Two-time president of Romania — FRIDAY, Aug. 28 2009 — Memorable 1968 movie villain / Jazz-loving TV sleuth 1950s-'60s / Destroyer in 2000 headlines

Friday, August 28, 2009

Constructor: David Quarfoot

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Ion ILIESCU (13D: Two-time president of Romania)
— Iliescu is widely recognized as the predominant figure in the first fifteen years of post-1989 Romanian Revolution politics. During his terms Romanian politics stabilized, and Romania joined NATO. However, he is often accused by political opponents and journalists of retaining communist convictions and allegiances, as well as tolerating corruption in the party he led (successively named FSN, FDSN, PDSR, and PSD) and his administrations. (wikipedia) — ILIESCU is the Grover Cleveland of Romanian politics: non-consecutive terms! ('90-'92, '92-'96 and ... 2000-'04)

First, thrilled to see David Quarfoot back and publishing puzzles again after a long break. Second, thrilled to have torn this puzzle up from NW to SE. Absolutely shredded it. Wednesday-style. Headed for some kind of new Friday record. Which brings me to third: utter debasement in the NE and SW corners. Those corners may as well have been separate puzzles. The NE alone took me as long as the entire rest of the puzzle (SW corner excluded), and SW, while somewhat more pliable, still didn't behave. Final analysis: a Wednesday/Thursday puzzle with crazy Saturday appendages, which puts the whole thing in the tough Friday range. A very, very enjoyable, if humbling, Friday experience.

Key to my face plant was TO A HAIR (12D: Right in every detail), which I've never heard before and couldn't see until the very, very last letter up there. TO A -AIR. Very rough, esp. next to ILIESCU (13D: Two-time president of Romania), half of whose name I inferred (I'll let you guess which half); the other half I just waited out. If I hadn't been able to get ACT IV, I'm not sure when VAN DYKE would have fallen (14D: Facial feature with a point) — I was sure the clue was going for a non-human "face" of some kind (watch?). 29A: Second indicator? sent me looking for SILVER or PLACE, when I should have gone back to the "watch" idea that was wrong at 14D. And apparently I have no idea what [Chaffed] means. With that initial "J" in place, it should have been easy. But I had JARRED. Later I had (or wanted) JOLTED. JOSHED? To "chaff" is to joke around? Yes, "to tease in a good-natured way." Throw in two (more) "?" clues in 10D: Superior title? (Abbot) and 11D: One with staying power? (corset), and the whole corner spells disaster. Doable disaster, but disaster nonetheless.

SW was tough because I had only the ERROR in 53A: A bug may cause it (fatal error), and so no real access to the quadrant. Hate it when answers break in two like that. ERROR, indeed. After that, it was tentative entry after tentative entry. Never can keep LARGO and LENTO straight, so tested both, off and on, until one ended up sticking (54D: Funeral march direction). Guessed SSS right off, though wasn't sure of it for a while (39A: Recruiting org.). Tried SHA NA NA at 40D: Title syllables in a hit 1964 song, though I knew that those "N"s might be "L"s. Basically I'm floating in a mess of "S"s and "A"s until my BRAIN (18A: Major processing center) finally picked up the word play at 41D: Swiftly done? (satiric). Never been so happy to see an "R" and a "C" in all my life. Biggest "aha" moment of the puzzle was the "X" to get the very clever SAFE SEX (39D: Transmission blocker?). Smallest "aha" moment: AHAS (48A: Words teachers like to hear). This clue is absurd. I have never heard a student say "AHA" in 18 years of teaching ("well I guess that says something about your teaching skills, chuckle chortle"). Maybe a drawn out "ohhhh," but AHA, no. Plus AHA is barely a "word," and certainly doesn't want to be a plural. Yikes. Thought answer might be I SEE or even YES'M. But this answer is the lone FAIL in an otherwise marvelous puzzle.


  • 1A: Rallying cry supported by some monks ("Free Tibet!") — I always associate the slogan with white college kids and Whole Foods shoppers, but I'm sure monks actually do support the "cry," even if they don't really utter it.
  • 15A: Company with a maple leaf logo (Air Canada) — gigantic gimme. Those are always nice.
  • 17A: 2004 horror film about a passed-on curse ("The Grudge") — I think it has Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress in it. Yes, Sarah Michelle Gellar. That is all I know about "THE GRUDGE."
  • 19A: Memorable 1968 movie villain (Hal) — see, I dropped FATHEAD in at 1D: Dolt first thing, with no crosses in place, which is some serious crossword idiot savant !@#@. I then went about plucking the NW Acrosses out of the air, one by one. HAL was probably the answer that confirmed that FATHEAD was right.
  • 28A: Jazz-loving TV sleuth of the 1950s-'60s (Gunn) — I do not know his show. I know only his (ultra-famous) theme:

As a kid, I probably heard this version first ...

