THURSDAY, May 10, Peter A. Collins

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "=" - four 15-letter answers have only "=" as their clue. Number of the Across clue EQUALS the answer... with the answers expressed in terms of addition, division, subtraction, and multiplication (respectively)

More evidence of the dominance of the puzzle world by Math Guys. I'm not sure how much I physically enjoyed this puzzle, but I'm pretty impressed by it as a feat of construction. I especially like that Collins was able to fit all four of the Big Four into the puzzle:

ADDITION: 17A = ten ADDED TO seven
DIVISION: 25A = hundred OVER four
SUBTRACTION: 42A = fifty MINUS eight

I call these the BIG FOUR because in elementary school we did timed tests for each of these four categories, and once we were able to finish them all in a certain amount of time (5 minutes each, maybe) we received a BIG FOUR card, which would allow us (I can't believe this, but it's true) to get out of lunch early and thus get first dibs on the best recess equipment. This should have had the effect of drawing huge crosshairs on nerds (like me, who passed all his tests on day 1). Somehow I survived. I have color-coded the terms, above, to match the color of the paper on which each timed test was presented (yes, I remember Very Clearly). Gibson Elementary! Go ... Knights??

I'm not too fond of the first two theme answers, where phrasing is concerned. I really miss PLUS and DIVIDED BY, respectively, as those are the words/phrases that are most appropriate. But I can't come up with different equations that will fit using PLUS or DIVIDED BY, not for 17 or 25, anyway. So ... I guess ADDED TO and OVER are passable compromises. Nobody says HUNDRED, though. A HUNDRED or ONE HUNDRED ... but you knew that.

51A: "Mighty Aphrodite" co-star Sorvino (Mira) - this is a total burn on her. She WON THE OSCAR for this performance, and yet she is clued merely as "co-star." HA ha.

30D: "Vega$" star (Urich) - This was a spin-off of "Charlie's Angels!" I enjoyed Robert URICH in "Spenser: For Hire" in the mid-80's ... but not as much as my mom enjoyed him. Him and Tom Selleck.

14A: Province west of Madrid (Ávila) - guessed it off the "A" in RATE - 1D: Be held in esteem - and only because I've heard of St. Teresa of ÁVILA. The whole NW corner was a bit tricky for me.

38A: Early photojournalist Jacob (Riis) - vaguely familiar, but ultimately an educated guess (after I got the side-by-side "I"s). RIIS did an exposé of police-run poor houses that convinced NYC Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt to shut them down, conditions were so awful. RIIS was an example of what Roosevelt meant when he later coined the term "muckraking journalism."

60A: University in Peterborough, Ont. (Trent)
57D: Century 21 competitor (ERA) - these cross at the "R," and while I was pretty sure about that "R," I have to confess that it was a bit of a guess - the only square on the grid of which I was uncertain.

22A: New World flycatchers (pewees) - I turned to my wife last night in the middle of doing the puzzle and asked "have you ever heard of a P-E-W-E-E?" Her reply: "... is it a bird?" Yes, yes it is.

5D: Not just a tease (bad girl)

OK, I have all kinds of objections to this. Maybe this is true in a seriously colloquial and highly prejudicial kind of way, but it's basically saying that a girl who f@#$s is "bad." This is hypocritical (you'd never call a boy who f#@#s a "bad boy") and reinforces all kinds of screwed up ideas about women and sex. It's got the worst of both worlds. The clue says "frat boy," and the answer says "prissy Victorian moralist." Yuck.

24D: Spot (TV ad) - I had T-AD for what felt like a long time. Idiot idiot idiot. Total rookie mistake. I've seen this clue / answer pairing before, and still I was trying to come up with a T-AD word that mean "stain" or "espy." I could see the two-words-in-four-letters thing with 6A: Where Beetle Bailey can often be found (on KP), but not here. Ugh.

