MONDAY, Nov. 9 2009 — Brinker with storied skates / Latino's Yankee buddy / Warty hopper / Chitchat at sweet sixteen sleepover

Monday, November 9, 2009


Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Going Down? — Five theme answers all end with words that indicate descent

Word of the Day: OTTO (15A: German king who became an early Roman Emperor)Otto I the Great (23 November 912 in Wallhausen – 7 May 973 in Memleben), son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda of Ringelheim, was Duke of Saxony, King of Germany, King of Italy, and "the first of the Germans to be called the emperor of Italy" according to Arnulf of Milan. While Charlemagne had been crowned emperor in 800, his empire had been divided amongst his grandsons, and following the assassination of Berengar of Friuli in 924, the imperial title had lain vacant for nearly forty years. On 2 February 962, Otto was crowned Emperor of what would later become the Holy Roman Empire.

-----

Honestly, I didn't think this was any more challenging than your average Monday, but my time was a good half-minute off, so I gotta call it the way it falls. Falls! Get it? Yeah, I know. Good one. As for the puzzle, I didn't like it as much as I usually like Lynn Lempel puzzles. It's still pretty damned good, but the "all the last words mean roughly the same thing" is old hat, and old hat needs especially new and snazzy phrases to work well. These answer are ... nice, I guess. Lots of Ks. Bottom half of grid definitely more interesting than the top hat, if for no other reason than the Ks. All the "Descend" words are used in phrases where they do not, in fact, indicated descent, which is a very nice touch. The premise is leaving me cold, but beyond that, the puzzle is really well made. Ideally you wouldn't have TRY and TRI- in same grid, or so many odd plurals (COCOAS, OLES, LINENS, ATHENS, HANS), and KING-SIZE might like its terminal "D" back, but the LEOTARD-clad girls having their GIRL TALK, daring each other to SKINNY DIP while smoking MENTHOL cigarettes and sipping COCOAS in a KING-SIZE bed ... all that made the puzzle at least reasonably interesting.

Theme answers:

  • 18A: Throat soother (cough DROP)
  • 23A: Time just after sunset (night FALL)
  • 36A: Where dishes may pile up (kitchen SINK)
  • 51A: Go in without a suit (skinny DIP)
  • 57A: Problem-solving research institute (think TANK)
Places I had trouble — first, AMBER (59A: Shade of yellow). For whatever reason, I was convinced the answer must be UMBER. I think it's because I had done a puzzle immediately prior to this one where the clue was [Burnt _____] and the answer was SIENNA, and I was thinking to myself, "the other color in the Crayola box that's burnt is UMBER." But then I had UMP for 59D: Measure of electric current, and I didn't think UMPs did that. So I changed the "U" to "A." Good thing I checked the cross. UMP is a perfectly good word — nothing that would make me blink. The next trouble spot, and the final trouble spot, was ANGLO (49A: Latino's Yankee buddy). I had, and have, no idea what to make of this clue. If I am your "buddy," why are you calling me "ANGLO?" [Yankee counterpart], maybe ... except half the New York Yankees are LATINO, so it's all very confusing. There are also Latinos who are also straight-up (non-baseball) Yankees (born in the U.S.A., ethnically Latino). So this clue is 10 kinds of messed up. Maybe 12 kinds. No time to do the math. "Buddy?" Come on.

Bullets:

  • 65A: Warty hopper (toad) — I love ridiculous clues like this — phrases that are accurate but that no one would ever say and that sound funny.
  • 7D: Ring shaped island (atoll) — I made ATOLL house cookie last night. Several dozen, actually, to take to the Faculty/Student dinner at Hinman College on campus last night.
[Michaelangelo (yes, I spelled it right) and Janna (ditto)]

  • 37D: Brinker with storied skates (Hans) — kind of cloying. Hans goes to med school at the end. I did not know that. Wikipedia tells me that the story of Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates introduced the Dutch sport of speed skating to America.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

67 comments:

dk 7:57 AM  

HTTP for HTML was my only stumble for the start of the week. Today I started with the downs (I know: Get a life).

Well done with solid fill. Not a groaner in the lot.

27a was my favorite fill.

Thanks Lynn

joho 8:02 AM  

Carryover from yesterday: ANTSY.

As usual this Lynn Lempel puzzle OOZEs smoothness.

I especially liked SKINNYDIP, GIRLTALK, KINGSIZE, THINKTANK, WEASEL and WINKED.

