FRIDAY, Mar. 16, 2007 - Eric Berlin

Friday, March 16, 2007

Solving time: fast for a Friday, but untimed
THEME: none

This puzzle seemed quite easy until I hit the SE - from about Mississippi to Florida - where I had a little trouble. Still, all in all, the puzzle was a relative breeze, with only a few mysterious words, and lots of lively interesting fill.

The NW came together quickly, as soon as I changed ME TOO to AS AM I (1A: "Same here"), a change necessitated by my deciding that 1D: Exile of note had to be ADAM. I know SIMI as a Valley but not as a 2D: Winery in Sonoma county, and yet just knowing the word SIMI made the answer inferrable here (for more wine action, see 16A: Martini & Rossi product (Asti)) I know squat about birds but 4D: Variety of swallow (martin) was also inferrable with just a few crosses. My first exposure to the word MARTIN (as something avian and not just a guy's name) came from the name of the band The HouseMARTINS, whose albums I absolutely wore out in college. I particularly recommend London 0 Hull 4.

6D: World Series team manager of 1977, 1978, 1981 and 1988 (Lasorda)

Total gimme for me and any baseball fan alive during those years (and a much easier sports clue than 51A: It was on the 37-Down [JERSEYS] of Johnny Unitas and Lenny Wilkens (nineteen)). I grew up a huge fan of the Dodgers, who famously lost the first two of the World Series listed above. Thus began my lifelong hatred of the New York Yankees. The first major league game I saw was a Dodgers/Phillies match-up in 1978 - after the game, I got Lee Lacy's and Rick Monday's autographs; wish I still had them. Sometime during the 80's I would become a Red Sox fan, largely on the strength of Clemens and Boggs (who, ironically, would both go on to win World Series rings with ... the Yankees). Cruel, cruel world. O well, Sox still have more World Series rings this century than the Yankees.

20A: Longtime TV host with a 1997 Lifetime Achievement Emmy (Mister Rogers)

God I loved that man. He genuinely loved and respected kids. He's easy to make fun of, but compared to most of what passes for kids' TV today, his show seems like the work of a benevolent genius. Most kids TV today is hateful, not just in terms of content, but in terms of all the mentally and physically unhealthy and soul-crushing crap that it helps to foist on kids via advertisements and product tie-ins - kids are valuable insofar as they are consumers. While contemporary TV shakes kids down for money, Mister Rogers asked only for kids to use their imaginations (where's the profit in that!?). I remember being quite devastated by his death - Nina Simone's death two months later (just as the War in Iraq was getting underway) made it seem as if all the world's decency was bleeding out.

Words I thought I knew but didn't

17A: Punish arbitrarily (amerce)
34A: Treason (lèse-majesté)

I didn't know that AMERCE meant to "'punish arbitrarily." Somehow I thought it was just a synonym for taxation. And I think I know the phrase LÉSE-MAJESTÉ only by sight; further, I believe I unconsciously associated it with LAISSEZ-FAIRE (I'll take "Political Terms Borrowed from the French" for $1000, Alex).

Wrong Fill

BURN for BUNT (33A: Make a sacrifice, perhaps)
ROO and LOO and god knows what else for RYN (56A: Rembrandt van _____) - please don't ask me to explain, as I honestly can't
SOIR for NUIT (49D: Jour's opposite)
AZUL and AZUR (!?) for AQUA (55A: Like the ocean)
ABUSERS for ABASERS (36D: Bullies, often) - try [Bullies, always]
ERNESTO for ERNESTS (41D: Poet Thayer and others) - "Oh, 'and others,' gotcha"

People to Know

Well, there's ERNEST Thayer (above), whom clearly I didn't know. Then there's ETIENNE Gilson (38D: French philosopher Gilson) - I'm pretty sure I have a book by him somewhere about Abelard and Heloise; beyond that, I know nothing about him. Had a long conversation about the genius of Jane Austen last night at my daughter's school Art Show, and yet could not for the life of me remember 46A: "Sense and Sensibility" sister (Marianne). Another fictional character whose name totally slipped my mind: 48D: Reporter Skeeter of Harry Potter novels (Rita). A very hip way to clue RITA (just as [Meter maid of note] would have been hip in the late 60's). ERTE is an art deco artist whose name you Must know if you are going to be a constant solver of puzzles - I did not know he sculpted, but because I'd seen his name a half billion times in the grid before, I could figure out 19D: The sculptures "Rigoletto" and "La Tosca," e.g. (Ertes) with little problem. David MAMET (35D: "American Buffalo" playwright) is a fine playwright whose name came up recently at this site in a discussion of Rebecca Pidgeon (his wife). Lastly, as far as people of note in the puzzle, we have ELIZABETH ARDEN (43A: Producer of many fragrances). I have nothing to say about her.

