MONDAY, Oct. 13, 2008 - Anthony J. Salvia (Sherlock Holmes adventure, in brief / Beta preceder / Faux Chinese dish / Hurler Hideo)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "MAIN" homonyms - four theme answers end with MAIN, MANE, MEIN, and MAINE, respectively

A "Medium" puzzle that was maybe even slightly more challenging than the ordinary Monday puzzle, primarily because "THE LION'S MANE" means nothing to me. I've read some Sherlock Holmes "adventures," but not this one, I guess. And how is "THE LION'S MANE" "brief" (29A: Sherlock Holmes adventure, in brief)? Oh, I see, you just removed "The Adventure of ..." from the beginning of the title. That feels Highly illegal and shifty to me. I also thought that there was a "The" at the beginning of "USA Today" (16A: _____ Today). As anyone who watches "The Colbert Report" knows, he regularly reads the "The USA Today." The double-"THE" thing is a joke. BUT ... when I look at the paper or the website, it just reads "USA Today," so ... now I don't know what he's going on about. I never read that paper anyway (unless I'm on vacation and the hotel foist it upon me), so maybe it doesn't matter.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Caribbean area where pirates plundered (Spanish Main) - again, I would say this is a little tougher than average for a Monday theme answer
  • 29A: Sherlock Holmes adventure, in brief ("The Lion's Mane")
  • 45A: Faux Chinese dish (beef chow mein)
  • 59A: City on the Penobscot River (Bangor, Maine) - wasn't Margaret Houlihan's fiancé on "M*A*S*H" named Donald Penobscot? Yes! Now where the hell is that instant recall of arcana when I need it?!
Also had a lot of trouble with 33A: Truth _____ (interrogation injection) (serum) - I had no idea how to parse that clue, as I though "injection" was meant in the sense of "interjection," and so I was imagining a phrase beginning with "Truth" that a detective might say to a perp. Or something. Disaster, especially considering how easy the answer is. One other stumble: SHOE for SOLE (18D: The heel is attached to it).

In an act of shameful pandering to right-wing nutjobs (I'm kidding here, but feel free to get angry if you must), the puzzle has decided to put JOHN McCain into the puzzle (39D: Sen. McCain). What's next, an anagram of PALIN's name in the shape of a cross!? (In fact, that is what is next - see the NW corner of the puzzle.) The puzzle even threw in the JELLO (39A: Translucent dessert) that was McCain's metaphor for the Obama tax plan ("like nailing JELLO to the wall"). Speaking of crossword puzzles about the Republican ticket ... I demand that you all do my VP debate-themed puzzle and then mail it to five people, and then they tell their friends, and so on, and so on, and so on, like in the Vidal Sassoon ad. Aargh, I can't find the ad I'm referring to at YouTube, but I did find this - sorry Roy:

[Update - thanks to "Anonymous" for finding the ad I was looking for - Fabergé, not Sassoon]

  • 6A: Alternative to buttons on a jacket (snaps) - why "on a jacket"? They could be an alternative on pants and shirts and other things too.
  • 11A: Proof finale (Q.E.D.) - have you seen the movie "Proof" (1991)? It has a good finale. And beginning and middle, too. Russell Crowe has never been more watchable. The following vid has a cheesy song unrelated to the movie - couldn't find embeddable clips - but it's got enough memorable shots in it to make me remember why I Loved this movie.
  • 14A: Stewpots (ollas) - here is a New Yorker cartoon someone sent me recently. It's cute, but not funny (like most New Yorker cartoons):
  • 24A: Harrison Ford's "Star Wars" role (Han Solo) - Not sure why I'm so excited by this answer. I do tend to like any answer from my childhood.
  • 7D: Hurler Hideo (Nomo) - "Hurler" is about the least appetizing baseball word there is. NOMO used to be on the Red Sox. And the Dodgers.
  • 41A: Turner who sang "We Don't Need Another Hero" (Tina) - "Two men enter, one man leaves!"

