FRIDAY, May 11, 2007 - Patrick Berry

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy to medium

THEME: none

One word: smooth. Nothing mind-blowing here, but that doesn't matter because the fill, especially the long fill, is uniformly interesting - cool, unusual, unexpected. A little on the easy side for a Friday - if I'd been timing myself, I might have found myself with a record Friday time. There was no point at which I got truly stuck or had to slow down significantly. I had just one false start, and it was a small one: REP instead of COP for 55D: One who handles bookings (you can see why I was confused - beautiful little trap). Oh wait, I had ISIS for IRIS too (32D: Goddess of the rainbow). And there was just one square about which I was uncertain, located at the following intersection:

34D: "Heart of the Tin Man" author (Jack Haley)
45A: Cheers (hails)

Pretty much had to be an "H," but I'd never heard of the author in question and I couldn't quite make HAILS mean "Cheers." Even now, I have to exert mental effort to get those two words to align.

The prettiest word in the grid is HERCULEAN (15A: Formidable, as a task) - one of my favorite words. I use it whenever I can (which is to say, not often - it's not an everyday word, and overuse would be pretentious). The ugliest word ... let's see ... well, I do hate the way SEGUE (53A: Skillfully switches topics) looks, and both SICK LEAVE (54A: People generally don't take it well) and ODOR EATER (57A: Shoe insert) have negativity built into their names, but I'm going to give the award to SOURSOP (38D: Tropical fruit with white pulp and black seeds), a fruit of which I've never heard and hope never to encounter (if it tastes anything like its name sounds ... or looks).

What I Liked

48D: "When the _____ Breaks" (old blues song) ("Levee") - I like this answer because I know this song only because of my sister, who for some reason used to sing (comically) the Led Zeppelin version of this song not infrequently. I think it was some inside joke with her friend Sarah. I remember being doped up from a pinched nerve in my neck, headed home from the beach in my sister's car, some time in the late 80's, and this song was on. I think the tape might actually have been stuck in the tape deck. It's ... not a soothing song.

19A: Ladies in men's rooms? (pin-ups) - I do love pin-up girls (the old-timey ones from the 40's and 50's). As I've said before, there is one hanging in my downstairs bathroom, a gift from my friend Shaun who Knows What I Like. PS this clue rules.

35A: It may have two sides (entree) - another superior clue. I got stuck here longer than anywhere else because of my ISIS for IRIS error (see above), which gave me ---SEE for this answer. Thought it might be French. Thought maybe there was some reverse SEESAW called a SAWSEE (that would have "two sides," wouldn't it?). Etc. I worked it out.

41A: One-horse town (Podunk) - is that capitalized? I always think of PODUNK as an adjective modifying "town," but this'll do. Got this off the "K," and it's such an odd-looking little word ... it immediately made me very happy. Seriously, if you say it over and over, or even just stare at it for a bit, you won't be able to keep from smiling. Can't say that I've seen PODUNK in the grid before. Superior fill.

23D: Film director Anderson (Wes) - directed "Rushmore," one of my very, very favorite movies.

31D: Upholstering tool (staple gun) - another fun entry. I like the way it sounds. I also like that it's in the same grid with STEEPLE (27D: Feature of the high church?) and GLUON (44A: Theoretical massless particle), which intersect, making a weird, somewhat L-shaped parody of STAPLE GUN. I did not know GLUON at all, though it sounds vaguely familiar now that I see it / say it. GLUON. GLUON. GLUON. I'm in love with the way words sound today. Why? Since I didn't know GLUON, let's SEGUE to ...

Other Stuff I Didn't Know

33A: City where the Caesar salad was invented, 1924 (Tijuana) - I like the added touch of providing the exact date. "Oh, 1924! Now I know." Had to get crosses, up to ---UANA, before I realized the answer.

26A: Assessment on out-of-state purchases (use tax) - don't think I have heard this phrase, though I do believe I have paid this. Is this anything like where you have to tell the IRS how much money you've spent on internet purchases so they can tax you properly? USE TAX seems a really lame term for this tax, which doesn't sound like it's about USING anything. Some CPA out there will explain.

2D: His statue (minus its head) can be found in Arlington's Freedom Park (Lenin) - wow, really? Arlington, VA? Seems pretty ... macabre, or something. These longish, informative clues (see also the Caesar salad clue, above) are more characteristic of NY Sun puzzles than they are of the Times. At least that's my immediate, unthought-through impression. I like such clues. Why not learn something from your puzzle (even if you are doomed to forget it shortly after you're done).

