Crosswise on deck —TUE 5-25-10— Turkish title of old / Came into base horizontally / Pattern named for Scottish county / Lecherous figure Greek myth

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Constructor: Sarah Keller

Relative difficulty: Super Easy

THEME: SOAPS (39A: Afternoon fare ... or a hint to the ends of 20-, 33-, 41- and 52-Across) — theme answers are two-word phrases where second word is a brand of soap

Word of the Day: BIOME (43A: Community of plant and animal life) —

Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to as ecosystems. Biomes are defined by factors such as plant structures (such as trees, shrubs, and grasses), leaf types (such as broadleaf and needleleaf), plant spacing (forest, woodland, savanna), and climate. Unlike ecozones, biomes are not defined by genetic, taxonomic, or historical similarities. Biomes are often identified with particular patterns of ecological succession and climax vegetation (quasi-equilibrium state of the local ecosystem). An ecosystem has many biotopes and a biome is a major habitat type. A major habitat type, however, is a compromise, as it has an intrinsic inhomogeneity. (wikipedia)

• • •
Something is amiss today. This is the easiest NYT puzzle I've ever done. My time was faster than any recorded *Monday* time I have on record this year. I know I've never been under 3 on a Tuesday, and I was at 2:44 today. 2 minutes, 44 seconds. Obscene. Further, this puzzle is frighteningly dull (is that possible?). The theme is very basic, and the fill is a complete snooze. I visibly winced several times, mid-solve, at proximate garbage like ESAI next to ASTA, OBIT next to ALOE, etc. Ooxteplernon is well pleased. Even the "tough" stuff was crosswordese I've already mastered, i.e. BIOME, UELE (53D: River to the Ubangi), YEGG, and ABEAM (5A: Crosswise, on deck). One last problem: this same theme was in the NYT six years ago (June 22, 2004). ROTARY DIAL was even a theme answer in it. So were MOLTEN LAVA, JAMES IVORY, and MUSCLE TONE, as well as a short revealer (SOAP). In addition, it had TRADE / NAMES. Always good to check your theme answers against the database to see if what you're doing's been done (well) before. Sarah Keller is a reliable early-week pro, which only adds to the mysterious oddballness of this puzzle.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Keypad forerunner (ROTARY DIAL)
  • 33A: Ghana, once (GOLD COAST)
  • 41A: Body suit shade, perhaps (FLESH TONE)
  • 52A: One of two in a Christmas song (TURTLEDOVE)
Only place I hesitated even a little was in getting into the NE. Didn't get EARTHY right off the bat (24A: Coarse, as humor), and so had to go inside the section and work my way back out. This proved no problem at all. Changed my original GMC to AMC and I was on my way (25D: Onetime Jeep mfr.).

I think that's it for today. Not enough interesting material to do a "Bullets" section. I liked the ARGYLE STUNTMAN column (5D: Pattern named for a Scottish county + 39D: Movie double, often), but not much beyond that. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


des 12:26 AM  

I agree that it was very easy. My only delay was trying to decide between SAKE and SAME for 36D. I eventually decided that while there might be some bars where SAKE is more common, the "same" had to be the answer, no matter how "lame" it is. BIOME was no help since I had never heard of it.

Deb Amlen 12:38 AM  

I, too, had GMC for the longest time, and when I came up with EGRTHY for [Coarse, like humor] I stared at it for the longest time and said, Huh. That's one I've never heard of.

Until the requisite forehead-slapping moment occurred.

PurpleGuy 12:38 AM  

This was a delightful Tuesday puzzle. I agree with Rex that it was one of my fastest. I don't do times, but happened to glance at the clock. WHOO.

OK, my childish mind needs to point out SATYR so close to THIGH, with a SHOO ROSSI(dog) AGHA.
I'm visioning this whole romantic rescue theme. Nevermind !!

TURTLEDOVE over MEAREA over ALTAR over NEEDY says a lot about me. Yes, I always had a thing for Anne Meara !!!

Now who else would dare to cross my two favorite memories TONY and EDDY ?
Somehow, Sarah Keller got into my AIRY head and fingered the ROTARYDIAL of my AIRY brain.

What a fun puzzle. I DOFF my hat to Sarah Keller for a fun way to start a TUESDAY.

I know my buddy Jesser will have few comments.
@archeoprof - I didn't find any country music clues or answers.

OK. I'm in Phoenix, so LET'S GO SUNS !!!!!!