    And the actual music video for the song in question:

  • 49A: Jupiter's Io and Callisto (moons) - all names from classical mythology. All of them in Ovid's "Metamorphoses," I believe. I'm about to re-embark upon a reading of that poem. It's ... vital.
  • 57A: _____ lane (commuters' aid) (HOV) - I had not heard of this until the 21st century. Seems a very very urban thing. Or maybe just a thing of places I've never lived. But I lived in Southern California...
  • 69A: Hero's acclaim (glory) - aren't "acclaim" and "GLORY" synonyms? Synonymish?
  • 1D: Painter of "The Garden of Earthly Delights" (Bosch) - second word in the grid (after BASIC, 1A). Here's the painting:

    And the XTC song (from an album I wore out in college):

  • 2D: Beta preceder (alpha) - I just like the word "preceder."
  • 11D: Kind of equation graphed as a parabola (quadratic) - fancy!
  • 26D: Physicist Georg (Ohm) - good thing I knew about his law, because I could not remember that "Georg" was his first name.
  • 30D: Postnuptial relative (in-law) - something about the phrasing here is odd-sounding. I think I just don't like the word "postnuptial" - sounds ... graphic.
  • 48D: Kuwaiti pooh-bah (emir) - the NYT puzzle is the last place on earth where you can see the word "pooh-bah" at work. Not infrequently.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Doug 9:13 AM  

Thought it was easy even for a Monday. I couldn't figure out the Y for Covey or Synods. Went through every vowel and gave up and forgot about sometimes Y. Did not know that beef chow mein was fake. It's hard to find real chow mein, even in NYC nowadays, where I live. In fact, Cantonese food is all but gone. Too bad. Reminds me of my childhood, pre-sushi and Japanese food.

gotcookies 9:17 AM  

I thought it was an enjoyable Monday puzzle...not too hard but not as easy as some Mondays. Only got stuck on NOMO/COVEY, as I've never heard of him and am not familiar with the term COVEY. Overall, an enjoyable puzzle.

johnson 9:26 AM  

I believe REACH ACROSS (the clue for SPAN) was also a John McCain reference. I get physically ill each time he uses the phrase. Ditto for "maverick".

ArtLvr 9:58 AM  

re MOONS from classical mythology, I hope you all saw Maureen Dowd's NYT column a few days ago? It was a BASIC Latin recast of Bellum Gallium featuring "Ioannes McCainus, mavericus,... et Sara Palina, barracuda borealis, qui sneerare amant Baracum Obamam..." with quotations from Wilhelmus Shakespearus et alii for good measure. A GEM, ABLY done and very funny in the MAIN.


Anonymous 10:03 AM  

Hey Rex - the commercial you were thinking of was not for Vidal Sasoon, but actually Faberge shampoo - This is the first video I could find, although there may be more out there... (This appears to be a variation on the commercial that I remember...)

PhillySolver 10:25 AM  

Poo-bah is an interesting word that has no known etymology. Rather it was a creation of Gilbert and SUllivan in The Mikado.

Poo-bah's titles included, Lord Chief Justice, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Master of the Buckhounds, Lord High Auditor, Groom of the Back Stairs, and Lord High Everything Else.

I enjoyed the puzzle and got the theme by doing the right side of the puzzle first (not on purpose, but I didn't know Bosch immediately). I think the McCain clue was done with a wink by Will.

Anonymous 10:31 AM  

Note re: The Lion's Mane -- not the best Holmes story; you're not missing much, Rex, by not having read it. It is "written by Holmes" rather than by Watson, and the 1st person doesn't quite work, IMHO.

I thought it was a fun puzzle, and I finished quickly. A nice beginning to the week.

Wade 10:37 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ulrich 10:46 AM  

Inspite of the fact that most theme answers were, as a whole or in parts, unknown to me, I managed to do this w/o any hiccups or noticeable moments of hesitation, albeit not exactlt in NW to SE order. This is my informal criterion for easy, but not super-easy. Liked the theme and the fill--all in all, a pleasant Monday outing.

dk 10:48 AM  

Rex, please do not let your campaign go negative. We
should portray your leadership as something BOSCHian, a garden of earthy delights. Of course one may find nutjobs, or even a COVEY of nutjobs in the garden, but no need to focus on the few.

Outside of Orono instead of BANGOR (they are separated by some river) and zed for NIL this was smooth sailing and a great start to the week.

Re: COVEY, Look up collective nouns for some fun, a few examples

Decent of woodpeckers
Charm of goldfinches
Wake of buzzards
Party of jays
Parliament of owls

Anonymous 11:06 AM  


I'd like to add a murder of crows

PuzzleGirl 11:13 AM  

Did the puzzle late last night and finished quickly without taking time to notice the theme, which I hardly ever do but I guess I was tired.

I canNot hear a reference to the Penobscot River without thinking of Hot Lips's dorky fiancé/husband. Remember how he passed out drunk and Hawkeye and BJ put him in a plaster cast? When he came to, they told him he had broken both his legs. Classic.

