SATURDAY, May 12, 2007 - Rich Norris

Friday, May 11, 2007

Relative difficulty: Hard

THEME: none

Anatomy of a Solution

I blew through the first part of this puzzle, polishing off the NW so quickly that I thought I might be looking at a record Saturday time. Noooooo such luck. After GLUESTICK (1A: Modern arts-and-crafts tool) came to me immediately and the rest of the NW fell quickly, I found myself seriously slowed down. Managed to hack my way down to the middle, miraculously getting OPERA GLASSES (39A: Play things) off of just the double-S. And then I hit my first of what would be three total stalls. Had the AND in 31A: Evasive tactic (song and dance) and could come up with only DUCK AND COVER. Finally I noticed a gimme, ART DECO (40D: Like Manhattan's Chrysler Building), which, along with GALAS (33D: Showy events), allowed me to get POST-IT (48A: Brief attachment to a report, maybe), which allowed me the brilliant guess of PATSY (48D: One easily pushed over) off of just the "P" - then the fabulous "Y" cross KISSY (62A: _____-face), and the SW pretty much fell from there.


After inferring the name of a Disney princess I'd either not heard of or not heard of in a while - 28D: Disney's Princess _____ (Oona) - I got SONG AND DANCE and felt sure the NE would open right up. Not so much. Thought 13D: Creator of the Mayfair Witches (Anne Rice) was the guy who wrote "Witches of Eastwick," so racked my brain for his name, to no avail. What the hell is his name? Hang on ... Oh criminy, it's Updike. O well. Anyway ... NE remained very intractable because of multiple wrong answers, including MARTA for 10D: Comedian/actress Wilson, an original cast member on "MADtv" (Debra) - where the hell did I come up with MARTA? - and MATCH for 10A because I thought 56A: With 10-Across, stalemate (cul-de-sac) was TIE MATCH. Even after I got the --SAC in there, it looked horribly wrong. "What word ends -SAC? No word in English!" Well, not originally English, no. All the Acrosses up here were troublesome, including 16A: Ecuador's Santa _____ Peninsula (Elena), 18A: Nonsense (beans), and 21A: Small bay (armlet). BEANS!? The problem here is that there must be two dozen words in English that could mean "nonsense" - and by "two dozen" I mean "so many I couldn't begin to name them all so I made up the number two dozen." [addendum: forgot to add that I was confounded by 11D: I, O or U, but not A or E: Abbr. for what seemed a very long time. Knew the answer was ELEM. before I knew what ELEM. stood for in this instance: ELEMent. Think Periodic Table.]


Which brings us to the SE and Rex's Last Stand. With just ART DECO giving me any purchase on the SE, I was in something of a jam. Three answers, for each of which I had lead letters, would have been incredibly helpful, but they wouldn't come. Those answers:

  • 43A: Where the Peacock Throne was built (Delhi) - couldn't get DUBAI out of my head even though I Already Had the "E" in Place!
  • 49D: Like seconds: Abbr. (irreg.) - wanted IRREG from the get go, but thought "No, that doesn't make any sense." Shouldn't the clue read [Like some seconds...]? Are all "seconds" IRREGular?
  • 50D: Lord Byron's "The Lament of _____" (Tasso) - always hate it when I tank a literary clue, but there was no way I was gonna get this without either the final "O" or the first four letters in place.

So, stuck as I was, I desperately threw wee TAD (59D: Smidgen) into the SE as bait, hoping to get a bite from the bigger fish down there. Nothing. Tried DIME and then DROP for 54A: Small amount (dram). Nothing. Briefly entertained the correct MAKO for 55D: Speedy fish, but couldn't do anything with it. The "K" seemed nuts. [Speaking of nutso "K"s, check out POLITICK - 35D: Make campaign stops - in the SE corner. The more I look at that word, the wronger it seems] So I went back and tried to guess at place names for 43A, finally testing DELHI, which instantly made HAULERS (45D: Semi) and IDLERS (46D: "Leave business to _____, and wisdom to fools": Congreve) pop into view. This allowed me access to that beautiful but elusive threesome of VERSATILE (58A: Like character actors) on top of ICE SKATER (61A: One studying camels - brutal!) on top of DO-GOODERS (63A: Naive types, sometimes). Bing, bam, SE is done! Except...