  • 30A: He sighted and named Natal on Christmas Day of 1497 (Da Gama) — only question here was with the "DA" ... "DE"? ... "DI"? ... went with "E" at first, until RIHANNA sorted me out (2D: One-named Grammy winner of 2007).
  • 37A: Hawthorne novel stigma (Red A) — midway point on a very quick ride from BAD DOG (7D: Rebuke to Bowser) to SODAS (52A: Pops). Very 50s/60s vibe to this whole puzzle, now that I think about it. Something about "Pops" (as slang for an older man) and SODA jerks gets me to "Bowser," who was in SHA NA NA (I know that's not the answer to 40D, but it's close ... just hear me out). I thought SHA NA NA were the ones who sang "Get A JOB" (38D: Do _____ on), but they didn't. That was The Silhouettes. Anyway, "Get A JOB" features the syllables SHA NA NA, which sound a lot like SHA LA LA. Listen:

But the title song in question at 40D "SHA LA LA" is this one, by The Shirelles:

Here's a cover:

And here's a completely different song:

  • 50A: Princess Fiona's voicer in "Shrek" (Diaz) — "voicer." There's a word only a crossword clue could love.
  • 64A: High-tech subscription aid (e-list) — no idea what the clue was going for at first.
  • 65A: Construction with many locks (Erie Canal) — the AIR CANADA of this quadrant: long and easy.
  • 67A: Where "all the people that come and go stop and say hello" ("Penny Lane") — couldn't find the tune by saying the words aloud, but somehow "PENNY LANE" leapt forth anyway.
  • 5D: Napoleon's cousin (tart) — oh, that Napoleon.
  • 6D: Kayak propeller (Inuit) — can't argue with that logic.
  • 25D: Wood blemish (knar) — went with GNAR, which is something Bowser does, I think.
  • 27D: Kaffiyeh-clad commander (emir) — learned "Kaffiyeh" from crosswords, possibly from another EMIR clue just like this one.
  • 45D: Legendary soprano _____ Patti (Adelina) — "PEPPERMINT" wouldn't fit. "Legendary soprano" will almost invariably mean "meaningless name" to me. That was true here. Patti LUPONE is the only Patti I know.
  • 46D: Swiss Guards' setting (Vatican) — wanted something like LES ALPES, though "VAT-" certainly narrowed things down.
  • 47D: Destroyer in 2000 headlines (USS Cole) — thought this might have something to do with ELIAN, for some reason (no good reason, that's for sure). Happily, or sadly, I was wrong. Very wrong.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

PS time is running out to get in on Eric Berlin's "Game Night Crosswords" — go here for more details


Greene 7:12 AM  

TGIF!!! God, how I love Friday puzzles (although this one seemed like either a super tough Friday or an easier Saturday). Like Rex, I just tore through this juicy beast.

I got FREE TIBET almost immediately as a flat out guess and AIR CANADA immediately after. The NE fell very quickly after that. Never saw THE GRUDGE, but it came easily enough with the crosses. Then worked diagnonally into the SE where PENNY LANE was a big fat gimmie. Messed up for a moment with ZERO IN, but got that fixed with FATAL ERROR. The SW went down next (love the SAFE SEX clue). Like Rex too, I was stuck in the NE for a long time. I foolishly put in in ACT II for 10A and just could not see VAN DYKE. Finally had my AHA with ACT IV and victory was mine.

This was an awesome puzzle: fresh, snappy, filled with interesting phrases, and difficult (but doable). I will likely get creamed tomorrow, but I'm flying high today. Thanks, DQ!

Elaine 8:13 AM  

Well, this is payback for all the easy-peasy puzzles this week. 49D said it all for me!

I was actually doing very well--fooled by the relative ease of SE and NW.
I had the same experience as Rex, trying to get a toehold in the SW was just impossible. I tried all the same wrong answers--Sha Na Na and Largo, for instance.

Two objections: being called up by Selective Service was hardly "recruitment"--it was getting drafted! And if you EVER, ever said Ohio State's colors were gray and RED, you would have known never to substitute a for-short name for SCARLET.

This one whacked me so hard I'm still bouncing! Oh, well. That's life in the fast lane!

Elaine 8:14 AM  

Aiiieee, please excuse the comma splice in my Comment. I swear I was aiming for the semi-colon!

Elaine 8:20 AM  

Adelina Patti was a very well-known turn-of-the-century (no, the other one) opera singer whose career largely predated recorded sound. (We have ONE record, made near the end of her illustrious career.) I agree this is obscure, but at the same time there are probably other solvers like me, who found this a gimme. Thanks, Dave Quarfoot, for NOT having any sports clues!

dk 8:43 AM  


I see a theme here and it isn't pretty.

Died in the SW as well. Had USA (as in Army) for 39A. An, was stuck until I got ANODES gaving me STIR and FATALERROR, etc. I knew SARIN was correct but I still had to look it up. ELIST: huh!

Fine Friday Mr. Quarfoot, totally SIMPATICO

Leslie 8:43 AM  

Loved this puzzle. The SW was the last to fall, for me.

Reading the writeup, I now realize I left several undetected mistakes in there.

Could NOT come up with anything but "BOOMA" (as in "Booma lacka, booma lacka"). "Boola Boola" never even entered my mind. So the Romanian president has an M in his name in my puzzle.

Also, I kind of suspected it was Rihanna rather than Rihanne, but stubbornly left the "e" because DAGAMA just didn't look right.

Lister 8:48 AM  

I still don't get VAN DYKE. It's killing me, Smalls. Can someone please explain that to me?

nanpilla 8:50 AM  

Wow - I feel like Rex was channelling my entire experience last night. I had plant for BRAIN, which made the NE even harder. JOSHED was forever coming, because I was convinced that the clue was chafed. The SW was not as hard for me, because I got SATIRIC first thing, and those letters helped a lot. Also had zero in before ZOOM IN. I think that was in a puzzle recently - can't remember where.
I was surprised that there was no Q, what with all the other scrabbly letters. (No W either)
Nice workout for the end of the week. Thanks, DQ!

