SATURDAY, SUNDAY, MONDAY, Mar. 24-26, 2007 - Rich Norris, Fred Piscop, and Eric Fischer

Monday, March 26, 2007

[updated 5:15 pm]

Solving time: unknown (Sat), unknown (Sun), 6:27 (Mon, ugh)


Saturday, Mar. 24: none
Sunday, Mar. 25: "OOH!" - theme answers have familiar phrases ending in "OOH" sound, where "OOH!" word is respelled to a homonym and then clued, e.g. 122A: Sitting Bull being evasive? (Run-Around Sioux)
Monday, Mar. 26: Fauna - three theme answers have the words CREATURE, BEAST, and ANIMAL in them, respectively

Snap shots of each puzzle:


This puzzle, particularly its upper half, was harder than anything I encountered all weekend during the ACPT. Maybe my feeble attempts to solve it on Saturday morning - I didn't stick it out; too distracted by anticipation stress - were part of the reason that I was so off my game for Puzzle 1 on Saturday (one of two puzzles wherein I had a mistake, from what I can gather from my scores). At any rate, Rich Norris's puzzle was brutal. I think I rode in the elevator with him at least once this past weekend. FYI.

58A: Drink mentioned in Rupert Holmes's song "Escape" (pina colada) - if you're like me (and god help you if you are, really) you were as grateful as a potential drowning victim being thrown a life preserver when you got to this clue, one of the puzzle's few true gimmes. I read the clues for the entire first half of the grid and got nothing. Finally I scanned around for SOMETHING I knew, and this was it. Thus the SE corner was the first thing to fall, and my pre-competition morning was not a completely demoralizing disaster. I was also aided significantly in the completion of this puzzle by another fairly obvious alcohol-containing clue: 39A: Some come with twists (martinis) - though I was in such highly-wound tournament mode that my first thought was GANGSTERS (you have to go way down the list of "twist" meanings to make that one make sense).

56D: "_____-in His Lamp" (Bugs Bunny classic) ("A Lad") - Another clue I was very happy to see. Not a total gimme, but close. Didn't know it, but it was inferrable.

32A: Fedora feature (snap brim) - I, ridiculously, entered WIDE BRIM, but that BRIM part really helped me out, so sometimes wrong answers aren't all bad. As long as they're temporary, I guess.

15A: "Pretty fishy, if you ask me" ("I smell a rat") - If your fish smells like rat, I would advise that you not eat it and call the Health Code people immediately. This answer came to me out of nowhere, when I had absolutely nothing in the NW. It didn't help much at first, but the little traction it did give ended up being enough. The most brutal Down cross for me up here was 8D: They're pressed into service (iron-ons). I had IRONERS, and then the fabulously made-up IRONORS. I briefly considered IRON ORE before realizing that the stupid shade of green they wanted at 28A: Shade of green was NILE, putting the "N" where I had had an "R" and giving me a nice, belated, somewhat deflated little "aha" moment.

30A: The Rams of the Atlantic 10 Conf. (URI) - that's University of Rhode Island. They are occasionally in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, but not this year. Not even the NIT for them this year. Did I mention that there was NCAA Women's Basketball action (I think that's what it was) in Stamford at the same time as the ACPT, and so the hotel workers had little referee uniforms on? I thought they were dressed up for us. But no.

21A: Group that included the L.A. Express (USFL) - awesomely dated football reference. I remember this league Very Clearly. The Boston team had some kind of sine wave on its helmet. The Breakers, maybe? Anyway, this league lasted about as long as the much later, much goofier football spinoff, the XFL. Has HE HATE ME been a puzzle answer? Best Jersey Name Ever.

48A: Shakespearean title (thane)
33D: _____ B'rith (B'nai)
49D: Hanger? (noose)
55A: Black on the screen (Karen)

These answers all have something in common. Only tournament attendees will know what it is. I will tell you all later.