My sister and her husband had possibly the most amicable divorce in the history of the world, which means I'm still in touch with him on a relatively regular basis. I call him an out-law now.

@phillysolver: Lord High Everything Else! I like the sound of that one!

Two Ponies 11:27 AM  

Agree on the Med. rating so it made for a better than usual Monday.
Strange to see Jello repeated from Sat. Still love the clue for that from Sat.
It was all fun for me until I saw the Scary Old Dude pop up in the middle. I would like to believe it was tepid attempt at humor and not a real bow to pressure from the Right Wing Nut Jobs. The thought almost turns me into a Hurler.

SethG 11:34 AM  

I'm as mathy as they come, and QUADRATIC was a gimme (see also: ALPHA), but when I hear QED my first thought is Mr Rogers, whose neighborhood I grew up in and whose Neighborhood appeared on WQED.

They serve a great beef chow mein at Lee Ho Fook's. Ahhwooo.

I'm fighting really hard to resist the temptation to write a list just so I can end it with a pun for the hurler...

fikink 11:37 AM  

After I began yesterday's puzzle with SURGE and now finding JOHN McCain SNAPS, REACH ACROSS, a TINA Turner VOCAL, COMBAT, a DAMN GLORY STORM, HOV, and ROLEMODEL, I am moved by the notion that the subtext of this puzzle is the prescient Mad Max.

Joon 12:01 PM  

like ulrich, i found this puzzle easier than a typical monday despite going 1-for-4 on the theme answers (BANGORMAINE being the only one i could nail entirely). or maybe it wasn't "easier" than usual, but i sure finished it faster than usual. as usual, it helped that all of the long downs were instafills: QUADRATIC, STUDYFOR, ROLEMODEL, and GEMSTONE. at some point i was on such a roll that i entered IMMERSE even though i misread the clue [Dunk] as [Drunk]. how/why did this happen? i don't know. even given the IMME___ i shouldn't have done that if the clue was really [Drunk].

i think what's so appealing about HANSOLO is the full name showing up in the grid, instead of just HAN or SOLO (which are very common).

Greene 12:29 PM  

@Rex: "Proof" was also a dazzling Broadway play from the 2000-2001 season (and a much less exciting film version from 2005) about mathematics, insanity, the legacy our parents leave (both physical and emotional), and a whole lot more. No Russell Crowe, but still great entertainment.

karmasartre 12:51 PM  

Speaking of Roy Orbison, there is a good write up on "Oh, Pretty Woman" at Wendy's music site (I Estivate in the "Friends of the Show" section of the sidebar).

miriam b 1:11 PM  

Chow MEIN (literally "fried noodles") is as fake as chop suey. As I understand it, both are unknown in China. Someone please correct me if I'm mistaken.

I'd rather have seen SCAB clued as "Strikebreaker". This in combination with oboliquereferences to He Who Must Not Be Elected, made me queasy. I know, Rex, no politics. Delete if you must this old grey head, but spare your country's flag.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1:17 PM  

The Adventure of the Lion's Mane.

Chapter X

andrea carla michaels 1:24 PM  

LOVE the idea of "outlaws" for amicable divorces!!!!!!!!!
I think you should coin that for the masses!

I like this kind of Monday puzzle (ie I tried to do this with AIR/EYRE etc and have another VERY similar to this in the pipeline)
BUT it felt stretch-y to me...
ie do we say "BEEF" chow mein as opposed to just "chow mein"?

(insert childhood memory of the only Chinese restaurant in Minneapolis when I was growing up in the 70's with fake entrees such as this here)

Do "Monday" solvers know the Spanish Main...or this particularly obscure Sherlock Holmes short story?
I feel mildly bitchy saying it, bec it seemed very well-constructed, (QUADRATIC!) and not an ugly abbrev. in sight
(OMN, anyone? Ooops, I mean EVERYone?)
(I even liked the tic-tac-toe OOO
I'm sure it's been used, but it seemed fun to me)

hee hee about PALIN as an anagram cross!!! I actually had her as an anagram for the very first word...
I put in PLAIN for 1A no-frills.

fikink 1:44 PM  

@andrea, that's funny! I was thinking of Palin, too, at 1A and, having BOSCH, entered BANAL before I remembered it was Monday.

joho 1:49 PM  

I thought this a great Monday puzzle, a little harder than usual so a little more fun.

