MONDAY, Feb. 5, 2007 - Joy C. Frank

Monday, February 5, 2007

Solving time: 5:25

THEME: "Not the El" - three theme answers begin with different words for subterranean mass transport systems. They are all worth noting:

  • 20A: Modern fashion-conscious guys (metrosexuals)
  • 39A: Unlikely showing at a multiplex (underground film)
  • 58A: Yanks vs. Mets matchup, e.g. (Subway Series)
That first answer surprised me - I had this moment where I knew it but hesitated, thinking "can that really be an answer?" But there it is? Where did that expression originate? I think of "Queer Eye" and then my mind goes straight to "South Park," which did a decent parody of the "QE" / METROSEXUAL phenomenon a few years back.
I guess I wasn't aware of how completely that word had entered the language. It sure livens up a Monday. This theme is nicely expressed, with French, British, and American versions of the mass transit system in question. Is there some other "matchup" that might be called a SUBWAY SERIES? The "e.g." part is throwing me. Wouldn't a Giants / A's World Series be a BART SERIES? Cubs / White Sox would be an EL SERIES. Where are the other SUBWAY SERIES of which the Yanks / Mets "matchup" is just one example? Further, another answer to 20A could have been GAYS. GAY AESTHETES fits. For something METROSEXUALS might say, see 32D: Cooler (niftier). For what they might eat, see 33D: Some Japanese cuisine (sushi).

Congratulations to the Indianapolis Colts, who won the Super Bowl yesterday. I was rooting for them, despite my earlier pledge to support my namesake, Rex Grossman. Believe me, if you saw the game, you know how little pride my name gives me today. 1/2 way through the game, everyone at the Super Bowl party I went to was saying that Prince should be the MVP. At about the 2/3 mark (late third quarter) we changed our minds and decided Rex Grossman should be MVP for throwing such beautifully catchable passes ... to the Colts' defenders. Did he think he was playing friendly GAMES (69A: Nintendo products) of catch in his backyard? Those were some of the worst passes I've ever seen a pro QB throw! I won't even talk about the times he single-handedly lost 20 or so yards total on consecutive plays by running away from scary defensemen / generally falling down trying to recover his own fumble. Out and out humiliation. I felt bad for him. Genuinely bad. Looks like he would have been better off if he'd SAT OUT (23A: Didn't participate in). Surely the teams have multiple QB on their ROSTERS (21D: Lists). Still, we all agreed, Rex Grossman did play very well for a thirteen-year old.

2D: Most-played half of a 45 (Side A)

Objection. First, you don't know what side I listen to most. There is no hard data on what sides of 45s actually got played most - well, on jukeboxes, probably A, but still... this blanket assertion will not stand. Further, I prefer A-SIDE to SIDE A - I feel like we just saw B-SIDE (yes, yes we did - YESTERDAY). I entered ASIDE. The first of many false entries in this puzzle for me. Oh, I see ASIDE was already taken (57D: In reserve). If these two answers (SIDEA / ASIDE) had rotational symmetry, I would back off my criticism. But they don't, so I won't. So there.

4D: Bamboo beginning (sprout)

This is a truly horrible clue, especially for a Monday. Every plant "begins" as a sprout. SHOOTS is a more bamboo-centric answer (I can't believe my spellcheck likes "bamboo-centric," but doesn't like "spellcheck"). I spent way too long trying to think of phrases with "bamboo" in them. "YOOHOO, Bamboo!" What the hell could be a lead-in to "bamboo?" Oh ... the answer is SPROUT. Huh. Interesting. Also throwing me up here were 7D: Billy Joel's musical daughter (Alexa) - I didn't know she was Anybody worth noting, let alone "musical." Will we see his non-musical daughter next week? Had POUCH for STRAP at 4A: Purse feature, and I stand by my answer despite its manifest wrongness. Also tripped over PSEUDO (8D: Prefix with intellectual), which some would say is either ironic or perfectly appropriate. PS Billy Joel sang the National Anthem before last night's game. I left the room to get nachos. And to partake of the OPEN BAR (30A: Reception amenity). Which is to say that I got some beer. In bottles. There was no KEG (61D: Beer bust purchase).

61A: Olympics craft (kayak)

I entered this instantly. Why? Why would I go straight to KAYAK, without hesitation? Why? Further, why wouldn't TRAMS (27D: Mine transports) come to me? All kinds of crazy words were coming to me, like CARTS and DRAYS (!?) and TRAYS (!!?) but TRAMS was very slow in showing up. It's a good word, TRAMS, but, for my brain, too close to PRAMS for something having to do with mining.

