THURSDAY, May 24, 2007 - Patrick Merrell

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Relative Difficulty: Easy to Medium

THEME: Cloned letters - three theme answers all contain a number-letter component, which is rendered literally in the grid, as the given letter appears as many times as the number indicates.

This theme was possibly the most difficult to describe of all the themes I've had to describe in these past 8+ months. Once you see it, the theme is self-evident - and it was very easy to crack - but describing it clearly and succinctly - that was a challenge.

Your theme answers are:

  • 17A: "Creature From the Black Lagoon," e.g. (DDD monster movie) - "DDD" = "3D"
  • 41A: Gathering of budding agriculturists (HHHH Club meeting) - "HHHH" = "4H"
  • 62A: Some running competitions (KKKKKKKKKK races) - "KKKKKKKKKK" = "10K"
I loved the theme even though the answers are arbitrary, number-wise (i.e. why the progression from 3 to 4 to 10?). Once I got those 3 D's in the NW (early) the theme became evidently almost instantaneously, and the only real question I had, theme-wise, was whether 62A would be 5K or 10K - 5K would have made at least a little more sense, as 5 would seem to follow (3, 4 ...) much more logically than 10 would. But whatever. Progression be damned, those 10 K's look GOOD in the grid. "K" is my favorite letter and, to me, the most fascinating letter in the English language. More on that another time. I will say that "K"'s one drawback is that whenever three or more are gathered together, the connotations are less than savory. But this is part of why I find the letter fascinating - because its significance runs from good (A thousand! Strikeout!) to evil (KKK, K-Mart, etc.). And I want to give this puzzle some kind of award for super-K action, because not only are there 10 K's in that one theme answer, but there are EIGHTEEN K's total in the grid! Today, just for fun, I'll cover only the non-theme K-containing answers (followed by a final paragraph concerning the few answers that were new to me or particularly challenging).

1A: Food that's stuck on a plate (kebab) - I swear to you that, with the grid completely blank, the first thing I wrote in here was SATAY. Then I saw 3D: With 2-Down, what a villain may come to, knew that it was BAD END, and proceeded to write BAD where END should have gone and vice versa. So it was a rough start; I never tripped again, however, and am fairly certain that I set a personal Thursday record with this puzzle. The KEBAB kross is KID (1D: Western moniKer).

15A: Site of an annual auto hill climb (Pike's Peak) - Got it off the PI-. Really, what else was it gonna be? This answer gets you two glorious K's, one crossing the all-too-familiar EKE (13D: Pull (out), as a narrow victory), but the other crossing the colorful IKE, clued here as 8D: Mike's partner in candy.

20A: Shatner's sci-fi drug (Tek) - On this one, I had to make an edumacated guess on the "T." The "K" was obvious, coming from A POKE (10D: Give _____ (prod)), but the "T" came from ERTES (16D: Some art prints), and even though ERTE is crosswordese at its finest, with just the ER- sitting there I hesitated a bit before I was able to conjure the answer into existence. On a side note, the "E" in TEK came from ESME (9D: Salinger girl), which, when I saw it ... was like seeing a former girlfriend I hadn't seen in 20 years. Familiar yet strange. ESME is old skool crosswordese that has not been in the puzzle during my tenure as crossword blogger.

5D: "The Greatest Generation" author (Brokaw) - I always hated the title of this book. I understand that it is reverential for a good reason - they saved the world and all - but, look, the so-called "Greatest Generation" beat their wives and hated blacks at least as much as any other generation, so let's not get too carried away with the love-fest, all right? The "K" kross here is SKIER (19A: One trying to stay up while going down - nice clue).

30A: Attention-getting haircut (mohawk) - Also a tribe, and river, in New York. Sanjaya sported a fake MOHAWK earlier in this season of "American Idol" - a show which lost all credibility when Melinda ended up not even making the finals. Jordin Sparks is a fine singer, but they have taken her out of the oven about a decade too early, as far as I'm concerned. My favorite part of last night's season finale (besides any time Kelly was on stage - I Love her) was ... well there were two. I am in total love with Gladys Knight, so I got all swoony and emotional watching her sing "Midnight Train to Georgia," even though she was dressed like a middle-aged lady going out for an afternoon of shopping at the local mall. The other great moment was Blake singing / beat-boxing with Doug E. Fresh, because Doug E. Fresh is a rap Legend; because Blake finally got to be Blake after being forced to sing the Crappiest Song in Idol History the night before; and, finally because I knew that 90-someodd% of the audience truly had no idea who Doug E. Fresh was despite the fact that they pretended they did. Least favorite part of the night - repeated reaction shots of David Hasselhoff and Jeff Foxworthy and other Loser Celebrities in attendance last night. Do I really wanna know that Tony Bennett makes Jerry Springer cry? Answer: no. The "K" kross here was NICKEL (18D: Jefferson site), which I managed to spell correctly this time (I've been known to write NICKLE).

