FRIDAY, Jul. 11, 2008 - Barry C. Silk ("MECANIQUE CELESTE" ASTRONOMER / NATIVES OF UMM QASR)

Friday, July 11, 2008


Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Letter(s) + words (or, none)

Short explanation of today's tardiness:

1. I have a puppy
2. I dogsat for another puppy last night (my puppy's brother, who, unlike my puppy, does not sleep quietly through the night in his crate yet...)
3. I had to work (god forbid) today, advising the incoming wee ones
4. I spent the afternoon w/ a dazed look on my face watching old "Project Runway" episodes, completely forgetting that I hadn't yet written the blog
5. I ran last-minute errands (today is the last weekday before I leave for NZ)

I have not yet read any of the comments, so sorry if I repeat anything you all have already said.

OK, so this puzzle was good. Check out all the letter (or initials) + word (or name) combos:

  • 36A: So-called "Texas White House," once (LBJ Ranch)
  • 34D: He said "I am free of all prejudice. I hate everyone equally" (W.C. Fields)
  • 18A: Suspect eliminator, often (DNA test)
  • 37D: Barnes & Noble acquired it in 1987 (B Dalton)
  • 3D: Hollywood icon since 1924 (MGM lion) - I led with MAE WEST
  • 1A: It can be used to get your balance (ATM card)
  • 20A: Big name in Web-based correpondence (G-Mail)
  • 46D: Fritz the Cat's creator (R. Crumb)
  • 10D: Heat meas. (K-Cal) - they made great compilation albums in the 70s and 80s.
  • 8D: Impress, and then some (B-dazzle)

What else did this puzzle have? Some stumpers:

  • 30D: _____ Wheeler, 1964-70 chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Earle) - I know EARL Weaver ... he was the longtime Orioles manager.
  • 26A: Early Japanese P.M. Hirobumi (Ito) - on M or T, this is an OJ trial-related clue
  • 36D: "Mecanique Celeste" astronomer (Laplace) - I know he's been in the puzzle before, but that didn't help at all today

And then there was...

  • 8A: It's flaky and nutty (baklava) - mmm, it sure is. Used to eat it all the time in Ann Arbor (where there were several decent Middle Eastern restaurants). Now I rarely see the stuff.
  • 22A: Old televangelism letters (PTL) - if you are too young to remember the 80s well, this one might have been lost on you. Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were tabloid legends of my teens.
  • 27A: Old sitcom couple's surname (Mertz) - EZ - plus the clue's a bit boring
  • 40A: Natives of Umm Qasr (Iraqis) - I'm just glad I was not asked to come up with either UMM or QASR
  • 4D: Stuffed and roasted entree (capons) - I know I'm tired and could be imagining things, but didn't we just have this answer, like, yesterday?
  • 6D: Abbr. after Sen. Richard Lugar's name (R-IN) - on M or T, this is a RIN Tin Tin clue. Or perhaps ["There's no _____ 'team'!"]
  • 39D: Ring after exchanging rings? (hora) - eluded me for a while. You dance the HORA in a ring ... surely one of my many Jewish readers has already explained this.
  • 41D: Extravagant romantic (Quixote) - this makes QUIXOTE sound like a synonym for DON JUAN or LOTHARIO. QUIXOTic "romance" is way larger than the modern heterosexual connotations of the word would suggest. QUIXOTE is "romantic" in that he thinks he is In A Medieval Romance (a knight errant, on a quest).
  • 49D: Singer profiled in "Sweet Dreams," 1985 (Cline) - I feel like this came out at roughly the same time as "Coal Miner's Daughter," but that can't be. "CMD" was five years earlier, it turns out. In "Sweet Dreams" (a phrase which now reminds me only of Eurythmics), Jessica Lange played Patsy CLINE.
  • 52D: Great Trek figure (Boer) - wanted something Chinese, then KIRK or SULU, then ...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS, *Man*, I should not-write my blog more often! My traffic is Off The Charts. For 8 hours in a row I had over 1000 visitors/hour. That is Nuts. I'm going to be close to 15K visitors by day's end (absolutely crushing my site's old traffic record)

99 comments:

jannieb 9:44 AM  

Ok -- I'll start! Loved today's puzzle. Seemed perfectly pitched for a Friday - stumbled around looking for traction. Wrote in then erased camping or I'd have had some luck in the NW. Also wrote in DNAtest with no crosses, and left it there. Fortunately taht proved corret. First quadrant finished was the SE, then the NE and SW. Then back to the NW. Can't wait for Chefbea's recipe for baklava -I'm sure it will be better than beets! Loved the clue for ump, liked LBJ Ranch, too.

I think Barry Silk has become one of my favorite constructors - lots of difficult but gettable stuff and a nice mix of pop culture both old and new. Great start to the weekend.

Barry 9:47 AM  

Well, I guess I'll be second and just say this puzzle kicked my butt. Maybe it's just me, but the cluing seemed particularly obscure and obtuse to me, even for a Friday. So many of the clues were very general and vague and could have had many answers, so it took me quite a while before I finally filled in an answer I felt pretty sure about. Of course, it was wrong (SET instead of LOT for 11D).

I can't quite figure out how AROW (33A) can be clued as "Ranked". I realize it's most likely "A ROW," but it still doesn't quite click. And is "Cloudiness" really a valid clue for BLEAR (52A)? I had DREAR for the longest time.

Ah, well, at least I did eventually finish, albeit with a lot of help from our friend Mr. Google...

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

Barry: Consider the game of chess, which consists of columns and ranks. The pieces, for example, are placed in the two outer ranks to start the game. Therefore, think of rank as a synonym of row. The chess pieces that are ranked have been put in a (their) row.

imsdave1 9:57 AM  

I wandered aimlessly until hitting the SW. LBJRANCH gave me that corner and the rest fell quickly except for the NW. I had TENTING instead of CAMPING. Not helpful. RIN? SEN - IND - REP wouldn't work. I guess R-IN is fair, but didn't care for it much. UNICODE was a drop kick for me (although as a mainframer, I would have preferred EBCDIC). Favorite clue was ranked for AROW. Extravagant romantic is a decent clue unless your mind attaches an LY to the extravagant - I do that to myself all the time. Very solid and enjoyable puzzle.

Chefbea will probably love seeing CAPON in back to back puzzles. I just read up on them. Sometimes it sucks to be a chicken.

