Dirty Harry's employer / MON 3-29-10 / Shoulder muscle informally / Jon Bon Jovi Tina Turner Betty Boop Superman features

Monday, March 29, 2010

Constructor: John Dunn

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: IN THE CROSSHAIRS (38A: Fixed as a target ... or a hint to four pairs of intersecting answers in this puzzle) — grid features four pairs of intersecting hair types, arranged symmetrically


Word of the Day: DINA Merrill (18D: Actress Merrill) —

Dina Merrill (born December 9, 1925) is an American actress and socialite. // Merrill was born Nedenia Marjorie Hutton in New York City, the only child of Post Cereals heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and her second husband, Wall Street stockbroker Edward Francis Hutton.[1] She was educated at The George Washington University. // Merrill acted in twenty-two motion pictures [... and ...] appeared regularly on television in the 1960s [...] Merrill is a presidential appointee to the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a trustee of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Foundation, a vice president of the New York City Mission Society. // She served on the board of directors and the compensation committee of Lehman Brothers for 18 years until 2007.
• • •

A very interesting theme idea, with an usual theme answer pattern. Conceptually, I loved it. Theme made the puzzle slightly harder than a normal Monday, though (3:24), as I had no idea what Mamie feature was supposed to be definitive and had no idea what Tina Turner and Jon Bon Jovi could possibly have in common. Also, don't know how a BRAID is different from a PLAIT (would never in a million years have associated PLAIT with Pippi). The cluing seemed a bit off in places — actually, more unnecessarily wordy than flat-out off. 29D: What tagging a runner and catching a fly ball result in is an eternal clue for OUTS (also, sometimes you tag a runner and he is not, in fact, out). Why not [Apartment payment] for RENT? Do we need "dweller's" in there? Isn't [Mosey] enough to clue AMBLE. Why [Mosey along]? Much SODA POP is not, in fact, "sugary." The clue on WREN is undoubtedly accurate (36D: Bird that perches with its tail erect) but did *nothing* to signal WREN to me. My wife knows more about birds than I. I asked, "Is that what you think of when you think of WREN?" She thought about it a bit. "No." Still, all these cluing issues were just annoying static — the core of the puzzle was sound and enjoyable.

A couple more issues, though, having to do with theme consistency. MANES is really generic as it applies to human hair. A POMPADOUR and BANGS and a BRAID are all fairly limited in their meanings, whereas MANES could be any old thick head of hair. Further, LOCKS is just ... hair. Rapunzel had looong LOCKS, but LOCKS is not a hair style. So it's an outlier. So is BEARD, as all the other hairs are on the top of the head; BEARD is the only facial hair of the bunch. Lastly, some answers are plural. Some are not. So it's a bit wonky, but it'll do. The imagination and ambition of the theme makes the wonkiness fade in importance.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Elvis Presley feature (POMPADOUR)
  • 5D: Abraham Lincoln feature (BEARD)
  • 19A: Mamie Eisenhower feature (BANGS)
  • 11D: Jon Bon Jovi and Tina Turner features (MANES)
  • 60A: Willie Nelson feature (BRAID)
  • 51D: Pippi Longstocking feature (PLAIT)
  • 62A: Betty Boop and Superman features (SPITCURLS)
  • 53D: Rapunzel feature (LOCKS)

ATTIRED (30A: Clad) and APPAREL (49A: Clothing) are eerily similar words, and not just because both relate to clothing. Same length, vowels and consonants all in same places, "A" "R" and "E" all in the same places, and double-letter in same places. If your APPAREL is MESHY, it might be SAUCY. It might also be SO BAD that I have to leave the room. If you are ATTIRED in PARSNIPS, well, god help you.

Bullets:
  • 23A: Shoulder muscle, informally (DELT) — just blanked on this. My brain went "LAT" then ... nothing.
  • 1D: Dirty Harry's employer: Abbr. (SFPD) — There is just one fact that all solvers know about the SFPD. This is it. If you have to be known by one fact, it's not a bad one.


