Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: AGE-LESS (68A: Eternal ... and a hint to 19-, 34-, 42- and 55-Across) - familiar phrases have the letter string "AGE" removed to create wacky phrases, which are clued (wackily)

Had to wrestle with this one a bit, but I eventually brought it down (to use a ... RODEO metaphor? (21A: Bulldogger's event)). I was frustrated enough at one point to Google mid-solve to see if something was right, which it was. SAC County (38A: Iowa county named for an Indian tribe)? Really? Why would anyone in the world outside Iowa have heard of that? Why wouldn't you go with SACramento or SAC fly or even the disgusting [anatomical pouch]? Especially when you've got yet another "Indian tribe" right on top of SAC (33A: Mountain West Conference player - UTE). That western section is as ungainly a section as I've seen in a while. Not only do I have to visit northern New Jersey (26D: Northernmost county in New Jersey), I have to endure RECOIN!?!?! (28D: Bring back, as silver dollars) - that hurts. Four geography clues are crammed into that little section, and they're all mildly to wildly insane. Well, SSRS is standard, but it's clued as a singular, which is annoying. And XENIA (49A: City near Dayton)? There's just a lot of reaching - answers that look interesting in the grid, but that are either wretchedly clued or not really crossworthy. I haven't even mentioned the newly ubiquitous non-Wiesel ELIE (46A: Designer Saab), who is super-crosswordesey. In summation, this section is terrible.

The rest was OK, though. Cute-ish theme. Average level of crappy common fill. Well, maybe slightly above average (letter strings, partials, UMA, ASP, ASST, UTE, ARID, ECO, ARE SO, ATE, STS, IRE ... AH ME indeed). I don't think the theme pops well enough to justify the merely adequate fill. SPORTS COVER? That does nothing. GARB DISPOSAL is the only theme answer with any life in it. Where's, I don't know, MESS IN A BOTTLE?

So, in second summation: meh.

Theme answers:

  • 19A: Musical group that stays together? (adhesive band)
  • 34A: Faith healing service? (mass therapy)
  • 42A: Stadium's dome (sports cover)
  • 55A: Donation to the Salvation Army? (garb disposal)

I wanted to talk about Baltimore today, since I just got back (it's a great city, from what I could tell), but I got massively side-tracked by a terrible article about crossword puzzles over at Slate. I told the editor lady (a very nice woman) who asked me to publicize it that I would not, but I'm changing my mind. Here it is.

I'm not going to say anything about it. Well, OK, two things:

  1. Some of the comments in response to the article are priceless (Paula Gamache's is among the kinder, and smarter, comments)
  2. The big question about the article is: Where am I? (a question I often ask myself when reading articles on any number of subjects). In all seriousness, if the author had read this or this (both in the sidebar under "Important Posts"), at least a couple of his working premises would have crumbled before he'd even begun.

Ignorance + bad writing + someone besides me getting paid for it = angry Rex.

[late addendum: 4-time ACPT champ Tyler Hinman has written a point-by-point evisceration of the Slate article. See it here]

Back to the puzzle:

  • 1A: Capital on Lake Victoria (Kampala) - I had CAMPALA (based on what I thought was the correct spelling of CAVA: 1D: Intoxicating Polynesian drink => KAVA), but somehow it didn't look sufficiently ... Ugandan? Seth G is the resident authority on Uganda, and he took this phote in CAMPALA; coincidentally, it has double relevance for today's puzzle ...

  • 22A: Herd : buffalo :: knot : TOADS - no idea. None, I didn't even know TOADS were inclined to hang out in groups - certainly not the way buffalo do. Did.
  • 29A: Cryptanalysis org. (NSA) - had ASA back when I thought EONS (20D: Stretches of history) was ERAS
  • 61A: 1960s sitcom title role (Jeannie) - Barbara Eden was definitely hot, though as JEANNIE she didn't do much for me. Even as a young boy, something struck me as awfully wrong, if not completely f'd up, about the whole "master" business. No offense to Larry Hagman, who is TV legend.
  • 4D: Conseco Field House team (Pacers) - weird that a basketball team plays in a "Field" house. Seems wrong. Camden Yards is a lovely, if strangely generic, ballpark. I mean, all the brick is cool, but when you're inside, you generally get the feeling of anywhere USA. Very little Baltimorish or Oriolistic about it all. The 30,000+ Red Sox fans may have had something to do with that. One of those fans - constructor and fellow blogger Pete Mitchell, whom I accosted after the game, in a sea of people, after watching him for several minutes trying to convince myself that the very tall, familiar boy-faced dude was in fact the guy I'd met and talked to at the last ACPT. Pete blogs the NYSun puzzle, and I really should add his blog to my sidebar. . . it's called "Sun Blocks."
  • 11D: It's hot in an Indian restaurant (tandoor) - the oven in which TANDOORI chicken is made. Didn't have Indian food in Baltimore, but can recommend, without reservation, the following places:
  1. Max's Taproom (Fell's Point) - we spent hours sampling beers and relaxing and eating very good, simple beer-worthy food - mussels, burgers, even hummus. I loved this place. It came highly recommended and didn't disappoint. I recommend the Dupont ForĂȘt - pretentious name, but a damned good beer for a steamy hot day. And it's organic!
  2. Jimmy's (Fell's Point) - if you look under "diner" in the dictionary, this is what you will see - or should see. French toast, 2 eggs over hard, home fries, coffee - all of it Exactly Right. They know how to get the potatoes crispy on the outside and soft on the inside; same with the French toast. Why doesn't this place exist where I live????
  3. Pitango Gelato (also Fell's Point) - the Spicy Chocolate is astonishing. If you want to cut the spice a little, try the cinnamon as a complementary flavor. Just brilliant. And, again, organic. Good cappuccinos as well.
  • 23D: How "Moon River" is played (adagio) - just a guess; the music clue that really screwed me up was 48D: Beethoven's _____ Symphony )(Choral) - I had the "C" and went for "C MINOR"; brilliant!
  • 27D: Chase scenes, in action films (staple) - looks plural, comes out singular, unlike SSRS, which looks singular (26A: Part of Easter Europe, once: Abbr.) but comes out plural. STAPLE is nicely clued.
  • 59D: _____ Building, first skyscraper in Boston (Ames) - there are a remarkable number of viable AMES clues. People, places, buildings ... sadly, unless it's in Iowa, then the AMES in question rarely comes quickly to mind.
  • 61D: Boxer's setup (jab) - I think a JAB can do more than simply set up the cross or uppercut or big punch, but yes, I guess it is generally thought of as a "setup" punch.