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

About my comment about chess: I meant to say rank and file, not rank and column. Rows are ranks and columns are files. Sorry.

joho 10:03 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle. Was struck by how any answers are initals:
MGM lion
DNA test
WC Fields
LBJ ranch
ATM card
R Crumb
B Dalton
Maybe C Cal ... a kind of calorie I guess

Anyway, it did seem just right for a Friday ...

Barry 10:04 AM  

Therefore, think of rank as a synonym of row. The chess pieces that are ranked have been put in a (their) row.

Actually, I got the connection between ranks and rows. But the clue just doesn't seem to match the answer grammatically. Maybe if the clue had been, "Ranked, with 'in.'" I can understand "in a row" being synonymous with ranked, just not "a row."

Does that make sense?

Crosscan 10:07 AM  

Very weird puzzle with all of the single letters - ATMCARD, DNATEST, EMAGS, PTL, LBJRANCH, MGMLION, KCAL, BDALTON, RCRUMB.

I ground to a halt a few times but stuck with it and eventually got a perfect solve.

Note the Broadway one-female-name double play - ANNIE/EVITA

QUIXOTE must be the go to word for pangrams.

Can someone explain RIN to me?

Barry 10:08 AM  

Oh, and Joho -- I believe it's actually "KCAL" (short for kilocalorie) and not CCAL.

Barry 10:09 AM  

@Crosscan: It's actually R-IN (short for Republican - Indiana) since he is the Republican senator from Indiana.

I'm posting way too much today...

imsdave1 10:10 AM  

@joho - i had KCAL - guessing there are two spellings for BAKLAVA. Wiki'ed it after solving and kilo calorie seems right.

joho 10:21 AM  

@imsdave1
@barry

You're absolutely right, it has to be KCAL, my error.

treedweller 10:33 AM  

This was fun. It took time to gain traction, and I was sure I'd eventually have to google for LAPLACE/LLB, but even that came to me with an educated guess. Still had a mistake because I never noticed the problem with "play to a tee" instead of ATIE.

I struggled a bit with CAMPING, even though it was the first thing that popped in to my head. I like to camp, but always drive my stakes. Laying them around doesn't really help much. I kept looking for a casino game, but finally conceded when I had enough crosses. Had a hard time letting go of "mystery" for VESTIGE and tried mightily to make BEDAZZLED into "blow away" or similar, but everything came together with time and effort.

I really liked JUGBAND and its clue, and enjoyed seeing RCRUMB and LBJRANCH. My favorite "aha" moment was after I'd finished and went to see what RIN meant after Sen. Lugar's name--after a long time with "Rep" in that slot, I just had to accept the answer from crosses, but had to see it in google (about the 8th search result) to realize there was a hyphen in there. Very sneaky!

I could have done without HEXER, and would gladly never again see EMAGS or their cousins, but I don't want to quibble about a really nice puzzle otherwise. Nice one, Mr. Silk (and, as always, WS).

MargaretR 10:42 AM  

A dandy puzzle, and a real slog, with more Googling than I usually have to do. The first cross I got was RCRUMB and UNICODE, and the SE corner grew from there, but NW took forever, because I had recklessly put in CROQUET instead of CAMPING, and kept it too long because ARCADIA fit. Oh, well, it's Friday!

foodie 10:48 AM  

Loved this puzzle, and did all corners smoothly except for the southwest, where I had to get some help. Felt it had fresh but gettable answers, especially modern stuff: UNICODE, GMAIL, EMAGS, ENCODER (all computer-related), DNA TEST, etc...

BAKLAVA made me happy--- I grew up eating the stuff on special occasions. A partner of BAKLAVA is another form of pastry called knafeh or kadaif.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanafeh

It can have the same type of nutty stuffing (Pistachios are particularly good), but it can also have goat cheese or fresh cream stuffing. The stuff is amazing!!! I have an easy recipe, but I will restrain myself : )

Nick 10:52 AM  

Good Friday puzzle. Getting started for me meant a lot of questionable entries. I guessed "ACRONYM" for "Modem, e.g.," which ruined the NE for a while. "GMAIL" turned out to be right, as did "EMAGS". "MINUTES" was the entry for the SE, where I finally got somewhere, then to the SW with "JUG BAND", to the north with "BEDAZZLE" and "ANNIE",... I finished in the NW, convincing myself with a groan that "ALIT" was ok for "Put down".
BTW, I think it's "AROW", one word, like "ASEA" meaning "in a row", one way to interpret "Ranked".

ronathan 10:54 AM  

@Barry

I had trouble with AROW in a grammatical sense, just like you did. But I looked it up, and apparently AROW is an antiquated (perhaps Old English) word (i.e. its one word) meaning "in a row" or "ranked". So perhaps your mistake (and mine) was thinking of the answer as being parsed into two words.

Speaking of grammer, it took me the longest time to get E-MAGS because my brain refused to recognize the clue "Reads online" as having the word "Reads" be a noun instead of a verb. Arrgghhh!

Overall, a challenging puzzle for me. I agree with Barry's original comment that this grid contained a lot of answers that seemed obscure or hard to get and required a lot of guessing and erasing. I originally had WITCH for HEXER, BE AMAZED for BEDAZZLED, CBN (for Christian Broadcasting Network) for PTL, and IOTA for MITE. Had no clue about AS NEAT (had to look up the expression after the fact since I'd never heard it), and had never heard of LA PLACE, ITO, or MARAT. The only reason I knew MERTZ was because it appeared in another puzzle a few weeks back. Ironically, R-IN was a gimmie for me (guess it pays to be a political news junkie).

I also noted the "abbreviated initials" mini-theme, and was expecting one of the answers to be a clue referencing this. Alas, it was not to be.

Happy hour is only 5 hours away! YAY!

Cheers,
ronathan ;-)

Crosscan 11:02 AM  

Thanks, Barry.

I read Modem as Modern which stumped me for a while. Time for new glasses.

ronathan 11:03 AM  

ETA- Also had A PLAN instead of A PLOT for the longest time. That ruined the NW for me for the longest time before I had an "aha" moment and wroted in CAPON, which I NEVER would have known had it not been in th puzzle yesterday.