Fun Monday, thanks Lynn!

Judith 8:18 AM  

I loved the Hans Brinker movie as a child. I think it may have been on Disney's Sunday night show.

Sailed through this!

Anonymous 8:22 AM  

btw ATHENS and HANS are not plurals ...

Stan 8:29 AM  

Fun puzzle -- did not TANK.

Thanks, Lynn

spyguy 8:32 AM  

Sorry, but had a real problem with "Only soccer player who can throw the ball". What about throw-ins when the ball is kicked out of bounds?

Everyone's favorite Ents do not like HASTY decisions.

treedweller 8:34 AM  

My fastest Monday times are pushing the limits of my typing and grid navigation rather than my clue deciphering, so this was about average for me. I wondered a couple of times what the theme was, but forgot to check when I was done, so it was a surprise when I came here. Smooth, solid, steady progress--that makes it a good one in my book.

@anon 8:22
thanks for pointing that out! Rex's humor is so dry and subtle sometimes that I miss it completely.

Good ones, Rex! (Also liked your illustration of OTTO).

Orange 8:36 AM  

@anonymous, of course they're plurals: One Han Brinker, two Hans Brinker; one Athen combines with a multitude of others to form Athens.

PIX 8:43 AM  

Thought it was easy for a Monday. Nothing too creative; nothing too objectionable.

Pele 8:47 AM  

From Martin over at Wordplay:

That’s one for the “no easy clue goes unpunished” file. Actually, the words “with a foot off the ground” printed off the margin.

Elaine 8:56 AM  

I did this so quickly I probably only saw half of the clues, and only thanks to Rex did I learn there was a theme. Maybe paper is easier than AcrossLite; I rate this Easy +.

I did laugh about the inclusion of HANS and ATHENS on the "plurals" list.

I loved _Hans Brinker_ as a child, and I read it aloud to my own kids. There is no Zuider Zee now, but the book is still interesting.

nanpilla 8:57 AM  

Nice Monday puzzle. DIP felt a little out of place amongst the more precipitous plunges implied by the other theme endings.

One small nit - I don't think an ATOLL ever consists of just one island. The definition requires an encircling coral reef around a lagoon, with many islands and several outlets to the ocean from the lagoon. I lived on Kwajalein Island in the South Pacific in the early 60's. Idyllic for a kid ( I was 8 at the time), not so much so for the adults. At that time, they were testing the Nike-Zeus rockets. Seemed perfectly normal to me to get time off from school for missile launches at least once a month, with ICBMs screaming across the sky from Vandenberg, CA. Stateside definitely seemed dull when we moved back. Thought I was going to be able to go back a year or so ago to witness my brother's ashes being launched into space, but we could not get the necessary civilian clearance.
The rocket, launched from Omelek Island, also in the Kwajalein Atoll, reached space, but did not achieve orbit. They will try again later this year.

treedweller 9:14 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
janie 9:18 AM  

hinman college? is this a special school for aspiring cruciverbalists?!

;-)

mac 9:24 AM  

Nice, smooth Lynn Lempel Monday. Got the theme quickly for a change, after the second one I solved. My favorite one is the thinktank.

Hans Brinker in medical school! Orthopedics, I guess.

@Nanpilla: what an interesting time! Sad reason to go back, though, I'm sorry.

Don't tell me Tyler Hinman has a college named after him already! He is pretty unique, though.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 9:34 AM  

Said it before, will say it again: it's frigging hard to come up with new never-before-seen gimmicks that are suitable for a Monday/Tuesday level. So, while this puzzle has the vibe of "oh, that old warhorse again," it was still well done. Can't really ask much more than that.

Badir 9:34 AM  

I breezed through this--about my fifth or sixth fastest Monday, I think. A little break after Saturday, eh?

XMAN 9:56 AM  

This was good, clean fun. Easy. Had OHM for AMP for a millisecond.

I never read "Hans Brinker", and I don't see it in the cards anytime soon. In fact, I'm determined not to read it.

Frances 9:59 AM  

How long do you think it will take before solvers automatically throw down "media" instead of PRESS as the answer for 66A?

David 10:01 AM  

Since when is ATHENS a plural?

ArtLvr 10:11 AM  

Enjoyable Monday -- I pictured the stock market fluctuations and hoped the descent was only a DIP!
In that context TANK is the worst... one SUSPENDs belief.

