1964 Tony Randall title role - WEDNESDAY, May 13 2009 - N Kavanaugh (Kiltie's turndown / Having a rought knitted surface)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009





Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "JUST ADD WATER" (58A: Easy preparation instruction ... or a hint to the starts of 20-, 28- and 48-Across) - "WATER" can precede (in familiar phrases) the first word in each of the first three theme answers

Word of the Day: TRURO - Truro is a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States. Located two hours outside Boston, it is a summer vacation community just shy of the tip of Cape Cod. It is named after Truro in Cornwall, United Kingdom. Its name among the natives of Cape Cod was Pamet or Payomet, a name that still refers to an area around the town center known as the Pamet Roads. The population was 2,087 at the 2000 census. Truro comprises two villages: Truro and North Truro. (wikipedia)

My favorite bit of information about TRURO - "The Pilgrims stopped in Truro and Provincetown in 1620 as their original choice for a landing before later declaring the area unsuitable." Unsuitable. Unsuitable. Unsuitable. I have a vague sense of having seen TRURO in a puzzle somewhere before, and I see that there are better than a dozen attestations in the Cruciverb database (though none in the NYT since 2003), but this answer strikes me as horribly provincial and class-biased. Most of the @#$#ing world does not vacation on the cape, and many of us who have (hand raised) have not been to or heard of this place. Which brings me to an important point ... I am happy to (re-)learn of this (very) small resort town, and yet ...

TRURO seems like the kind of thing you throw down when you are desperate - when there is nothing else you can do *and* when the payoff is very high, i.e. it helps you keep something amazing in the grid. There is nothing amazing in this grid. Further, that TRURO section is about the ugliest puzzle section I have seen in the NYT since I started blogging 2.5 years ago. Almost Every Answer In It is something you would not put in your puzzle voluntarily. Compromise answers one and all. Well, everything but ALBINO (43A: Lacking melanin). The whole section is, as the kids are fond of saying, a hot mess. Every Down is less than optimal - a French plural; a Tony Randall role that might be acceptable in a fantastic late-week puzzle, but here seems like laziness masquerading as whimsy (33D: 1964 Tony Randall title role); NUBBY, which ... I don't even know where to begin, esp. crossing TRURO - if you have no clue about TRURO, many vowels seem OK in that "U" spot ... I considered NIBBY and NOBBY at some points (34D: Having a rough knitted surface); and then ARIL, crosswordese of the highest order, and a word that no one puts in a grid unless he/she has to (it happens). I routinely confuse ARIL (seed covering) with ANIL (blue dye), as they are one letter apart and are both words I had never seen until I started doing crosswords. At any rate. How much do you have to love TABLE TENNIS to accept this Dr. Moreauvian mass of unholy nonsense? The western section of this puzzle is like a crowded waiting room at a puzzle answer hospital. "DR. LAO will see you now."

Then there's the rest of the puzzle, which is dull as a post. All for what? Three arbitrary theme answers (the number of potential theme answers must be enormous), only one of which is at all interesting. Oh, and the RIDDLER. I liked that. (46D: "Batman" villain, with "the")

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Spicy bar fare (buffalo wings)
  • 28A: Yellow (lily-livered)
  • 48A: Game to 11 points (table tennis)
How about BOARDING SCHOOL? ... too soon?

The seed answer here - JUST ADD WATER - is cute, and has promise. But the execution ... I've already chatted with a couple constructors about this one, and I'd love to hear from others. Between that western section and the generally lazy fill, I just don't understand how this puzzle got through.

Bullets:

  • 25A: Ceremonial utterance ("I do") - nice fresh clue on that familiar answer
  • 9A: Like a teddy bear (fuzzy) - snuck two Zs up there - also nice
  • 24A: It may have orchids or plumerias (lei) - more snazzing up of tired answers
  • 36A: Kiltie's turndown ("nae") - "Kiltie" sounds like an ethnic slur
  • 40A: Baseball bigwigs, for short (GMs) - General Managers. THEO Epstein and Brian CASHMAN are the GMs of the Red Sox and Yankees, respectively. I tell you this because they seem like reasonably fair game for the puzzle.
  • 25D: Certain Oriental rug maker (Irani) - and OMANI ... in the same puzzle ... there's phoning it in, and then there's ... whatever this is.
  • 29D: Internet annoyance (lag) - so many possibilities ... this one (though it happens to me a lot) was not at the top of my list. I didn't even know it had a formal name.
  • 54D: America's Cup entrant (yacht) - I take mine to TRURO, where I am fond of summering (... sorry, that was Bizarro Me ... she's gone now)
  • 44D: Siouan speakers (Otos) - stupid mind-of-their-own fingers typed UTES.
  • 58D: Mitchell who wrote and sang "Chelsea Morning" (Joni) - ah, something to like:



  • 60D: Jean Arp's movement (Dada) - ARP is a bit of crosswordese that I Never tire of.

To end on a positive note - two things:

1. Today is my grandmother's birthday. As some of you know, she was the first person I ever saw work a crossword - my earliest crosswording model - and is surely in some genetic way responsible for whatever it is I'm doing here with this blog. She's an amazing, independent woman who makes people 20-30 years younger than she is seem doddering. So Happy Birthday, Grandma.