Anything that makes a Monday more fun is welcomed by me.

Now I have to go and chase away that darn wake of buzzards in the backyard.

KMB 2:47 PM  

Fun puzzle. The OLLAS tripped me up. Once you got the theme you could definitely piece together other theme answers!

chefbea1 4:07 PM  

I agree - a little more difficult than the usual monday puzzle.

As for chow mein...You can have either chicken or beef. I remember years ago you could buy it in a can - actually 2 cans taped together. Think it was made by Chung King.

chefbea1 4:10 PM  

it was Chun King

Doug 4:24 PM  

I lived in Hong Kong for most of my adult life, and fried noodles with beef is most surely on the menu of any mainstream Chinese restaurant. I don't understand the clue/answer at all, quite honestly.

Fried noodle dishes are like pizzas and sandwiches in that you start with the same base (noodles, pizza dough, bread) and the customer adds in what they like. If you like beef, you just literally ask for "beef fry noodle" et voila, "ngau yok chow meen" shows up.

If you're interested, beef is not commonly seen on Cantonese menus because it's perceived as "heaty" (now there's a good "WTF" answer.) It's dark color and heartiness is perceived to be a bad combo with warm/hot weather and only between Nov-Feb do red meat sales increase greatly. Other than it, it's mainly pork, chicken and fish all year. Of course beef is on the menu, but it's just not a top choice.

Cattle are not easily managed in the small plots of land in southern China (and other nearby countries) whereas you can raise a pig or chicken anywhere. Asians also like their meat freshly slaughtered or butchered (i.e. in front of them) so managing a side of beef is just about impossible. Contrary to western markets, beef is never aged and is preferred bright and red, i.e. fresh.

MarkTrevorSmith 5:09 PM  

Personally, having attended high school in Bangor, Maine (great town, great school) and sixth grade in Sault Ste Marie, ONT (in a recent puzzle), I predict that the hometown touch for me will soon lead to an entry for my junior high in Carlisle, PA (clued, no doubt: Jim Thorpe's Indian School).

Doug 6:10 PM  

@doug (the first poster)

I was recently in NYC doing some biz re: Chinese imports, and found a thriving Chinatown out in Flushing on the main drag. I vouch for its authenticity -- go chow on some good food, pun intended.

Anonymous 7:32 PM  

When I was a kid, my mother used to make a dish with chinese vegetables, water chestnuts and either chicken, pork or beef with soy sauce. She called it chow mein and I'm here to tell you, faux or otherwise, it was some fine eatin'.

Served over rice with crispy noodles as chefbea says yumm

chefbea1 7:39 PM  

@anonymous 7:32 I do remember that.. .. waterchestnuts etal yumm

male chicken 7:53 PM  

i lived in central china and chow mien (pronounced m'yen in mandarin) is definitely on the menu. Like @doug i was nonplussed by this clue.

fergus 9:34 PM  

Started this in the bottom of the third in LA and before Russell Martin was through I was too. OK, Manny worked a full count, but I don't think I've ever done a full crossword in so few batters. I know it's probably not an impressive time in minutes and seconds, but by my alternative measure I feel gratified by this variety of multitasking.

Fun puzzle with the only bungle of ESAU for ENOS, which I know, but there was a tight pitch on three and two.

Orange 9:45 PM  

Can we all agree that chop suey is faux Chinese? I guess that should have been in the puzzle instead.

There's a restaurant in my part of Chicago called Orange Garden. I've never been there because the vintage sign scares me away: ORAnGE GARDEn CHOP SUEY CHOW MEIn in neon? "Chop suey to take home" in neon in the window? I can't eat there. The place seems to get good reviews from people who enjoy greasy chop suey. Hmm, I'll pass.

fergus 10:00 PM  

We once decided that the ideal name for a Chinese restaurant would be Seven Precious Happy Dynasty Lantern Garden -- sure to draw in large crowds for Chow Mein.

steve l 10:00 PM  

According to Wikipedia, chow mein is simply Chinese for "stir-fried noodles," but the execution of the dish varies from the US to Canada to the Caribbean to India. Tellingly, though, the article doesn't focus on how it is prepared in China. This leads me to believe that chow mein is, as a formal dish per se, more common in the Chinese diaspora (read, wherever Chinese restaurants have been established) than in China itself.

foodie 10:14 PM  

I'm in DC this week, and could not locate a NYTimes, so decided to finally get with the program and figure out how to do it on line, on a Mac. Success! So, my experience of the puzzle was confounded by the novelty of doing it in a new way. But like Carla and Rex I kept thinking that a lot of this stuff was a little hard for Monday.

