WEDNESDAY, Apr. 18, 2007 - Jim Page

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium + added Jewish Holiday Spelling factor

THEME: "SHH" - five theme answers have "SHH" letter sequence in them, and the theme is clued by 12D: "_____ disturb!" (and a hint for 17-, 40- and 65-Across, and 10- and 30-Down) - ("Do Not")

Very interesting puzzle, especially the weird off-centeredness of the theme-identifying clue (way up in the NE). I had the "DO NOT disturb" answer before I had any of the theme answers filled in, then PARISH HOUSE (17A: Rectory) became clear, and it didn't take me more than a couple of seconds to figure out what was up. Then I did something I almost never do - I hunted down every theme answer, feeling very confident that knowing "SHH" was in there somewhere would allow me to nail them with little-to-no-help. I was half right. Able to get most of them with no crosses, except ROSH HASHANA (65A: Feast of Trumpets), which required a bunch, though it shouldn't have. ROSH HASHANA contained two squares I was uncertain of, mainly because HASHANA looked like it wanted to have at least one "O" in it, and two of the "A" crosses were utterly unknown to me:

52D: Hendryx of the group Labelle (Nona)
61D: Bird in "The Lion King" (Zazu)

I figured the woman's name couldn't be "No-No" (could it?) and ZAZU's is the name of a local restaurant and caterer here in Confluence (though I may have the spelling wrong), so I stuck with the "A"s. So when the Times applet rejected my grid, I set out to change the vowels in HASHANA to see which one(s) I had wrong. Turns out: none. I'd just made a transcription typo, and a good one: ASS HEAP for ASH HEAP (40A: Worthless pile).

The two other "SHH" answers in the puzzle were:

10D: Sprigs from the garden (fresh herbs) and
30D: Deli selections (polish hams)

A couple of pretty lame plurals, but o well. I still enjoyed the theme, overall.

Primary reason I'm inclined to LOVE this puzzle? Because it took an answer I normally hate to see...

7D: Dominican-American major-league slugger, to fans (A-Rod)

and made it delicious to me simply by crossing it with the aptest of words...

14A: Made an overthrow, say (erred)

Few things delight my friend Matt and me more than watching A-ROD ERR. That, and watching him hit home-runs when it is absolutely meaningless for him to do so (his recent walk-off grand slam excepted)

6A: Pre-bedtime ritual (bath) - I'm not anointing her for induction into the priesthood, just cleaning her up. "Ritual?" Try [Pre-bedtime necessity].

19A: Coastal bird (ern) - CAW! Forgot to mention that I saw at least a couple of ERNS, as well as a host of TERNS, while on my trip to Mexico. Also, Pelicans, who hunted all day long just off-shore. My step-brother has a photo of a GIGANTIC ERN sitting on his balcony ledge at the hotel - I have got to get him to send me a copy.

34A: Kinski title role (Tess) - Whatever happened to Nastassja Kinski!? She was in "Tess" ("of the D'Urbervilles" - mmm, Hardy) and "Cat People," and she posed naked with a snake for some poster, I think, and then ... nothing. Well, nothing of note.

1D: L-_____ (treatment for parkinsonism) (DOPA) - Missed it the first time I ever saw it, nailed it this time: "Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again!"

6D: Whales, elephants, etc. (behemoths) - great answer. Totally baffled me. I was thinking big mammals ... then sports mascots ... by the time I came back to it I had every letter but one filled in, thank god.

25D: 1953 Loren title role (Aida) - really? Opera? How odd...
27D: Mrs. Einstein (Elsa) - really? Like the lion? How odd...

48D: "The Night of the Hunter" star, 1955 (Mitchum) - he's So Hot. One of my favorite noir actors, even when he was doing bad, cheap screen versions of Chandler novels in the 70's.

62D: Literary olios (anas) - winner of today's "Old School Pantheon" Award. A Maleska-era classic. I love that OLIOS, another classic, is in the clue. Nice throwback moment all around.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS My latest "American Idol" write-up is here.


