TUESDAY, Jan. 30, 2007 - Nancy Salomon

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Solving time: who knows?

THEME: Double-Double-Z - all theme answers are pairs of words with double-Z's in them, e.g. 17A: Bear of children's verse (Fuzzy Wuzzy)

I will keep it short today - very short, and for two reasons. First, I have to teach soon (in three hours from this very second), and, second, because I really really hated this puzzle. I'm sorry, Nancy; I know that part of the reason I hated it (as my fellow blogger was only too happy to point out) was my own inexcusable ignorance - or, as I originally saw it, two "obscure" answers crossing one another at the center of the puzzle. But there was an overall ungainliness to the grid, with some highly dubious cluing. Plus, the theme ... was poorly expressed (in my strong opinion) because two of the answers were just ZZ-words repeated, while the other two were rhyming-but-different double-Z words. The "Z" fetish sort of did this puZZle in - from where I sit, at any rate. Beethoven's Triple Concerto is easing the pain somewhat this morning, but even that can only do so much. Let's start with the part of the puzzle I hated most, then move on to the part that actually, legitimately, completely stumped me - and then a smattering of observations, and I'll be done:

Worst Fill Ever

6D: "Bah, humbug!" ("pfui")

You know your fill sucks when your first Google hit for it is a site reassuring the public that it is, in fact, a legitimate word (in someone's world). This word makes me yearn for ETUI or AQUI or the other beautiful UI-ending words available out there (actually, those are the only ones I can think of, and neither would have worked well, if at all, in this particular grid...). You can tell how desperate PFUI is by looking at all the other very shaky fill around it (although it all looks like gold compared to PFUI). 21A: "_____ Silver, away!" (Hiyo) is, apparently, technically correct, although it's famously misheard / disputed. Dave Barry wrote a whole piece about his search for the correct spelling of the Lone Ranger's cry. I had HIHO, like many red-blooded Americans, I'm guessing. If there were no PFUI in this region of the puzzle, I'd complain a lot more about HIYO [late addition: just got some spam that began HIYA, which I like better than HIYO, except that there is no one or thing I know named PUZA, so it wouldn't work]. Then there's OOZY (7D: Leaking goop), which is fine, in its way, but again, up here with this absurd word-combo orgy, it's just one more thing to hate (I am a little surprised by how much the word "hate" is creeping into this commentary - I'm being a bit histrionic, I realize, and exaggerating, slightly, for effect). This entire puzzle looks like it was constructed by a Scrabble addict on a bender. The Z's end up necessitating (or suckering the constructor into) other absurd letters, til the whole thing looks a mess. Fake-sounding, dated, or otherwise messed-up words include JIVEY (22A: Lively, as dance music) crossing JAUNTILY (22D: In a stylish way) running through the ugh-inducing HUZZAH HUZZAH (27A (THEME): Congratulatory cry). HUZZAH on its own is far more common than the double-HUZZAH - and neither of them should rightfully be anywhere near the word "common." You know who would say HUZZAH HUZZAH? The same guy who would say ZOUNDS (47D: "Holy smokes!"), i.e. a Renaissance courtier or someone else I'd like to punch in the face, perhaps while sporting a BEZEL (3D: Gem holder) - THE THIRD DEFINITION OF "BEZEL" - seriously, come on.

My Ignorance

29D: Ghana's capital (Accra)
39A: ATM maker (NCR)

OK, I should, I guess, know the capital of Ghana, but I kept waiting for it to look like something familiar, and it never did. Plus, with ACURA (2D: Integra maker) already in the grid, I don't think ACCRA has any business here. NCR probably stands for National Cash Register, and I was condescendingly told earlier this morning that that's just something I should know if I really want to call myself a crossword person, which at this point I'm starting to have doubts about.

