FRIDAY, Feb. 9, 2007 - Eric Berlin

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Solving time: 16:50

THEME: none

What a horrible, horrible feeling. I ran through this puzzle like a hot knife through butter ... until I hit the NW, and then I went into what felt like an eternal free-fall. Nothing. I couldn't get a damn thing. Well, that's not true. I would get something, and then it wouldn't work, so I'd erase it - over and over and over. There were two major problems that prevented my getting into that NW quadrant (besides an ignorance of "country" music - who the !@#@ is Joe ELY? (1D: Country rocker Joe and others (ELYS)). And those problems were:

9D: Masters topics (sex lives) - I had the LIVES part and had no idea what this could be. Didn't know if LIVES was its own word, or part of a longer word, or what. Knew that the "Masters" in question wasn't "Master's exams" - that has an apostrophe in it - but the only other Masters I could think of was the golf tournament. What ends in -LIVES and concerns championship golf? Answer: NOTHING. Turns out the question refers to ancient sexperts Masters & Johnson. Here is something I didn't know (from "Discovery Health" website):

Masters and Johnson initiated a project that ultimately included direct laboratory observation and measurement of 700 men and women while they were having intercourse or masturbating.
Wow. Who volunteered for that? Maybe they paid well. Did they ever consider that people doing it at home, or wherever, might be quite different from people doing it in a lab, knowing they're being watched. This is like having cameras in the courtroom (which I'm against) - no one can be completely unselfconscious with a camera trained on him. Then there's the inevitable probes or cathodes or who knows what other Clockwork Orange-type gadgets. Maybe their interest was more purely physiological than sociological. This is way too much space to devote to this damn answer, which thwarted my entry (!) to the great Northwest. Oh, and the other roadblock?

22A: A, B or C, often: Abbr. (Ans.) - such a little answer! How could it possibly cause any harm? Well, I'll tell you. I did not have ANS. I had the good, perhaps better, ANSwer: APT. That's right APT! As in "Apartment," not the word APT, though my ANSwer was, in fact, APT, dammit. APT! And then that gave me a "P" at the end of 5D: Admit, which I was sure would have to be OWN UP, despite the fact that OWN UP was very discordant with its parallel neighbor, AVE MARIAS (4D: Parts of some services). So what did I do? Naturally, I erased AVE MARIAS (or, more precisely, I erased the AVE M- part). In the end, though, I have to give ANS. all the credit for my being able to solve this puzzle at all. After many, many minutes spent completely blanking out on everything in the NW, I finally saw that APT. could be ANS., I changed it, and the puzzle, including the very APT answer AH YES (6D: "I understand now"), was done inside of a minute. Oh, so 5D: Admit was not OWN UP, but LET IN (which, for the record, I botched again before getting it right, thinking the answer was SEE IN, ugh). In the end, if I only could have remembered the name of the very memorable tune, YAKETY SAX (17A: Polka heard frequently on "The Benny Hill Show"), all those Scrabbly letters would have helped me knock the NW out quite quickly (see 20A: 1950's political slogan ("I Like Ike"), which has the Scrabbly "K"s and which I got right away). But no. No no no.

Gimme gimme gimme

God bless the following answers, for giving me precious life when all the other answers were playing hard to get:

18A: Part of a chronicle (annal) - I've dated more than one historian in my lifetime. Well, no, just the one, actually. Anyway, this is a fairly common term, especially in medieval and early modern history. I also once read a dreadfully boring book called Annals of the Parish when I was in Scotland. It was written by a man named John Galt (1821). When I returned to the states, I would occasionally see these bumper stickers that read "Who is John Galt?" and I couldn't figure out why people wanted to know about a 19th-century Scottish novelist. Turns out the question is from Atlas Shrugged, which I have never read, but which my mother owns a signed copy of, for some reason. Who is John Galt? Here is John Galt.
27A: Hunter of literature (Evan) - second time he's been in the puzzle since September. I know because he's a name I remember. He is better known as the best-selling crime writer Ed McBain. Here is one of his 50's paperbacks (I've shown this before, but it's been over four months, so who's gonna remember?):
30D: Actress Sobieski (Leelee) - this girl is giving TERI POLO a run for her money as the (so-called) Actress clue of the 21st century. She was in another puzzle I did in just the past couple of days. Expect to see more of her. Coincidence: the last message I received in my email inbox was from a former student named, I kid you not, Li Li.
58A: "He seemed like such ____ boy" (a nice) - super-gimme for all! And right on top of another gimme: 60A: When to see la luna (noche)!
53D: Cartoonist Walker (Mort) - "Are you the creator of 'Hi & Lois,' because you are making me laugh." - Comic Book Guy, "The Simpsons" [note: this quote must be uttered with deadpan sarcasm]. See also: "If you are waiting for the 'Hi and Lois' signing, you are too late. It has been moved to the Springfield Colosseum."
36A: Doesn't puff idly (inhales) - piece of cake! Thanks, Clinton (god I irrationally love that man)
37D: TV witch (Samantha) - are you kidding? My cat is named for her evil cousin! Hey, somebody stole my idea!