  • 13D: They may be sordid (PASTS) — I thought TALES. Another reason why the NE took me much longer than the other quadrants.
  • 28D: Real estate (LAND) — I thought LOTS.
  • 31D: Give a shellacking (TROMP) — this word looks wronger the more I stare at it. Like it can't decide if it's TROUNCE or STOMP.
First day of my spring break, which I will spend, partly, on the phone with an Apple representative. Ugh. Words can't describe how much I despise dealing with computer glitches. Maybe I'll get lucky and the problem will be something small and stupid. That way, I'll just feel humiliated instead of humiliated, incompetent, and frustrated.

Oh, and congratulations to known crossworder Sherman Alexie on winning the Pen/Faulkner Award last week for "War Dances," a fantastic book with at least one story ("Fearful Symmetry") in which crossword-solving figures prominently. You should get a copy. That's A-L-E-X-I-E. Will Shortz, I'm looking at you :)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

75 comments:

Blackhawk 7:19 AM  

The most awesome Monday puzzle of the year. Inventive and delightfully strange. Only in a crossword will Mamie Eisenhower, Elvis Presley, Juan Peron, Abe Lincoln and Mies van Der Rohe intersect. That would be a great dinner party.

I also liked the two subthemes of music (Elvis, Bon Jovi, Tina Turner, George Harrison, Willie Nelson) and the noir (Clue weapon, SFPD, Spanish devil and a sordid past). Nicely done, Mr Dunn.

Oscar 7:50 AM  

Agreed. Wonky but wonderfully inventive.

jesser 7:53 AM  

My favorite Monday in a long, long time. I normally do not use the words 'favorite' and 'Monday' in the same sentence for a variety of reasons, but this puzzle made me want to up and do the Happy Dance (patent pending) at 5:45 a.m., and that's saying something.

I noticed the attire/apparel thing, but it didn't bother me, because there was so little crosswordese in this grid (TET and SDS notwithstanding).

Just a lovely solve for me. Mil gracias, Senor Dunn!

Bleva! (The second story of a building in Maine, as in 'Go to the B levah.' Watch for this line in a comic strip soon. I want an award for the writing.) -- jesser

ArtLvr 7:57 AM  

Yes, it was great fun. My one initial misstep was Parsleys for PARSNIPS, corrected by NEMESIS. Also amusing to have snips slipped into a Hair puzzle? Otherwise it was a snap, very enjoyable...

I confess that after BEARD I was hoping for more along the lines of a Mustache, or Moustache in French. Another time we could get variations on same, from Handlebar to Fu Manchu? Not that I like them, but the descriptive words are amazing.

∑;)

Elaine 8:02 AM  

I actually finished with an error--CANES instead of MANES. I had RELOG, then RECAP for the cross--should have continued on through the alphabet, but instead I decided Tina and Bon Jovi might have knee troubles or something. I would not recognize either 'star' if they rang my doorbell, so needless to say I don't know about their hairstyles, either. Oh, well.

BRAID and PLAIT are synonymous in my book.

This is the second puzzle in which WRENs have puzzled some persons. I'm a birder (not a Life List keeper, but pretty attentive) and the [tail erect] is a significant identifier. (Blue-gray gnat-catchers also have this characteristic. In case you're interested.) I recall that, previously, someone questioned why 'Troglodyte' is part of the Latin name for wrens; if you saw the rather cunning nest that a wren constructs, you'd get it at once. I have Carolina wrens at my suet daily; too darling.

Juan P 8:19 AM  

LOVED it! my favorite Monday ever I think. I thought all the hair clues/answers were spot on, and MANES came immediately to mind w/Tina Turner and Bon Jovi...I think it has something to do with having a lot of hair that one shakes around, like a horse. And I think LOCKS is a term often specifically associated with Rapunzel (that or 'tresses') so was perfectly ok w/that too.

I especially liked POMPADOUR, PARSNIPS, NEMESES ... so much to like in this puzzle, fresh inventive fill but still fast and easy for a Monday. Great job!

dk 8:38 AM  

Clad in PARSNIPS... the mind doth wander.