26D: Development sites (uteri) - fantastic clue

38D: Cupid holder? (reins) - ditto (Cupid = one of Santa's reindeer)

36D: Preparing, as a layout, with "up" (dummying) - a great answer. I wrote it in off of just the "DU-" and I knew it was right but ... something about it felt wrong. DUMMYING up is what a perp does when he wants to see his lawyer.

48D: Bay Area blues: Abbr. (S.F.P.D.) - speaking of perps ... nice police answer. I'd prefer to see this answer clued in relation to Dirty Harry, but there's a certain alliterative quality to this clue that I can admire.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


ScottK 8:19 AM  

I caught that the long answers were equations, but didn't understand what they had in common until I had completed them all. What a nar!

I agree 5D is totally sexist. I would have clued it "Donna Summer sang of her," or perhaps "The Secretary of State, e.g."

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

I do not know how you figured this out. When I saw the = sign, I literally groaned out loud and tried to do as much as I could before I went to bed, knowing it was an exercise in futility. Cute story about your childhood exploits, though!

Rex, the realty firm ERA has no periods between the letters, FYI. And I took DUMMYING UP in this context to not have a criminal justice meaning but rather exactly what the clue says, i.e., how a page is laid out mechanically in graphic design (kind of an obsolete term nowadays as all such work is done on the computer but whatever).

Anonymous 8:45 AM  

First of all, Rex, thanks for standing up for all of us Bad Girls.

Secondly, I adored this puzzle! Loved, loved, loved the math. Somehow I had the entire right side of the puzzle finished first, giving me SEVEN, FOUR, EIGHT, AND ELEVEN. What the??! Began to catch on after staring at the clues again: [17 =] amd made the connection.

Lovely, Peter Collins.

Linda G 9:07 AM  

Yes, thanks for defending us. That could have been clued so many ways without being totally sexist. Men are studs, women are sluts...

Anonymous 9:25 AM  

Pretty rough clue, I agree. A nice puzzle, otherwise. My inner math nerd loves this stuff.

How do you use DUMMMYING UP? Is it an artistic term, or more of a technical thing? Never heard that phrase before in any context, and even with the definition, can't quite get my head around it. Got it off the crossings.

Rex Parker 9:28 AM  

I know what "DUMMYING up" means in this context - the clue defines it. I was just adding another meaning of the phrase. I never for a second thought the clue itself had anything to do with criminals. I'm not sure how anyone who actually read the clue *could* think that.

DONALD 9:45 AM  

Comical how the comments are dominated by BADGIRL considering the main thrust is mathematics!

Hang in there, the weekend's on the way!

Anonymous 10:03 AM  

as wendy points out, the technology is changing, but i'm not sure the term is altogether obsolete.

the dummy copy of a newspaper or magazine (for example) is a mock up of how it will look once printed. so if ya say you're "dummying up" the next edition of (these days maybe still) the small, local weekly newspaper, it simply means you're creating the, um, beta version.

as i understand it...



Alex S. 10:13 AM  

I completely solved all of the theme words without figuring out what the theme was and since I was done with the puzzle didn't put much effort into it so you shed the light on it for me.

The problem with doing the puzzle in the applet is that as I click around it automatically highlights the appropriate clue for me so I completely filter out the grid numbers so I don't think I ever consciously saw "17. =" just "=". I'm sure I would have figured it out if I had been solving on paper.

I got them easy enough but should TV AD, ODING, and ON KP have some kind of abbreviation indicator?

In reverse I was thrown off of TRENT because of the abbreviation in the clue "University in Peterborough, Ont." and so was looking for an abbreviated answer even though I'm somewhat familiar with Trent.

And I didn't like the clue. Obviously any reference to a year is going to have to be Roman numerals but I still think there should be an indicator. I wouldn't like LV as the answer for "Some speed limits" either.

Did like PROPHESY and DUMMYING. PEWEE is just a word that looks wrong but I figured it must be a word or a type of kid's baseball league.

Howard B 10:16 AM  

I see now, I was just being a bit clueless there and just didn't get it. Ironically, my father was a printer, and yet it still wasn't familiar. I wonder if he knows that term. I'm such a dummy.


