SUNDAY, May 6, 2007 - Charles M. Deber

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Making Amends" - long theme answers simply have an "A" added to them to make strange new phrases, which are then clued.

Sorry I'm so late posting today. Had a 7:30 a.m. doctor's appt. (yes, on a Sunday). Not an emergency, just some stupid imaging. So I went to bed early and got up early and now here I am. This puzzle was ... OK. Once you picked up on the theme, it was quite easy to get long theme answers with only a couple crosses in place. My grid had this weird look for a while where it was largely empty except for a couple of long, grid-crossing entries that I managed to get. Here are the theme answers:

  • 20A: Where smart shoppers shop? (mensAwear departments) - the answer wherein I figured out the theme. Got the answer off the first five letters.
  • 34A: Plight of an overcrowded orchestra? (three men in a tubA) - this just makes no sense. I submit that no matter how crowded an orchestra got, you would never see THREE MEN IN A TUBA. Whatever happened to verisimilitude!?
  • 52A: Introduction to opera? (first AidA kit) - this almost makes up for the TUBA answer. Genius. SERGEI (12D: Composer Prokofiev) completes the classical music trifecta in the upper half of the grid.
  • 68A: Locale of Hoosier beaches (IndianA Ocean) - uninspired
  • 83A: Bit of winter exercise? (a walk in the parkA) - nice
  • 101A: Geraldo rehearses his show? (a RiverA runs through it) - clever, but it forced me to think of Geraldo, so points off...
  • 1D: Dish for an Italian racing champ? (checkered pastA) - I had CHECKERED and was still in "????"-land. Only phrase I could think of was CHECKERED CAB.
  • 48D: Sandwich that can never be finished? (bottomless pitA) - my finest puzzle moment: I got this answer with only the final "A" in place.
I had one very hilarious wrong answer that I caught only when going over the puzzle just now: For 94A: Burmese gathering? (cat show) I had CATSLEW, as in ... a SLEW of CATS. This required that I have LEX for 96D: A bit of spelling? (hex) - LEX, LEXicography ... I figured maybe it was just some word-related word I didn't know. Plus, I had INCISER for INCISOR (68D: Canine neighbor). I was prepared to be very incensed about CATSLEW and LEX ...

New Comic Book Day was a great success. I'm really impressed with the generally high quality of stuff they give out, including special editions of work by Charles Schulz (who shares a birthday with me) and Lynda Barry (My Hero), as well as lesser known "alternative" comics writers. There was plenty of superhero action too, and Sahra picked up a Mickey Mouse and a "L'il Archie" book. I read and teach this stuff and am always trying to convince non-converts of the astonishing breadth of vision and artistic innovation one can find in contemporary comics (and older stuff too - it's just that, like crosswords, comics are in a kind of Golden Age right now). As there is no comics content in today's puzzle (not even KRAZY KAT!), I will stop with the comics talk and go back to the puzzle.

63A: _____ "Inferno" ... is officially the lamest way DANTE has ever been clued (actual answer is DANTE'S). It's weird ... would you clue VIRGIL'S as [_____ "Aeneid"]? I will admit that somehow, colloquially, DANTE'S "Inferno" is an in-the-language phrase in a way that other such possessive formulations are not. And yet I hate it. Wanted answer to be DISCO. Speaking of, during my MRI this morning, I had a choice of music, and my options included the soundtrack to "Saturday Night Fever." I nearly went with the "Grease" soundtrack (you know how I love Sandy), but in the end I played it safe, went with an unspecified "Beatles" disc and it was exactly what I needed. Short, poppy, passionate, simple, familiar, great. Perfect MRI music, IMOO (except for "Yesterday," which should not be allowed anywhere near a medical setting).

