THURSDAY, Feb. 22, 2007 - Mike Nothnagel

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Solving time: 12:19 (on paper)

THEME: 52A: Like 20-, 25- and 43-Across? (Commercial Free) - theme answers are familiar phrases with an initial AD- removed:

  • 20A: Quest for a stereotypical Jewish mother? (mission of guilt)
  • 25A: What the dry cleaner might say after losing a garment? (dress unknown)
  • 43A: Reactions to poetry? (verse effects)
DRESS UNKNOWN is a bit off. Either the whereabouts of the DRESS are UNKNOWN, or the dry cleaner is somehow lying and claiming he has never KNOWN this DRESS, but either way, the phrase does not come across as something a dry cleaner might say. That said, this theme is quite ingenious and I really enjoyed it. Got COMMERCIAL FREE before I got any of the theme answers, and knew instantly what it must mean. Took me a while (too long) to realize that all the AD's that had been removed were at the Beginning of the phrase. But I got it, and the theme answers were subsequently pretty easy to get.

This solving on paper thing is rough. I'm glad I switched now, a month before the tournament, because I Clearly need practice at paper-solving. I didn't feel like this puzzle presented much trouble, and yet my time was over 12. Ick. Oh well, there's still time.

9A: It's held in a hold (cargo)

Dear god this one gave me trouble. The only "hold" I could think of was a wrestling hold, like a half-nelson or something, so I was thinking arms ... then I thought maybe it was a rebus puzzle, and maybe it was [4 ... or fore?]ARMS. Of course the answer is not calling for a plural, so I'm not sure why my brain went where it did, but it did. This NE corner was the last thing to fall. I guessed early on, correctly, that 13D: Home of Bruce Peninsula Natl. Park was ONT (as in ONTario, right?). That helped a little. But NTEST (19A: Provocative military move, briefly) stayed out of sight for a while because "move" made me think of something a human being might do, so I kept thinking something along the lines of, I don't know, GOOSESTEPPING or SABRE-RATTLING (both far, far too long). Please see other commentaries for my feelings about NTEST / HTEST / ATEST - in short, :(

Oh, and nice to have TWO Canadian references in the NE section: not just ONT, but 9D: Losers to the Rangers for the 1994 Stanley Cup (Canucks) - I'm sure my many Canadian readers are either thrilled to see a Canadian team get some face time (during this period of American team dominance in the NHL) or they are sad because this team is clued in relation to its Losing. Poor Canada. Take your sport back! I assure you that no one down here actually wants it.

23A: A tiny bit (one iota)

Not much to say about this one except that I loved the fullness of it. The whole phrase, ONE IOTA, instead of just the normal, crossword-friendly IOTA. My feelings on colloquialisms are well known (i.e. I am for them ... with some notable exceptions). See also WHAT THE!? (48A: "Huh...?!")

35A: Author who inspired a Baltimore team's nickname (Poe)

The team in question is the Baltimore Ravens (NFL), in case you didn't know. This clue represents one possible weakness I have when solving on paper - my eye wanders over the page, and when it alights on a clue it knows, it wants me to go there, even if I'm in a groove and breaking down some other part of the puzzle. I actually stopped whatever I was hacking away at when I saw this clue, just so I could fill it in, instead of keeping up my rhythm and being patient.

28D: Word with black or fire (opal)

I finished this puzzle, walked into my bedroom, curled up with yet another NYT puzzle (from a giant book of them with some marathon runner on the cover crossing a finish line) and soon found that the puzzle in the book had this exact clue / answer pairing. Weird coincidence. That's all I have to say about that.

36A: Stuns (zaps)
56D: "Pow!" ("Bam!")

Now here's a subtheme I can really enjoy: comic book sounds! Thank god for ZAPS, as I never would have gotten "Z" cross without it: 31D: Sea of _____ between Russia and Ukraine (Azov). Hey, isn't Ukraine where LVOV is? Yes, but it's on the other (western) side from the Sea of AZOV, which is that little pouch of a sea on top of the Black Sea. Good to know.