Rex Parker 10:21 AM  


You would never see speed limits written in Roman numerals (I don't think...), but you would see a University's foundation date written that way ... also, copyrights on news telecasts (and other telecasts, I'm guessing).

But I do appreciate your frustration with the apparent lack of consistency where cluing for abbreviations is concerned. When I'm solving, I assume that with geography, for the most part, abbreviated states mean nothing. For The Most Part.


Anonymous 11:37 AM  

I'm concerned that your anthropomorphic calculator is performing a naughty operation.

xwd_fiend 11:44 AM  

Managed nearly all of this, just missing the URICH/RIIS crossing (should have realised that no-one could possibly be called URSCH).

Also got the theme from the back end of these entries, noticing that they could end with numbers.

Unknown 11:58 AM  

Another clue for 5D: Words after Fifi crapped on the carpet.

Anonymous 11:59 AM  

dummying up -- also what edgar bergen used to do and jay johnston still does. quite successfully!



Anonymous 12:08 PM  

Although I got the theme answers. I was confused as they were parts of unrelated equations. I too did it on the applet and never noticed that the #across was equal to the answer. Thanks for making sense out of hay.

I originally had dike instead of dune.

Anonymous 12:29 PM  


My favorite response to the Bad Girl debate! Thanks for making me laugh.

Campesite 12:45 PM  

Somehow I cracked the code on the theme answers rather quickly, which is probably why I loved this puzzle.
The Bad Girl answer bugged me too for all the reasons listed and also because I couldn't figure out how to fit Good Person in the space.

Orange 2:12 PM  

I had the same idea as John. BAD GIRL seems like lively fill, but not if its clue expresses antipathy for women's personhood. How about [Phrase accompanying a rolled-up newspaper to the nose]?

Rex Parker 3:15 PM  

There will be no animal beating at this here blog. No one should ever say BAD GIRL to a dog except in jest. Dogs don't know from bad.

If only that "D" could have been changed to a "T" - would have made my day.

Anonymous 5:56 PM  

Readers may have noticed that Pete apologized on the NYTimes forum for the Bad Girl clue. I, for one, am not holding any grudges.

DONALD 5:57 PM  

But did we need BADGIRL and DADDY in the same puzzle with MOM so close to Mother's Day?

Unknown 6:42 PM  

Hey, Rex, I have two Labs, and if I hadn't used the occasional "bad boy" admonishment, I think they would still treat my apartment like a toilet and everything in it like a chew toy. Dogs can certainly read facial expressions and tone of voice (it's a big part of what separates them from wild beasts) so I don't think it's wrong to offer up a bad boy every now and then to teach them what's what.

Rex Parker 6:42 PM  

Haven't looked at the Forum today, but it was my understanding that the BAD GIRL clue was Will's, not Pete's.

Somebody will correct me if I am wrong.


Rex Parker 6:46 PM  

Whoops, missed the dog comment. All I will say is that I disagree. My dog is very well trained and calling her "bad" is responsible for none of it. And jeez, labs are just about the most trainable dogs in the world. But to each his own - as long as dogs aren't being hit, I don't really care.


Anonymous 7:17 PM  

pete1123 - 1:45 PM ET May 10, 2007 (#46877 of 46889)
a question from the constructor

Hi. It's Pete -- the constructor of today's Times and Sun puzzles. I have a question for anyone who did the Sun puzzle from the newspaper. Were the themed hidden words (BUS, TRAIN, etc) highlighted or circled? They weren't on the electronic version, and I thought that without highlighting they must have been rather tough to spot.
I'm here in the Midwest where no one has even heard of the NY Sun, let alone sells a copy.
My apologies on the BADGIRL clue in the NY Times. A canine-related clue would've been a better choice.
Peter A Collins

Rex Parker 7:27 PM  

Pete apologized ... but that doesn't mean it wasn't Will's clue. I don't think a constructor is likely to bite the hand that feeds him by saying "blame Will!"