18A: Team supporter's suction cup-mounted sign (fan wave) - This one bugged me almost as much as CATSLEW, only this one's worse because it's the actual answer. I actually started second-guessing some of my crosses, including crossword standard EVA (11D: Stowe girl), but in the end, I just crossed my fingers and went with it. I was expecting this item to be a cut-out of an actual hand, waving, but no (or not always). A FAN WAVE looks like this:

Have we met? (Answer: no)

4D: Dame Edith who was nominated for three Oscars (Evans)
1A: Tribe with a sun dance (Crees) - as with DANTE'S, I'm not fond of the "S" here...
14D: French Bluebeard (Landru) - Does not ring a bell. LANDRU crosses RAT, which was easy enough to get from the clue (32A: Tell), but which is annoying as all git out because of the repetitive appearance of RATTIER (106A: More run-down) on the other side of the grid. On the LANDRU / RAT connection, I'm going to quote Crossword Fiend here without her permission (from a private e-mail); hope she doesn't mind: "I would rather have had some fake-ass abbreviation AAT where RAT is, so LANDAU could be there instead of a French serial killer nobody's ever heard of." Amen, sister.
15D: Cultural/teaching facility (art lab) - first of all, I can barely read that clue. A slash? What is that? Are conjunctions just too elusive for you today? Second, is this some 60's term? I'm never heard of an ART LAB. I've heard of ART. And LAB. ART CARNEY. SKY LAB. Not ART LAB. Sounds Soviet.
27A: A person doing a duck walk grasps these (ankles) - yikes! I can't even picture this. I guess "doing a duck walk" is better than any alternative phrase that might go in there.
45D: Iowa and Missouri (Siouans) - I wish I actually knew something about Native American tribes instead of just making semi-blind stabs once I get a couple crosses, which is my normal M.O. (Hey, MO ... Missouri. Get it? Of course you do, it's not that clever...)
59D: Thick-bodied fish (chub) - is this where the term "CHUBby" comes from? Or vice versa? I know that one can CHUM the waters, but I don't think I know anything about CHUB. There was a rapper from the early 90's called CHUBB ROCK. Please, somebody, put him in the puzzle. Look at that first name. How can you resist? You could even use him to clue ROCK. So much better than [Chris _____] or [The _____].
64A: Lilylike plant (hosta) - this crosses CHUB at the "H," so I had to guess. I'm not really into foliage. Except for my local chinese restaurant, which is called FOLIAGE. I'm into that.
62D: Denver's _____ Gardens (Elitch) - My sister lives near Denver, and I've visited her there many times, but I've never heard of this place.
86D: Birthplace of Aaron Burr (Newark) - How ... unglamorous and forgettable.
102D: Historic Heyerdahl craft (Ra I) - really wanted KON-TIKI. Neeeever heard of RA I.

Proud of myself that I pulled LEICA (66D: German camera) from ... the bottom of the ocean of my mind. Had one of those moments where I refused to leave and come back to it because I knew that I knew it - and sure enough, a little word association, a little talking to myself, and tada, LEICA. ELIA - pen name of Charles Lamb - sneaks its way back into the grid in an odd fashion, through the rather vague 77A: "Essays of _____." Sticking with literature, I love me some Ben JONSON (93A: "Drink to me only with thine eyes" poet) but did Not know that O RARE were words that were frequently applied to him (69D: Words often applied to 93-Across). Is there a physicist of any stature who can't be clued as 93D: Eponymous physicist (Joule)? TESLA got this very same clue a while back. Where are the non-eponymous physicists? Don't really know HEDDA Hopper (110A: Hopper of Hollywood), but I know her name, and that's enough. DENNIS wouldn't fit, so HEDDA - better known for her gossip column (see tools of the trade on her head, right) than for her acting. Lastly, all hail the return of RAFFIA (44D: Basket material) to the grid. I got baffled by this answer once before. No longer. I feel like I should be keeping a running tally in the great basket-weaving material crossword face-off between RAFFIA and OSIER. You win this round, RAFFIA...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 10:50 AM  

the lovely lynda is also a terrific playwright. "the good times are killing me" enjoyed an all too brief run in nyc and is also produced regionally. here's a cut 'n' paste link to a review (nyt 4/19/91):

loved this puzzle, but created some of my own problems. like insisting far too long on "chicken" ("something") at 1d...

and then there was the way i was looking at "o rare" as "or are"...

but "three men in a tuba"? "first aida kit"? baby, "i'm all smiles"!



sonofdad 10:55 AM  

I'm surprised "beating it" made it into the puzzle, even with the tame clue. Leaving isn't the first thing that comes to mind when someone tells me he's beating it...

