVED sounds like what some people do in cars at stoplights when they think no one can see.

For teen angst give me the early works of Hermann Heese (Beneath the Wheel for one).

And, TAHOE should have been clued as the lake that is threatend by the gobal warming caused by a GMC SUV of the same name. I have these cute little bumber stickers that say "I am changing the environment: ask me how!" that look great on SUV's.

Rex, at HULU.com do you watch Firefly.

ROSEX is what the AGILE and SMUG do at INSPOTS.

I am off to Las Vegas for four days of freezing to death in conference rooms. A little know fact is: there are patents on the sounds and progression of said sounds on the slots.

Last ramble (not enough coffee today), my lovely wife and I finished this puzzle in under 6.

Thank you Steven G for a pleasent Tuesday morning.

jae

Me too on DINNETTESET and SHOE. Nice puzzle!

Joon

one more thing, pursuant to our discussion of RBI(s) from a few days ago: today we had AGS, but written out in full it's definitely "attorneys general."

archaeoprof

Here's one more SHOE in the SHIN trap.

George NYC

That Spot Restaurant card would make a good Prozac ad.

Bill from NJ

Hello folks. I haven't been around much as I was in the hospital for several days as my MS flared up again.

I'm in therapy to try and regain the ability to speak clearly but I can type OK. MS is one strange thing to have.

I will start my "puzzle therapy" tomorrow as both my neurologist and myself are big fans of the NYT crossword puzzles. He thinks it will be good therapy for me.

But anyway, it is good to be back!

JC66

@bill from nj

I, too, suffer from a neurological disorder, but, not in the same ball park as MS. All the best and hang in there. Your comments are always appreciated.

Fergus

This is the time of year when the scarlet pimpernel starts taking over my garden ...

Thought this was a very lively puzzle, except for the contrivance of a theme. Seemed to me to detract from an otherwise elegant fill of the grid.

Anyone who's read Milan Kundera will know of his fixation on KITSCH. I thought I understood what he was getting at in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but the meanings he ascribes in subsequent work now CLOUD OVER any erstwhile comprehension. As far as I can figure, it's at quite a remove from lowbrow taste.

Orange

Best wishes to you, Bill! Can you get your insurance to cover the cost of an annual subscription to the NYT crossword?

jls

good to see ya back, bill!

;-)

janie

Fergus

Bill, My doctor friends (including a neurologist or two) sing at least mild praises for Xwords, though they tend toward scathing dismissal of many other popular notions. A bit of community support is good, too, even if it's something as remote as a blog.

Leon

Dinning Room and Foodtons.

Furniture Store Sign.

alanrichard

Well now I know talk is cheap. I did this one only doing the downs. I got playstsation and double agent on the first pass. I finished in three passes - sort of like playing solitaire - which makes a Tuesday puzzle more challenging. I never heard of "KITSCH" but it was there when I was done.

foodie

@ bill from NJ

There are thousands of neuroscientists around though we don't hear from many of them on this blog. But as the local representative, I promise I'm not making this up: I will totally back up the view that puzzles are good for the brain. The best evidence is for cognitive function, but I bet they're equally great for stress reduction, a sense of reward and accomplishment, sharpening focus without tension, etc... Just what the doctor ordered. So, enjoy, and speedy recovery!

PS. I too had "dinette set". For some reason, that expression evokes cheap furniture ads from the 70s... And not for households with Rosex. Glad it was not in the puzzle, in the end.

foodie

@ bill from NJ

There are thousands of neuroscientists around though we don't hear from many of them on this blog. But as the local representative, I promise I'm not making this up: I will totally back up the view that puzzles are good for the brain. The best evidence is for cognitive function, but I bet they're equally great for stress reduction, a sense of reward and accomplishment, sharpening focus without tension, etc... Just what the doctor ordered. So, enjoy, and speedy recovery!

PS. I too had "dinette set". For some reason, that expression evokes cheap furniture ads from the 70s... And not for households with Rosex. Glad it was not in the puzzle, in the end.

green mantis

Welcome back, Bill.

des

Yes, I also first tried dinnetteset and shoe. I struggled mostly with Playstation. Kept wanting to elongate Walkman (after having put in SWARM rather than SPATE).

One comment about pc language - in spite of the connotations re the relationship, I would bet the vast majority of brides are still a "Mrs" - maybe even more than in the 60s and 70s when some of us got married. So much for "progress."

Anonymous

Mos Def

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/02/17/69-mos-def/

Howard B

Welcome back, Bill!

Cea

My first online puzzle (I left my NYTimes in the office, and both the local shops were sold out when I tried to find another copy), and while I found it scarily easy, I missed the scribbling and the scribbling out. Didn't even notice I had shin (must have got it from the crosses) and dinner table came from just a couple of letters.

How do I get the online version to tell me if I've got it all right?

alanrichard

I agree, the puzzles are great for the brain. Its always good to be challenged. Its like sports. You train & you improve. With the puzzles, you recognize the clues and think outside the lines. The biggest difference between the early week and latter week Times puzzles is in the ambiguity of the clues - more so than in the answers.

chefbea1

sorry to be so late . have been busy all day and just got up from the dinner table. see you all tomorrow

Anonymous

@ cea -- I haven't figured that out either, but if you go to the blog of Jim H, you can see the solution in the wee hours...

Anonymous

@bill from nj -- Best wishes as you recover. In case you haven't already come across this, here's some information that might be useful.
http://www.drmcdougall.com/med_hot_ms.html

Mary in NE

Jane Doh

@bill from nj

Good to have you back. Best wishes and here's to your health!

JD

Larry

Bill:

MS stuck my brother. I will pray for your progress against the disease and the dreaded Friday and Saturday puzzles!

Best of luck too.

Larry

acme

Interesting that the MRS clue day after first legal day for gay couples to marry, i think instead of bride and groom they were listed as "party A" and "party B,"

Tho as i don't believe in marriage for anyone of any sexual orientation,
I remain Party of One

Zach M.

@ dk

Medication only works if you take it, right? I always get that confused.

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