SATURDAY, May 26, 2007 - Joe DiPietro

Friday, May 25, 2007

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

I went to print this puzzle out in Across Lite, so I could solve it in pencil on the couch, with the Angels slowly crushing the Yankees in the background. But there is a stupid "page not found" error tonight for anyone trying to download the puzzle; so I solved it on-line - NOT my favorite way to solve, especially late at night (any time after 10pm is "late" for me). So I struggled a bit, including a sizeable full stoppage in the NE - what is it about the NE? It seems like the section of the puzzle most likely to get me, week in and week out. I really should go back and study my blog records to see if this is true. It's certainly been true the past two days.

My main problem was, again, getting into the NE from its west side. Yesterday's Down answer there was BLOB, and you know how I fared with that one. Today's is 8D: Duty (tariff), which is not terribly difficult, EXCEPT ... once again a wrong answer kept me from seeing it. In my defense, my wrong answer is glorious and way more clever than the allegedly clever real answer. The wrong answer in question: for 20A: Come down briskly? (ski), I had SNO. Get it? Get it? It's good, dammit. SNOW "comes down," and if you write it "briskly" (i.e. lop off the end, as you see in some commercial contexts), you get SNO. Hot hot hot. Wrong, but hot. So TARIFF had an -OFF ending, and I was busy trying to figure how anything ending -OFF could mean [Duty]. If you have a "duty," you are ON, not OFF. PAYOFF? RIPOFF? TIPOFF? Nope, nothing.

To my great credit, I somehow remembered ELSA Schiaparelli (10D: Designer Schiaparelli). I don't know what a HOT PRESS is, exactly, but it sounds like a reasonable answer to 11D: Give a smooth and glossy finish, in a way. Despite struggling up here, I actually liked two of the long Acrosses:

  • 8A: It can aid one's climb to the top (toe hold)
  • 16A: Smothering (all over)
The clue for APNEA is not half bad either: 22A: What might prevent you from staying out? I wanted APRON for a little bit, though I now forget why.

Great wrong answers I had this evening:
  • IN CHUNKS and then EN CRUTES (!?!?) for IN CRATES (42A: How apples and oranges may come)
  • ALAS for ALIS (5D: First word of Oregon's Latin motto) - note to self: "Latin motto"; I do love the idea of a state whose motto begins ALAS: "Alas, poor Eugene..."
  • MATE for TATE (40A: 1992 Pulitzer poet James) - and thus ...
  • MAXI for TAXI (40D: Waiter at a hotel) - the logic of the clue dawned on me only just now, as I was typing it out
  • RAP and BOP for POP (57D: Some music)

I solved this puzzle in weird fashion, starting with SEES TO IT (7D: Makes sure something's done) and then moving through the upper center of the puzzle. From there, I fanned out wherever I could until I managed to get traction. Still this may be the first time I've ever worked a puzzle coast to coast (well, North coast to South coast) - here, from SEES TO IT, to READER (43D: Schoolbook) - without completing or even making my way into any of the corner quadrants.

Sweet Gimmes:

I'd like to thank the following answers for revealing themselves so readily:

1D: Singer with the 1980 #1 hit "Upside Down" (Diana Ross) - a staple of my early radio listening experience. My first experience of Ms. Ross was during the disco era (starting with "The Wiz"). Only during high school did I finally find my way back to her Supremes stuff (I listened to "oldies" and especially Motown almost exclusively in my last year or so of high school, as a rebellion against the largely regrettable top 40 music of 1986-87).

4D: "De vulgari eloquentia" author (Dante) - "On the Eloquence of the Vernacular" - Dante famously wrote the first Major, Serious, Authoritative work of European literature in a vernacular tongue ("The Divine Comedy," in Italian) - an incredibly daring thing to do at the time. I love that he wrote his treatise on the vernacular in ... Latin.

55D: One-named rap star/actress (Eve) - She has a song called "Who's That Girl?" that I enjoy quite a bit. Nothing like Madonna's song of the same name.