What I Didn't Know

  • 38A: Subject of the biography "All or Nothing at All" (Sinatra) - well, I know who SINATRA is, just not in reference to this particular book. Is the title a lyric from "My Way"? No, it's an actual song title. Sadly (very sadly) "All or Nothing at All" makes me think not of Sinatra but of O-Town. Have they been crossword fill? Because OTOWN looks like it could come in quite handy in a pinch.
  • 29D: Bearer of catkins (alder tree) - first of all, I have NO idea what a "catkin" is. Is it anything like a kitten? No, they're just these sort of cone-y, fuzzy, probably seed-bearing thingamajigs. Isn't the addition of TREE here a bit ... superflous. I mean, I've seen the answer ALDER a few times, I'm pretty sure. Of course it's an ALDER TREE. Is there an ALDER FOX? ALDER DOLPHIN? ALDER BUS? What other kinds of ALDER are there?
  • 49D: Like some stocks (no par) - again, if you need financial advice, please look elsewhere. Business and commerce-related fill stumps me almost as much as the damned Bible (although, today, I owned the Bible! Take that, ENOCH (47D: Methuselah's father)!
  • 45D: Heavens: Prefix (Urano-) - inferrable, in a way, but outside my ken (not my CATKIN).
  • 46D: Nervine, for one (tonic) - once again, inferred, not known. TONIC is also a terrible, terrible band. One of those generic white guy bands from the 90s whose name you know and whose songs are bland but very, very familiar, in a generic kind of way. Warning: you will find yourself humming and / or tapping your feet if you are not very careful. Infectious, in the way that pernicious diseases are infectious.

I like that OUTEREAR (44A: One end of a canal) and FRONT END (50A: Frequent area of auto damage) sit one atop the other, as it gives your REAR and FRONT in close proximity to one another. My favorite fill from this puzzle is all kind of negative, if not outright morbid. 21D: How a snake may be caught? had me thinking IN A PIT (too literal), but the real answer, IN A LIE, was so much better. I did not know what "anacusis" was in 39A: Develops anacusis, but with the last three letters in place I was pleasantly (?) surprised to see that the answer was GOES DEAF. ("Anacusis" reminds me of "ailurophobia" for some reason - perhaps because they are both disorders that start with "A," and I learned them both from crosswords: "ailurophobia" = fear of cats, which I do not have. See Serena, above). Lastly I enjoyed the frankness of 40D: A bad way to be left (for dead), which is how the puzzle nearly left me. But I had an AWAKENING (10D: Realization) and persevered.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orange 12:36 PM  

Chicago has aldermen on the City Council. And I have always liked catkins, more universally than either cats or kin.

Alex S. 12:51 PM  

The northwest killed me too, and I never did crack it.

LETIN for "Admit" was almost a gimme for me as it was the first thing I thought of but I never got enough confidence to actually leave it in there. EMAILED ended up being the only word in the NW that I ever had in. The rest of the puzzle went ok with both I LIKE IKE and LINE TEST coming to me immediately as gimmes.

Still have no idea what CORE is, even knowing that the R is RACIAL.

sonofdad 1:48 PM  

I think I set my Friday record on this one. I don't usually time myself late in the week, but I ran through this one. I felt like there were a lot of either well-placed or long gimmes with Scrabbly letters like K, X and Z (YAKETY SAX, I LIKE IKE, MAGNETIZE), and that always makes a puzzle easy for me.

I did like "Lord's realm" for MANOR, as it immediately evoked images of "The Contest." Also, I'd like to see YNE or ONE for "Chemical suffix." I always leave that first letter blank because there are four possibilities, but it almost invariably ends up as ANE and occasionally ENE. Give the alkynes and ketones some love.

Anonymous 2:04 PM  

Me too. NW was a brick wall, all of it, a witches' brew of popcult (*British* and *old* popcult!), abbreviations, and slight misleads (the clues for ESCALATE and STYMIE are right on the edge). No way José on this one, for me at least.

Anonymous 2:33 PM  

You probably needed to be around in the 60s to remember CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality, founded by James Farmer. It was one of the early non-violent groups involved in voter registration and desegregation of buses.

Northwest stymied me too. I should have paid more attention to Benny Hill.