Lastly, I will confess to having to play the "run-through-the-alphabet" game with 39A: You don't sit still in them (rockers). The only word that wanted to be there was DOCKERS, and I honestly thought for a second about how I might justify DOCKERS as an answer. They're ... activewear. Maybe DOCKERS has a new slogan: DOCKERS, for men who don't sit still (men with tics ... or hyperactivity disorder). So I ran through the alphabet ("... LOCKERS? ...") until I got to "R" and got slapped with the obviousness of it all. Again, a minor hiccup in an otherwise smoooooth solving experience.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS David Quarfoot just called my attention to the fact that last night on "The Colbert Report," Stephen Colbert mentioned the NYT puzzle from this past Saturday, in which STEPHEN COLBERT appeared as 1- and 8-Across. View clip of that segment here (in the segment entitled "He's Singin' in Korean").


Anonymous 11:29 PM  

Easy way to remember goddess of the rainbow=IRIS:

The rainbow of which Iris is the goddess is the bridge between life and death, and Iris ushers souls across it. And from where does your soul depart your body (if you are an ancient Greek)? Through your eyes, of course. IRIS also=part of the eye, as you know.

Cool fact, if I do say so.

barrywep 12:43 AM  

You need to pay us tax on all those goodies you brought back to Confluence from Stamford and Mexico. There is a line for it on your NY state tax form.

Alex S. 1:16 AM  

Growing up in Vancouver, Washington, which is on the border with Oregon, I am well aware of use tax. Washington has sales tax and Oregon does not so it was pretty common to buy bigger ticket items in Oregon to save a bit.

Technically you are required to pay the appropriate sales tax to Washington anyway. Everybody knew of this, but nobody does it (except on cars since you have to report those). Since I know there is a line on the California income tax forms for use tax but Washington doesn't have income tax so there was never any place for you to officially fail to report it, you were just supposed to send a check to some government office.

U.S. chief justice, 1953-69, Earl WARREN was born in Bakersfield, California, but attended Berkeley and then became the Alameda County District Attorney before moving on to governor, almost getting the Republican party nomination for president, and then U.S. Chief Justice. Here's my photo of his home in Oakland, California, which was two blocks from my apartment.

Anyway, Earl Warren is the only chief justice for which I know any biographical information beyond the name and so I felt compelled to geek out.

The only long fill I really didn't like was FRESHENER for "Renuzit product" since the product is air freshener. I don't think freshener all by itself is a thing. "Honey, can you buy some freshener when you're at the store"?

Linda G 1:18 AM  

Barry, I got excited that Rex would have to pay us tax on what he bought in Mexico. Then I realized you meant USE tax. Oh well...

Wasn't this just delightful? I don't even care that it seemed easy. I just loved everything about it.

Anonymous 1:55 AM  

Ouch, I was so proud of myself for completing my first Friday puzzle after a month of adding Fridays to my otherwise daily puzzles. It felt great to complete it without giving up or googling and then I read your blog and every one is saying how easy it was.

I too thought of Dockers and couldn't shake it. The pants didn't make sense but somehow I thought deck-shoes, top-siders- were dockers as well and that seemed more apt. When I finally got rockers it was d'uh. I almost blew it with residents of Celtica, I was torn between Gauls and Gaels and wasn't sure of the racers name Unser (or enser). Went with Gauls.

Anonymous 7:37 AM  

Jack Haley, author of "Heart of the Tin Man" was the actor who played the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz.

Anonymous 8:23 AM  

I had "moats" for "gulfs", "fade" for "flee", "folk" for "funk",and "rep" for "cop". Also no idea that "freshener" could be a word by itself.
Slugged it out without help and filled in every square, so I guess not so bad after all!

Howard B 8:28 AM  

For what it's worth, this one didn't seem so easy to me; had a lot of mini-struggles (Hercu-wee-an?), much like Rex described with 'rockers', in quite a few places in the grid. ENTREES resisted every attempt at solving until it finally caved in at the end.

Rex, you don't want to know how many reads it took for me to see what was going on with PINUPS - best clue in the puzzle.

We get a double-Berry smoothie today, with this and the NY Sun. The Times was the slightly easier of the two for me - the Sun had a few nasty crossings which made it more of a Franken-Berry monster to me. Great stuff.

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

Podunk is a real place--or rather, several real places. See

The thing that I remember about the different taxation systems in Washington and Oregon is a reciprocal out-of-state camping fee. Oregon says, "If you come from a state that charges an out-of-state camping fee [read, Washington], why, two can play at that game! We'll charge you a tit-for-tat (reciprocal) out-of-state camping fee!"