49D: 1974 Dustin Hoffman movie (Lenny) - never saw it, but somehow knew it instantly. It's a biopic of LENNY Bruce, as I understand it.

What the...?!

19A: "The heck with it" ("Nerts!") - I eventually guessed this, with only a couple crosses, but the trick was: how to spell it. NERTZ? NURTS?

6D: Hound for bucks? (dun) - if I know this meaning of this word, it is the faintest kind of knowledge.

1A: Fandangles (doodads) - I know "fandango," but not "fandangles." Thankfully, it sounds like what it is, i.e. a made-up name for something you can't identify by name.

17A: DNA component (adenine) - just don't know it. Was sure some part of it was wrong and was a bit surprised when the applet accepted my completed grid.

41A: Massenet's "Le _____" (Cid) - Long way to go for El CID

30A: Massen of the 1940s film "Tokyo Rose" (Osa) - !?!?

Didn't like the phrasing of the answer ON DEPOSIT (2D: Banked), but my displeasure was more than made up for by the splashy SPIT TAKE (37D: Bit of slapstick) and the excellent cluing on MATADOR (38D: Ones who accept charges). All in all, a challenging and reasonably enjoyable puzzle.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orange 12:49 AM  

Nerts! I meant to single out the clue for APNEA in my blog. I liked that one.

SNO is not hot. It's kold.

I had STALE in place of STIFF and didn't see how a [Duty] could be TAR*L*.

I saw The Wiz on stage in the '70s. I swore to my mother that I did not like musicals and therefore should not have to go to the show. She'd already gotten tickets for the whole family, so she bet me the princely sum of 50 cents or a dollar (maybe even more!) that I would enjoy the show. True confession: I liked the show but told Mom I didn't so I could pocket the money.

Anonymous 2:33 AM  


Rex Parker 7:53 AM  

Yes, I think that pic of the Simpsons is from the episode where they go to "Africa!"

I forget what they are drinking (or trying to drink).


Anonymous 8:12 AM  

You DUN people for money when they haven't paid you. I laughed when I got that one.

I thought the winter coat would be the infamous ANORAK (rather than the lesser known ULSTER), so my special treatment down the right was KID GLOVES. I was sorry to see that one go.

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

If I remember rightly, Lenny was the movie version of Of Mice and Men? George and Lenny, right? Livin off the fatta the land....
Trish in OP

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

Nope, Lenny Bruce....
Trish in OP

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

Which is deemed to be tougher, a puzzle rated "hard" or one thought to be "challenging? Just curious in comparing today's vis a vis yesterday's.

Rex Parker 10:31 AM  

Re: HARD v. CHALLENGING - I don't know, I just make up words that seem to fit. I don't have a proper ranking system. Perhaps I should. I'm pretty sure that HARD is harder than CHALLENGING - the latter word has more of a positive connotation to it. Maybe it just means that I was more successful (certainly the case with today's puzzle, especially compared to yesterday's).


Anonymous 11:00 AM  


Interesting weekend in puzzles, huh? I found both brutally hard (Friday took about 30 minutes, Saturday about 1 hour), but slogging can be fun. Just got around to reading your Friday and Saturday posts.

I liked MN's puzzle more than most did. First, it's loaded with hard-to-use letters. Compare the Sat puzzle which offers a lonely X. Another impressive factor is that it offers many brand-new or very infrequently-seen entries. I've always used that as the sign of a constructor who is really working hard. While it's true that some of the entries were lesser-known, the real question is - were there any impossible crossings? In the SE, for example, I had never heard of PENA, OLIVIA, PYRITE, NOB, MYLES, and DIESES, yet was still able to correctly complete the corner (and I'm a mediocre solver). One of the beauties of puzzles is learning new words. Another is the humbling experience that comes when you realize how little you know about certain fields. It's interesting - the shock I feel when I hear people don't know ADENINE is the same they must feel when they learn I've never heard of OLIVIA before.

