FRIDAY, Mar. 2, 2007 - Eric Berlin

Friday, March 2, 2007

Solving time: untimed - not hard (but super-fun)

THEME: paired answers aplenty (or, none)

This was a great, lively, entertaining puzzle - challenging in parts (I kinda had to guess one of the crossings) but characterized less by its difficulty than by its astonishingly varied and vivid vocabulary. As I did my initial post-puzzle annotations, I noticed a lot of answers that mirrored or echoed or otherwise complemented each other, which is one of the features I like most to see in "unthemed" puzzles - makes the grid feel like an organic whole rather than a bunch of fancy and unfancy words just taking up space. I'll start with the complementary answer sets, and then move on to individual observations about some of the more noteworthy fill.

31A: What two zeroes after a dot may mean (no cents)
35A: Big bills (C-notes)

These two sit one atop the other in the "Kentucky" or "Fort Knox" portion of the grid, and they make a great tweedle-dee and tweedle dum. The fact that they share many letters is also hot. What's particularly great about NO CENTS is that it has its little partnership with C-NOTES here, but also has a little thing going on the side with 32D: It's to the left of a dot (one's place), which intersects NO CENTS at the "O." So the money part of NO CENTS is brought out by C-NOTES, and the decimally part of NO CENTS is brought out by ONE'S PLACE. Synergy!

15A: Box to check on a form (sex)

47A: Blue prints? (smut)

Nice. I also like how CHASTE (2D: Pure) is way on the other side of the puzzle from SEX and SMUT. If only SECY (56A: Certain asst.) had been SEXY. Actually, that would have been a little repetitive. Never mind. Speaking of SECY.

56A: Certain asst. (secy.)
44D: Some assistants (stenos)

Office party! I feel a short story coming on:

Bob had eyes for his SECY., TERI (26A: Polo of "Meet the Fockers"), whom he'd chosen from among the many STENOS in the company pool. Bob got a little drunk at the office party and made a PASS (41A: Object of scout's search) at TERI - he had decided to ACCOST (1A: Waylay) her and convince her to go somewhere private with him, but his pickup LINE (48A: Play bit) was lewd, which offended TERI. After uttering a deeply ironic "AH, BLISS" (36D: Words of contentment), TERI told Bob he was A DIME A DOZEN (53A: Common and cheap). 'Plus,' she said, 'you've got TUNA SALAD (6D: Sandwich filler) on your chin.' Bob, humiliated, tried to force himself on TERI, saying, 'Don't be a HATER (38A: One not pure of heart), baby.' TERI, acting quickly, grabbed a nearby spork and proceeded to STAB (22A: Try) Bob in the throat, just above his COLLAR (3D: Arrest). Bob pulled out the spork, but seeing his own blood, he passed out, his head smacking hard against a file cabinet on his way to the floor. TERI did not hang around to see if Bob would ever COME TO (57A: Snap out of it).

More pairs


38A: One not pure of heart (hater)
40D: Other side (enemy)


45A: Alcohol-laced cookie (brandy snap)
17D: Dessert garnish (cinnamon stick)
- these intersect!


18A: Protestant denom. (Bap.)
20A: Like some church matters (laical)

A triad:


52A: Here, over there (ici) on top of...
55A: French pronoun (ses) across the grid from...
43D: France's F.B.I., formerly (Sureté)

And a last quartet:

OLDE TYME CRYME (and its lingo)

33A: 1978-80 F.B.I. sting that forced a U.S. senator to resign (ABSCAM) - the puzzle's second F.B.I. clue!?
39A: Boss for agents Youngfellow and Rossi (Ness)
3D: Arrest (collar)
35A: Big bills (C-notes)

Other noteworthy fill:
  • 7A: Object of ailurophobia (cat) - add it to the list of words I learned from crosswords ("ailurophobia," that is - not CAT)
  • 26A: Polo of "Meet the Fockers" (Teri) - I've said many times now that she is the crossword "It Girl," and here she is again, proving her point. Lena OLIN (14A: "Hollywood Homicide" actress, 2003) is here to show TERI that she will not be relegated to the ashcan of actress-answer history. EERO (37A: First name in architecture) is here just to show everyone he's not dead yet. Puzzle-wise, that is.
  • 16A: TV show that earned Jane Wyman a Golden Globe ("Falcon Crest") - 80's! I'd forgotten Reagan's ex was in this.
  • 10D: Rocker with the 1981 triple-platinum "Diary of a Madman" (Osbourne) - gimme gimme gimme; despite its utter literalness, this is perhaps my favorite clue in the puzzle
  • 27A: Archaeological handle (ansa) - wtf!? One of the only answers in this grid (see also SURETÉ) that I'd never heard of before. Here's another:
  • 5D: Adaptable aircraft (stol) - seriously, that does not look like a word at all
  • 33D: Misers' feelings (avarices) - you can pluralize this!?!? Only in hell, I say, which is where you will surely be if you do not give up your avariciousnesses.
  • 4D: Dungeons & Dragons beast (orc) - pass me the icosahedron so I can see how much damage my cleric inflicted on this baby with his mace!
That is all. Seacrest, out.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 10:49 AM  

STOL - Not a word, an acronym for short take-odd & landing.

