FRIDAY, May 18, 2007 - David Quarfoot

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none
I struggled with this puzzle more than I've ever struggled with any David Quarfoot puzzle. I fumbled around the top of the grid, with only CSI: MIAMI (17A: Hit show with a colon in its name) falling readily into place. I eventually hacked my way through the NW, groaning when I finally got ANTIETAM (15A: Bloody battleground for Lee) (my brain couldn't let go of APPOMATTOX for some reason) and cheering (non-audibly) when I finally figured out that the "V" in the answer for 1A: Controversial court call? was not part of a bigger word but a stand-alone element in the very hot answer ROE V. WADE.

My ultimate downfall was the following crossing:

  • 21D: Midwestern tribe (Iowas)
  • 29A: Suburb of Melbourne (Kew)

That "W" - well, now it seems so obvious. IOWA = "midwestern," duh. But I'm telling you "W" wasn't even on my radar. The only thing I could think of was "N" - the IONAS? IOTAS? No, that has to be wrong (true). So I had to play the alphabet game, and with "W" being near the very end of the alphabet, it took me a while to figure it all out. I'm not fast on the uptake every day.

This grid is chock full o' answers with unusual letter combinations, from the mid-answer -VW- in the aforementioned ROE V. WADE, to the openings of CSI: MIAMI and CC RIDER (13D: Classic R&B song with the repeated lyric "See what you have done") and T-MOBILE (39D: Sprint competitor) and R-RATING (20A: What a slasher usually gets) and AOL'ER (30A: Many a surfer). Brand names like SNO-CAT (42A: Treaded transport) and ETCH-A-SKETCH (36D: With 9-Across, its images aren't hard to shake off) also really liven up the grid.

One thing I think Quarfoot does pretty well is feature answers that go well together or echo one another in some fashion. The "court" clue for ROE V. WADE (in the NW) is echoed by another "court" clue in the SW, 40D: Court embarrassment (air ball). Jazz greats STAN GETZ (38A: Musician known as "the Sound") and DIANNE Reeves (58A: Jazz singer Reeves) are hanging out together in the SW. The full stack of colloquialisms in the SE reads like one side of a phone conversation:

AFRAID SO ... (60A: "Yes, alas")
WANNA BET ... (63A: Offer that may be answered by "How much?")
IT'S A MESS ... (65A: "The situation looks bad")

Even E-TICKET (3D: Airport printout), EMITTED (8D: Put out), and EMOTE (49A: Cry too readily, perhaps) have a loose but lilting sonorous association. The KING (10D: Hopper around a board) pairing, however, is the True Cross formed at the bottom of the grid by...

41D: Noted terrorist killed in June 2006 (Zarqawi) and
55: Setting of the FX series "Over There" (Iraq war)

Now, strangely enough, this is not the first time ZARQAWI's been in a puzzle (I'm pretty sure I saw AL ZARQAWI in a Sun puzzle in late 2006 - aha, in fact, it was in another Quarfoot puzzle!!!). But that time, ZARQAWI was a gaudy, Scrabbly, 1A answer, where here he has been transformed into one part of a really elegant dyad. Congratulations, DQ, on turning a terrorist into a thing of beauty. Why do you hate America?

In addition to KEW, there were two other answers I didn't know: 56D: Frog genus that's Spanish for "frog" (rana) and 9D: Emmy-nominated "Hill Street Blues" actor (Spano). "HSB" was just before my time (I was a teenager, 10pm was my bedtime), so I can't even picture this SPANO guy. Let me find a picture, hang on .... here's one.

OK, he's vaguely familiar. I know a lot of "non-PC" language, and I was not aware that the suffix -ENNE counted (35A: Non-P.C. suffix). In related crossword fill (see, I told you DQ's answers paired nicely), to counter the apparently sexist ENNE, there's the feministish 31A: First woman to appear on the front of a Wheaties box (Retton). Mary-Lou's face is sooooo much more recognizable than her written-out last name, which even now seems like a combination of letters I've never seen before. Never read SULA (53A: 1973 novel title character surnamed Peace), but you hang around English departments long enough, some stuff just sticks.

Thanks to DQ for another good puzzle - good enough that I forgive him for indulging in some crosswordese (NNE, ETC, EEK, EBB, IN RE) and for dipping once again into the (poisoned!) "playground retort" well - 25A: Childish retort ("Is too!"). I keep wondering when we will be able to seal this well up. Apparently, not yet.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Oh, a major P.S. - there's an article in today's N.Y. Sun on crossword blogs. I am in it. In fact, I gave a lengthy interview for it. It is not the most comfortable experience, seeing your words come back to life in partial, recontextualized form, but I guess that's probably a normal interviewee sensation. There's at least one flat-out inaccuracy in the article - clearly I don't write about every clue every day (or any day, for that matter). There's also some infelicitous phrasing and at least one misspelling ("nomE de crossword"!?). Further, I'm not sure "Diary of a Crossword Fiend" got as much space, or as accurate a characterization, as it deserves. Still, any media attention is at least a little flattering.