2. I got a wonderful email from a reader the other day, one that contained an anecdote that I thought was so adorable, I asked her if I could post it here. She kindly agreed. ... the only thing you need to know, for the purposes of context, is that Will Weng was the editor of the NYT crossword from 1968-78:

Hey, I so much enjoy your opinions and comments on the puzzle [...] I do not cheat and use your answers at all as I have done the puzzle for many, many years BUT after I finish, I love to see your pictures and read your comments about the people featured in the puzzle. I will tell you a story. I had a male friend I met at a bar when I was 23 after graduating from Smith College in Northampton, Mass. We both discovered that we always did the NYTimes puzzle so we decided to compete. He lived in Boston. I taught school in Larchmont, NY and we said that the first one that finished the Sunday puzzle would call the other collect and say "This is Will Weng speaking" and, of course, the call was not accepted but it meant that he or she [me!] was the winner! Well, I kept losing until I figured out I could buy the secondary section of the paper Saturday night, living close to NYC, and be able to work on the puzzle all night long !! I was able to call him collect in Boston at 7AM and say "I am Will Weng"!! Sunday after Sunday!

That man is my husband and we both still compete every Sunday! Thank you


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS for a puzzle with a similar theme type, but twice as much meat, see today's LAT puzzle. Orange's write-up here.

110 comments:

dk 8:25 AM  

Rex sugar coats his review again. I just wish for once you would say what you really feel about a puzzle. All this dithering about times past on the cape....

My bile (note clever reference to liver) was not raised by this submission. I did not get the JUSTADDWATER relationship to the other clues. It seems as far fetched as my posts.

All was FORGIVEN as I love the 7 Faces of DRLAO, NABOB always makes me think of Spiro Agnew and the adage 'time wounds all heels," and last but not least ONECUBIT is some original fill (IMHO).

In sum, while Rex may view this puzzle as the dead mouse on the country's kitchen floor (loose association with NABOB as I think that was how James Kilpatrick referred to Nixon) I thought it was fine.

Perhaps another SOY latte, yes I think I will.

Kurt 8:38 AM  

I wasn't overly fond of the puzzle, but I didn't experience the heartburn that Rex apparently did.I thought that it was just OK. I did like DR LAO, ONE CUBIT & NABOB. But the rest was sorta blah.

The best part of my morning was the story at the end of Rex's post. "This is Will Weng calling" was absolutely priceless. Thanks to both Rex and the delightful Mystery Lady.

deerfencer 8:38 AM  

Geez, man, what did they put in your coffee this am? Sorry, Rex, but I found this one fun, maybe in part because I've been to Truro and love that part of the Cape (no, not wealthy, and have never been on a yacht; a bicycle is my preferred mode of transport on the Cape). Methinks you're getting way too crotchety, technical and a bit mean-tempered when it comes to what's supposed to be a lighthearted distraction from the daily grind. I'd suggest trying the next size up in undershorts the next time you find yourself railing against the universe when you're supposed to be enjoying a silly crossword puzzle.

JannieB 8:49 AM  

Liked the anecdote more than the puzzle. Theme was clever but there are so many better choices. I knew Truro - it's one major traffic jam during the summer - and found the fill easy. Some nice new clues but overall - meh.

Bob Kerfuffle 8:53 AM  

Now I know for certain that I will never be a speed solver. I had a few minutes of enforced idleness this morning, so I tried doing this terribly easy puzzle without most of the usual distractions. It still took me almost 12 minutes!

A third to a half of that time was spent in the far NW. I very confidently put the CUBS in first place (seems that would mean more if I cared at all about baseball) and then just as confidently threw in IOOC for 14 A, Summer Games org. What a wonderful piece of crosswordese IOOC is! And how wrong it was, but as sometimes happens, I was so committed to it that the obvious problems did not resolve easily.

It didn’t help that 17 A, Certain mortgage, briefly, seemed open to GNMA or variants on Fannie Mae or whatever the Wall Street geniuses dreamt up in the last few years.

Other than that, barely a hesitation, and yet -- 12 minutes!

retired_chemist 8:55 AM  

I’m with the gruntled group on this one. Best of the week so far. Fun theme, some interesting fill. Learned more stuff than on Mon and Tue. Played intramural table tennis in college – game was 21 points then, so I was surprised it is now 11. I presume the USOC approved or, if not, couldn’t NEGATE the change.

Laughed at 39D ONE CUBIT – a unit about as precise as yesterday’s LUMP. Or maybe less. Wikipedia mentions inter aliathe Egyptian Royal Cubit and the Sumerian Nippur cubit – each 20 in. or so. Close to 18, but still…. Hey, I’M NO expert. There are some cubits that are way different.

Never heard of DR. LAO (33D) but the crosses demanded it. Needed TRURO for the R. TRURO is about 2 hr 14 min from Natick, BTW. The DR LAO/TRURO cross is even closer.

Tried as a stretch @ 40D when it was ?E?E? to make it NEGEV. Eilat in the Negev is actually on the Red Sea. Got the Y from 28A LILY LIVERED, and thus fixed 40D to YEMEN in short order.

Glitch 8:56 AM  

Never having been to The Cape, much less Truro, lost major time wandering around Natick looking for a Tony Randall film festival.

Other than that, it was an unremarkable trip today.