Rex Parker 10:53 AM  

Thanks for the info - but please tell me you meant "take-off."


Orange 11:46 AM  

You are smokin' this week, Rex! First, a feminist flaying of Ally McBeal, and today, a gripping tale with TUNA SALAD and spork violence. Not to mention "pass me the icosahedron" to fill the ironic dweebiness quota.

Alex S. 3:37 PM  

"Hoo Ha" has a very specific slang meaning to me (vagina), and it is not one I'd expect in the NYT Crossword Puzzle so I knew I had to go in a different direction with it but I just couldn't.

Took almost all of the acrosses for me to see it.

Anonymous 4:42 PM  

Hi rex...I'm new to the site and crosswording. some one i know is crazzy about your blog and told me it would be a good place to start asking for clues and or help.
I am excited to be able to chat with some good crossworders. If anyone has any hints on how to be able to understand the newyork times a little better... Im all eyes (tee-hee)

Anonymous 4:45 PM  

Hi rex Im new here. I have heard alot about you and am excited to be on your blog finaly. If anyone has any hints for me about crossword solving Im all eyes (teehee)

Anonymous 4:47 PM  

oops I did that twice sorry. I didnt think it had worked the first time.

Orange 5:41 PM  

Wow, I wish my book were out already so I could blatantly plug it. Chris, in about four months, How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle will be published. Until then, you can hang out here, at my blog, and at the NYT crossword forum (link in Rex's sidebar) for varying types of NYT crossword chat and dissection of clues. Also, study THE PANTHEON 2007 (also linked in the sidebar here) for some of the must-know words that recur in crosswords.

Anonymous 6:09 PM  

Chris could also benefit from The Great PFUI Controversy (sidebar).

Anonymous 6:57 PM  

We already have a "Chris" -- elaborate so we don't get Chris-crossed!

Anonymous 7:03 PM  

We already have an "anonymous" -- please elaborate so we don't get ennui en masse!

Anonymous 7:04 PM  


Orange 7:09 PM  

Alex up above, my kid's watching Fairly Oddparents on Nickelodeon. This episode's got retro black-and-white 1930s-style animation, so of course a retro character just said "new-fangled hoo-ha." Heh.

Anonymous 7:24 PM  

Re: STOL. This is rather incredible; never thought I'd see this in a puzzle. My late father was head of R&D at Rockwell International during the time that a STOL project (actually known as V/STOL for Vertical/Short Take-off & Landing) was a front and center development effort for them as a Navy contractor. It was a radical concept for a supersonic fighter plane that ran into many problems and was never flown. I know my dad loved working on it, though. Read all about it at

Anonymous 7:41 PM  

Old new "Chris" (that makes no sense what so ever.) Wow I didnt expect anyone to respond so quickly. Actually I spell my name K-R-I-S but I was trying to "disguise" myself to see if my mom would pick up on who I mom is "Linda G" and she is the one who reffered me. she talks about this blog ALL THE TIME so I figured it was time to see for my self what it was about. She has been trying to help me with the "easy" puzzles (i dont think they are easy at all) but she always gets done so fast and then looses intrest in helping me. I think she should help me cause she's the one who got me started on them anyway.

Rex Parker 7:48 PM  


I can tell you that your "disguise," as you call it, did not work. Next time you might try picking a name that is not a homonym of your actual name. :-)

If you like xwords then you will do them again and again and naturally get better. But, yes, buy Amy's book when it comes out.

The comment "we already have an Anonymous" made me laff out loud.


Pat 8:12 PM  


planes with short stocky wings so they can land on short runways
They to glide a long way

Anonymous 8:59 PM  

Good stuff!!

Anonymous 9:20 PM  

What about traps? 13a is actually SHORTU, but it might have also been THORAX, a word which shares the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th letters in common. There are other examples.

Anonymous 8:04 AM  

For Kris:

I found Will Shortz' article on how to solve the NYT crossword puzzles at this site:

His article is a good place for beginners to start.

Orange 8:25 AM  

Kris, more tips for crossword newbies:

• Always finish a puzzle, even if that involves peeking at the answers. If an answer doesn't make sense, find out what it means. (Google is your friend in this.)

• Notice all those shorter words with the "Wheel of Fortune"-type letters (R, S, T, L, N, E—plus other vowels)? Short words made of only common letters like those help crossword constructors get everything to fit. Look at the Thursday puzzle in Rex's blog. TREES, ASSESS, ONSITE, OSLO, LIENS and ERNE contain only common letters. The shortest of these, ERNE (a sea eagle) pops up fairly often in crosswords. (So do words like ALOE, AREA, ARIA, ELLA, ERA, ERE, ERIE, ETE, ETNA, SSE, etc. So immediately see if ALOE will fit for any clue about lotion or skin-care ingredients—it gets a lot of play.)