Lots of good theme phrases and fill -- my fave is WEASELS. Amusing to have OTTO clued with the HRE, but IVAN the Terrible eschewed in favor of dog-trainer Pavlov. I just finished a great tale about the dire mop-up in Britain following King Harold's defeat at Hastings in 1066: it's called "The Disputed Crown". William, Duke of Normandy might have been called the Bloody rather than merely the Conqueror, but he had better PR.

I expect that Lynn or Will had misdirection toward "Amigo" for 49A ANGLO in the Latino buddy clue? Amusing write-up, Rex, and nice one, Ms. Lempel.

∑;)

Van55 10:17 AM  

Easy peasy for me. But nonetheless enjoyable with much originality and just one or two cliches.

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

ANGLO, clued in today's crossword as Latino's Yankee buddy, is used in the American Southwest and is non-pejorative. The inclusion of a photograph of a Latino baseball player of national, nay world-wide, fame is a very questionable choice considering your well-known dislike of the player and the Yankees. Is there some non-PC message you are sending? If so, perhaps an apology is due. Dark sarcasms through a wink of a photograph are common in your highly personal blog, and one cannot help but wonder of your intent.

R. Santana

Rex Parker 10:25 AM  

@R. Santana,

I have no idea wtf you are talking about. AROD is a LATINO YANKEE. Isn't he? If he isn't, then I'll apologize.

Unbelievable.

rp

Elaine 10:37 AM  

@mac
Hans' father, bedridden and somewhat crazed by a long-ago head injury, is cured by a surgeon; Hans is inspired to study medicine by this miraculous event. I think neurosurgery, don't you? even though this book was set in...oh, the 1880's maybe.

@nanpilla
An ATOLL can indeed be just one lone formation, though often it may be part of an island chain. In fact, I do not think a chain of atolls would be called "an atoll" at all.

@Rex
UMBER is brown; AMBER is golden, and I think it's a toss-up if you'd call it yellow or yellow-brown. I am sure Lynn Lempel is pleased to have caught someone in that little pitfall.

PlantieBea 10:39 AM  

Thanks Lynn Lempel for this Monday puzzle; enjoyed it much. The girly subtheme reminds me of Elvis Costello singing this song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4aZ0oTHrDY

Charles Bogle 10:42 AM  

Another well-crafted Lynn Lempel puzzle with solid fill...has anyone read the new heir-authorized Winnie The Pooh book?

archaeoprof 10:52 AM  

Since the word of the day is the German king Otto, I feel like I can mention that my German godson Benedict has the swine flu.

Two Ponies 10:55 AM  

After the terrible carnage of Saturday this fun Monday puzzle was like biting into a sweet cupcake.
Just what I needed.

retired_chemist 11:04 AM  

Agree that this puzzle seemed easier than my time tells me it really was.

How would I know there was an "all the last words mean roughly the same thing" thing? Not from the AL puzzle. Is that phrase just a Rexism, or is it in another version of this puzzle? Whatever, I didn't see it until Rex pointed it out.

No fill I want to comment about. A Nike puzzle. Just do it.

Alexandros 11:24 AM  

The modern greek name for athens is Athina (like the goddess it was named after) which is singular. However, officially, the city is the "municipality of Athenians" (think toga-clad smarties lounging around on a rock, philosophizing), so maybe plural "Athens" is correct. And, in the more formal (now defunct) and closer to ancient greek, "katharevousa greek," it is "Athinai" which according to some is plural and to some others it means "in the area of." So it is all a big mess, but Athens could be considered plural. And, by the way (to anyone thinking of a toga-athens connection), toga is roman: the greek equivalent is a chiton.

Newbie 11:35 AM  

Per the "Latino's Yankee buddy" clue: I sometimes can't tell when Rex is kidding - so I'll go out on a limb here. When I saw the answer was ANGLO, I realized "buddy" probably meant that the words were buddies - that is, similarly descriptive in meaning - not that the people were meant to be buddies. Thought the whole baseball idea was a nice mis-direction following this World Series.

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

Not sure I like 30A " class for citizens to be" Some of us wannabe citizens actually speak English to begin with. I always get tripped up on this answer and want to put Eng instead of ESL. My daughter explained it as "English as a second language?" Whatever.