Speaking of which, is it merely coincidence that CAPON is in the puzzle two days in a row? Or did Shortz think pairing these two puzzles back-to-back would make this Friday easier for the masses?

-Ronathan :-)

Two Ponies 11:10 AM  

Perfect Friday puzzle for me. Also loved jugband. Blear is a new word to me (not an attractive word at all). For some reason my mind's eye read Star Trek for Great Trek causing a delay there. Mr. Silk is getting to be one of my favorites. BTW where can I find the picture of Rex's puppy?

Jane Doh 11:14 AM  

A puzzle with pizzazz. A pleasure to put pen to paper.

Thought the bottom was easy enough. Had to stare down ARCADIA and ENCODER in order to vet those corners, and then the rest of the suspects became honest answers.

Also adored all the juicy letter combinations such as ATM MGM LBJ, etc. Am usually bugged by so many names, but this time not -- the names seemed part of the flow instead of featured cameos. Except for PTL (ugh), this was really clean. Was the kind of grid that allowed for lots of fun clues, so what could be better! Even the so-so HEXER got a cute one.

Richard Lugar = a Republican I'm able to like.

--Extravagant Romantic

jannieb 11:20 AM  

@twoponies - welcome to orange & blue land. You can see the pup in Tuesdays writepup. There is a link in the first sentence after the theme paragraph. She's a cutie.

I also had a plan in the NW and tried atm slip and squab instead of capon. No wonder it took me so long.

Bill from NJ 11:30 AM  

Both loved and hated this puzzle. I feel the same as Barry that there was too much obscurity (could be anything quality) about this thing. I especialy disliked APLOT and ATIE and HEXER. The clues were just as bad, especially Cloudiness and Ranked.


Had NEATAS and IOTA for the longest time. Yet another over-nighter. I use the expression "dreaming on" to describe what happens when I sleep in the middle of the puzzle.

What I liked were the odd combinations of letters that this puzzle was full of. LBJRANCH broke open the SW for me and the ATMCARD/MGMLION cross helped me in the NW.

Eventually finished by chipping away but I didn't enjoy it.

Two Ponies 12:45 PM  

@ jannieb - Thanks for the welcome and the photo link. I love dogs and have 4 of my own.
@ Rex I can relate to your trying times having raised my pack from pups but I'm proud that through it all I never lost a single shoe.
@ Wade I ordered your friend's book yesterday. It sounds good and I will look for your cameo.

PhillySolver 12:50 PM  

@ Foodie
please send me that recipe. I love the ingredients and love to cook. Or post a link to it and say it explains why ARTLESS is natural and no one will know what we are doing.

In looking back over the puzzle last night I decided I must have an error when I parsed LAP LACE for 36D. PTL

jae 1:03 PM  

Great puzzle and an easy-medium for me. I had no real problems with it other than BOWLOVER. I also liked all the initial answers as your first thought is "how can a D follow a B?"

@Barry -- thanks for the RIN explanation, I didn't parse the hyphen.

Doug 1:09 PM  

Went as far as I could and hit the wall at about 2/3 full. Had to google for RCRUMB, BOER and BAKLAVA following which the grid fell quickly.

The thing must have taken me an hour and a half, but that's with 2 kid house guests in addition to the regular 4 boys. Glad to finally get it, but I expect my normal "vanilla chip" Saturday tomorrow, i.e. lots of white with the occasional black spot!

imsdave1 1:20 PM  

Just one more comment (3 post rule). If we accept RIN does that mean we can expect (or, to constructors, use):

Kennedy - DMA
Stevens - RAK
McCain - RAZ
Boxer - DCA
Lieberman - ICT
Martinez - RFL
Harkin - DIA
McConnell - RKY
Klobucher - DFLMN
Sanders - IVT (technically SVT, but he seems to have given up the Socialist label)

?

Slippery slope if you ask me.

Hav a great day all.

mac 1:47 PM  

As usual Barry Silk created a wonderful puzzle - interesting, fun clues and unexpected answers. I do think I am at a disadvantage when so many acronyms and initials appear, sometimes crossing. I did manage to figure out some of them, but it was not a straightforward quest for me. First I had a tough time getting a start, then sort of went into a zone, solving long words practically without crossing, then came to a crashing halt and had to end up chipping away at it....

Please help me out, what is the meaning of a jug band? I first had
ribcage.... Could have been, right? Or was it a sixpack that I was thinking of?
I also don't know what PTL stands for, of back forty. What's wrong with me today?


Foodie, please make the easy recipe public!

Hope Rex publishes soon, I miss his explanations.

fergus 1:54 PM  

Even with luck and being on the Silk wavelength, this was still tough. Don't usually like to make an entry without an anchoring letter (except for the first one, of course) but had to do that a lot today. Could have been truly stumped without some fortunate guesses.

Laplacian transforms, Lagrangian multipliers, and all that math from deep in college textbooks. Can't do the computations anymore, but at least I can remember enough names to stick in a grid.

I was trying to remember the surname from the Dick Van Dyke show ... Rob and Laura ... Petri, maybe?

Could have been SECONDS for the Degree divisions, so was reluctant to drop that in there. Also, very hesitant to enter WC FIELDS, though the quote almost assured it had to be him.

Lots of nice part-of-speech misdirection. Really made me think through most of the Clues.

fergus 1:56 PM  

PTL was supposedly Praise The Lord, though more commonly known as Pass The Loot.

Plow the Back FORTY acres on the farm.

jannieb 2:01 PM  

@fergus - yes, it was the Petri's

Ladel 2:09 PM  

@the flock

it's a test, only a test, the leader wants his flock to get a sense of what solving is like sans his input. It's a growth thing, you have to dig a little deeper, "puzzle" a little longer before giving into whatever you use to get unstuck. Oh, the expandable little answer grid is such a tempting lure to end the pain, but today you soloed, at least until the ETA of....

kalaala 2:11 PM  

@jae I had the same thought: BOWLOVER instead of BEDAZZLE; it seemed so perfect.
@ Crosscan You are not the only one who read Modem as Modern, I have the glasses but should wear them.
@Mac The jugband is a musical group which uses homemade instruments, originated in the southeastern US.

Ulrich 2:19 PM  

Loved the ingenious clue for German nie (never)--who'd have known that such humble word could get such a splendid treatment? Working upwards from the SE, got stuck in the middle, but had friends next to me on the beach who knew both a hora and the expression "back forty"--my new phrase of the day. After the center fell, everything else followed easily, even if "arow" was an "if you say so" to me--thanks for the explanation!