Anonymous 8:51 AM  

A Van Dyke is a type of goatee, with a pointed bottom. Think Vincent Price looking his most evil. Killed me too (not Vincent).

Elaine 8:52 AM  

A style of facial hair (hopefully, only for men) that features a small moustache, and a pointed goatee; the cheeks are usually shaved. See a portrait of the artist VanDyke and speculate if that is where the name came from....

Lister 9:00 AM  

Danke schön.

God - that was a disaster this morning - totally FOILed me - made me want to take an XACTO to my BRAIN - about as unpleasurable as SAFESEX.

Orange 9:03 AM  

I had a Saturday experience with this one. Turn-of-the-last-century opera singers are not my strong suit, either.

That's a crazy amount of fresh fill, ain't it? Add all those twisty clues, and I'm delighted to see DQ's byline again after all these months.

professorss 9:12 AM  

Wikipedia says that Rihanna' first Grammy came in 2008. Not that that would have helped me. Opera's more my thing.

retired_chemist 9:26 AM  

Tough, but fun. Had to guess first at almost everything and then emend, but it all worked out in the end. Slow going though. I felt I had really accomplished something when I finished ungoogled and error-free.

Lots of overwrites. 21A JOSHED <= JEERED; 61A SARIN <= TOXIN, 30A DAGAMA <= PANAMA [sic]; 13D ILIESCU <= IONESCU; 39A SSS <= USA; 42A ROTC <= USMC, among others.

LOVED the cluing in the SW downs. Never heard SHALALA in a song – thought she was HHS Secy and President of some Universities. Laughed out loud at 39D SAFE SEX. Was thinking Jonathan Swift for 41D from the get-go but couldn’t figure out how to deal with the X in TOXIN which I didn’t want to give up. Gave it up and… Voilà!

Was trying to remember the lyrics in The Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel) and work it in somehow @ 67A, where PENNY LANE (which I didn’t know) ultimately prevailed. Oh well…

Thanks you, Mr. Quarfoot – nice to see one of yours.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:49 AM  

A very Friday puzzle. I started reading the clues, looking for something I could fill in with confidence, and didn't stop until I came to something I had (44A) "already seen": DEJAVU. From there I worked my way through most of the south slowly but steadily, though like @retired_chemist I had a write-over with TOXIN before SARIN.

The north was a much slower go for me, finishing with the NE corner where I, like others, read chaffed as chafed and even though I got JOSHED, I didn't really think it was right.

Michele 9:49 AM  

Not that I knew the answer off the bat anyway, but isn't Iliescu a three-time president of Romania? What am I missing here?

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

As a Canadian, I was slow with Air Canada. In my head, I could see the maple leaf all over the place!

Rex Parker 9:56 AM  

Well, if you are three-time, then aren't you also (by definition) two-time and one-time? I'm kidding, the clue does indeed seem faulty. The first consecutive two terms are just being counted as one "time." "Time" is a very, very flexible concept, I guess.


ArtLvr 9:59 AM  

I had nearly the same solving sequence as Rex but slower, I'm sure. I was happy to have learned KNAR here some time ago, but couldn't finish the NE or SW last night. Stuck, until this morning brought the rest of the AHAS.

Like Retired_Chemist, once I removed the start of "Toxin", because the Swiftly clue had to mean SATIRIC, I saw that the X belonged in XACTO. I use those all the time! So what was that blankety transmission blocker? (Car? Communications signal?) Gads! SAFE SEX.

My other sticking point had been in the NE since I was thinking that if one had been Chilled as with something eerie, then one "Took it hard"??? No, the opposite: if one chilled then one TOOK IT EASY! That let me change my Pointed Vee-something to the VAN DYKE.

So I rated it wonderful -- highly challenging (even if I knew that Chaffed was JOSHED), barely gettable (SARIN?), very amusing. Even now I look at DAGAMA and DEJAVU and the latter looks funny, never mind ILIESCU. Que TAL? SHALALA? RIHANNA? Not sure how I finished at all sans FATAL ERROR. I almost felt like a FATHEAD in the wee hours, a Pooh Bear of little BRAIN.

Vive le roi, Quarfoot!


Anonymous 10:10 AM  

40D "Shoulder inflammation?" Can someone explain to this muddled brain? I totally do not get.

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

Uh, 43D I mean

Anonymous 10:11 AM  

Oh, just got it. Ouch.

Glitch 10:14 AM  

Nice puzzle, but, yup, that darn SW almost did me in too.

First pass had [the teacher hearing] ME(!)ME(!), EMAIL and XACTO, and a pending Largo/Lento decision.

FATAL messed that up then SHA NA NA became an AHA moment for too long.

Eventually worked it out.

BTW: VOICER is a common term in "the biz", the noun for "one who does voice overs".

... and for all who wished for DQ a couple of days back ... be careful what you wish for ... :)


joho 10:36 AM  

What a fabulous Friday puzzle, and for me, the best of the bunch this week.

Like a lot of you, I didn't think I'd get through the SW, but ultimately did. I had the teacher hearing ICAN at first.

Loved SAFESEX, CARFIRE and many other clues and answers.

Thank you David Quarfoot for reappearing, please stay awhile to entertain us!

Crosscan 10:39 AM  

That's the most detailed analysis of SHA LA LA I've ever read.