The Rest

All my seething hatred (that word again) of this puzzle is making me want to ignore its better features, but I'll cave in and throw some bones to this puZZle (I can't even look at the word "puZZle" right now, I'm so annoyed). 33A: "This looks ver-r-ry bad!" (Oh, God) is nice, but should've been clued by way of reference to the George Burns / John Denver film of that name, or its sequel, OH, GOD, You Devil. Right underneath that is the tricky but admirable 38A: Last episode in a Monday-Friday miniseries (Part V) - I had the TV at the end and thought for Sure the answer was something TV, as in HDTV or BAD TV - that the T and V belonged to different parts of the phrase took me a while to figure out. And yet I liked it - see, I don't dislike stuff just because it makes me struggle. MUDVILLE (25D: Joyless town after Casey struck out) was a fun gimme, reminding me of the baseball poem that I surely haven't heard since fifth grade, when I believe Mrs. Flam (Best Teacher Ever) read it aloud to us many times, in between sessions of playing her guitar and teaching us the lyrics to "King of Road" ("... I ain't got no cigarettes!" - because I'm 10 years old, for one). 11D: Like hoped-for-winter temps in the North (above zero) is colorful fill, but kind of vaguely clued. I live in the North (sort of) and it's almost always ABOVE ZERO. In fact, the past two winters (including the early part of this one), it's been downright balmy. KIBITZ (10D: Give unwanted advice) threw me because, while it was my first idea for an answer, I mistakenly thought that it was spelled like KIBBUTZ, i.e., with two B's. 32D: "Bonanaza" brother (Hoss) is fun fill. I didn't know how to spell HARA (34D: _____ - kiri) because like most of dumb America I always think of it as HARI (pronounced HAIRY) KARI. Mmmm, Americanization. ERI (42A: "_____ tu" (Verdi aria) shows his grizzled head again today, but I'm fond of the old guy. Stephen Colbert would hate this grid, as it has not one bear (FUZZY WUZZY), but several: 35D: Scary bears (grizzlies). That's GRIZZLIES, plural. Plus PAW (62D: Hairy hand). And WASPS (69A: Dangerous nestful). And if the bears or insects don't get you, perhaps a winter storm will ICE you IN to your cabin in the woods (14A: Make housebound, say, in the winter) and you will starve to death. ZOUNDS! 101 ways to die in the wilderness! - which is an apt metaphor for my puzzle experience today. The end.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 10:16 AM  

"Huzzah" may be uncommon, but I'm suprised you dislike it given the fact that Mr. Burns uses it so much. (Confession: I'm pretty sure I learned that word from The Simpsons.)

Apparently, a direct quote from Mr. Burns: "Well huzzah, huzzah. I'll just throw back my legs and pollute my britches with delight."


Anonymous 12:06 PM  

I didn't enjoy this one either. Theme was not so hot, some of the fill was just terrible (pfui and jivey come to mind), and generally not a fun solving experience.

I'd just like to add that Tobias Funke of Arrested Development (RIP) used to say "Huzzah!" all the time, but I don't think he ever said "Huzzah, huzzah!"

C zar 12:07 PM  

Makes me wonder if Ms. Salomon has been hanging out at a Renaissance Festival lately-- "huzzah! huzzah!" and "zounds!"

Razzle Dazzle was nice, made me think of the graduation scene in the movie Stripes:

Razzle- dazzle!
Hut, two, three, four!
Hut, two, three, four.
The quick brown fox jumped
over the lazy dog, sir!

Rex Parker 1:15 PM  

That Burns' quotation feels spurious, but who knows - Simpsons quotations have been a sticking point of late, and I'm no longer sure of my own fund of Simpsons knowledge. HUZZAH is a great Renaissance Faire word, and should be heard only therein, and in parodies thereof.

Who has the energy to say it twice? Wouldn't someone have smacked you before you got even part way through the second HUZZAH?


Anonymous 1:48 PM  

I was doubtful, too, but I found this (with apologies).


Rex Parker 2:18 PM  

Why apologize? I appreciate this kind of leg work. Thanks.


Anonymous 4:24 PM  

You have an interesting take on puzzles -- off-beat, heavy on the pop culture -- often worth a read. But you're all wet on this one. You're entitled to say whatever you want, but you've made some ridiculous assertions here and I have to disagree. In fact, Nancy's puzzle is probably my favorite early-week puzzle of recent months, and imo deserves better treatment.

The theme is pairing double-Z words. That's it. So if a couple of them repeat the same word and a couple don't, that's not a problem with consistency. It's only a problem if you're trying to impose something that doesn't belong.

HUZZAH HUZZAH has plenty of support -- singly or as a twosome -- and it's a pretty lively entry, if you ask me. True, it was more popular in past centuries than today, but that doesn't mean it's not legit. To my ear, that kind of adds to its appeal. Same for ZOUNDS.

