SATURDAY, Nov. 15, 2008 - Karen M. Tracey (Basseterre locale / Aegis bearer / Venison preparer in the Bible / Great Plains dweller)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

A highly enjoyable Karen Tracey offering. I could have done without DONALD TRUMP in my puzzle, especially given the incredibly banal quotation used to identify him (40A: He said "Everything is luck"). I'm sure many hundreds of thousands of people in the history of world have said that exact phrase. If you're going to use a quotation, make it unique - attributable to a single person. "Everything is luck," pfff. What kind of dumbass !@#% is that? "You're fired!"

Here's one feature I'm semi-obsessed with in puzzles (clues and answers): -ER words. Puzzle clues get around using phrases like [One who eats ...] by using handy -ER words like "eater," e.g. [Eater of ...]. Today's puzzle has a Tuh-on (that's "ton" said as if it had two syllables) of such words in the clues. This is not necessarily bad - in fact, none of these -er words feel particularly horribly made-up. But man, there are a Lot of them:

  • 36A: Flier at the Forum (avis)
  • 28D: Venison preparer in the Bible (Esau) - one line mentions this ... not a line I remembered
  • 51D: Airplane wing supporter (spar)
  • 41D: Corp identifiers (TMs)
  • 20A: Great Plains dweller (prairie dog)
  • 39A: Detector of les odeurs (nez)
  • 27A: Aegis bearer (Athena) - this was tough, primarily because I was thinking of some general term like "shield," not a specific [Aegis bearer]
  • 60A: Leveler (bulldozer)

I think that's all of them. Honestly, I don't know if eight is a lot, compared to your average puzzle. For some reason, today, it struck me as a lot.

Toughest part of the puzzle for me today was the NW, where SPACE JUNK (1A: Debris around the world?) was a term heretofore unheard of by me. I'm guessing that's not a scientific technical term, but rather a general term for the crap that's floating around in space (dead satellites? Jimmy Hoffa?). PONCA (2D: Standing Bear's tribe) sounds like a party game, one where you shout "PONCA!" when you win. I thought that after years of the doing the puzzle I'd seen every tribal name there was, but apparently there's a bottomless well of them. I might have tripped over CADUCEI (22A: Medical emblems) had Emily Cureton not floated a logo concept for this very website recently that featured a CADUCEUS. The logo was cool - though, as I told her, it looked oddly like a decal I might have on the back of my purple Cadillac were I a crossword-solving pimp.

Had weird gimmes today. Well, FELLA was easy (37A: Hip-hop's Roc-a-_____ Records), as I spent much of today actually listening to Jay-Z (founder of Roc-a-FELLA Records). Have no idea how I did it, I nailed JASPER FFORDE with no crosses (6D: "The Eyre Affair" novelist, 2001). I even remembered that his last name is totally @!##%'ed up, although I may have tried initially to spell it with a "J" ("FJJORD?" "FFJORD?"). I know squat about FARO, and yet it came to me instantly at 38A: Game dealt by Doc Holliday. Had FELIX instead of UNGER at 49D: Noted TV neatnik, but that was easily fixed. Never heard of the airlines in the clue, but the answer to 53D: Alternative to Arkia or Israir (El Al) was easy enough to infer. Knew KRONA instantly (18A: 100 öre), though misspelled it KRONE at first. This made the toughish ST KITTS (10D: Basseterre locale) much easier to get than it might have been otherwise. Even PEARS came to me swiftly, and its clue was weird (50D: Bottom-heavy edibles). Big question mark of the day was 48D: Spacey's co-star in the 1999 revival of "The Iceman Cometh" (Danza). I know nothing about "The Iceman Cometh" except that it's the play that Michael (Dustin Hoffman) fails to get a role in at the beginning of "Tootsie":