Cool New Information for Me
  • 43A: Literally, "disciple" (Sikh) - Forget what I had here first, but it sure wasn't SIKH
  • 62A: _____ Hilario, Brazilian-born N.B.A. star (Nene) - yet another reason for NENE to be in the Pantheon. I question the use of the word "star" in this clue.
  • 54A: Cagney player in the "Cagney & Lacey" pilot film (Swit) - a mystery at first, and then I got the "W" and knew immediately who it was. The Swit-Gless resemblance is undeniable.
  • 24D: Parts of perianths (sepals) - I call this clue "The Brutalizer," especially considering it intersected another clue at which I could only stare blankly: 41A: Pier grp. (ILA). Perianths and SEPALS are parts of flowers. I had _EPA_S, then figured the first letter had to be "S" (from 24A: Utah senator who co-sponsored a 1930 tariff act (Smoot). But the "L" could have been anything, as far as I was concerned. Cursed botany.
  • 1A: Stock report heading (Most Active) - Wait, let me just walk over here and look at my most recent ... oh wait, that's right, I've never seen one of these in my life. MOST ACTIVE reminds me simultaneously of rapper Mos Def and the band Let's Active, and if you get both those references then I tip my non-existent hat to you indeed. Actually, all tournament solvers probably have some idea who the rapper is, by now...
  • 20A: Grandma Moses' first name (Anna) - who knew? Not me.
  • 5D: _____-Mints chewable antacid (Alka-) - why oh why did this take me So Long to get. ALKA is the gold standard of antacid prefixes. Rookie mistake. (For a major, major Rookie mistake, read my Stamford write-up later today, wherein I will detail my triumphs and tragedies - more former than latter, though the latter make for better stories).
  • 57A: Detroit's _____ Arena (Cobo) - I lived outside of Detroit for many years and could not come up with this for a good long while. If it had been clued [Detroit's _____ Hall], I think I would have got it instantly.

Didn't get to this puzzle until this morning (Monday, Mar. 26). Just couldn't bring myself to look at a puzzle right before the Tournament's Puzzle 7 on Sunday morning. Very burnt out. It's worth noting that both my errors this weekend were made on the days' initial puzzles, 1 and 7. I always fancied myself a morning person, but I think that without my morning routine, and my normal sleep patterns, I'm actually a bit worthless in the morning.

So I hacked away at this puzzle this morning. I really loved it despite the theme's not being particularly original. Anyone who got the chance to see the "Wordplay" outtakes on Saturday night really had to love the theme answer at 23A: Cuddly sheep? (embraceable ewe). We got to see more of Jon Stewart solving the puzzle that he solves in the movie - he comes to a clue that is something along the lines of [Like Little Bo-Peep's sheep], and his response is something like "I'm going to go with [CENSORED]!" When some people in the audience asked later what Stewart says (I think it was partially beeped in the footage we saw), Will wouldn't say the word, but said that it "begins with 'F' and ends with 'LE'." The best part was hearing the people behind me wonder out loud what that could be, and hearing one of them say, "Oh, it must be FINDABLE." I couldn't tell if it was a joke. I didn't hear anyone laughing (except me, in my own head, at this person's apparent misunderstanding - at least she got the suffix right).

1D: French port (Brest)
2D: Debussy opus (La Mer)
30A: 16th-century council city (Trent)

It's very European up in the NW of the grid. LA MER looks funny in the grid - looks like a comparative adjective, as in TENNIS SHOO (62A: Expulsion from a court?) is a LAMER answer than MOUNTAIN DO (77A: Hillbillies' coif), which is pure gold.

The rest of those theme answers, by the way:

46A: Conservatives waiting in line? (right on queue)
94A: What van Gogh said regarding ears? ("I don't have two")

11D: Cub leader (Akela) - this is from Jungle Book, apparently. I had NO idea what this meant when I had all the squares filled in. I thought AKELA might be the chick from who attended a BEE in a recent movie, but she spells her name differently.

29A: Operatic prince (Igor) - which opera? Was Frankenstein made into an opera?

17D: Calling the author of "In Cold Blood"? (ringing Tru) - I'm just putting this in here because In Cold Blood is one of the greatest books ever written. Capote's writing in that book is unbelievably subtle and gorgeous. One paragraph of Capote is worth a bookful of MAEVE Binchy (77D: Novelist Binchy), I say. My publishers once forced me to include her in an Encyclopedia of Popular and Contemporary Writers that I was editing. Meanwhile, they excluded Art Spiegelman on grounds I still don't understand. Clearly I have never forgiven them.