.../Glitch

George NYC 8:59 AM  

I'm with Rex on this one. Water BUFFALO? Water TABLE? Even water LILY seems like a stretch. I mean, what a strange, meaningless theme. And I'm sorry, but nobody, least of all someone who has been to Truro, calls an America's Cup entrant a YACHT. Maybe back in the day of Sir Thomas Lipton's J-Boats you could get away with that term, but in my neck of the ocean, a yacht is something that you could conceivably sleep on. An America's Cup boat is a specialized vessel designed for one thing: racing in that specific contest. I say: no wet bar = no yacht.
Truro, however, is a pretty well known Cape town. That and its neighbor Wellfleet is where all the New York City shrinks go in August. Or so I am told... Lilylivered? When was the last time you saw that term? And to (partially) build a puzzle around it? Ugh.

Crosscan 9:03 AM  

So how far is it from TRURO to Natick?

Doug 9:15 AM  

This puzzle kind of stunk. I have nothing kind to say about it. Rex, enough already on Truro. I've never heard of TABLETENNIS to 11. It's always to 21, at least to the TT experts I've asked. LILYLIVERED? God, the last time I heard that was in a Maverick re-run. BAG for avocation? Nobody's used that expression since Nixon was president. EDNA Ferber should be banned form X-words forever. Talk about overused. She appears every week it seems. I could go on.....

talip 9:16 AM  

Amazingly I had Touro, R.I., the site of the first synagogue which has also been depicted on a postage stamp, confused with Truro. So I got it correct right off the bat for all the wrong reasons.

Dough 9:17 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug 9:17 AM  

Postscript to George: You're absolutely right about yacht. I'm a sailor and got stuck there. BTW, if you're ever in San Diego, get a ride on Stars and Stripes. It's the best 100 bucks you'll ever spend on the water. Wait till you take the helm on that boat. We hit 12.7 knots -- faster than any 12 meter ever went.

retired_chemist 9:21 AM  

@ Crosscan - I already told you that! 2 hr 14 min. Don't remember Google maps's mileage though.

@ Doug - I told you that too. TT games are to 11, not to 21, now. I looked up the rules.

Chorister 9:34 AM  

The worst thing about this whole experience was being reminded that I took my first crack at a NYT puzzle in the Will Weng era. I was very young, but still.

On the other hand, courting one's future husband over the puzzle and a fake collect call is priceless.

When did they change table tennis to 11 points? I haven't played since Will Weng days.

The puzzle itself was not water torture, but already I've forgotten the couple things I liked in it.

SethG 9:37 AM  

TRURO/DRLAO can't really be a (violation of The) Natick (Principle), but only because the R is inferable. Though I had a helluva time inferring it--DxLAO even made me consider whether there might be such a thing as STY milk. 1964 you say? Starring Tony Randall as an elderly Chinese man? Whatever, dude.

I wanted it to be Tauro, maybe because of Taurus and Taupo.

Table tennis scoring changed from 21- to 11-point games and they made the ball bigger after the 2000 Olympics. To make it a better spectator sport. Volleyball scoring is sometimes different now, too.

You know who are lily-livered? Varmints.

PhillySolver 9:38 AM  

Guess you could say this one was a few cubits short of an Ark. No, really, we have had four relative easy puzzles in a row and I am fine with that after the past two challenging weekend sets. This blog is great for the opinions we share. I'll miss it for the next ten days while the grand children are here. I find getting dressed before noon a challenge so the crossword puzzles may stack up.
PS I remain married despite crosswords, so thanks for the story with another point of view.

Lisa in Kingston 9:41 AM  

What a sweet gem from one of your readers, Rex. Thanks for including it. Helped me forget this puzzle was a real stinker.
I am so tired of seeing 59D "a pop." Do people still say that?

joho 9:43 AM  

This is definitely one of those times for me when Rex's comments are the best thing about the puzzle. "The western section of this puzzle is like a crowded waiting room at a puzzle answer hospital. 'DR LAU will see you now'" is brilliant.

The Grandmother story warmed my heart: happy birthday!

The Will Weng story made my day.

So even with a "stinker" of a puzzle, this Wednesday turned out better than usual.

Thanks, Rex!

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

Rex. Go outside. It's a beautiful day (at least it is here..). Just leave your Trurian woes behind you...

Norm 9:44 AM  

You obviously haven't played with enough toys, Rex. I had TRURO right off from the Thomas the Tank Engine locomotive City of Truro. Didn't think the puzzle was all that bad.

VaBeach puzzler 9:47 AM  

I have a soft spot for anything on the Cape. Lived there for a year, back in the '70s, in the town of Falmouth, village of Teaticket -- right next to a cranberry bog. How can you not love a place called Teaticket? The original name was probably Tataket, Wampanoag Indian word for "main tidal stream." Brits (or ex-Brits) love their tea so I guess they put their own spin on it.
An artist friend sent us a letter in an envelope with only our last name and drawings of a messy cord of wood (our street was Tanglewood), a teabag, a ticket ("admit one"), a priest performing Mass, and our zip code -- and we got it!

XMAN 9:50 AM  

Y'all can kvetch all you want. This was my fastest Wednesday, even though I misread "Kittie's turndown" for "Kiltie's turndown" for awhile.

I had a good outing--me, me. me. me....

PIX 9:51 AM  

KENT: "A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited,
hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking knave, a whoreson,
glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue;..."
KING LEAR ACTII,SCENEII

ArtLvr 9:56 AM  

What a hoot! One guy's gimme is not another's BAG, and vice versa. I enjoyed this puzzle, and the only place that slowed me up was the NW corner.

