FRIDAY, May 4, 2007 - Manny Nosowsky

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Relative Difficulty: Medium High

THEME: none

This puzzle was maddening. I don't think it's ever taken me as long to ferret out an incorrect square as it did today - this is because the letter change affected the apparent pronunciation of the words in question Not At All. I changed and unchanged several squares before finally going back to square one and submitting every square to potential consideration. But actually I'm getting ahead of myself.

I had one square flat out wrong:

13D: August Wilhelm von _____, leader of German Romanticism (Schlegel)
22A: "Mârouf" baritone (Ali)

I had SCHNEGEL and ANI, thinking SCHNEGEL sounded like a plausible name and knowing that ANI is crosswordese for a kind of blackbird ... so maybe it's the name of some character in an opera? No and no. That's a brutal high-culture crossing that absolutely made my knees buckle. No chance. Had to Google (yes, *I* had to Google - it happens; rarely, but it does).

I also had to go back and change a square that I initially had wrong, but figured out on my own:

40A: Seine feeder (Aube)
42D: Early center of Christianity in Mesopotamia (Edessa)

Had AUBO and ODESSA - I'd guessed on the "O" in ODESSA and never checked the cross (sloppy).

So what was the square that did me in - that had me completely stumped and groping around desperately for minute upon minute? I'll let you guess (answer revealed at very end of today's entry). It's not that hard when you think about it.

For all of the frustration, I really enjoyed the puzzle. The long answers were very easy to uncover, and they were nice, familiar, everyday phrases. The best of these, in terms of cluing, was 8D: Where no one has any business going? (residential area), which I got off the first three letters. Took me far too long to get 21D: Ones who can handle adversity (tough cookies) because after getting -OUGH- I entered an initial "R" instead of "T" - this gave me SEMIRES for 20A: Many Middle Easterners (Semites), which I honestly, albeit briefly, thought was just a name for a people I'd never heard of (surely a large category). Other long fill included:

  • 7D: Remark introducer (let me just say...)
  • 31A: Ones not getting their deserved acclaim (unsung heroes)
  • 34A: Ancient (as old as the hills)
  • 37A: Treated fairly (did justice to)
I was brutalized by the NE corner, so let's go there. You've heard about the SCHLEGEL / ALI disaster. What you don't know is about the narrowly averted BRANCA / PROS disaster. See, I completely forgot the baseball name in question - 16A: Dodger who threw the pitch Bobby Thomson hit for the "shot heard 'round the world" (Branca) - and faced with B-ANCA, I didn't know whether "I" or "L" or "R" went in the open space. The down cross, 10D: Some arguments, was not helping. Back when all I had was --OS, I had written in ADOS. Then when I got the "P," I couldn't see how P-OS made any sense. How are arguments "Palestine Liberation Organizations"? How are they "Professionals"? Is "PIOS" a word I should know? The answer is of course simple - PROS, not in the sense of "professionals," but in the sense of "arguments in favor of something" (as opposed to CONS). Ugh.

Love the word OOMPHS (18A: Zips) in the grid, thought the plural makes me cringe a bit. Not sure why 26A: Tommy guns? has a "?" in it. I thought a STEN was a tommygun. Is it the space between "Tommy" and "guns" that makes a difference, somehow. Oh, here we go, Tommy Atkins (or just Tommy) was a common WWI-era name for a soldier in the British army. So British soldier's guns, STENS, got it.

Some awkwardNESS

54A: Maturity (ripeness)
57A: Creepy feeling (eeriness)

Two -NESS words right on top of each other, with the -NESSes matching up, and one other (bad) -NESS word in the grid - 14D: Indifference (easiness). Can't say that I like it. Further, I had problems with the non-lilting quality of the following combo:

52A: With 36-Down, "Very strange..." ("It is an / odd thing...")

I think that the non-contraction - IT IS - is throwing me, because the whole phrase is so colloquial that I have a hard time hearing it with IT IS. Too formal-sounding. I do like that this four-word phrase is broken into two two-word phrases, which then intersect one another.

Got burned by ERGOTS (58A: Grain fungi) many months ago, so I was ready for it this time. Love the splashiness of Sister SOULJAH (24D: Hip-hop's Sister _____) in the grid. My feelings toward REDOS (25A: Makeovers) and REPRO (45D: Magazine proof) are quite tepid - don't know the context in which one would use the former, and have never heard the latter used in relation to proof pages. Are the SOO canals (53D: _____ Canals) in your ears? Oh, no, they are actual canals - formally known as the Sault Sainte Marie Canals, they bypass the rapids on the St. Marys River between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Liked that JEU (29A: Roulette or vingt-et-un) was clued via gambling, especially because the clue is subtle - "Roulette" is the same in English and French; only "vingt-et-un" gives away the Frenchness of the answer. I like ADELAIDE (34D: City of 1.1 million named for the wife of King William IV) because it's Australian, and thus Antipodean, and thus if I squint at it really hard, it reminds me of my Kiwi wife (who lived for a time in Australia, though not ADELAIDE, as far as I remember). Took me a few beats to understand 1A: You can always identify a Republican by one (capital "R"), until I realized that this is how elected Republicans are signified in the media, e.g. "Orrin Hatch (R-UT)."