SethG 12:42 AM  

Something that struck a discordant note for me (and probably for virtually none of my fellow solvers): Dial, Coast, Tone, and Dove are made by Henkel, Henkel, Henkel, and Unilever.

It didn't really impact my solve, but let's just say I didn't rely on the theme so much. I like OKAPI, because I like giraffes.

Clark 12:59 AM  

I love how (we) the folks on this blog (in this case SethG) come up with such oddball stuff. Henkel, Henkel, Henkel, and Unilever! Indeed.

syndy 1:36 AM  

l'd call this puzzle well-behaved but somewhay short of good.nuke iran pipe emit is a little harsh but mostly needy-blah

Steve J 1:44 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist 1:48 AM  

Too easy. Like Rex, I did it in a Monday (for me) time. Just started writing in acrosses and had 80% of the fill by the time I reached 67A. Would probably have been equal to my fastest Monday, except I misread keypad as keyboard and wrote in 20A as TYPEWRITER.

Very little to comment on. It could have said any county in FL and I would have put in OCALA (high crosswordese) if the answer required 5 letters.

I think 46A SPOTON should be the fundamental particle of grime.

Steve J 1:49 AM  

"Henkel, Henkel, Henkel and Uniliver" sounds like it should be a law firm.

I couldn't muster a reaction to this one in any direction. Certainly didn't love it. But I didn't hate it. I nothinged it (actually, I think the correct cook-kids term on the interwebs these days is "meh"). It was just there. I guess I was bored enough with it that I couldn't even muster being annoyed by things. Although, I did have a WTF moment with YEGG. First time I've run into that bit of slang. I'll give it credit for finally providing me something I hate more than TEC.

This one didn't go super-quick for me like it did others. Just a bit faster than average Tuesday for me. But definitely not much of anything that offered a challenge.

chefwen 3:13 AM  

I'm guessing they switched Monday and Tuesday again.

Before I read Rex's write up I just stared at the finished puzzle and thought "just boring, I really have nothing good to say about it". My only write over was at 55D cuz I put OLSO down in the wrong column, damn eyes, 5's look like 6's and visi versi.

C'mon Wednesday, give us a challenge.

andrea squeaky clean michaels 4:26 AM  

Henkel henkel Henkel and Unilever I believe was written on some wall in the bible ;)

This was like a reverse pangram. Maybe all X's, Z's, J's, Q's were washed out by all the soaps?

Popeye says "yegg yegg yegg yegg"

jesser 7:57 AM  

I found some things to love. My beloved '78 Jeep CJ-7 was manufactured by AMC (who also made the Gremlin and the Hornet and the 'Oh God'mobile, the Pacer). AMC was bought out by Chrysler in the early 80s, I believe. So I loved that, and I also thought it was pretty cool to have FORD crossing OLDS. There's your Big Three American automakers right there!

Can there be another kind of DIAL other than a ROTARY one? Does that qualify for The Department of Redundancy Department?

UELE, AGHA and YEGG. Now there's a law firm whose partners routinely chase the ambulances, don't you know?

The other day I asked that we please decide how we're going to spell 'eons'. Today, I extend that request to TSARs.

The only place I hesitated one bit was at 46A, where I figured it could be dead ON or SPOT ON. TENET gave me the solve.

Cue Andrea's favorite irony moment: I got PURIM from the crosses. Ba-dum-cha!

Must work now. Love and joy to all in Rexville!

Clatest! (The first sniff of the Pla-Do [and we ALL do it!]) -- jesser

joho 8:09 AM  

To me this puzzle had lots of dust all over it. From the theme answers like ROTARYDIAL circa when? and TURTLEDOVE, something W.C. Fields might coo in a black and white movie, to all the old, tired crosswordese in the grid. Ugh.

I rate this Tuesday SAGGY.

dk 8:37 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
dk 8:39 AM  

Puzzle moment

My failing attempt to get the teen step twins to use alternatives for profanity includes substituting GNATS for a curse word. The reason for this is, according to my father, every time you swear you loose an IQ point. He further stated that we had few to spare. Options to EARTHY words include: tarter sauce; cucumbers; barnacles and the family favorite poop on a stick.

The Puzzle

YEGG and ROTARYDIAL bring to mind certain book covers often posted by he who monitors us.

My only complaint is the rating of Super Easy. I am now driven to consider my own star system. Do I create minus stars, exponential stars, super novas... you see my quandary.