As for the Saturday, I thought the SE was truly brilliant. Loved PARKAVE and SCOTFREE. Didn't particularly enjoy INCRATES, ONDEPOSIT, and INVALUE - all of which felt madeup-y to me. I thought the grid was beautiful - but must have been SUPER painful to try to fill. Huge sections run into huge sections. You either start in the middle and work to the four corners - thus killing variability in the corners, or start in the corners and work inward, thus making the center a complete nightmare.


Orange 11:31 AM  

I always like to hear a constructor's viewpoint on how a puzzle might've been put together, and how stern a task it must've been. So thanks, DW. Also, you may know PYRITE as fool's gold, at least if you were into rocks and minerals as a kid as I was.

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

Lots of original answers and clever construction today. I liked:

The intersection of Special treatment with Special kind of treatment.

The intersection of KITT and WRIT (two of the first answers I got, only because I know someone who works at KITT Peak).

Love MISSIVE, it's a word I use a lot. SCRUNCH is hot! Reminds me of the ep of Sex and the City that concerned whether Manhattan females would ever wear a SCRUNCHy in their hair. I was delighted to get MATADORS on my own - very cool. FRUITED is also different. ELSES was the answer I wanted to put in there, but it seemed odd so I didn't for the longest time (pen solving). TIC TAC TOE after the recent theme along that line was a surprise but probably completely unconnected. DUN was fun, as noted it refers to contacting people who haven't paid you and there's such as thing as a 'DUNning list' in some accounting departments. SCOTFREE was a term used liberally by authority figures in my house growing up.

Despite living near Cleveland, I couldn't get STEELER to save my life. Shows just how little I care about pro football; I was thinking of UPS or some kind of politico (one of Ohio's U.S. Senators is a Brown).

Anonymous 11:51 AM  

I so wanted "Letter" to be EPISTLE, which let me have PURPLED for "Like some plains." Needless to say, that delayed me for some time. The NW was my hardest corner, since music and classics are not my strong points, and nothing was a gimme. I finally got going off of IN CRATES although why that should have popped into my mind I have no idea. I like your balancing of hard vs. challenging, and would agree that today was the latter. For me, if I can finally solve it on my own (despite multiple false starts and mistakes), it's challenging. If I have to resort to Google (cf. Friday), it's hard.

Linda G 12:15 PM  

Ended up with SPIT TAKE but didn't really get what it meant...until I saw the picture. Good one.

I think we've had NERTS before. Didn't like it then, don't like it now.

And that glitch with the Print and Play version delayed my puzzling until almost midnight.

Anonymous 1:09 PM  

Yes, Orange, I had a piece of iron pyrite in a little array of rocks pasted to a cardboard tray. Fool's gold really tickled my fancy in those days.
For me, the SW was the tough spot. RAN AT instead of HAD AT delayed me for awhile. No reference to a list in the clue for ET AL meant that that one eluded me. I thought Brown was the university, even after the puzzle was solved (figgered it was college sports, though STEELERS is a decidedly non-academic name for a team). Had HASTE and ISERE in place early on, but felt tentative about the former and had a very slight doubt about the latter.
For me, whether I google or not is more a matter of how much time I'm willing to spend on the puzzle. I enjoy the puzzles almost all the time, but since I have a hard time getting up from one before it's solved, if it's late, or if I want to get started on other obligations--solving the puzzle being the number one priority of any given day :)--I just google the trivia answers and go from there. So with that approach, neither yesterday's and today's puzzles seemed all that difficult! :) I googled only about 3 to 5 answers per puzzle. It just gives me something to hang onto, so I don't have to spend an inordinate amount of time wondering, "is this right?"
Also loved reading DQ's take on this--and find it remarkable that one of the cleverest constructors is a merely "mediocre" solver. Human intelligence and how it finds its niches...this is something that fascinates me.

Anonymous 1:34 PM  

I forgot to mention, after checking, I still didn't know what a CHIT was or how it related to Check. The unabridged dictionary cleared that up for me, but that was one more thing that made the SW corner elusive.