Good quick puzzle though. I enjoyed it. Oh and Alan Alda was also in LATimes - coincidence?

miriam b 11:48 AM  

Many many moons ago I lived in Albuquerque for 3 years, where my husband and I were non-pejoratively called ANGLOs by our buddies. This struck me as odd at first, as he was the only one of us with English blood. Then it dawned on me witb a resounding DUH. ANGLO = English-speaking, as contrasted with Spanish-speaking. In Albuquerque, BTW, the Spanish seems to be a rather archaic form. Or was, back then.

chefbea 12:00 PM  

fun easy monday puzzle. No more to say

SethG 12:00 PM  

A few days ago the Roman emperor Trajan was in the puzzle, and Rex showed a picture of a mixed-race basketball player.

A few days before that Santa Claus was in the puzzle, and Rex showed a picture of many Santas Claus, all of whom were Caucasian and at least most of whom were not the actual Santa Claus.

Rex, please explain yourself.
-----
Hayseuss, between the bizarre A-Rod discussion and the unbelievable Athens one, this has the potential to become one of the worst commenting days ever. Have fun guys, I'll see you all tomorrow.

Ulrich 12:10 PM  

@spyguy; You made the comment re. 2D that I was going to make--so, let me add that throwins are a genuine part of the game and never done by a goalie. As the great has Pele has pointed out, there are strict rules, and they could have been used to make the clue correct--player outside the sideline, both feet on the ground, ball in both hands swinging back over the head (if I remember correctly)...

@archaeoprof: I hope little Benedict (spelled really with a "c"?) is in good hands.

Greene 12:14 PM  

I'll take an old chestnut theme like this any day when it's pulled off with as much elegance as Ms. Lempel brings to the table. I remember doing this last night, seeing all those Ks in the lower part of the grid, and thinking "Oh, Rex is going to like this."

There is something metaphorical (or sinister) about NIGHTFALL over SENIORS. I also like the KING SIZE MENTHOL OOZE eminating from the THINK TANK. Lastly, I couldn't help but think of the OLDIE who OGLEs those engaged in GIRL TALK while wearing LEOTARDs. Could it be Alan ALDA?

Thanks Ms. Lempel for an eye-opening Monday solve.

Leslie 12:21 PM  

There is no Zuider Zee now

What?? WHAT????

I never read "Hans Brinker", and I don't see it in the cards anytime soon. In fact, I'm determined not to read it.

Heh. Heheheheheheheh.

I'm totally with BEQ here: No doubt crossword puzzles are even more constricted than murder mysteries in terms of new "plot" twists. The "synonyms" theme? Sure, it's been done before--and was very well done today.

bluebell 12:57 PM  

I too confidently wrote http, and didn't catch it until I came here. Was having trouble with teta, because I didn't know actress Thompson. But outside of that little cluster, this was fairly smooth, and I did catch the drop, fall, sink, dip and tank. (Put in a row like that, those words are kind of fun.)

jeff in chicago 1:15 PM  

Nice Monday. The only fill I got wrong on the first try was having AMIGO for ANGLO.

Like the COUGHDROP/MENTHOL connection.

Anonymous 1:27 PM  

isn't 59D misclued: measure of electric current -> Ampere

or has "amp" made the transition from abbreviation to full-fledged word?

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

yeah WAY more than we need to know about Athens or Athena or any related term. At least on a Monday.

Anonymous 1:31 PM  

I think the theme for the puzzle is our ECONOMY or the many recent words used to describe it!!

XMAN 2:08 PM  

Anonymous 1:27: If you go to the hardware store to buy a fuse or a circuit breaker, you will find it rated in amps, not amperes. It's been thus for all my life and probably before. (Ooh, if I had a life I wouldn't be writing these posts, now, would I?)

ampere: The practical unit of intensity of an electrical current, being produced by one volt acting through the resistance of one ohm. (Webster's II)

william e emba 2:12 PM  

"Amp" is a common short form (not an abbreviation) of "ampere", just like "kilo" is a common short form (not an abbreviation) of "kilogram".

The OED insists on calling this short form an "abbreviation". MW simply lists it as a synonym for ampere and amplifier. I agree with MW: I think that when the shortened form looks like a word and gets pronounced as written, it no longer qualifies as an abbreviation.

On the other hand, the first OED citation from Heaviside 1889 is a real charmer: "But ampère shortened to am or amp is abominable." (Oliver Heaviside, by the way, was a very prominent electrical engineer in his day.)

In contrast, "knot" is not short for "nautical mile per hour"--it actually means "knot"!