@Rex, my experiences with the Apple service teams have all been positive, even when they cannot solve the problem (external hard drive when connected via fire wire shuts off when Mac goes into sleep mode) I know they have tried.

I wish this puzzle had mohawk or mullet in the fill. Step son currently sports a blue mohawk (liberty spiked for those in the know).

Fast fun fill. The theme was an early entry and aside from 2 misspellings (corrected in the cross) this one was error free in under 5.

One misspelling was DuI for DWI. DUI is what we call it here in the southern climes of MN and you can "get" special black and white plates (first letters WK for whiskey) if you are SOBAD.

Grew up calling SODAPOP soft drinks and that caused some confusion when I tried to order a beverage, in a midwest bar, for my son then 7. Here in MN SODAPOP is known as pop (pronounced pauwwwp).

**** (4 Stars) Almost, I say almost an Andrea

secret word: tabjnhi -- an Indian local SODAPOP

tptsteve 8:54 AM  

A clever Monday puzzle and theme, and I'm happy that mullet wasn't in it.

To those who answered my query yesterday, thanks- I was simply wondering if the word had a more modern useage (I had used a dictionary before I posted, but didn't think it to be a modern term and thought I was missing something)

foodie 9:18 AM  

I agree with Rex's nuanced analysis of the puzzle. I too thought it was very inventive. And hair as a theme, that's a whole world opening up!

In spite of the discussion about DUI vs. DWI yesterday, I wrote DUI and then stared at UREN for the bird and thought-- must pee a lot.

Rex, is A-L-E-X-I-E a REXITE?

@dk, tabjnhi is a slow cooked Morrocan dish : )

joho 9:20 AM  

I, too, noticed ATTIRED and APPAREL but it didn't bother me ALOT with POMPADOUR and SPITCURLS in the grid. Would have been fun if "Shampoo" showed up.

@dk ... I'm seeing more and more mohawks these days, your stepson must be a fashion plate.

Thank you, John Dunn, for a fun, full-bodied Monday puzzle!

foodie 9:23 AM  

@SanFranMan: Hey, I see you're in the top 100 solvers! I wanted to mark the moment in case you get edged out as the day goes on. Way to go!!

chefbea 9:25 AM  

I knew bangs, as Mamie and I both had them at the same time.

Glad for the parsnips - they are great in stews.

dusseli = a german pasta

fikink 9:29 AM  

"The imagination and ambition of the theme makes the wonkiness fade in importance."

Thank goodness you added this, Rex.
I agree with @Blackhawk: "inventive and delightful."

The only thing I did not like about this puzzle was MESHY; otherwise, what a treat on a Monday!

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

And the intersecting letters (if you read them clockwise from the NE) spell out NCAA, which seems very timely.

Tinbeni 9:36 AM  

For a Monday, this wasn't SO BAD, actually today's theme was clever. I liked it A LOT.

Hmmmm, DWI today, dui yesterday. I wonder if they're trying to tell me something.

SODA POP, like water, is something I never drink.

Tinbeni 9:39 AM  

@Anon 9:34
And if you parse the letters with my special vision, they spell out Scotch!

Van55 9:39 AM  

Terrific Monday puzzle. Nothing whatever for me to whine about today.

hazel 10:09 AM  

I like the "wonderfully inventive" part of the description. Cool puzzle - absolutely loved MANES for those 2. Tried to find a difference between BRAID and PLAIT, and couldn't - I think any distinction is subtle at best - the Venn Diagram would have a very LARGE area of overlap, although I like Willie and Pippi as the endpoints. Seems a bit creepy with them in the overlap circle together. SPITCURLS sound disgusting.

@Rex - Spring has FINALLY sprung down here - so enjoy the break!! See if you can find out from the Apple guy when Verizon's going to get the I-phone. My Apple guy posited Q3.

Kurt 10:30 AM  

I think that @joho said it best: "A fun, full-bodied Monday puzzle!"