∑;)

PIX 9:57 AM  

Agree with Rex that area involving Truro,etats, DrLao is a bit of a mess for a Wednesday. Disagree with Rex overall: seemed an average, if uninspiring, Wednesday.

mac 10:09 AM  

I simply want to chew on my Wednesday puzzle a little longer - this one was done in no time.
No problem with Truro, which was a good thing because I needed that first R. Never heard of Dr. Lao.
@SethG: sty crossed my mind, too.... My only problem was USOC/boffo. Just a lucky guess with that o.

Thanks for the write-up, Grandma's story, the Weng anecdote and all you funny commenters!

Z.J. Mugildny 10:15 AM  

"There is nothing amazing in this grid. Further, that TRURO section is about the ugliest puzzle section I have seen in the NYT since I started blogging 2.5 years ago."

Hear, hear, Rex.

Margaret 10:31 AM  

I enjoyed today's puzzle. LILY-LIVERED made me laugh out loud. I can forgive a puzzle a lot if it accomplishes that. I have a great fondness for NUBBY sweaters so that word came easily. I didn't know about the Mass. TRURO but inferred it from the UK one.

We have a yellow water lily already blooming in our back yard pond...

twangster 10:35 AM  

What an inspirational story -- so the lady managed to gain an unfair advantage in her crossword contest while simultaneously abusing the phone company (both repeatedly).

Two Ponies 10:35 AM  

I'm with Rex all the way on this boring mess of a puzzle.
Maybe my knickers are too tight or I didn't have enough toys as a child but this one was a waste of time.
I'm not sure but I think calling a Scotsman a Kiltie might be a good way to get your ass kicked.
Not knowing Truro and the synonymous nubby vs nobby left me with an error. No sour grapes just a lame puzzle.
However, the lovely anecdote wiped all of that away. Wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it Rex.

Ulrich 10:44 AM  

I'm shaking my head in disbelief: People can really get hot under the collar about a %^&* xword puzzle? I guess they don't have bigger bigger fish to fry...

I'm fond of "lily-livered" from way back, when my wife and I took a vacation on St. Vincent and some scuba lessons there. On our third dive, we were supposed to go 10' deep, and she balked. I called her a "lily-livered yellow belly", which made such an impression that she not only went with us, but actually had fun. Admittedly, it doesn't beat the Weng story, but it's the only story I've got in connection with today's puzzle...

...aside from the fact that I join friends at the Cape every summer in their rented house in Wellsfleet, which is next to Truro, which therefore was a gimmie, which therefore made the now infamous Western part of the puzzle less offensive to me, which on the other hand doesn't mean any one of us is rich.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 10:44 AM  

Wonderful, wonderful story. Crosswords bringing people together! Who knew?

Also, I feel this theme's gimmick is (a) played out and (b) seems completely arbitrary. I already covered this on my blog here.

Finally, here is a proposal for a TRURO-free corner.

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

Watched the summer olympics from China last fall and all of the ping pong games I saw went to 21 or more. 21 it is. Golfballman

guitargirl 10:45 AM  

I liked this puzzle just fine, maybe because of the yummy BUFFALO WINGS. Instead of LILY LIVERED, I prefer LILY MUNSTER cuz Mrs. Munster is a cool lady

Elaine 10:47 AM  

Hi: Totally agree with Rex and those who did not like this puzzle, except that I didn't find it easy! The same section that really annoyed Rex shot me down -- I didn't know Truro, couldn't find my way to Nabob/One cubit, and "BAG" as slang for avocation is even older than I am!

Yuck.

Anne 10:59 AM  

This truly is an amazing puzzle; I've seldom seem such diverse views and such adamant ones to boot.

I'm on the gruntled side (I stole that phrase from an earlier post because I like it). I also liked the theme because I did not expect it. I was tickled, in fact.

So bravo, Nancy.

Campesite 11:00 AM  

Whoa, BEQ's revised corner is killer! Rambo crossing Ono! Nice!

Hoople 11:08 AM  

@ Free Lunch from Monday's comments.

Since this is Wednesday, and not Monday, would you agree that the lion's share of today's comments have a Niobe quality about them?

:-)

FYI, I would never say that on a Monday, or even a Tuesday, but by Wednesday - midweek and beyond - Niobe is fair game.

treedweller 11:11 AM  

@BEQ How would ELOAN be clued? I never heard or saw that one. I still agree this is an improvement, since it's all gettable from crosses. DRLAO/TRURO was just too much for me (especially because, like Rex, I always confuse anil/aril). I can't tell you all how far I am from the Cape, both physically and metaphorically. Well, I could tell you how far physically, but I won't.

Interesting that, even for an expert, getting rid of some bad fill leads to net another Ono sighting.

Otherwise, I did not find this puzzle to be so bad. I'm not raving about it, but it was okay.

treedweller 11:13 AM  

OMG, I just looked up ELOAN and found E-Loan. If that's what was intended, I retract my approval of the rewrite. Enough already with the e-xxxx stuff.

which reminds me of this

Morgan 11:20 AM  

I think TRURO is the worst word I've ever seen in a crossword puzzle. No one in the universe who does not live in Massachusetts or visit the Cape could possibly know this. I've been to the Cape (albeit 19 years ago, when I was 5) and geography is arguably my strongest suit, and I have never even seen the name written before. Ridiculous.