Rex Parker 2:45 PM  

Speaking of FARMER: my favorite wrong answer in recent weeks was in (I think) a Sun puzzle where the clue was something like [Common middle name for people named Francis] and I entered FARMER (thinking maybe this was a fad - naming your baby after an institutionalized actress). Two problems: her name is spelled FRANCES, and the actual answer was XAVIER.


PS for such a recognizable word, STYMIE just would not come to me.

Linda G 4:09 PM  

I'm relieved to know I was in good company in the NW. I know squat about country music, being a recovering Catholic didn't help with AVEMARIAS, and LIVES just sat there in 9D -- and me with not so much as a thought in my head about SEX. That doesn't sound right, but I'll leave it in case it makes someone laugh.

Rex, here's my hint for Stamford. The prefix AN in the medical field means without; i.e., anosmia means without the sense of smell.

I don't normally find fault with clues, but AWAKENING should have been tied to Kate Chopin.

Orange 4:22 PM  

I'm with Linda on Kate Chopin's book.

Anonymous 6:46 PM  

I was also amused by INHALES as well as ELMO (which I had to look up, but I figured it was the guy the Roper center was named after) because despite many possible TV related clues, they went with Roper. I also giggled at 54D: STDS which could have been clued in many better ways.

Rex Parker 7:02 PM  

Yeah, I should have mentioned that I didn't know [42A: Pollster Roper] either. When I was writing up today's entry, I saw ELMO and thought nothing of it - common Sesame Street character. Forgot the weird / hard cluing. I'm pretty sure I had ALMA at some point.


Anonymous 10:17 PM  

I loved this puzzle. Lots of AHA moments (or AH YES, perhaps). I swear I stared at DELIMITS for the longest time, feeling like something was wrong, but feeling confident in all the crosses, until it dawned on me what the word actually was. I was breaking the syllables in all the wrong places. I also had DEVILED with the spam clue for some reason but after getting YAKETY SAX (via research, I sure didn't know it), I knew that wasn't gonna fly. I also loved FOR DEAD (a bad way to be left).

Anonymous 12:29 PM  

I found this puzzle fairly easy, but I'm sure it took me much longer than 16 minutes 50 seconds to complete! How do you have time to get stumped, tear your hair out in frustration and still finish the thing in 5 minutes more than what is probably my best Monday time (I don't actually bother timing myself dilligently, as I evidently inhabit another dimension...maybe this is why I can't keep up with the mail that comes to my house either).
Anyway, Amy pointed out...not sure Chicago is the only place with Aldermen, but it's certainly the place that springs to mind--and did you know that Saul Bellow began life in Montreal?
Now the real reason I'm bothering to write--six weeks late until I catch up with the online puzzle--is Yakety Sax. Any mention of Benny Hill immediately makes me play Yakety Sax in my head...but I wouldn't have spelled it like that, and...I certainly wouldn't have thought to classify it as a polka! (I'm trying to imagine doing a polka-step to yakety sax and...ah yes, I finally found the right groove)...

Anonymous 5:31 PM  

You must be a very strange guy for creating this blog... but I love ya for it. Perhaps I'm a novice: I have rarely finished a NYT crossword without google cheats etc. Your site is an excellent and entertaining resource :)
Ms Sara from Calgary Alberta

Anonymous 7:02 PM  

This was more than a three cupper for me today, I was into afternoon coffee before the N/W yielded. I had STYMIE and ANS and ...LIVES early on, but to me, spam is REVILED, and even though Masters and Johnston sprang to mind, I kept rejecting VX as an unlikely combination of consonants, even for something as germanic as polkas.

I confess to googling Vizquel, (the Baseball players I remember have names like Mantle and Maris and Alou.)

By the way, Rex, did you know that Lois's maiden name is Bailey? She is Beetle's sister.

Unknown 7:40 PM  

Hi Rex, I just recently got into crosswords and can't seem to stop doing them. I started off with only figuring a couple answers, now i'm completing at least half. With your help i have actually completed a few puzzles. Thanks

Brenda K.

Waxy in Montreal 10:43 PM  

For a refugee from the '60's, 1D - Country rocker Joe and others - had to be "FISH" as in "Country Joe and the Fish", not "ELYS"!!

Rex Parker 5:30 PM  

Ms Sara - I am a little strange, I guess. Glad you love me for it. Google cheats are fine as long as you've really given the puzzle your all. How else will you learn?! Well ... you can just cut out the middle man and come straight to my blog from now on, that's how.

waxy (!) - re: FISH, your answer would indeed be better if Country Joe himself were a FISH. It appears from the title of his band that he is merely backed by FISH. I still don't know who JOE ELY is.

Brenda - hurray for you. Keep at it and you will get a lot better quickly. Just takes patience and perseverance.

Anonymous 6:10 PM  

No one has mentioned:


I liked this puzzle. I was stymied just enough to keep things interesting.

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