15D: Kin of -kin (-ule)
117A: Edible spherule (green pea) - A cute pair, these two. Are there other colors of peas?

110D: Alums do it (reune)
125A: Downsize without layoffs (attrite) - these two win the "Wrongest-Looking Words" prize for the day

54A: Pilot's vision problem (red out) - never heard of this before. All Googles of the phrase direct me to Visine-related pages.

86A: Biographer Leon (Edel)
82D: Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt (Alice) - people I don't know (I have heard of EDEL before, vaguely - he has a crossword-friendly name)

25A: Simple digs (lean-to) - Euphemistic clue. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that no one who ever lived in a LEAN-TO ever referred to it as "digs." Well ... maybe some hippie trying some alternative living experiment circa 1971. But that's it.

58A: Blood: Prefix (hemo-)
90D: Verne skipper (Nemo)
100A: Action film hero Williams (Remo)

Scrooge McDuck's other, illegitimate nephews. Introduced in an ill-conceived comic book venture in 1964, these characters were instantly reviled by the public. In 1965, Disney had them quietly killed off.

Pop Culture Alley

  • 75A: Carnaby Street types (mods) - didn't know it. Before my time. Seems like it was once an interesting place that has had everything distinctive and interesting sucked out of it by the disease that is chain-store culture.
  • 47D: 2001 Sean Penn movie ("I Am Sam") - of all the Sean Penn movies in the world, this is the one you foist on me on a bleary Monday morning? I will say that the soundtrack is pretty great - some of the best Beatles covers I've ever heard, including stellar versions of "Two of Us" by Aimee Mann and Michael Penn and "Across the Universe" by Rufus Wainwright.
  • 107D: Prince Valiant's son (Arn) - this guy! Learn his name. He will return. As will 8D: Clerical garment (alb). I don't think ARN ever wore an ALB, but I would like to see these two words in a sentence together, somehow.
  • 119A: Oscar-winning director of 2005 (Ang Lee) - I like that in the grid his name looks like it could also be clued [Option on a multiple-choice geometry quiz?]
  • 104A: Monokini's lack (bra) - What the hell is a monokini? If the diagrams here are any indication, then no one should ever, Ever wear a monokini. Ever. Why not try a nice SERAPE (114A: Taxco wrap) instead.
I'll leave you with 35D: Stays for another hitch (re-ups) because it is suffused with nostalgia for me. As I may have mentioned before, the very first time I completed a NYT Sunday puzzle (1991, I think), the very last answer I got was RE-UP, a word which, at the time, seemed quite obscure. I remember that feeling, knowing I had it right and the puzzle was done: total self-satisfied triumph. I had defeated Maleska. From then on, I was hooked.


Man my time sucked. This one felt like Puzzle 1 felt during the Tournament - seems like it should be easy ... so why am I flapping around like a fish in a bucket? I'm going to blame tiredness, though I see other tournament solvers didn't seem to have many problems.

First, the theme: you call this a theme? CREATURE, BEAST, and ANIMAL make a theme?! If this is all I had to go with, I'd at least have reversed the order in which the theme answers appear, so that I'd have a nice A, B, C progression in my synonyms. Or I'd have made my ANIMAL answer alliterate like the others. Something!

Monday Latin!

32A: Daily allowance (per diem)
46D: Where originally found (in situ)

I was not expecting this. Tricky Monday fare, especially the latter. I gotta stop selling the Monday puzzle short - low expectations always gets me into all kinds of trouble. IN SITU made the SE a bit thorny, accompanied as it was down there by GRAMME (48D: British weight), which is not a word I've seen before (I assume it's just GRAM with extra letters for extra Britishness, like the "U" in "colour," e.g.).

Alligator Wrestling!

43D: Alligatorlike reptile (caiman)
41A: Worker in a stable (hostler)
31D: Photographic film coating (emulsion)

These answers were horribly slippery, especially the last one, which took me forever to get, even with half the letters in place. I don't think I could tell you what a HOSTLER does, or how a CAIMAN is different from an alligator, or a crocodile for that matter.


