SATURDAY, Oct. 14, 2006 - Byron Walden

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Solving time: 1:18:00

THEME: none

That's ONE HOUR and EIGHTEEN minutes, yes. Got the NW, and then promptly went Nowhere. I blame the mystery waffles I had at Greg and Michelle's this morning. They were tasty, but they contained what I can only guess were peanut butter M&M's, which gave the waffles a psychedelic color wash, and I'm not sure it hasn't affected my cognitive abilities. Plus it's inexcusably cold here, and Rex is too cheap to turn on the heat, so his solving hand is cramped and numb. I have wife-birthday dinner and wife-birthday Philharmonic on tap later today, so, for once, I am going to spend less time blogging this puzzle than I spent solving it (which still, as you can see, gives me a ton of %#$#$-ing time). [NOTE: scan of puzzle has an error. Where 31D and 41A intersect, the proper fill is "g," not "r"]

22A: "Snakes on a Plane" menace (asp)

A rather desperate way to clue this Pantheon favorite. Remember "Snakes on a Plane?" Me neither. This clue's future obsolescence is now.

28A: Kung _____ chicken (Pao)

Along with 2D: "Brusha, brusha, brusha" brand (Ipana) (thank you, Grease!), this was one of the puzzle's few gimmes. Unlike 2D, however, this answer didn't help me At All.

31A: Japanese aborigine (Ainu)

Pardon me while I study up on this answer... so it turns out that today, only a small population remains, mainly in Hokkaido. Nice to see that Japan's native peoples are thriving just like our own! Remember the crying Indian who was so sad at all the garbage? Whatever happened to him? I wonder how he feels now... Never mind. He's dead. Oh, and it turns out he wasn't really Native American either. But no one litters anymore, so I guess he did some good.

32A: Planners' paths (strategic routes)
37A: Intro to ancient history? (When I was your age...)
38A: Numbers on the radio? (Arbitron ratings)

Witness the perils of piling three 15-letter phrases one on top of the other. The middle clue is beautiful, lovely, the best thing about this puzzle. The other two are lifeless, especially 32A, the clue and answer to which put me to sleep. I have never heard of "Arbitron ratings," so at one point I had "Arbitrol ratings" (because I thought 30D: French river that was the site of three W.W. I battles (Aisné) was LISLE). Eventually I decided "Arbitrol" sounded too much like "Geritol," and ARBITRON had that fake cutting-edge name that corporate types like so well. ARBITRON sounds like a robot that is programmed to make decisions for no evident reason.

39A: Supply center? (pees)

I guess "Eliminates beer after closing time, perhaps" was too off-color. Since it's my wife's birthday, I will tell you that her brothers used to call her "PP" as a nickname (affectionate, I think) because her name has two P's in it. Sahra likes this bit of trivia as it gives her a chance say "pee pee" - outside of the bathroom - without fear of censure.

41A: M. equivalent (sir)
44A: Pigged out (ate a lot)

These two answers sit one atop the other, creating the pleasing phrase: SIR ATE-A-LOT. This reminds me of "Sir Oinks-a-Lot," who was, it just so happens, a pig (and a friend of Richard M. Nixon's).

PS sadly, it turns out, SIR is the wrong answer!!!! It's "SIG" (for "signore?") - Oh, SIR ATE-A-LOT, I guess you just weren't meant to be... (31D: Capella's constellation is AURIGA!? Ugh. Useless arcana, my least favorite thing in a puzzle.)

48A: Writer LeShan (Eda)

I demand to know who the hell this is, as this is the second time in the past week that she (she, right?) has been an answer. It seems she wrote about child-care, then she wrote about being old ("It's Better To Be Over the Hill Than Under It"), then she died.

52A: City of Invention (Akron)

Somehow I knew this answer ... like, in my bones. I just Knew it. And I have NO idea why. I'm sure some inventor is from there (Goodyear - Oh My God, seriously, How Do I Know That?! It's freaking me out).

59A: Like Argus (all-seeing)

I had "Defleeced" here for a while, as I somehow imagined that "Argus" was the name of the ram with the Golden Fleece that Jason et al went off to shear, in their boat the Argo. That boat was built by Argos, with the help of Athena. I don't think the ram had a name. I guess ancient Greeks didn't love their animals enough to name them. Anyway, here's a picture of another Argus, not the all-seeing one who was charged by Juno with guarding Io, and who failed, and who was subsequently turned into a peacock or the feathers on a peacock (I'm writing this off the top of my head, no Google!), but a minor character from the mid-90s run of The Flash [nope, that image is having loading problems, so here is an Argus Pheasant]:

6D: Hawaiian juice brand that lent its name to a 1990's fad (pog)

I had HI-C here for a while - I thought maybe it was a hairstyle or dance. I voluntarily gave up most of my memory of the 90s, particularly the early 90s. In fact, my only memory of POGs is the following: Milhouse, to Bart, upon procuring some ALF Pogs: "Remember Alf!? He's back. In Pog form." This is from "Bart Sells His Soul," one of the best episodes of television of All Time (and perfect family Halloween viewing, if you're in the market).