Thank you John Dunn.

Charles Bogle 10:31 AM  

The best Monday puzzle I've seen! Clever, nice misdirection, a great theme...what more could we ask for? (more John Dunns)

Re misdirections: for what may be sordid, first I played around with PANTS (don't ask), then PARTS (like sordid parts of stories) before hitting on PASTS. For the life of me could not connect BANGS to Mamie

Re: SODA POP...I always thought the drinks could be one or the other: POP, or SODA, depending on one's geographical region. But no complaint!

Gubdude 10:32 AM  

Definitely tough for a Monday but fought through it.

Didn't get STOPAT for a minute and initially wrote in nemisIs for NEMESES. Oh well.

Liked the theme concept and overall good execution.

Two Ponies 10:41 AM  

What a terrific puzzle.
As I scanned the clues I couldn't wait to find out what Betty Boop and Superman had in common besides being cartoons.
Rex is in great form today and the rest of you are cracking me up as well. @foodie, You get the prize so far for Uren! @jesser, still funny as always.
I agree with fikink that meshy is weird but it's fun to say. I got a little meshy last night and spilled my Guinness.
Besides Dirty Harry I have seen SFPD clued with Steve McQueen and Bullitt.
I'm OK with plait and braid as Pippi is from Across the Pond and I always hear braids called plaits over there.
@ dk, I think I saw your stepson with that hairdo dressed in Statue of Liberty attire/apparel advertising for a local tax prep company!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:48 AM  

Excellent puzzle. I had to work out a few of the theme answers from crosses, but that was no problem, as I thought much of the fill was clued easier-than-Monday.

Nonetheless, I managed two write-overs: In the think before you write category, I had LAPD before SFPD (no excuse possible.) For 69 A, Not _____ (middling), I first put SOHOT before SOBAD.

mac 10:55 AM  

Terrific puzzle!

The crosshairs reminded me of Palin's awful ad, eeeewww! Also thought for a moment Mamie might have had a beard, sorry!

I also expected a goatee or other facial hair to accompany beard. Pelt is a nice little theme related word.

I have to say I had a very positive experience with the Dell tech after my laptop died.

saggeyed? Not!

archaeoprof 10:59 AM  

When was the last time we had a medium-challenging puzzle on Monday? Nice change of pace.

What if the whole week is medium-challenging?

fikink 11:09 AM  

@Bob, I put SOHOT, too! My "veil-of-tears" mother was fond of saying it, preceded by "not," especially when giving me the hairy eyeball. (Think I have issues?)

@Two Ponies, had the same thought on BRAID and PLAIT. And look at the definition of cornrows:
"a style of braiding and plaiting the hair in narrow strips to form geometric patterns on the scalp."

The conjunctive "and" in that definition leads one to believe there is a difference between the two.

Two Ponies 11:10 AM  

@ mac, The cross hairs answer also brought caribou barbie to mind for me. I've heard her website has several of them with specific targets. Very scary. She was just down the road from me on Saturday "brewing up" trouble.

lit.doc 11:10 AM  

This one took me half-again as long as a typical Monday, and the fascinating thing is that I still can’t put my finger on why it took so long. The difficulty level of the fill seemed unusually smooth across the entire grid, and the theme was accessible and amusing.

Yes, BEARD caused me to scratch my chin a bit, and the addition of MULLET and MOHAWK would have been big plusses, but I’ve gotta tip my hat to anyone who can construct an easy puzzle that incorporates such a structurally elaborate theme.

lit.doc 11:27 AM  

p.s. Hand up for disliking MESHY. No reflection on John Dunn, as it's common-enough fill. But still, uck.

@Two Ponies, I too got meshy lash night an' shpilled my Guinnish. :)

Glitch 11:31 AM  

@archeoprof

If the week were all Mod - Chal, we would see posts of:

1) Hated it
2) Where did my ____day go?
3) This should have been a ___day!
4) Didn't everyone learn ____ from when they they lived in Tibet?
5) Grrrr
6) Meh
7) Easy Peesy
8) A "first time constructor" is no excuse!
9) Welcome _____!