As a Canadian who flew on 3 AIR CANADA planes in the last week, that was a gimme. And for all you Air Canada haters in the Great White North, it is luxury compared to United Airlines, which barely provides seatbelts.

I didn't exactly sail through this, but I did have a nice
breeze. Perfect Friday.

SethG 11:02 AM  

I remembered ILIESCU from Joe Krozel's "Lies" puzzle. See, there's a hidden lie. I entered SATIRIC with no crosses; that awful Shirelles song, not so much.

Not a problem when solving, but looking over the puzzle I can't not parse 44A as DE JAVU and wonder what the hell that means.

Sha Na Na definitely covered Get A Job. I've been listening to Reel Big Fish's cover of Take On Me. By AHA, just one.

mccoll 11:05 AM  

Too tough for a tired BRAIN! This is the first puzzle that I can remember that I couldn't complete even with help from google. I had to pay obeisance at the altar of the Master. In a word, Rats! (Spelled F#@& )
I put Sha Na Na in the SW and couldn't get it out. Abject failure.
Thanks DQ and RP.

@Crosscan. If you are not impressed with United, don't fly Delta. Also, for fun, check out the song "Delta Airlines Breaks Guitars" on U-tube. It became an instant hit.

retired_chemist 11:08 AM  

@ Glitch ME! ME! here too @ 48A. Then I thought with through and decided that the ME ME! kid was more a pest than a pleasure.

mccoll 11:14 AM  

Crosscan, It's, "United Breaks Guitars" This fits with your experience.

PlantieBea 11:20 AM  

I was shredded by this puzzle. Only the SE fell easily. I wandered into the TOXIN trap. Couldn't even figure out Air Canada. I have had only Northwest in mind this morning as my son just left to fly a thousand miles away for his first year of college. I will Take IT EASY for the rest of the day. Nice puzzle--it just was out of my grasp today.

archaeoprof 11:26 AM  

Wow, what a SW corner! That X! Welcome back DQ.

In the fifth grade I wrote a report on Vasco da Gama, the first European to sail around the Cape of Good Hope.

foodie 11:43 AM  

This was looking good for my ego for a while, and then a puncture and a splat... I cheated in the SW, and I wound up with an error in the relatively easier mid-South. I was sure it was spelled SYMPATICO with a Y.. I think my French got me: Sympathique. Which meant I had CARFYRE which I could not parse...

I figure experiences like this are good for teaching me to admire something that I cannot handle. If you're a driven type, you don't enjoy falling short. But it's good for the soul to say, and really mean: This was wonderful even though I was not up to the challenge. Good on those who are!

zardoz 11:47 AM  

Gimme a K-N-A-R, Whaddya got? Beats the hell out of me lieutenant, something in Middle English not found in my Webster's Collegiate.
However, looking at the symmetry of the completed puzzle, we have ACT & ACT/PENNY & FREE on the corners. FATHEAD & SAFESEX(no comment) running down the left and VAN DYKE & COLE (Younger who wore a van dyke) running down the right. It's like the cover of a Beatle's album!

Chorister 11:49 AM  

I may have mentioned that I moonlight at a well known craft store. I swear this is true: last night, when finishing the "go backs," one of the college kids picked up a little wooden flag, brandished it overhead,and shouted "Free Tibet!"

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

I didn't much like the puzzle -- mostly because I didn't trust the clues. No matter how you slice it, the SSS is not (was not?) a recruitment org. The SSS was the draft board -- nothing recruiting about it. Impressment maybe, recruitment, never.

Clark 12:04 PM  

Though she feels as if she’s in a play
She is anyway

Gotta love a puzzle with a line from PENNY LANE.

I was not able to finish this without Professor Google. And only with the help of the Professor do I know the following. RIHANNA is the winner of a 2008 Grammy (as was also pointed out by @professorss). Now, the thing is, according to semi-puzzle partner, when it comes to Oscars, when the clue says, say, 2007, that can mean a film that was released in 2007 or a film that won the award in 2007 (that was released in 2006), because the Oscar of year X is for a film released in X-1. But, he thinks that this shouldn’t work for a Grammy because a 2008 Grammy is for a record (do we still call them that?) that was released between October 1, 2006 and September 30, 2007. STOP. ENOUGH. The lesson I take away from this is any date in an awards clue is a fuzzy date.

Martin 12:08 PM  

"Recruit" does not imply voluntary. Draftees are recruits. The root of the word is "regrow" and it means to replenish.

fikink 12:11 PM  

@nanpilla, good point re: chafed vs. chaffed. Me, too.

@R_C, held onto TOXIN for a long while, too. I am gratified that a chem prof did the same thing!

This puzzle was SO satisfying because I am not a speed solver and was forced to ponder EVERYTHING. (Had to get out Mr. F's erector set to assemble it!)
and I have been curious about David Quarfoot ever since you all called for him after Mr. Salvia's DQ puzzle.

You did not disappoint, Mr. Quarfoot. Thank you for a most enjoyable Friday morning, even if I now have to rush to accomplish today's commitments.
It was a thoroughly engaging puzzle and I have a healthy sense of accomplishment in successfully completing it!

fergus 12:20 PM  

Thought I might time myself today. Emerged 48 minutes later, very satisfied with teasing this all out. VATICAN, DEJA VU and RED A were the only immediate entries -- nice that they were contiguous.

First thought of Prufrock until reading the PENNY LANE Clue more rythmically.

FATAL Ebola? Edema? It was a great horse race between the EDGE and the NOSE.