6D: Some rings (arenas)
7D: Scrubbed (nogo)

8D: Anachronism, e.g. (goof)

These are all the Downs in the far North or "Fargo" portion of the puzzle. Despite having the first three letters of all of them very quickly, NOGO was the only one that would behave (btw, are you taunting me with the I GO, GIGO, NOGO - type clues? Every day...). I would like to know that someone, somewhere out there had AREOLA or some desperate made-up version of the word for [Some rings]. AREOLI!? For some reason, even with GOO- in place I could not think of an [Anachronism, e.g.] as a GOOF. Needed the cross to see the semi-obvious.

63A: George Strait's "All My _____ Live in Texas" (Exs)

I was just rereading an old blog entry wherein I commented on this very answer, and how odd the spelling was. And here it is again. What's weird / sad is that in rereading that entry, I was thinking of how weird EXS looks on paper, and then for some reason with today's puzzle, I still couldn't spell it right. I wrote XES first. Stupid.

12D: Heart (gist)
55D: Heart (crux)

Again, cute. Again, stop it. Unless the repeated clues have 180-degree rotational symmetry, in which case, I'll allow it.

33D: Duke it out (spar)

I thought SPARring was fake boxing. Like, practice. [Duke it out] implies actual fighting to me, so I hereby challenge the validity of this clue. I throw down the gauntlet. Nothnagel and I can [Duke it out] at some later date.

45D: Wealthy TV family (Ewings)
53D: "Thirtysomething" actor (Olin)

The first of these answers is Hot. EWINGS came to me immediately, though I suppose there are probably any number of wealthy families on TV. Something about "Dallas" is so campy and dated that I'm always happy to see it in the grid. OLIN (any relation to actress Lena OLIN?) took a while to rise to the top of my brains. Had just the "O" and had to sit patiently for a few seconds while the fog cleared and OLIN eventually presented himself. I did not watch this show much. Because I was not "thirtysomething" then. I am "thirtysomething" now. And what do I watch? "American Idol." I voted for Lakisha. What a world.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 9:53 AM  

Spar passes scrutiny in Websters as fighting, but duke (it out) doesn't. Duke, a prince or nobleman. Dukes, slang for fists or hands -- s/b "dukes it out", plural of object inconsequential to use as verb. Correct me if I'm wrong...

Rex Parker 10:17 AM  

I don't know if you're wrong because I have no idea what you are saying.

"spar" has an element of practice or play that "duke it out" (esp. the "it out" part) does not. "Duke it out" suggests something will be definitively resolved through violence, where "spar" seems to imply trading jabs with no sense of ultimate consequence.


Alex S. 10:36 AM  

Sparring can involve real hitting, though usually with restraint (it was big news that Mike Tyson was knocked down by his sparring partner a couple days before his first title loss to Buster Douglas). However, I agree that there is a disconnect between sparring and "duke it out" which definitely implies actual conflict.

anani maus, while I can't imagine using the noun "dukes" in singular form ("put up your duke," said Richard Kimble to the one-armed man), when used as a verb I can't imagine using a plural form.

DRESS UNKNOWN took me forever because I had the middle and parsed it wrong (---RES SUNK N---) and couldn't get that out of my head for a long time. SUNK NOON? SUNK NOUN? But I did get VERSE EFFECTS first which allowed me to get COMMERCIAL FREE with just the COMM--C.

I enjoyed this puzzle. As always my time is horrible (I should really stop watching TV while solving) but I felt sufficiently accomplished for finishing it.

Oh, and the OLIN is not Lena Olin but Ken Olin.

Rex Parker 10:45 AM  

RE: Ken OLIN, I wrote "Any relation to actress Lena OLIN?" As in, is this OLIN (Ken) any relation to Lena. I know that this OLIN is Ken.

Why I felt the need to clear that up, I now don't know.

Thousands of people are Googling a clue today (from 6 weeks ago) the answer to which is the very simple EMU. I'm trying to imagine thousands of people around the country seeing the answer and going "D'oh!" once they understand that the "sprinter" in question is not a human being but a giant bird.


Anonymous 11:06 AM  

Self-confidence restored somewhat after finding today's puzzle easier than Wednesday's, though I admit to solving very s-l-o-w-l-y. The only time I was knitting my brow in consternation over Mike's choice of clue was 29D: Knitted, since the answer, WOVE, is actually a kind of opposite. As in:

"Hey! You got a new outfit?!! Is it knitted (stretchy, like a t-shirt or sweater) or woven (with no give, like an oxford shirt or a pair of jeans)?"