Linda G 9:49 AM  

Loved your transcription typo. It really made for a better answer. I was picturing a pile of my ex-boyfriends, ex-bosses, former friends...

The snake photo creeped me out then and it creeps me out now. I can think of a hundred things I'd rather pose (naked or not) with.

Rex Parker 10:03 AM  

Damn ... I forgot to warn my friend Shaun about snakes in today's entry. I'll email her now. She's ... not a fan. Of snakes.


Alex S. 10:11 AM  

I had all of the theme answers except PARISH HOUSE and still hadn't figured out the theme. I r dumb. Had to call my wife over to figure it out for me.

I didn't like ERRED becaues, at least so far as I've experienced (and I've experienced a lot of baseball) nobody says the player erred. They committed an error. In fact I don't think I've ever heard it used as a verb in relation to a baseball play. So I had ERROR in there for a long time.

I was certain I would hate the puzzle when the clue for 1 Acress was the annoying "Playground retort." I assume that on the playgroudn DID SO is only heard in retort to "I say old chap, I hear you got your knickers in a twist and were to afraid to jump out of the swing."

For "Jumper alternative," when I had ---SHOT basketball was so far from my mind that I seriously considered GUNSHOT as an alternative suicide method to jumping.

It remains the case that the only reason I know the word YAWP is because of Dead Poet's Society.

Rex Parker 10:16 AM  


I'm pretty sure I've heard ERRED, though not often, it's true. No way in hell it could be ERROR, though, as the answer is clearly a verb [MADE an overthrow]. Clue and answer must correspond grammatically. I suppose a three-year-old might say "I ERROR," but not most others.

Your suicide confusion made me laff out loud, thanks.

And yes, I'm so tired of bitching about the "playground retort" variety of clue that I've simply given up. Unless I see something particularly fresh or particularly egregious, I hereby shun all said clues.


Anonymous 10:25 AM  

I think the Kinski photo was taken by Richard Avedon. It was an advertisement for that brutally ugly, white bracelet.

One of my favorite actresses was Zazu Pitts. She was one of the few to make a very sucessful transition from silent films to talkies.

Anonymous 10:26 AM  

Hilarious blog today, Rex. I, too, love finding reasons to hate A-Rod. (How come no one was hitting yesterday? Matt? Aargh!)

Jim Page is my new best friend for including my nickname and age neatly all wrapped up in one clue. Thanks, Jim! I'm certain it was intentional!

Some fascinating reading, by the way, by Oliver Sacks about the use of L-Dopa in his Parkinson's patients. I guess there was a movie version of this; I can only say that the book (Awakenings) is riveting.

Alex S. 10:28 AM  

I disagree to some extent. "Made an overthrow, e.g." strikes me as a perfectly acceptable definition of "Error" in baseball.

Missed the cutoff man, e.g.
Threw it in the dirt, e.g.
Dropped a pop fly, e.g.

All are errors.

"Smashed over the fence" (past tense verb phrase) presumably could result in A HOME RUN (noun) couldn't it or would it have to be some verb form (HOMERED, I guess)?

But oh well. That's why I'm a novice at this stuff. Anyway, in the first four pages of Google results for "baseball erred" not one is a reference to a play. And, of course, it could certainly be a usage that varies regionally.

Rex Parker 10:36 AM  

What the verb resulted in is irrelevant. [An overthrow, maybe] could be ERROR, but [Made an overthrow, maybe] could not.

This is one of the most crucial things about cluing, and something that many of my readers (and if I'm not paying close attention, I too) forget or ignore: answers must match clues grammatically (i.e. in terms of part of speech, number, etc.)


Orange 10:47 AM  

Good lesson on clue/answer grammar, Professor Rex. It always bears repeating.