Leica's also a manufacturer of microscopes and other biology machines for tissue sectioning and such. The cryostat in a lab I worked in was made by Leica so I knew the name, but I didn't know they made cameras.

Orange 11:00 AM  

Working from the bottom up:

I couldn't tell you who wrote of "O rare Ben Jonson," but ORARE sure shows up plenty in crossword puzzles.

"Grasp your ankles!" Nobody wants to hear that...unless maybe in an intimate and acrobatic setting.

I believe my art classes were in studios and science classes in labs. Maybe overcrowded colleges have art labs for both?

Will be interesting to see who's actually heard of the FAN WAVE doohickeys.

I just started Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir, Fun Home. Don't miss the geographic and cultural memoir, Guy Delisle's Pyongyang, Rex. I could lend you my copy.

Good thing A RIVERA RUNS THROUGH IT wasn't combined somehow with BOTTOMLESS, because that's an image nobody needs.

Linda G 11:06 AM  

MRI = not for the claustrophobic. Good music choice, and your comment about Yesterday made me laugh.

Janie, I also looked at it as OR ARE, wondering WTF?

Osier--that was the word that always escapes me. I was glad to see RAFFIA this time.

Kon Tiki--yes. RAI? No, no, no.

I'm been to Denver several times a year for the last 20 years and have never gone to Elitch's. And never will. Amusement parks R not us.

Rex Parker 11:18 AM  

Alison Bechdel's FUN HOME is my favorite book of last year, and possibly the greatest comics memoir ever. Ever. It was required reading for my students, and I only just found out ('cause I don't read mainstream media much) that it won Tons of awards, incl. #1 Best Book of the year from Time Magazine. Also recently nominated for a bunch of Eisners (comics industry awards). There is a fascinating and enormous interview with Bechdel in the latest issue of the (also great) Comics Journal. If this were a comics blog, I would go on and on.


Jack Guignol 12:20 PM  

An Olivia Newton John/music in a medical setting anecedote for your amusement: a few years ago I was in the lobby of my doctor's office, waiting to be called in for a routine physical, when Olivia Newton John's "Let's Get Physical" came on over the piped-in radio. It seemed uncanny...and perhaps a little inappropriate.

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

As I seem to recall from childhood reading many, many years (anyone else grow up with the six volumes of The Book House?), Jonson's tombstone was allegedly misengraved "O rare Ben Jonson" when it was supposed to be "Orare [pray for] Ben Jonson" or maybe it was the other way round. I liked this puzzle a lot, even "three men in a tubA" and 'bottomless pitA" jumped at me for some reason from the initial B.

Norrin2 12:56 PM  

I won't argue that Fun Home is the greatest comics memoir ever. Ever. But Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis is an amazing piece of work too. And let's not forget American Splendor.
Did you get a chance to do Bill Clinton's NYT puzzle?

Anonymous 12:57 PM  

Ra, then Ra II, hence Ra I. A bit of a stretch. It seems to me there was a movie called Ra...yes, in 1972. Interesting that THOR's hammer appears in the same puzzle as Thor Heyerdahl.
I agree that three men in a tuba is far from verisimilitudinous, but to me, the image is very funny. I can see the cartoon in my mind's eye, and it's still making me smile.
I thought that MENSA WEAR DEPT was also a play on MEN'S AWARE DEPT, which made me hesitate momentarily on 19A.
FAN WAVE - I've seen 'em. Didn't know they had a name.
This LANDRU character was completely unknown to me. Am I alone in my utter ignorance of 19th-century French serial killers and Bluebeards?

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

Rex, are you gonna blog the Clinton puzzle, by any chance? Just wondering ... no pressure ;)

Linda G 1:15 PM  

I think it's a good thing to be ignorant of serial killers' names, especially if they're dead and you don't have to watch out for a reappearance. Seriously, though, I'd never heard of him.

I'm still working on the Millhauser/Clinton puzzle. There's an oval area extending from Florida NW to Colorado that hasn't come together yet.