On the plus side, if this puzzle can get through, maybe one of the two I submitted to Will a few weeks ago stands a shot!

chefbea 11:29 AM  

I found nothing wrong with the puzzle and did it rather quickly. Never heard of lilylivered though. Have friends in Wellfleet so Truro was a gimme.

@rex thanks for that wonderful story - how sweet.

Seemed like an awful lot of u's in the puzzle - 7

Yummm Buffalo wings!!!

jeff in chicago 11:32 AM  

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzSNORTzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzACKzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzGRUNTzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

PlantieBea 11:33 AM  

I thought I had finished but after coming here realized I had missed a letter--the R in TRURO/DR LAO crossing. Blah--a Natick for me.

I wondered about the America's Cup boat, thinking 12 meter; then threw down J-BOAT which left me stuck in the SW for a good long while.

I did like OPAL under Just ADD WATER, nattering NABOB, and the answer LILY LIVERED, but the Rex write-up with anectdotes was more fun.

SethG 11:37 AM  

Golfballman? Here are some e-scores. Maybe you watched beach volleyball?

bookmark 11:39 AM  

What I liked about this puzzle and the comments is that I learned a new word--- TRURO. That's what draws me to crosswords.

Easy way to distinguish ANIL from ARIL: ANIL is blue, as in Navy blue.

jae 11:43 AM  

Easy here too, although I had trouble getting out of the NW because of IOOC (like Bob K). Knew DRLAO but needed my New England born bride to confirm TRURO because I too confuse ANIL and ARIL (maybe I won't in the future?). Didn't love it but didn't hate it, kinda of a meh Wed.

Rex Parker 11:52 AM  

@bookmark,

So Navy blue, and not Royal blue. Gotcha.

rp

jeff in chicago 11:53 AM  

Here's some table tennis meets the Matrix video that I found very entertaining. I wonder if Will's game is like this.

Shamik 11:54 AM  

Best part of today's puzzle was the write-up and the comments here. All you lily-livered varmints have made MY day.

Easiest Wednesday for me ever at 4:26.

william e emba 11:54 AM  

DR LAO was easy enough to guess from a few crosses, since I am familiar with the original Charles Finney novel The Circus of Dr. Lao, famously illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff.

But I had filled in NOBBY, not NUBBY, so I had TRORO, not TRURO. It seems NUBBY=KNOBBY, but NOBBY is a whole different word.

I had one humorous mistake that slowed me down a bit. For "Group of thousands, maybe" I filled in C--- with Cult, not CAST.

HudsonHawk 12:04 PM  

I actually had ANIL at first, but I'm familiar with TRURO, so that was easily corrected. FWIW, the town is fairly prominently featured in the early part of Men In Black II. Agent K is the postmaster of Truro in his civilian life.

Overall, Rex's rant was better than the puzzle. I'd hoped the answer to 9D might get us a Clint Eastwood/Gene Hackman/Richard Harris clip from unFORGIVEN. Oh, well.

Karen 12:06 PM  

I had no problem today getting TRURO. :) They have a nice vineyard there. And a great spices store, the Atlantic Spice Company. They're even in the Boston news today for a police shoot-out.

I was asking one of my patients today where we were, to check his alertness. He said we were in Teaticket; I gave him full credit, but pointed out that Teaticket is technically across the street from us.

I found it a quite easy puzzle altogether. Didn't really look at the theme. I loved LILY-LIVERED. And Brendan, I would rather have Truro than E-loans.

Orange 12:07 PM  

@Twangster: Ah, yes. Ma Bell in the '70s. The monopoly that was so bad, it had to be broken up. Forgive me if I cannot summon up any third-hand regrets for anyone sneaking free messages past Ma Bell, as long-distance calls were ridiculously expensive back in the day (and the phone company reaped the profits). Loved the anecdote, Rex!

capesunset105 12:29 PM  

perhaps by my screenname you can guess i had no issue with TRURO! I 2nd the Atlantic Spice Co in Truro, a fun stop on the way to/from Ptown. I don't hate any puzzle i learn something from and now i know what a NONET is.

mac 1:17 PM  

@bookmark and Rex: LOL re navy and royal! Anil isn't a problem for me, a family friend went to Africa to do research on her book about it (Catherine E. McKinley).

I think ChefBea would agree with me that adding water to the Buffalo wings would ruin them.

Anonymous 1:22 PM  

Well outside of penning in TRUDO instead of TRURO, this puzzle was fun; and that's what puzzles are all about. I was in the Cape for a week in 2001... so the town name was a little hazy. "Ceremonial utterance" hardly sounds like person in question is enthused about getting hitched.

jimweed 1:50 PM  

a bit validating to read your comments rex. frustrating puzzle. more challenging than most "easy-medium" wednesdays i've worked on.

Anonymous 2:05 PM  

Orange, your indictment of Ma Bell is simplistic. ATT's was a federally sanctioned monopoly (because otherwise there's no way a company could have afforded to string that much cable and buy that many right-of-ways) that came with a federal mandate of universal service--i.e., no matter where you lived, ATT had to get a phone line to you. ATT also had limitations on its profits built into the mandate. It's true that long distance service was hugely expensive--that's the only place ATT could make any money. The breakup of ATT may or may not have been a good thing, but ATT was not an evil company by any means.

mexgirl 2:09 PM  

Oooooh, what a great story! (that of Will Weng calling). Thanks for sharing.
And happy birthday to your grandma!

archaeoprof 2:10 PM  

ARIL/Anil got me today. How about ARIL has an R as in root, which comes from a seed?