Anonymous 8:22 AM  

Three answers was all I could manage unaided on this - CSI:MIAMI, DIANNE Reeves and IRAQ WAR. The rest was just brutal and surprisingly, because I usually like DQ, not all that enjoyable today. I've come to realize that I do not relish all of the colloquial expressions much, especially when there's such a batch of them in one puzzle. They're so arbitrary.

A lot of the answers were difficult to infer correctly (they could have been so many different things) even after I got going. I was royally pissed off that I couldn't get CCRIDER even though strains of something were playing in the back of my mind. Guess I'm having a blah day.

Exciting about the Sun article. Rex, your interviewee sensations are very normal. As someone who trains people to handle media interviews, I can tell you that one of the hardest aspects for anyone to master is succinctness, along with the ability to imagine how any one utterance will get used, ultimately. That makes the the "partial, recontextualized" end result very unnerving to some (I'm not saying this was *your* reaction). Anyway, I liked the thought about the silent experience a lot. It's really quite a transformative phenomenon.

One of your everyday schmoes ;) and proud of it!

Howard B 9:06 AM  

Nice article, by the way (literally, I mean, not 'une' or some other French word).

Your 'nome de crossword', of course, is the name you use when checking into an Alaskan motel to get away from the stress of blog maintenance. (Or just call it your 'nome de plum', and balance out that vowel karma a bit).

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

I found this one to be pretty tough. After 15 minutes, I only had a few endings: an '-er' here and an 's' there sorta thing.

My first "big" guess was Verizon at 39D, which, of course slowed things up in the southwest.

I eventually finished it in about 40 minutes with no outside help. I'd call this one difficult.

I'd also call this my favorite kind of puzzle. When you look back at the fill, everything makes sense, nothing too esoteric. The difficulty comes from the clues, of course. I like a puzzle that makes me work.

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

Wow, you sound like such an English professor in that article.

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

posted this on orange's blog but, um, intended to post it here, picking up on something wendy said...

re: "cc rider" -- "see what you have done" seems a little edited to me. always thought it was "see what you done done"!

the new part: (although "lid" cleared it up nicely enuf) never remember whether it's "rider" or "ryder." [this is *not* a song about winona, jane!]

"nome de plum" -- poifect!!



Anonymous 9:40 AM  

Joe Spano is currently on the CBS Drama N.C.I.S. as an FBI agent Tobias Fornell on loan to the Dept. Of Home Land Security.

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

Nice NY Sun article. Is it really true any more that "[m]ost of the New York Times solvers are over 50"?

I didn't question the non-p.c.-ness of ENNE, but perhaps -ienne is a better answer to that clue.

JC66 10:57 AM  

DQ does it again. Difficult, but rewarding.

Rex, Thanks for posting the Sun article. Very interesting & now I know your name & where you live (-:

barrywep 11:19 AM  

Interesting article in the Sun. I wonder if Amy being away prevented them from speaking to her. I agree that as the pioneer of cruciverbloggers she desrved more attention.

I thought Peter sounded more open to criticism than Will. Of course, you have been rough on some of his puzzles lately. Remember, he now knows where you live.

Anonymous 11:46 AM  

I'm questioning Retton as the "first woman to appear on a Wheaties box". According to Wikipedia and several other sources it was the aviator Elinor Smith in 1934. MLR was the first woman ATHLETE, but that wasn't the question.

Rex Parker 11:57 AM  

Acc. to Wheaties' own website:

Smith is the first woman to appear on the BACK of the box - RETTON, the first on the front.


Anonymous 12:21 PM  

Great article on crossword blogs in the Sun today, despite a few inaccuracies here and there.

Regarding the "quote" of mine in the last line ... I never said that most New York Times solvers are over 50, because that's not true. My point was that, while I find the blogs interesting and useful, I don't think they're the final word on the puzzles, because bloggers (and the people who post comments on the blogs) are not representative of solvers as a whole. The bloggers tend to be somewhat younger and more expert than average solvers. So all the commentary has to be considered in that context.

--Will Shortz

Anonymous 12:26 PM  

Apologies for my misreading of the Mary Lou Retton clue. I must be really tired today. However, I did learn a lot about women on Wheaties boxes, including the following:

1934 - First woman depicted on a Wheaties box - Aviator Elinor Smith
1935 - First woman athlete depicted on a Wheaties box - Golfer and athlete Babe Didrikson
1984 - First woman athlete depicted on the front of a Wheaties box - Gymnast Mary Lou Retton

It took 50 years after the first appearance to make it to the front!

barrywep 1:14 PM  

Given that both Will and Rex essentially say they were misquoted, it seems clear that the Sun's journalistic standards are not up to their crossword standards.