Rex, I had to laugh when I saw you put the added A in red! Forgot to mention that until I read your comment ; )

Alex S. 1:47 PM  

Chris said:

I'm surprised "beating it" made it into the puzzle, even with the tame clue. Leaving isn't the first thing that comes to mind when someone tells me he's beating it...

Maybe it is a hidden subtheme, what with ONAN ("____ empty stomach") at 108A.

Anonymous 1:59 PM  


That reminds me of Dorothy Parker, who named her parrot Onan as he was forever spilling his seed upon the ground.

Alex S. 2:00 PM  

My only real problem with the theme was that A RIVERA RUNS THROUGH IT is the first one I got so I was trying to see corrupted movie titles in the other theme entries. It didn't help that the second one I got was A WALK IN THE PARKA since I thought A WALK IN THE PARK was also a movie title (it is, but I was thinking of Barefoot in the Park).

The original problem though was with the puzzle title: Making Amends (which I read as Making AM ends). I was initially trying to add AM to the end of words or phrases.

Anonymous 2:07 PM  


I grew up eating "chubs." We would purchase them from the the local "Appetizer store"(sort of like a Deli but without meat). It must be a NY Jewish localism.They sold things like smoked white fish, lox, cream cheese spreads, salads. Chubs looked like smoked white fish but smaller and stouter. They tasted the same to me.

Anonymous 2:33 PM  

Hey, Rex. Please blog the Clinton puzzle. I thought it was a gas, and would love to hear your take.

Anonymous 3:19 PM  

Welcome back Roger!!!

Norrin2 4:56 PM  

One hint on the Bill Clinton NYT puzzle: 4Down "It's nice to be on the
receiving end of one" (7 letters) It's NOT what you think! : )

Rex Parker 5:26 PM  


RE: Clinton puzzle. Yes, of course I'm bloggin' the Clinton puzzle. It's just ... TIME!! I need more of it. Maybe tonight, assuming the Monday puzzle is not terribly noteworthy.

Anonymous 6:04 PM  

I have been making art for over thirty years and never once have I heard of any place to do with art refered to as an "art lab." I have met artists on three continents, in many media including painting, sculpture, dance, music and theatre; even musicians and animators working primarily on computers. All these individuals or groups worked or taught in studios or ateliers. I have certainly studied art in classrooms. But, never have I heard of anyone refering to her or his working area as a "lab." At the risk of inciting another "Great Green Controversy," I think that this clue is completely without merit and should have been seriously rethought.

But, hey, it is just a crossword puzzle, right?

Anonymous 6:06 PM  


Anonymous 6:29 PM  

BEATING IT ONAN empty stomach can lead to having to wear a MONOCLE on the one eye that didn't go blind.
Hey, I didn't start this sub-theme thread...

Linda G 6:45 PM  

Finished the Sunday bonus puzzle. Great fun for boomers.

Monday's puzzle has lots of scrabbly letters, but I hope Rex will find time to write about Twistin' the Oldies.

Anonymous 7:40 PM  

Linda, you're a better boomer than I am. Try as I might, I have yet to get the theme twist. I can see specific song titles emerging, but the crosses don't give it up as to what I should be changing/twisting. SO frustrating! But I'll crack it yet and feel like the boob of the century. I didn't vote for that man twice for nothing!

Is Monday up already? I thought we had to wait until 10 EST.

Anonymous 7:52 PM  

I just cracked the code in the Clinton caper! Thank God. I just had to tap into my inner baby boomer.

Norrin2 8:09 PM  

Well, I had ART HUB at first, so ART LAB at least looked better than that.
And Wendy, they post the puzzles earlier on weekends -- at 6 EST, I think.

Anonymous 10:21 PM  

I got really tripped up by the "Locale of Hoosier beaches?"...
I had the last 2 letters "AN" so I for sure thought it was "LAKE
MICHIGAN"...where there are actual beaches at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore...
I wish there had been a phrase like "would be" or something to indicate these beaches don't actually exist...