Frances 12:43 PM  

Oddly enough, I seem to have been on the same wavelength as DQ. I found this the easiest Friday puzzle in some time, EXCEPT for 43D. I simply don't understand "shoulder inflammation" equals CARFIRE. Would someone please explain, preferably in words of one syllable!

Mike the Wino 12:43 PM  

Not that it really matters, but this article in Wikipedia says that ILIESCU was the president of Romania four times (see the chart near the bottom [SEAT]):

Admittedly, three of those presidencies are consecutive, so technically he was a 2-time president...oh, my BRAIN hurts!

Mike the Wino 12:46 PM  

@Frances, if your car is on fire, you might want to pull over to the shoulder and get out, because it is inflamed!

XMAN 12:47 PM  

I can't read the comments today. I'm too doggone hangdog for that: I couldn't (even nearly) finish the puzzle today. I'll give myself a 1% margin of doubt, because I was solving online and am used to pen, paper and easy chair.

Frances 12:51 PM  

Oh, Good Grief! Thanks, Mike, for the explanation. I'd call it a conflagration, rather than an inflammation, but that wouldn't have nearly as much snooker-the-solver power.

JC66 1:01 PM  

Wishes sometimes do come true.


(I can't help wondering if the timing of Mr. Salvia's DQ puzzle a few days ago wasn't intentional).

Doc John 1:09 PM  

What a difference a week makes! This one went a lot easier than last except for the NE corner, as previously mentioned. The L in ILIESCU and BOOLA was pretty much of a Natick for me but I guessed right. (Had it narrowed down to either L or R.)

Things that have surprised me today:
-That I didn't see a "Blue Screen of Death" in relation to FATAL ERROR.
-That nobody has mentioned SAFE SEX and the Breakfast Test.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Ed 1:34 PM  

I'm going to have to disagree with everyone and call bullshit on the SAFESEX clue.

Safe sex isn't a "transmission blocker." A condom would be a transmission blocker, but a condom in and of itself isn't "safe sex" -- using one is. In and of itself, it's just a thing.

poc 1:40 PM  

A tough Friday for me. Most of the fill was pretty good, though I've never heard of BOOLA, but I hated CARFIRE. It's one of those "take two random words and join them together" fills that no-one ever says as a word.

But no sports clues at all! That's got to count for something :-)

HudsonHawk 1:46 PM  

@poc, I hear it all too frequently on traffic reports: Traffic is backed up two miles on the northbound turnpike at exit 13 due to a CAR FIRE on the shoulder.

Aaron Riccio 1:53 PM  

Ouch, ouch, and ouch. You and I were on the same wavelength about this puzzle, except that I got stuck with way more traps than GNAR for KNAR (which, in my dictionary, s/b KNUR). For instance, TOXIN instead of SARIN. The aforementioned SHANANA for SHALALA. ZERO IN instead of ZOOM IN.

The only easy ones in those tricky corners were ACT IV and RUE, though I got SADIST and SATIRIC pretty quickly (after erasing TOXIN).

Still, let's talk about Quarfoot's word choice: ANNEE, GUNN (and not Tim), LACY (really?), ILIESCU, and ADELINA. Killers.

I did like SAFE SEX, though. I think I just needed a bit more Friday in this puzzle, more like BETS, less like LENTO.

Elaine 1:58 PM  

Doc John mentions the Breakfast Test, and next in line Ed shows just why it can't pass!

Well, "Boola-booLA, boola-BOO-LA" was probably Twenties-Thirties, but I considered it permissible AND one of the easier clues (alas.) But, too.

Just can't agree on SSS and "recruiting." Regardless of the root, usage involves both denotative AND connotative meanings, and when we "recruit" some help (or some soldiers) there is indeed an implication that one has some degree of choice. Not so with the Selective Service; "Greetings" meant "You're IN."
That clue gets the buzzer!

foodie 2:06 PM  

@Ed, my first reaction about transmission blocker was similar to yours. But then I revised it, because safe sex as a whole does block the spread of sexually transmissible diseases, so I think it's correct.

In my own case, I was so stuck on transmission meaning neurotransmission (a clever link to BRAIN, I thought)that I had a horrible time making any other type of association. I so wanted it to be "antagonist" (as in beta receptor blocker).

Campesite 2:17 PM  

Ouch! Thank you Google.

william e emba 2:31 PM  

I actually found the SW fairly easy, partly because I started with the almost right SHANANA instead of SHALALA and I had SOTTO instead of LENTO, which with SATIRIC and SADIST gave me SSS and XACTO right away, and my two mistakes were then fixed.

The NW and the SE were medium easy. But the NE had me stopped cold for the longest time. I had ACTIV and RUE for gimmes, and a tentative I--ESCU, but I could not finish TOOKIY--S-, since I had ABBEY, not ABBOT. But I had guessed that "chaffed" must be J---ED, and that gave me V--D--E, which took me far too long to turn into VANDYKE, at which point everything fell into place.

As it is, I distinctly remember originally learning the joking around sense of "chaff" from Agatha Christie. She used the word every so often, and in one of the novels, I believe Thirteen at Dinner, it was actually significant.

Glitch 2:40 PM  

Fun with dictionaries (hey, it's a rainy day here)



°To supply with new men, as an army; to fill up or make up by enlistment; also, to MUSTER; as, the army was recruited for a campaign.

MUSTER: verb
°To collect, call or assemble together, such as troops or a group for inspection, orders, display etc.
°To SUMMON together; to get together.