I am not a fan of the word UNPOT (34D: Prepare to transplant). I guess DEPOT would be too confusing, what with its already being a perfectly good word in another context. UNPOT - and here I was trying to think of what they do to human kidneys before "transplanting" them: "REMOVE, CUT OUT, EXCISE, FREEZE? They're all too long!" I am a fan of the word HOLSTER (46A: Item on a gunslinger's hip), which goes nicely with 5D: 1973 Newman / Redford movie ("The Sting"). This grid has too many body parts for my taste:

9A: Where hair roots grow (scalp)
38A: Shinbone (tibia)
53D: Keep an _____ the ground (ear to)
71A: Iris's place (eye)

But REWASH (48D: Clean again) and HOSED (70A: Sprayed) intersect, which is cute. Not terribly happy to see the AGE OLD (50D: Ancient) crossword fill ELI (6A: _____ Lilly and Company) and ASP (22D: Dangerous hisser) and RELEE (18A: Pulitzer-winning biography of a Civil War general) or EERIE (16A: Causing goosebumps), and yet somehow I'm always happy to see the high-end Pantheonic contender R.U.R. in the grid (29D: Karel Capek classic), which should surprise no one, as it is about robots. Overall, there was a weirdness to the grid that slowed me down by about a minute, but in the end this was a NO HASSLE (42D: Easy, as a loan) puzzle.

Signed, Rex "don't call me Grossman" Parker, King of CrossWorld


sonofdad 10:07 AM  

Speaking of robots, how 'bout that robot suicide commercial? I can think of many better ways to spend $5.2 million.

Rex Parker 10:16 AM  

Yes, and the use of "All By Myself" in a montage of sadness is very tired. See the end of "Clueless" (seriously, I love that movie). I can tell you that the people at the SB party laughed quite a bit at the robot suicide commercial - or, rather, several women were only semi-jokingly talking about how it made them want to cry. The ad was clever, but I did not enjoy the actual suicide part. Too grim. Stick with the robot doing new, menial jobs. Those parts were OK, pretty funny. And $5.1!?!?! Apparently that Doritos ad with the car crash / love story cost under $20. That's $20, without a K or M next to it.

Rex Parker 10:17 AM  

I meant to exclaim, "$5.2 million!?!?!"

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

"Karel Capel classic", a clue that I have encountered in the NYT puzzles many times, reminds me to propose a dare for Rex and Orange and others. I dare you all to come up with a Pantheon of
Clues to parallel Rex's Pantheon of Fill. Anybody?

One of the Anonymice

Rex Parker 10:44 AM  

Damn, Amy, a dare?! S/He's calling us out? I don't know - it's a tall order. I will say that - it seems to me - one of the most important constructing skills is making me (the solver) forget / not mind when you use tired fill by cluing it in awesome ways. I have no interest, I think, in rehashing the clues I see all the time. I do have an interest, however, in finding new and fabulous clues for tired fill. We could start with "R.U.R." - how the hell else are you going to clue it besides "Karl Capek [something]"? If I actually knew the plot, that might help.


Alex S. 12:05 PM  

I suppose if the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants were to play each other in the World Series again it could be called a subway series.

Both stadiums are easily accessible by means of a method of public transportation that goes below ground (and even below the bay). Though we don't refer to it as a subway.

And the when they last played against each other in the World Series it was called the Bay Bridge Series, though at the time the Giants were in Candlestick Park which is not readily accessible to BART.

Alex S. 12:43 PM  

As for RUR.

There is the Rur River in Belgium/Germany that played a minor significant role in WWII.

RUR used to be the international currency code for the ruble.

So maybe "USSR currency"?

Orange 1:29 PM  

Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park, US Cellular Field, whatever you want to call it, are connected by the Red Line, which does travel underneath downtown, so the generic "subway series" would still work (and more important, it alliterates and "El series" doesn't).

Alfalfa, bean, broccoli, Brussels—all more prominent SPROUTs.

I loved Prince's performance at halftime, but did he really have to wear official Super Bowl colors?

Anonymous: Done! My upcoming book will include the commonest words in easy NYT crosswords and the commonest clues for them. Interestingly, that set of clues skews different from the commonest clues in some other daily crosswords (e.g., [Pig's digs] is frequently used to clue STY in other puzzles, but not so much in the NYT).

Rex Parker 1:46 PM  

OK, who had "Feb. 5" in the "how long will it take before Amy plugs her book at my website" pool?

But seriously, you should buy her book. Just do it (eventually) through her site (right?) because that way she'll get more money.