..../Glitch

Rube 11:38 AM  

Did the dead-tree puzzle in ink for the first time. Much easier to see. Will have to do M-W this way from now on. Had one write-over, SAssY anstead of SAUCY.

I always thought SPITCURLS were alongside the temples. Google, as usual, set me straight, or curly, or whatever, as the case may be.

MESHY?? Otherwise an excellent puzzle.

Interesting that two entries had the same captcha, tabjnhi, yet they were 40 mins apart.

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

I think the difference between braid and plait is geographical - ie Brits Plait and Americans braid.

Also I read somewhere the difference between DUI and DWI has to do with age? Teenagers are DUI and adults DWI - think I got it the right way round. Don't know if this is in fact correct or just a southern thing.

Ulrich 11:55 AM  

I totally agree with the praise heaved on this Monday puzzle--had a somewhat slower start than usual for a Monday, but then got cracking. And I really loved the clue for WREN--Sir Christopher has been on my mind lately--if you're interested in architecture, you cannot spend a more pleasant day in London than visiting his surviving parish churches, one after the other (I'm much less fond of St. Paul's)...

Sfingi 11:58 AM  

LitDoc - Meshier, meshiest, saucier, sauciest. Yes, some things are meshier than others.

I had none of Rex's or other commentor's problems today (will wonders never cease). But I did not know the longest river in France. I wrote seInE, anyway, even though I knew it was wrong, and might be Rhone or Rhine but it did help to "navigate" the way.

I've never heard of Chicago referred to as Chi-town. Was wondering if I really am supposed to know a Chinese newspaper. I used to know a Hebrew paper and a Welsh paper. Prolly an age thing.

I agree plait=braid. The only difference is braid goes back to Old Norse and plait goes to Latin.
After 1066... oh, I won't go on.
But crossword land is the only place where parrot= APE.

@Glitch - move your bed away from the wall, so you can roll off the other side. Others liked it, including some who breeze through the hardest. (This is where my mom would say, "Comparisons are odious.")

@2Ponies - That would be cute - an actual Caribou Barbie Doll!

@Anon 1150 - I think it has to do with the amount of alcohol, DUI being less than DWI. Hubster (retired criminal lawyer) isn't home to ask.

deerfencer 11:59 AM  

Fun, challenging puzzle for a Monday. Big thumbs up!

Ulrich 12:05 PM  

If this has been discussed before, I apologize for not paying attention: My avatar has suddenly disappeared from my profile and therefore doesn't show up here. Does anyone know how that happens?

Glitch 12:18 PM  

@Sfingi

If you read my post carefully, you will note I was not refering to today's puzzle, but @Archeoprof's hypothetical full week of M-C puzzles.

I happen to like today's offering.

..../Glitch

Stan 12:34 PM  

Completely on board with the 'wonderful, delightful, inventive' crowd today.

Thoroughly enjoyed the solve, despite initial confusion (Jon Bon Jovi and Tina Turner features -- ALLITERATIVE NAMES?)

Great clue for SPITCURLS -- I never would of thought of the Man of Steel as having one, but he does.

lit.doc 12:49 PM  

@Ulrich, I speculate that it's a problem with Blogger.com's system. It's happened to me beforre, but all I had to do was open up my Blogger profile and reload my image.

bluebell 12:51 PM  

Didn't get wren because I automatically wrote DUI--that's the one I read in the newspapers here.

"Mosey along" is a phrase I've said all my life. Just "mosey" would be a little bare.

Really enjoyed this puzzle--once I had "in the cross hairs" I could see where the rest of it was going. And Mamie's bangs were pretty much of a gimme. My favorite is pompadour crossing beard.

Zeke 12:57 PM  

@Urlich - It just packed up and left. What do you expect from luggage?

JenCT 1:08 PM  

@Rex - thanks for running one of my favorite movie scenes of all time - "Go ahead, make my day."

