## Thursday, November 2, 2006

Solving time: 7:42

THEME: Math! (rather than explain, I'll just give you the theme clues and answers)

20A: Step One: For every answer in this crossword, count this (Number of letters)
38A: Step Two: Take the figure you get for Step One and do this (Multiply by three)
56A: Step Three: Your Step Two result is the letter count for ...! (Each answer's clue)

And yes, 3x=number of letters in the clue, where x=number of letters in the answer. Wow, that was easier to explain than I'd imagined.

iTunes has seen fit to start me off with the Grease soundtrack this morning, so I'm feeling Very Good. John: "I got chills / They're multiplyin' / And I'm loooooooosin' control / 'Cause the power you're supplyin' / It's Electrifyin'!!!!" Then Olivia, singing to me, not John: "You better shape up / 'Cause I need a man / And my heart is set on you. . ." Whatever you say, Olivia, as long as you wear the poodle skirt and not that street-walker get-up Rizzo somehow convinced you to wear at movie's end.

What is up with the last two days' puzzles? I have absolutely torched them (by Rex standards), breaking Rex records for Wednesday and Thursday puzzles on back-to-back days. I even did today's puzzle on screen, with the Across Lite ap, which normally slows me down - but today I entered the first six Across clues one after the other, all (it turns out) correctly. [iTunes has "Chicago" by Sufjan Stevens on now ... do you know it? I LOVE it. Soundtrack-worthy. A kind of shout-out to my Chicago reader(s)]. Plus, this puzzle was math-tacular, and the second theme answer came very easily and intuitively after I'd solved the first. Nice that this math-related puzzle also has 1A: Pre-calc class (Trig) and 61A: SAT component (Math) in the grid, in addition to the three long theme answers. Oh, and it's got 59D: P's, to Pericles (rhos), which I'm sure must be mathematical symbols of some sort... anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

This morning, I got to read the gigantic Halloween story that Sahra's class (collectively) had written earlier in the week. It was hanging on several gigantic pieces of yellow lined paper tacked up to the wall (12 sq. ft. of story!). The story was awesomely structure-free with monsters chasing kids chasing monsters into homes and out of homes and down to Spooky River (!) and then it was all a dream but then it wasn't but then the mummies and vampires and witches all died and the kids slept well because they were full of candy. The End.

10A: Dandy fellows (fops)

A great, under-utilized word, perhaps because FOPS seem to be a time period-specific (and British) phenomenon. The word originally referred to socially aspirant men who aped the dress and manners of the aristocracy in very showy, flowery, excessive ways. Wigs and ruffles and rouge and lisping and what not. I just now learned (from Wikipedia) that there was an early 80s phenomenon known as "Fop-Rock," which included the likes of Adam Ant and Falco. I own(ed) albums by both of them. I did not know that their anachronistic love of castles, stagecoaches, and Vienna made them "foppish." Although, looking back at the "Goody Two-Shoes" video ... I mean, he's chasing a hot chick, but he is quite pretty and ruffly and made-up himself. But those early-80s New Wave, New Romantic pop stars - they all loved their hair and make-up and flouncy clothing. Girly guys chasing girls. I could dig it.

14A: Old VCR format (Beta)

41A: Footnote abbr. (ibid.)

The one place I stumbled in the puzzle. I had ET AL. In fact, so much do I want this to be ET AL., I even just now entered it as the correct answer in the bold heading of this entry. ET AL. gave me NUTS for 33D: Central parts (Nubs), which seemed fine to me. Eventually I realized that one does not FLAP A COIN (34D: Decide by calling heads or tails), and the problem was fixed.

42A: A foot wide? (EEE)

This, like OOOO (as exclamation), SSSS (as a hissing sound), AAA, and the like, always seems slightly cheap to me. I mean, why not go to EEEEE. That's a foot width, too (I think). My wide feet make foot-width clues quite obvious to me. I have been a bit foot-obsessed lately, as I pronate like crazy, and I now have to wear orthotic inserts in my shoes. More information on my feet in coming episodes, I'm sure.