  • 16A: Shape on a potter's wheel (throw) - had No idea a THROW was a "shape." I thought it just referred to whatever hunk of clay a potter happened to be working on at the moment. [Apparently "throw" is a verb - I really should have seen that, especially since I think W.S. himself flat-out told me it was a verb two weeks ago when I first wondered aloud about this clue while test-solving. I think I write more bad and more make mistaks when I late-night blog]
  • 44A: Grown-up garçon (homme) - gimme
  • 57A: Romulus and Remus's legendary birthplace (Alba Longa) - forgot it, but it came back to me. R&R were raised by a wolf. I like wolf stories.
  • 59A: Family name in 16th- and 17th-century music (Amati) - a crossword standard, though usually clued specifically in reference to the violin maker
  • 1D: Bullet-biting type (stoic) - Aren't you biting a bullet to keep from screaming?
  • 12D: Youngest player to join the 500-homer club (A-Rod) - ugh, it's true.
  • 26D: Psalms interjection (Selah) - I once had a girlfriend named SHELAH. One of the first things she told was that the name "Shelah" comes from the Bible ... where it belongs to a man.
  • 33D: Dudley's "Arthur" co-star (Liza) - since I've already gone back to the early 80s with "Tootsie," why not continue the theme:

  • 15A: Immunologist's concern (tolerance) - not as disease-specific a word as I was expecting
  • 58D: Denom. established in 1830 (LDS) - some very nice young men came by our house the other day looking for my wife. One of her ex-students (LDS) had apparently flagged her as someone whose soul might need saving. Not sure how her meeting with those kids went. I'll have to ask. I'm assuming she didn't convert us without consulting me, but you never know.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Be sure to watch "The Simpsons" this weekend (Sunday, 8pm, FOX) as crosswording legends Will Shortz and Merl Reagle will make guest appearances, and the entire plot will revolve around crossword puzzles. Read more here.


Alex 1:44 AM  

For "shape on a potter's wheel" I believe that shape is used as a verb.

Does "homer" count as an abbreviation indicator? I knew the answer was Alex Rodriguez (AROD) but momentarily considered that the puzzle may have been incorrectly still thinking it was Willie MAYS (who was the previous holder of that achievement). If the clue had been "youngest to 750 homers" would JERK have been acceptable just because that is how many people refer to Barry Bonds?

SPACE JUNK came to me immediately for some reason but still provided almost no help and the NW was the last to work itself out. But in a good way, each time once I figured out the word I felt a bit dumb for not seeing it sooner.

Finally, I remembered that French for nose is NEZ and not NOZ.

andrea carla michaels 2:29 AM  

NOZ! That's interesting

Love the PONCA idea! Let's design some rules.

This was a quickie for me, tho had to get every letter of JASPERFFORDE (??!!!???) ALBALONGA
and bec I had VEDI instead of VEDA, I tried IRAQI, thinking since it was Karen QU was more likely for 60A Leveler (QUALIZER? QUELLER? QUENCHER? it threw me to have the U and ER in place.)

Everything in the puzzle seemed to just ring a dim bell (dumbbell?) in the recesses of my mind without feeling like I actually knew the stuff...

for example: PRAIRIEDOG, VALEOFTEARS (is that a Jesus thing?), VEDA, FREEBOOT, SPACEJUNK

Had your exact mistakes: FELIX for UNGER, thought Shield, etc.
My start was KRONA (that I also spelled KRONE except SWAG was one of my few gimmes, along with SLEEPERCAR)

Tried COMBS for STABS bec even tho I thought of AROD, there was nothing to indicate a nickname...

AND I had a malapop!!!!!!!

I put in SOP for 23D Sweet-talk
(COO)only to have SOP appear in a totally different context at
35A "Bread, at times"!!!!!

Roc-a-Fella (which I'm too unhip to know) seems like a super clever name.

All in all, it was a very religious puzzle
(not mine, unless you count ESAU and ELAL)
what with VALEOFTEARS, SELAH, LDS, VEDA, ATHENA (for those crazy Greek god worshippers out there) and DONALDTRUMP for those who worship at the altar of the dollar.

ArtLvr 6:56 AM  

Ah, Rex -- your tongue in cheek is showing, in your throwing in THROW as "not a shape". I'm getting WISEDUP to your humor, though it took me ages!

Had the SPACEJUNK right away, then went off to the rest of the puzzle and somehow ended up in the NW last. All very pleasant and very gettable! I'm not crazy about NORM clued as [Rule] though, good only in the idiomatic phrase "as a rule" IMHO. I can't think of another example where it works...