And I'm out. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 1:01 AM  

This seemed about right for a Thurs. but I had the same issues with the Midwest as Rex. Other than that area an OK puzzle. Based on crosscan's "spidey sense" I started out with MAITAI for 1d and went looking for the rebus. That, and REMINT (which further obscured the Midwest) for RECOIN were the only real missteps for me. I did need almost all the crosses for AMES, TOADS, SUSSEX, PACERS, and KAMPALA. (Note to self, brush up on African geography!)

Anonymous 1:03 AM  

Missed you Rex. I agree that the Oregon section of the puzzle was tough and sac was poorly clued. In the end it worked out for me without Googling though, so I can forgive it.

I read the Slate article from Jim H's site and was annoyed with the tone and especially with the premise that crossword people are not readers. Most of the people I know who do crosswords are voracious readers. I thought of you when reading the article and felt like telling him to check out this blog. I read a lot and do crosswords as well. I have until now , never read Slate and will stay far away from it. It's drivel like that posted on zines and blogs that does not count as reading. Perhaps the world should be divided into readers of drivel like Slate and most blogs (who think they are doing something edifying and constructive but would be better off doing crosswords) and people who read books and serious journalism and do crosswords too.


jae 1:22 AM  

Just read the Slate article. What an a**hole! The assumption that reading and crosswords are somehow mutually exclusive is just ignorant. If I didn't read a bunch of stuff everyday there is no way I could keep up with what I need to know to do crosswords:)

mark 1:41 AM  

@jae: Agreed -- it often seems like a fairly extensive literary background is a prerequisite for doing crosswords.

Good thing you put up the Baltimore restaurant recommendations, Rex -- I'm going to be in Baltimore tomorrow looking at Hopkins (and following the Yankees to Camden Yards, of course...everyone says it's "what a ballpark's supposed to look like," so I guess I'll see for myself if it's too generic).

Myles 2:14 AM  

Jeez, folks, you’re not supposed to take that crap seriously. Slate is an “ezine” that tries to publish lighthearted stuff and satire along with more serious pieces. This was just a really bad effort at satire. The writer is heavy-handed and simply not good at it. Please don’t bother to get exercised at such a disappointing, low-grade effort.


andrea carla michaels 3:55 AM  

Shane! Shane! you've come back!

re: Slate
I guess I didn't help the cause much yesterday by blogging that I hadn't read Kierkegaard, Chaucer, Eco and all...

This one was hard! I had NSO/OHME till I came here.
Other missteps: AVATARS for TVSTARS
Also CMINOR for Choral...

Oh, who cares what I got wrong, the point is YOU're back!

And I'm not going to drop even ONE name today (although I was dying to tell the story of running into John Waters on the Cable Car here in SF yesterday, which is odd, bec it was YOU who was in Baltimore!)

If I had your or PuzzleGirl's madskills, I'd embed a clip (here) from the otherwise unfunny film "Punchline" of Taylor Negron saying repeatedly(15A) AREARUG!
That is one of my favorite moments in any film...
Taylor Negron insisting, "You don't need a carpet you need an area rug! Area rug"

Ulrich 5:47 AM  

I pretty much agree with rex's assessment, especially about the flatness of the theme answers. Until I reached the bottom, I had thought those were complete phrases that were just reinterpreted--not reduced: Mass therapy? Sure, you go beyond group therapy! Sports cover? Sure, it's the cover of a magazine whose featured story is about sports. Adhesive band? Sure, it's all the velcro stuff that holds things together these days. Only garb disposal didn't work that way and forced me to re-think the whole thing, aided by the hint at 68A. I agree, it's the only theme answer with some life to it.

Still, I had no real hickups, didn't even come close to googling--I only the same groans others have had, and that's not my idea of a Thursday puzzle.

Kathy D. 7:03 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle; it puzzled me enough to cause some gray matter to be used, but did not need to google.

Read the Slate article which did aggravate me. I read daily the actual New York Times itself. I love to read books all of the time and also articles and blogs online.

Doing crossword puzzles is enjoyable. It was part of my family life, began doing them when I was a teenager; my father was a pro. I used to just ask him the answers until he got fed up and told me to "look that up."

But they're challenging and fun and often one learns new things on all kinds of topics.

Also, the writer implies that puzzle-doers don't deal with life or pain which is ridiculous. Sometimes focusing on a puzzle is a distraction for awhile, but no one can substitute puzzles for life's realities.

Now sudoko concerns me. How much can one learn putting in numbers in certain patterns? If people do those all of the time, I'd worry. But still, that's their hobby or pleasure or distraction from stress, or whatever. Now, maybe these folks should be reading more or having other fun or relaxation or enjoying a day off or seeing a movie.

Kathy D.

Orange 8:40 AM  

I note the irony of Profphil's caution against reading blogs—via a blog comment. I read a ton of blogs, and value their collegiality. I like blogs that are well-written, that engage me on ideas (feminism, issues of racism, current events, politics, international affairs, writing and literature), that invite me to join an intelligent conversation. Sure, there are millions of crappy blogs out there, but I steer clear of them.