Have I ever told you about the word "could?" How it is the wrongest-looking word in the world to me. I use it all the time, like all English-speaking folk, but if I look at it too long, it starts to creep me out. It looks Nothing like how it sounds. Why "would" and "should" don't bother me, I don't know. But "could" ... it has an inexplicably sinister quality when taken in isolation and really placed under scrutiny. "Could" is my best example of a perfectly ordinary word that just looks wrong. Today's "could" word is DESTINE, which even now is freaking me out. It wants to be DESTINY ... but also DESITIN. And possibly DENTINE. I had a very hard time seeing it as the correct answer for 30A: Preordain. Crossing EMULSION isn't help me come to peace with it. I'm not crazy about UPRISE (2D: Revolt) either - without its -ing suffix, its a pretty ungainly little word.

5D: Day of the wk. ... or an exam usually taken on that day (Sat.) - if you are going to double-clue like this, I'd prefer that the answer make sense for both clues when spoken aloud. "Sat." does not equal "S.A.T.," neither when spoken nor when written. I'm glad I didn't see this clue at all while trying to solve the puzzle.

53A: Four-alarm fire (inferno)

Ah, hell. I realize this isn't clued by reference to Dante, but INFERNO will always mean "hell" to me, which is appropriate in a grid filled with ANGST (51D: Uneasy feeling), DEFECT (10D: Flaw), and, above all, DOOM (33D: Inevitable destruction).

62A: _____ quilt (modern memorial)

I realize that there are technically many A.I.D.S. "quilts" out there, but still, I think of the quilt as one unit, and a proper noun: THE A.I.D.S. Memorial Quilt.

42A: Humor that's often lost in an e-mail (sarcasm) - also often lost in blogs. Believe me.

Thus concludes my 3-day write-up. Quite an OLIO (15A: Hodgepodge) of information and reaction. One more break, and then I'll try to get my Stamford commentary done before bedtime.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


DONALD 12:38 PM  

Welcome back, missed you!

Rex Parker 12:54 PM  

Thank you, sir. Currently being stood up by students and wasting time I could be using to blog. So I think I'll leave the office now.


Orange 12:54 PM  

All right, Rex. That "15-minute break" has been a few hours long. Are you taking the nap that I so desperately need?

Rex Parker 2:43 PM  

I was tending to students who never materialized. I am now writing the Sun/Mon entries.

I shouldn't have bothered even trying to sleep at Stamford (Sat. night). Missed out on socializing and sleep barely even came at all. Lesson learned.

So much to talk about. So here I go...


Anonymous 4:51 PM  

REUP is also a term used in the drug business to mean "resupply the stash with drugs." Ex: "Ayo Bodie, we runnin low in the pit and fiends be trippin. Holla at String for a reup."

Linda G 5:13 PM  

Don't you hate it when students don't bother to show up after all your hard work preparing? It would be like no one reading this blog after everything you put into it.

BTW, I missed it (the blog) terribly and now see the seriousness of my addiction. I'm in search of a CBA group in town.

I was relieved to hear that you found Saturday difficult. It's the first time I recall pitching one without (more or less) finishing it. I did fine with Sunday; liked it very much, in fact. Trivia for the crossword lover -- the first puzzle that Will Shortz edited for the NYT was constructed by Fred Piscop. My vote for Wrongest Looking Word is MORENESS.

Why did today's take so long? I timed myself at just over 9 minutes on paper, and it wasn't especially difficult. Were the clues themselves more difficult? I recall reading through a lot of them before writing anything down.

Welcome back, Rex. I hope you had a good time, and I think you did quite well overall. Must've been the feather ; )

Anonymous 5:20 PM  

Sunday Puzzle

Me -- didn't get (wouldn't have gotten in a thousand years) Akila. Which of course messed up "clerked."

Also, "redout/Quarto" needed help there. Still don't get redout.