SUMMON: verb
°To call people together; to convene; to send for.

No mention of "choice" there ;)


I agree with you on SAFE SEX, and thank you for saving me some typing.


Shamik 2:51 PM  

Was feeling good with the medium-challenging time (for me) of 19:55. Then I found out the 1960's song was not SHALELA nor is the lethal compound SERIN. Otherwise agree with everyone about where the sticky parts of this puzzle existed.

Interesting grid. Nice to see DQ back. And a great Friday puzzle.

Nick 3:02 PM  

Was fine with everything until the SW. Could not get a single foothold in it. Actually gave up, something I haven't even done on a Saturday in the past year or so. Man. That was a killer.

chefbea 3:07 PM  

Did the south east and then gave up. Never did finnish . just came here. Tomorrow has to be better

sanfranman59 3:09 PM  

Wednesday midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Fri 33:19, 26:02, 1.28, 97%, Challenging (3rd highest ratio to date)

Top 100 solvers

Fri 17:54, 12:24, 1.44, 97%, Challenging (3rd highest ratio to date)

edith b 3:21 PM  

I was on Mr Quarfoot's wavelength, at least intermittenly. Like everybody else, I got the NW pretty easily but BOOLA (the Yale clue) allowed me to get ABBOT at 10D which allowed me to see 10A as ACT-something and the clue's nature let me see it was near the end of the play hence IV hence VANDYKE.

I was able to sweep into the SE down the East Coast, leaving only the SW remaining when I sent to bed last night. I was confident that sleeping on it would lead me to endgame.

It is almost 3PM on the East Coast and I just now finished. I was one who wondered where Mr Quarfoot had been and he turns up 2 days later with the most difficult puzzle this year. As Glitch said careful what you wish for.

SSS broke this puzzle's back when I realized that draftees were known as recruits which produced SATIRIC and, like Rex, I sent back and forth between LARGO and LENTO but I stumbled on ELIDES which finally got me XACTO and SAFESEX.

I never come here until I finish as many of the Commenters had the same experience in the SW as I had - I just got lucky in the NE.

George Patton, Ret. 3:21 PM  

All those who complain about SSS, or who look for specific definitions to justify drafting as recruitment, miss the point. It's almost as if you seem to think that in military terms volunteering is optional.

chefwen 3:32 PM  

So much for my Google free week. Tried so hard to get the job done, but in the end I failed. Sob!!
There is nothing pretty about a 3/4
way finished puzzle.

poc 3:36 PM  

@william e emba: "chaff" (pronounced the same as "chafe" by the way) is probably on its way out, but I do remember it from P. G. Wodehouse. "You may be subjected to some good-natured chaffing sir" (Jeeves, in The Code of The Woosters).

fikink 4:04 PM  

@edith, mentioning Yale, you would appreciate that having already filled in ELIDE, I thought of Yale when I got to the college cheer clue. Unfortunately, got my wires crossed and entered HUBBA !! ;)

@poc, Wodehouse, indeed, came to mind.

Elaine 4:23 PM  

Wow, I love that Geo Patton has come back from the dead to...?say what? You're right--volunteering is moot once someone's IN the Army.

But going in...(either by enlistment or commission) another matter. It's been a generation since The Draft was in force, though our son did have to register with the SSS at age 18. Meanwhile, RECRUITING offices are open all over...inviting folks to join the ALL VOLUNTEER Armed Forces. Please note: these are not Selective Service System offices.) As an Army kid, once-Army-wife, with a 40-yr-career military sib, I promise to submit this to arbitration.
Or we'll just have to agree to disagree, i guess!

Nick 4:31 PM  

Also one thing that's bugging me...

"Transmission blocker" for "SAFE SEX" doesn't actually make sense. I don't want to get too graphic, but it's the condom (or other barrier device) that does the blocking, not the act itself. "Transmission risk reducer," maybe.

Bill from NJ 4:32 PM  

@Gen Patton-

I suppose it all depends upon the point of view that "recruitment" is based upon.

I would say that from the military's point of view the draft was one form of recruitment and changing ones point of view is at the heart of late week puzzles.

See shoulder inflammation to clue CARFIRE in this puzzle.

jae 4:54 PM  

Great puzzle! Nice to have DQ back. My experience was pretty much the same as Rex's and most of you. Blew through NW and SE. Struggled a little with NE and had to stare a lot to get SW to fall (add me to the SHANANA list).

I too was iffy on the SSS as a recruiter but the above discussion has helped. Thanks all.

Martin 5:25 PM  

Elaine et al.,

People use words differently, certainly, which is why we agree to let dictionaries arbitrate.

At the m-w entry for recruit Click on 2 recruit (noun) and you get a very explicit:

"1 : a newcomer to a field or activity; specifically : a newly enlisted or drafted member of the armed forces."

andrea chaffa michaels 5:32 PM  

Great puzzle DQ!!!!!
Maybe the earlier DQ puzzle triggered Will to dig out one of Mr. Quarfoot's.

I did this one with my new downstairs neighbor and it was a nice bonding experience...and as there is at least a 20 year age gap (sigh, isn't there always these days?) we complemented each other nicely, as I explained who Bowzer of SHA NA NA was and he was able to fill me in on THE GRUDGE
(wasn't there also just one called THE PLEDGE? Nevermind as I wouldn't have gotten past THE RING without Young Nick)

Young Nick also explained the Shrek "voicer" was that chick from "Charlie's Angels" there was our generation gap right there...
I'm thinking "Before Farrah died?" and he's thinking the tall blonde from "Something about Mary".