All in all, a good Friday workout for me.

mac 2:31 PM  

This morning I went back to yesterday's comments (those Westcoasters write after my bedtime), and found a lovely note from Ira, who is working in Bogotha, Columbia!

Shamik 2:51 PM  

@ twoponies: Oh THAT Great Trek! I was with you on Star Trek and kept trying to find some BOERing alien.

@ treedweller: of course we drive our stakes. Doesn't everyone hold them in their hands as they go around the tent and stab the ground?

First to fall was the SW for me and then it went counter-clockwise. No googles.

Hope all is well with Rex, et al.

wade 3:03 PM  

Two Ponies, neato. Let me and Fussy (aka Michelle) know what you think (she's at michellerichmond.com). She gave me a cameo in her previous book, too, as a banjo player. I'm a hotshot Hollywood producer in this one. I told her in the next one I wanted to be a distant cousin to Joe Cocker on our mothers' side. I always thought it'd be cool to be Joe Cocker's cousin.

I dug the puzzle. Screw vowels, I always say.

Anonymous 3:19 PM  

I have a quick question for everyone here. How old were you when you completed your first NY Times Crossword on your own? How long had you been doing crosswords up to this point? Long story short, I started seriously attempting them without aid maybe 3 months ago (3-4x a week) and have come close on some mondays but puzzles like today's make me feel like there is no hope. I'm 20. Tips? Any would help. Thanks.

Orange 3:24 PM  

Imsdave, a couple years back, it was reported that constructor Frank Longo realized that things like R-IN could dramatically expand the universe of possible 3-letter answers—and so he added a slew of "R/D+state abbreviation" entries to his database. If it lets constructors include more long Z (AZ) and K (AK, KS, KY, OK) and X (TX) crossing answers in their puzzles, I'm all for it!

MargaretR 4:04 PM  

anonymous 3:19

Don't be discouraged - you're doing fine. I've done the NYT Sunday puzzle + acrostic for decades but only in the last few years have done the daily puzzles when I realized they were the perfect thing for my 15-20 minute bus ride to work. At the beginning I was thrilled to finish Monday's before my stop, then gradually I could get up to Wednesday and once in awhile even Thursday though I usually finished them on the way home. Fri and Sat were only a goal for the longest time, esp. since the Sunday puzzle arrives at my door on Saturday morning.

I retired in January and now do the puzzle most days, and lo, I find that Fri and Sat are quite doable -- why did I ever think they were impossible?

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses for crosswords. Football, hockey, and rap music always give me trouble, but I love geography clues and when I see French, Italian, German, and Spanish, I think oh, a freebie!
A good memory helps because crosswords teach you words that you'll see practically nowhere else but often in puzzles!

So, it takes time; but it's always fun.

humorlesstwit 4:12 PM  

@Anonymous 3:19

I'm 50, been doing these on and off since I've been 20, and I think that this may well be the first Friday puzzle I've ever completed.

My experience with puzzles is that a broad vocabulary, knowing tons and tons of references, etc, are what we think the puzzles are a test of, but they will only take you so far. All the rest is purely 'crosswordese', crossword skill, and only comes with doing lots of puzzles, and paying attention to them. I can look at today's puzzle and come up with at least a dozen entries I would not have know had I not done a lot of puzzles, and come here for the answers I didn't get, and paid attention to them. QUIXOTE is an excellent example. I never, ever, would have gotten that had it not appeared several weeks or months ago, and Rex & your fellow commentors not spent much time discussing it, its validity, and its obscurity. Rex is forever pointing out words, phrases, that one needs to know to solve puzzles, words that exist only in puzzles.

These aren't IQ tests, they're little games. And they can be fun. I just had to decide how much work I was willing to put in to get better at them. And to learn not to beat myself up when QUIXOTE appears for the first time.

miriam b 4:13 PM  

After I'd decided that Cythera was wrong and ARCADIA was right, I hopscotched all over the puzzle, finally completing it correctly, AFAIK.

As a flexitarian, I'm not much into CAPONS, but please pass me some more of that BAKLAVA.

As for the sitcom couple: I'm not one of those who loved Lucy, but somehow with the help of crosses the name MERTZ materialized.

Anonymous 4:15 PM  

margaretr

Thank you so much for the thoughtful response! I will certainly stick with it as I now am beginning to see (with the themes and what-not) how beautiful and informative they can be. With the stresses of college I suppose I underestimated the puzzle and expected it to be an easy task.

Joon 4:21 PM  

anon 3:19, don't give up hope. there is a pretty huge gap in difficulty between friday/saturday and the rest of the week. i suspect you'll be regularly nailing mondays sooner than you think, and making progress later in the week. margaretr is right--you will eventually learn a ton of words that are largely useless outside of crosswords (ALEE, EWER, JAI ALAI, OLIO, etc.) that will make your life easier. the more of these short, vowel-heavy words you know (cold), the better you'll be able to fill in a grid, especially early in the week.

my advice is that if you're a beginner, you don't need to do the puzzles "without aid." if you look stuff up (on google or whatever) when you're stuck, you'll find that you can finish more puzzles and have more fun. it's not quite as satisfying as getting it on your own, but it definitely beats leaving it unfinished.

if you want to accelerate your crossword skill development, i've heard tell that there are books that can help with that.

as for me, i don't think i did a crossword until college, but by the end of college i was pretty competent.

today, however, i did not feel competent. i finished, but with so many false starts that it took me damn near forever. sigh. great puzzle today; the problem was definitely on my end.

Anonymous 4:21 PM  

Anonymous at 3:19

I started doing the NY Times puzzle in High School with little success. I stuck with it because I did it with a brilliant friend: he got most of it, I supplied one or 2 answers. However, only attempted Mondays and Tuesdays as the other days were too hard and frustrating. In college I continued doing it with friends and then only Monday, Tuesdays and Weds. In Graduate school expanded by adding an occasional Thursday and Sunday. It was during my last year of Grad school that I finished my first Sunday puzzle and after that it was few and far between. 20 years later (this year) thanks to Rex, I started doing Fridays very slowly and unsuccesfully. However, lately I have been able to complete Fridays' without Googling, although today I was shy 4 squares and had to Google for the "L" and "P" of LaPlace. I still have not tried Saturdays' but am working up the courage.