39A: Canon rival (Nikon) - "I got a NIKON camera / I love to take a photograph / So mama don't taaaaaake my Kodachrome awaaaaaay." This answer takes us into the fabulous East Coast of this puzzle, with the awesomely parallel and somehow mathematically-related BIKINIS (27D: Two-piece suits? - that "?" threw me for a bit) and SINGLET (29D: Wrestler's wear). The two-piece suits and the one-piece suit were separated by an answer which should have been clued [Why Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers kicked ass]. Instead we got the far less interesting clue, 28D: Study involving nature and engineering (bionics).

73A: Target sport (skeet) - I don't have anything to say about this "K." SKEET was one of the more ill-conceived and grating characters featured in DC's recently concluded series "52." How to describe him? How about: a floating, know-it-all computer-butler. From the future. He plays Jeeves to a B-List superhero, Booster Gold. That's all I care to say about that. The kross here is SACK (61D: Bed, slangily).

My favorite part of the solving experience was hitting the far West and nailing all the long Downs in rapid succession, with very few crosses. I mean AMPHORA (21D: Old wine vessel), POOHBAH (22D: Bigwig), and T.H. WHITE (23D: "The Sword in the Stone" author) didn't even have time to get their guns out of their holsters before I set them down (sorry, rewatched "Once Upon a Time in the West" yesterday and it's deeply affecting my worldview at the moment). Potentially tricky parts of this puzzle include:
  • 9A: Avant-garde composer Brown (Earle) - ???
  • 46A: Dye plant (anil) - krosswordese, but not known to everyone
  • 58A: Gray side: Abbr. (CSA) - obvious once you see it, but you've gotta know that the Blue and the Gray are the opposing sides in the American Civil War, then know that the Gray was the South, and then finally know that the abbreviation for the South was CSA (Confederate States of America). Lots going on in such a little clue.
  • 63D: "The Jungle Book" python (Kaa) - not familiar to me. Reminds me of Shatner shouting "Khaaaaaaaan" but getting cut short.
  • 53D: Longtime "ABC's Wide World of Sports" host (McKay)
  • 32A: Suffix with hex- (ose) - HEXOSE!?! Boo!
  • 33D: Suffix with benz- (ene) - BENZENE - that's better.
  • 48A: Suffix with vapour (ise) - there's a "U" in "vapour" now? Jolly good.
  • 31D: Queens's _____ Stadium (Ashe) - curiously, an anagram of the answer I wanted here.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 9:01 AM  

i loved this puzzle. got the theme, tho, first w/ "hhhh," then "k (x10)," *then* "ddd"...

when i saw the 3 k's before "races" (which i'd *not* yet filled in) i worried some, then took another look at the clue and knocked it out.

i don't think there's a nyt puzzle i've met that i haven't found *something* to take real pleasure in. this week's dailies have given me a particular lift with today's as an out and out fave. must be all them k's!



Anonymous 9:09 AM  

p.s. and the write-ups haven't been too shabby either -- thx, rex!!


JC66 10:08 AM  

I did misspell NICKLE and since CSI is still on the air, and I think still highly rated, it took awhile for me to figure out the middle. Tried HHHHTEAMMEETING. Finally spelled NICKEL correctly & it fell into place. I still quesztion the CSI clue. Liked that Patrick also worked III into the grid.

dfan 10:43 AM  

This was a really fun one, especially since I got the long answers in order. "Aha, DDD, 3-D, I get it... HHHH, uh huh, okay, next one will probably be KKKKK", and then seeing that run of Ks go even twice as long as that.

Orange 10:53 AM  

Well, KKKKK RACES is five letters too short for the theme, and I can't think of any other 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-, or 9-[letter] phrases. "EEEEE-sy Pieces" is an almost, as is "TTTTTT seconds"—but neither combines numeral and letter in the original form, so that's a different game altogether. At least the 3, 4, and 10 answers are in order, and not, say, 4, 10, 3 order.

Rex, I think you should volunteer to read Shatner's Tek-War sci-fi series this summer, or at least the first one. C'mon! The hero is named after a sweater. Or maybe the comic book version would please you more?

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

I'm sure the "U" in "vapour" is a deliberate Britishism as an indicator that the suffix is "ise" and not "ize".