I feel as if there was a great [Pig's digs] controversy of 2006, but it's a murky memory by now.


Anonymous 3:18 PM  

What does each day's hilighted words signify?

Having trouble figuring that out

Orange 3:19 PM  

Is it too soon to put up a handy-dandy link? Maybe not!

C zar 3:22 PM  

Yes, do the link thing.

PSUEDOintellectual-- the less said the better. My wife referred to me as METROSEXUAL once without realizing that some men might take that as a slight (like the two guys eating the candy bar in the Super Bowl commercial would). I think that was the day I ordered a MadBomber hat from Cabela's.

I thought Prince was great, also liked that he inserted a Dave Grohl tune, the FooFighters are a person favorite. Lots of really good B-side Prince hits. Per Wikipedia, Sexy Dancer, Let's Work, 17 Days, She's Always in My Hair, Hello, Boys and Girls, and Hot Thing all charted as B sides. So I agree, A-side is not necessarily the most played

sonofdad 3:31 PM  

Re the $5.2M figure, I was referring to the cost of the ad time, which was $2.6M/30 seconds this year. I have no idea how much the commercial itself cost, though. Also regarding the robot suicide commercial, I think this Ikea commercial is a much better take on a similar theme.

Is it just me, or are the Listmania and So You'd Like to... sections on Orange's book page all about being a lesbian or a teenager discovering her sexuality? What sort of "crossword" book is this?

C zar 3:36 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Orange 5:25 PM  

I didn't like that Super Bowl ad where the two men wigged out when they almost kissed over a candy bar. There were undoubtedly some gay kids watching the game, and they didn't need an explicit demonstration of homophobia played for laughs, did they? (And the add pissed me off by using scantily clad women to sell domain names. Listen, bozos! I'm a woman and I reserved some domain names through your company! Don't exclude me in your ads.)

That aside, I have absolutely no idea why Amazon seems to think my book is targeted at young lesbians (it's targeted at anyone who wants to become a better solver of the NYT crossword). When Matt Gaffney's book, Gridlock, was coming out, the Amazon page included blurbs for an entirely different book. Made it sound like his book about crossword constructors had a seamy underbelly. So Amazon's system does make booboos and muddle things up.

C zar, metrosexuals can be hot. I suspect most women prefer well-groomed and presentable men to the ones who insist on wearing their beards scruffy, or wearing pleated pants, or wearing ratty old t-shirts until they dwindle down to their basic molecular structure. For me, a Cabela's hat is...feh.

Orange 5:25 PM  

(Ad, not add. Gah!)

Anonymous 5:52 PM  

Hey, Orange,

The link in your post here took me to a book by Will Shortz. Wazzup?

One of the Anonymice

Orange 7:01 PM  

That's my book. The publisher merely sent vague preliminary info to Amazon. Will did edit the NYT crosswords that are in it (60+ puzzles, hand-selected by me), and he wrote the intro to the book. Someday, it will have my byline, they assure me. Someday...

(Blog hijack!)

Anonymous 8:03 PM  

I immediately thought "Wii" on the Nintendo clue, even though it didn't fit. I expect it'll be joining the pantheon soon enough.

Anonymous 9:29 PM  

Per Wikipedia, R.U.R. popularized the word ROBOT, displacing AUTOMATON (which I've always loved) and ANDROID in the parlance. So that could be a clue. Also that the story was a modern version of the old Golem legend. The whole plot is available at the site, but here's a taste: "Years have passed and all humans have been killed by the robot government except for Alquist, who has been ordered to recreate the formula to make robots." Fascinating! ;)

Rex Parker 10:03 PM  

My next screen name will be Alquist, for sure!

I loved/hated the Snickers ad, in that when the guy says "we accidentally kissed," I was like "No, you totally leaned over and ate a candy bar hanging out of another dude's mouth. There was No Accident, you freak!" So it was a stupid homophobic commercial, and yet I had fun making fun of it.

Yes, is horrible, and yet all the guys (and maybe some of the ladies) at the party seemed to enjoy it. All but me. Sometimes guys don't believe me, but I have never, ever understood the appeal of generic boobjob women that populate all the commercials on ESPN and elsewhere. Do Not get Maxim or other so-called "Men's mags" At All. It's like guys think that's what they're supposed to find attractive so they say that's what they find attractive, but ugh, I have a hard time believing it. It's like a giant hoax. I'm all for hot, but generic and shallow and dead-behind-the-eyes and impossibly spherical is not hot.

What the hell started me off on that rant?

Last thing on ads: no more talking / winking animals. Moratorium!