Anonymous 5:42 PM  

Amy had all the space she deserves.

Campesite 6:53 PM  

I am happy to be in the blogging demographic, yet not at all surprised the Sun got quotes wrong.
I had an enjoyable slog completing this puzzle on a plane from NY today as I was forced to return to it several times. I love the catchphrases and pop culture references of Mr. Quarfoot's puzzles.

Linda G 7:22 PM  

I can't believe this was only medium difficulty for you, Rex. I'm in awe.

Well, I've been in awe for some time, but I'm in even more awe.

How's that for grammar an English professor would love ; )

Anonymous 7:26 PM  

I always enjoy DQ puzzles -- and I love it when he posts here and calls Rex "Rexy" :) Love that!

First problem had "pacecars" for 1D instead of "racecars" yep, that messed things up. Then when I got 5D "wier" figured out "Roevwade"
the rest of the NW fell into place.

Biggest mistake? Could not remember name of "Zarkowi." Started out with "Fraid so" for 60A but then changed it to "I fear so" -- TOTALLY missing the fact that I had the "d" in 43D "could be" which made "fraid so" the only option. Shoot! Just wasn't paying attention.

Loved the article -- even if a bit misquoted.

Rex, when are you posting about Am Idol on your other blog?

DONALD 8:26 PM  

I never said what The Sun said I said -- but that showbiz!

Anonymous 9:57 PM  

"The good part of criticism about puzzles is not saying whether they're good or bad, but the way it creates talk around something that had been a silent experience."
Rex, I don't know is that quote from the Sun article misquoted you or not, but IMOO it is worthy.


Anonymous 10:03 PM  

A typo!
Of course I meant to write "if" not "is".
Shame on me for not proofing before publishing.

Signed, Jo
PS: This hasn't been proofed either so there.

Anonymous 11:01 PM  

Great, tricky puzzle today and terrific article in the Sun.

(Just remember that being misquoted is part of being interviewed. That always seems to happen.)

Congrats, Rex!

Anonymous 2:34 PM  

The article did not even get the title of your site correct, using Rex Parker Does the New York Times Crossword, spelling out New York Times and omitting Puzzle.

Rex Parker 2:36 PM  

You are not wrong, sir. And yet I'm still going to pretend like I was the subject of a real profile in a real newspaper.


Anonymous 3:40 AM  

Made an entire pass thru the puzzle only getting DIANNE (Reeves) before slowly working thru NW corner, figuring out RACECAR and ANTIETAM on second pass.

I wound up giving up with an entirely blank SE corner and sparse fillings-in on NE and SW corners. sigh.

Overall, I found it extremely demanding. I'm a newbie though.

Anonymous 3:54 PM  

Oh, this is SOOOOO late, but I can't pass up the opportunity to give DQ his due.

I highlighted 13 Super-Hot Entries in this grid, but that number belies the fact that four of them are stacked in the SE (well, three are stacked and the fourth is somewhat shifted), and two more cross at least three of THEM!

I can only stand in awe of someone who can jam ZARQAWI, IRAQ WAR, AFRAID SO, WANNA BET, IT'S A MESS, and COULD BE into a corner of the grid and make it look effortless.

Add to that ROE V WADE, R RATING, CSI: MIAMI and E-TICKET in the northwest, and you've got...well, you've got another fantastic DQ grid.


Anonymous 2:08 PM  

Spano ususally wore a bow tie on that show, so the picture's not representative.

The -ENNE suffix is most well-known, I think, for "comedienne".

Anonymous 4:40 PM  

Maybe difficulty is a product of mindset. Yesterday I checked to see Rex's rating for this puzzle and I thought he rated it easy. (Probably looked at the wrong puzzle.) When I started it this morning I got ROEVWADE instantly which took care of NW in about 5 minutes. ENNE was a gimme which gave me ETCH A SKETCH which gave me NE (SPANO was a gimme as I was a HSB fan). I was slowed down a little in SE but got ATLASES and TEAPOTS right away. The Z in ZARQAWI gave me STAN GETZ which gave me SW. All in all a fine puzzle, but not that hard for me. The last DQ puzzle was also pretty easy for me. Perhaps we think alike? My only issue was the CCRIDER lyrics which I remember as "done done" not "have done."

Anonymous 6:31 PM  

It's Tuesday and I just finished this (Friday's) puzzle.

I found it to be another of DQ's enjoyable slogs.

It is good to see him getting the admiration of his peers, and a feather in "Rexy's" cap that Mr. Nothnagle chose this venue to award his praise.

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