Are you kidding about De Javu or are you trying to bait me into yet another lecon francais?
(You should be fluent by now...and yes, the c's need that under-squiggly thing)

Are you still accepting bday wishes? I am SO sorry, got tied up yesterday and (gasp) never made it to the blog!
We sat there saying, "it must be Canadian Air" and took forever to rearrange...echoes of my University of Indiana/Indiana University birthday puzzle minor fiasco...

@Clark, @professorss
I was going to write something about Grammy's/Oscar's dates but you covered I was going to throw in a Chris Brown joke, and am still shocked no one else has...c'mon, where are all the other CHAFFERS out there??!

So, it took a condom to get you to come out and comment? Ha!
I mean, technically, there is no such thing as SAFESEX anyway, just safeR...gosh darn it, just ask Sarah P...that FATHEAD.
(Oh wait, can a woman be a FATHEAD? it sounds so male...for the record, we had PINHEAD till almost the end)

You have my sympathy...I too had's ironic you missed that as you are one of the most sympatica gal I've ever met!
I've often RUEd the fact that we have no real translation of "simpatica" in inglese.

Hmmmm... rude, rude, rood

joho 5:37 PM  

@Nick ... having SAFESEX blocks the transmission of STDs as stated so eloquently by @Foodie.

@Edith B ... I love it that you just keep on plugging until you get it done and then come here. That's exactly what I do.

@All's amazing to me that so many us end up with the same problem areas in the grid. I'm sure we all think very differently from each other, but perhaps not so much so when concentrating on the puzzle.

Martin 5:42 PM  


Safe or otherwise, if fathead sounds male isn't that a good thing?

Crosscan 5:44 PM  

@Acme - Never too late. Thanks!

Hanky-panky in a vault?

Anonymous 6:00 PM  

SAFE SEX -- terribly clued.
VANDYKE is not a facial feature.
SSS is not a recruitment org.
Etc; etc; etc;

foodie 7:05 PM  

Thank you Andrea! I needed that, especially today because it's been a hard one --a very good friend seems to be losing her battle with cancer. The only time I've smiled is reading the blog and comments.

In Arabic, there's an expression: "S/he's close to the heart" meaning easy to connect with and like. I agree with Andrea that there is nothing in English that fully captures the compatibility/likability concept in simpatica. But, for a great illustration... think Andrea!

andrea shalala michaels 7:32 PM  

will respond about friend off line, but thank you for that.
Why don't you all come to SF for the little Alameda tourney they are having in two weeks (Sat Sept 12)?
Fundraiser for Dictionary Day which I participated in and had a blast, getting 3rd graders excited about words!
You could meet Fergus and dozens of other Rexites and maybe the mysterious San Fran Man whose stats you much admire...

I'm thinking more atop the vault...while Al Green sings SHALALA...
(Many thanks for that video, Rex! Wow, even Al had a happening afro, what year was that?!)

Glitch 8:41 PM  


I think the search for the "safest" is a rather zen thing, kinda like the sound of one hand clapping.


Elaine 9:13 PM  

@ Martin

I agreed to arbitration, but not necessarily ANY OLD arbiter. Certainly not Merriam-Webster, the dime-novel dictionary.

I sent an e-mail to a real live up-from-the-ranks Old Soldier who used to be a grunt, and who worked his way up from the bottom to NCO, to Petty Officer, to commissioned Officer. If he don't know it, nobody does. And he may well agree that the draft is the same as recruitment. (He was never drafted, like most of our population now.) We'll see.

Just so you know, I realize I am being ridiculous at this point, but I will never forget the classmates at my HS who WERE drafted (not recruited)...and whose names are now inscribed on black stone.

I'm just sayin'....

ArtLvr 9:32 PM  

Mother used the word copacetic a lot, about as close as we can get to simpatico...

Dad spent long hours for several years working gratis on the WW 2 draft appeals board in the Chicago area... The SSS had great needs to fulfill, but those called up who had crushingly great family responsibilities were excused or were found other ways to serve. It was never easy for anyone involved in those decisions, but compassion was there at all levels.


fergus 9:53 PM  

Hey, cool. I'm pleased to hear that they're throwing the Second Annual Alameda Tournament. Hadn't seen or heard anything about it, so I'm glad it's on. I hope everyone within a manageable distance can make it.

mac 10:17 PM  

Greetings from Vermont!
A beautiful puzzle I couldn't give the attention to it deserved, a great write-up and very thoughtful, interesting comments. I missed out on a great puzzle day....
We transformed a dining hall in a primitive summer camp into something that looks like a wedding could take place in it.
Tomorrow the flowers.

sanfranman59 10:45 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:18, 6:58, 0.90, 24%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:22, 8:31, 0.98, 51%, Medium
Wed 10:46, 12:27, 0.86, 17%, Easy
Thu 13:55, 18:23, 0.76, 6%, Easy (very)
Fri 33:51, 26:05, 1.30, 97%, Challenging (3rd highest ratio to date)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:25, 3:42, 0.92, 31%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:13, 4:23, 0.96, 47%, Medium
Wed 5:11, 6:04, 0.86, 17%, Easy
Thu 7:02, 8:55, 0.79, 13%, Easy
Fri 15:22, 12:12, 1.26, 94%, Challenging (5th highest ratio to date)

Today's puzzle was definitely one of the toughest in the eleven weeks I've been tracking solve times. Not only were the solve times substantially higher than usual (even for a Friday), but only 361 people completed the puzzle online (the previous average number of Friday solvers was 450) and only 275 solved it in less than an hour previous average = 389).

