MONDAY, May 4 2009 - M Milhet (Old schoolmasters sticks / Succumbing to second thoughts / Actor/brother Sean or Mackenzie)

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: [Succumbing to second thoughts] - that's the clue used for the three theme answers



  • 17A: GETTING COLD FEET
  • 36A: CHICKENING OUT
  • 59A: LOSING ONE'S NERVE

Word of the Day: SKOAL - (21A: Salut!," in Scandinavia) - interj.

Used as a drinking toast.

Danish and Norwegian skaal, cup, skoal, from Old Norse skāl, bowl, drinking vessel.] (answers.com)

The theme is basically non-existent. The one clue/multiple answer type theme, with only CHICKENING OUT offering anything in the way of interest. What is interesting: this grid is far, far more wide open than your typical early-week grid. Fewer black squares, lower word count. This led to some words that you don't normally see early in the week, such as the nutty FERULES (40D: Old schoolmasters' sticks) and IPECAC (18D: Drug used to treat poisoning) and A TEMPO (2D: Returning to previous speed, in music), as well as some iffy awkward stuff, most notably STAYER (31A: One still in the game, in poker). The upshot is that the grid felt more difficult to fill than most Mondays ... though my time (in the high/mid-3's) was only a notch above average, so though the puzzle felt like a later-week offering, it appears to have been clued perfectly (or nearly so) for a Monday.

There were some interesting, cool, and original-sounding clues today. Let's start with NATION, which gets the "Colbert Report" treatment today (41A: Colbert _____ (Comedy Central show audience)). This is a pretty big promotion for the show, as most Monday pop culture clues expect you only to know the major bits of information about a show, whereas the concept of Colbert NATION isn't going to be terribly familiar to anyone who doesn't actually watch the show. Expecting the NATION to be familiar with NATION in this sense (over and above Red Sox NATION, which is the only other NATION I can think of at the moment) says a lot about how big a deal his show's become. Too bad the puzzle isn't an award he can put on his mantle underneath the really ugly painting of himselves. Stephen Colbert has been drawn into MARVEL Comics before (47D: _____ Comics, home of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four), both as a guest star on "Spider-Man" and as a version of the Incredible Hulk (a gruesome, bear-killing version), but as far as I know, he was never on "The A-TEAM" (53D: Starting group of athletes). The ISBN of his book, "I Am America and So Can You," is 978-0-446-58050-2 (45A: 978-0060935443, for Roget's Thesaurus).


Bullets:

  • 1D: Veterans' group, informally (legion) - I'm sorry, how is "LEGION" "informal?" Is it slang? An abbreviation? What is it informal for?
  • 4D: Actor/brother Sean or Mackenzie (Astin) - First of all, "Actor/brother?" That's a title no one has ever used. Plus, it only barely indicates that they are brothers of each other. I'm sure most actors are, in fact, brothers. Lastly, while Sean ASTIN was in the Frodo movies, I couldn't pick Mackenzie out of a line-up. Well, maybe I could. He'd be the guy that looks most like Sean. Probably.
  • 55A: How Santa dresses, mostly (in red) - I prefer not to think about how Santa dresses, as that requires that I imagine Santa undressed.
  • 9D: Fewer than 100 shares (odd lot) - stock stuff I know nothing about.
  • 5D: Dutch painter Steen (Jan) - also, the middle Brady girl
  • 48D: Add with a caret, e.g. (insert) - great clue, but feels more like mid-week fare
  • 10D: Fight adjudicator, for short (ref) - [Adjudicating zebra] would have been nice.
  • 24D: Easy two-pointer in basketball (dunk) - if it's so "easy," let's see you do it. I didn't think so.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

My write-up of today's LAT puzzle is here.

63 comments:

gd 7:50 AM  

Totally agree about the challenging aspect. I thought it was a fun puzzle, but I kept thinking "COME ON, this isn't Monday cluing!"...over and over and over.

MacKenzie was in Facts of Life and, like Sean, is the son of John Astin (though not, I believe, birth sons).

elitza 8:01 AM  

I flew through this.

Maybe it's just comparing to last week (I gave up Friday; that was just a bear) or being on the same wavelength. But I finished without taking a sip of coffee, and that NEVER happens. Let alone at 8am.

Didn't care for STAYER either, and MELT being clued as "Unfreeze" put me in unhappy-land (reminded me of an ex's mother who'd always as me to unthaw things--ie, chicken for dinner--without catching that she was actually asking me to freeze them). Otherwise, no real problems, and it actually took a good few minutes to realize how many long words got crammed in.