MY ADVICE: stick to Mondays and Tuesdays at first. Try without Googling and then Google a few and continue on your own until you're stuck again and then come here to look at the answers. WHen I started, I had to wait for the next day to get the answers. I would save the crossword until the next day and read the clues and then look at the answers. If I did not know a word I would look it up. Knowing what it meant helped me remember it. This Blog will help you with that. Look at Rex's pantheon too to see some oft repeated crosswordese. Once you are proficient at Monday and Tuesday keep on adding a day until you are proficient. When you are ready for Thursdays' you can also do Sunday's as it is a larger puzzle with a Thursday difficulty. Once you have those in your pocket move on to Friday and finally Saturday if you dare. It sounds like a lot of work but it is great fun and great brain excercise too.

Good luck.

Profphil

dk 4:34 PM  

Great puzzle and I echo the comments of my mates old and new.

After the NCWYETH setto earlier this week it was fun to see WCFIELDS in this one. Funnier still as WC was an example of the slippery slope of initialed names.

QUIXOTE and HEXER were my favorite fills of the day.

95 here in Minneapolis today and I took the day off: woo woo.

@ronathan, my favorite quote from a bartender in New Orleans: "Its a fine time in life when you can drink with your mother before noon."

Or, as my father used to say: "I sure it is 4PM somewhere."

So perhaps a little bubbley in the back FORTY.

@two ponies, when the KCAL count drops I will check my photo stock for.... a pix of 2 little horses.

CIAO (as it is sometimes clued)

dk 4:40 PM  

@anon 3:19, agree in part with profphil. I say try em all.

I used to be overjoyed to get just a few words on Friday or Saturday. Then I started to see that my quesses were often (well sometimes) right so I got braver and braver.

Now my days are spent chained in a... well never mind about that.

As RCRUMB might say: "Keep on Puzzlin!"

jubjub 4:46 PM  

@anonymous 3:19 -- I'm in my late 20's and started doing the NYT puzzle a little over a year ago. They're hard! I still can rarely do the Friday puzzles without a hint or two from Google (or many, as today), and I don't even try most Saturdays :).

I agree with others that practice makes perfect, since there is a vocabulary common to crosswords that is not used in the real world. And using Google as an aid, you end up learning "useful" stuff you would not otherwise know. As a math person, it is definitely increasing my vocabulary and knowledge of obscure factoids :).

***

Somewhere in my solution today, there is a mistake, but I don't know where it is! All the unreasonable looking "words" (I'm looking at you, RIN) appear to be correct. Other than that, I liked some parts of the puzzle, and will keep quiet about the rest (RIN!).

My favorites:
LAPLACE comes up fairly often in my line of work, but usually as a transform, not a person. Nice to be reminded that he is not just an operator.
Also liked being able to use my somewhat obscure computer knowledge with UNICODE & ENCODER.
CRUMB is a great movie! I watched it streaming from Netflix a few months ago. That guy is a weird-O.
BEDAZZLE is a beautiful word.

Re learning about puzzles (like the transition?), I decided to try and write a puzzle for myself last night:
http://breadandbutterforasmile.blogspot.com/2008/07/my-very-first-crossword.html
It is no masterpiece, but I would appreciate any feedback on it. It is probably too hard, too rich in pop culture references, too wanting in vocabulary, and there are a few too many compromises made to fitting in the grid.

"Never, ever stop in the middle of a hoe down!"

jae 4:48 PM  

@anon 3:19 -- I started doing puzzles 3 or 4 years ago in my late 50s because I read it could stave off dementia. I started with a book of easy ones and looked up everything I didn't know. I worked my way up to the NYT a couple of years ago but still used a xword dictionary and google extensively. After discovering Rex I decided to go solo a little over a year ago and found that I could do most puzzles unaided including Sat. I got there by doing 4+ puzzles a day of varying difficulty and by post-puzzle googling and reading this blog to help remember stuff I didn't know. I think all that time I spent looking stuff up helped me become a better solver so don't be shy about using google or the dictionary. It helps lock things in memory.

Parshutr 4:51 PM  

Took all day, but worth it. Great puzzle.
FWIW, I'm 67, started doing NYT Sunday puzzles in 1957, did them faithfully through early 70s, just started again online last year.

ronathan 5:01 PM  

@anon 3:19

I first started doing the puzzles in high school, since the school librarian would leave free xerox copies out for anyone who wanted to do them. I used to do them in study periods between classes with friends (sort of a group effort). This was before the era of the internet, but working as a group had the same effect since each of us had our own "area of expertise" if you will.

During my college years, I did not have access to the Times, so my puzzling was limited to those times when I was visiting home, and then I would constantly have to battle my sister for possession of the grid. To piss me off even further, she would (and still does) the puzzle in pen so that I couldn't even erase her answers and do it myself if I managed to get a hold of it later. Sibling rivalries are fun, no?

Now that I am 29 and in grad school, I still don't get the Times myself, but my mom does and I use her password to download the puzzle. I completely agree with humorlesswith that the puzzles have become less about knowing tons of broad, "Jeopardy" -style trivia or knowledge, and more about recognizing and remembering a lexicon of words and phrases that fall under the rubric of "crosswordese".

The long and the short of it is, keep at it and you will get better in short order. I promise.

cheers,
ronathan :-p

Doc John 5:02 PM  

Picked my way through the puzzle today, like an average Friday. Had to put it down and pick it up a couple times but finally finished it. The SW was the last to fall. I finally got BLEAR and was on my way. Wanted zydeco to somehow work for the JUG BAND clue.
Word that broke it for me in the other quadrants:
UNICODE, DNA TEST, CAMPING (or maybe ATM CARD).

Interestingly enough, I had EVITA in the ANNIE spot for a while.

I had an unusually high number of correct guesses that I didn't write in right away today: MERTZ, PAGE, GMAIL, MGM LION.

Oops, gotta run- going to see Journey to the Center of the Earth in 3D.

@ Anonymous- what they all said! Practice, practice, practice. And make sure to look up the answers to the ones you couldn't get.

To all my SD friends- my band (not a jug band) is giving a concert Wed July 16, 6:15PM at the Balboa Park Organ Pavilion. It's free- hope to see you there! I'll be on the trombone this time.