Final thoughts

Didn't know 39D: Tien _____ mountains in central Asia (Shan); I may have briefly written in SHAH because at least that's a word I associate with Asia (or the near east, anyway). Also did not know the Freak Word of the Day: OSMIUM (54A: Heavy metal), apparently named after heavy metal overlord Ozzy Osbourne (not to be confused with the much softer, puppydog-like OSMOND-IUM). I don't like SERTAS as the answer to 14D: Some dormitory purchases when FUTONS is so much more apt, but since it intersects another piece of furniture, DIVANS (13A: Backless furniture), I'm less perturbed. I do like when related words cross. I'll give SINE WAVE (18A: It has its highs and lows in math) a shout-out, just for my math friend(s) out there. 44A: Skinny? is a brilliant but also somehow very gross clue for DERMAL (I knew it wasn't about thinness, so I figured it must be about dirt, information, the lowdown ... but no, it's really about skin. Nice / ick). Lastly, let's all agree that Pi Day was fine while it lasted, but today is the third day in a row we've had PIE (12D: Quiche, e.g.), and I am full.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


DONALD 10:25 AM  

Lotsa dead people!

Alex S. 10:35 AM  

Didn't do well today. Dead people I don't know and French phrases I don't know are a bad combination.

I, with 200% certainty, knew it to be Rembrandt van Rijn not Rembrandt van Ryn. A quick Google search shows 700,000 hits for the former and 1,900 for the latter. So I wouldn't have minded a "Var." in there because I spent quite a while thinking it must be some other Rembrandt van (unless it turns out they are two different people after all).

Orange 11:40 AM  

Tommy Lasorda and David Mamet asked me to mention that they're still very much alive.

Anonymous 12:13 PM  

you are amazing!!! LOVE your comments!

C zar 12:19 PM  

I blanked on David Mamet's name, and had to tell my wife the classic joke. Sure enough, when I hit the punch line, it came to me:

So a guy is walking through an alley and is stopped by a panhandler. "Neither a borrower nor a lender be, William Shakespeare," says the guy. "Eat s__t and die mother f__cker, David Mamet," replies the panhandler.

Rex Parker 12:27 PM  

Amazing!? OK, whatever you say! My mom would tend to agree with you.

I forgot to mention GENESEE (8D: River through Rochester), which would have bugged the hell out of me (like most rivers) if it weren't practically in my neighborhood - if we consider a 150-mile radius a "neighborhood."


Alex S. 5:38 PM  

Oh, and in both the categories of "Seeing through cleverness that isn't there" and "The perils of getting help from others" I messed up the "Journey part" clue.

I had L-- and shouted out to my wife "Do you know who was in the band Journey?" and when she was hesitant in her reply I asked the dreaded leading question "Anybody named Leo?" and she replied "Yeah, I think so."

So, I thought I was being clever in seeing the misdirection and relied on faulty help. Not knowing the rivers of upstate New York, there was no way for me to fix LEO to LEG (OENESEE seems a perfectly legitimate river name to me).

Rex Parker 5:59 PM  

The OENESEE is the fabled river of wine, or would be if I wrote fables.


Anonymous 8:50 PM  

I got Genesee because I"m familiar with the beer. Never knew it was a river.

BTW, i'm away and getting the Times fax. Does anyone know why the puzzles in it are different from the ones in the daily paper?

Anonymous 9:06 PM  

Ouch! This puzzle killed me, with its French/river/dead people/ and otherwise unfamiliar references.

Give me a Handel opera any day (Atalanta, Alcina, Hercules, Orlando, Ariodante...oh, and Xerxes, of course).

Oh, well. I figure there has to be someone at the ACPT for the geniuses to whip. Might as well be me.