Good warm-up today.

chefbea 8:27 AM  

I too thought it was a bit more difficult than the usual monday puzzle, but still pretty easy.

@rex Is legion short for American Legion?

Alex 8:34 AM  

Never heard any of the people I know refer to the American Legion as just "Legion." Closest would be "The Legion."

Just saying Legion makes me think of lesion. Mmm...breakfasty.

elitza 8:38 AM  

@rex, Alex, chefbea--maybe the group to which the veterans once belonged? their legion?

That just makes me think of "Rome," and Kevin McKidd.... mmm, breakfasty.

Morgan 8:46 AM  

The hardest Monday puzzle I've done in months. It took me six minutes, which is about half again as long as normal. This was a Tuesday (with a bad theme), not a Monday.

PhillySolver 8:55 AM  

Thanks for the write up and insights. Have to agree and I had one error at final check to change...Tick-tack to TOCK. Seems we had the child beater about a month ago or I would have struggled there, too. My name is LEGION.

Anne 8:55 AM  

Finished this last night after completing Sunday's. I thought it was a tad harder than usual, with some good clues for Monday.

Based on a suggestion by Evil Doug a few months back, I went to the Air Force Museum in Dayton over the weekend - hundreds of planes presented in a well-organized way. Very interesting and worth the trip.

ArtLvr 8:59 AM  

I smiled, recalling our encounter with the FERULE here sometime in the past year... Also went too fast, ending with Tick-Tack rather than TOCK, but it was an okay Monday anyway.

∑;)

mac 9:08 AM  

Nice, competent puzzle, but definitely more Tuesday-Wednesday-like, as I needed crosses for several words. No mistakes and decent time, though. One question: I thought sedans always had 4 doors.

Kumar 9:12 AM  

Rex:

Been away from crosswords and your posts for some months. Good to be back.

Noticed the move up to "44th Greatest..". Congratulations.

Kumar

miguel 9:17 AM  

Hey Kumar,

Enjoy your movies. Welcome back from filming. Does Harold do the puzzles, too?

Ulrich 9:19 AM  

@mac: I had the same thought--here's what I found.

As to the puzzle, 'nuff said.

elitza 9:25 AM  

@mac: Yes, sedans have four doors. 2-doors are generally called coupes. The clue was iffy at best; I wanted SEDAN right away but waited for crosses because they included 2-doors. Didn't make me too happy.

Three and out--it's only 9:30!

Chorister 9:25 AM  

We've all noticed how some terms and nicknames exist only in crosswords, but do so blithely unaware of their nonexistence in their supposed context. LEGION & STAYER are today's examples.

I thought ISBN was awesome and gutsy for Monday. It almost, but not quite, makes up for calling a two-door car a sedan.

Glitch 9:29 AM  

My uncle often said "I'm off to the Legion" when he was going to meet his cronies for poker, so no problem with that.

As to the Colbert NATION: I don't think you have to watch the show to know the term. He got a lot of air time last fall (including the Today show) when attempting a write in presidential campaign and when promoting his xmas offerings.

Never watched an entire show, can't stand his act (Colbert is actualy a character he plays) but had no more of a problem than with a Simpson's clue from another show I've never watched in full ;-)

Actually found this puzzle a bit faster for a Monday, less than a cup.

.../Glitch

David 9:33 AM  

Had the same thoughts re: sedan/coupe, melt/thaw, legion (I guess short for "American Legion") and the astin brothers....

Ferules and Cornpone gave me some trouble, too....still not sure what a cornpone is!

PuzzleGirl 9:51 AM  

Finished this one in my average Monday time, but agree some of the entries were on the Tuesday/Wednesday side.

Better clue for LEGION would have been "Local drinking establishment, informally." But then, as Alex said, it really should be "The Legion."

I wanted to spell SKOAL skohl for some reason. And had the same thought on DUNK. Easy? For who?

STAYER is ugly, but BLESS YOU and LATHER are cool.

PIX 9:55 AM  

@20A:Had "im hep" instead of "im hip". Wikipedia says "hep" changed into "hip" around 1940 so beatniks would certainly be hip, not hep.

@18D: ipecac...in the past pediatricians advised everyone with kids to have ipecac to induce vomiting in case of accicdental poisoning (big problem with children)...now they say it causes more problems than it solves, so get rid of it (and call poison control and 911 if there is a problem.)

retired_chemist 9:59 AM  

Meh, except I agree with Rex re the grid. No very interesting words, no solving problems.