George NYC 2:24 PM  

I thought it was kind of Rex to show a picture of the new, improved happy A-Rod rather than the old, scowling dysfunctional A-Rod.

chefwen 2:35 PM  

Easy, fun, Monday puzzle and a shout out to my dear old dad, Hans, who will be turning 90 next week.

Only write over was HTML over http.

Martin 2:57 PM  

What about the "roadie's load" amp? Would you want an abbreviation signal for it too?

Stan 3:03 PM  

Han Solo
Hans Duetto

Silver skate: A shiny fish

archaeoprof 3:19 PM  

@Ulrich: yes, it's really spelled with a C. His parents spent a few years here in the States, and it must have left a mark. Benedict's sister is named Hannah, spelled with the final h.

I just talked to him on the phone, and he doesn't feel very good right now.

Sfingi 3:30 PM  

If I recall from my sister and son, Hinman College is a building at Biminghamton University. Or is it Harpur College?

Got theme, therefore puzzle easy. I need the symbol for "therefore" on my character map.

Kilo is "thousand" in Greek. Ampere is a guy. Powers of 10 (ten) over one (1), use Greek words. Under ten, use Latin.

@Miriam - in Utica, navel of the universe, Columbians can't talk to Puerto Ricans w/o a translator. Or, maybe they just want to give the translator a job.

@Alexandros - thanx for info; I was wondering.

@Nanpilla - Island chains are generally volcanic - thus the atoll could be the ring around the actual, possibly dead, volcano.

In the mid-19th century, book titles had that "or." Hans Brinker, or, The Silver Skates. Uncle Tom's Cabin, or, Live among the Lowly, etc. Why? Just askin.'

sanfranman59 3:30 PM  

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)

Mon 6:15, 6:55, 0.90, 25%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:30, 3:42, 0.95, 42%, Medium

A new personal NYT record for me today. I managed to rip through this one in 3:35. I guess my fingers were working well last night since data entry is often the biggest challenge for me in early week puzzles.

Martin 4:47 PM  

Sfingi,

Books had (and have) subtitles to sell more copies.

"Robinson Crusoe" had the best; it was an entire book review.

nanpilla 4:49 PM  

@elaine : A chain of atolls would certainly not be called an atoll. But a circular coral reef (Which was probably formed around a previously present volcanically formed island which then sunk back down, ala @Sfingi's remark) is necessary for an atoll. I would think that a single island with a hole in the middle would just be an island with a lake, not a true lagoon, another requirement for an atoll. The land that extends out of the water around the coral ring constitutes the islands in the atoll.

Anonymous 4:52 PM  

It is Han Solo, not Hans Solo

Sfingi 5:29 PM  

@Martin - that was very interesting. And, how 'bout that word, "subtitularly." Thank you.

Shamik 5:48 PM  

My fastest ever Monday. Hey...i'm in training for ACPT. Time is of the essence! ; ) LOL

Nice little Monday. Don't recall seeing SKINNYDIP before.......not in a puzzle anyway.

andrea skinnydipper michaels 8:31 PM  

@Shamik
Yes, it hadn't been! Damn! (Yankees?) I have it in one I'm working on now! Alas. (Ala?)

@Joho
Don't you think "bleedover" for ANTSY is more colorful??!!

@anon 4:52pm
Are you sure it isn't Hans Olo?

XMAN 11:51 PM  

andreaskin nydipper: Hanso Lo. perhaps?

Anonymous 12:08 AM  

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sanfranman59 1:06 AM  

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 6:19, 6:55, 0.91, 30%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:22, 3:41, 0.91, 25%, Easy-Medium

Abigail 9:08 AM  

Technically, though it ends in s Athens is not a plural. It's a city.

Paul 10:35 AM  

Easiest NYT puzzle yet for me, but I'm still a new solver so I'm happy to solve any of them in one sitting. Ditto on the comment about Albuquerque Anglos, although there's local debate on the use of Latino, we'd never use Yankee, and further north it's all a bit more complicated. I remember the Disney Hans Brinker movie, too. Geesh, think I spent more time commenting.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

I thought this was a very easy puzzle. Took faction of time. Had no trouble with any clue.

impjb 12:51 PM  

Finally broke the 5:00 barrier!!! Should be a good week.

Singer 6:15 PM  

Nice puzzle, easy, good fill. No complaints. Nice changeup after Saturday's bear.

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