1D: Pleasing to the palate (sapid)

This answer wins the award for "word that sounds least like what it means." If I heard someone at a restaurant tell the waiter "this is sapid," I would expect "take it back" to follow.

9D: Burlesque legend seen in "The Naked and the Dead" (Lili St. Cyr)

Took me forever to remember the part that came after "LILI," but it was totally worth it for the mental picture, which looks something like this:
12D: Yosemite peak (El Capitan)

What should have been a gimme for me - I visited Yosemite many times in my youth - became torture, as the only Yosemite-related thing I could remember (besides Sam) was Half-Dome. Ugh.

23A: Some bottled waters (Dasanis)

You don't normally think of the brand name in the plural like that. DASANIS sound like a variety of African antelope. I don't know if DASANIS are SAPID, but according to multiple British news sources, they could be toxic as all git out.

26D: Postgame treatments for pitchers (ice wraps)

Having seen many pitchers give postgame press conferences in recent weeks, I confidently entered ICE PACKS here, and left it here for a good long time. Of course, if I'd only recalled what Kenny Rogers looked like after crushing the Yankees, his entire torso, left shoulder and arm WRAPPED in bandages, I might have finished this puzzle much more quickly.

35D: Reading event? (gaol break)

GAOL, my most hated of British spellings! I had "page break" and "line break" written here before the hated GAY-OLL took its rightful place in the grid. To my discredit, I completely forgot that Reading had a JAIL. When I was thinking of "Reading" as a place (and not a gerund), I was thinking of answers related to railroads.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 5:25 PM  

The "Argus" pic is not loading for me in Safari or IE. I can't believe you never heard of Arbitron ratings, the Nielsens of radio.

Howard B 10:14 PM  

Hello! I am a generic spammer with a great cash offer blah blah blah.... I guess that means you're an 'official' blog now if you're receiving comment junk like that.

Just kidding. On a puzzle like this, I'd say finishing the thing at all is damned impressive - timing oneself on these things is not as much a reliable gauge of anything, as much as just being able to complete the thing. Congrats on that. Had a heck of a time myself, especially AURIGA. Nasty nasty stuff.

ARBITRONRATINGS saved me a bit, and reassured me that those hours during my formative years of listening to 80's music and Casey Kasem countdowns had a purpose, after all. All for that one clue. Thanks, commerical radio.
And thanks for the Lili St Cyr picture - definitely, er, brought the puzzle to life :).

Rex Parker 12:03 AM  

Argus has been fickle. I'll replace him with an identical, less fickle version of himself. I love how my best friend writes in *only* to tell me about errors and technical problems.

Casey Kasem gives me good and bad shivers thinking of the Top 40 radio of my youth. "And this week's #1 song is ... 'Reunited,' by Peaches & Herb!" "This Long Distance Dedication goes out to ... Sherry, in Great Neck, from Ronnie, in prison." Etc.

Anonymous 2:50 PM  

Your comments on Arbitron cracked me up. When I heard my employer was mentioned in a NYT crossword puzzle, I was on a hunt to find a copy. Thanks for providing it. Your completed puzzle (with 38 across highlighted) will be on my wall.

By the way, the company started 50 or so years ago under the name American Research Bureau (ARB) when they measured TV. They had a set-top box they placed in people's homes and it became known as the ARBitron.

Anonymous 4:50 PM  

just to let you know... you said that M. equivalent was sir but it is actually sig as in signore. I think you had that as you must have got Auriga for Capella's constellation.

Thanks for the help. I couldn't figure out the bottom left corner of the puzzle til i saw your site.

Rex Parker 6:33 PM  

Yes, SIG, not SIR. I do say that in the correction right underneath the initial entry. Maybe I should put it in bold and make it flash. Glad the site helped you with rest of the puzzle - the parts I didn't botch. Just so you know, I botch very few puzzles (or very few blog entries, anyway) after this one.


spartacus 6:36 AM  

December 10, 2018 - This bear of a puzzle is one of the free puzzles in the NYT this week. It was fun to go back in time and read Rex's take and everyone's comments. And yes, it was a DNF for me, too.

Mike 9:10 PM  

December 14, 2018 - Like Spartacus, I'm glad to have the chance to look at this after trying the free puzzle this week for the NYT. I'm really glad to know that others thought it was as much of a bear as I did. I guess the NYT is randomly choosing the free puzzles from its archives. I can't imagine they resurrected this puzzle because they thought it had particular merit.

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