What is the problem with having ACCRA and ACURA in the same puzzle? The two words share several letters but are otherwise unrelated. I don't think there's an editor around who'd have a problem with that.

NCR has been a giant in American business since the 19th century. How can that name be called obscure? I went to school in Dayton literally across the street from the old NCR plant, so I guess I know it very well, but I'd think any kid who ever gave a buck to a cashier would recognize the initials. The "ATM maker" clue was perfect, imo, giving it a current-day usage and signalling the abbreviation.

"HI YO Silver" is the name of a 1940 Lone Ranger movie serial. There's no dispute here. The puzzle has it right, and it's been used in plenty of crosswords before.

PFUI is a funny looking word, but the worst fill ever? C'mon. You must be having a really rough day. I see it as a cousin to PTUI, which I've seen time and again. Neither of them might be a constructor's first choice for fill, but they're not made-up words. I googled PFUI and found plenty of support. In fact, another Rex, Rex Stout, uses it as a frequent exclamation in the Nero Wolfe books (Nero's "favorite expletive," according to one source). It's solid to me, so long as the crossings are fair, and in this puzzle they are.

The fun thing about all the Z's is not just the theme, but it adds other lively fill. GRIZZLIES, KIBITZ, HERTZ, WHIZ, and so on. I thought MUDVILLE was great too. Too bad there's no joy in your Mudville, but maybe next time you won't strike out.

- John

Anonymous 5:38 PM  

I had completely forgotten about PFUI as a Nero Wolfe expletive, which is sad because I've read that whole canon. I was going to complain because before reminded of Rex Stout's usage I thought the word was spelled PHOOEY but maybe they're two different aspects of pooh-poohing, who knows. I had no problem with the puZZle; I always like to see the prolific use of Z, V and X. Wasn't the point about ZOUNDS that it was another anachrononism like Holy Smokes? That's how I took it anyway.

Rex Parker 6:25 PM  

It's as if no one actually read what I wrote today. I think I twice said that part of my problem was my own ignorance. In fact, the word IGNORANCE even occurs in one of the section headings. So, as I said (again, several times now) I am well aware of NCR's apparent commonness by now. ACCRA and ACURA are one letter different, making me not like their coexistence here. It's a minor, minor consideration. But in a puzzle with one major problem (PFUI is horrible, horrible fill no matter who said it or what his first name is) and many, many minor ones, I felt it worth noting as something that added to the ickiness of this puzzle. Please find me worse fill than PFUI. I dare you. I can tell you that I am not alone in disliking this puzzle and in thinking PFUI is from outer space. If I had seen PFUI on Friday, or Saturday, I would have squawked, but not as hard. I and several other decent puzzlers spent a portion of the day rewriting the PFUI / OOZY / HIYO section of the puzzle. It was fun, and I can tell you that at least two of the grids we came up with were Demonstrably, Objectively Better (equally Scrabbly, far less ugh-worthy). None of the "good" grids contained ETUI, much to my sadness. You know how I love that word.

Nancy Salomon is a puzzling goddess who has constructed and will continue to construct absolutely superior puzzles.

I've never seen someone defend a puzzle with such vigor, John. I'm quite appreciative, actually. The puZZle still sucks hardcore, but I'm always glad to see someone care so much.


PS just to be clear, my one flat-out error in the puzzle was at the ACCRA / NCR crossing, whereas my main BEEF (or KICK, if you will...) with the puzzle starts with the PFUI/OOZY/HIYO nexus and extends to other Scrabble-gone-wrong / RenFest fill throughout the grid.

Orange 6:51 PM  

Please find me worse fill than PFUI. I dare you.

Sir, I will take that dare. These are not words you'll find in the New York Times crossword, but I've come across them in a couple recent puzzle books (and, as Dave Barry would say, I Am Not Making This Up):

RAS clued as [___ Addar (Cape Bon)]
(these five were all in one puzzle!)
FLEER [Derisive grimace]!
PELTER [Old horse]
NUN clued as [Unlit buoy]
ROTL [Muslim weight], not an internet abbrev!
SNRS (as abbrev. for seniors)

Yeah. So you can see that I'm really looking forward to getting those new crossword books that are in the mail from Amazon. I've been "training" with these books in recent weeks, so I can scarcely get exercised about Rex Stout's PFUI from this frame of reference.