Rosenbaum wants to be funny, but he comes off as a petty man.

I liked the SAC clue—a geographic sop to us Midwesterners, so often disregarded in favor of NY, NJ, and CA places and assorted four-letter European rivers. The Sac and the Sauk are the same people. I grew up a few blocks from an artery called Sauk Trail that followed the route carved out on foot by the Sauk or Sac hundreds of years ago. This has been your PhillySolver Trivia Moment™ for the day.

Wade 8:49 AM  

(Larry Hagman is from Texas.)

For me it wasn't the west that was tricky but the southeast. I had CMINOR also, which made getting the theme answer hard with only one (wrong) letter. I had three of the theme answers but couldn't see the "AGE" connection because I was hung up on ADHESIVE BAND being a play on "adhesive bOnd," as in the Poly-Grip commercials. So I was looking for a "one letter off" theme, and I found support for that in "sports L/Cover." My point, of course, is that I'm too smart for this puzzle.

I didn't object to SAC, I think, because it rings a bell from way back in my elementary school days, something about the Sac-Fox tribe. I may be way off with that, but for me that's the real appeal of crosswords--getting to a place by means of all sorts of odd internal associations that may or may not be supported by fact. Solving crosswords is a mostly subjective experience that offers a tour of little crevices and hallways in your past and mind. That's what the Slate guy doesn't understand--only the most boring crosswords demand that the solver have reams of objective knowledge. It isn't crosswords he doesn't like, it's posers. Their distribution among the crossword population is no greater than in life generally, I'd bet.

linda 8:52 AM  

I think the fact that the Slade writer thinks Starbucks is the place to go for coffee says it all. If he doesn't know how to find really good coffee there's no way he'd understand the appeal of a crossword puzzle. (I'm considering a 12 step program for my reading addiction. Of course puzzlers read. Books, actual books.)

Barry 9:02 AM  

Morning, all!

Well, once again, a shocking lack of knowledge of things geographical (not to mention Polynesian) proved my downfall.

I had the same problems as everybody else with the left center section, but finally redeemed myself with a total guess for 26D. I had SSRS, UTE and SPORTSCOVER, which gave me SU_S__. I then vaguely remembered that there was a city somewhere called XENIA, and figured that SUSSEX certainly sounded like it could be county name in New Jersey (after all, New Jersey is named after the original Jersey in England, and there's a Sussex county there as well, right?).

So, all's well that ends well, right? Not quite, unfortunately. What can I say? I did not know what the capital of Uganda was and, not being familiar with Polynesian drinks of any kind (intoxicating or otherwise), I simply could not get the first freaking letter in the puzzle. I actually guessed that it might be CAMPALA/CAVA, but it never occurred to me that it might be KAMPALA/KAVA. I'd claim a Natick violation, except that I suspect that pretty much everybody else knew these two words.

Ah well, there's always tomorrow....

Oh -- and add me to the group of people who do crosswords because I love reading so much, not instead of reading.

joho 9:17 AM  

re: Slate article

If I bump into Ron Rosenbaum he wouldn't think it so funny when I punch him in the nose. But that would be a very bad idea because then he'd be spreading the news that we puzzlers not only unable to read but violent to boot.

I thought the puzzle was OK. Since I got GARBDIPOSAL first I was looking the the AGE to be inbedded in the phrase. That's why it took me a while to figure it could also be at the end of the phrase. I also had NSO/OHME which sounds perfectly reasonable. And I had to Google the K for KAMPALA/KAVA. That was a Natick moment for me.
I'm glad today is done, am looking forward to Friday.

Barry 9:26 AM  

Oh -- and one more thing about that Slate article...

I have no idea why the author lumped sudoko in with crosswords, since the they seem to require totally different skill sets, but I can't help chuckling at all the comments from people who condemn the author for his comments regarding crosswords while admitting they agree with him about sodoko. I just keep thinking of people who go to science fiction conventions dressed up as Klingons who bristle at being labeled "losers" or "nerds" but who are more than willing to agree that "Furries" are losers with no life...

Orange 10:08 AM  

Barry, you look so clean-cut in that picture, and you're always so chipper with your effusive "Morning, folks!" greetings...and yet you toss out casual references to Furries? I suspect you have layers you have not yet revealed here.

jannieb 10:24 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wade 10:25 AM  

Orange, I bet under your tough, leathery exterior there are segments of real sweetness and tenderness. And that you are rich in Vitamin C.

Barry 10:25 AM  

Errrr... Would you believe I got it from watching an episode of CSI?

Oh, look -- it's my third post! Guess that's it for me today.... ^_^

jannieb 10:26 AM  

Can't say I loved this puzzle. The theme clues just made no sense. Yes, you can add "age" to them but why? Only one that really worked was Garbdisposal. The rest just fell flat.

That NoCal/Oregon section was beyond awful. Just stared at it forever. Then started plugging in vowels until something (anything!) that made sense turned up. Too much work for very little reward.

Only misstep was Kampala, which I decided after looking at it too long should be Campala. Never had heard of Cava so it was all just a guess.

As for the Slate article - too bad it's just vaporware - I have some fish that need wrapping.

Crosscan 10:28 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crosscan 10:29 AM  

Good morning.

This puzzle seemed like a mini-Sunday to me; not sure why as I presume All Thursdays could be called that but this one was moreso. Maybe the theme was so Sunday-ish. I don't know. Something was amiss. Or aMister. Or aMissus.

That SAC/XENIA/SUSSEX etc section was just weird.

Doing crosswords is not wasting time that could be spent saving the world. Writing blogs about crosswords is not wasting time saving the world. Commenting on crossword blogs, however....

Joon 10:45 AM  

i'd comment on this puzzle, but i've decided to cure cancer instead. see you guys tomorrow.