I've got this one word I don't know: LYCITE. The "Y" came from DYAD (clued 51A: Couple), which seemed rock solid ... but the clue for LYCITE was 44D: Classic DuPont brand, and if it was "classic," why had I never heard of it? I'd heard of ... LUCITE, but that would give me DUAD, and yuck, that can't be right. DUAD?! That's a horrible word. Not quite DUD, not quite DAD, not quite DOODAD. Ick. But in the end I decided that LUCITE sounded too right, and DUAD, looking almost like DUAL, was at least plausible. So I went with it. And DUAD was right after all. Happy Pencil. The End.

EPISODE I (36D: Series opener) and CAESURA (8D: Break) are good fill, but I've seen them both recently. It was a good day to know your Renaissance Revenge Tragedies, as the three-letter KYD (9D: "The Spanish Tragedy" dramatist) gave solvers valuable Scrabble letters. I was happy to be reminded of Piper LAURIE's (2D: "The Hustler" Oscar nominee) performance in "The Hustler," a Paul Newman movie I like (and own). 6A: Air part ("tra la") could have been deadly, but the crosses made it obvious. Lastly, MOTS (53D: Cracks) is pretty damned weak, but the SW is redeemed by a great puzzler of a clue - 60A: Dot follower (cents). When COM wouldn't fit, I chewed on other possibilities for a few seconds, and there it was. I know it's a good clue when I actually register and even remark on its quality mid-solve. Yes, sometimes I talk to / at / near the puzzle. Don't judge.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Alex S. 1:14 AM  

I flamed out on this one like I haven't in a very long time.

After reading every clue. I had three words in the puzzle and couldn't build a thing off of them.

So on to Google. After Googling everything I could I was up to 10 words, only three of which intersected and none offered me anything I could build off of.

Lots of multiple option clue answer pairings without me be able to narrow it down.

There are no less than four people who were nominated for an Oscar for their work on The Hustler and have six letter last names. I could name them off the top of my head (Newman, Laurie, Rossen, Horner) but couldn't come up with anything to narrow it down except that I knew with the difficulty of the puzzle it wasn't going to be the obvious NEWMAN.

And seeing your answers I see that one of my only "gimmes" in the puzzle was wrong. I grew up in Vancouver, Washington, which is a suburb of Portland, Oregon. And everybody in the area knows that Mt. Tabor is a dormant volcano inside the city limits of Portland. So obviously the answer was USA.

Beans does not strike me as a word I've heard for nonsense. Nor cul de sac for stalemate (is that the literal translation?).

What's a trala that is "air part"?

I don't get how "I, O or U, but not A or E: Abbr" gets ELEM.

I wanted GALAS as a gimme but it wouldn't work with the similarly gimme NEARLY ("Almost") next door which I now see was NIGH ON.

Maybe my brain just wasn't on the same track as Mr. Norris, but this puzzle didn't humble me, it humiliated me.

So, in their memory, I list the 10 words I had when I said "screw it" and went and watched the end of the A's game.

RIO (gimme)
DELHI (gimme)
USA (gimme, but still wrong)
DEBRA (guessed RAINN Wilson but fixed it when I hit the Google stage)

DONALD 4:46 AM  

...and it's hard to vex Rex!

Rex Parker 5:12 AM  

ELEM = "Element" - I meant to blog that. Will add something now.


Rex Parker 5:14 AM  

Oh, and "air" = song, so TRALA = part of Tra-la-la (conventional song syllables)


Anonymous 6:43 AM  

This was definitely a tough one, at least for me. I solved it NW, SE (where the CUL opened up the), NE, SW.

It helped that I remembered MAKO from a LAT puzzle a few says ago (clued almost identically).

Piper Laurie makes an appearance in 2 puzzles today, btw.

Always like Rich Norris puzzles: tough but fair, as they say.

Anonymous 8:45 AM  

my solving was identical to kratsman's -- 'cept i needed help at 35 & 39a (thank you, rex!)... held on to "silly glasses" for faaaaaaaar too long. cleaning up that area let me bring it home.

loved "one studying camels" for "ice skater" and "evasive tactics" for "song and dance."