Or maybe with the new woven lycra fabrics you can get now, the term has gotten less precise. (?) And of course, the words could be used interchangably in reference to fabricating a story. "What a liar! His alibi is obviously woven/knitted of untruths!"

I would spar with Nothnagel over that one.

Anonymous 11:29 AM  

Please enlighten me. How does a blogger know when his or her blog of a certain date is being (or has been) Googled?

Anonymous 3:17 PM  

I had to finish this puzzle before I got the "commercial free" bit. . . sad.

Rex Parker 4:00 PM  

(Ever and) anon,

statcounter tells me who is searching for what - it tracks hits to my site and tells me where said hits are coming from (links from other webites or Google searches, most often). It's very fun to see what clue is bothering the continent (to a lesser extent, the world) on a day-by-day basis. Thursday, for whatever reason, tends to be a big Google day. Fri and Sat puzzles are harder, but I think there are far more people who actually have a hope in hell of finishing a Thus. puzzle, so for sheer numbers of searchers, Thus. tends to be the big day - tho' in any given week, another day can beat it. Slowest day = Tuesday, almost always.


Anonymous 4:35 PM  

Duke: 1. a prince who rules an independent duchy; 2. a nobleman of the highest hereditary rank below that of prince.

Dukes: (slang) the fists or hands.

Spar: 1. to fight with the feet and spurs: said of a fighting cock; 2. to box with jabbing or feinting movements, landing few heavy blows, as in exhibition or practice matches; 3. to wrangle or dispute.

Perhaps "they will duke it out with one finger allotted to each to spar"?

Sorry you don't comprehend, but the least one can get from these puzzles is correct usage.

Anonymous 4:49 PM  

ARIOT for "running rampant"? Really? I don't see that in my dictionary. Sounds like another one of those terms that's shoehorned into submission for the puzzle alone.

I liked the use of E COLI. And always nice to see ROO in a puzzle. He/she was my favorite AA Milne character.

Anonymous 5:15 PM  

Your response to my question is full of fascinating stuff. Thanks for taking the time.

C zar 7:35 PM  

Rex said, "I would like to know that someone, somewhere out there had AREOLA or some desperate made-up version of the word for [Some rings]. AREOLI!?"

Yep. I resemble that remark. My apologies to Mr. Cobb (my 9th grade Latin teacher), I guess my Latin has only gotten worse, if that was possible. AREOLA is just such crossword classic, I stuck it in without thinking.

Howard B 10:00 PM  

Tried XES and even AREOL[A/I] here too. I never do get that country song one right on the first guess, and you'd think it would be a 50/50 chance :).

Orange 12:08 AM  

anani maus, that is correct usage. The verb definition (per the American Heritage Dictionary) of duke is "To fight, especially with fists: duking it out." And one of the meanings of spar is "To fight with an opponent in a short bout or practice session, as in boxing or the martial arts." What the hell is boxing but fighting with the fists??

Anonymous 8:23 AM  

Cat Fight! Cat Fight!
Are Anani Maus and Orange duking it out or merely sparring? :)

Orange 2:35 PM  

Oh, please—I won on a TKO call.

Anonymous 9:40 PM  

Ultra Vi,

Does the stretchiness even matter? I was under the impression that knitting and weaving were entirely different processes (weaving requires a loom and knitting you can do with needles in your lap). I would also challenge this clue.

Anonymous 10:53 AM  

Rex: you said, "Poor Canada. Take your sport back! I assure you that no one down here actually wants it."

Not true I enjoy watching hockey going to games and wearing a my hockey jerseys from the former AHL team KY Thoroughblades.

I like watching hockey it doesn't matter which teams are playing I enjoy watching. My favourite teams are the San Jose Sharks & The Calgary Flames.

Anonymous 2:30 PM  

Ultra Vi & Corrine are right, as someone who has a loom set up in my home, and has enjoyed a life of wearing hand-knit wool socks, I can definitely state that Weaving and Knitting are two completely different ways of manufacturing fabric.

I should say that it is my wife who is the fabric artist of the family.

Anonymous 3:54 PM  

Man, this one worked me over, even after I got the first two theme answers, I couldn't come up with COMMERCIAL FREE. Lots of wrong fill, including XES for EXS. I did like this puzzle though.

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