Anyway, Rex, get busy on the weekend news : ) Inquiring minds want to know....did you meet Will? Did you ply him with drinks and get him to agree to Opreration: Stop Referencing Allie McBeal. We want the behind the scenes details! etc

If you post it on the other blog can you tell some of us who may not know how to get there.


Rex Parker 5:20 PM  

Anonymous - thank you for the drug info, as well as the colorful dialogue. Are you working on a screenplay, because that was awfully damn specific for a supposedly off-the-cuff example of word usage.

Linda G - yes, MORENESS. I meant to comment on that. Insane.

Must rest a bit before yet More writing.


Rex Parker 5:24 PM  

PS of course I will link from here to my Stamford write-up. If I didn't link, NOBODY would read it, since as of right now, NOBODY knows of the existence of my other blog (which is almost brand new and houses only assorted, non-crossword stuff) - it is more personal, and more profane, in general, so if you read anything but the Stamford write-up (PG-13 at worst), just be prepared.

artaud 5:30 PM  

Welcome back Rex - just curious as to whether Mr. Piscop has a particular track record of employing Joe Piscopo as an answer. And are they actually the same guy?

Anonymous 5:41 PM  

When a fighter pilot pulls too many g's by turning very tight or pulling out of a dive, the blood will drain from his head and he will initially experience a brown out. If the g forces continue or increase he will black out.

Conversely, if the pilot experiences negative g's, the blood will flow to his head and he will red out.

Orange 5:57 PM  

This fiend always be trippin', especially when waiting for bloggers to reup. Thanks for adding moreness to your post, Rex!

Linda, there's precious little resemblance between Piscop and Piscopo. Both are male, both are American and Caucasian, both were born in the 20th century...I'm out of resemblances.

Linda G 6:18 PM  

Except that I'm not the one that mentioned a Piscop/Piscopo connection. I only pointed out that Piscop authored the first puzzle edited by Shortz.

I know,'re exhausted ; )

Anonymous 6:53 PM  

MODS and rockers were the hip London youths of Carnaby Street in the '60s.

Anonymous 7:05 PM  

In fact, there's a great line from A Hard Day's Night wherein the Beatles are enduring a litany of clueless questions from reporters at a press conference. One asks Ringo, "Are you a mod or a rocker?" To which he replies, "I'm a mocker." Ah, 60's humo(u)r. If you remember it, you weren't there ... ;)

Anonymous 7:15 PM  

Thanks, Jetflyer -- now I get it.

Anonymous 8:19 PM  


Interesting your link to Rex is labeled "All the NYT crossword answers fit to print".

Anonymous 8:56 PM  

Could -- get rid of the c, the u and the l, add a k and another o perhaps and then it wouldn’t look so weird, or kood it?

DONALD 9:49 PM  

PEAS (as in GREEN PEAS), other colors -- 'Blue Pod Capuciners', originally grown by Capuchin monks, have dark purple pods with brownish-grey peas. White peas (mutter peas, popular in China). Black-eyed peas have a black dot in the center of their otherwise light brown color (and, uh...also an American hip-hop group).

GRAMME -- The gram or gramme (Greek/Latin root grámma); symbol g, is a unit of mass.

CAIMAN -- In Central and South America, alligators are represented by five species of the genus Caiman, which differs from the alligator by the absence of a bony septum between the nostrils, and the ventral armour is composed of overlapping bony scutes, each of which is formed of two parts united by a suture. Some authorities further divide this genus into three, splitting off the smooth-fronted caimans into a genus Paleosuchus and the Black Caiman into Melanosuchus.

HOSTLER -- recorded since c.1386, meaning "one who tends to horses at an inn," also, occasionally, "innkeeper", is sometimes jokingly said to be derived from "oat-stealer", but is actually derived from Anglo-French hostiler (modern French hostelier), itself from the Medieval Latin hostilarius "the monk who entertains guests at a monastery," from hospitale "inn" (compare hospital). In a more modern usage, since horse riding became uncommon for functional travel, "hostler" is the 'analogous' title for a railroad employee qualified to move locomotives while in a yard or shops complex, but not on the main line. It is also used in large truck yards for a small and more manoeuverable truck used to move trailers around within the yard.