Rex Parker 10:19 PM  

O, and about the "highlighted word" - that's just wherever the cursor was when I grabbed the image off the screen. It means nothing. The word you are filling in gets highlighted like that when you solve on the applet at the NYT website.


Howard B 10:50 PM  

Amen on the commercial commentary, Rex, amen. Can't add more to that.

Long week, no rambling for me today. Great posts (and commentary), by the way.

Looking forward to the book as well, Orange (mini-hijack).

C zar 12:12 AM  

Orange, good thing I trimmed my beard this morning to a more fashionable length, or I'd really resemble those remarks. And your right, my spouse does love the more refined, urbane side of me (if there really is one), but lets me live in my butch fantasy at least some of the time. And I do look forward to seeing your book.

I just can't get over how jaw-droppingly dumb the candy bar commercial was. It seemed calculated to offend as many people as possible. Starts homoerotic and ends homophobic. What were they thinking? Who did they test this infront of?

sonofdad 1:00 AM  

Evidently there was a vote on, or wherever; there were four endings to to the initial kiss, and viewers voted which ending would air. The four endings are:

The one that aired.

Guy 1 smacks Guy 2 in the stomach with one of those huge wrenches, followed by Guy 2 slamming the car hood on Guy 1's torso.

Guy 1 and Guy 2 wash their mouths with anti-freeze and motor oil, respectively.

A third, older Guy comes in and asks if there's "room for three on this love boat."

Which is the worst? It's a tough call.

Anonymous 9:25 AM  

Move the Mets to Boston and they and the Red Sox can have their little Yankee hate-fest in their cold little nest and call it whatever they want: subway series? hah! robot baseball!

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

I did not watch the Super Bowl. My sons did. I think I came in briefly on Prince's performance, not really aware that it was at the Super Bowl, thought "Wow, Prince has gone downhill," then realized, "Oh, he's playing a stadium" and that was that. Prince, the original metrosexual. I got that one instantly. One of my sons is not quite but has friends who are...:)This is Montreal. Plenty of young men who aren't averse to creams, gels and perhaps even a bit of mascara? I dunno. It's nice to look nice, but there's a fine line between personal care and vanity...Anyway, that one came to me quickly, as did SUBWAY SERIES, so I saw the pattern, but somehow, blank blank blank...FILM eluded me for a short while...ETA or ETD? Hmmm...just long enough that I got a good, hearty chuckle out of finding UNDERGROUND.
For the record, I'm with you, Rex, on what's promoted as sexy and how so many people seem ready to buy into stock fantasies and stock images of what's sexy. Guess this isn't really the place to go off on a rant on fake boobs (don't like 'em; don't get the attraction; wonder why anyone would prefer a large, exceedingly firm, rubber ball to something smaller that is soft, tender, real and...wonderful. Haven't seen either of those ads.
Wow. Who woulda thunk a Monday crossword could generate so much commentary!? Btw, what's that called when you combine an exclamation point and a question mark into a single punctuation mark? That could make a nice 11-letter puzzle entry.
Hmm. I need to figure out a good way to go quickly to the blog entries and comments from six weeks ago. I'm tempted to sign up for the online version of the puzzle, just so I can take part in these discussions as they unfold...but I think I'm too attached to the pencil and newspaper as part of my puzzle-solving experience. :)

Anonymous 9:10 AM  

Oh...the archives. :]

Rex Parker 9:17 AM  


For god's sake sign up for the on-line version of the puzzle so your mammoth posts get read by more people than just yours truly!


PS nice rhapsodizing about breasts. Well done.

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

You're right. Will do.
P.S. Short but sweet (the rhapsodizing). After all, this blog is about crossword puzzles.

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

Back when the Dodgers and Giants played in New York, and the Mets didn't even exist, there were several Subway Series played between the Yankees and Dodgers/Giants.

I didn't know about RUR, and went with NIB instead of NUB.

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

Regarding subscribing to the online version: mmpo mentioned being attached to the "pencil and newspaper" aspect of puzzle solving. I'm the same way. But for me, it's a medium point black ink Bic and it MUST be on newsprint-type paper to get the full, tactile satisfaction. Something about the way the pen glides so smoothly and the ink kind of sinks into the paper. Am I totally weird or are there others who share this proclivity?

(I hope you don't mind, Rex, but I am going to post this question also on today's blog entries so that you, and perhaps mmpo, are not the only ones who see it and can respond. I'm really curious!)

D in CO

Hallaig 3:28 PM  

All we paper-solving people read the six-week-old blog and comments too.

I think they're called playoff series in hockey, so would the Islanders vs. the Rangers count?

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