Anonymous 5:04 PM  

This is Anon 3:19,

Just to let you guys know, I was so impressed by the outpouring of thoughtful comments that I printed and tacked them up on my bulletin board for encouragement. You guys are great!

ronathan 5:04 PM  

@dk

"Or, as my father used to say: "I sure it is 4PM somewhere.""

I had a prof in college who had an analog clock hanging in his lab with all of the numbers replaced with a 4. Therefore, in his lab it was ALWAYS "after 4". Needless to say, the man liked his whiskey.

-ronathan :-p

Bill from NJ 5:24 PM  

I started doing puzzles in the Washington Post when I was about 10
I always had an affinity for language and my father used to tell me my head was full of useless information - 2 of the qualities needed to do crossword puzzles! It took a couple of years to actually complete one.

I began working on the NY Times puzzles when I was in my early twenties. I worked parttime nights in the mutual room at a dog track, writing sheet and we had time between races. The State Supervisor of Mutuals used to bring the Sunday Times to work and it became a ritual for a half dozen to us to gather round his desk and shout answers to the puzzle. We varied in skill level and it generally took about an hour to complete but the hook was set.

After I left the track I continued to do the puzzle and began solving roughly a third of them on a regular basis. Once I caught onto "crosswordese" I started doing well. I'm talking about a different generation of "crosswordese" than we have now as this was during the Maleska/Farrar generation. We,of course, are in the Shortz Era now

Crosscan 5:25 PM  

@Anon 3:19 - I echo all of the above. When you get really frustrated at a hard puzzle, I like to follow up with an easy one to regain confidence. Day by day progress is sometimes hard to notice, but I'm amazed at what I can do now that I couldn't a year ago.

chefbea1 5:26 PM  

anon 3:19 I've been doing crossword puzzles for about 20 years. Use to use the n.y times crossword puzzle dictionary cuz there was no google back then. Use to do three puzzles a day - now just do one.

Started todays but couldnt finnish it. Thought I would see the completed puzzle here and keep on going.

As for a baklava recipe.. Have never made it I guess because I really don't like it. But give me two good capons.. thats a different story

treedweller 5:32 PM  

@anon 3:19

in addition to the excellent advice above, try this link for some advice from the puzzle's editor himself. I think you can view it without paying for a subscription.

I started working these things in college, so around 18-19. Took me awhile to figure out they got harder through the week. Took me a lot longer to get where I can do the later puzzles each week. I still don't finish Saturday very often without google or other help.

The more you work them (and check your answers) the more you will learn recurring, obscure fill that seems impossible now. This will give you easy toeholds to the longer words later.

Anonymous 5:38 PM  

Rex, if this is the dog, I'm not sure you're cut out for children!

mac 5:47 PM  

@crosscan: I feel that way about sudoku: when I have battled a develish or diabolical one, I often do a quick easy one....
With crossword puzzles I like them as hard as they come, because, @anonymous, I love to do research to get the answers! I didn't google until I found this blog last year, but I had lots of dictionaries, books on music, puzzles, literature and an atlas closeby! Also, I agree, it is a lot of fun to do a tough puzzle with a bunch of other people. I've done it on a boat, on a plane, on a train, in a waiting room. Only thing is, it annoys the non-puzzlers sometimes.

@all: I'm getting worried about Rex et al.

mac 5:50 PM  

I just clicked DELAY in Rex's heading and his write-up is there!!!!

Rex Parker 5:57 PM  

What "heading?"

There is no "DELAY" any more (that I can see). I changed the title (to a normally formatted title), so my commentary is here, and all your comments are here.

rp

Hobbyist 6:04 PM  

"And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined etc"

alanrichard 6:07 PM  

Working has a HUGE effect onthe time constraints for crossword puzzles. The good news is business is good - the bad news is business is good! I finally got to this puzzle mid-afternoon. I got MGM LION immediately - aguess of course and that gave me the whole NW. I had the entire top in few minutes and LBJ ranch but after that it was like pulling teeth. Adult & BDalton opened it up but this was challenging and the phone at work was nonstop. Having been on the Pro Triathlon tour 20 years ago I can just imagine how lucrative the pro crossword tour must be - ha ha! This was a challenging & fun puzzle and I'm looking forward to Saturday. Usually my cat helps with the puzzle by lying on it when I work on it at home.

SethG 7:04 PM  

At various times I had AN EGG, A PLAN, A TEE, CONTEST, EMAIL, EZINE, IOTA, IRANIS, MALPH, MERLE, SPA AREA, TUB BAND, WIDE, WITCH...and a LOT of staring at blank spaces.

Also, I've heard that one's freezer should, well, freeze, so this weekend I get to replace my apparently really old AMANA.

steve l 7:06 PM  

@rex and mac--Perhaps mac refreshed a page that had been on the computer for hours--that would have said "delay" but the new page would have shown up.

Re first time solving experiences: I started solving on a vacation in 1980 or so, when I brought a book of them with me, and like everyone else, didn't know why I could zip through some and be helpless and hopeless on others. Now I know that the difficulty level increases throughout the week. If you can only handle early puzzles right now, they sell collections of only early puzzles (also, only medium and only hard) from the NYT. Now that I have been solving for more than a quarter-century, I can do any puzzle to completion (except for once in a real while when I can't be sure of one letter in a "Natick" cross (see a coupla days ago for the explanation). I know (because of my experience and especially my age--52) many answers that stump the younger solvers--but you learn these and move on. More important (just like if you're playing Jeopardy) you have to understand the clues, and how to connect what day of the week it is to what the clue is getting at (straightforward, misleading, clever, etc.) When I first started, the only way to check your answer was to wait for the next day's paper. Googling is good, though I do it afterward, because whenever I am faced with something not 100% familiar, I look it up and learn something new. At this point, I can do most midweek puzzles and some Fridays so fast that it's not that satisfying, but I am not--and don't want to be--a speed-solver. I think that takes the fun out of the effort, in the same way as I like to landscape my yard, but don't want to do it for a living--it would then be work, not fun. I can do most puzzles in under ten minutes, and I can do Monday puzzles (usually) as fast as I can type them in. (Usually about 4 min.) I found that the puzzles can be more fun on line, and the acrostic, the second puzzle every other Sunday, is ONLY fun for me when I do it online. The procedure is more streamlined and I'm not left with a piece of magazine stock rubbed to death by an eraser.