4D: Star of "Ninotchka" (Garbo)

OK, I'm off to find the hottest head-shot in the history of movie-dom. Hang on... Oh, yeah, I want this for my birthday. I saw this hanging in my local frame shop and I believe I just stood and stared at it for many minutes. I don't think I've ever seen a Garbo movie, but I intend to.

6D: Put away, crypt-ically? (entomb)

And the Halloween fun continues. See also (sort of) 16A: Peek follower (a-BOO!).

9D: "Garfield" foil (Odie)

"Foil," that's awesome. Like he's a secondary character in a Shakespearean tragedy. Rich. Have I mentioned Sahra's absurd passion for Garfield, particularly the recent Bill Murray movies? Oh yeah. You have a kid, and you want it to have good taste, so you expose it to the things you love, hoping some of it will take. And then a bloated, computer-generated, 20-years-past-his-prime cartoon cat comes along. And then all of your best-laid plans go pffft as you watch your child double-over in tearful laughter while trying to tell you about Garfield's encounter with a bidet. To her credit, however, Sahra loves all things Looney Tunes and knows the name of Wile E. Coyote's favorite mail-order catalog (given here in the plural): 52D: Ultimate heights (Acmes).

55A: Joy of the morning? (Behar)

QUESTION MARK, indeed. The irony runs deep, as she brings Joy to no one.

56D: Actor Morales (Esai)

"Mr. Morales, it's the Pantheon on line 1. They want to know if you'll be able to attend the induction ceremony ... I don't know, something about your freakishly vowel-ridden name."

57D: "I get it," jokily (Ah, so)

Is "racistly" an adverb? Because I'm pretty sure you have to say "AH, SO" with your eyes squinted, while bowing slightly. It's something Richard Dawson not only would, but did say, from time to time, on Match Game. You might want to follow up AH, SO with "Confucius say..." or "Ancient Chinese secret." Then start saying your R's as L's, and you're ready to take your Asian-baiting show on the road! "Ah, So" was a catch phrase of Mr. Moto in old films. Moto was played, yellow-facedly, by the otherwise amazing Peter Lorre. He was supposed to be Japanese, for the record. I much prefer Lorre as the child murderer in M, or, better yet, as the decidedly FOPPISH Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Anonymous

I thoroughly enjoy your blog, and have these 1+1 things to add:

1. The letter "rho" is used by scientists to represent density.

2. You have to see every Garbo movie made. "Ninotchka" is hilarious and features a robotic Garbo slowly warming up to an admirer.

Howard B

Every so often, I will lurk around the Times forum, and I remember not long ago that there was a discussion around the whole 'Ah, so' issue, just as you described it. From what I recall reading, it turned out to be an interesting aside to the puzzle.

I think eventually it was discovered that the phrase is actually derived or taken directly from a Chinese (Mandarin?) saying roughly translatable to "Now I understand" (or something closely related). The phrase itself meant just that, without sarcasm or condescension. I'm probably off by a bit, but that was the gist of it. Maybe someone else remembers the specifics.

Since it is a legitimate phrase in that language, it was mostly agreed that the phrase itself is probably not offensive. Said in a mocking tone, with a stereotypically poor accent and facial expression, and it likely becomes more of a PC issue. Not sure how that affects cluing.

Rex Parker

Well, there was "jokily" in the clue, Howard, so .... what am I supposed to be laughing at if not a racial caricature (however benignly intended)?

Now, perhaps the need for a precise number of letters in the clue, in today's case, overrode any inclination toward a less (potentially) offensive manner of cluing, I don't know. I'm not offended, mind you. But then again, I'm not Asian.

I don't offend easy. I just like pointing out unintentional racism. It's a quirk I have.

