SUNDAY, Dec. 17, 2006 - Joe DiPietro

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Solving time: just under an hour (in pen)

THEME: "Lay of the Land" - rebus puzzle where postal codes for states are entered in various spaces according to the region in which that state would be found if the grid were in fact a map of the U.S.A.

Pretty brutal for a Sunday. I am embarrassed to say that it took me over half an hour to understand what, precisely, the theme of the puzzle was. I had 114A: This puzzle's southern border? (Mexico) well before I had any other theme-related answer. So ... there was about 30 minutes of puzzle-solving without a Single Rebus Square's getting filled in. The MEXICO answer has a nice symmetrical counterpart in CANADA (21A: This puzzle's northern border) near the top of the grid, but because I had multiple wrong crosses up there - ERST for PAST (14D: Onetime), for example, and BUG for CAR (12D: Beetle, e.g.) - I didn't even enter CANADA for a long time, even though the answer really couldn't have been anything else. I was literally forced, bludgeoned, into seeing the rebus at 105A, where I had _EWAT for Attacked in a rage. I plugged in Every Letter in the Alphabet, and nothing worked. "This should be FLEW AT... FL ... oh, that's a state. Oh ... OH." With the rebus in mind, the rest of the (up to that point brutal) puzzle started to fall, though not as quickly as I would have liked. Frankly, I'm still not sure there isn't an error somewhere in my grid. But it got done. There's some rough fill in here, but it's a pretty masterful feat of puzzle architecture, so I'm not inclined to gripe too much.

I would like to cry PLAGIARISM! But I can't. See, I have made a habit at this site of talking about regions of the grid as if they were the relative places on a U.S. map - usually I do cities, not states, but still. Just yesterday I talked about the "Albuquerque" section of the puzzle. So, were it not for the fact that this puzzle was surely submitted well before I started blogging, I would demand recognition and satisfaction. As it is, I'll just be happy that my habit of describing the puzzle grid as a U.S. map has been confirmed as reasonable if not brilliant by greater puzzling minds than mine.

Can't write much today. It's Very late, and I've done Nothing - actually, I've eaten breakfast, finished watching Wordplay, finally, taken the dog for a walk in the woods, and made coffee. But nothing that one could call "productive." Watching Wordplay was surreal, as all these people who had been only names suddenly had faces and voices and what not. It was a bit like watching family, in one sense: I kept alternating between thinking "oh my god, there's no Way I could be related to these people!" and "oh my god, these nerds are Just Like Me." So Stamford will be odd, but fun. Think I'll go incognito - you know, get into the pool on My terms rather than have others splash water all over me. That metaphor went nowhere, but it made sense to me.

Last thing before (brief) commentary. Local paper ran very locally story on what kids want for Christmas. One child stood out. I don't know why, but I really feel that you can tell she's got ... something. Beauty, yes, but there's a fiery brilliance there too. Again, I have No Idea who she is, but you can tell there's something special there. Here's the picture the paper ran, along with the brief Q&A.

Best thing about Christmas: "You get lots of presents and toys."
What she'd like to see under the tree: "Barbies and a horse."
Naughty or nice?: "I've been a little bit of both."
How was she naughty?: "I tell people something over and over again."
How was she nice?: "I'm good at solving problems and helping people."

Telling people something over and over again. Well who doesn't do that from time to time? And solving problems and helping people - really, what else is there? This kid's clearly going places.

42A: Kind (s[OR]t)
2D: Crater creators, e.g. (impact[OR]s)

Good scary and bad scary. The good scary is the total fakeout on "Kind." Any solver worth his salt is going to see three letters, enter ILK, and move on. But hiding SORT inside a rebus, ugh. UGH. Good one. Bad scary = IMPACTORS. Even typing that word hurts. Bad enough that you have an -OR word in the clue, you gotta double the misery with an -OR word in the answer - and buried in a rebus, no less. Just mean. Brutalizing me is one thing - brutalizing the language in order to brutalize me is quite another. BTW I love PIE PLATE up here in the NW corner (3D: Makeshift Frisbee). Grrrreat fill. I think the Frisbee was in fact invented with the pie plate as a model. I do not have the energy to look this up. Oh, and 32A: Key-signature preceder (G Clef) really f-ed me up because I thought the clue had something to do with punching in security codes. Nice that G CLEF intersects 4D: One taking a big bow (bass fiddle).