Re Chinese restaurants in NYC, what's wrong with Chinatown in Manhattan? Last time I looked (2-3 years ago) if you were willing to really go into it, there was a lot to discover, especially places where real Chinese people eat. Sometimes my daughter and I were the only non-chinese faces in the restaurant, so communication was sub-optimal, but the food was cheap and terrific. And it's fun!

Wade 10:20 PM  

I don't know what chop suey is. Didn't Fred Sanford talk about chop suey a lot? That seems to be the first memory I have of the phrase.

As for restaurant names, nobody puts less thought into theirs than Tex-Mex restauranteurs. I think they just pick the first thing they see, like Indians naming their kids. There's a Tex-Mex restaurant in my neighborhood, a real old-school place where I eat breakfast about once a week--pictures of Pancho Villa and Zapata on the wall, a mural of a desert scene, a fake stuffed parrot, and that's it as far as decor goes. It's called "Mi Sombrero." I'd love to open up a restaurant in Monterrey or Chihuahua City that serves American food (stuff on-a-stick) and call it "My Hat."

foodie 10:50 PM  

@Wade, in Paris, there is a place called the Indiana Tex-Mex Restaurant...I kid you not...

fergus 10:57 PM  

... and one time in London in the late 1980s an eastern European exile wanted us to visit this exotic Mexican place, which turned out to be Taco Bell. I tried to be polite about it, but we never saw each other again.

fergus 11:06 PM  

Foodie -- I'll be interested to see whether you go over to the dark side, though anyone knows I mean nothing but personal preference here.

Makes me wonder whether any leisurely solvers of a certain age actually prefer the cursor and the arrows, however?

Doug 11:35 PM  

@chop suey: Yes, this is an invented dish. Hey, everyone here speaks at least one Cantonese word: "Ketchup" is "Geh jaap" or "tomato sauce." When I was in Taiwan years ago I asked for a pizza with extra sauce, and asked the waiter in perfectly fine Mandarin to add some. He brought me a bottle of ketchup, because ketchup is literally "tomato sauce". I finally got what I wanted and asked the guy how to differentiate between ketchup and tomato sauce. Pointing at the bowl of mashed tomatoes he said "Soss-ah."

mac 12:11 AM  

I'm late again; when I'm in NY I tend to be so busy that I can't get to the blog until late in the evening.
Also, I can't play Rex's clips because husband is probably watching some form of sport on the plasma or whatever tv, big, next to the computer.....
I thought this was a nice, easy Monday, no real problems and some pretty words and clues. I never even looked for a theme, I forgot.
Thank you Rex. And Hi, Bill!

@Joon: I felt exactly the same way, that answer was great because Han Solo's whole name was there.

@Greene, agree with you, too, I loved "Proof" on the stage.

@Andrea: I was just wondering, are you going to include Ayre in that puzzle?

I was happy to see Jeroen Bosch instead of unknown Dutch Stew today.
What do you call a group of wild turkeys, which we see all the time out of our windows? A gaggle?

Orange 10:32 AM  

Chicago has a bunch of cheap Mexican restaurants with numbers in their names. Taco & Burrito King #2. Taco Burrito Palace #3. The Famous Taco Burrito King #3. Taco and Burrito House may have boldly dispensed with numbering. If it's got a number on the sign, I stay away for fear of authentic lard-filled refried beans.

Larry 4:53 PM  

In the same arts section (if not the same page, can't remember) there was a review of the new Michael Connelly book: The Brass Verdict. The review mentioned Connelly's LA detective, who appears in this latest book. The detective's name? Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch.

Ethan's Mom 7:31 PM  

You can still buy the Chun King Chow Mein (though I usually only see the chicken variety these days). I loved it as a kid and still enjoy it over rice and crispy noodles with soy sauce.

Agree with others that Spanish Main and The Lions Mane weren't very Monday-ish. Neither Ohm, Nomo or Bosch for me anyway.

C.K. McClatchy 2:27 AM  

My suburban co-workers in San Francisco would always order the "Tomato B" at a local Chinese restaurant. Later I found out it was "Tomato Beef Chow Mein" -- which looked exactly like spaghetti! LOL. If that wasn't fake...

And some places consider "Lo Mein" the authentic type of noodles (pan fried) over "Chow Mein". I'm not sure how to distinguish the two.

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