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

No need to rush off. I have it under control. I will publish my findings this afternoon. I will comment on tomorrow's puzzle.


DONALD 10:53 AM  


Writing a crossword blog is a frivolity on a frivolity -- commenting on crossword blogs is pure madness!

SethG 11:00 AM  

I wonder if I should admit that it took me a while to enter KAMPALA. My problem: it's not really on Lake Victoria--you gotta go over to Port Bell, about 10km down the road. (Actually Port Bell Rd--remember to take the right instead of the left when it forks by the Shell station just past Bugolobi, or you can get a matatu from Bugolobi stage.)

But the other countries on the lake have capitals nowhere near it. And ENTEBBE, right on the lake, used to be capital of Uganda. I even thought about currencies, but that (Ugandan Shilling, Kenyan Shilling, Tanzanian, uh, oh yeah, Shilling) was a dead end.

On the other hand, I had no problem whatsoever with the Napa Valley area. I entered SSRS and UTE with no crosses, followed that with SUSSEX/XENIA, then the other downs just followed.

I finished, then stared at it forever trying to figure out how SPARE could possibly mean germ. Am I the only one who doesn't know how to spell DI(O)RAMA? Or just who was confident that he did know but was wrong...

Off to memorize terms of venery and save the world/get a job,

evil doug 11:03 AM  

I agree with everything everybody says, and everything that will be said next!

Great puzzle, as always!

Almost got "beet"-en by the puzzle, but luckily I could google 30-down for that toughie and finish perfectly in 43 seconds!

Really great write-up today, as always!

Lobotomy Doug
Sycophant, OH

Twangster 11:06 AM  

I couldn't quite break this one open without googling, mostly because I couldn't think of AGELESS. Tried FOREVER and LASTING.

Rex Parker 11:07 AM  

Doug, sweetheart, nobody cares. Try being "Doug" and see how that works out.


Doug 11:08 AM  

Couldn't get a single letter in the NW and I didn't bother with the theme until I read it in Rex's intro. Ohhh, now I get it.

My problem though might have been 2 hours of women's beach volleyball, and then crazy sprints and hurdles. Oh, and of course I was brushing up on my favorite writers: Dante, Eco, Sontag Wiesel, Silverstein, Deighton, Gardner, ET AL.

Doug 11:10 AM  

Wasn't that a coincidence?

Shamik 11:15 AM  

I really liked this puzzle 'til I got here and found out my 3 wrong letters. This cold i have is kicking my a**! Just am not paying attention.

Couldn't figure out anything 'til the SE and actually got AGELESS before any of the long clues.

Now I have to leave for my 12-step meeting for RA: Readers Anonymous.

Twangster 11:15 AM  

OK, I read the Slate article and have to say I found it very funny, as well as well written. Writing a point-by-point rebuttal to it seems like trying to rebut a Dave Barry column or a Stephen Colbert segment.

Two Ponies 11:20 AM  

Boring puzzle esp. compared to the Slate piece. I read the article and Tyler's follow-up piece. I came away from both thinking the first guy just doesn't "get it." (If he thinks that all I do is crosswords then so what?) Tyler's response is a bit too far the other direction. True, he is a champ and probably much more involved in x-words than I am but I draw the line at saying crosswords have enhanced every aspect of my life.
I'm ready to put this behind me and get ready for what I hope is a good Friday solve.
@ evil doug - I guess you just can't win.

fikink 11:23 AM  

You are right, Rex. SAC was my "looper" for today and greatly appreciated, I might add!

Anonymous 11:29 AM  

On a completely different note, has anyone else had trouble printing the puzzle from Across Lite? Every so often (e.g., last night), my printer gets through the grid, then doesn't print 3-4 lines, prints 3-4 lines, then goes blank to the end. I've been told that it's not due to anything in my computer or printer, but given that no one has mentioned a similar problem in this comment section (at least that I've seen) I have to wonder if that's correct. Needless to say this make solving the puzzle difficult (at least on paper).

Thanks for any assistance you can give me.

Mary in NE

fikink 11:31 AM  

Meant to add - and then I am done - ACM: "Yoooooneedanahreeahrug" is a fav routine around this house and I'm not sure we knew where we "picked it up"! Thanks so much! ;-)

Reynard 12:02 PM  

Mr. Rosenbaum is a TROLL, using LULZ. Had to be rebutted but let us get back to the puzzle.

“Lulz” is how trolls keep score. A corruption of “LOL” or “laugh out loud,” “lulz” means the joy of disrupting another’s emotional equilibrium. “Lulz is watching someone lose their mind at their computer 2,000 miles away while you chat with friends and laugh,” said one ex-troll.

ronathan 12:08 PM  

Re: Slate article

Crossword solvers don't read? Really?!?! Cause I need to join linda 12-step program for book addicts. My apartment is overflowing with books, to the point where it seriously becoming a fire hazard. It is both physically and financially dangerous for me to walk into a bookstore because I am more than likely to bankrupt myself before I leave, buying so many books that I will likely do permanent damage to my vertebrae on the way to the car.

I invite Mr. Rosenbaum to come see my book collection anytime, which my roommate has dubbed the "Ronathan Memorial Library".

ronathan :-p

PhillySolver 12:12 PM  

Orange, thanks for posting the Triva bit while I was analyzing the US Women's soccer match. Today's bonus trivia is that Slate Magazine lost its influence and charm when their crack journalist supported the Iraq invasion. No, really there is a trivia question hiding in the puzzle. What is the only city in the US starting with the letter x?

ronathan 12:16 PM  

@kathy d

I do enjoy the occasional sudoku as well as the crossword (which I, of course, do daily). But you're right that sudoku isn't really a better or worse passtime or distraction than crosswords, it simply uses a different set of mental skills. sudoku is more of a logic puzzle, while crosswords generally involve the use of outside general knowledge as well as logic. It's somewhat analogous to the age-old "Jeopardy" vs. "Wheel of Fortune" argument. I don't think there is anything wrong with either, yet there are some people who stand firmly in one camp or the other and think that the other side is inferior. That attitude I just don't get, since it's basically comparing apples and oranges. I agree that however one chooses to spend their freetime is a personal decision and that they shouldn't be criticized for it.


