WEDNESDAY, Jan. 31, 2007 - Brendan Emmett Quigley

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Solving time: untimed

THEME: Tilt / Lean / Tip - three theme answers, running diagonally from NW to SE, beginning at 1, 7, and 37, and containing the above words, respectively

Loved the theme, especially because the long diag - 1 Diag: Face imaginary enemies (tilt at windmills) - comes from one of my favorite books, Don Quixote. I should say that it's one of my favorite partially-read books, as I never managed to get through the whole damned thing, but the parts I did read were rich. I also like that Quixote and Quigley (puzzle author) both start with Q's. I wanted to find theme-related words in the grid, like SLANT or LIST or ANGLE, but no luck. Started looking at the grid as if it were a Word Search - nothing. There are the ironic entries EVEN (12D: Tied up) and FLAT (4D: Showing no growth), but beyond that, I couldn't find much theme-iness beyond the diags. Oh, wait, there's LSTS (7D: D-Day craft), which is one letter away from LISTS, which would be theme-y. Yes, that'll do.

I'm getting started about an hour later than usual this a.m. - sidetracked by "24" this morning, which somehow managed to sneak in PLOT between episodes: "Previously on "24" ... stuff that was Not On Last Week's episode!" How could I have missed Jack's torturing his brother? I am quite worried about my sanity lately, so anything to help my comprehension of this situation would be greatly appreciated. Was there a second hour that I failed to DVR last week?

1A: Base runner's stats (thefts)

Colorful, but a terrible answer, as THEFT is total slang. No "stat" book anywhere has a listing for THEFTS. They list STEALS, which the puzzle author surely knows, and was surely happy about, given that STEALS, like THEFTS, is six letters long. Cheap trickery. Beneath BEQ. Not that it was too hard to suss out. Just annoying. This represents my only real complaint about this puzzle - other than that I'd rather not be reminded of the existence of "CSI" - one of the most useless shows on TV. CSI is almost recuperated, however, by the complementary DNA TEST elsewhere in the grid (43A: Crime lab job).

3D: Greece, to modern Greeks (Ellas)
19A: Cousin of a raccoon (coati)

OK, I was wrong, I have one other little complaint: this intersection. I am neither a modern Greek, nor a raccoon (which I just wrote as "craccoon," which, I believe, is raccoon's other, drug-addicted cousin), and thus had to guess wildly at the intersecting letter here - an "A," which I had as an "O" - giving me the correct-seeming ELLOS but the silly, schoolyard-sounding COOTI. I figured that was where the concept of COOTIES came from. When I got an "incorrect" message from the applet, I thought the final "I" in COOTI might be wrong, but couldn't think of what could go in the "I"'s place in the cross: TITIAN RED (5D: Brownish orange). TITYAN ... TIT CAN ... TIT MAN ... all answers were coming up absurd, so I changed the second "O" in COOTI to the next most plausible vowel, and voilĂ , COATI. COATI is the name my sister gave to an article of clothing of mine (I feel as if I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating). COATI can't decide if it's a COAT or a shirt, it's made out of something Highly Synthetic, and it's colored a bright red + black lumberjack plaid. My sister might spell it COATEE - we've never had occasion to write its name down.

Some (more) stuff I didn't know

16A: Manta ray (sea devil) - is this different from a sting ray? Why "devil"? Is this the beast that killed Steve Irwin?
61D: W.W. II inits. (ETO) - OK, I "know" this, but I don't know if I KNOW it - I'm going to guess "European Theater of Operations"??? Oh good, Wikipedia says I'm right, and that's good enough for me. I get ETO confused with EDO, former name of Tokyo.
52D: English Channel port (Poole) - actually, I "knew" this one too, but I don't know how. I think there is some special fund of crossword lore in my brain that is getting better and better stocked over time.
37D: Communications syst. for the deaf (TTY) - as of right now - no idea what this stands for. I'll guess ... Talk To You. Damn, it's "Teletypewriter." TTY looks like a chatroom abbreviation.

Speaking of TTY, there were an Awful lot of abbreviations in this grid. I count twelve. Is that a lot? Or am I just noticing them today for some reason? I'm including ST. LO (48A: Town near Caen), which technically includes an abbreviation (of "Saint"), though you almost never seen it written out fully, so maybe that shouldn't count. ST LO should be in the Pantheon. It is going right on the list of next year's nominees.

Hot Fill

35D: Headline? (totem pole) - Great clue, great answer, and especially great due to its alliterative rotational symmetrical relationship to 5D: Brownish orange (Titian red).
27A: How tuna salad may be served (on toast) - I don't know why I like it ... I just do!
62A: Spray alternative (roll-on) - who doesn't enjoy a good deodorant clue?
47D: Rapper who co-starred in "The Italian Job" (Mos Def) - I can only hope that stodgy solvers everywhere are crying over this one. I hope all the PFUI-lovers choke on MOS DEF.
51D: Two-dimensional world? (atlas) - I just really like the clue

The Rest

I always forget the word PITON (58A: Rock climber's tool), perhaps because they make me think of another climbing device, CRAMPONS, which is far, far too close to TAMPONS for me to want to dwell on. Who decides how to spell sheep sounds and baby sounds? (9D: Cote sound (baa) and 54A: Cry from a crib (waah)) The first seems set in stone, but the second seems completely arbitrary. Where does the "H" come from? And aren't doves, not sheep, more often associated with "cotes." I had COO written in BAA's place at first. Yes, [cote dove] beats [cote sheep] in a Google search by something like 100K hits. So I made a mistake. Oh well ... THEM'S the breaks! (49D: "_____ the breaks").