So you thank your lucky stars that these words are not presenting themselves to you in your daily crossword.

C zar 7:24 PM  

PFUI seems every bit as bad as everything else on Orange's list. Also gets negative points for crossing with HIYO, with this type of combination inappropriate for a Tuesday puzzles.

Anonymous 7:25 PM  

Rex, peace. If I defended the puzzle with vigor, it's because I rather liked the darn thing and I was surprised by the vigor that you showed in giving it such a whoopin'. I agree what you said about Nancy, even if we disagree about other things.

I was tempted to find some fill that I didn't like, but I'd never top the list that Orange put together. Wow! YLEM...OLLAMI...THILLS. There is only one thing I can say to that: PFUI!

- John

Linda G 8:40 PM  

Not one of the best Tuesday puzzles, but I did find that the repeating zzzzzzzzzz (wake up!) made some of the clues easier to guess. Hmm, what word might contain a Z and fit that description? I also had HIHO and PHUI, but had no idea how HOUL was the opposite of FAIR.

Side note: A coworker and I once discussed the overly pleasant demeanor of an office temp, and I wondered aloud if I could ever be that nice all the time. He assured me that he'd have nothing to do with me if that were the case. My point: Rex, if you were always raving about a puzzle's clues and construction, I wouldn't much enjoy reading your blog -- it would seem too much like fawning, given that Will Shortz and several constructors read it regularly.

Great list of horrid fill, Orange. Sure glad I'm not dealing with those.

Rex Parker 9:13 PM  

OK, I need fill from the NYT, not the most ridiculous fill known to man. Some of that fill may be totally ordinary for, I don't know, Diseases Weekly. No niche crosswords. I want mainstream crosswords, and I need the clue, too. PELTER I feel as if I know somehow ... but I read some olde tyme stuff, so maybe that's where I saw it.

I am so glad I issued this WFE challenge, but 3rd-rate puzzles don't count.


PS Good ole C zar! Thanks for the back-up.

Rex Parker 9:26 PM  

PS I can only hope that INYO was clued ["_____ face!"].

"LEVO ... LEVO likes his money..."


Anonymous 9:32 PM  

LEVO would like his MOEY.

Anonymous 10:11 PM  

You like hiho and I like hiyo
You like etui and I like ptui
hiho, hiyo, etui, ptui.
Let's call the whole thing off

Anonymous 11:06 PM  


Orange 11:26 PM  

That's the scary thing, Rex—these puzzle books I have? They're not generally classified as third-rate puzzles. (Maybe second-tier, though. And I'll pass on buying these series in the future.) Many well-known constructors. A handful of those words I listed were from puzzles by Henry Hook, for example.

LEVO = counterclockwise
INYO = California county
SAPP = not Warren, but rather: Miss America of 1992! (In the same puzzle as OREANA, a town in Illinois I've never heard of, and YLEM, "the universe, pre-Big Bang.")

mellocat 11:27 PM  

Heh, I recently ran into YLEM as potential fill and wondered if it would fly. It has been in the NYT; I've got it on Jan. 18, 2004 clued as "Protomatter of the universe" and Oct 2, 1997 as "Substance from which the universe was created". I decided against it, but didn't (then) put it in my "never use" word list. PFUI is in there, so at some point I decided I didn't want to ever consider PFUI in my fill, but I can't say it bothered me in this puzzle (which I rather liked). Some other entries from my "never use" list that have appeared in the NYT and that I would rate lower than PFUI:

USP - Abbr. on a pill bottle - June 16, 2006 (don't know what it stands for even after getting it)
UNNEATLY - Sloppily - Oct. 3, 2006
CHID - Reproached, uncommonly - Dec. 13, 2001
ILB - 16 oz. - Sept. 24, 2000 (don't like using I as a stand-in for 1)
ENSTAR - Decorate with pointy figures - Dec. 10, 2006
ASSD - Made a tax valuation: Abbr. - Jan. 10, 1997
SEVENTO - 53 minutes past the hour - Jan. 14, 1997
EVOE - Ancient reveler's "whoopee!" - April 26, 1997
HTEN - Coordinate in the game battleships - April 27, 1997 (seems arbitrary, did HTEN have some significance in battleship?)
ESD - Either of two books of the Apocrypha: Abbr. - June 29, 1997
SPRS - Spa: Abbr. - July 6, 1997

They're all defensible, but I don't like them.