53D: Hater (loather)
95A: Eye openers? (di[LA]tors)

More Odd Jobs. Add IMPACTORS (above) and you have a three-part set, with two of these clunky contraptions masked by rebuses! I mean, they're all words, and so fair, whatever. I just ... I mean, think about how often I am doing Odd Jobs segments on this commentary. Feels like every other day now. I realize how useful the -ER / -OR ending can be for constructors, but I am Taking Points Off for over-reliance. You're on notice. Criminy, I didn't even mention 87A: Receiver's counterpart (passer). Rein it in!

40D: Ancient Roman financial officer: Var. (questor)

Back-to-back days where long arcana have been gimmes for me. First ASTARTE, now QUESTOR - and a "Var." no less. I think QUAESTOR might be the more conventional spelling, although they Google with almost equal success.

49D: Discuss business at a social occasion (tal[KS]hop)
67A: Vulnerable point (wea[KS]pot)

Right where you'd expect Kansas to be: the dead center of the puzzle. Good job. I also like that both crosses are fresh, everyday two-word phrases. My WEAK SPOT - in that it annoys me no end - is when people TALK SHOP at parties. This is a Pervasive problem with academics, who seem particularly challenged when it comes to discussing anything besides a. their research, or b. departmental or university politics. As Paula Abdul once said, "Shut Up and Dance."

62D: Satellite of 1962 (Telstar)
75A: Restaurateur Toots (Shor)

Whoa, intersecting prehistoric clues ("prehistoric" meaning "before 1969" - the year I was born). TELSTAR was, I'm told, the "first active communications satellite." In this picture, it looks like a remarkably close relative of R2-D2. Toots SHOR ran a famous restaurant in NYC in the 30s-40s that had some famous clientele, including many members of the New York Yankees (that's right, booooo!). Speaking of the Yankees, it's time to introduce the next big thing in crossword fill:

His name is Daisuke Matsuzaka, but you can call him "DICE," as that is what he will be doing to your vaunted but ultimately anemic line-up.


Where to begin? I'll start with 4A: Center of emotions (bosom) and 9A: Mountain top? (ski cap) not because they are unknown words, but because holy crap I could not seem them until they were Right On Top of me. I didn't even know I had a BOSOM. And I'm wearing a SKI CAP right Now, but because I don't live on a mountain, I never thought of it as particularly mountainy. Speaking of made-up -Y adjectives, I sort of choked on 35D: Like baba (rais[IN]y) - I barely know what "baba" is, and I hate raisins in my desserts (though I love them on their own). Again, hard fill + rebus = unnecessary roughness. 10D: Unstable subatomic particle (kaon) is new to me, as is 91D: It's used to check septic systems (dye test), although the latter is easy enough to puzzle out. 115A: Antarctica's _____ Coast (Adelie) also puzzled me - have you ever looked at a map of Antarctica? For how few things live there, it's shocking how many parts of it have names. Always seems weird to think of Antarctica's having "coast," as the "coastline" must shift constantly, what with the freezing and unfreezing of surrounding waters. Speaking of Antarctica - Do see: March of the Penguins. Do not, under any circumstances, see Happy Feet. Lastly, I did not know 73A: Mosaic flooring (terr[AZ]o), and once Again a relative obscurity has its pain quotient compounded by being rebusized. Thankfully I was familiar with the rebus cross, 66D: Strong women (Am[AZ]ons), both from my recent Xmas gift orders from and from my multiple readings of Chaucer's Knight's Tale, which begins with Theseus's conquering the Amazons and marrying their queen, Hippolyta.

OK, really really last thing: in scanning the puzzle just now for anything I might have missed or messed up, I saw 15D: Spots for some shirts, which I have filled as POLOADS, and I thought to myself, of course, "what the hell is a POLOAD? Is it like a Po' Boy? Did I screw up a cross?" Googled POLOAD to no avail. Then, THEN, I imagined a space between "O" and "A" - that's some good cluin'. OTAY! (63D: Approval on "The Little Rascals")

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 2:02 PM  

What are the odds of this? Once I had bagged Mexico and Canada, it dawned on me that a rebus might be upon me when the first such answers I got were CArne (58A) and it's on ME (30A). So I figured that all the other rebi (?) would be the same CA and ME, for Canada and Mexico. When the next one I spotted involved NY (I assumed the City), I was truly flummoxed and then I got one with LA, which I assumed was Los Angeles, so I figured we were talking about the east and west coasts and then ... anyway I was completely ATSEA or ASEA or whatever that Pantheon thing is. And can we add NLER to the Pantheon wannabes?

