Wed, April 11, 2007 - Bruce Adams

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hello, bloggerazzi, Howard B. checking in. For the next couple of days, while Mex is in Rexico, or something to that effect, I'll be standing in. Think of me as one of those "Polex" knockoff watches they sell on the street corner -- sure, it'll do the job for a couple of days, perhaps, but there's no confusing it with the real thing. As a bonus, (and to continue the week's mini-theme), I won't even turn your wrists green.

Anyhow, on with the puzzle:

Difficulty: Rather crunchy for a Wednesday.

Just my luck to pick the Wednesday puzzle I had the toughest time with in a long, long time. Plenty of fun, one-letter, nasty crossing errors for me to catch and pick out.

Wednesday's puzzles are often a mixed bag of themes and difficulty; they often have a wide range of styles and challenges from week to week, and so are rather unpredictable. Keeps life interesting, I say.
The theme here is straightforward and nicely done - BACHELOR PARTIES, MASTER BEDROOM, and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (bonus points for that Z) all lead to A MATTER OF DEGREE, the first word of each theme answer being a type of degree. I know, DOCTOR, DOCTORATE, come on, it works.

Fun stuff:
SEAN PENN ("Mystic River" costar, 2003), DOGFIGHT (nicely clued as 'ace versus ace'), TOE TAG (Morgue ID), and RATED R (Not for tender eyes). MAHAYANA Buddhism was a new one to me - didn't help the solve any, but a nice learning experience. Here's plenty of info on this particular branch.

Rough stuff:
There's quite a bit of mild crosswordese in here to get through; while the puzzle did not have a tricky theme or gimmick to trap unwary solvers, the difficulty was RATCHeted up in the vocabulary in this one:
You've got the requisite river (ORNE), a painter for that bit of culture (COROT), Bennett CERF, our avian friend RHEA, hockey stalwart Bobby ORR, a prefixed word (REGLAZED), the cool sounding and inferable but tricky ABIOTIC ("lacking life"), OTERO county, and plenty more that I'm too tired to mention (see RATCH above). A lot of things in here that are straightforwardly clued, but less commonly seen outside the grid. Crunchy, as I said.
It's not a puzzle that lends itself easily to nice pictures, so for your entertainment, here's a RHEA in the wild:

Tricky crossings:
COROT/OTERO, MAHAYANA/SCAMP (why this took me a while I don't know).

That's all for now. Enjoy the puzzle, and I'll check in tomorrow night and see how many of you are still left. Rex, get away from that computer and enjoy that vacation.


Anonymous 7:25 AM  

Nice, Howard B.
I too found this puzzle particularly gnarly for a Wednesday. Got off on the wrong track several times. I'm sure I wrote in, then erased, the wrong word at least a dozen times. Once I had two matters of degree, though, it all came together.
Note: when you earn a bachelor's degree, you're a bachelor, when you earn a master's degree, you're a master, and when you earn a doctorate, you're a doctor of the subject matter you studied. It not only works, it works well (not forced or contrived in the least, in my mind).
The DOGFIGHT clue made me suddenly realize why Snoopy is a fighter pilot in his fantasy play (oooooooooooh!).
[Warning, going off on a little tangent...I also have a dog--Rolphy the amazing circus dog-- who made me realize why Snoopy played shortstop. Rolph is a shortening of Rodolphe--he's from France--because Rolph was easier for him to pronounce...Well, at least it was a short tangent!]
Also, an interesting little mini-theme: DEER, STAG & CERF (French for STAG--as in, a male deer, not the adjectival meanings of STAG).
Note also that I made a late, late post to yesterday's forum, in re. to mmpo, imoo, acr and...le lapin des roches. But I forgot to ask Trish in OP what the OP stands for.

ScottK 8:20 AM  

I'm always a bit uncertain with clues like 8D; is it going to be the obsolete GNP or the current GDP (Gross Domestic Product)? In this case I had no idea what the river through Caen might be, but ORNE just sounded more French (and less obscene) than ORGE, so I went with the outmoded acronym.

Thanks for the blogging, Howard!

Orange 8:28 AM  

Good morning, Howard. And thank you for sparing us any photos of BACHELOR PARTIES. And morgue TOE TAGs, for that matter. You could've done Sean Penn, but with that creepy little mustache he's sported of

Linda G 8:28 AM  

Very nice work, Howard. Crunchy was a good descriptive. My first thought was that I was glad I wasn't blogging.

Got tied up with 1A, even though I had the SC. Haven't seen Lady and the Tramp in many years. That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.

I assumed Trish's OP was Overland Park, Kansas, close to Kansas City. Don and I lived there in the 80s, prior to our move to CO. Anyway, it'll be interesting to find out.

I'd have included an Elton John, circa mid/late 70s. Maybe you're not as big a fan as I was/am. Saw his Red Piano tour at Caesar's Palace last June. He's a lot less flashy than when I saw him in the 70s and 80s, but he's still quite the performer.

Howard B 9:54 AM  

Thanks, mmpo, for the clarification on DOCTOR/DOCTORATE. When you solve at 1:30am, these things tend to slip through one's consciousness ;). I knew someone would clear things up if I entered anything iffy. Lack of consciousness didn't help me much in catching my solving errors, either.

And I agree, Orange, even though blogs have a looser 'Sunday-morning breakfast test', I didn't think toe tags (or Sean Penn, for that matter) would be a very nice way to open the topic.

barrywep 10:34 AM  

Good job Howard even if I don't really believe you found it "crunchy" in the way most of Mex's readers did. I wonder if TOETAG had Mrs. Farrar turning in her grave?

Anonymous 3:05 PM  

What's ANCE mean as "Utter conclusion"? Maybe I'm being dense but I can't find it in the dictionary and just am not getting anything

Anonymous 3:08 PM  

oops, just got it "utter - ance"! sorry!

Anonymous 3:45 PM  

I'm glad to see RHEA, the red-headed crossword stepchild of EMU, getting some attention!

Howard, I love your description of this puzzle as "crunchy". When I first read it, I thought I must have missed a bunch of hippie fill, like patchouli, hirsuite, gorp....? Now I realize you meant "crunchy" as in "lots to chew on"! Yes, I started the puzzle this morning before work (during breakfast) and finished it at lunch, crunch, crunch, crunch! I found it quite delicious!

Mmpo, thanks for pointing out the Snoopy/fighter pilot connection (my reaction as well...oooooooh). I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize how apt a name "Snoopy" was for a dog until, in adulthood, I became the owner of a big-nosed retriever who leaves no bag unsnuffled through.

Linda G, thanks for clearing up Scamp's origins. I filled him in, knowing I knew him from somewhere....

Howard B 5:00 PM  

Yep, pretty much the concept of 'crunchy' I intended. Barry, I was thinking of my applet experience (which most app solvers can relate to) of receiving that nice '...puzzle is incorrect' message, going back, finding something wrong, fixing it, and once again receiving that message for another error. Arrrgh.

No matter how creatively I read the dictionary, I couldn't convince Mr.Webster that 'Vintage' could possibly mean DEAR. Perhaps a wine connoisseur would consider a rare vintage dear? That one took me a bit to fix, providing the extra crunchiness.

Orange 5:32 PM  

Howard, I once called a puzzle "crunchy" on my blog, meaning (but not exactly saying) that I liked the crossword for its tricky spots, clues requiring some brain work, and interesting fill. The constructor left a comment asking if "crunchy" was good or bad...

Howard B 5:54 PM  

Didn't realize that, at least consciously - if there's any untintentional plagiarism there, I apologize. I'd say it can be both good and bad; in this puzzle, the fill words provided a challenge, with most of it gettable through crossings, but still rocky; it contained several terms you either knew or you didn't, forcing the solver to take some detours along the way. It's a solid theme, with interesting words in there. Whether or not it's easy or hard is a matter of taste and experience, I think, so I hedged my bets on the difficulty rating ;).

Not an easy puzzle to describe or blog, it seems. I now have a new appreciation for what you guys do every day.

Anonymous 6:27 PM  

Howard, my only sorrow is that you didn't include a pic of a MASTER BEDROOM that came from the same place Linda got her ROCOCCO bed. ;)

Anonymous 6:56 PM  

Trish in OP does live in Overland Park Kansas (good guess--but I suppose it could've been Old Prairie or Oak Park or Obnoxious Parsonage or something).....previous habitations in Wyoming (thru HS), Colorado (Univ), England and San Diego. OP is the least scenic.....and it's so nice to get the NYT delivered to us blue islands in sea of Red.
Blog On!
Trish in OP

Extant Nap Ordeal 7:48 PM  

I was so excited to finally get a puzzle where I could start with 1A. I mean "Pluto!" Mickey Mouse's dog! Anyway, that was characteristic of the way this puzzle went for me. Lots of references I was unfamiliar with - scamp, mahayana, obie... Wednesday are on and off for me, but I had little hope with this one. :(
I'm impressed with the comparative ease you all had, even if it was a bit crunchy.

Anonymous 8:07 PM  

I've also heard "crunchy" used to describe close (dissonant) harmonies in a choral arrangement.

Anonymous 8:22 PM  

Howard B! Hello from Violet and a big can't-wait-to-see-you-next-year in Brooklyn. I hereby encourage all puzzle-obsessed people to come next year to ACPT - meeting Howard B there was one of the great pleasures.

I loved this puzzle, not that I found it easy. I actually worked on it all day, off and on. (Did someone say today is Wednesday?!) What I loved was finally getting it in the end. Correcting RE-SEE to REACT, SEEDERS (in my imagination, related somehow to the way (lady) tennis players are ranked) to PEERESS, SELL to VEND, EROSE to RATCH (though I know very well that erose is not a noun) and so on.

I often moan about being behind in my movie-viewing; SCAMP and DR. ZHIVAGO and SEAN PENN all came slower than they should have, but at least I knew Edouard LALO, and of course, the orchestral REEDS.

Bring on Thursday!

Orange 8:23 PM  

Howard, thanks for affirming that it makes perfect sense to call a crossword "crunchy."

Linda G 8:26 PM  

Howard, I also had DEAR for vintage. Didn't help that I didn't have a clue what 4D was supposed to be.

You're so right. I didn't really think blogging would be easy, but I didn't think it would be so damn hard!

Howard B 9:25 PM  

It's always fascinating to know that you're not the only person to come up with a well-intentioned, but incorrect answer. Thanks Linda, I honestly thought I was the only one there :).

Vi - Hello again, it's great to hear from you, and thanks for the kind words. Was a pleasure to meet and solve with you and the group there in Stamford, (even if the other three of you did most of the heavy lifting on the group puzzles).

Going offline for a bit, hoping to come back later tonight. Hopefully can finish tomorrow's puzzle a bit earlier than last night.

Please, continue to discuss, chat, palaver, schmooze, and whatever else you choose to do.

Orange 10:35 PM  

Oh, I had REAR, since MAHARANA sounded right (er, that's maharajah I was thinking of).

xwd_fiend 12:55 PM  

As an occasional NYT solver (US holidays, a few books of puzzles, and some in Int'l Herald Tribs when I can get them), I found this easier than I thought - about 12 minutes, compared to about 20-25 for the previous Wednesday. But did know ORNE from ?RNE and failed to be trapped by the wrong Disney hound. I guess the puzzle was short on the kind of local references that usually stump me - I've come across Bobby ORR, for example so that was one potential difficulty removed.

Now feeling bold enough to have a crack at a Friday puzzle tomorrow.

xwd_fiend 12:58 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 6:06 PM  

From 6 weeks past:

1-1/2 cups of tea today. I had a bit of difficulty in the middle. Ended up with a mistake cluster which I probably would have caught if I wasn't so eager to come here. I had ABROTEC for some reason giving me the crosses GARNS and ZHEVAGO. GARNS????? c'mon Pierre, you know better than that!

I thought RATCH was a bit thin until I looked it up. It had never occurred to me that "rack and pinion" might come from the same root as "ratchet"

I do agree that "crunchy" is an apt adjective for this puzzle.

The mental image of Orange's vintage REAR brought a smile to my lips. :)

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