Rex Parker 12:34 PM  

Yeah, we can leave the Slate article alone now. What annoyed me more than anything was that it was truly ignorant and unfunny, not that it made fun of crossworders (who, let's face it, can certainly merit mockery). As a sometime writer, I hate to see someone getting paid to write crap like that (esp in a fairly entertaining and respectable "magazine").


jeff in chicago 12:39 PM  

Nice Thursday. And by that I mean it was a Thursday I could finish! I'm just getting proficient at Thursdays. Friday and Saturdays? Working on it...

When I was a junior in high school in Ohio a horrific tornado hit XENIA. From Wikipeidia: "On April 3, 1974 a tornado measuring F5 on the Fujita scale cut a path directly through the middle of Xenia during the Super Outbreak, the largest series of tornadoes in recorded history. The disaster killed 34 people, ... injured an additional 1,150, destroyed almost half of the city’s buildings, and made 10,000 people homeless. Nine schools, nine churches and 180 businesses were destroyed." That will always be my Xenia memory.

"I Dream of JEANNIE." Second, perhaps, only to Raquel Welch in that fur bikini. Ahh...the memories of youth.

A KNOT of toads? Hilarious. I love the variety of collective nouns.

Re: Slate. I love the implication that we could have cured cancer if not for our puzzles, but if we had been reading, our failure to find a cure would have been acceptable. Sheesh!

Bill from NJ 12:39 PM  

A knot of toads, eh. Almost as good as a murder of crows. How uses those expressions anyway?

I will certainly give that some thought when I take my break from my attempts to cure cancer now that my other break-time activity - crossword puzzles - has been so thoroughly skewered by Mr. Rosenbaum as a waste of time.

Wade, I also thought of the Sac-and-Fox tribe when I saw that clue but I thought it was from my Cowboys and Indians days.

Every quadrant of this puzzle was awkward. The theme never dawned on me until GARBDISPOSAL at the very end. Got no help, though, as I had all the theme answers without understanding them.

Fortunately, I just read an article about KAMPALA and avoided the spelling trap. Had more trouble with JEANNIE.

I thought Tyler's point-by-point refutation of the article was a little over the top. Rosenbaum's article was so heavy-handed that I think Tyler took a sledgehammer to a mouse. I feel a little awkward criticizing Tyler but the article should have been ignored not flattened

Shamik 12:51 PM  

I refer all who are overburdened with books to It has freed my life from clutter of those tomes I will never revisit.

Karen 12:54 PM  

My XENIA memory is going to a double wedding there. Of identical twins.

Maybe I should go visit SAC it famous for anything? Any good tornados there?

Z.J. Mugildny 1:30 PM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle. I thought the theme was good and consistently carried out. (SPORTSCOVER isn't great, but not terrible either.)

The only part I take issue with, like many others, is the north Cali region. I had my diatribe all set, but too many have beaten me to the punch, there is no more meat to pick at there.

Rex, I think you should have gone with your original plan and not mentioned the Slate article. Whether it is satire or in earnest it is a complete waste of time, and I have a flight to catch!

Gary 1:34 PM  

Hey Rex,

Thanks, as always, for the commentary. MESSINABOTTLE is a good answer, but it's 13 letters, and this puzzle had 12- and 11-letter answers. Originally, I struggled to find other 13-letter answers that would work. SPORTSCOVER was added in a second draft after Will Shortz said he didn't like my other answer (which I forget now). Ah, well. I'm glad some people had to Google.

fergus 1:53 PM  

Thought it was going to be the standby EROICA Symphony. Quite a few six-letter words came to mind before CHORAL. Also went for ENTEBBE, and then tried to remember any currencies from the nations that border Lake Victoria. No luck. I wonder where poring over an Atlas would rank in certain mindsets?

SPORE and SPOOR make interesting homophones.

joho 2:02 PM  

@Gary: Interesting that you want us solvers to use Google? I don't get that.

Bill from NJ 2:25 PM  

@jeff in chicago-

On April 3, 1974 I was living in Louisville KY and lived through those incredible series of tornados.

A tornado went up the next street parallel to mine and destroyed that street. What it did to our street was blow debris into our houses so that the damage was limited to what the tornado threw through our windows which, of course, was considerable but no structural damage occurred.

I was working on the other side of town and it was a nightmare getting home.

This was Good Friday that year and on the following Monday, Henry Aaron broke Babe Ruths' Home Run record and it was the first day we had our electricity back. Random recollections.

mac 2:48 PM  

I'm not going to waste any time on this Slate drivel - thank you Rex, Tyler, Wade, Orange, etc. You said it all.

I also had problems in the Oregon/Washington region, wrote diarama, thought Jeannie looked funny with 2 ns and had to change eras to eons, but, sorry Mr. Whitehead, I didn't need to google. This puzzle worked for me, I got the theme pretty early on, I think with mass therapy. I think we should give the constructor some licence, even if a little awkward, the answers do work.

Got to get back to my good old Soren.

Doc John 3:02 PM  

Pretty tough puzzle for me today. Missed the K in the first box (went with the C). In fact, KAVA/KAMPALA and SUSSEX/XENIA are almost Naticks (but I won't go so far as to say it, especially in the second case where X is really the only fitting letter.) I've heard of kava kava but didn't know it was intoxicating. I also thought mai tai and rebus but that was quickly dispelled. I also reminted and that threw me for a while.