Also, we had a heads-up as to the traditional usage of "Sleeping Car" versus SLEEPERCAR not long ago, even if the meaning of the latter is clear and fits into a puzzle better. I mentioned a meeting in 1960 or so with Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and first nationally recognized black union leader.

Loved the parallel of ATHENA's shield or aegis with CADUCEI, the medical staffs or emblems, plus the parallel Latin-based clues [tacit] & [not tacit]. The classical STOIC, AVIS, VEDA and ALBALONGA are felicitous too. However, BONO is an unfortunate stretch clued as [Good for Caesar?] since "Bonus" is the applicable form of the adjective and "Bene" is the adverb.

New to me was PONCA, amusing along with the tricky clue for PRAIRIEDOG. ESAU dressed up as [venison preparer] and ELAL ditto as rival of lesser-known airlines were fun too. The former tied in well with the Biblical interjection SELAH, which once was frequent in crosswords but seems much rarer these days! Interesting that your former girlfriend Shelah had a man's name -- never heard of that one.

Agree with your dump on the Donald, who is not trumps in my book.... And I had a birthday yesterday along with Prince Charles, a much more amiable FELLA.


DONALD 7:12 AM  

The Iceman Cometh alludes to Matthew 25: 5-6 "While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh" (Michael Manheim. The Cambridge Companion to Eugene O'Neill. Cambridge, 1998, 84) and an old joke.
A salesman comes home early; finding no ice for the drink he wants, he yells upstairs to his wife, "Honey, has the iceman come yet?" She replies, "Not yet, but he's puffing pretty hard."

steve l 7:44 AM  

@Rex: I think "shape" and the answer THROW are used as verbs in that clue; good misdirection.

@andrea: ELAL is part of your religion? OK. I do remember being on El Al and having tons of Hasids davening (praying with the body moving back and forth, for you Gentiles out there) in the aisles. Which reminds me of why they say that Orthodox Jews will never travel in space. Since they have to recite prayer services three times a day, morning, afternoon, and evening, and one orbit only takes 90 minutes, they have to fit 3 services into every 90 minutes! (For those of you fluent in the Hebrew names of the service, the original joke goes something like,"Shacharit, Mincha, Maariv, Shacharit, Mincha, Maariv, Shacharit..."

Also, SELAH is from Psalms, so it is from (y)our religion. It's one of the few ancient Hebrew words the meaning of which scholars don't really know.

joho 9:14 AM  

Got it all right except for square 37 where I guessed an "R." Have never heard of JASPERFFRORDE nor ROC-A-FELLA so I went for alliteration. Of course the "F" makes total sense and as andrea carla michaels already said, a great name.

One square away from perfection but, nevermind, this puzzle was great fun with lots of fresh and new phrases to me ... all gettable except for that darn "F." If only I'd gone threw the alphabet there ....

bill from fl 10:05 AM  

SPACE JUNK reminded me of my 78 rpm recording of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (based on a Robert Heinlein novel). In one of the episodes somebody says something like "we'll blast them to space junk!" I have no idea why I remember that from almost 50 years ago.

poc 10:25 AM  

I liked this one a lot, though I too had BENE instead of BONO for a while. Also, CENSUSES is a bit jarring with all the Latin answers, especially as it crosses with CADUCEI.

Trivia of the day: two Latin words with no plural form are vulgus (the crowd, the mob) and virus (slime, poison). Just thought I'd throw that in :-)

chefbea1 10:45 AM  

Easier than yesterday but did need help. Had Felix also.

@bill from fl I think I remember watching Tom Corbet Space Cadet on TV as a child.

I remember Mac saying a while back that she had a good recipe using bottom-heavy edibles.

Can someone explain TM and LDS?

imsdave1 10:55 AM  

@chefbea - TM = trademark, LDS = Latter Day Saints

HudsonHawk 10:58 AM  

@ACME, it's too bad Ms. Tracey couldn't have gotten IRAQI into the puzzle, since Q is the only letter missing from the grid.