Anonymous 8:46 AM  

This shows you how much I don't know about movies--never have heard of The Hustler, got LAURIE, thinking it was how Peter Lorre spelled his name.

Dumb luck, I guess.

Anonymous 9:01 AM  

Nice deconstruction, Rex. I think yesterday's HERCULEAN would be the appropriate term for the task at hand. Impressive constructing; Norris ought to get a medal of some sort, as should anyone else managing this on their own. My paltry few unassisted words were:
VERSATILE (which I amazingly got off of just the E in DECO) which allowed me to get ... VID
NEWMAN (wrong, of course, for the reasons Alex stated)

You know when googling gets you absolutely nowhere that it's gonna be a hair-pulling day. There should be some sort of psychological test that analyzes you from the words you can get on the first run-through of a given puzzle. It must reveal something!

Thought it was somewhat odd that DOGOODERS were characterized as naive, even if it was qualified by sometimes. Seemed a value judgment.

JC66 9:29 AM  


Terrific write-up for a really tough puzzle. How about the pork connection...BEANS, LOIN & PETUNIA?

Harleypeyton 11:57 AM  

Another Saturday Slog. Finished with pride. Then noticed that I had, however briefly, convinced myself that "Refrain" was an adequate syn. for "Tracts" -- as in pamphlet or verse -- which gave me an entirely different color altogether.


Hey. It could happen.

JC66 12:06 PM  

Pork & BEANS, LOIN of pork & PETUNIA (Porky Pig's Girlfriend).

Howard B 12:11 PM  

Every one of Alex's gimmes/answers in the first comment were hell on earth for me - I needed a lot of crossings to get all of them - looks like everyone found a completely different path into this thing (In contrast, I got ELEM right off the clue, go figure). Kind of cool when that happens.

I worked on paper from AcrossLite, as the applet apparently took one look at the puzzle, and decided to take the night off, showing only a blank screen in my browser.

Norrin2 12:40 PM  

Whoa, that was a tough one. Thanks for explaining ELEM. I didn't get that one even after I finished the puzzle.

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

This was a hellaciously difficult puzzle for me. Don't know whether to praise it or curse it, but probably the former since it felt good to finish. If not for "sealions" proving that my guess of "loin" was correct, I'm not sure I would ever have even gotten started. Sort of an odd week, no?

Anonymous 1:04 PM  

I'm just glad to see that you classified this puzzle as "hard."

To answer one of Alex's questions, cul de sac is litterally the bottom of the bag. I'm not so sure about that clue, though. Cul-de-sac i a synonym of impasse, and impasse is a synonym of stalemate, but is cul-de-sac a synonym of stalemate? I really don't think so.

Anyway, about 2/3 or the way through this puzzle, I came to a dead end (impasse, cul-de-sac, stalemate...ok, maybe it is...), so I'm glad there is Rex (sung to the tune of Jimmy Dorsey's "Im glad there is you.")

As for beans for nonsense..."You're full of beans" means "you're talking nonsense," right?

Alex S. 1:31 PM  

Wow, definitely was an off night if my brain couldn't come up with "your full of beans." But can beans = nonsense be used in outside the context of that exact phrase? If not then it is "full of beans" that means nonsense, not beans itself. But considering that I didn't finish as much as 20% of the puzzle I'm not really in a position to get nitpicky.

If you're full of beans and then spill those beans, the nonsense gets converted into non-nonsense.

Anonymous 1:58 PM  

To me "you're full of beans" means "you're energetic, full of get-up-and-go. I can't imagine a sense of BEANS that means "nonsense."

I finally realized how 4D, "Saucerful," could be ETS -- as I was posting, as usual. I make a practice, when faced with a hellacious monster like this, of circling clues that I think are unfair or over the top; this one had 10 out of 59. Too many. I'll save y'all the details. Still, I managed to do it with the aid of Google only, as opposed to those for which I finally have to come here to get a leg up. Yesterday's Berry forced me here to get even the tiniest purchase on it. This has been a very bad week, for me anyway.