Does STS stand for streets or states? Either way, not one of my favorite clues.


If you're ENRAGED, haven't you already blown?

I thought they were called plushies (from that same CSI episode). ;)

As for that Slate article, hasn't that guy ever heard the word, "hobby"?

I'm off to cure cancer...

rafaelthatmf 3:10 PM  

B-O-R-I-N-G! When I get stuck in interesting puzzles I dig in and come at it from whatever angle I can force myself to find. I cared so little about this puzzle RECOIN and KAVA inspired me to do nothing more than guess because this puzzled BORED me.

@evil doug, sweetheart, you know I care! Try being whatever doug moves you, sweetheart!

miriam b 3:44 PM  

@bill from nj: Back im 1968, James Lipton put together an amusing collection of terms of venery called An Exaltation of Larks. You'd love it. It's back in print; check it out.

mrbreen 4:00 PM  

Orange is right on. Having lived in Wisconsin for ten years the SAC as variation of Sauk was obvious to me as well.

PuzzleGirl 4:01 PM  

Okay puzzle today. Nothing to write home about. The last letter I entered was the K in the KAMPALA/KAVA cross. It was a total guess and I was thrilled to be right. I had a malapop situation with the theme hint. At one point I had that word ending with A_E and thought "Oh, I bet it's a word or phrase that ends in AGE." That allowed me to figure out the theme even though the premise was faulty. Awesome.

miriam b 4:18 PM  

A cute theme, but I didn't think the puzzle was Thursday-worthy.

And I did think the Slate article was well worth ignoring.

Noam D. Elkies 4:18 PM  

Funny -- I remembered 49A:XENIA as the only X-name of any American city, and even knew it was in Ohio, so it was my first guess from ...IA -- but I didn't believe it for a while because then the only plausible name I could think of for 26D was SUSSEX, and how could that name belong to the northernmost county? I guess Boston neighborhoods aren't the only ones with geographically illogical names... Apropos Boston, curiously the one geographical name I had no idea about was 59D:AMES.

I only now realize what kind of ring is surfaced by a 34D:MAT (d'oh).

The grid is nice and open, but the theme doesn't really do it for me, much as I appreciate the intention. Maybe because two of the original phrases, "adhesive bandage" and "sports coverage", barely register in my awareness.


P.S. I can't locate P.Gamache's response to that Slate screed; please help me find it.

chefbea1 4:34 PM  

Had disposal. Then got ageless and knew what the theme was. But the upper left was hard. Did like that Kava and Agave were there together.

Won't comment on the slate article..everyone else has said it

While at the grocery store I happened to see the Daily news with our good friend Uma on the front page!!

SethG 4:51 PM  

@Noam D. Elkies: Paula's comment is here.

andrea carla michaels 5:14 PM  

how come no one is railing against this Slate character calling Will the Anti-Christ, when we all know he's more like a benevolent dictator in the TITO mold?!

Man, this Kierkegaard in the original Danish is a bitch. But I'm just getting to the passage where he explains how to cure goiters.
(It's a start)

fikink 5:18 PM  

@sethg: Thank you for the link to Paula's comments. Her sentiments echo my own. Does anybody out there remember "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers?" Many days our enjoyment of crosswords and wordplay remind us of that phenomenal album which enriched our lives during our college days. It is also why I am hooked on this blog! Kudos!

fergus 5:24 PM  

My cumulative time spent on Sudoku is approximately three minutes. I don't see the appeal, but so what. As I may have mentioned before, it seems as if the English major types are more drawn to Sudoku, while those who at least started out in the more technical fields prefer Crosswords. My sample size is less than ten, though, and I know only one person who likes both equally. Any matching or dissenting observations? I don't know Will Shortz's preference, but I would guess the letter grid.

william e emba 5:32 PM  

I found the NW difficult, only because, while I knew ENTEBBE was wrong, it took me forever to remember KAMPALA.

For a remarkable lesson in Ugandan geography and the ugly side of history, read Donald Westlake Kahana. Really, it's got everything.

I am surprised so many people have not heard of the SAC and Fox tribe (or tribes). They are one of the better known Native American tribes. They even have a war named after them. (Crossword-worthy tribes seem to be UTE and CREE only, because they are short and useful. SAC and Fox can always be clued in other ways.) Personally, I thought it was a gimme.

At some point so many years ago, I played "Geography" with a friend, where you alternate naming places, with the first letter of your place being the same as the last letter of the just named place. The first thing to do was memorize all the X entries in a gazeteer, like XENIA and Xingu (but not, unfortunately, XERES). I thought every wordfreak knew of Xenia, Ohio.

At one point I was looking at PASSTHE----. Pass the ???age in church? What could that be. That became MASSTHE----, and all I could think of was MASS(AGE) THE data. I needed all the crosses, and was trying to figure out where to put AGE into MASS THE RAPY. It took ages before I got it.

Crosscan 5:33 PM  

I suspect Will prefers crosswords but his bank account prefers Sudoku.

Always an accountant, Crosscan.

chefbea1 5:43 PM  

@fergus I was a wizard in math back in the days..and terrible in English. I think I have spent less than 3 minutes on sudoku.. and a life time on crosswords.

@william e emba I remember that geography game - was a whiz in that subject also

Two Ponies 5:58 PM  

@ fikink I think we're all bozos on this bus!
@ fergus I tried Sudoku but it left me cold. It's always the same puzzle. I was very heavily into math for a while but now I prefer vocabulary.

chefbea1 5:59 PM  

@two ponies- birds of a feather....

joho 6:00 PM  

@fergus: English Lit. major in love with crosswords ... sudoku who? I think you've got it backwards.

mac 6:11 PM  

Although I much prefer crossword puzzles and words, I have to admit to a little diabolical sudoku book in my bag when I'm travelling....