Anonymous 8:12 AM  

I don't see any problem with LEVO. L-amino acids...the L stands for "levo(ratory)". No less valid than any other semi-obscure bio fill, if clued correctly.

Rex Parker 10:18 AM  

"mellocat," I hope you have EIGHTTO, NINETO, and ELEVENTO in your "Never Use" file as well. Just to be fair. EVOE, CHID, and UNNEATLY don't bother me nearly as much as PFUI. Many of those others are indeed bad, but don't have the sheer made-uppedness feel of PFUI. HTEN is indeed arbitrary, but then again so is [Early sixth-century year] (which appears in tomorrow's ... today's ... Wednesday's otherwise excellent puzzle). USP and ESD are the two most loathsome in your list (which I'm very grateful for your posting here - thanks to Amy also for her fabulous list of Hobbit names ... I mean horrible fill; see above).


Anonymous 10:21 AM  

To Howard B:

"Sir Rudolf of the Met" is not a difficult clue. What clue did you want? Cherry? Easy, yes; but too easy.

Now that you know Sir Rudolf's name, I'll bet you will remember it. No?

Anonymous 10:31 AM  

What a great day and great comments. Congratulations Rex. You keep us all on our toes.

As ever, your faithful,
Anonymous Fan

Rex Parker 10:43 AM  

"Sir Rudolf of the Met" is, in fact, "difficult," when the only Rudolf you know pulls a sleigh once a year.

A better clue:

[Rex's realm: Abbr.]

mellocat 10:54 AM  

Yeah, those other #minTO will be put in my list if they ever rear their heads as potential fill for a puzzle. My list is reflective of what *I* don't like in puzzles: abbrs I can't figure out even after I've gotten them, arbitrary number/word combos (be they time specs or battleship coordinates), words so old or rare you have to break out the OED to find a citation, using I&O to stand in for 1&0, etc. For whatever reason PFUI and its ilk don't bother me as much, but I understand others can feel differently.

On Roman numberals, I find I'm growing less tolerant of them in my puzzles as time goes on, but I accept that they're valid by the rules of this game so I'll proably still use them in a pinch. They do have a very limited character set and well-specified placement rules, so they strike me as not entirely arbitrary. When solving they don't bohter me except when clued as very difficult Roman numeral arithmetic. I can't do Arabic numeral arithmetic in my head, so Roman really blows my poor little mind.

Anonymous 4:42 PM  

Clue: Typo for pfui
Answer: Ptui

Rex Parker 7:58 AM  

Better late than never, MT. Hated FUZZY WUZZY!? The most likable thing in the grid!? Man, you must've been even grumpier than I.


Anonymous 8:35 AM  

Does this set a record for number of comments to this blog for a given puZZle? If not, what is the record?

Rex Parker 9:29 AM  

Glad you asked, anonymouse (thereby allowing me to add to the comment count). It's a record by far, even without my own comments.


Anonymous 1:48 PM  

I just now got to this puzzle, and I *knew* Rex would have something to say about PFUI/OOZY/HIYO. I didn't like them either, especially not for a Tuesday. This puzzle just needed a little bit more work.

I am forever mixing up AXEL and AXLE, though - I just enter it one way and figure out if it's correct or not by the crossings.

Anonymous 2:43 PM  

I don't usually post here, since I'm one of the people who lag by six weeks, but looks like this puzzle has legs.

It's funny, but I recommended this puzzle to my husband this morning. I thought it was lots of fun, with all the zees, and especially the answer "Fuzzy Wuzzy" which just made me smile when I wrote it in. I don't know why people would have gotten all bent out of shape over a few oddball short words. In fact, I didn't even see half of them because the crossing words were easy enough.

Well I say, "Huzzah, Huzzah!

Unknown 8:39 PM  

I'm another one 6 months out, so rarely post a comment. However, this particular day's blogging action had me laughing out loud. At work. (I've had better ideas.)