Orange 2:40 PM  

Cute kid! I had those short bangs when I was about the same age.

What is it they say these days? "Don't be a playa loather"?

If you Google passer football, you get almost 2 million hits, including a 1992 NYT headline, Passer Leaves U.C.L.A., But Receiver Will Stay. I liked that clue/entry, personally.

You didn't mention ADELIE penguins, which I've heard of more than that Antarctic coast.

I resent the clue for DYE TEST. I once underwent a dye test, and I hereby declare that my Fallopian tubes are not, nor have they ever been, part of a septic system. Harrumph!

Anonymous 2:50 PM  

Orange, did you have those short bangs because you cut your own hair when no one was around and your mom had to make the bangs really really short in order to get them even half way straight? I *think* that's what happened to this kid...


Rex Parker 3:41 PM  

It's AT SEA, yes. Glad you foundered too. I mean, you know, not glad in that I wish you misery. Glad for the company.

No real problem w/ PASSER, except that it's yet another -ER word. Gave passes to LECHER, QUESTOR, TRUER, and S[NY]DER.

NL-ER, yes, that can go on the list of nominees for sure, w/ his cousin AL'ER (though NL'ER seems more common, perhaps because of that weird initial consonant pairing, which I'm sure constructors appreciate).

Anonymous 3:43 PM  

"UN-freezing"? Is that like "thawing" perhaps?

Orange 8:57 PM  

Mme. Rex, I think initially my mom just had trouble evening out the bangs herself...for a couple years. In about third grade, though, my sister gave me a haircut once. She went to town on the evening-out business and made me wear a hat when my mom came home to hide her misdeed.

Anonymous 9:55 AM  


Nice to see 'otay' in a puzzle. I write this because I recently submitted a puz to Mr. Shortz with 'otay,' and I was not sure that this was possible to fly.

So at least that aspect shouldn't sink the ship.

Which leads me to this comment: I notice you have pictured 'Buckwheat.'

Of course, I am not trying to imply anything here -- except that I had once (dumb me) mistakenly believed it was Buckwheat who used the expression 'otay.'

Further research upon this led me discover that it was actually Porky's utterance. At least I hope it was. Now I am at sea...

1969. You too huh? Classic vintage...

Pen Girl :)

Rex Parker 3:07 PM  

Google turns up so much Buckwheat with a search of [oh tay]. Did Eddie Murphy misascribe it in his Buckwheat parody, and so it just stuck?

Anonymous 4:19 PM  


Re: 'Otay.'

Not sure where blame for this goes...I suspect you are correct however.

Not sure I am -- about 'otay' I mean -- Google is a fickle friend.

(For those born after 1980 -- Eddie Murphy was a popular comedian/actor back in the day).

Pen Girl :)

Anonymous 9:43 PM  

I was trylu stumped by the upper left corner of Sunday's puzzle. Then, I discovered your blog. I got Canada, Mexico and the whole state abbreviation thing right away, but some of those clues were a bit out there. (kaon, raisiny, dilators - thought they were a bit of a stretch. And I'm glad I wasn't the only one to google "po-loads!)


Anonymous 12:16 AM  

but what is 9 down?? ..sound in the middle of italy?

Anonymous 12:30 AM  

The "sound in the middle of Italy" is the "schwa" sound, kind of an "eh", as in IT-eh-LEE. (Represented by an upside-down e in dictionaries.)

When I first discovered the theme, I was expecting to see all 50 states, but I counted only 12. Interestingly, my first state was wrong -- 98D, [Steakhouse selection] = FILET, but I thought it was C(UT)LET, but Utah isn't that far south. Then while entering 88D, ["Shane" actor] = A(LA)N LADD, I saw the opportunity to enter Alabama, not Louisiana. I originally had (AL)AN LADD; and the location works for Alabama as well.

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