I know 34D NITS is often used as clued, but the real meaning doesn’t pass the breakfast test: the egg of a head louse attached to a human hair. The clued usage is metaphoric, derived from the real meaning via the phrase nit-picking. mmmm - breakfasty. Not.

The Colbert Nation was in the news just a couple of weeks ago. It mounted a massive write-in campaign to get the new NASA Space Station node named Colbert. NASA asked for votes and Colbert won. NASA, humorless twits that they are, refused to honor the vote, picking Tranquility instead They DID agree to name a treadmill on the station "Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill." Acronym: COLBERT.

humorlesstwit(TM) 10:05 AM  

Hey, I've got the nationwide trademark on humorlesstwit. I demand a retraction!

Elaine 10:05 AM  

Hi -- maybe some clues were a bit esoteric, but I got through this easily and smoothly anyway.

Happy Monday, everyone!

humorlesstwit(TM) 10:06 AM  

PS. Count me in among those for whom dunking is impossible without a trampoline and a non-regulation net.

XMAN 10:07 AM  

Will Shortz--alert!--8D, SNOOT is incorrect. Acc. to Web II, a snoot is a face, a grimace, or a var. of snout, not a person who is snooty (contemptuous).

But otherwise a perfectly nice puzzle.

retired_chemist 10:08 AM  

@ humorless twit - consider it retracted, if not redacted. I thought I had heard that phrase before.....

Crosscan 10:24 AM  

Greetings from Las Vegas. Arrived last night on a Boeing JET. One day I will find a plane built for tall people. This wasn't it.

I will use the phrase "I'm a STAYER" at the poker table after a DEAL and see if they that "you're a goer". Hope I won't end up IN RED.

Will also look for Elvis ARON Presley. And we're going to see the Cher concert, which hopefully will have the Young Americans/Song Sung Blue medley.

EDEN/SINAI? NITS/NIBS?

@ArtLvr - if I recall, I put FERULE in the NABES file last time, and I found it there immediately.

My AcrossLite clock didn't Tick-TOCK, so my time is 00:00. Beat that!

Daniel Myers 10:48 AM  

@XMan--The Unabridged OED begs to differ w/ Webster anent SNOOT which apparently - with this definition - started out as Aussie slang in 1941-My favourite quote is one from 1989 in the Sunday Times (Of London) "Val..., tumbling hair and champagne glass in hand, mingles with these snoots at publishers' parties."

I wonder what what Val is doing now.

HudsonHawk 10:52 AM  

Definitely a slower Monday for me, but mainly because I wasn't paying attention. I saw Colbert _____ (Comedy Central)... and didn't even finish the clue. So I confidently wrote in REPORT. Oops. And on 59A I had ___ING ONE'S____ and wrote in HAVING ONE'S DOUBTS before realizing it wouldn't fit. Oops, I did it again.

Doug 11:21 AM  

I was vexed for a few moments, thinking this was a late-week puzzle. Then I just started with some easy clues in the southeast and worked my way backwards pretty quickly, finishing in the northwest. STAYER is never used at the poker table, and I play Hold 'Em regularly. LEGION was equally baffling.

joho 11:24 AM  

I think the rule of thumb to be hip is to never, ever use the work hep.

Yesterday "The Wild One" was on and I was chuckling at the hip lingo ... very funny. My favorite line, "What are rebelling against, Johnny?" "What've you got?"

I thought this an interesting beginning to the week.

I'm off to eat some CORNPONE.

@Rex: thanks for the headsup on the Merle Reagan puzzle ... that was a lot of fun.

william e emba 11:31 AM  

My favorite SNOOT is perhaps Mr Flutesnoot, Archie Andrew's chemistry teacher.

XMAN 11:42 AM  

@Daniel Myers--The clue didn't say Br. Usage.

Jonmarz 11:44 AM  

I believe that "LEGION" was meant to be informal (read: short) for AMERICAN LEGION (as in HALL).

foodie 11:48 AM  

For me, the top (especially the NW) was a Tuesday, the bottom a Monday.

But I actually liked the fact that the theme made me stop and think about how many ways there are to describe a change of mind when something is a little scary.

Oh, and as I did not have a chance to comment yesterday, I did want to say that if you ever find yourself in Brno, you may wish to visit the Augustinian Abbey where Gregor Mendel lived and did his sweet pea experiments-- the start of modern genetics. And the sweet peas somehow fit into the garden theme, likely unintentionally. Also, there is information about correspondence between Mendel and Darwin. Very cool! (well, at least to a dorky scientist). These were the good ole days, where religion and science were on excellent terms.