Blue Stater 2:14 PM  

For once I disagree with you, Rex (for once, that is, where you are negative and I'm kinda sorta positive). But I'm pleased to see your feisty willingness to be critical of these puzzles. The rant, as someone observed above, was lots better than the puzzle itself.

I thought this one was sort of blah, not particularly interesting, though it had its moments. The most irksome aspect of this puzzle, I found, was the "theme," which really wasn't a theme at all, a consideration entirely extrinsic to the puzzle itself. But I've seen a lot worse, which in the present environment is high praise.

mexgirl 2:30 PM  

Hey Brendan! I like your revision much better too. I hated that TRURO/DRLAO crossing...For some reason I keep thinking of the French carol "Touro-louro-louro!", since I've never been to the Cape...either.

Anonymous 2:49 PM  

Another corner proposal, which gets rid of TRURO ... and ONECUBIT (only Noah will miss it):

....
SPAN.
KARAT.
AGATHA.
TABLETENNIS.
ENS.BMX..
...JUSTADDWATER
PALER.
BLURB.
JACKS.

(Hard to read. That's THE BURBS at 39D.)

toothdoc 2:52 PM  

Definitely gruntled with the puzzle. For some reason I solved the theme answer first then went back and got BUFFALO WINGS, since I have heard of both Water Buffalo and Water Wings (kids arm floaties) I expected the other theme answers to have 2 uses for "water" answers - that would have made the puzzle more enjoyable. California section definitely a Natick moment for me.

andrea truro michaels 2:53 PM  

The return of the MalAPOP!!!
I actually put in REPEL where DETER was and then REPEL appeared.

(There, I just used up my excitement over this puzzle...)

Actually, I liked LILYLIVERED a LOT...
As for the objectionable corner, somehow I mixed up TRURO with a Swedish fishing village in CA so like
@TALIP, I was right for the wrong reasons (We still need a name for that!)

@Doug
like YACHT, it paradoxically helps sometimes to have LESS knowledge so YACHT seemed fine...
that's how I feel on those science clues that others here parse...
it only bugs you if you know more than the constructor, editor, test-solvers, et al!

@Sethg
That is funny about STY...
I had S_Y also and was fascinated how many words could fit as I tried to make a connection with milk thinking SLY? SKY? STY? SPY?
I hadn't even considered vowels!
(DR LAO a complete unknown to me... since I had the ---A- initially, I thought at first OscAr and that they had made a mistake, bec he was Felix!
That's how much I didn't know DRLAO!)

@BEQ
PB2 and I had a knockdown fight over ELOAN, which I didn't want in a joint effort...I'm not even sure how it was resolved!

But I do think TABLETENNIS there did probably blind Will to everything else around it...
(WATERTABLE is hardly exciting or common...)
I think it was a clever ruse on NAncy Kavanaugh's part...
it'd be like putting HOMERSIMPSON in a puzzle for Rex or SCRABBLE crossing ACME for me...

Doc John 3:21 PM  

Nice write up, Rex. Visiting Miami, I had breakfast at an IHOP today and thought of you. Loved the anecdote. Happy b-day to your grandmother.
Interesting that TRURO and Natick are in the same state.
@ George in NYC- LOVE your definition of a yacht!

foodie 3:51 PM  

First thing that struck me is that the grid today looks like the mirror image of the grid yesterday. Ulrich is rubbing off on me...

Second thing I thought was the theme had to do with chicken, since I had WINGS and LIVER before getting the rest of the theme answers. So TABLE TENNIS really threw me of a loop!

I hope Ms. Kavanaugh has a good sense of humor and thinks, as I do, that Rex's post was truly funny. As someone who receives critiques on a regular basis (grant writing, publications, talks) my secret desire is always for either unblemished admiration or straight up hatred. Because the latter sounds less objective, and therefore is clearly a matter of personal taste. It makes me laugh and burdens me less. What I despise is the damming with faint praise variety. But I know I'm weird.

I also like the sweet and sour flavor of the post today. All of this will make this puzzle more memorable for me. In particular, TRURO is etched right beside NATICK.

foodie 3:54 PM  

Erratum: Damning : ) Damn!

jae 3:59 PM  

For future reference ANIL is also the first name of one of the stars of Slumdog Millionaire, and was clued as such by Frank Longo in last Sunday's puzzle in the San Diego Union Tribune.

chefwen 4:11 PM  

I guess this is a love it or hate it kind of a day. I'm in the love it catagory. Had never heard of TRURO but filled it easily with the downs. Probably one of my fastest Wednesdays.

Hey, Chefbea, what do you think we can concoct with WINGS, LIVER, WATER, PESTO, and SOY?

andrea aril michaels 4:11 PM  

or you could imagine a seed up your butt...oh wait, that would be ARIL.
Nevermind ;)

chefbea 4:16 PM  

@chefwen we could have wings in a pesto sauce
Liver marinated in soy sauce
and to drink.. a glass of water. - I would
add some scotch to mine!!