The actress's name was spelled Zasu Pitts—she turns up in crosswords much more often than the cartoon bird, Zazu. That extra Z is tough to squeeze into a grid, plus Zazu is arguably far more unknown than Zasu Pitts.

My gripe with the playground retorts is that they rely so heavily on the crossings. DO TOO, DID SO, ARE SO, and AM TOO all end with an O, but just having that crossing gets you nowhere. An initial A also gets you nowhere—ARE SO, AM NOT, AM TOO? All interchangeable.

dfan 11:15 AM  

To be precise (as crosswords teach us to be!), the long answers contain SHH, not SSH.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

I think that's a very common and legitimate usage for "ritual," a ritual being something we do over and over on a regular basis with essentially the same gestures. Webster's on line says "precisely" the same gestures, but I say close enough for a crossword. True what you said about gramatical matching. If we can't rely on that aspect of clues, we're lost! :) But I think that considering the broadest possible range of definitions for words is an essential part of crossword solving (part of our daily ritual). Let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater. :]
The thing that bothered me about this puzzle was the high number (for a Wednesday, especially) of crossing answers that were unknown to me. I'm aware enough of baseball to know who A-Rod is (though I wanted this to be Vlad--former Expo Vladimir Guererro whom Montrealers had the privilege of watching for several seasons at bargain-basement prices), but I did not know what a D-Back was until I looked it up. And who the heck is Tris and what kind of speaker is he or she, and what hall of fame are they talking about? Oh. OK. Still baseball. But if you don't know what a D-Back is, you probably don't know who Tris Speaker is, and if you don't figure out that a D-Back is a baseball team, that NL beginning is mighty perplexing. I suppose that's a tip-off in itself. But that and the ROSHAHASHANA NONA ZAZU ASSN (I had ASSC) ANAS corner meant that for me, this puzzle was a few squares shy of being solveable without Google or dictionary help--and this is only Wednesday! It didn't help that I woke up grumpy and just wanted to finish the daily ritual and get on with my day...

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

MVPs & Xword Kings do sometime err.

Isn't today's theme SHH, not SSH (unless there's something I'm missing)?

BTW, Arod is having a terrific are you.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

...Yeah, I went through the cycle on the "playground retorts," but...can you think of a variety of apple that has four letters and that's not a computer? Since when is relying heavily on crossing a problem? I always find that as the week progresses, clues rely more and more heavily on crossing. Is this not part of the tricky fun of crossword solving? Enlighten me, o great one! :)

Anonymous 11:46 AM  

mmpo - Try ROME apples. They're delicious.

Rex Parker 11:50 AM  

Don't forget GALA apples, also decent - and developed in NZ.


Anonymous 11:53 AM  

Once again, age is everything, and it helps to have been around a few years ago. TRIS [Speaker] was a gimme, as was SET SHOT as a [jumper alternative], an obscure answer because you rarely see a set shot on a basketball court today. But would someone please help me with HES as the answer to [cock and bull].

Anonymous 11:56 AM  



Thanks for the theme the totally eluded me. Although I solved the puzzle I still did not get the theme. I only realized the "HH" of "SHH" but not "S" and could not connect it to "DO Not DistUrb." As someone who has celebrated Rosh Hashana all my life, I did not get it immediately. Once I did, I smiled as I have never heard it called Festival of Trumpets and imagined a New Orleans Jazz Band instead of a Shofar/ ram's horn which looks nothing like a trumpet.


I hate baseball and do not know A-rod from a cone -- bad pun. Who is he? I also did not know D-backer but once I got NL I remembered Rex complaining about "NLer" in a different puzzle. Somehow, I got lucky although I now realize I had "assc" too instead of "assn" and therefore "noca" instead of "nona." That at least sounds like a name.


Norrin2 11:59 AM  

In addition to Rome and Gala, Fuji apples are nice too.

Anonymous 12:03 PM  


Both a cock and a bull are males and therefore HEs.

Anonymous 12:14 PM  


Thanks, profphil.