Didn't like MESHY. Also had PARSLEYS before PARSNIPS (same family).

According to dictionary.com, a braid is a plait, and a plait is a braid.

Agree that the tail held erect is quite a distinguishing feature for a wren.

Steve J 1:27 PM  

I'm swimming against the tide today. I wasn't nearly as excited by this as the majority of people were. Maybe because I never really picked up where different hair styles were crossing each other. I simply entered CROSSHAIRS early, shrugged, and kept going.

I also did the U/W swap, giving me a new bird called a UREN. Since I don't really know birds, I figured for a bit that could have been plausible, until the program kept telling me I had incorrect cells.

As far as DWI/DUI, there's really no difference other than whatever words a particular state used when writing its law. In some states you can also have OWI or OUI. I would guess that there are some states where both could be on the books and one describes dangerous driving while under the legal limit and one is driving over the limit, but in broad strokes, all the abbreviations simply mean drunk driving.

Clark 1:33 PM  

Nice and easy, but a little hair-brained. Somebody had to say it.

George NYC 1:48 PM  

I too thought of Sarah P when got to crosshairs. Otherwise agree a nice Monday treat.

Never knew that about wrens. Next week's "Life" episodes on Discovery channel include an hour on birds, for those who haven't been watching. Recommended.

ArtLvr 1:52 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
ArtLvr 1:57 PM  

@Anonymous 11:50 -- DUI and DWI aren't age-based in NY, if anywhere. As @Glitch explained here late last Saturday, they are both determined by legal blood alcohol measurement and DWI is much more serious.

As for a difference between PLAIT and BRAID, I agree with idea that they are mostly alike and a preference might well be ethnic, but in my mind's eye I see a braid as rounder in diameter and a plait as flatter. A braid to me can have three or more strands woven together, while a plait seems to me just the simpler three-strand weaving... This is only from really long-ago experience in camp, etc. Thinking lanyards, for example.

jesser 2:07 PM  

Reason # 659 to love this blog: A reasonable explanation of the difference between plaits and braids that can be visualized by a person (me) who cares about neither, except forto the extent that if anyone tries to chop off Willie's [insert the correct term of the two here], they will answer to me, By God.

Wholus! (the loin tingling experienced by many visitors to Amsterdam) -- jesser

Two Ponies 2:45 PM  

The plait v braid explanation I put forth earlier reminded my of when I was living in London. I went to a salon and asked to have my bangs trimmed. I was met by a collective blank stare from the stylists. I pointed to my bangs and they all said "Oh, you mean your fringe!"
Three and out

andrea hairshirt michaels 2:49 PM  

@jesser
I was going to chime in how much I enjoyed the puzzle (tho of course I secretly think it's a Tuesday posing as a Monday, if not, damn! the bar has been raised again!)
when I realized I'd be following your comment of chopping off willie's!

(Good argumment for the importance of apostrophes)

Also thought of Sarah Palin ad...so super well-timed puzzle!

Had a long discussion just last week with downstairs neighbor trying to construct a puzzle as to whether m(o)ustache was spelled with ot without the "o".

Re: PLAIT/BRAID crossing, wouldn't that have been neat if BANGS crossed with FRINGE?

And yes, good suggestion that BEARD could be substituted with MOHAWK or MULLET or something that would add to the consistency of being atop the head...would that be a hair replacement?

Anyway, John Dunn, TOUPEE!
(oops, I mean TOUCHEE!)

andrea hairshirt michaels 3:01 PM  

Just going to chime in how great this puzzle was...when i saw @Jesser's comment about chopping off Willie's...
wow, talk about the importance of apostrophes!

Loved the puzzle, it raises the bar again...

@Glitch,
FABULOUS list! But dare I say it DID seem to be slightly more Tuesday-esque, construction-wise!

@Two Ponies
Yes, PLAIT/BRAID crossing made me think it would have been cool to parallel it with FRINGE/BANGS on top. (Hmmm, Like a Surrey with a fringe on top! That's a shout out to pauer and greene)
And I agree, BEARD could be swapped out for MOHAWK or MULLET to make it slightly more consistent (would that be a hair replacement?)