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

Aside from the nifty theme (I was quite alarmed at first when those Ks kept mounting in number at 62A and I still didn't grasp what was happening), I think my favorite clue and answer is Suffix with vapour/ISE. Even though I knew that I was being presented with the British English version of the word, I still stubbornly filled in IZE until it became obvious that I really needed to complete the word with the British English spelling. DUHHHHHH! Although I doubt this will ever happen on this side of the pond, I'd love to see a whole puzzle where the answers are in British English. That would be mondo fun (for me anyway - I go to Canada a lot and have many friends there so I see those spellings fairly regularly anyway.) I am a huge fan of that extraneous U for reasons that I cannot possibly fathom. I just like the looks of the words better.

I also agree that LAFAYETTE was awesome juxtaposed with the KKK+s. EARLE, however, should have been clued "1979-1987 OSU Buckeyes Coach ____ Bruce." EARLE Brown is so avant-garde it's practically in some other galaxy, IMOO.

And I'm waiting for the day when the Salinger reference is not ESME but ZOOEY. Has that ever happened, to anyone's knowledge? Or I'd be over the moon over GLASS, clued as "Family whose children all appeared on 'It's A Wise Child.'" Or BUDDY, clued as "Glass sibling featured in 'Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters'" That sort of thing. I would find this level of originality highly gratifying ;)

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

I loved this puzzle when I finally figured out what the heck they were doing with all those letters, which is to say when I already had 10 K RACES, 3D MONSTER MOVIES and 4H C__B MEMBERS. Actually, I'd tentatively put an O in place of the first of the three Ds (to make ODD), but after filling in 10 Ks and 4 Hs, I went back to KID, which made much more sense than KIO (but not quite as much, to my mind, as KIT--as in KIT Carson).
9D First thought it would be Zoey (even though I think it's actually Frannie and Zooey).
Liked the clue to ISE. Sub-tle. Yes, the u was the clue that the s was an s and not a zee (and most certainly not a zed).
I thought 19A was PORN STAR. (Not really.)
30A Hey Messrs Shortz andMerrell, "mohawks" have evolved, by the way. At least around here, they have a version that involves no shaving of the head, so instead of looking fierce and ugly, you just look like a kewpie doll.
28D The tricky thing about this clue is that because of the $6M people, we tend to think of bionics as fictional, I suppose (at least for part of a second).
Kaa, Kipling,...Just So Stories. I think your daughter is still young enough to enjoy these stories that Kipling wrote for his own (best beloved) daughter. I'm guessing that it's just the name Kaa that was unfamiliar, but just in case...go to and have a look.
Start with The Elephant's Child. A professor of mine once described these as "children's first introduction to Literature" (with a capital L).

dfan 11:21 AM  

I also agree that LAFAYETTE was awesome juxtaposed with the KKK+s. EARLE, however, should have been clued "1979-1987 OSU Buckeyes Coach ____ Bruce." EARLE Brown is so avant-garde it's practically in some other galaxy, IMOO.

EARLE was the first answer I got! It's nice to occasionally have one's specialized knowledge come in handy.

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

Dan: Funny! How do you happen to know about EARLE Brown?

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

Wendy, your post was not up when I submitted. I have the same inexplicable reaction to the u in colour, neighbourhood, favour and so on. I grew up and learned to write in the States but have lived in Canada for several years now, so I use the Canadian spelling much of the time. I like words like flavour, but I don't like centre. And every once in a while, I come across a new spelling difference that I didn't know about. Like manoeuver or jewellery. I pronounce the latter ju-WELL-er-ee in my mind to remind me how to spell it.
Right, then...

Anonymous 11:29 AM  

P.S. I had no idea William Shatner was a writer. Heh, heh ... Jake Cardigan. Clever. I was trying to imagine what kind of sweater a character might be named after, Orange, but could only come up with VNECK.

joeyshapiro 12:44 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
joeyshapiro 12:45 PM  

tutee (37d) gave me a lot of trouble. i really don't like it.

Anonymous 12:59 PM  

Does anyone understand 21 across? What is apt supposed to mean here? thanx

Rex Parker 1:08 PM  

"U" spelling in clue indicates British suffix -ISE as the answer - yes, that makes sense.

TUTEE is one who is TUTORED.

I guess that if one is "almost bound" to do something, one is APT to do that thing. I, too, find the cluing iffy.

Orange wrote me a private note today suggesting that one of the clues in today's puzzle could be read in a really salacious manner (the answer, sadly, doesn't bear the clue's potential salaciousness out). I'll let you guess which clue Orange was talking about.