I used to do the NYT puzzle with my Dad (sharing quesions/coments via email), but his small town doesn't get it any longer. I was so happy to find the Rex Parker blogspot. I subscribe to the NYT puzzle online and may need to start doing the current puzzle just to keep up with you all. But: There is something about doing the puzzle on newsprint that is difficult for me to give up...

Unknown 8:46 PM  

The double double Z theme worked for me. I have a border collie named JaZZ who loves to play catch with, well, anything, but especially tennis balls. When she makes an exceptionally agile catch, I shout encouragement in the form of "HUZZAH HUZZAH!". (Note no commas between my HUZZAHs. Didn't hear a pause.)

Rex Parker 10:07 PM  

This is the 38th comment on today's puzzle! You can see why I have the link to this entry in my sidebar; you people and your insane comments make it all worthwhile.

I do miss doing puzzles on newsprint (the only way I ever did them for my first decade of solving). But printing them out on paper works OK. Speaking of which, I gotta print tomorrow's puzzle out ... now (which is to say, 6 weeks from now, Mar. 15).


Unknown 8:59 PM  

Doh! Yes, it is 6 *weeks* out, although it feels like we're "6 years out" from NY here in the Pacific NW, home (apparently) to Grandma St Marie. There's a good example of a run-on sentence, if I do say so myself!

Anonymous 9:29 PM  

I agree with you Rex! I thought Huzzah Huzzah was the dumbest thing ever. And PFUI???? what the??? I should not have to think this hard in the middle of the week.

Anonymous 11:40 PM  

To me, huzzah huzzah doesn't seem so much worse than 'hubba hubba' which appeared in a puzzle a few weeks previous to this 'gem'. Hilariously, I had filled it in as 'yabba dabba' and was earnestly explaining to my Swedish spouse that one might exclaim such inanity when feeling particularly enthusiastic, like Fred Flintstone zooming off in his barefoot-powered golfcart. It's truly disturbing what I can convince myself of.... We had a hearty WTF-type laugh when we saw the correct answer. Lately, whenever we are discussing an issue that has a big stupidity component, my husband gets a sly grin and says "yabba dabba.... hubba hubba"....

Rex Parker 8:31 AM  

But "hubba hubba" is charming in its dated-ness, and "yabba dabba" - well, that's just nonsense without the "doo." Actually, I think it's nonsense with the "doo" too, but you get my point. It's the Renaissance Faire Factore that makes me not like "Huzzah Huzzah," and the double-ness. If I'd heard "huzzah," it was only ever on its own. I mean, one "huzzah" is hard enough to take.


Anonymous 2:37 PM  

Thanks for the link to this thread, Rex. It is hilarious.

You are certainly a "stick to my guns" type of guy.

I am sticking my neck out here, but I am pretty sure that if you knew Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin you would have a very different opinion of PFUI.

Anonymous 8:32 PM  

PFUI--an interjection (just got back from the Schoolhouse Rock musical at my daughter's school) much favored by REX Stout's detective, Nero Wolfe.

Anonymous 6:57 PM  

Rex, I just stumbled on your site and see that there's no way I can jump into any of the exceedingly well developed topics. But I am very impressed. I have a thousand or so vintage paperbacks like yours and my wife and I work the NY Times puzzle every day. We occasionally get stumped on Saturday but it's getting more and more infrequent. Yet we always start off thinking, "There's no way in hell we'll even get one word in this puzzle!" I have one comment about PFUI. If you had read all the Nero Wolfe books in order, as I did in the early 90s, you would not feel any antipathy towards "Pfui." It would be one of your favorite words. It's too bad that the word you want to rail against (with some justification) is connected with such an impregnable icon as Nero Wolfe. If only it had been Britney Spears or Ronald Reagan who said "Pfui," we could all agree with you.

Unknown 11:22 PM  

Hi Rex,

Like your site a lot, check it out whenever I want to see if anyone else finds an answer perplexing also. Just noticed the Pfui Controversy in the sidebar.

I'm a long time Rex Stout fan. If I remember correctly, you will find the word spelled "phooey" AND "pfui" in the books. When Nero says it, it's "pfui," and when Archie says it, it's "phooey" -- reflecting Nero's patrician affectations, and Archie's proudly pedestrian roots.


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