Anon.: Stick with it. It becomes more and more fun as you get better and better. I'm sure you're doing better than 99% of the 20-year-olds doing the NYT puzzle.

Wade 7:36 PM  

"Sweet Dreams" is kind of forgettable, but "Coal Miner's Daughter" is a movie I never get tired of watching. Tommy Lee Jones, though by most accounts an insufferable butthead in real life despite being a Texan (and whoever pipes in with "don't you mean 'because'" is due for a stomping), is dead-on perfect. It has to be the best biopic ever made (is that pronounced like "bio-pic" or like "myopic"?) Sissy Spacek is also great. She's from Texas, y'know. Don't know whether she's a butthead.

Michael 7:46 PM  

A nice Friday-level puzzle that I got slowly, but surely on my own. Still, when I was done I wondered how about the clue-answer modern-encoder and it took longer than it should have to see that the clue said "modem." And one reason I really like this blog is that reading the comments, I saw that someone else (crosscan, I seem to remember) did the same thing,

Rex Parker 7:48 PM  

"Coal Miner's Daughter" is indeed amazing. Spacek did all the singing herself! There's a great moment toward the end of the comics/memoir "Fun Home" which involves author Alison Bechdel's going to see that movie with her dad. Also, on the commentary track for the (also amazing) movie "You Can Count On Me," there is much discussion of the greatness of "CMD" and its influence on "YCCOM."

rp

alanrichard 7:51 PM  

I was in my mid teens when I started doing the Times puzzles. Eugene Maleska was the editor. I also did the jumble in the news and there was a paper called the Telegraph that had a word game that I was very good at. They would give a long word and the challenge was to make as many 4 or more letter words from it. Most logic puzzles, like the sudoku, have a formula and if you figure it out, then all of them are easy. After about 40 years of doing puzzles I like the Times the best because, even though its not always a challenge, it is creative and the clues are usually clever. I can definately appreciate the effort and skill put in by the puzzle constructors. Although nothing compares to the challenge of dealing with a puppy - (especially when your wife brings one home without your knowlege or consent), who will one day grow to be bigger than you!!!!

Susan 7:51 PM  

Hey Rex, FYI, I think you are referring to those great 70's compilations put out by K-Tel???

green mantis 7:54 PM  

Utter failure. Well, NW failure. I had "target" for "dagger," and you will please to note the shared "g," which makes it fit fine with gmail. So then I have "arcadia" and "MGMLion," which makes 1A want to be armrest (what? you totally use an armrest to balance yourself as you get up. or something.).

Regalia goes in (note that "target" is still perfectly amenable to this cross) and the interweaving of plausible wrongness is cemented.

I call this the flexibility fail. Instead of treating answers as possible rather than rock solid, I dig an ever-deepening ditch wherein I try to shoehorn the rest of the puzzle in around my bad answer and then blame the puzzle for not making sense when nothing works. This tic is exemplified in the I Love Lucy section, where "target" gave me a "t" like a sore thumb and had me filing through the mental rolodex for yet another terminal-Z neighbor combo on some other floor of the building. The Ortiz family? Maybe, I thought, ALL the people in that building have Z-ending last names. They all get together and have weird Z-themed barbeques. The Hafizes in 2B make up poems and read them before dinner, which inspires the Shabbazes in 4D to put down their ribs and do something to change the world. Then Lucy makes a funny face, and Ricky shakes his head in loving exasperation.

Two Ponies 8:29 PM  

@ dk I thought I'd let you know that my nickname comes from the two Colts in my holster!
Wade, I'll bet as a Texan you can appreciate a woman with a pistol on each hip. PS Loved Coal Miner's daughter

Wade 8:30 PM  

I'm on my own for about a month while the wife and kids are in the old country, so I got the TV to myself (it's a pretty old TV, but if I turn it on before I leave in the morning it's usually warmed up by the time I get home.) I never saw or even heard of You Can Count On Me, seeing as how it came out after 1989, which is when I sort of got off the bus, but I'll check it out. I like that Ferris Beuller rascal.

Wade 8:38 PM  

Two Ponies, we went back to my hometown for the Fourth. My wife doesn't know this, and she won't find out from me, but my dad, who does nothing but hunt and fish, called me outside and told me he wants to give my son a gun. My son will be six on the 22nd of this month.

When my son was only a few months old, my dad had a pocket-knife custom made for him and gave it to me to give him when he's older. It's a really nice knife. By "older," he probably means six.

Someday I'll post a picture my dad took of me when I myself was six. I'm standing in a field wearing a corduroy coat and gloves holding my dad's double-barrel Ithaca 12-gauge. We were quail-hunting. I got a black eye from the kick the first time I shot that gun.

So, yes, dear, I understand.

Amie 8:48 PM  

Dear Rex,
I was a little worried about you. Glad it was just puppy stuff. I have been out to dinner with my husband and had my first absinthe. i experienced great lucidity of thought as well as a heightened sense of perception. I wonder if it would help me with the tougher puzzles! Have a wonderful trip to New Zealand. We'll miss you.
Amie

fergus 9:00 PM  

Hey, no one's too young to start. When filling in for a third grade teacher one morning, I was doing the puzzle during writing time, and some of the kids found what I was doing more interesting, so I guided a group through a solution. I particularly remember the Clue, Spring, offering so many possibilities for filling in the open squares. At least one child got hooked, and I wonder whether she's still got the enthusiasm? It's a pretty entertaining, round-about method for learning grammar I concluded, but then, I'm sorta biased.

fergus 9:12 PM  

Wade, Re: biopic. Just recently had one of the many stupid arguments I get into with friends. I was contending BUY-OH pic, since I thought the emphasis ought to be on the biography. I am pleased to report that this particularly obdurate amigo conceded that I may have a point.

mac 9:43 PM  

I think the more likely reason for my clicking Rex's early morning heading (what else can I call it) and getting the write-up is that he just changed it at that moment. Look at the time-line, it makes sense. Anyway, I'm sure you got that many hits because all your friends were worried about you!

green mantis 10:14 PM  

I'm glad we're getting this biopic thing out in the open. I know--I just KNOW--I have said biOpic in the past, before it dawned on me like a light from heaven that the bio part needed to be the star. I hate retroactive awareness of pronunciation gaffes.