I had to wait for the paper delivery this a.m. (it's been really late the last few Saturdays) but the puzzle was worth the wait. I would probably up Rex's rating half a notch to medium-challenging. Loved FREEBOOT. Great word. Familiarity with midwestern geography was helpful for those of us that have been to PONCA City, Oklahoma.

Norm 11:07 AM  

Sweden uses KRONA; Norway uses KRONE. A krona = 100 öre; a krone = 100 øre. A very precise clue that got me going. My only other gimmes were NEZ, SLEEPERCAR, and ROLEX, but it all came together in the end.

Jane Doh 11:53 AM  

This was fun and lots easier than yesterday, yet somehow less satisfying. Didn't know JASPER FFORDE, and after intuiting the unknown-to-me FELLA as the best wordplay for the name, still had to look him up to verify fact and edify self. Not buying that JF is worthy of being the raison d'etre for a puzzle, which he appears to be.

Love SPACE JUNK, FREEBOOT, hate DONALD TRUMP. SEES STARS is blah, but the clue is fab, as are the clues for LIMO and NETS.


Janie 11:58 AM  

re: the tuh-on of "er" words. i've become more sensitive to them as fill (thank you, rex), but don't necessarily find that it detracts from a great solve. far better, imoo, that there be more in the clues (where i'm even less likely to notice 'em) than in the fill.

*great* puzzle (even if i did have to do some research for JASPERFFORDE...).



Ulrich 12:10 PM  

I guess I'm in the minority finding this one more difficult than yesterday's--I had to google the novelist to get a foothold in the NW.

And I do object to the KRONA clue: KRONA is a name, 100 Öre is an amount--a name can never be equal to an amount. Example: 100 cents are not equal to "dollar"--they're equal to 1 (one) dollar! Sheesh

Edith B 12:10 PM  

Stoic was my first entry, followed by Jasperfforde which was a neon for me as I am a fan of the Thursday Next novels.

I stalled in the NW and worked for a while in Flyover Country, getting words one at a time until I pieced together Donald Trump as I moved into the SE.

I am aware of Ms Tracey's pentient for Scrabble letters and was able to guess my way through this corner with Danza, Bulldozer which got me off of Felix for Unger until I finally saw stars and pieced together Albalonga.

When I returned to the NW, the mind junk finally moved like the old game Asteroids and suddenly . . . Spacejunk and that corner was not long for this world.

I got the crossing of thresh and throw all at once and krona gave me St Kitts and Dog appeared to get me away from the Native American misinrerpretation of the Great Plains dweller.

This left just the SW and I had remembered Sleeper Car from a puzzle not long ago but I had Timex across the bottom that had been bolluxing me up all puzzle long.

When I finally saw Elal I was able to correct my mistake and finish the puzzle.

I can only describe my approach to this one as workmanlike as I made steady progress across the grid.

fikink 12:10 PM  

My "laugh-a-minute" mother raised me on her personal maxim, "Life is a vale of tears."
But in my young, mushy head, I always envisioned some Victorian "illness-as-metaphor" consumptive dressed in black. Thus, I immediately entered VEILOFTEARS and labored long to correct myself.
Enjoyable puzzle, but easier than yesterday, despite my errors, I think.

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

Really liked this one and found it much easier than the usual Saturday.

Rex - did you mean to inadvertently lead us to the theme of the Sunday crossword through the link to the Simpsons?

andrea carla michaels 1:17 PM  

This morning I woke up and my first thought was...I didn't have a malapop, I had a malaSOP!

Thus proving to me, that I am spending WAY too much time on all of this and will go run away for a few hours (no wonder they call it the web)

So, why are we BOTH writing on Saturday?! Will throw in one and only ELAL memory:

25+ years ago I missed my Alitalia flight from Rome to Tel Aviv bec I didn't realize in the 80's post-Achille Lauro era, they would post FAKE gates for the flights to Israel to throw off the would-be terrorists, but as you checked in, they would tell you where to really go.

My Italian agent either had a heavy accent or I wasn't paying attention (?!) and I got to the gate at boarding time, only to realize I was in the wrong place and they weren't going to let me on bec of security (even tho my luggage was on the flight!)