PlantieBea 11:51 AM  

Agree with the rating for a Monday--maybe better as Tuesday puzzle. I had to write over a few falsoe starts including THAW for MELT and TURN IN for HAND IN.

I liked TOES for low digits. Yum to corn pone.

Daniel Myers 11:56 AM  

@Xman-Quite - Nor does the OED - Let's not get SNOOTy about things.

Here's a 1984 American quote from The Washington Post:

"The emphasis is on fashion and manners; the sensibility part British snoot, part Gothamite chicquer-than-thou."

Hm, now I know how to spell the comparative of "chic."

ileen 12:01 PM  

FERULES stopped me for a while, as I had DNA instead of RNA. Fedules is just as unfamiliar to me as Ferules, so for the first time in my online solving history, I got an incorrect message for a Monday puzzle - boo!

Jet City Gambler 12:16 PM  

Colbert was thrilled when a Saturday BEQ puzzle from last year included TRUTHINESS at 1-Across, he even taunted Jon about it during the exchange between the two shows.

mac 12:29 PM  

@Ulrich: thank you for the link! I'm pretty sure I have a 2-door coupe.

In our house "Snoot" is an endearment, derivided from the Dutch word snoet(je), little face. Not telling for whom.

Paul 12:47 PM  

I am a fairly new solver- so I was happy to see that this one was rated 'medium challenging'- took me half again as long to solve as a typical Monday.
Note to Rex: before there was a Colbert Nation or a Red Sox Nation there was Raider Nation.
Cheers from Oakland.

ArtLvr 12:49 PM  

p.s. I really wanted Buyer's (or Seller's) Remorse for one of the theme answers...

@ Crosscan -- Good luck at the tables! Hope your 00.00.00 is not an omen.

∑;(

Karen 12:52 PM  

I loved all the Colbert pics in the writeup. I had no idea he was so popular in the comics medium. I have been impressed with his geekcred in the past (see his interview with Neil Gaiman).

I was looking up the ISBN classification system a while ago. The first digits are a country code, then there is a publisher code, then a title code, finally a check sum digit (like on the credit cards). All of which fits into a finite space, so large publishers get short codes so they can have more title codes, and vice versa. The check sum used to be in base 11, so they would use the letter X to symbolize 10 (and 0 to symbolize 11, how I miss new math) but they changed away from that system to one in base 10 again.

fikink 1:08 PM  

A lovely juxtaposition of Jan Steen and Jan Brady, Rex.
very Colbert-ish. ;)

chefbea 2:14 PM  

@david Corn pone is like corn bread only they are made individually instead of in a big pan and then cut into squares. Very god right out of the oven with lots of butter... yummmm

retired_chemist 2:37 PM  

@ chefbea - "Very god right out of the oven with lots of butter... yummmm"

Sounds heavenly.

andrea carla michaels 2:47 PM  

This was one of those hybrid puzzles that the construction (only 32 black squares! corners with seven and 8 letter parallel stacks! Some obscure words) was definitely Tues/Wed
but bec the theme was so Monday-y
that trumped the construction.

As an occasional Monday constructor, I'm pretty sure that Will would NEVER let me get away with at least 7 of these words: IPECAC, ISBN, FERULE, ARON, ODDLOT, ICESHEET, ATEMPO, and maybe not even KRONA, ENOL, nor EMI.

I suspect that perhaps the constructor is new, impressed him with the really nice grid and it's harder for folks to make a Monday puzzle (that is Monday in all aspects) than people suspect.

Colbert NATION is another example of this...again I don't think I could have gotten away with cluing Nation this way. WIll would have told me too obscure for a wide audience...

I don't know Mark Milhet but my bet is if he's a younger, hipper/hepper guy, it's perceived as a way to bring the puzzle into this century (cf RICKROLLING which in the past would not have flown as a Monday...)

Not totally bitter (yet!) just trying to shed light on this clearly more difficult puzzle than the standard Monday fare.
:)

Vega 2:55 PM  

@foodie: "But I actually liked the fact that the theme made me stop and think about how many ways there are to describe a change of mind when something is a little scary." -- Is that like the way Eskimos have many words for snow? And what does that say about our culture?

Where I come from, "sedan" refers to a car with a proper trunk, regardless of number of doors, whereas "coupe" refers to a two-door hatchback.

Vaguely challenging but do-able Monday puzzle for me.

-Vega

Greene 2:57 PM  

@Chefbea: And, of course, who could forget Jubilation T. Cornpone (the most famous denizen of Dogpatch, USA)?