Elaine 2:47 AM  


Interesting family story that you shared--thanks. WWll was a unique time in our history--so much singleness of purpose. Somehow our losses in VietNam felt more tragic because the public support was not there. And then, as now, sometimes young people visited recruiting offices and signed up for their own reasons... Free will vs. the draft.

Stan 8:55 AM  

Well, at least I got the two "easy" corners, and even that took a night's sleep. But I did appreciate this puzzle. More DQ, please.

"Ju-on" (remade as "The Grudge") is genuinely innovative and spooky. Haven't seen the American version.

Mara 10:13 AM  

AIR CANADA isn't a gimme if you drink MOLSON ALE.

Aviatrix 11:30 AM  

So many companies have a maple leaf in their logo here that the clue seemed useless at first. I considered ALLOFTHEM and tried to think of military companies like the Van Doos. I even had AIGCANADA there for a while. I should have thought more about the NYT being a New York crossword, and of what Canadian logos would be commonly seen there.

Will 6:27 PM  

Finally gave up on SW. First puzzle this summer I couldn't get (I don't get Saturday's paper.

Aha? SSS? These are just wrong. And what was the clue for sadist? I forgot and don't have the paper with me, but I remember it made no sense to me.

SW just diabolical.

Singer 2:41 PM  

Comments from syndication land. I wonder if Elaine ever got a response from her Old Soldier about SSS. I know that draftees are called recruits in basic training, so I think it is a good, if cryptic, clue. But cryptic, strange viewpoints are at the heart of Friday and Saturday puzzles. I also understand the quibbles about SAFE SEX, but think the answer can be obtained from the clue none-the-less. The only quibble that I fully buy into is the AHAS one. That is really a stretch. I don't know what other clue would work for that word(?), but think perhaps Sherlock Holmes or Charlie Chan would be more pertinent than students.

I found this puzzle to be about 3/4 relatively easy. The SW was a bugger, though. In the rest of the puzzle I had to write-over "gnar" with KNAR and "done" with FOIL. I didn't know what chaffed meant, but got it from crosses. I did have a little trouble with 23D, 22A and 26A. I don't know much about the Book of Mormon and I don't know all that much French. I had ANN*E and ENO* and **AT. Finally dredged SEAT out of a dark corner of my BRAIN with an AHA moment.

In the SW I had "sha-na-na", "toxin" and "largo". When ELIDES popped into place, "sha-na-na" became impossible, and "largo" became LENTO. The key that made it come into place was X-ACTO, another AHA moment. I still don't understand how SATIRIC is "Swiftly done?" Anybody want to elucidate me?

Whitney 3:26 PM  

This was a toughie! I ended up liking all the obscure cluing, but it took me awhile to go from pure disgust to appreciation. I had GNAR for KNAR first, but then looked up KNAR and turns out its akin to a BURL - which was in a puzzle recently. Never heard BOOLA in my life. Wooly BOOLY maybe. The clouds here in the Pacific Northwest rarely resemble LACE but I get it. Now here's one I don't get and am hoping someone in syndication land can help me figure out - why STIR for The Cooler (36D)? My poor BRAIN.

PuzzleGirl 3:30 PM  

@Whitney: Hello from the future. :-) STIR and COOLER are both slang terms for prison.

Whitney 3:37 PM  

@Puzzle Girl Huh. If you say so :) And now I know. Thank you!

Singer 4:39 PM  

@Whitney: A good example from pop culture is the movie "STIR Crazy" with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. The movie is about 30 years old, I think, but still shows up on TV pretty regularly. It is about a couple of losers who work in a bank dressed as chickens doing a promo getting arrested and sent to prison for robbing the bank, ergo prison = STIR. The best pop culture reference I have for COOLER is the movie "The Great Escape" starring Steve McQueen. Again a really old movie - I think this one is about 50 years old, but a great movie, and on TV a lot. Steve McQueen's character gets sent to the COOLER a lot - in this case the COOLER is solitary confinement, but is still imprisonment.

Hey, I am still waiting for someone to explain SATIRIC to me. Is it a twisted reference to Jonathon Swift? I am having trouble making the connection to the clue.

Singer 4:44 PM  

Oh, and one other comment: I have heard burls in redwood country referred to as knars before, but I thought it was spelled gnar. I googled both words, and gnar is definitely related to snarling dogs, not burls of wood. That is one of the things that is so great about doing crosswords - you learn good stuff.

Stan 5:29 PM  

Hi Singer --

Yes, Swiftly is an allusion to Jonathan Swift who wrote in the satiric mode.

BTW, it wasn't easy figuring out how to post a reply to your comment (numerous false starts). I guess that's meant as a constructive criticism for anyone redesigning navigation on the site


Singer 7:50 PM  

@Stan: Thanks. I suspected that was the case, but don't think I would have gotten the answer from that clue alone in a million years. My thoughts went to Tom Swifties when I read the clue, and it wasn't until several hours after completing the puzzle that it dawned on me that it might refer to Jonathon Swift, who I knew was a satirist, but who isn't very near the surface in my mind.

AJD 7:32 PM  

Patti Lupone is actually related to Adelina Patti.

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