MONDAY, May 28, 2007 - John Underwood

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: TWENTY QUESTIONS (55A: Game suggested by the first words of 17-, 25- and 42-Across)

Despite the fact that I have summer "off" (as in, no teaching duties) - or, rather, because I have summer "off" - I have to dedicate significantly more of my time to writing beginning Tuesday morning, and so this blog, while it will continue, will be somewhat shorter on a daily basis than it has been historically. More concise and efficient, I hope. Less long-winded and self-indulgent. Streamlined. Downsized. So that I can survive in the New Economic blah blah blah. The bottom line is that I have to concentrate on writing that will either bring me immediate $$$ (that starts Tuesday, for sure) or get me published outside the blogosphere (thus bringing me imagined future $$$). While I have enjoyed my time as a crossword blogging altruist, I am, at the end of the day, living in the Material World ("and I am a Material Girl"). I'm not quitting, just scaling back, so my legions of fans needn't panic just yet, wink.

Today's puzzle was Another Pleasant Valley Monday, with a cute little theme and mostly easy fill. The theme answers are as follows:

  • 17A: Sex appeal (animal magnetism)
  • 25A: Where to grow carrots and spinach (vegetable garden)
  • 42A: Places to find some gems (mineral deposits)
The Featured Five (a new daily section of blog designed to keep me on a clue count)

43D: Rapper a k a Slim Shady (Eminem)

First of all, "a space k space a" looks all kinds of wrong. Put periods after each letter or squish 'em all together, but for god's sake don't leave them floating there like that. The "k" looks particularly unnatural. I enjoy EMINEM despite the fact that his lyrics have occasionally been deeply disturbing (killing one's girlfriend, etc.). He's mainly a clown, and a very effective one at that. He's a sensational rapper and his lyrics are often way more thoughtful than he's given credit for. Also, he was quite good in "EIGHT (34A: Two cubed) Mile," directed by Curtis Hanson of "L.A. Confidential" and "Wonder Boys" fame.

50A: With 52-Across, Thomas Gainsborough portrait, with "The" ("Blue / Boy")

First, I like art in my puzzles. Second, I like the way this two parter is executed - in consecutive Across clues, so that you can actually see the connection in the grid (unlike, say, 30D: With 18-Down, Tibetan V.I.P. (Dalai / Lama), where the parts are far from one another and the second part is actually higher up in the grid than the first ... which is not illegal or wrong, just not as elegant or tidy as BLUE followed immediately by BOY).

40A: "Don't let these guys escape!" ("Get 'em!")

Great bit of colloquialism. Love it. You know what I'd really love to see in the grid: DIG 'EM. He's the spokesfrog for what are now called "Honey Smacks" - growing up, I knew them as "Sugar Smacks." Here is a priceless bit of information about the cereal's name change. Thanks to whatever genius wrote this copy for Wikipedia:
In the early 1990s, it had been discovered that the current mascot, Dig 'Em Frog, was just calling the cereal "Smacks", so the word "Honey" was dropped from the name, and the product was then simply called Smacks. In 2004, the cereal was given back the name Honey Smacks, which is now its current name. It is known in Mexico as SMAK. In Europe, they have always been known as Smacks.

Best part of that quotation: "it had been discovered?" What, by anthropologists?! "While pursuing my degree in Cereal Studies at Reed College, I discovered..."

4D: Soccer _____ (Mom)

Wow. This is great. I can't believe I haven't seen MOM clued this way before. It's so perfectly post-Clinton. Will we ever see 2004's "Security DAD," or "NASCAR DAD," or whatever the hell they were calling the conservative white male minority that has controlled the world time immemorial? I think I'd prefer ["Major _____"] or even ["Ghost _____"] to [Security _____].

41D: _____ Stone (hieroglyphic key)

First, why does this answer get a parenthetical explanation, where [Soccer _____] does not? Seriously, I wanna know. Second, ROSETTA Stone is also the name of language acquisition software that I somehow have to get my hands on without paying any money (it's expensive). I really want to learn another language - or I could just brush up my Very Rusty French.


Speaking of French, what does "On the qui vive" mean??? I weirdly knew the answer to 56D: On the _____ vive, but I don't know where or why I've heard that expression. I could look it up now, but no time. Words I didn't know very well in this puzzle included DAVIT (37A: Anchor hoister) - which I've seen recently in a puzzle and still couldn't dredge up without many crosses - and 46A: D-Day craft: Abbr. (LST) - which I know has appeared in crosswords many times before, but I still can't ever remember it. I have enough WWII-related short answers to keep in my head as it is (LST stands for "Landing Ship, Tank" by the way).

Final Thoughts and Questions:

Are DEMS really 13D: Clinton followers, for short? You do know he's not president anymore, right? I mean, we all wish that weren't so - that he could have been like FDR before the Constitutional amendment and gone on and on, but he's gone. And he's not coming back. And if you are thinking that anyone's following Hillary anywhere, you are Dreaming. And as for SUNLIGHT, I thought it stimulated your body to produce Vitamin D - I didn't know it was considered a 9D: Source of vitamin D. Maybe that's what "source" means and I'm splitting hairs. Lastly, enough with bridge-related clues already. I have seen GOREN (27D: Charles who wrote "Winning Bridge Made Easy") twice now, both times on Mondays. That's enough. The next time you wanna clue GOREN ... well, first change it to GORAN, and then try [Netman Ivanisevic].