I should divulge that an unnamed inside source told me the clue was Mr. Shortz's. That said, I don't really care about anyone's assuming blame. Just so long as the point about the BAD GIRL clue was made abundantly clear.


Norrin2 7:48 PM  

Pete, I don't know about the print version -- you can't buy the Sun in South Carolina either -- but I can tell you I didn't have any problem picking up on the theme words.
(Great puzzle BTW -- or puzzles. I guess having one in the Times and one in the Sun on the same day is kind of the crossword equivalent of hitting for the cycle.)
I had a hard time getting going on this one. I started down in the Southeast, and knew that 55 Across was Something Something eleven and I couldn't shake the notion that it had something to do with the fact that an equal sign is a sideways 11.
Another example of how having the wrong idea is a whole lot worse than having no idea.

Anonymous 7:58 PM  

I really liked the puzzle and I normally don't do math -- Just ask Mr. Smith my HS teacher!

I figured out the theme pretty quickly and got 17A first....then 55A. Kept wanting 25A to have "divided by" in it -- the whole "over" business messed me up....oh and "hundred" without "a" or "one" preceeding it.

Thanks, as always, Rex and the rest of the group -- always read and enjoy but don't always have time to post.

Anonymous 8:48 PM  

Hi Rex:

Thought this was a nice puzzle.

I don't think BAD GIRL is objectionable, per se -- there are plenty of Hollywood-starlet types who are referred thusly, and it's not (just) because they put out.

I also think cluing this as a 'canine clue' would have sucked, with all due respect to Mr. Collins (and others -- although I too considered 'words to a sassy lassie' etc. before deciding it not as good as something like 'Paris, for one?').

You are right of course to grumble about the clue as it was worded.

Pen Girl :)

Samter Petuel 10:47 PM  

Someone please help me understand 20A. I got ERD. Was that wrong? What the heck does it mean?
Also 29D - ODING. Where would I find this word? Or perhaps I have done something wrong. help

Anonymous 10:55 PM  

It's END (I think). I feel compelled to post for the first time because (1) I can actually answer someone's question and (2) I think this puzzle has not gotten enough love. It is sheer brilliance to link the answers to a part of the puzzle we generally ignore (the clue number). Sort of like how Jimi Hendrix used parts of his guitar people hadn't thought of as being musical.

Anonymous 10:56 PM  

Oh, and ODING is "overdosing."

Anonymous 10:48 PM  

Why have we become so politically correct that the puzzlewriter has to apologize for "Bad Girl"? Are we to assume that "broad", "dame", and "chick" will have to leave the crossword domain next? Geezz...

Anonymous 11:26 PM  

Way to go Pete! Great puzzle! Got the very clever theme right away which made it go quickly (being a math nerd has its advantages). BTW, nice to see Ned Flanders get some recognition puzzle wise.

Anonymous 2:36 AM  

I must be dense, but how are bart and sure related(45D)?

Rex Parker 7:40 AM  

You need to give me the full clue, because I have no idea what you're talking about (6 weeks after the fact).


Anonymous 10:16 AM  

anon -- re 45d -- if you meant "BAN" and "SURE" they are both deodorants

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

Oh, Man! This PC stuff really bugs me! I thought "Not just a tease" was a brilliant clue for BAD GIRL. The puzzle is supposed to reflect the popular culture. There are many segments of today's society which regard "BAD" as good.

This was a one-cupper for me. I got the theme right away. The only red herrings were a result of my occupation.(Builder) 36d, "Preparing, as a layout" I had DRAFTING, and the Oregon Coast fell last because of the brilliantly clued ("Development sites") UTERI.

Contributing to the holdup in this area was the lack of an article for 25a, HUNDRED OVER FOUR, mentioned above, and my only (minor) quibble.

Does everyone know that Beetle Baily is the kid brother of Lois? (of Hi and Lois)

Anonymous 9:21 PM  

go rex! a classic review

bad boys

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