Orange 12:18 PM  

mmpo, it's one thing to have to rely on crossings to help you figure out a name or word that's unfamiliar to you. If the crossings (which have to be gettable) teach you something new, fine. But when you need the crossings because "playground retort" could arbitrarily be any of a dozen things...meh. Not interesting, not educational. The best it can offer is that when you've got a couple letters, you can tease out the words based on patterns (A***O could be AM TOO or ARE SO, but once you get a third letter, you can figure the rest out) and exercise that particular crossword-solving skill. But you haven't expanded your vocabulary one whit.

P.S. The common abbreviations for "association" are ASSN and ASSOC; I've not seen ASSC. You don't want ASSC in your head. (But ASSHEAP, definitely! I like that one.)

P.P.S. If you loathe baseball but love crosswords, make a note of the baseball answers that pop up. Because you'll be seeing them over and over and over again, no way around it. AROD and SOSA, OTT and TRIS, ERA and RBI, which teams are NLERs and which are ALERs; less often, we see some players who were big in the '70s and '80s when I paid absolutely no attention to the sport.

Anonymous 12:27 PM  


I forgot to mention that I too could not make sense out of "hes" for quite some time until I had my own Duh moment.

Orange 12:49 PM  

Of course, when do we ever see the plural "hes"? Pretty much nowhere but crosswords! Incredibly lackluster and unsatisfying fill (along with the partials ILET, TOA, ASIT, and INHOT, the plural OEDS and ANAS, Scottish SMA, suffix ORY, the little-known NONA and ZAZU...).

Anonymous 12:50 PM  

Thanks, Orange, for your explanation. I like the expanded version. And thanks Rex, norrin and jc66 for Rome (Beauty?), Fuji, and Gala--all familiar to me, but only one of which might intersect with a playground retort in this puzzle (ROME / ARE SO), though I'm sure we could come up with some creative variations if we tried...

Alex S. 1:09 PM  

I'll accept that ERROR breaks the grammar rule, though I'd prefer a noun answer accurately described by a verb clue to a verb clue producing a verb answer that doesn't exist.

So far I have not found any referenced saying a player erred when talking about a baseball play. They commit errors.

But I'm just lashing out rather than retreating to lick my wound.

Anonymous 1:11 PM  

I'm jamming with Orange today (or is that more appropriate marmalading?)...I had exactly her impression that this was another HHO puzzle tossed at us (and we've had enough wet weather up here in New England, thank you very much), and I was also uncharacteristically uninspired by all the short fill words in today's NYT...every quadrant had one or two entries that made me wince. I was expecting some real flaming over here from King Rex, but since he fell for the AROD/ERRED crossing, he called off the dogs. Pity.

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

I got the puzzle, but not the theme--saw the HH and thought it was a cheap nod to the Hilton Hotel logo or something, couldn't believe they'd do that (and now I see they didn't.....)
Trish in OP

Campesite 1:57 PM  

More baseball notes: someone may have mentioned FARM as a baseball answer today. Also, NATS (new team in DC)and ALOU (baseball family) seem to show up quite often.

GEO President 2:00 PM  

Why no run production yesterday? Hard to say, but the Sox are currently last in their division in scoring runs (though best in preventing opponents' runs). And you can't blame the cold when you play in a dome, as they did last night against Toronto.
The four opposing pitchers who have completely shut down the Sox so far this season (Meche, Tejeda, Hernandez, and Chacin) are a combined 12-0 against Boston over the past 3 years. I'm hoping we've just freakishly stumbled upon some Sox-silencers early in the scheduling, and the bats will come to life soon. After all, there was a flood of scoring against the Angels this past weekend (25 runs in 3 games), and hopefully we'll see something similar this coming weekend against A-Rod and company.

Rumor has it you're performing at my alma mater this summer.

Anonymous 2:13 PM  

Thanks, Matt - I've been enjoying your blog, too.