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 11:58 PM  


I will miss your lengthy blog but will settle for a shorter one, if I must.

On the Qui Vive is on alert. I thought it was like on the qt and gossip related. It seems that it is not. Supposedly spoken by sentinels to discern if the approaching person was on their side. Qui Vive? Who do you want to live (as i long live the king- vive le roi).

Linda G 11:59 PM  

So glad you included Blue Boy. Was pretty sure you would.

Hope the writing brings in lots of $$$ at some point. Does that mean that your loyal fans haven't been sending you enough?

Anonymous 11:59 PM  

Go, get 'em, Rex!

your fan,

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

Dr. Rex,

You are gifted in so many ways. Your service to aspiring but struggling solvers of the NYT puzzles will not go unrewarded if there is any justice at all in the world. The constructors and editor(s) and experienced solvers who comment on your blog deserve rewards also. On behalf of all the puzzling schmoes, thank you all.

Go forth, Oh Mighty Rex, and conquer the world (or at least make some $$$).

Signed, Faithful Fan

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

Well, I did panic last night when I read that you were scaling back; it all sounded so ominous to me despite the effort you went to to make it clear that you weren't actually going anywhere.

This is such a daily oasis for me, and clearly many others, so of course we want to see it go on forever. But discipline and concentration on other matters is also important - something I would do well to remember myself.
That said, there's a woman named Julie Powell whose detailed and blogged escapades of preparing every recipe in one of Julia Child's cookbooks led to a book deal - "Julie and Julia" - which then led to her writing food columns for the Times Sunday magazine. Yes it did!

Back to the puzzle, I didn't spit but I did snort really loud when I read your note about "Cereal Studies" ... I also misinterpreted "go over, as lines" to refer to lines in a play so I had Trade instead of TRACE despite knowing that Onde did not mean "back then."

Otherwise a nice puzzle and less overtly easy than most Mondays. Sometimes I think Mondays are too easy. Also - enough with the OLE. On the average, we must see this every other day!

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

I'm with you on SUNLIGHT as "source". This type of sloppy scientific cluing always bugs me a little, but not too much, since the puzz is just for fun.

A whole nuclear family could show up in the crossword -- NASCAR ____, SOCCER ____, KARATE_____, and DIGGITY ____.

Best of luck with your new focus on writing! And THANKS for all you do!

barrywep 10:41 AM  

Is this a tenure push? It's terrible when life gets in the way of art.

JC66 11:37 AM  


Best of luck with your new writing endeavor.
Based on what I've seen of you postings on this blog over the past few months, I have no doubt you'll be successful.

ScottK 11:40 AM  

I'll continue to be grateful for my daily Rex Fix, no matter how truncated.

But why not let the blog work for you? Write a breezy, rexesque bit for every word in the Pantheon, and publish it as the indespensible guide for solving the NYT crossword puzzle. I don't think Shortz has yet saturated the market for this sort of thing, though he's trying (editing Sudoku puzzles? Puh-leez).

Anonymous 1:17 PM  

Oh a Pantheon book would be, to use a word that should be in some other pantheon of trite and overused words, AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rex Parker 1:20 PM  

Amy's (aka Orange's) forthcoming book will discuss all (or most of) the Pantheonic words you need to know to solve the crossword. It also covers a hell of a lot of other stuff. Look for it ... when? July? Sometime soon, anyway.


Anonymous 2:20 PM  

Hmm...I guess I'm not the only one in need of a local branch of Rexaholics Anonymous.

I, for one, have been reading Rex's blog every day since I first chanced upon it.

Linda G 3:10 PM  

As have I. And I must admit I also check back several times a day to read comments. We're definitely addicted.

Anyway, Rex won't be gone. He'll just be more concise. I'm willing to bet that some puzzles will be cause for a lengthier commentary.

Anonymous 5:34 PM  

with all due respect, i have to quibble with your quibble of the clue for DEMS. it's not a perfect clue, but if democrats aren't followers of hillary clinton, then who is? not republicans. last poll i saw, she had a slight lead on obama. i don't think he'll get elected because 1) he doesn't have enough experience. but more significantly 2) in the end, not enough white folks can bring themselves to voting for a black prez regardless of his qualifications. cheers. -- nunyo.

Anonymous 6:09 PM  

P.S. I'm a newbie to the site. had been curious the odds of someone so masterful (masterly?) on crosswords being a writer. good luck. -- nunyo.

Anonymous 9:52 PM  


Wordsmith's specialize in wordplay.

Anonymous 10:23 PM  

vive le roi! and here's to a most productive summer for you --



Howard B 12:43 PM  

Best of luck with your endeavors, and thanks for keeping up the blogging. I'd give you an 'Olé', but I think you've seen your share of that. It's always good to know that one's work and efforts are appreciated.

Anonymous 12:05 PM  


re. The Blue Boy: a couple things seemed odd. Seeing "blue" and "boy" written out reminded me that they're two words, not the two-syllable word they'd become in my mind. It felt odd, like when the Cillian Murphy character in "Batman Begins" said "the" rather than "Batman".

Also, upon further inspection, he ain't blue! it's his clothes.

Rex, that is some gerat smack you wrote regarding "it had been discovered".

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