I saw the clue to 47D and thought, "uh-oh."

Thought the racing family was UNSEL but wasn't sure (and didn't know what a SIL might be, so did the alphabet game and...oh, Dear SIR. OK, I guess that's probably not what the clue-writer meant (but, rather, how you address a general), but that's how it clicked into place for me.

13D I immediately thought of AIR FRESHENER, but didn't come up with just plain FRESHENER until the very end.

28A: Had FADE for a moment, but HDN seemed unlikely.

CHOPS was a surprise. Not exactly a high-brow clue for a low-brow response but something along those lines.

All in all, a pleasing puzzle.

Campesite 10:40 AM  

This was, to me, an excellent themeless puzzle. It had little 'crosswordese' and even common answers had cool cluing [big suit for CEO; poor support for ALMS]. Finally, one of my favorite sitcoms made it in: WKRP.
Rex, I'm waiting for Wes Anderson top Rushmore, though it may not be possible.

Norrin2 1:13 PM  

It wasn't easy for me, and after taking my time and checking it over I still missed a letter -- I had ROCKETS instead of ROCKERS (Well, you don't sit still in rockets, do you?) leaving me with FRESHENET, which I've never heard of, but there are lots of cleaning products I haven't heard of, so I let it slide.

Anonymous 1:45 PM  

Contrary to some, I found this extremely difficult and not much fun, but I'm never on Pat Berry's wavelength anyway. I would quarrel with a number of his definitions: CHOPS really isn't musical virtuosity, but built-up physical conditioning like embouchure for brass players. LEXICON isn't "field-specific vocabulary" -- that would be "argot" -- but a vocabulary, any vocabulary. "Feature of the high church" for STEEPLE seems to me to be over the line as a mislead ("feature of *a* high church" would have been OK). These and a few others, coupled with at least one new record for obscurity (city of origin for Caesar salad? Yikes), made this Not a Fun Friday.

Anonymous 1:57 PM  

Well I suppose I can share with you that I woke up in the middle of the night to continue slaving through this puzzle after having given up 6 or so words into it before bedtime. When I see how easy these things are for the people here I feel like quite the dunce. Man, Orange's book cannot come too soon for me.

SNERD was definitely my big-smile word of the day (after PODUNK). I was very pleased to glean that on my own.

Obviously some of solving is precisely what you know. I mean, I got UNSER right off the bat because I know something about open-wheel racing from life experience, and UTNE because I've read that publication over the years. But so much of solving seems less what you know than what you can infer, and I just lag behind in that area. I am inferentially challenged. I'm sure I'm better than the majority of the people in the world, but just majorly retarded compared to the rest of you.

Interesting factoid about Jack Haley from the Wizard of Oz ... I assumed he wasn't really an "author" per se and that his book had been ghostwritten like every other actor but according to one thing I read he spent a good part of the latter part of his life compiling info and writing commentaries on what it was like to be in Hollywood before the advent of radio and television.

Rex Parker 2:03 PM  

Not sure why FRESHENER was a no-brainer for me. I see the awkwardness of it. I had the FRE-, it occurred to me that "Renuzit" was an air FRESHENER, and voila.

"Renuzit Dooz It" is the worst product slogan Ever.

Agree with BlueStater on LEXICON, less so on CHOPS, and not at all on STEEPLE, which is just fine with me - the clue is question-marked after all.

I have to laugh when I see PH.D. clued as any kind of "prize." Imagine running seventeen marathons while somebody beats you with a wet noodle of self-hatred, and then when you crawl over the finish line someone throws a pathetic, frayed little blue ribbon in your general direction. THAT is what getting my PH.D. felt like. Thousands of un- and under-employed Humanities PH.D.'s around the country right now are saying "Amen, brother." If they read this blog, that is. My dad did buy me a lap-top, though, so that was cool. Thanks, dad.


Anonymous 2:10 PM  


Chops was a new one on me but I got it from the across clues anyway. I remembered somebody playing chops on the piano and thought that it therefore made some sense. However upon looking it up, "chops" is a slang term for musical virtuosity and in another definition any virtuosity in any field. As to lexicon if you prefix it with a specialty it becomes the lingo of the specialty (artist's-lexicon, physicist's-lexicon).

As to steeple, think of someone pointing to a specific church and asking: " what's the feature of the high (tall) church called"?