Ladel 6:18 PM  

You've all been played, the best squelch of that mindless, vapid, drivel would have been to totally ignore it. That's what would have happened in a perfect world, now where did I put that Samurai sword.

fergus 6:21 PM  

Joho -- you're the exception that proves my counterintuitive 'rule.'

andrea carla michaels 6:28 PM  

right on....tho I suspect of crosswords and sudoku, Will prefers ping pong!

I'm going to start a blog about Sudoku.
Having three in the second position of the third column reminds of the time I had that threesome with Herb Caen and David Hasselhoff...

Crosscan 6:45 PM  

@andrea - I was thinking of a Sudoku blog on April 1 - I posted an excerpt on Orange's site that day (yours sounds much more interesting):

This marks the 8000 straight day that the puzzle includes 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,and 9; however once again the order of the numbers has been changed. Rare is the day that a 22 appears and we still await the first appearance of 4444.

The elegance of 261398475 is a trademark of a Shortzian puzzle., only surpassed by yesterday's 697814325

acme 6:56 PM  

may I step over the 3@day limit to say how funny your Sudoku blog posting is/was!!!?!

I've been inspired to submit an article to Slate called "Everything I needed to know in life I learned from Scrabble"...

More area rug discussion, please!

@ Rex/Mr Whitehead
Also, still chuckling over MESSINABOTTLE...
see how hard it is when you can't come up with a parallel 13???!!!

OK,I'm up to page 339 in Soren's last work (I feel I can call him Soren now) and he's just mentioned there's hope!

fergus 7:05 PM  

I'm not sure whether it's been stated explicitly, but why in the world would the Slate editor lady be looking for Rex? All publicity is good publicity is the only reason other than perhaps this nice lady had never read anything from the Crossworld King. And yet even still, let's put the syllogism together:

Rant against Crosswords + Opinion from overt Crossword enthusiast => Masochism.

Veritas 7:05 PM  

Well I didn't get the theme, although I did get ageless right away. I was also very convinced that it is diArama, so spore was hard. I seem to be the only one who thought of groundcover, since I thought of bergen county (also warren, essex and sussex) yes I am from NJ, athough not from anywhere near Dayton (Xenia??).
I love the word viscera, but also thought of Entebbe, but I knew Kava, since I actually have read a few books in my time. Oliver Sachs (you might know him from PBS, he's a neurologist) wrote Cycad Island and The Island of the Color Blind, which discuss Kava at length - both are great books he's a very good writer.
I have no idea why someone would assume that crossword puzzle people don't like to read or for that matter do Soduko, I'm a math teacher and I do not soduko...boring.

fergus 7:17 PM  

Acme's latest comment dredged up a professor I had in college, Hubert L. Dreyfus, a Kierkegaard scholar, who taught a popular class on Existentialism in Literature. Other than a smattering of "Sickness unto Death" we read Dostoyevsky, Kafka and Arthur Miller. Hubert went on to become an expert philosopher in Artificial Intelligence.

Orange 7:36 PM  

I am so relieved that Miguel is solving the cancer problem today so we can all continue with our crosswords. And Andrea's reading a book—way to take one for the team, sistah!

joho 7:37 PM  

@ACM & @fikink

My third post: areeahrug!

Made my day.

Howard B 7:45 PM  

What I have learned from crosswords is that I am fairly certain that Oreos are the cure for just about everything.

Give your copay to the receptionist at the next window, please.

SteveB 8:03 PM  

@Fergus: You're right in my case - I majored in Mathematical Sciences and have been a techie my whole working life. I enjoy crosswords, even to the point of becoming a little bit of an xword snob (NYT good, Trib bad). I don't bother with sudoku. I did a few once, but they're the same thing over and over.

On kava: here in NorCal it was newsworthy not too long ago when a few people got busted for driving under the influence of kava.

MESSINABOTTLE: what Loggins' partner drinks from?

Barry 8:03 PM  

All right, if acme can cross the 3@day posting limit, then let me just say...

I'm a Philosophy major turned lawyer turned professional writer who hates all things mathematical. Therefore, I'm strictly a crossword kind of guy. Cryptograms are fun, too. But sudoku? No, thanks.

As for Xenia, Ohio, being a gimme for all wordfreaks, I actually have heard of it before and vaguely knew it was in Ohio. The thing is, the clue asked for a "City near Dayton" and I was thinking that Dayton was in Florida. Yes, yes, I realize now that I was thinking of Daytona (where my company actually maintains an office), but at the time...

Did I mention my shocking lack of knowledge of things geographical? That category always killed me in Trivial Pursuit: Genus Edition. It must have something to do with being from Boston, the self-styled "hub [not hubcap, thank you very much] of the universe." See, when you live in the most important place in existence, there's just no reason to learn about other places. Or so the theory goes. ^_^

fergus 9:02 PM  

Most of my old girlfriends, predominantly English majors, don't find much refuge in Crosswords. Sadly. Some resort to Sudoku for, as Paula said about the Xword, a soothing respite for all the complications we face.

Numbers, which was once Clued as things that take away pain, was inordinately insightful.

Rex Parker 9:07 PM  



Stop stop stop.

I love you, but stop.

Six is not three.


fergus 9:49 PM  

And seven is the last.

Sorry for stepping over the line, but I couldn't resist citing one of my all-time favorite Clues.

Jane Doh 10:13 PM  

Soooooooooo good to have you back, Rex!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I had a similar reaction to the puzzle, liking it less upon inspection of the finished grid. My first instinct upon encountering something like ADHESIVE BAND or MASS THERAPY is to scan the clues to find the explanatory entry, usually somewhere in the bottom right. Made the solving easier today. Upon third inspection, I'm appreciating the theme more -- GARB DISPOSAL is the most imaginative, for me -- and thinking maybe the clues are a bit dull. In any case, it can't always be easy to find a hot set of theme answers that match in length and various other measures; this one feels like the compromise solution for a nice theme idea.