DONALD 1:54 PM  

Why did I find this one so easy? Well, there's no accounting for taste (that's why they have menus in restaurants) -- wow, this Comments forum has turned into a confessional today!

Anonymous 2:30 PM  

expobill sez:
go Halos!

last 2 days were hard/vague

Jim in Chicago 4:34 PM  

I really struggled with this puzzle. Amazingly, the first answer I got was "fruited" which I put in since it just seemed so right. I then went badly wrong when I decided that apples and oranges came "in slices", which put me in the weeds for quite awhile. I so wanted the fashionable part of New York to be Chelsea, but the obvious answer to Schoolbook threw off BOTH "in slices" and "chelsea" in one fell swoop. I still think of Park Ave. as a street not a part of the city, but that's just a quibble.

barrywep 8:16 PM  

I got spit-take right away because of an episode of Studio 60 where they "wrote" a "Spittake theater" for their fictional show within a show.

Anonymous 8:47 PM  

I believe, but I could be wrong, that "dunning" comes from Dun and Bradstreet, which started life as a credit reporting agency in the nineteenth century.

frances 9:27 PM  

After enjoying Rex's musings and the online community's responses, I'm entering the forum as a newbie blogger. Would someone please explain what a spittake is. Thanks to MMPO for quantifying Google usage. For Saturday puzzles, damage to my self-esteem starts at 3 or more Google-assists. On today's,only the K in Kitt's Peak came from Google, but it took me off-and-on all afternoon to finish it.

Rex Parker 9:45 PM  

SPIT TAKE is pictured (the "Simpsons" shot). It's when someone is drinking and someone else says something or does something outrageous or funny, which makes the drinker, well, spit.


Anonymous 10:07 PM  

Hey, hey, hey! No one mentioned that Kitt was an answer in today's puzzle. I know I'm not as cute as Ava and Orange but....fair is fair : )

Really liked the puzzle -- but it was challenging for me. I won't even tell you what I had after the first go-round -- it was abysmal!

But I did get a toe-hold and that kept me going. Wanted to kick myself for not getting Diana Ross right away --- knew it but couldn't access it -- Donna Summer -no, Pointer Sisters -no. Took a quick break to have breakfast and Diana appeared! Saved the day.

Loved tariff, scottfree, matador/ole, missive, ski and apnea (great clue there).

Anonymous 11:09 PM  

Good, tricky puzzle today!

Have never heard of NERTS. Hope to never hear of NERTS!

For no reason, HEXAD tickled me, but I so wanted 42A: how apples and oranges may come - to be ENCRATED. Don't ask me why.

Bring on Sunday.

fergus 8:21 PM  

Stumbled into SPITTAKE but still baffled why this is a bit of slapstick?

Anonymous 4:46 PM  

True nerds know that deoxyadenylate is found in DNA, and adenine is the free nitrogenous base.

Anonymous 10:11 PM  

Maybe the truly old can relate to this, but in the 70's, Albert Brooks did a PBS thing re: a School for Comedy. He'd walk down a hall, popping his head in on different classes. One class was practicing spit takes based on a premise [if I remember correctly] of "Make Room For Daddy" in which the teacher, as the Sid Melton character, would break the news to students, as make-believe Danny Thomases drinking coffee, that the club had burned down. The resulting spit takes would then be critiqued [e.g., "You need to project more."] Cracks me up just thinking about it, but I guess you had to be there...

Anonymous 11:53 AM  


I found it extremely difficult and had to resort to Google but not to

I knew IDEATED from suicide prevention stint where IDEATE is used often

Anonymous 6:32 PM  

Looking back on it, this was harder for me than it should have been. Definitely, harder than yesterdays. I had the most trouble in NW (needed help from my daughter for Diana Ross). SW was fast but the rest was a stuggle. RE: nerts -- I know it from MASH, Frank Burns would often say it when frustrated (which was often).
Also, I believe the Simpsons are spitting blood?

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