I originally put in KON also... but then remembered RA ... which is only RA I by default of there being a RA II...
Egyptian sun god?
btw, isn't there an Italian TV station called RAI?

Speaking of Egypt... I had EGYPT
in before realizing it was CAIRO for the sight of Napoleon's 1798-1801 invasion... to nitpick a little...
wouldn't 1798 be the year of the invasion & 1798-1801 be the years of occupation?

Did not catch the "beating it" & "ONAN" connection... hilarious!

& never heard that Dorothy Parker anecdote before... also quite hilarious!

Alex S. 12:08 AM  

My junior high school had an "art lab." So I didn't think it was that odd a phrase.

And a Google search of the results returns a quarter million hits.

Here's the web page for the Hull (UK) Art Lab. ArtLab Australia. The Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Gardens offers an Art Lab for Teens program.

So it wasn't a term that immediately jumped out at me (even with my direct experience I still didn't get it with ARTL--) but I think it has merit.

Anonymous 1:13 PM  

I only know Landru as an evil computer from an old Star Trek episode:

Anonymous 12:34 PM  

From six weeks later ...
This puzzle slew me - couldn't get the theme at all.
The Stupid Vancouver Sun titled it "CIRCLE OF FRIENDS BY HENRY HOOK". Imgine taking that seriously and think of the contortions you get into on the theme entries, leading to messing up all the crosses!
And, of course, no Clinton puzzle.

Rex Parker 1:44 PM  


On Sundays, you are only one week in the past. It's like some tragedy where you are doomed to near the future, but never quite get there, cruelly thrust forward to within one week of the present, only to be yanked back to six-weeks-ago every Monday.

It's funny to me that Hook's name was inside the quotation marks. Syndication often has stuff we (in the present) never see, which is why I like hearing all of your comments.


Anonymous 6:59 PM  

I am so ashamed! I googled "French Bluebeard.

In all fairness to myself, I knew the theme to be a misprint (curse you Vancouver Sun) so I was suspicious from the start.

Early on, I thought of RAT for 32a, but I didn't enter it. (I should have put it in lightly, at least)As the northeast slowly emerged, I became fixated on LANDAU.

Numerous cups of both tea and coffee later. (with the traditional break to listen to Stewart McLean on CBC-1) I had everything but the three blanks of 32a. Why I didn't settle on the obvious RAT, I will never know. (Perhaps these mental gymnastics don't delay senility, as Wendy hopes) I was asking myself stuff like: "Is it PESETA or PESEDA? Do the americans spell it GRIDDEL? Was the 32a clue misprinted as well, and it refers to William Tell's birthplace? Wasn't that a 3 letter word beginning with "A"? Isn't LAB a contraction, and wouldn't that be indicated in the clue?"

I must have run through all the possible permutations and combinations before giving up and copping out to google, spoiling what would have been a perfect solution.

Ah well, Perfection is seldom achieved in life. I like to say that you can spend 90% of your money chasing that last 10%, so I have learned to be satisfied, even happy, with "almost perfect"

I did enjoy it, though, and I agree with Rex's difficulty rating.

Anonymous 7:51 PM  

Fun puzzle. Worked through it from the bottom up. Rex and others covered all my questions (e.g. FANWAVE, ORARE), so thanks. Can anyone tell me how to get the Clinton puzzle. It was not in my paper.

Wendy, I also voted for him twice and the world would be a better place if I could have voted for him a third time!

Rex Parker 8:01 PM  


Clinton puzzle is available only at the Times website, as I understand it.

Clinton puzzle!

Anonymous 4:24 AM  

Great post, Rex.

I had CATSTEW for 94a, and TEX for 96d, thinking that TEX was some sort of text messaging word, and that cat stew was... OK I had no idea what cat stew meant.

Oregon Sidekick 8:18 PM  

On the May 6 NYT, you missed mentioning one of the theme answers: 101A - "A Rivera Runs Through It."
Also on 63A - Dante's Inferno, it's not talking about Dante, it's talking about the made-for-tv movie from the 80s (?) about the volcano set in Washington.
Just thought I'd mention it since you do such a great job.
Thanks for all you do for use crossword addicts.

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