Yes, hopefully I shall be at Bard this summer for two weeks of Elgar. Side note: my son was accepted at Bard but yearns for a more exotic locale. So, we're off to check out colleges in St. Paul and (Grinnell) Iowa tomorrow. No blog-access until I get back. What's a Rex-addict to do?!?!

GEO President 2:54 PM  

Iowa and the Mall of America as more exotic than the mid-Hudson valley? Have him read the opening of "Rip Van Winkle" (or actually, the entirety--it's short). Bard was a magical place for me, though I'm sure the mid-west schools have their charms as well.

Anonymous 5:38 PM  

Re the ERN, is there any way to remember which is a TERN and which is an ERNE? All three seem to show up frequently.

Anonymous 6:03 PM  



DONALD 6:24 PM  

ultra vi:

I see the "ultra", but what part of the clue refers to age? Or is it another entry? Oh well.


AROD came on the television just as I made his entry -- odd!

Oh, and I lost it on Mitchum, he hogged my blog!


will we need you after your book comes out? Thanks as always for the illumination.

DONALD 6:26 PM  


Who said "SSH"?

Rex Parker 6:32 PM  

*I* said "SSH" - I fixed it. Thanks to those who pointed my error out.


Anonymous 6:48 PM  

Would His Majesty please post His most correct and prefered spelling of "Doh!" or "Do'h!" ???

Anonymous 8:33 PM  

I agree that ERRED is infrequently used as a verb to describe a baseball error. BOOTED, MUFFED, MISPLAYED, DROPPED, and OVERTHREW come immediately to mind with BOOTED being the most common word to refer to a miscue.

Anonymous 8:57 PM  

I'm only half-Jewish, but isn't it ROSH HASHANAH? At the very least, there should have been a (var.) here; it drove me crazy trying to figure out if there was a reason that ending H was missing.

I've also come to the conclusion that, whenever the subject of feet or foot comes up in NYT, it invariably will mean an answer pertaining to poetry.

An outstanding Nastassja Kinski flick, imoo, is American Rhapsody, also starring a young Scarlett Johansson.

Best answer of the day was BEHEMOTH, hands down.

Orange 9:06 PM  

ERN(E) starts with E, as does eagle, and an ern is a sea eagle, a rather fearsome-looking one at that. A TERN is more like a gull, and it doesn't start with E-for-eagle.

(Sorry to step on Rex's toes, but I love concocting mnemonics!)

And I believe the preferred version is "D'oh!" with the apostrophe serving as...something linguistic. A plosive? A glottal stop? It's not merely pronounced like "doe."

(Again with the toe stomping! And on something "Simpsons"-related, no less. Bad Orange.)

Anonymous 9:32 PM  


LATELY THE "H" has been dropped in transliterating Hebrew words: e.g., Torah, now more often Tora; Shanah, now Shana (year).
The pronunciation is more accurate without the "H"; although the spelling is more like the Hebrew with the "H" as the aforesaid words end in the Hebrew letter "Heh."

Anonymous 9:47 PM  

April stats (so far)

A Rod, 9 homers, 23 RBI, .375 avg., 1 error

Ortiz, 4 homers, 12 RBI, .267 avg., no errors because he is only a DH and can't play the field, so he hasn't erred -- if you sit on your hands while everyone else plays the game, presto, no errors!

Anonymous 10:04 PM  

Dear Donald,

ULTRA is the answer to 50D.

Linda G 10:53 PM  

Aaah, the big 5-0. I remember it well.

I think today's blog may have set a record for comments.

Orange 11:08 PM  

There are non-crossword blogs that can rack up 500 comments on a single post. Man, I don't know how anyone can find the time to keep up with all that.

Orange 11:08 PM  

There are non-crossword blogs that can rack up 500 comments on a single post. Man, I don't know how anyone can find the time to keep up with all that.

Linda G 12:23 AM  

Me either.

Linda G 12:24 AM  

Me either.

tee hee...