MONOKINI -- sometimes referred to as a Unikini, a term used for different styles of one-piece swimsuits, which all have in common that they are inspired by the bikini.

MONOKINI is a back formation from bikini, interpreting the first syllable as the prefix bi- "two" and substituting it with mono- "one", on the (perhaps intentionally) mistaken notion that the bi- element was the Greek prefix meaning "two".[1] Greek mono- means 'single', but bikini comes from the name of the Bikini Atoll (a Marshall Islands atoll.

It is also often assumed that MONOKINI did not result from a naTive folk etymology but rather from a disingenuous but clever pun by some journalistic wag. And of course the other part of the story is the transfer involved in the use of "bikini". The bathing suit is so-called not because it was worn on the atoll, but because the supposed effect of a woman (or, in those years, a "girl") in a bikini was supposed to be akin to the effect of an atomic bomb. BIKINI in Marshallese really is Pikinni. The probable trajectory is that the real place name was transliterated as Bikini, whose spelling precipitated the backformational removal of bi-. The word BIKINI was misinterpreted in 1946 as being Latin and consisting of bi- (=two) + something unclear. So, in time it dropped its bi- and became MONOKINI, even TANKKINI or UNIKINI.

"As soon as the war ended, we located the one spot on earth that hadn't been touched by the war and blew it to hell." --Comedian Bob Hope commenting on Operation Crossroads

Anonymous 11:09 PM  

Prince Igor (Knaz’ Igor) is an opera in four acts with a prologue by Alexander Borodin. The libretto, adapted by the composer from the East Slavic epic The Tale of Igor’s Campaign, centers on a 12th-century Russian prince (Igor Svyatoslavich) and his campaigns against the invading Polovtsian tribes. The opera was first performed in St.Petersburg on November 4, 1890. In the USA the opera was first produced at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, December 30, 1915.

Anonymous 12:39 AM  


Excellent new Lion logo! I think that's the largest entry I've seen you write since I started reading this blog - often, you are so succinct.

I don't think anyone slept at Stamford. I still can't get to sleep.

Anonymous 8:36 AM  

I actually believed the explanation of hemo, remo and nemo for a few seconds, so had a good, delayed, bubbling-up-from-well-below-the-surface guffaw over that. Thx, rex.

Orange 2:06 PM  

I forgot to mention that some people call the over-the-shoulder thong that Borat wears a monokini, but that's not really a monokini. I just like the picture.

Anonymous 7:47 PM  

Its a week later and I too liked the sunday puzzle. I got it pretty quickly (with no google or dictionary) with one exception. Rex is right, sometimes you can be too clever. I put remix for 83d new stylings. I immediatly thought of redos but it seemed to obvious. After much pondering (I convinced my self that piscopo could be spelled with an i vs. o)I made the correction and finished the puzzle. Thanks for where akela came from, I had no idea. Also, had never heard the word moue (66d pouty look) before.

Anonymous 5:56 PM  

Back much later for the Saturday puzzle. This was a googler's dream. Approx. 20 google friendly clues as opposed to about 6 in Friday's puzzle. Yes, this was hard. I went to google around 5 times (e.g. nene, cobo, swit, sert, a lad). Sometimes you just get tired of staring at paper.

Anonymous 8:16 PM  

Saturdays was a real bear. Numerous cups of tea and coffee. Lucky my father wore a fedora when I was a tad, or I would have been skunked.

Had to Google Harry Potter's classmate, HELOISE and the Utah senator, SMOOT.

Like this one better:

Dredged COBO Hall from somewhere deep in the dark recesses. Figured maybe it had an arena attached.

What the hell is a MASHNOTE? maybe someone has explained.

Studiously avoiding reading anything else until I finish the Sunday Puzzle.....CYA later.

Did I mention this one was HARD?

Oh ya....."work unit" ....PILE???
Of course I was convinced it had to be DYNE. Not complaining.....well, maybe a little.

Anonymous 12:05 AM  

ww -- MASHNOTE is a sort of steamy love letter/note. Back when couples went "steady" they'd send each other mushy notes. Youre right about pile, I also had dyne there for a while.

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