I did what any mature traveler would do...I burst into tears :)

They told me not to worry, there was an ELAL flight going a half an hour later and I was welcome to go on it.
There was NO ONE on that flight who was not a hardcore Israeli, no one wanted to take ELAL in those days.

Anyway, as we were about to land, the entire flight erupted into a rousing rendition of "Ha Tikvah"

(suddenly I feel I might have told this story before, forgive me for the three of you still reading this)

People singing, praying, crying in the aisles, so happy were they to be back home.
It was one of the most moving experiences of my life...

(but pales to the Northwest Airlines passengers when I fly back to Minnesota who turn to each other and (consider) introducing themselves as they step off the plane)

andrea carla michaels 1:21 PM  

LOL about your mom! I too thought it was VEIL of tears till last night.

we have to lighten up about the "the" thing or shouldn't it be "Le" nez, etc.
It bugs me too, but from the other side of the fence, it's just way too hard to clue it so that it makes perfect sense (cents?)

OK, vaya a la playa

Norm 1:41 PM  

Q ulrich & andrea: And, it would have to be "en krona" (if I remember my Swedish correctly), which would make it useless for crossword purposes or be clued as the clunky "what 100 of them things amount to" -- didn't bug me at all (but I still haven't gotten over yesterday's CDCASE)!!!

chefbea1 1:41 PM  

@IMSdave1 thanks for explaining

steve l 1:47 PM  

@andrea--My original thought was, why was this girl up at 2:29 a.m. (who cares that it was Saturday) writing about crosswords, anyway? Then I realized you're on the left coast, and it was only a respectable 11:29 p.m. there.

jae 1:53 PM  

A fine puzzle which I also found a bit easier than yesterday's although I needed some help from my family on this one. My bride helped with spelling CADUCEI and gave me HOMME, and my sister confirmed I'd guessed right on the D in VEDA. Like Andrea I needed all the crosses to get JASPER... but SPACEJUNK was my first grid entry and NW went pretty fast. Other missteps were ENOS for ESAU and FREEBASE (must have been thinking about something else).

Ulrich 2:02 PM  

@acme and norm: If EURO can be clued as "capital of Italy" and LIRA as "old capital of Italy", KRONA could be clued as "capital of Sweden" or in any other way that treats it as a name--that's the trick, IMHO.

acme 2:10 PM  

I want to send you something funny, (but it's in Hebrew and political and it's my over-post, so could you email me:

Doug 2:17 PM  

Needed a few googles and sneak peeks at RP's completed grid, but it eventually came together.

I was fortunate to see Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane on Broadway in The Odd Couple, in which Broderick played UNGER. Fav line, OSCAR to poker buddies: "We have green sandwiches and brown sandwiches." POKER: "What's in a green sandwich?" OSCAR: "Either very new cheese or very old meat."

Karen 2:18 PM  

I found this quite a lot easier than yesterday, knowing JASPER FFORDE gave me a brilliant start. Unfortunately I ended up with BENO in Massachusetts. Yes, I never took latin. And I had a hard time trying to think what coinage LDS was. Doh! I wanted RESISTANCE for the immunologists, not TOLERANCE. I like the pairing of the tacit clues.

G. 4:04 PM  

Easy (50 minutes) and uninteresting, except for "prairie dog," because I wrote in "Aron" (I don't follow sports) and couldn't think of an Indian tribe ending in "nog." "Alba Longa" was like last week's "Ile Longue."

Norm 5:25 PM  

@ulrich says "If EURO can be clued as 'capital of Italy' and LIRA as 'old capital of Italy,' KRONA could be clued as 'capital of Sweden' or in any other way that treats it as a name--that's the trick, IMHO."

True. But my point was that I thought the "öre" as opposed to "øre" was clever (and called for a specific little bit of knowledge I had), and cluing it as you propose would trample that. Whatevs

Cheryl 6:41 PM  

A rare easy Saturday for me (still don't finish sometimes). Jasper Fforde was a gimme, off which I got prairie dog and rear admiral right away and it opened everything up.

I agree that censuseseses was clunky sounding but I enjoyed everything else so much.