Crosscan 4:17 PM  

I've decided that TRONO/NOBBY/ANIL is right, and no LILY-LIVERED DIVA can dispute it.

Charles Bogle 4:26 PM  

I agree w @Elaine--agree w Rex's assessment BUT did not find it easy!


I got bogged down in the Middle East section. Could not get DETER 26D. Stayed too long w DEKED and KIDS instead of SIRS for 47A. That led me to some interesting concepts, like EMOK instead of EGOS and REMAKE instead of NEGATE and that was when I knew I could not complete on my own...

...the add water theme fell flat for me; didn't hold water?

A STAIR is a "Flight part"? Don't get it

Even in only just two months, have seen lots better and more clever on Weds.. On to tomorrow!

Anonymous 4:33 PM  

@Charles - A flight of stairs.

XMAN 4:47 PM  

Look, I hate to burst bubbles--except when I can. I just googled America's Cup yachts and--ta-da--that what those boats are called.

edith b 5:37 PM  

Hohum puzzle, hohum theme. The theme itself (Water buffalo, water lily, water table)was explicit enough for a Wednesday and the fill was a mix of good NABOB and bad TRURO.

I didn't have nearly the problem in the West that Rex had but that's just me knowing TRURO and DRLAO, a matter of my having MY knowledge and Rex having HIS.

Clark 5:50 PM  

I liked TRURO. It is the setting of Norman Mailer's, Tough Guys Don't Dance. (Both the book and, I believe, the movie.) Funny how it seems that if I know something like that, then at least 25% of people must also.

George NYC 5:57 PM  

@ XMAN
I'm guessing you don't live near the ocean. It's all about context. As I said in my comment, the early America's Cup boats (J Class) were in fact yachts. In recent history, the boats have had to meet exacting specifications that are completely non-yacht-like (except for a few years when they threw the rules out and a catamaran [the antithesis of a yacht] won by a mile. My point is there are much better ways to clue YACHT. Such as: "something you can't afford if you need to ask the price of." Or: "something that makes you happy twice: the day you buy it and the day you sell it." Or "what Katherine Hepburn called yar in 'A Philadelphia Story.'" Calling a America's Cup boat a yacht is akin to calling a Formula One car a motor vehicle. It's technically correct but just wrong.

Clark 6:13 PM  

@George NYC --

I'm with XMAN on this. You're right that America's Cup boats are not what we ordinarily think of as yachts, but that is what they are called. And they are called that so frequently that hearing America's Cup might well conjure up Yacht, even in those of us who know that the America's Cup boats are not yachts.

XMAN 6:16 PM  

@GeorgeNYC:

I'm betting you're not from the Bronx. We ex-Bronxites keep current on all issues, for one, the appropriateness of "yacht" anent the Amer. Cup: I quote from Wikipedia: "The sport attracts top sailors and yacht designers....Although the most salient aspect of the regatta is its yacht races...."

I do, however, agree that your suggestions are more clever. However, and perhaps you could clarify, "yar" does not appear in my Webster's II, although I got the meaning from the context and the tone of KH's usage.

Ulrich 6:17 PM  

@foodie: I'm flattered.

Now I'm waiting for my newly-found sensitivity to cheater squares to rub off: Yesterday's puzzle had two, by my count (I took them as birthday gifts), while today's has none. Not sure this will make a difference for the disgruntled crowd...

Christopher 6:24 PM  

I didn't like this puzzle much, my biggest trouble was writing IOOC in 14A, as I see many of us did.

Just a point of interest, my copy of the puzzle, printed from the Times Digest, has "Having a rough, knotted surface," instead of "Having a rough, knitted surface." Did they make a mistake and run two versions of the clue?

George NYC 6:40 PM  

@XMAN: From Webster online: yar \ˈyär\ a: characterized by speed and agility : nimble, lively b: handy 1c,

As this blog has shown over and over, the Web and Google and Wikipedia are not always authoritative. One of the great things about this blog is that it draws upon the knowledge of many, something that is particularly useful when dealing with the English language, which has more words than any other language and words that often have subtle variations in meaning.

@ Clark
The logic of your comment confounds me. It's like you're saying you have a brother named Ned, but he's often mistakingly called Fred. So often, in fact, that you have stopped correcting people who call Ned "Fred." Taking that logic to an extreme would result in clues like: 4A: Any four letter word.

chefbea 6:47 PM  

@christopher I get my puzzle from the times digest and the clue was "having a rough knotted surface"

Kathy 7:01 PM  

I have a philosophical question on crosswords related to the Natick principle and today's Truro entry. Why are we expected to know a bazillion rivers in Europe, Popes and their Roman numerals, award nominees from movies in the 1930s, showtunes from all decades, but Massachusetts towns are off-limits?

I understand that it's all about the crosses, but sometimes crosses don't help too much when it's the AARE or LEOIV, especially in late-week puzzles. I know Wednesday is not late week, but still...

Kathy

XMAN 7:05 PM  

@George NYC: Thanks for clarification of yar. I'm still mostly a print-on-paper person. From now on I'll doublecheck with an on-line dictionary.

XMAN 7:08 PM  

@ kathy: You know, that's a really good point!

George NYC 7:12 PM  

@xman
Odd that such an out-of-usage word is in the online edition but not the print, and presumedly older, edition.

@kathy
Agree. Though I also think some NY bias is at work here. Truro relatively well known as a summer retreat.