Anonymous 4:32 PM  


...fresh from an all-day recording session of Harbison Quartet #4, which requires plenty of CHOPS. On the viola, CHOPS refers to virtuosity. We do not have embouchure on the viola. (CHOPS if you play a brass instrument seems to refer to how tough your lip is.) CHOPS was the very first answer I filled in.

Rex, that is an all-too-apt description of the doctoral degree (for many). Sad but true.

I was delighted to actually finish the Friday puzzle on a Thursday, meaning that I completed it without laboring for half the day or more for a change.

Anonymous 4:39 PM  

p.s. Those Dockers Dudes in your blog photo look truly demented. Was that taken from an actual ad?

Anonymous 4:57 PM  

In Orange's absence, PODUNK was first used by BEQ in the Wash Post on 5/03/98, clued as "once a place near Hartford"???????????
Last used by Gail Grabowski, LAT 10/03/06. Also clued as "one horse town".


Anonymous 5:54 PM  

"dummying up" redux -- with a tip o' the hat to edgar bergen again, and (mortimer) snerd at 49d.

and -- correction: mentioned superb ventriloquist jay johnston yesterday, and that shoulda been jay johnson. oops...



Anonymous 6:39 PM  

I sure did like this puzzle...sure did! Great write up, as always Rex.

My first go through only had 18A Unser, 14D Sir, 24A PhD, 53D SUB and 53 across segue, plus bones 58A. (Things I know for sure)

I ended up starting serious solving in the NE and that fell pretty quickly allowing me to move to other areas.

Why I liked this puzzle. It made me laugh and learn....when I got "entree" whew! (I had Isis, too, at first, Rex).

Loved "classacts", "herculean", "enrouteto".

Had the "ti" in 33A and hunch told me must be Tijuana -- but sure didn't make sense....left that alone for awhile.

The only place I really messed up was for 13D had "freshenet" which made 39A "Rockets". I was thinking you can't sit still on a rocket due to I dunno gravity??

Anonymous 7:37 PM  

Soursop, contrary to its name, is very sweet, and rich(some call it the South Pacific ice cream). I had a sousop tree in my yard when I lived in the Solomon Islands - mmm, mmmm!

Anonymous 11:25 PM  

21D LEXICON was fine. This usage was familiar to me, but...see also
2 a : the vocabulary of a language, an individual speaker or group of speakers, or a subject

OK, it doesn't *have* to be field specific, but it can be.
The first thing I thought of was LINGO, but I liked the unexpectedness of LEXICON.

CHOPS is a common way to refer to ability, range, stamina...yeah, virtuosity I guess, though I don't think I would have thought to offer "virtuosity" as a synonym. I've heard reference to actors' CHOPS quite often...

Anonymous 7:56 PM  

I think Rex got it right on the difficulty. For me the East side was pretty easy while the West (especially NW) was medium to hard. I also had ISIS and in addition had DESISTS for RESISTS, USURP for UTURN, and SAMARITINS for CLASSACTS. These caused the West to go slowly. Living in San Diego made TIJUANA a gimme. I've been to the place where the salad was invented. Also knew Jack Haley played the tin man.

Rex -- I think I mentioned in a comment last week that Colbert talked about the DQ puzzle on his show. Of course last week for you was seven weeks ago and that show had't aired yet. Time travel can be interesting!

Anonymous 9:30 PM  

Re the Colbert show. I meant to add that in addtion to the show not being aired my comment hadn't written.

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

Six weeks and a day later. This puzzle has been sitting on the dining room table for the last 24 hours, and it's Ken Kesey's fault! (more later).

I enjoyed it tremendously, even though I had to resort to Google, and had one letter wrong at the end.

I skipped through the first 60% spread all over. Then I hit a brick wall. The skipping had left me with 5 red herrings, one of them a doozy.

6d, "Poor support"; DOLE for ALMS. 29a "Holds off" DESISTS for RESISTS. DOSEDO for DOSIDO, REP for COP, (like Rex).

The best (worst) happened thusly: I got PODUNK, and 34d "Heart of the Tin Man" jumped out at me. KEN KEASEY, of course!

After finally cleaning up everything else (CHOPS, a word I had never heard in this context, reminded me of Ultra Vi) I was left with a real mess in the east and south-east, until I decided to make sure that KEN KEASEY was actually the author of "Heart of the Tin Man" AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!

Like Norrin2, I had ROCKETS, which I intended to quibble about, assuming that FRESHENET was a brand name.

A very well constructed puzzle which entertained me for a whole day.

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