It's like the time I swore up and down that "Brick House" was a Rick James song. How could it not be, really?

Oh, the shame.

And in other news, I'm on board with Coal Miner's Daughter. Probably my favorite movie from youth, the kind that gets into your still-developing brain and camps out forever.

JC66 10:31 PM  

@anon 3:19

I'm 68. I grew up in the suburbs on NYC and started doing the local xword in junior high and continued thru high school. It was basically a vocabulary test and not very challenging.

While working at my first job in advertising after college graduation, the resident copywriter, who did the NY Times puzzle daily asked me what the longest river in the US was. When I said "the Mississippi," she said it had to be six letters. I stared at the puzzle for at least two minutes and then the answer came to me: OLDMAN.

I thought that was so cool and it hooked me. I started doing the puzzle daily, in pencil. At first, I was fortunate to be able to fill a third, or a half. I would save each day's puzzle to check against the solution published the next day. In time, with practice I could not only complete the puzzles, but do them in ink.

I hope this helps.

Rex,

Glad everything's OK.

fergus 10:33 PM  

Jub Jub --

I loaded your puzzle into AcrossLite, and look forward to taking it on. The casual way you put it all together sounds suspicious, however. I don't doubt your facility with construction, but whenever I get the urge, I plot out a tiny corner and then become despondent at how prosaic the fill seems. Maybe you've got that special knack.

Since I'm setting off to watch the Angels and A's play the brand of baseball I usually like, I can't currently offer any commentary on an effort that looks impressive.

Joon 10:37 PM  

imsdave, you raise an interesting point. i'm not sure whether i'm for or against these types of clues. i do think it's more acceptable to clue an existing three-letter entry than as an excuse to invent new fill.

but as i was looking at jimH's blog with its new and improved quick-clues widget, guess what popped up? DNH.

fergus 10:45 PM  

Green Mantis,

You would probably like that portion of my knucklehead friends that cares to dispute which syllable to stress. I'm still lackadaisically trying to recruit contestants for the September Alameda event.

FF

Doc John 10:50 PM  

Just for completeness- Sissy Spacek won the Oscar for her portrayal of Loretta Lynn in CMD. (Just as Reese Witherspoon did years later for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line".)

green mantis 10:51 PM  

Yeah, I'm still lackadaisically trying to recruit myself. But I do love knuckleheads, being one. We could do a pre-tournament warm up with state capitals. I know them all. Juneau!

foodie 11:21 PM  

Wow, busy day today, with LOTS of comments! Congratulations Rex on multiple fronts-- puppies, traffic, trip, all so exciting!

For those of you who want my quick recipe for Kanafeh (a cousin of Baklava), you can click on my "foodie" link, and then go under "blogs" and you will find that this is my one and only post. I had to figure out how to do all that, but now I know. It's kinda cool...

Rex, plse forgive the food talk, but this was triggered by the Baklava clue. And my other excuse? There are a couple of good potential crosswords in that recipe, for those in a constructing mood. Oh, and we need to have you back for a visit to Ann Arbor and feed you some of that Baklava you miss!

Of course it's late and no one is reading this, anyhow...

fergus 11:55 PM  

Since my baseball game became lackluster (in my favor, I might add) I don't want to discourage anyone from participating in the seminal western event. The Alameda tournament, on September 13th is almost obligatory for us nut-case solution seekers within a hundred miles of San Francisco.

PhillySolver 12:24 AM  

Foodie,
Thanks...I kept coming back to find that recipe. It will be a bit, but I promise to post on your blog how it went.

green mantis 12:39 AM  

Everybody who's anybody will be there. In tutus. Fergus, what will you wear in your lapel so I can find you? An aster? Perhaps a tansy?

Larry 1:27 AM  

Got the creator and the movie maker mixed up and wrote in Bakshi for the Fritz the Cat clue. Gave me fits and I was never able to finish the SE, but then I am an intermediate solver so I was please to get that far on a Friday.

fergus 3:06 AM  

Coda on a busy day

Rex, glad you forgot for a while
how comprehensive you've become.

Anonymous 9:39 PM  

I call foul on "put down" for ALIT. Alight is intransitive.
-cy

Tom Allen 11:13 AM  

ALIT is fine by me -- "The crow ALIT on the telephone pole." Not that I say that much.

Got ATM CARD right away (because I check my rather low balance with it so often) with REP rather than R-IN for Lugar. Then CAPON, which was fresh in my mind. Last to fall was AROW/MARAT. I suspected AROW but didn't like it till I Wikied MARAT.

Enjoyed the abbreviation theme. After I got ATM CARD and DNA TEST I thought, "Huh, two abbreviated phrases in the long answers. That's kind of neat." The puzzle got neater and neater as I ran across LBJ RANCH, B DALTON (used to go there) and WC FIELDS and the MGM LION and R CRUMB to boot.

BAKLAVA was a yummy word and answer -- I'm still hungry for it. JUG BAND's another great entry, and QUIXOTE's cute. BEDAZZLE was very rewarding when it finally fell.

HORA took a long time; it was PEAL at first, but the crosses made that impossible. Couldn't decide whether it was MITE or MOTE at 21-Down till I got SEIZE. Both ANNIE and EVITA -- cute serendipity. E-MAGS? Really?

Fridays and Saturdays are my favorites. They're challenging and have lots of fresh words and cute, tricky clues. There's a great bonus when someone like Silk works in a hidden theme. Yay Barry!

Chooch 2:40 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chooch 2:51 PM  

My hubby and I do the crossword puzzle every morning with our coffee (We're both retired.) He got 22 Across from Tammy Faye's PTL (Pass The Loot). Hey, whatever works, right?

Yancy 3:30 PM  

An exhilarating puzzle for me. I think due to the curves thrown. Wasted much time insisting pacific was the "peaceful place." Loved the "comparable to a pin" clue.
I also thought it said modern instead of modem in my paper.
Hope to remember laplace for future reference.

Anonymous 3:45 PM  

This was a nice Friday puzzle in that 1) I was able to complete in one sitting and 2) there were no opera or symphony clues. I'll take musicals over operas any day.

As for R-IN. My only beef is with the hint. It implies there is only one abbreviation, but the answer is two abbreviations.

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP