Saturday, April 21, 2007

Relative difficulty: For me, Brutal

THEME: 29A: With 37-Across, mid 20th-century avant-garde movement (Theater of / the Absurd) (or, none)

ABSURD is right. Many things about this puzzle, and my initial answers, were ABSURD. Head cold persists, and so maybe that was the problem, but I could not get a hold of this puzzle for the Longest time. Coincidentally, last night I was reading through some old posts (from last year) and came across a Byron Waldon puzzle that it took me 1 hr and 18 min. to finish! Today's didn't take me that long (I've improved some as a solver since that earlier Walden effort) but it still took me Well Longer than even your average Saturday puzzle, with much time spent staring at a pathetically partially-filled grid. I actually had that "I'm never going to solve this" feeling at one point, and that rarely happens anymore.

After a lot of time and only a few sporadic entries, I finally took a look at the SE and was able to put it together in reasonable time ... only, the way the grid's constructed (NW and SE quadrants accessible only by the tiniest of apertures), my success down there gave me no additional help with the rest of the puzzle. I had already guessed the -THERAPY part of 27D: Psychiatric discipline pioneered by Margaret Naumburg - that's what got me into the SE - though I had blindly guessed EST THERAPY (before my time, but I'm sure "est" is something).

At this point, I can't even remember how I managed to finish. To give you an idea of what kind of haze I was in by the end, I'll tell you that I had one square wrong, and you will probably never guess which. I don't mean "wrong by sloppiness," I mean "wrong, though I for some reason believed it to be right." I will leave you to guess what that square was. No, I'll give you three options, and you tell me which intersection I blew.

Option A:

51A: Adm. Rickover of the 40-Across [USN] (Hyman)
41D: Mulcts (fines)

Option B:

3D: Old Indianapolis-based automaker (Stutz)
22A: Shah _____ Pahlavi (Reza)

Option C:

42A: Parliamentary doings, e.g. (acta)
45D: It's not original work (apery)

Where to begin with this puzzle?

29D: Subject of 2004's best seller "American Dynasty" (the Bushes) - nailed it! Gimme. Know how much it helped me? Almost none. Nice long answer, and it just sat over there for a while, with only the meager ELISE (54A: "John Q" actress Kimberly) sticking out of it (how do I know Kimberly ELISE?).

57A: Forsooth (yea, verily) - another gimme. The first thing that sprang to mind. I believe Daffy Duck has uttered "forsooth" and "yea verily" in quick succession somewhere in his cartoon history.

14D: Mall rats, typically (teen crowd) - pardon me while I GROAAAAAANNNN. Like the rest of the solving world, I wanted TEENAGERS, but that gave me INA instead of INC at 24, and I was pretty positive about INC - 18A: With 24-Across, Fortune 500 company founded by two college dropouts (APPLE / INC.). A lot of time was spent trying to get TEENC- to be anything. for a while I thought 28A: Recourse? was SEED (think about it ... there's logic there somewhere), which put a "D" after the "C" in 14D, making me think the answer had something to do with TEENS and their CDs. Head cold!

2D: Down _____ knee (on one) - I swear to you that for the majority of solving time, I had AT THE written in here. This kept the (mostly) tractable NW utterly mysterious to me for a long while.

6D: English poet laureate of 1692-1715 (Tate) - OK, I declare that 99% of you did NOT know this, even if you ended up getting it right. Oh really? You knew it? OK, what's the dude's first name? ... I'm waiting ... it's NAHUM! I taught this guy's @#\$#-ing libretto for Purcell's "Dido & Aeneas" last term and I still had POPE written in here. Man alive, that's some obscurity right there. I preferred yesterday's TATE, by a long shot.

12D: Chronic fatigue syndrome, informally (yuppie flu) - beautiful, highly original answer, and one of the first longish answers I put down. Seems a little cruel and derisive, though, for the Times. The very name kind of demeans the sufferer a bit. Derision for the diseased is not the Times' normal M.O. Not that I'm complaining, exactly. Just noting.

36A: Trevanian's peak (Eiger) - Huh. Really? Whatever you say. I know (of) one EIGER, and it is a Sanction.

23A: A lot of Tijuana (bars)
21D: Settings for some special deliveries: Abbr. (ORs) - didn't like either of these intersecting answers. Took me a long while to allow myself to write in BARS. I'm sure there are a "lot" of BARS in Tijuana, but the phrasing here makes it sound as if the geographic space they take up is considerable relative to the size of the town. Maybe it is...

34A: Showstopper (hard act to follow)
33A: Like a showstopper (boffo) - when's the last time you even saw the word BOFFO, let alone heard someone use it in a sentence? Dated colloquialism! Love it.

52A: 1969 Frank Sinatra album featuring Rod McKuen songs ("A Man Alone") - I know this will cause gasps from the audience, but ... Who's Rod McKuen? In my head right now, he is a cross between Rod Steiger and Rod Serling. This answer was easy to get from crosses, but I've never heard of it. Seems like Sinatra shows up a lot in Friday / Saturday puzzles. He's Sicilian, he sang a song about "Old New York," etc.

23D: Toulouse-Lautrec hangout (brothel) - I had no idea. His paintings and prints are Fabulous. I was looking for MOULIN ROUGE or FOLIE-BERGERES or LOUVRE or any French place whose name I actually know.

42D: "How to Read a Book" author Mortimer (Adler) - damn, I've held this book in my hand and I still couldn't come up with this guy's name. I think this book was famous (academically speaking) back in the day (i.e. before my time).

47D: Santa's drawer (Nast)
19A: Began drawing (enticed)

Different uses of "draw," both of which confused me for a while. I was sure that the Santa clue had to do with one of the reindeer "drawing" his sleigh (not sled or sledge). No reindeer have four-letter names, so I thought of Rudolph and his NOSE - two letters right, but ultimately wrong. ENTICED seems poorly clued here. Why "began?" I wanted something like SKETCHED here. Oh, NAST is an illustrator who, like much of this puzzle, is before my time. He drew creepy bulbous Santas in tight-fitting pjs.

39A: What cuirasses cover (chests) - this was a gimme for me. Had the "H" and absolutely knew that the answer ... was THIGHS. I played D&D as a kid and was trained as a medievalist and still tanked "cuirasses" (imagining that they were either chaps or jodhpurs, apparently)

An admirably difficult puzzle, all in all. Sometimes, it's good to be reminded of my mortality. Speaking of mortality, MORTAL FOES (9D: They fight to the finish) reminds me of last night's amazing Yankees / Red Sox game. Nothing in sports can compare to the awesome spectacle of these two teams going at each other. This is no hyperbole. I won't bother giving you game details, because the game has already been written up beautifully by my friend Mr. Murphy over at "Sophocles Was a Red Sox Fan" - a great blog deserving of wide readership, even if you're a Yankees fan. The guy loves baseball, loves his team, and he can write. Thumbs up.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Anonymous

Outstanding puzzle that challenged one's knowledge of many diverse areas. Suprisingly, it fell into place fairly readily for me (a mere tyro at the Sat. NYT.)I agree that the NW and SE quadrants were unfairly restricted, but c'est la guerre!

Norrin2

Rod McKuen was a not-particularly talented poet-singer who inexplicably became popular in the 60s and 70s. His best-known song is probably "Love's Been Good to me." his thin volumes of poetry are a thrift-store fixture.

Unknown

If you ever wonder why people who have nothing to do with the Yankees or Red Sox hate them both with a passion, look no further than statements like, "Nothing is sports can compare to the awesome spectacle of these two teams going at each other. This is no hyperbole." They meet 20 times a year. That alone attenuates the awesomeness by making it so common. Not just that, but have you ever watched college sports? Ohio St.-Michigan in football? Duke-UNC in basketball (I hate Duke and all the unwarranted attention they get, but these games are always two of the most intense and fun to watch of the year)? Both of those match-ups are much more of a spectacle than Yankees-Red Sox. Also, I don't know much about European soccer, but I do know that their rivalry games are absolutely out of control and make the games over here look like quiet days at the ballpark.

In short, Yankees-Red Sox ain't [expletive deleted].

Linda G

I'll take Option C -- that's where I was hung up. What the hell is ACTA? Is it the plural of ACTE? Haven't read the rest of the blog yet. Jumped right to comments to answer this.

Alex S.

Trevanian wrote The Eiger Sanction and the Eiger in that title is a mountain in the Alps. I had no idea who Trevanian was but I was able to guess it from E-GE- for some reason.

The thing I'm really proud of today was getting THEATER OF THE ABSURD from -----ER OF THE --S---. I have no idea what Theater of the Absurd is and wasn't conscious of having heard of it before. But it was rattling around in there somewhere.

After the hanging clue yeserday I was so stuck on "Toulouse-Lautrec hangout" being a museum that when I had BROTHE- I could only assume there is a BROTHER Musuem somewhere with his panting.

Speaking of the Red Sox...I don't watch a lot of baseball on TV (I'm a local team on the radio kind of guy) but happened to catch part of that game flipping through channels. Have the BoSox always had that ugly green home jersey or is it something relatively new?

Orange

Speaking of Santa, why were the Red Sox clad in Christmas finery?

In the late '70s, I babysat for a family in which the mom was into est. She had something about it tacked up on the fridge.

I meant to look up mulcts. Here it is, both noun and verb. I hope you didn't muck up Shah REZA Pahlavi. Did you decide that SPERY could be a word? That's my vote.

Thanks for making me feel better about not knowing this TATE, and for having no idea who Rod McKuen is. I followed the Wikipedia trail to this—McKuen wrote the song, "Seasons in the Sun," forever in my heart because of the juvenile "We had joy, we had fun, we went streaking in the sun, but the cops came with guns and they shot us in the buns" version we liked to sing when I was a kid.

Boffo crossword, boffo post!

Anonymous

Huzzah, Tyrone! Nothing is more overhyped than this titanic bore created by two sets of all-star parochial minds. Maybe they can feature it on the cover of the New Yorker with a feature story by that classic "beater of dead horses" Roger Angell.

Norrin2

Loath as I am to defend Rod McKuen, "Seasons in the Sun" cannot be blamed entirely on him. It was a French song by Jacques Brel "The Dying Man" and all McKuen did was translate it to English. Badly, no doubt, but still he did not write the song.

Norrin2

Oh, and I agree with you, Rex about Yankees-Red Sox. I was so excited after the Sox scored 5 in the 8th I could hardly sleep.

Rex Parker

Whoa, my post just disappeared. Dang!

Glad to see so many Comments so quickly. Nice to know you all hang on my every word.

Red Sox were in green to honor Red Auerbach (coach of Celtics during the years they ruled the world). Also, Sox had VT on their uniforms (or caps?) to honor the V Tech kids.

Tyrone, you are a regular reader, so I'll let your tone slide. You're free to have your own opinions (however ABSURD) - just keep it friendly.

Nobody can name important UNC/Duke games or even (second-best rivlary in sports) OSU/Michigan games except alumni.

Last thing I'll say on subject: there's no way you could call NYY/RS overhyped if you watched 2003 ALCS, 2004 ALCS, or even last night's game frankly. Nothing Comes Close. Soccer, schmocker.

Anonymous

rex said: 57A: Forsooth (yea, verily) - another gimme. The first thing that sprang to mind. I believe Daffy Duck has uttered "forsooth" and "yea verily" in quick succession somewhere in his cartoon history.

my (addled) brain went to "in quack succession"... ;-)

rod mckuen. oy. once boasted that he never wrote his poems on paper. rather (writing while soaking in the tub...) he used the cardboard scraps his dry cleaners used to keep his shirts looking crisp... my college roommate thought he was *very* deep. what can i say? it was the 60s and she thought "listen to the warm" seemed to mark mckuen as a terribly "sensitive" kinda guy. [i was into edna st. vincent millay's angst-y world view myself...*some* of which is not without its own "oy" factor...]

;-)

janie

Anonymous

I agree that "apery" must be a word...more likely than "acta"....thought maybe the John Q actress was Kimberly elisK because finKs seemed to more correctly meet the definition in my dictionary of "mulcts" than fines did and I've never heard of the actress or the show.....And, yes RP we do indeed hang on every word!

Trish in OP

Anonymous

I'm with Ava, guessing you tanked ACTA and APERY -- since the word APE is pantheonic in its many iterations, and since you sound incredulous at the fact that you missed it and want to blame it on your head cold (very legitimate excuse)! I sure felt stupid when I saw the answers. Maybe CROCI stumped you (for a while), too? Fairly evil fill, I thought -- missed it even though I know crocuses are the saffron source. I had "yes indeed" at the bottom and couldn't think past "rottweiler", "doberman" and the like for "prowler avoided by prowlers". Loved the Candy Land clue and the symmetry of THEATER OF (HARD ACT TO FOLLOW) THE ABSURD. Great commentary, Rex. You cracked me up with your critique of Nast's creepy Santa in too-tight PJs (yea verily) and the mindtrap clue (to which I, too, succumbed) about which reindeer would fit in the grid as a "drawer" of Santa's sleigh (SLEDGE?).

Anonymous

Boffo is/was used a lot in Variety headlines

I had torsos for 39A & police dog for 55A for quite a while.

As a Yankee fan, I thought last night's game was horrible.

Feel better, fast.

Anonymous

Like Alex, I'm proud of seeing DAC, thinking ACT? and almost immediately finding HARD ACT TO FOLLOW.
I loved YEA VERILY, but doubted it for some time. No resonance with Daffy Duck for me, but I remember a one-page piece in The National Lampoon ca. 1980 in which stand-up comedian Jesus of Nazareth did his routine in King James English and kept saying "Nay, verily, I say unto you..." followed by "take my wife...please"-type one-liners. Wish I'd kept a copy.
Had PATROL CAR instead of POLICE CAR for awhile. Initially doubted it, because PATROL seemed too close to PROWL...but then, you know how it goes. Once it had been there for a few minutes, it seemed so right...
Toulouse-Lautrec hangout -- When Moulin Rouge and Montmartre wouldn't fit, I pencilled in PIGALLE. Same neighborhood. Not sure it was called that in those days, however. The Toulouse-Lautrec museum, in Albi, some 80 km ENE of Toulouse, is worth visiting if you're ever in the area.
Norrin's comment prompted me to track down "Le Moribond" (http://www.paroles.net/chansons/18746.htm). I think the song is not so much badly translated as re-interpreted in a voice that is much more white bread than Brel--who seemed to be holding his naked heart out in his hands as he sang--ever was. My favorite line from "Seasons in the Sun:"
ba ba ba, ba ba ba, ba ba ba ba ba ba ba...
And did you know that Sinatra's signature song "My Way" was an English version of "Comme d'habitude," by Claude FranÃ§ois? But that one moves the other way--the translation or reinterpretation is much gutsier than the original.
I also enjoyed THEATER OF THE ABSURD, which is interesting to see two days after a reference to Camus ("The Plague" setting--ORAN). And remember Akroyd and Belushi as Sartresky and Hutch? "C'est absurde ! Ah ha ha ha ha ha!")

Anonymous

Enjoyed today; it was hard but fun to suss out. Had ACTS and SPERY; can see that APERY was correct but still don't get what ACTA is.

I suppose it's a good thing that not many of you claim familiarity with Rod McKuen. I had his poetry books, Stanyan Street & Other Sorrows, Listen to the Warm, and Lonesome Cities. Hey, it was the 60s, what can I say; flower power ruled.

One big gripe. As the close friend of someone suffering with chronic fatigue syndrome, I cringed mightily at the answer to that clue. Very derisive and cruel, and reflective of the companion problem that sufferers aren't taken seriously by the medical establishment and a lot of others. I'm thinking there might be more than one or two such people who also enjoy doing the puzzle who would be terribly crushed by seeing this.

Just heard on NPR that Bill Clinton is creating a puzzle for nytimes.com to appear on Sunday, May 6, coinciding with the Magazine's baby boomer theme that day. Hopefully those with the yuppie flu won't be boycotting.

Anonymous

Oh also, on CUIRASSES, I had never heard of this before and when I began the puzzle last night I looked it up. Shortly afterwards, I read a few pages of my current novel wherein the word (in singular form) appeared. These kinds of weird synchronicities seem to happen more and more frequently.

GEO President

I think I'm going to start calling the Yankees a bunch of cuirasses.
Thanks for the kind words and the plug.

Anonymous

I always feel depressed (not really) when I check this site find that you called "medium difficulty" a puzzle that baffled for eons until I finally made it through. Thoroughly enjoyed it in the end, although were it not for the Eiger Sanction, I don't know how I would have gotten started.

Anonymous

I think ACTA is legit. When I saw the answer I inwardly muttered "duh". Seems like professional organizations that wish to be thought of as especially erudite use the word in naming their journals, ex. Acta Criminologica, Acta Theologica, Acta Biologica....

DONALD

acta -- n. pl. (L, pl. of actum -- more at ACT) 1. recorded proceedings : official acts: TRANSACTIONS - 2. narratives of deeds of the Christians -- Webster's 3rd New Intl Dict.

Hey Rex, I referenced your blog for Sunday's puzzle which I just posted.

Anonymous

Can it get any better than a DQ / BW Friday-Saturday combination? I think not.

DQ's Friday was brilliant and deceptively evil, and Byron's puzzle today was brilliant and evilly deceptive. And I hate them both for being so good.

MN

Anonymous

Yes, please let's not bash CFS sufferers. However, I am not averse to bashing Yankee fans. (Take that, Arod!!)