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 10:42 AM  

I remember that you griped about CSI and all the CSI clones a while back, and I have a recommendation for an excellent cop show (although to call it a cop show is more than an insult to its awesomeness): The Wire. It's slept on by most people because it demands that the viewer pay attention to EVERYTHING, the cases take a season (or three) instead of an episode to come to a close, and the plots tend to develop a bit slower than other cop shows, but I've never met anyone who's given the show a chance and didn't like it. You can watch the first and second (minus episode 10) seasons here:

Anyway, I thought this puzzle was great. I did it on the applet, so I thought it was a themeless Wednesday, which I didn't think existed but was fine by me. I didn't know until I read Orange's write-up that there were diagonal clues. Oh well.

Anonymous 2:07 PM  

F pfui lovers.

Anonymous 2:42 PM  

Re: Yesterday's comment in which Rex Parker said...
"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.]

That is really "cute", Rex. Got any more?

Orange 6:12 PM  

I just Googled Sir Rudolf. It's BING? When Bing Crosby and Bing cherries are accessibly well known? I hope that particular puzzle had an overall NYC arts-scene vibe to it to explain Rudolf.

Anonymous 6:24 PM  

But Crosby and cherries are too too easy and do not broaden one's horizons as Sir Rudolph does. Made you Google, didn't it? Did you linger long enough to learn a lot?

Anonymous 6:30 PM  

Sopranos hangout, with "the"

Anonymous 6:47 PM  

The only thing here greater than your not seeing or remembering Jack torturing his brother Graem (!) with his fists and a plastic bag last week is the Whitney Houston lyric shout-out.

Rex Parker 7:02 PM  

[Rex's realm: Abbr.] will broaden your horizons, that's for sure ... if you like your horizons to include gray skies and strip malls.

I must have stopped / erased "24" last week before the end? So weird.


Howard B 7:50 PM  

True, I always appreciate a novel clue for an otherwise easy word. In that particular case, I had no beef with that one operatic clue, just that it was only one of several overly tough clues crossing 3 extremely nasty 10 letter words, without which there was really no way in except to actually know those words off the clue (well, one was somewhat gettable for me after a struggle, but you get the idea). The corners were basically blocked-off dead ends.

So some difficult clues? Fine. A swarm of them crossing even nastier stuff? Not so fine.

Bear in mind this puzzle may very well be years old. Since I haven't been doing these for that long, though, it's worth doing them anyway. That which does not kill you... means you're still alive, I suppose.

If it ever comes up again, though, I'm ready! Bing!

Orange 8:16 PM  

Not to mention Chandler Bing from Friends...

I sure wish these "anonymous" people would sign some sort of name or pseudonym—hard to know if it's one person, five people, or somewhere in between.

One of the anonymouses asked if I lingered enough to learn a lot about Rudolf Bing. Sure, I skimmed most of the Wikipedia article, so I know he headed the Met opera for 22 years and was a big cultural presence in NYC during those years—but that was largely before my time and not my place. So nice of those opera singers to find him a spot in a retirement home after he developed Alzheimer's, too. Born in Austria, no?

The majority of the icky fill from those puzzle books, though? I didn't look them up because I think the odds are fairly low (PIAVE aside) that Will Shortz would include any of them in a tournament puzzle without fair crossings. For me, that's where fair crossings really count.

Orange 8:17 PM  

(I meant anonymice, of course.)

Anonymous 9:13 PM  

Orange and Horace B are so on target about fair cross fill.

One of the Mice

Rex Parker 9:44 PM  

"Fair Crossings" - another great title for ... something. "Fair Crossings: My Life in Crosswords" - By HORACE B SMILEYCON


Howard B 10:51 PM  

Now that's a pen name! :)

Anonymous 8:45 AM  

some six weeks behind you in Montreal (The Gazette)
Steals instead of Thefts made NW corner unsolvable for me...
stumped, I came here, found that, and the rest fell into place...
not much of a comment, but...thanks!
I'll be more forthcoming another day...

Anonymous 8:46 AM  

I'd completely missed the diagonal clues (very little sleep), so thanks for that too!

Anonymous 1:21 PM  

Now this was a good puzzle. My only gripe was the DII (Early sixth century year) because these roman numeral answers are ambiguous until you get the crossings.

And "cote sound" is most often COO instead of BAA...that held up the New England section of the puzzle for me.

I did like the ODING and DNATEST fill though.

Anonymous 2:58 PM  

I got through it in two cups of tea. :)

Like everyone else, thefts set me off on the wrong tangent. Do all Greeks refer to their homeland as ELLAS, or only the Cockney ones? My only quibble is that a PITON is no more a climber's tool than a NAIL is a carpenter's tool.

I should know, I have only to turn my head to the left to see the world's third largest granite monolith, the Squamish Chief.

Rex Parker 7:28 PM  

"I have only to turn my head to the left to see the world's third largest granite monolith, the Squamish Chief."

I love so many parts of that sentence.

BEQ writes good puzzles.


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