One last moan - My AS AM I came late, after trying ALSO I and AS DO I. So what if ALSO I is a questionable phrase - it intersected with STAS, which is what I had for 3D: Pennsylvania and others...

Thanks for throwing in the magazine cover of Ozzy. That cheered me up.

Tom the Dog 9:13 PM  

I know the Housemartins by way of Barenaked Ladies; their "Hello City" (on the album Gordon) quotes some of "Happy Hour" from London 0 Hull 4. And ah, fond memories of Lasorda, back when the Dodgers used to be perennial contenders for going all the way, as opposed to the team that hasn't been in the World Series since... oh yeah, like the clue says: 1988!! Grr.

Rex Parker 10:53 PM  

I have a freaky story re: Barenaked Ladies. My clock radio went off one morning in, oh, 1992, I think, and "Hello City" was the song that was playing. I'd Never heard it before, nor had I ever heard of the group Barenaked Ladies. I was lying there, half awake, and I rememberin thinking, "weird ... this sounds vaguely like something The Housemartins would sing." And then about two seconds after I thought that, the song segued into an exact quotation of the lines from The Housemartins' "Happy Hour." I'm telling you, it was freaky. It was like the song was reading my mind.

PS After their first album, all Barenaked Ladies songs have been like nails on a chalkboard to me. Not sure what happened.


Dave Mackey 9:23 PM  

I still have Happy Hour on my computer, in fact. Great tune.

Unknown 8:15 PM  

I use your blog shamelessly. I love to read your comments on the clues and
I will never be able to do the crossword as well, but I knew there was something wrong with your explanation of "tat"
see wiktionary:
a form of looped and knotted lace needlework made from a single thread

Rex Parker 5:41 PM  

jason- not sure what you're talking about. I know what TAT means (well, I know it's a verb meaning "to make lace"), and I don't even discuss it in this entry. Maybe you're referring to another entry I did. I don't know.


Deb 3:15 PM  

I moved through this puzzle very quickly for a Friday (for me, anyway, which means in just under 30 minutes). Considering I had "pissandvinegar" written in instead of "pinsandneedles" for awhile, I was pretty happy. Even though the phrase doesn't mean "excited anticipation" I was soooo reluctant to change it.

D in CO

Rex Parker 3:18 PM  

Yes, once you've got PISS AND VINEGAR in the grid, why in the world would you ever want to change it. You don't get many chances at that kind of colorful fill.


Anonymous 3:22 PM  

Late-Comer checking in:

Two cupper today. N/W was last to fall, because I had AMIN crossed with AS DO I. AMERCE is a new word to me. I can use it, as Municipal Tax Time is approaching, and I am one of the Land-Rich/Money-Poor.

My only "outside help" came from for a check to see if DIVANS had backs. I always thought them to be synonymous with SOFAS, or (as they call them back home in N.S.) CHESTERFIELDS.

There was a young lady from Norway,
Who hung by her heels in a doorway.
She said to her man,
"Get off the DIVAN!
I think I've discovered one more way!

LESE MAJESTE, like all the long answers, jumped out at me, and, like Rex, I didn't know what it meant until I looked it up after the fact.

Anonymous 9:51 PM  

Six weeks out. Went through this pretty quickly until I hit SE. Finally, gave in and googled "Romance de Barrio." "Tango" helped fill the rest in. Osmium is very obscure!

Anonymous 8:28 PM  

I too momentarily had AMIN for 1D(noted exile).
For the record (this came up once before--or was it after?), the opposite of SOIR would be MATIN.
Like night and day
Comme jour et nuit...
Which comes first?
Depends on your time zone.
I admit I didn't really know lèse-majesté meant treason, but I find this word most majestic.
If memory serves, Rex, I'm about 10 years older than you. By the time I began taking a serious interest in baseball (ca. 1967, when I joined Little League), I had left the Bay Area and moved to Seattle, where the Pilots (!) were not yet playing. For whatever reason (Willie Mays), I was a Giants fan, but the Dodgers were my second-string favorites. I never went to a game in what my dad used to call Candlestink Park. I did go to a Dodgers game with my grandpa who lived in San Bernardino...I guess you must have been in Fresno by the time you started being interested in baseball. Otherwise, how could you not be either an As or a Giants fan? :]

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