I am thankful after these two (Fri and Sat) with their SNARLS and TRAPS that Sunday's puzzle is on deck. Thought cuirasses protected chests and backs, so I had TORSOS. And I pump FUEL, but thought that FIST was more fun, if wrong. And YOU BETTER sounds so wrong - You betcha! or You'd better! would have been so much BETTER.

Funny typo from Alex this morning re "panting" in the Brother Museum. That would be more likely in the brothel! (Made me laugh, anyway...)

Janie! Nice to see your comments here recently!

Rex, you must get better soon.

Anonymous

back atch, ultra vi -- and hope the road is treating you well indeed.

meant to say earlier -- i have that *exact* edition of "the bald soprano" on my bookshelf!

also, for me, nw and se were the first to fall...

;-)

janie

Anonymous

Hey Rex,
Talk to you soon! K

Rex Parker

Kathy - I was wondering how long it would take before someone I know in real life accidentally ran into my online alter ego. Now we know: 7 months.

I am pro-Googling. My audience is made up predominantly of "cheaters" like yourself who Googled me, so I [heart] Google.

It's interesting that you wrote in today, 'cause, I don't know if you heard, but ... next year's Amer. Crossword Puzzle Tournament (late Feb.) is in Brooklyn, so ... I might need, uh, lodging. Hint hint. Wink wink. Nudge nudge.

So great to hear from you.

"RP"

Anonymous

Thank God you write this blog.

Rex Parker

I intend to thank God later today, actually. Let's all thank God for my blog, shall we?

Seriously, thanks.

Rp

Anonymous

Six weeks later here. I peeked at the top of this blog yesterday to see what lay in store. Brutal meant a long day ahead. However, I looked at NE before working out this morning and finished it in about three minutes. Layer, On One, and Antipasto just popped out at me. When I came back to it later in the morning is when brutal set in. Teenagers did not help. Got Theater of the Absurd with a couple of Ts the F and a B. I might be getting better at this. I'm sure it took me longer than Rex but not as long as it would have a couple of months ago. BTW I also vote for option C. I tried to believe spery was a word but finally went with apery hoping that acta was really a plural. Also, thanks for yesterday's write up on what makes a great puzzle, really enjoyed it.
Noticed on the way here that the June 2 puzzle is also a Walden and is a Yike. Something to look forward to.

Well,I'm off to IHOP for dinner with the grandkids -- stacker or omelet??

MaryLou

Thank goodness my mother made me take Latin in High School--how could I ever do my crosswords without it? Acta is a plural form. I'm very glad to have happened on to your blog while researching clues--I'll be back!

Anonymous

Brutal! I like that word. No smugness today. Lots of google.

'Nuff said.

Anonymous

just found your blog and was carried away with your comments solving the NY Xword which we here in Canada didn't get till our local paper published same on Sunday. Found most of this puzzle not too bad until SE corner -- got acta easily since it crops up fairly often in other puzzles but I Patrol Car'd 55A and died on Forsooth since not clued in to Daffy Duck and was led astray with Certainly ---- didn't know Candy Land so the Gum Drop Pass also cost blood -- however finally solved with assistance of my dictionary BTW loved the "quack succession" from one of your fans.
Bone to pick re dissing soccer -- if you have ever watched Manchester United v Liverpool playing English Football, (real football !!) you may change your mind re tough games.
Will be looking for you again next week -- hope my bookmark works
Cheers --- Coyote

Anonymous

Here's a note from the future-
I finally finished this puzzle, mistake (but not writeover) free- it's now Jan 27, 2008! Actually, I found it in my briefcase, where it had been languishing for some time (hopefully since the day I started it but I think I have revisited it before).

Could not make heads or tails of it then and had the same troubles when revisiting it. Had the NW done and some of the NE and SE but that was about it. Also fell into the Teenagers trap. Finally got IN LINE FOR and the rest of the puzzle fell pretty quickly. Interestingly enough, though, that even though I didn't get them right away, the clues that vexed Rex (hm, clue: [Stump a crossword champ] answer: VEX REX (or has that been said already?)) did not trouble me at all, except [Mulcts]. After IN LINE FOR, the rest of the NE fell which gave me the long crosses.

Took a guess on EIGER from "The Eiger Sanction" where Clint Eastwood plays a mountain climber.

And, I'm pleased to say I guessed correctly on both NAST and FINES (doesn't "mulct" sound like it could have something to do with "finks"?). And, going along with the previous comments, thank god for this blog- I had no idea how NAST related to Santa. I just went with the S because of Conde Nast magazine. I'm sure there's no relation but...

What? No picture from Emily for this one?

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