Anonymous 6:42 AM  

Profphil, thanks for the info. It seems calendars haven't caught up with the new practice. And I literally haven't seen that spelling anywhere else, ditto for Tora.

JudyO 11:07 AM  

Could someone enlighten me as to the meaning of the answer for 62D...the clue was "literary olios", and the answer is "anas"...I understand "olios", but the meaning of the answer escapes me. I'm waiting to say "Doh!" or maybe "D'oh!"...



Anonymous 11:31 AM  


ANa is a collection of anecdotes or sayings elating to a person (or information or recollections of a place).Hence a literary collection. Its plural can be "anas" or "ana." This word was very popular in older crooswords.


Rex Parker 1:11 PM  


Though I know you enjoy taking every chance you get to deflate the importance of this blog [wink, smileycon], I believe it was clear that Linda was referencing a "record" number of comments for a single entry at my blog, not all blogs throughout time. And she is right. I think. 52!


Anonymous 2:25 PM  

The number will probably increase when the solvers of the syndicated puzzle appears in 6 weeks from today (Wednesday).

Anonymous 2:28 PM  

OOPS. I should have previewed that comment before publishing. Although it is garbled, you get my drift, no?

Orange 8:09 PM  

(Continuing to jack up the comment count...55! Makes me think of Sammy Hagar.)

You know how a great neighborhood restaurant is ruined when the word gets out and everybody goes there? I think a blog conversation also suffers once a couple hundred people have chimed in a couple times each. Gotta keep the riffraff out!

Anonymous 8:57 PM  

Yogi Berra had something to say about a restaurant. It went something like this: "NObody goes there anymore -- 'cause it's too crowded."

Do we want that fate to befall King Rex's domain?

Anonymous 1:34 AM  

Anonymous 9, Orange 7, Rex 6, profphil 5, Linda 4, Alex 3, UltraVi 3, donald 3, mmpo 3, jeff66 2, mr murphy 2, and one each for dan, judyo, evad, sue, norrin2, campsite and steve m

Anonymous 8:42 AM  

And each and every comment contributed to the value of this blog in one way or another. I for one am never bored by the exchanges.

Not the Anon Who Kept Score

Orange 8:52 PM  

Yay! I win!

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

To ERR is human (or in Ebrew, "to herr is uman".
Another frequent baseball answer with a Giant clue: "OTT".
Best Kinski movie: "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" (but it's her father Klaus, not her)

Anonymous 3:30 PM  

Arriving from the past to lengthen the blog.

Today was a one cupper. BATH and BEHEMOTHS came early, and I was able to build on each answer until I got hung up on the Oregon Coast. I suspected that Sophia had played AIDA, but although I had Christopher LLOYD's face in my head, I couldn't retrieve his surname from the database, so I had RELISH HA-S for a long while. (those little paper cups for catsup are RELISH HATS??????) Of course I was handicapped in never having tasted POLISH HAM.

D-back.... What/who is that anyway? I know he is a baseball player, but who does he play for?

The TSAR/CZAR thing got me too, till Robert MITCHUM set me straight. Never saw The Lion King.

As for the record longest blog, I thought that was the Great PFUI Controversy, which, last time I checked, I was the last poster to.

(A preposition is something you must never end a sentence with.)

Anonymous 3:36 PM  

Nope, only 43 over there.

Waxy in Montreal 10:38 PM  

Extending this record Rex blog 6 weeks on...

A D-back is the abbreviated form used by wannebe jocks and sport media types for the Arizona Diamondbacks of the National League, therefore making them NL'ers.

An expansion club, the D-backs won the World Series in only their 4th year of existence in 2001. Because of delays due to 911, this WS actually extended into November bedeviling the common clue, "WS month" that is always answered with "OCT".

Anonymous 11:19 PM  

I got to go with Wendy on ROSH HASHANAH. My A-Z dictonary has two versions, the one above and ROSH HASHONA. Apparently, if you lose the H the A turns into an O??

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