I find the puzzle easy and breezy as opposed to boring. YEGG, ARGYLE, BIOME and SPOTON give this one a Tuesday lilt. And, UELE shows those letters do not always mean keeper of bees.

oo (2 planetoids)

mac 8:48 AM  

Monday puzzle for me too. Liked the little shout-out and the turtledove, ours have just returned to the big oak tree.

@SethG: I was looking for the Unilever Dove, of course, but the other three weren't always Henkel. Dial used to be Armour-Dial, and Coast belonged to P&G. Henkel has been shopping.

chefbea 9:02 AM  

I agree..very easy but a fun puzzle. Had it done before I finished my cereal which usually doesn't happen.

I'd rate it a very clean puzzle

ArtLvr 9:14 AM  

Agreed with Rex and everyone that it was easy, and with @dk that it was more breezy than boring! I liked the ARYGYLE, being of the clan Campbell, also the SATYR and YEGG (no relation). Do enough puzzles and even une ALPE is easy to surmount...

@Seth G and @mac -- neat notes on Henkel stuff! Glad to have that question cleaned up, as it were.


deerfencer 9:21 AM  

Comments here way more entertaining than the puzzle, especially Andrea's astute observation re Popeye's laugh and dk's poop on a stick story.

Oscar 9:22 AM  

Too bad the fill isn't as clean as the theme. Closed-off corners + UELE = yuck

IMO, the best of all the soap puzzles was the NYSun one ("Six Bars" - 11/13/06 by G Steinmel).

Van55 9:40 AM  

Didn,t much give a hoot. Far more Monday than yesterday's.

Ladel 9:47 AM  

@ All

51 & 59 across, a statement or oversight?


Anonymous 10:00 AM  

Maybe a sub theme car companies? Faster than a mon. not quite one cig. Golfballman

JC66 10:15 AM  


Loved *I got PURIM from the crosses.*

You may be too young to remember this type of non-rotary dial, but I sure aint.

Shamik 10:39 AM  

Go Suns! (Usually am from Phoenix area.)

Loved Andrea's Popeye chuckle.

Taking umbrage at the use of SAGGY for old-timey answers/clues. If we, the collectors of words, don't occasionally utilize things like TURTLEDOVE or ROTARYDIAL...they will be lost in the past forever. Note the word "occasionally." I like a wide variety of clues/answers that teach me something new about pop culture, hand me a gimme from my era and harken me back to the olden days with old-timey stuff. Variety! And think of using the old stuff as word archeology!

Easy puzzle for a Tuesday at 4:29. Off to a long day at work.

Tinbeni 11:10 AM  

The NUKE over IRAN got a grin, subtle.

Tampa only has five letters.

BLAH, 40A was the perfect description of this offering.

Dough 11:22 AM  

This puzzle does violate the "every area must have at least two letters of access" rule in all four corners. But, I must say that regardless of how easy it was, words like UELE and OKAPI, so familiar to experienced (and sometimes a little too jaded too young, @Rex) solvers, are generally avoided on Mondays, where non-seasoned solvers cut the first turf. Just saying.

Masked and Anonymous 12:12 PM  

Other than the deja vu-scosity of the theme, thought that part was pretty slick.

Thought SW corner was real cool fill. Got yer K.

Usually grids that look like a board of Clue rooms are kinda on the challenging side. More rebootin' than average. But old 44 ripped it up in 2: ...[wait for it]... 44, so not the case this trip.

Scannin' from the top, was alarmed to see no U's until BUDS broke the drought in row ten. This can't be good, M & A, I says to myself. But she ended up with 4 of 'em, so gotta give a pass there.

No Italian nat-ticks bitin' at my backside today. Bueno. (Hey--that woulda been a great word to describe the MonPuz.)

'bout all I can muster for yah today, Sarah, darlin'. You're a good one, so you just keep 'em comin'!

The Big E 12:25 PM  

I agree with the easy comments. Had not realized that there was (repeatedly?) an issue with a Monday and Tuesday being switched. My fiance will feel somewhat vindicated as she is convinced that Monday's have been considerably harder for her in the best few weeks. She will only try Monday and Tuesday, and occassionally Wednesday. (I can ask her to start me off on Sunday and she will fill in some of the clues she knows, even though most of the time I am convinced she is capable of far more than she fills in!)
Sorry for the side note!