XMAN 3:12 PM  

@Daniel Myers:
Well done! Where'd you get the quote?

Snooty is as snooty does. I don't think either of us crossed the line.

chefwen 3:20 PM  

Took me a skosh bit longer than a usual Monday. Only write over was MELT instead of thaw and ATEAM over alist. Other than that it was pretty smooth.

I also didn't get an opportunity to post yesterday (pizza party bash) but I enjoyed the puzzle except for a real AAAAARG moment when I finally took out stole and put in STOLA and stared in disbelief at where it's AT. CMON Caleb, didn't your momma teach you no bedder gramma?

Z.J. Mugildny 3:36 PM  

@william e emba

Prof. Flutesnoot isn't a snoot, he just had a snoot like a flute (and an appropriate last name, to boot).

Now Veronica, she's a bit of a snoot, but when your parents are filthy rich and named Hiram and Hermione, what does one expect?

Daniel Myers 4:05 PM  

@XMAN--I got the quote from the unabridged OED of course---lexicographical SNOOT that I am! No, neither of us crossed the line at all, I would say. My girlfriend thinks I'm a SNOOT for doing the NYT crossword at all. So, in her eyes, we're all SNOOTs!

todd 4:06 PM  

@Rex:

What's with the extended shoutout to Mr. Colbert? Seems somehow untoward, shameless even.

George NYC 4:21 PM  

Isn't ARON famously misspelled on Elvis tombstone as Aaron?

chefbea 4:35 PM  

@ Green. Of course. I had forgotten about him. Now I'll be singing that song for the rest of the day!!!

edith b 5:35 PM  

FERULE prompted a pretty big discussion here a year or so ago. It doesn't seem to me to belong in a Monday puzzle but that's just my opinion. Other than that there were only a couple of oddballs STAYER LEGION that appeared awkward. I looked up SNOOT after I finished the puzzle and it is clued to the secondary definition and therefore fair.

There was not much to this puzzle one way or the other - a fairly typical middle-of-the roader for a Monday with just a couple of rough patches.

ArtLvr 6:20 PM  

@ Foodie -- I too got a kick out of the idea that Darwin and Mendel corresponded, but later heard that Mendel's work found among Darwin's effects after he died seemed to be unread... Darwin's command of German was said to be very poor to non-existent. Too bad!

∑;(

fergus 9:33 PM  

I'm wondering how much tougher this was for the occasional solver? Probably won't find that answer among the crowd here, though, unless some of you network among those who take only the odd tipple.

Anonymous 1:40 AM  

I don't have much to say about this puzzle one way or the other.

This puzzle didn't annoy me nor elate me. It was fine.

Nation could have been clued as a magazine...The Nation.

Kathy D.

Anonymous 6:20 AM  

Just found your site checking the Blixen and Graeme answers for Sunday's puzzle. The Natick problem sounds like sour grapes to me, though. Just because you don't know regional American arcana doesn't make it less valid. That's what makes difficult puzzles so fun and confounding. And educational.

william e emba 10:13 AM  

Isn't ARON famously misspelled on Elvis tombstone as Aaron?Actually, Aaron is the little known correct spelling. Aaron was on his birth certificate from the beginning, but he grew up not knowing this, and spent most of his life spelling his middle name ARON. Near the end, he decided he wanted the more Biblical Aaron, and took steps to change his name, only to discover it was already Aaron all along. Then he died, and the estate, knowing all this, has used Aaron ever since.

I admit, I first learned of the ARON/Aaron controversy from a book "proving" that Elvis faked his death, starting with the alleged mistake on his tombstone. Not that I fell for it, but I only learned the truth about ARON years later from Wikipedia.

For what it's worth, in Hebrew the name is Aharon, but the 'h' got lost because Greek doesn't have a letter for 'h'. (It has aspiration symbols, frequently lost in transliteration.) There is also a Hebrew name ARON, meaning ark (as in Ark of the Covenant, not as in Noah).

william e emba 10:18 AM  

The three massless particles are the PHOTON, the gluon, and the graviton. The gluon has only been seen indirectly (3-jet events, for example) and the graviton exists in theoretical limbo.

I believe we've seen gluon in the grid before.

The neutrino used to be considered massless, but important observations in the 90s showed it had a tiny mass after all.

Anonymous 4:18 PM  

Found this site while searching for FERULES. Also appreciate the Aron/Aaron information - that had me lathered. I'm a newbie and glad to hear that is not the typical Monday puzzle.

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