Freeboot was new to me but was able to infer it from crosses. I love it when you see two consonants together that you normally wouldn't , and think you've made a mistake, only to realize it works because of a word you hadn't considered. I refer to the SV of SVELTE. Sweet.

fikink 6:49 PM  

yes, cheryl, I really liked SVELTE. It sounds like an old word to me, like "comely" which no one uses anymore (probably with good reason, given our crude intercourse).

mac 7:08 PM  

I thought this one was medium-challenging, but I may just be too tired, had a studio sale today, on my feet for many hours.

Spacejunk took a long time coming, and Jasper Fforde I only remembered by his last name, but my biggest problem was Caducei, because the Dutch term for this "logo" is Aesculaap". I finally looked it up and found out that Caduceus is Aesclepius's staff.....

I liked a lot of the clueing, as mentioned above for sees stars, "runs through" and not so much the Donald and "cencuses".

@poc: thanks for that info on Scandinavian money.

@andrea: like that dim bell / dumbbell connection, makes sense.

mellocat 7:52 PM  

Yes, I hated censuses too, but couldn't get rid of it.

I do try hard to avoid contrived -er (or even "too many" perfectly ordinary -er) words in the grid, but I can't say I've ever noticed them too much in clues, so I don't know that I try to avoid them there. However, of those you cited only "Corp. identifiers" was a clue I submitted. I did have an different -er word in my clue for BULLDOZER (Powerful crawler). And of course I may have had many other -ers in other clues of mine that did not survive editing....

Michael 8:04 PM  

Easy for a Saturday. Also enjoyable. Still, I had a mistake on a name I know. Jasper Fjorde instead of Fforde. I should have thought more about the Roc a _____ clue...

Vega 8:12 PM  

I was so on Karen Tracey's wavelength today for one blinding second when I saw the clue for 1A and immediately thought "SPACE JUNK!" That was about it for my brilliance, though. After that, it was nothing but hard work.

I'd never heard of VALE OF TEARS so I wrote "tale of tears" (wondering if it was somehow related to "trail of tears") and then wondered what on earth a "tane" was.

I normally do the puzzle on the bus on my way to (and on Fridays, also back from) work, and yesterday, I could feel the woman who sat next to me watching me intently, and finally she couldn't help herself and offered SEMOLINA as the answer to "pasta source." And then we spent the rest of the ride doing the puzzle together, and I cannot express the sublime pleasure of sharing a moment with a stranger on a bus doing the crossword puzzle together.


PuzzleGirl 8:12 PM  

Another awesome Mellocat offering -- thanks, Karen! I couldn't finish it correctly: ne-ever heard of CADUCEI, wasn't sure what vowel was required at the end of PONC-, and couldn't figure out why the clue for COO would need a question mark, so there was no hope for me. I also couldn't remember if it was VEDA or VETA and either one of those seemed like it could work for the author's name.

I've probably told this story before but (unlike Some people here -- hi, Andrea!) I only have two or three actual name-dropping stories so here it is again. When I moved to New York a hundred years ago, the first celebrity I saw walking on the street was Tony Randall. When my parents moved to New York three years later, the first celebrity they saw was Jack Klugman.

andrea carla michaels 8:39 PM  

what an odd couple of coincidences!

dk 9:28 PM  

@joho and others, Read the Eyre Affair. Methinks you will like it.

@Evil D note I did not say wethinks.

Fine puzzle Ms. Tracy.

Hi Andrea.

Chip Hilton 9:37 PM  

I'm happy for those of you saying, "Easy for a Saturday". Not for this man Jack. But then, it shouldn't be, being a Saturday, so I'm okay with the fact that CADUCEI came out CEDUWAI in my feeble attempt at filling in a word with which I was totally unfamiliar (PONCA my crossing error, but JASPAR with an -A and WOO for COO seemed logical.).

Otherwise, got through it, but with heavy gnashing. I'm left feeling like the Gamecocks following today's mauling at the hands of the Florida Gators.

neil1943 4:48 PM  

Rex, I know someone probably has already asked, but why are you the world's 50th greatest Crossword Puzzle solver? It doesn't matter to me that much, but who is 1st? How did you earn your place and who keeps track, if anyone?

Neil Kleinman

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