@Tinbeni - great pickup on NUKE IRAN - never noticed! :-) lol You could say the same for PIPE EMIT!

retired_chemist 12:39 PM  

@ Tinbeni - of course, but I bet OCALA outscores TAMPA in crossword usage ten to one. If someone would tell me how to, I would look it up just so I'd know. Just like, if it's a German city, think ESSEN.

munistat - the public health solution to a vaginal yeast epidemic?

theex 12:46 PM  

One last problem: this same theme was in the NYT six years ago (June 22, 2004).

Also two years ago Jan 15, 2008.

The NUKE IRAN thing and "Axis of Evil" clue seems almost too much for coincidence. Somebody trying to say something?

lit.doc 12:49 PM  

Hand up for Monday-easy, though it was a nice Crosswordese 101 quiz. ABEAM, YEGG, ALPE, and BIOME were right there for me. And I’m starting to think that there’s only one city in Florida—would have put in OCALA without hesitation even if I didn’t already have the A. Never even saw UELE.

Only really icky moment wasn’t the puzzle’s fault. Read 2D “Kent State locale” maybe ten seconds in, and CSN&Y’s “Four dead in O-hi-o” has been running through my head ever since.

Anonymous 12:54 PM  

This "hand up" thing got real old a long time ago.

Three and out!

(So did that.)

jesser 1:09 PM  

You thank 'hand up' got old a long time ago? Anonymous postings have been tiresome all along. Gutless weenies.

Gray 1:13 PM  

...says a guy who posts his Captcha each day.

jesser 1:21 PM  

Yep, and because I don't hide, you can email me and make your case for me to stop. We could have an actual dialog. Imagine!

Warig! (A semi with an attitude problem) -- jesser

chefbea 1:22 PM  

now now nice

MikeM 1:23 PM  

theex, thanks for pointing out the theme was also done 2 years ago. When Rex mentioned 6 years ago I said to myself "6 Years?? Man, my life is going by way too fast!"

dk 2:38 PM  

@Gray or @jesser because I post my secret word or captcha every other day does that make me half a weenie... inquiring minds want to know.

captcha - twobeersforlunchmakeseverythingaok: self explanatory.

d(known to lie about his captcha)k

archaeoprof 2:41 PM  

One writeover today: deadon/SPOTON.

@MikeM: today's NYT says that "Lost" ran for seven seasons, and "24" for eight. Our lives ARE going by too fast.

@lit.doc: agree with you about the clue for 2D. There's no better Tuesday clue for OHIO? Maybe you had to be alive back then to feel it. Yes, our lives are going by too fast...

Hey, that sounds like a country song!

sanfranman59 3:48 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)

Tue 7:09, 8:50, 0.81, 9%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Tue 3:52, 4:30, 0.86, 16%, Easy

By the online solve times, this one will definitely finish the day as one of the easiest Tuesday puzzles in the last year. As of now, it stands as #2 for the All Solvers group and #3 for the Top 100 solvers.

Fact checker 3:50 PM  

NYT gets things wrong sometimes.

re: LOST
Lost is an American live-action television series.
The pilot episode was first broadcast on September 22, 2004 and the series concluded with its 121st and final episode airing on May 23, 2010 at the end of its SIXTH season.

CaseAceFos 3:51 PM  

"ALOE, handsome, care to BIOME a drink?" "Would, if I could, MAAM, but my friends say OSLO on the uptake...whatever that is?"
"I see where your friends are coming from, ASTA la Vista, Plowboy!"

Mary Candace 4:57 PM  


LOVED the "writing on the wall in the Bible" reference!!! Husband and I both LOL! Your posts are always SPOT ON!

andrea leggy michaels 5:57 PM  

@Mary Candace
That is very sweet. Thank you for getting it! ;)

Surprisingly, YEGG and EGGY come up a lot in Scrabble. (LEGGY also good but not YEGGY!)

I'm a bit surprised that this is the third time for the puzzle theme...but there were fresh things to like.

Like, I liked the definition for BALE and MAAM...I could "feel" and "hear" them, which is an aspect I don't often see discussed on this forum.

JUST as I was writing this, the doorbell rang and my pal Patrick Blindauer (of cute picture fame yesterday with his beloved Rebecca) apparently has sent me a small gift! It's a book called,
"If You Can't Say Anything NICE, Say It in Yiddish...The Book of Yiddish Insults and Curses"

What a schmendrick!
Ich cock ahf im.*

*(randomly chosen from p. 125)

foodie 6:17 PM  

@Andrea, I definitely have to get this book! my friends think it's hilarious when I use Yiddish expressions with an Arabic accent. I figure it's the path to world peace.