Anonymous 1:24 PM  

Orange is referring to one of the prime numbers I suspect. Since you're being so circumspect, so shall I. ;-)

Campesite 2:39 PM  

I had the same thought about the prime number clue, but my answer wouldn't fit in the space.

Anonymous 2:57 PM  

19A, which I mentioned above. I wasn't so coy, but...I guess I'm too long-winded, and it got skimmed over.
I liked the clue to 21A all right...APT (likely) is not quite BOUND (certain).
And as long as I'm going over things that no one read in the first place, the Canadian spelling of maneuver is actually manoeuvre, as I was reminded as I read today's write-up of the transit strike here. Hors d'oeuvres anyone?

Anonymous 4:55 PM  

No one else has commented on this--I'm still stumped--how is REV related to REL (abbr)?
Trish in OP

Anonymous 4:59 PM  


Orange 5:39 PM  

mmpo, I did see your mention of 19-A and was grateful not to have to out myself as a lewd-minded individual (although I wasn't thinking of PORN STAR--these things can be done in nonprofessional settings too, or so I hear). That dirty rat outed me anyway!

Anonymous 6:16 PM  

Something about "trying" implied performance to my mind. Hence, PORN STAR. I guess it could also be some dude who hadn't come to terms with his ED...did you have an answer that fit the five-letter space? :) SOFTY, maybe? (Rex, if this is too much, just delete this immediately. I lived in France for several years. My sense of propriety may have been affected.)

Anonymous 7:24 PM  

Today was a real bummer. There was some composition error in my morning's NYT such that I got yesterday's crossword puzzle in today's paper. I had to look twice -- no, more like ten times. But the top of today's B2 for me says "Wednesday, May 23," and B1 says "Thursday, May 24." Did anyone else have that problem?

Thanks for the great blog. Without it, I would have gone completely without my NYT crossword fix.

Alex S. 7:49 PM  

My salacious one was 61D.

Bed, slangily.

I red "bed" as a verb and has --CK.

I loved the puzzle. The first K I had was EMBARK (the last one). Then I got MCKAY and SKYS and KFC. Then KAA and KLM. Five K's in a row and I was looking at a lone K way down there.

So I had KKKKK----K----- and knew what the clue was going for. But I've run many 15K's so serioucly contemplated it would be K's across the board.

I misspelled NICKEL as NICKLE was my only real hang up.

Normally, I would have hated III (Sundial hour) but in the context of this puzzle I'm cool with it.

barrywep 8:37 PM  

Jerome and Alex:
You guys should try the USA Today puzzle. (Inside crossword joke)

Rex: inside crossword is like inside baseball.

Orange 8:52 PM  

Ha! If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that inside joke! (See here for the background.)

Anonymous 10:48 PM  

Aaackkkkkk. I was stymied by this one.

Also had to get Earle Brown from my 18-year old - That's how avant garde HE is.

Time for a few ZZZZZ's.

Anonymous 1:40 PM  


Anonymous 12:32 PM  

I, too was a Happy Days fan. I do remember one episode when Joanie had a crush on Potsie and she wrote him love letters affectionately addressed to "Dren" which was "nerd" spelled backwards, which everyone thought Potsie was.

Anonymous 1:27 PM  

re. Gladys Knight and the Pips:

On the short-lived Richard Pryor TV show, from many moons ago, an extremely funny bit was "and the Pips", in which said Pips danced and sang the back-up parts of "Midnight Train to Georgia" while Gladys and the lead vocals were glaringly absent.

Catherine 3:17 PM  

Phew. Man. Geez. Etc.

I would have been ten times happier with a KKKKK RUN of some sort. 5K ROAD RACING? ROAD RUNNER? 5K COMPETITOR? It would have fit much nicer.

19A nearly made me blush.

I totally missed the British spelling of Vapour and thus did not understand why it wasn't IZE (except that I couldn't cross it).

In general, good.

Anonymous 3:33 PM  

Good ones Catherine.


Maybe something from "Five golden rings"? Though an "O" being a "ring" is an absurd stretch.


Guess I'm beating a perfectly good horse, but someone had to bet on the nag....

Waxy in Montreal 8:19 PM  

From 6 weeks on into the future:

This has to be the best Thursday NYT crossword ever. Thoroughly enjoyed it - and for the first time totally solved a Thursday sans Google!

Learned something too - until today Amphora was the first tobacco I bought in the days many years ago when I was a pipe smoker; had no idea it was "an old wine vessel" (21D).

Bring on Friday!

Anonymous 9:13 PM  

waxy -- of course! i'm in the futrue as well, though my pipe-smoking days were 60's-70's. A very popular tobacco brand...thanks for jangling that synapse!

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