Let's end with a pop cultural quartet.

Nicky KATT (48D: Nicky of "Boston Public") will always be [Nicky of "Dazed and Confused"] to me. "I only came here to do two things tonight: kick some ass and drink some beer ... looks like we're almost out of beer." God that movie's great.

Zubin MEHTA (30D: Boulez's New York Philharmonic successor) is a very famous conductor whose first name beats his last for crossword-worthiness. For a while in the late 90's, for no reason that I can recall, I would often call my cat "Zubin." It just sounded good. His real name is Wiley (named, in fact, for the actor who plays the lead role in ... "Dazed and Confused").

I own a first edition, dust-jacketed copy of "END AS a Man" (38A: "_____ a Man" (Calder Willingham novel and play)) that is worth hundreds of dollars. I got it for a buck at a university book sale. It's an exposé of life at a southern military college, and its man-on-man action got it in a bit of hot water back in the day (late 40's).

Counselor TROI (27A: Enterprise counselor) - oh how I wish you knew how to spell your own name. Then maybe I wouldn't have lost precious minutes of my life hunting down your stupid "I" when a "Y" would have done just fine. OK, I should have known that 28D: Pakistan's chief river was INDUS, not YNDUS, but ... well, you know rivers. They're spelled every which way ... I mean, look at AUBE, for god's sake.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS I would like to thank Ken Jennings for linking to me in a recent post he wrote about the portrayal of Mormons in the mass media (his Mormonism was the subject of a crossword clue this past Sunday). I want to point out, though, that apparently some of his own readers don't read his blog very closely. Jennings wrote a most excellent entry a while back excoriating people who use trivia to act like smug know-it-alls ... and yet THIS is the message (verbatim, bold text and all) I found in my inbox this afternoon from a proud Jennings reader (responding to my admitted ignorance about the poet Alfred NOYES):
You never read "The Highwayman"?
Shame on you!
It was written by Alfred Noyes

Blame Ken Jennings for all the leters like this you get. He linked yo your blog.
To which I replied:
Do you mean letters wherein people misspell basic words like "letters" and "to?" Yes, I'll be sure to write Ken and thank him.


Anonymous 2:49 AM  

As I am new at the Friday puzzle, I finally gave up and checked out your blog hoping you posted at night, as you have been doing this week. I teach at night so I'm up pretty late.

I thought I was just not getting it but when Your Highness, Rex says it's difficult and even he had to Google, I felt much better. I was missing about 15 letters and didn't want to Google. Had I known you had resorted to Googling, I would have as well. Wellyou don't have Rex's blog to check out. You poor thing, it's great.

Schlegel and pro and Brager were my weaknesses.

As to Redo for makeover, think redecorate: I'm redoing my office or my office needs a makeover. Repro is a new one on me. Is it short for reproof?

Thanks for the early blog.

Anonymous 6:00 AM  

Interesting how different sectors will stump different puzzlers. I got lucky on Schlegel (though I first tried Schiller, which fits but really screws you up), and the NE fell, but the SW stumped me. Tried to fit "Annapolis" where "Adelaide" went because I just couldn't see the first word before "justice to"; had "spores" for "ergots"--what a mess. Had no clue about "Nicky Katt," but I'm as old as the hills. ("Repro" is short for "reproduction," no?)

Rex Parker 7:00 AM  

Oh I understand REDO as a verb, but not as a noun. Or, rather, I understand that it is a noun, I just don't hear it used that way (much, if ever).

And I know that REPRO is short for "reproduction" - just never heard it used in the sense in which it's clued.


Anonymous 7:27 AM  

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." ~Hamlet; Act 5, Scene 1

Anonymous 8:12 AM  

Just a gentle reminder for all of us kneeling at the feet of King Rex; "Your Highness" is reserved for the offspring of Rex, and we are allowed to address Him as "His Majesty."

Anonymous 8:20 AM  

False ______

Orange 8:39 AM  

I dug around and found this definition of repro proof: "camera-ready proof intended for photographic reproduction on a printing plate." I never worked on the production side in publishing, but that sounds about right to me. Production departments are fond of their technical shorthand, that's for sure.

Anonymous 9:17 AM  

ANN Curry/Today Show + ANN Rice/vampire novelist = massive downfall in the NW corner

Not to mention Shiites for SEMITES, Persia for EDESSA, eloi for TROI (what do I know?). The long fill was pretty gettable though, which was a good feeling.

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

The puzzle? Too easy for a Friday, imoo. Correctly guessed on aLi and got most of the long entries with only a letter or two.

Amy got it right on repro proofs.