Anyway, super timely what with the Palin ad...that is some scary synchronicity!

Toupee, John Dunn!
(oops, I mean TOUCHEE!)

andrea hairshirt michaels 3:04 PM  

yikes, how did that happen? sorry!
I lost the first comment so had tried to retype it from memory...excuse the redundancy! Now I don't know how to delete one.

Ulrich 3:19 PM  

@lit.doc: I tried that, but the uploading didn't work either--I got some idiotic error message about some invalid URL WHEN IN FACT I SELECTED THE IMAGE FROM MY OWN COMPUTER!!!

@Zeke: You may be onto something--most likely, blogger lost my luggage!

the redanman 3:23 PM  

This was a really good one. Time only to congratulate the constructor and re-re-check my answers.

Cheers

Billy Collins 3:24 PM  

@ArtLvr -

Ooh, ooh! You said "lanyard!"

The Lanyard - Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.


Included in the FORTHCOMING book (OCT 2005), The Trouble with Poetry.

chefwen 3:30 PM  

Am I the only one who thought of @dk re. Andrea when reading the clue at 14A?

Great puzzle, fun for a Monday!

sanfranman59 3:35 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 7:36, 6:54, 1.10, 76%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:03, 3:40, 1.10, 79%, Medium-Challenging

Thanks for the props, Foodie (although I've now fallen to #125). Every now and then, I sneak into the top 100. Since I began recording my NYT results last June, my best finish is 60th on a Monday puzzle back in November.

Anonymous 3:57 PM  

FWIW Ulrich, I noticed lots of missing avatars earlier but they are back, including yours.

Sfingi 4:04 PM  

@Glitch = So sorry. You're right, I didn't read your framing correctly.

I never knew the word "lanyard" until I was old. We called them boondoggles at GS camp.

Hubster still not back. I looked it up.
NYS, as usual, really gets precise:
A-DWI Aggravated DWI .18 or +
DWI .08 - .17
DWAI Driving while ability impaired
.05-.07
Under 21 .02 - +
As for sentencing this could be a chart with 2nd and 3rd offenses, etc., but that's enuf.

Now that he's retired he does volunteer and pro-bono stuff. Today he's gone to the Attorney General to help some people set up a non-profit for kids with gay issues who haven't had any luck in traditional settings.

@Ulrich - I've been having similar problems after we got the new laptop. I figure I'll have to go back into Google Account and get a password again. I had it for a while, then lost it trying to use it at the LA Confidential.

Luke 5:28 PM  

Felt more like a Tuesday then a Monday puzzle. I agree with Rex that the cluing just seemed a bit off. This probably didn't help me enjoy the puzzle as much as I would have hoped.

It probably doesn't help that I've never heard of a SPLITCURLS or PLAIT before. Heck I figured out the hair theme early on but just know nothing about it. I get a haircut maybe once every 4-6 months and rarely comb it out of laziness. I still don't really get the cluing of MANES. Well, I do but it's just too much of a stretch for me.

Overall, a decent Monday puzzle that could have used a bit more cleaning up.

Noam D. Elkies 5:31 PM  

Yes, unusual but not 69A:SOBAD for a Monday puzzle.

Sordid tales? Didn't even think of that, not that it would have helped. I was going for sordid "boons" in 13D and already anticipating the Wordsworth quotes. Also "whomp" for 31D:TROMP. That's part of why I didn't quite finish solving the puzzle from just the Down clues. I did, however, figure out what 44A:?EMEN would be, though I had to go through almost the whole alphabet to think of anything besides HEMEN (excluded by the H of the central 38A:INTHECROSSHAIRS) and SEMEN (which I didn't believe would be in the puzzle — evidently Will Shortz doesn't believe it either because it has yet to appear).