Rex Parker 2:36 PM  

Maybe it's generational: I have indeed heard "full of beans" used to mean "full of it" ("nonsense," that is). But I have also heard it used to mean "full of vigor" - I'm pretty sure Milhouse's mother uses this to describe him at some point... ah yes, after Bart confesses that he has sabotaged Milhouse's romance with Samantha Stanky, Milhouse and Bart begin brawling. From

Mrs. Van Houten thanks Bart for coming and shows him to Milhouse's room, where he finds Milhouse crying on his bed. Bart confesses, and the two fight. Mrs. Van Houten pops in and is pleased. ``Milhouse is out of bed and full of beans!'' Mr. Van Houten is also pleased.

Linda G 4:15 PM  

Yes, very relieved to know that the entire crossworld had a problem with at least one area of this puzzle. Alex and I had similar wrong answers, including NEARLY for NIGH ON. Unfortunately, I put that wrong answer in the wrong place, so that really added to the confusion.

ETS? I had just written that I still didn't get it, then it came to me. For the benefit of anyone else that is still lost, think flying saucers.

Anonymous 12:02 AM  

Man--this one brought me to my knees. The only answers I knew for certain at the outset were:

SEA LIONS (loved seeing them frolic on the west coast)
CASTANET (thought the clue was adorable)
ALLS (duh!)
SET A (also, duh!)
RIO (a guess here, but the only word that made sense)
IRA (I've got one, so OK)
LOIN (mmmm)

Then I had to google. Then snatch a word from Rex's solution and soldier on. Then start cursing NIGH ON (really, really wanted NEARLY) and DUAD (DUETs, anyone?). And having FISSURE instead of CAESURA for a long while didn't help my cause, either...

Deep breath. Tomorrow is Sunday, and it can't be so bad.

Campesite 9:28 AM  

Thank you Linda G for explaining ETS. Boy, this was a doozie and I'm glad it's over.

Anonymous 1:40 PM  

"You don't know beans" for another bean = nonsense example.....

Been outta town, thought about looking at the paper and trying it, but thanks to all comments regarding difficulty, I'll just start the new week with Sunday.

Trish in OP

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

I love your blog and must admit you've saved my sanity on several occasions. Thanks for that. But I must admit I was surprised that you used Cheney (the VP's version) instead of Chaney as a reference to actor Lon. Thanks for being so human and just a teensy bit fallible.

Rex Parker 10:26 AM  

Well, thank god you posted your comment to the wrong date, so no one will ever know of my error!


Cheney is monstrous in his way - you can see how I went wrong.


Anonymous 11:31 AM  

Well, now at least I'm not feeling like a total failure...and I was doing so well all week...Thanks all of you!

Merry Muse 11:44 AM  

This puzzle just wasn't any fun. I'm disappointed. Thanks for your help, Rex.

There ought to be a rule against words like "duad" or "cul de sac" as a stalemate. Crossword puzzles are written to entertain, aren't they?

Anonymous 8:42 PM  

Ouch! Got through it with 6 trips to google. I agree that CULDESAC for stalemate is a big stretch and I never would have gotten it with out googling DEBRA. Also, is politic really spelled with K? My only error was ICESCANERS for ICESKATERS. I thought of someone in the stands studing the camels (of course this also made lucine and maco wrong).

Anonymous 1:59 AM  

Seemed a toughie to me. Didn't help that I went down the dark (purple) garden pathway with 'fuschia' once I had 'IA'. And Princess Oona? Aiyoh. A few really fun clues (dot follower, one studying camels) helped make up for cul de sac and trala, which even with an explanation I'm still not quite comfy with.

Anonymous 2:19 PM  

Wednesday morning here. Calloo-Callay!It's finally finished! One mistake, Still had DROP for DRAM.

Interesting because I had PIKE for "Speedy fish" (of course "proven" by the ICE SKATER) and DO GOODERS was the last answer filled in making it PIKO
(VERSITILE being spelt wrong)

I had help. I went to the atlas for the Equadorian peninsula.


This morning I looked for the puzzle and couldn't find it. Then Hanne appeared with it, having filled in GLOOMY, GLUESTICK, DELHI, and HAULER.

NO GOOGLE! (insert smug smiley)

There is now a backlog, which may be a while clearing as I am building an Art Door for an exhibition in August, and it has to be finished in a week to be photographed for the catalogue.

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