And I agree that there was fresh stuff to love about this puzzle. I think that when a puzzle is a bit misplaced, it seems to cost the constructor and the intrinsic accomplishment seems to get undervalued.

Clark 6:40 PM  

Anonymous 12:54 -- Putting your hand up is not really the kind of thing that can get old. OK kids, little mousy thinks that hand raising is getting old, so, from now on we will replace the hand raising gesture with, what, Jerking the head to the left? Making rude buzzing sounds with the lips? Rending one's garments? Now, some new convention would have to be quite well established in the actual world before mentioning it in the virtual world would effectively communicate anything.

Gutless Weenie 7:28 PM  

@Clark, My take was that the comment was not limited to the expression "hand up", but the fact that someone is pointing out at the fact that s/he too had the same mistake as Rex. After a while, reading about yet another hand being up for what has been established as a common mistake can, in fact, get old.

People here in particular don't seem to like sameness in grids, clues, themes, or comments.

Food for thought. That's all.

Sfingi 7:50 PM  

@Jesser - watch faces are called dials. And there's the sundial that just sits there. And dialectic, dialysis, etc.

@Seth - never heard of Henkel, but it reminds me of discovering that every mall jewelry store was really the same company in Akron, Ohio named Sterling.

The puzzle had both DOFF and MAAM, so there was a politeness sub-theme.

The very first Villanelle was Jean Passeret's TURTLEDOVE (Tourterelle), in French. He lived the same time as S. If it didn't have 19 lines, I'd key it in, but it begins "I have lost my TURTLEDOVE."

@Anon1234 - Maybe you should retire, From This Forum, since you're to young.

I've never seen Lost. Thought it was a reality show, or one of those elimination competitions both of which I avoid. Actually, I've watched a couple of the Young Jersey Shore Kids, or whatever it's called, to reminisce about Sex. Eat your hearts out yungins. We didn't have to worry about "safe sex." Never heard of it.

Drew 8:38 PM  

For a non-pro like myself, there are five reasons this is a solid Tuesday level: UELE, OKAPI, YEGG, ESAI, and BIOME. I'm sure 99% of people on the subway would have to get those from the crosses. I can only hope that typing them here will help me recall them next time!

edith b 9:00 PM  

This was one of those puzzles where I never saw some of the answern so it as easy enough.

I did like some of the long ones which just goes to show you that it doesn't have to be difficult to be enjoyable.

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 7:05, 6:55, 1.02, 62%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 7:14, 8:50, 0.82, 10%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:53, 3:41, 1.06, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 3:43, 4:30, 0.83, 12%, Easy

Two medium-challenging Monday puzzles this week or two super easy Tuesday puzzles ... take your pick. In my view, one Monday per week is more than enough, so I'm going with two Tuesdays.

Citizen Dain 1:16 AM  

I am a new solver, and I am mystified how yesterday's gets ranked a "Medium" -- I finished it with no mistakes, something I have only done two other times so far, both mondays -- and today's is not only "Super Easy", but the easiest NYT puzzle ever made. Bizarre stuff in here, like Ocala, Soya, Agha, Yegg, Esai, a lot of stuff I have never heard of. In all I had six boxes wrong. How subjective are these relative difficulty rankings??

Keep up the good work, Rex, but it stings when you say this is the easiest puzzle the times ever made and I could NOT finish the NE corner...

Luke 6:59 PM  

Citizen Dain, I'm with you on that. Monday was really straightforward and easy for me, but this one took me more then 20 minutes. Normally I agree with Rex on ratings and difficulty but today was not like that. The puzzle just felt sluggish and forced. Like UELE or YEGG.

tim 2:01 PM  

@Citizen Dain and @Luke --I'm a new(ish) solver, too, and have figured out that most of this is crosswordese. E.g., I've seen UELE in at least three puzzles in six months of doing the NYTimes crossword. (YEGG was new to me.)

Rex's judgments are entirely subjective, but there are (apparently) time comparisons on the NYTimes site. Occasionally someone posts them here. Those show the more typical times. (Rex is ultra-fast.)

My biggest "Hunh!?" was TOSS for 1A. I've always thought that to deep-six was to kill someone. Mickey Spillane must have given me that impression. :-)

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