Clark 7:27 PM  

@George NYC -- It's more like saying I have a brother named Fred who calls himself Ned. In that case I would say that we might sometimes call him Fred and sometimes Ned. But really we are talking about the reverse of this, a case in which a word has two (closely related) meanings. You seem to think that a word can have only one meaning, which must give you all kinds of trouble.

XMAN 7:38 PM  

@George NYC: Odd, indeed! I noticed that,too, but forgot to mention it.

You and Clark seem to be playing a game of choosing, like when each player places a hand on the neck of a bat until the last one just squeezes in a thumb and a pinky.

Anonymous 7:39 PM  

Boys, boys: you're both pretty.

George NYC 7:42 PM  

This is my last post, I promise.

But I can't let you state the exact opposite of what I stated:
Here's what I wrote: [English] has more words than any other language and words that often have subtle variations in meaning

The issue for me all along has to do with cluing, not meaning per se. I think I made that clear. The goal of crossword clues is to lead the solver to the single, correct answer, "le mot juste"(especially after Monday/Tuesday). This clue reads like a misdirection, but it isn't. But I think we've split this hair enough.

Over and out.

joho 8:24 PM  

@Ulrich ... perhaps I took your "taken as birthday gifts" too literally ... but, just in case it's your birthday: HAPPY!

mac 8:38 PM  

@Kathy: I haven't heard Rex complain about obscure little towns in California when they show up in the NYT crossword puzzle (he grew up there). I just go with the flow, try to get it from crosses, guess a little.

Orange 8:40 PM  

Brendan Quigley's working on a book of Harvard football crosswords, and I'm the designated proofing/editing/test-solving lackey. 90 years ago Eddie Casey played ball for Harvard, and he was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. His nickname? "Natick Eddie."

As in "Don't be such a Natick Eddie. Everyone else loves Dr. Lao and summers in Truro."

Every time I encounter T*URO in a puzzle, I want it to be TOURO, a university. It keeps being TRURO instead

michael 8:50 PM  

I agree with Rex on this one. I was all set to gripe about drlao/truro [on a Wednesday!] and managed to make the anil/aril mistake (but that's just lack of memory on my part).

Usually I like geography clues, but Truro got me even though I spend a lot of time at the other end of the state.

foodie 8:56 PM  

@Orange, yes, I too want Touro, but I think of Touro Infirmary which is like the Mayo Clinic of New Orleans. It's over 150 years old and quite distinguished. Truman Capote was born there. Maybe someday it will make an appearance!

I love the NYC vs. ex-Bronx conversation. George, where in NYC are you from?

Anonymous 9:02 PM  

Poor Truro! Arguably the prettiest, least developed town on the Cape, it's done nothing to deserve the voluminous venom spewing from the peanut galley disgruntled here.

The next to the last town on the outer Cape (just before the aberration that is Provincetown), Truro is a sleepy, heavenly biking/hiking mecca, and perhaps the last best thing about the Cape.

Rex's loss if he doesn't know it--he sure as hell does after today! ;-)

Ulrich 9:48 PM  

@joho: Thx--I meant what I said--it was yesterday.

George NYC 9:48 PM  

@foodie
You're opening a can o' worms here! I am ex-Boston, long-time Manhattan-ite, still loyal to Red Sox. But don't tell XMAN! Ooops....

dk 10:57 PM  

@kathy, In psychologist school we learn not to try to make sense of nonsense (as in philosophical aspects of x-words) it just makes you head hurt and as the old joke goes angers the pig.

@george NYC as a long time Manhattan-ite before relocating to the mighty midwest, it was to my shame that my mother was a Red Sox fan. My plan is to get with @xman to begin your treatment.

fikink 11:06 PM  

@anon 9:02, I think what spewed from the "galley" was about the word YACHT, not TRURO :)

Ellen 12:15 AM  

The NUBBY clue had a typo of "knitted" instead of the intended "knotted" which was found after the puzzles were distributed. Everyone was notified of the correction, but apparently the file for Across Lite didn't get changed. Actually, it did get changed, but somehow was not recopied to the right place on the server. Or something like that. Anyway, I believe it's fixed now.

JC 12:52 AM  

"Boarding School"...can't believe no one commented on it. While it may be too soon, I for one found it hilarious. Keep up the excellent work

Nebraska Doug 5:21 AM  

I've played a lot of "ping pong" in my life and we always played to 21, so I very surprised to find table tennis in this puzzle for "game played to eleven". Went to http://www.tabletennis.gr/rules.asp and found this, "A game shall be won by the player or pair first scoring 11 points unless both players or pairs score 10 points, when the game shall be won by the first player or pair subsequently gaining a lead of 2 points." Who knew? I've been playing it wrong all these years! I don't think I'm going to change now.

TimeTraveller 11:15 PM  

So there's a Truro near Natick --who knew? Truro the Hub of Nova Scotia, sure. Truro where you can get a roasted Cornish game hen, of course. But some bayside town crossed by any vowel in a made-up word? NATICK, NATICK, NATICK.

And Crosscan, where are you? Construct: cross Truro with Canso. See how Shortz likes a tiny expansion of his northeastern provincialism. Or really challenge him: cross Uclulet with Sooke.

Crosscan 12:12 AM  

@time traveler: Uclulet and Sooke and throw in Saanich.

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