@jesser: if one must have the esedrowssorc 65A:TET and 68A:SDS in the grid then this is the way to do it, stacked to make the relation visible. For a puzzle with a relatively high "Freshness Factor" it's curious that this puzzle's only new answers are the long horizontal theme entries 17A/38A/62A plus 40D:REALISTS, while the only "dis legomenon"(?) is of all things 53D:LOCKS.

NDE

lit.doc 5:35 PM  

@Rex, I was so hoping someone else would ask, but no such luck. What in the world is that image to the right of the Theme Answers in your write-up? A photo-micrograph of a piece of hair? A sign that I need new glasses?

Anonymous 5:39 PM  

@ lit.doc, I believe it is a close-up of Lincoln's beard from a piece of money.

fergus 7:45 PM  

Evidence that I've bought in to Will's more current argot: wrote in CAVED for Surrendered, when CEDED would have been automatic a few years ago.

edith b 8:32 PM  

Whenever I have to choose between DUI and DWI, I leave the vowel blank and come back to it. Sometimes this solves the problem, sometimes not. Today was one of these days where the problem cleared itself up.

I do the same thing when presented with INURE and ENURE.

Nice little puzzle today. My captcha today was deractra which aptly describes Katherine Bigelow who won the Best Derectra Oscar for this year.

fikink 9:15 PM  

@Bill Collins
You have humbled me.

kate 9:16 PM  

I learned the word "plait" from Pippi Longstocking, I had to ask my mother what it meant. To this day, whenever I hear the word, I think of Pippi. I liked this puzzle a lot but I thought it was very easy.

PlantieBea 9:25 PM  

Nifty Monday puzzle. Add me to the group who liked it.

Thanks, Rex, for the update on War Dances and Sherman Alexie. I had the book ordered and didn't know about the crossword connection.

your average blank 9:28 PM  

great monday puzzle...actually any puzzle I am able to finish is good.
i couldn't be any shallower if the tide went out.

foodie 10:01 PM  

@ Billy Collins, you're not the real Billy Collins, are you? I love your poetry!

And yes, a lanyard is enough. A smile is enough as a payback.

@Artlvr, yes, I agree with your distinction. The word "PLAIT" reminds me of PLAT, flat and seems like it should be flatter.

Speaking of which, Mamie's bangs were noticeable because they were not very flattering..

It's amazing how many hair-related words were brought up today. It makes you realize that we've been deprived, working only with AFROs. I bet if you include hair styling actions (cutting, trimming, blowing, curling, crimping, dyeing, moussing, de-frizzing, henna-ing,implanting,etc) you could create an entire puzzle- a hair ball.

sanfranman59 10:22 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 7:38, 6:54, 1.11, 76%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:02, 3:40, 1.10, 79%, Medium-Challenging

For some reason, NYT posted the Tuesday puzzle early today. When I did my initial end of day check of the online solve times at around 6pm Pacific, they had already been reset. So today's numbers aren't as complete as usual, but with 897 solvers in the mix, they're good enough for my purposes.

Billy Collins 10:41 PM  

@ foodie -

Since you ask, I am honor-bound to admit that no, I am not the real Billy Collins. But why didn't you ask if I was the real Henry Wadsworth Longfellow when I posted "Catawba Wine"?

SethG 11:07 PM  

My hair looks like Beaker's, but I don't know what the style is called. I think I'm gonna cut most of it off.

hazel 12:24 AM  

@Seth G - I don't know who Beaker is. But I say just shave it all off. I've been bald for much of the past 5 years, although my hair is down to my neck now, starting to get in my eyes again. Ready for a cut. Being bald is a total no muss no fuss affair though. And your head feels really cool - when I would rub it, I felt like I was rubbing a genie's lamp. Sometimes I would surprise yourself when I came across a mirror. "Who's that?"

There are some pretty telling attributes that separate chemo-balds from regular shaved heads (no eyelashes, eyebrows, e.g.) - so if you see a bald person, give (maybe offer) them a hug or tell them you're rooting for them. I've gotten all sorts of random hugs over the past few years - and they're definitely good for the soul.

Stan 12:38 AM  

You rock, @hazel. Thanks for that post.

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