Off to Netflix some Garbo!
RP

Orange

1. My sister never got over her '70s admiration of Olivia N-J. (I did.)

2. I checked out "Chicago" on iTunes—omigod, how can you stand to listen to this peppy orchestral adult contemporary alternative rock music??

3. What looks like the letter P is the equivalent of R in the Greek and Cyrillic alphabets, so P - Greek rho. Similarly, [Greek H] is the vowel ETA.

4. I bought Adam Ant's album around 1982. Who doesn't love a guy with a stripe of makeup across his face?

5. My parents can top your dad. They bought a video-disc player—a less sophisticated predecessor to the technologically superior laserdisc. I forget what movies they bought—but my dad's favorite disc was the Sheena Easton video. I remain deeply disturbed by the thought of Dad sitting in the basement, alone, grooving on Sheena Easton for an hour.

6. Even though my mother recommended the first Garfield movie, my kid had the sense to steer clear of the franchise. I couldn't be more proud.

7. The last time GOOK was in the NYT crossword, I took Will to task for it. He says nobody else has ever complained. It's in the dictionary as a variant of "guck," meaning "gunk"—but when have you ever heard anyone use "gook" to mean "gunk" rather than as a slur against an Asian?

Rex Parker

"Get over" Olivia? OK, and while I'm at it I'll get over sunlight and oxygen. "Get over" indeed. Apostasy.

Sufjan Stevens is a lot of things, but "adult contemporary" isn't really one of them. Now I am Definitely putting him on the soundtrack, either to make a point, or to torture you (who will surely receive a copy gratis for adding extra snark to this site).

Laughed out loud at the very phrase "Sheena Easton." Please tell me the song in question was not "Sugar Walls."

And yes, it's true, in her adult life, my child is likely to be indulging in the lesser works of Rob Schneider while your child watches Bergman and reads Tolstoy in the original. Congratulations.

RP

Howard B

I do understand where you're coming here, regarding the awkwardness of non-PC clues. Considering the limitations of the theme, I guess I'm willing to give a little more leeway on this one - and I'm often considered the person in a group who is sensitive to that sort of thing.

Incidentally, the book of Maleska puzzles I had would sometimes have really pleasant clues in there such as 'Ku Klux ____', which to me sure as heck didn't pass the "breakfast-table test".

Off of that topic, this may be the first time anyone has ever invoked Rob Schneider, Ingmar Bergman, and Leo Tolstoy that closely together, outside of maybe an REM tune (wait, that was Leonid Brezhnev and Lenny Bruce, never mind). I love these blogs :).

- Howard, workin' 9 to 5 (what a way to make a living!)

Howard B

Sorry, I free-associated myself into a downward spiral there and posted prematurely. '9 to 5' isn't even Sheena Easton, although the movie had a politically incorrect theme to it. I'm done, sorry about that.

Rex Parker

Allow me to suggest a reason why you associated "9 to 5" (DOLLY!) with Sheena Easton. [Ahem!]:

"My baby takes the morning train
He works from 9 to 5 and then
He takes another home again
To find me waitin' for him..."

That song, "Morning Train," is even officially subtitled "(Nine to Five)" - so you knew what you were talking about even though you claimed you didn't. Don't hide your Sheena Easton obsession from us, Howard. We're all friends here.

RP

Howard B

Damn my subconscious. Thanks Rex.
At least I didn't start citing "Strut"... I may still have some 80's brain lint scattered around, but I know my limits.

Orange

You may take your child to see Flushed Away without shame. Clever movie. Ian McKellen makes a helluva scheming toad.

Which song? Ooh, this was a whole album's worth of videos! I believe "Morning Train" might've been Dad's favorite. She wore lots of makeup and showed a lot of leg. I remain disturbed by the whole thing.

Anonymous

I am a proud owner of the "Strut" 12" single. Also I own RCA video discs of Vision Quest and Desperately Seeking Susan as part of my Madonna collection. I understand that these were played by a machine that used a needle as does a phonograph.

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