• Consider buying a book of easy NYT crosswords edited by Will Shortz. There are approximately a zillion such titles on the bookstore shelves; answers are in the back.

Anonymous 8:43 AM  

Begin with the answers you're surest of and build from there.

Look for fill-in-the-blank clues. Say it over in your head a few times. The answer may pop out.

Three-, four-, and five-letter words are usually easier to guess than longer words.

Guess at answers but don't fall in love with your answer. In other words, be prepared to make changes.

Now give your Mom a break and use this tried and true method for learning how to solve the NYT crossword puzzles on your own.

1. Choose some easy puzzles that you have the solutions to. You may need to get a book of NYT puzzles. (Ask Mom.)

2. Practice solving using the above tips.

3. When you get stuck and go on, study the clue then consult the solution for the corresponding fill. Think about the association between the two. If you don't get it, ask Mom to explain. Part of the fun of NYT puzzle solving is appreciating the constructor's skill, wit, art, or whatev.

4. Fill in the answer on your puzzle.

5. Use that answer to try to fill in more of the grid around it without looking at the solution.

6. Repeat 1 through 5 until the grid is complete.

7. Study and remember what you learn by this method.

Soon you will be able to solve the easy puzzles with little or no reference to the solution. But this same method can be used as you advance to harder NYT puzzles.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous 8:46 AM  

I apologize if the link to Will Shortz's article is reserved for Times Select subscribers. My bad.

Anonymous 8:49 AM  

This is to add the word " cannot" between "and" and "go" in number 3 of my previous post. Sorry, Kris.

Anonymous 8:49 AM  

This is to add the word " cannot" between "and" and "go" in number 3 of my previous post. Sorry, Kris.

Linda G 9:24 AM  

Thanks for all the tips you gave Kris. Strangers always know more than parents, so your comments will be very helpful.

By the way, it was a slightly okay disguise, given that Kristen is her middle name. We don't call her Kris, but her friends and coworkers do.

Anonymous 4:56 PM  

Six weeks later if anyone is out there. A nice puzzle but I have a couple of issues. First, shouldn't 13a bug's middle have a "?" after it??. Every time I've seen a clue like this its had a "?". Second, in my syndicated puzzle the clue for 51a was "cost." I would love to have someone explain to me how "are" is the answer. I only got it right because of the crosses.

RE: tips. Get a good crossword dictionary and gradually ween yourself off of it. I think you get more out of looking stuff up (e.g. dictionary, google) than checking the answer key. Because of the A-Z Comprehensive Crossword Dictionary I now know a lot of french, german, and italian that I did not know 3 years ago. Not to mention various gods and goddess, etc.

Unknown 5:59 PM  

Hi Jae,
I'm another one of the six-week-out-club (SWOC's).

I agree that a ? after "Bug's midsection" would have helped. Earlier in the week you probably would have had that additional help. I notice that Friday and Saturday sometimes forego the supplemental clues.

Here is how "cost" becomes ARE: Those ARE 4 for a dollar. (Substitute "cost" for ARE.)

Anonymous 8:13 PM  

imtzar -- thanks for the "are" explanation. Its a bit of a stretch, but then its a Friday puzzle.

Anonymous 7:50 AM  

Another "six-weeks-later" commentator. This is the second time in recent memory I note French possessive adjectives - 55-A - clued as pronouns.
"Je", "moi", "tu", "toi", ...and so on, are Fr. pronouns; "ses" is not.

Anonymous 4:40 PM  

Could have been a demonstrative pronoun, had it been "ces"

Anonymous 4:13 PM  

April 17, 2007 (the future)
Well, I think a possessive adjective can also be called a possessive pronoun. But it is certainly imprecise to refer to "ses" as simply a "pronoun." To me, it was fair play for a Friday puzzle.
Speaking of French...
SURETE was, I thought as much part of Olde Tyme Cryme as the French triad. Rex, La Sureté is mentioned many, many times in the Pink Panther movies, and probably the French Connection too. A bit of a gimme if you live in Quebec, where they still use this term (Sureté du Québec), but less so as I lived in France first--in the 1990s and did not hear this term as an everyday, current word, there. (But again, it eventually came to me because of Pink Panther movies).
Cool to hear from Linda G's daughter here in the future, after Linda G's medium stint as a guest blogger. I think Kris went to the Inspector Clouseau school of spies' disguise. :) Does your dog bite?

Anonymous 12:46 AM  

STOL- Short Takeoff Or Landing--Adaptable Aircraft clue. Don't know if someone already responded, no time to read em all. THX

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