The Slate writer, IMHO, is desperately seeking attention, highlighting his ignorance in the process, and he has, perhaps, succeeded. He is a competent writer with nothing of value to say. There's an eerie parallel with yesterday's blog, especially in the literacy department. Coincidence?


foodie 10:19 PM  

Isn't interesting how much better it feels when you can get mad at someone together? I need to think about why that is so... (for me that means thinking about the brain circuits that have to come together to combine the anger with the reward... never mind).

The feelings on the blog today resonated with me, as I had good reason to be ENRAGED at someone-- essentially a bully messing with a person I care about and who deserves better (academia is not as civilized as we'd like to think). Beyond talking with others who agreed, here's a little thing that helped: I was pondering a plan to deal with the fiasco, and I literally thought to myself: "I'm putting the kibosh on this little game!", and then started laughing... Kibosh? I would have never thought of that before I started doing the puzzle.

Thanks for listening!

Noam D. Elkies 10:21 PM  

Sethg: thanks for the link!

Sudoku? I do hard math problems for a living, and to me they're much more compelling, and diverse, than sudoku. (Constructing good sudoku puzzles may be an interesting challenge, but it's rather from my interests.) So I'm not surprised to see that it's the folks in "more technical fields" (as fergus put it) who tend to prefer crosswords to sudoku.


Rex Parker 10:37 PM  

@jane doh

Thanks for the welcome back, but what do you mean about yesterday's blog? If you're being at all critical of Andrea, or comparing her in anyway to jackass mcgee who wrote the Slate article, then we'll just have to disagree. I find Andrea wildly entertaining, and she did me a huge favor.


Jane Doh 11:24 PM  

@rex parker

I found Tuesday's (guest) blog wildly entertaining and yesterday's mildly entertaining, so we'll have to disagree. Neither was all that focused on the puzzle du jour.

Perhaps it's just a function of the discomfort that a puzzle constructor for the Times feels about commenting more than superficially about another constructor's puzzle.


mac 11:40 PM  

I think we are all very lucky that Andrea Carla blogs, comments, constructs and otherwise entertains us! This blog, even when we don't have a stand-up comedienne stand in for Rex, goes way beyond the puzzle, and I for one enjoy it and benefit from it every day.

Loose Dirt Laura Miller 12:36 AM  

I think Andrea is the bee's knees, and I say that as someone with a bit of apian knowledge. Isn't it better manners not to say anything if one hasn't got anything nice to say?

Doc John 12:54 AM  

I was doing a sudoku the other day and I thought, "Hm, 7 should go in this square." Later in the puzzle, 7 actually went into a different square. Weird, huh?

fikink 12:55 AM  

Oh my! This is my fourth and I shouldn't, but ...just one more:
I must tell you, Fergus, Hubert Dreyfus is now at iTunesU and responded to me with a reference to Hans Moravec ("a modern day Platonist and an 'A.I. aficionado extraordinaire.')
He told me if I had been listening carefully to his lectures, I wouldn't have asked the question.
("If you lived here, you'd be home by now!")
My bad!

Anonymous 1:22 AM  

Such a bizarre post. Mocking or sincere?


foodie 2:41 AM  

@ Jane Doh, it's late and you may or may not see this, but still I thought I'd share a different perspective (and I'm not even over my post limit).

I usually really enjoy your comments. And I realize that we don't all have to love every blog or post. But I personally really liked yesterday's blog. One of my favorite things about ACM (I don't know her in person) is some of the quotes that she has chosen on her website. The one I like best is: "Imagination is more important than knowledge" by Albert Einstein. I think that her blog yesterday expanded on this idea-- it was funny, tongue in cheek, erudite while being self-deprecating-- in other words, emphasized imagination while underplaying her specific knowledge (which I'm certain is vast). The other quote she has is:
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent" by Eleanor Roosevelt. I hope she holds onto that thought as she reads some of this.

It's been an interesting and long day... Peace.

nauset 11:16 AM  

I read the slate "article" and response and side with the responder. Natch, I am a crossword solver, too. Went through my sudoku phase but mostly gave that up until my kids downloaded it on my IPhone.

As far as the solitary aspect of crosswords, I have sat with my son (an MIT student) on many an occasion beginning when he was about 10 and worked on the Sunday crossword with him. It has been a very enjoyable, quality experience and has led to discussions about "ancient" times, like the 60's and 70's and other cultural ephemera, history, and just memories that certain clues or answers provide.

This slate columnist is taking potshots at something he knows nothing about. Talk about a burr up one's behind! Hope he finds something better to do with HIS time very soon.

nauset 11:18 AM  

p.s. Not all Yale graduates are smart.

Anonymous 5:02 PM  

I is smart are as our childrens.

George W
Yale Class of ...I forget

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

Would someone be kind enough to explain Thursday's clue/answer of string after W/ stuv? I'm sure I'm missing something obvious, but my failure to figure this one out even after reading the answer is pestering me! (thanks)

DONALD 2:13 PM  

nonymous 11:37 AM

The clue reads string "before" W, the answer being STUV -- as in ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ.

emjo 5:21 AM  

i think mr. rosenbaum is actually just very self conscious that he can't solve crossword puzzles with the same deftness that he attacks them-- probably because hes too busy being literary.
i sort of just want to give the guy a hug and tell him to let down his front - and you know, really let people in for once in his life. i imagine him living with a poorly chosen spouse who constantly touted their solving superiority when they werent abasing him otherwise. poor guy- he probably only reads "books" to escape the paralyzing insecurity that grips him when he thinks about crossword puzzles.

Anonymous 5:38 PM  

Many thanks, Donald -- can't imagine how I could have overlooked that!

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