Back in the early '70s, I worked in the public affairs office of a government agency where we wrote those typically impossible-to-understand pamphlets which are found in the lobbies of most government offices. We'd send our manuscripts to the Government Printing Office in DC (a truly remarkable facility, btw) and we'd get back a set of galley proofs. These were on a rag-like, brown (cheap) paper. We'd mark these up in red pencil, making corrections/additions/deletions and send them back to the GPO. Then, we'd get back a set of reproduction proofs (repros) on slick white paper. We'd edit these in blue pencil. Then several weeks later we'd trek to the GPO and do a final proof-read on the initial press run. And, then we'd hope that no one would find any errors after 30 million copies were printed.

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

Also check
Etymology: short for reproduction
Date: 1946

Was troubled by the LR at the end of 1A and...not only did I google INDUS, SCHLEGEL and even ADELAIDE (wanted to get done quickly and get to work!), I finally peeked at the solution, trying to check simply whether LR was right. Unfortunately (I guess), I saw the whole CAPITAL R. Grrr. This may be the one that tilts the scale so that next time, I don't get stuck on "L R...there's no word that ends in L-R..."
AUBE and AUDE are both rivers in France. And both have départements named after them. A départements is a territorial administrative division, larger than a county, smaller than a state or province. In fact, the size was originally determined so as to be traversable in one day, on horseback, or so I've been told. The AUDE river is a popular destination for KAYAKERS. :)
My breakthrough moment on this puzzle: getting AS OLD AS THE HILLS from _S...D...LL_.
I thought of PROMISEE fairly early on, but somehow wanted it to have two Ss. Don't ask me why. Actually, I know why. In French, an S between two vowels would be pronounced z. But this is English! :] Also, briefly attempted DONENESS for "maturity."

Orange 10:23 AM  

Wendy, the vampire writer is a little rounded physically, isn't she? She plumps up her first name with a nice round "e"—Anne Rice.

I need to edit my own post to mention Schlegel, who was a mystery to me.

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

This one was really tough. I too originally had ANN instead of TIM and SCHNEGEL (isn't there an artist by that name?) and I stared forever at the long ones before they came to me. In my 1st job in advertising as assistant print production manager many years ago (only a few years after Thompson's home run), the term repro was used all the time.

Linda G 11:26 AM  

I admitted elsewhere that I had to Google to get a couple of obscure answers. IT IS AN ODD THING that the longer answers were easier to get.

Even though I had CAPITAL R, I didn't quite get it until I read this, Rex. It takes a village of bloggers to explain a puzzle.

Alex S. 2:29 PM  

Just a test, I tried to post a comment this morning from home and it wouldn't let me.

For some commenting value, I too wanted the Ann Curry/Rice but was quickly saved by a nearby Anne Rice book reminding me of the correct spelling.

Anonymous 4:38 PM  


Anonymous 4:43 PM  

Spelling - that's important. Complete sentences, less so. Tell your critic THAT.

I have to admit that I liked Manny Ramirez a lot better than I liked Manny Nosowsky this morning. The puzzle combined with my slight hangover (don't ask) nearly killed me this morning.


Anonymous 6:48 PM  

Edessa is weird...and I wasn't too keen on the bunking ESS suffixes either.

Still, a remarkable puzzle that is a real feat of construction (like most Nosowky's...).


Pen Girl

Helen Ellis 10:17 AM  

Just discovered your blog while googling Aubo! I try not to look things up because if I keep going back to the puzzle during the day, the answer usually emerges. But there are always those things like Aubo and Edessa which will never emerge for me, so it was nice to discover your blog. This puzzle was a weird one, because the long answers were pretty easy but those other spots were so impossible. You are my idol if you not only have time to linger over the puzzle but have time to write about it too! Thanks for the help.

Unknown 1:03 PM  


Long time reader. First comment.

I try to avoid your blog so I can solve as much of the puzzle as I can by myself. I do this from the delayed print version, so one problem I have is that your blog and the posted comments are so entertaining that I read ahead a few days... Makes for some disorientation when I know an answer I shouldn't, but there it is.

Only got CPAS, the pros which are oppose(d) to oboes played by counselor Troi sprayed with PAM.

MY spelling for kayakers is kyackers, so if ever I make a puzzle (yeah, right) be warned.

Anonymous 9:07 PM  

Pretty much had all the problems that Rex had except I got NE pretty quickly. In NW, like Wendy, I had ANN for TIM until I figured out CAPITALR. NW went quickly after that. The obscure crossings of AUBE/EDESSA (never heard of either) led me to guess AUBO (I've heard of odessa but not edessa). Also, I doubted the correctness of the double NESS in SE. SW was the hardest for me. I had to get ADELAIDE and END AS from crosses and guessing. All in all, a hard puzzle for me.

If anyone is interested, there is a brilliant (IMHO) account of the "shot heard 'round the world" in the first chapter of Don DeLillo's amazing novel Underworld. I believe it was reprinted somewhere as a short story. Much of Underworld revolves around what happened to Thomson's homerun ball.

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