TUESDAY, May 1, 2007 - Courtney Crocker and Nancy Salomon

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Relative Difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Bending the Rules" (38A: Title of this puzzle) - circles form various L-shaped patterns on the grid, with each "L" containing a word that can precede "rule" to form a common phrase

First, the NYT puzzle website appears to have a slick new look to it. Blue, and more easily readable and navigable. Second, it's May 1, which seems impossible. Third, I heard yesterday that "One Life to Live" actor Ty Treadway (fakest name ever) has been tapped to host the much anticipated / dreaded "Let's Play Crosswords" game show that will start airing god knows when. Please check out his smirky mug and then try to convince me that watching his show will be a pleasing experience.

This puzzle was super-inventive - a nice feat of construction. I wasn't that fond of all the rules (HOME and HOUSE? ... GENERAL?) but GROUND, GOLDEN, and (especially) SLIDE all seemed very fresh. I really wish they'd been able to fit INFIELD FLY in there somewhere, but that's probably asking a lot.

1A: Drink garnishes (zests) - hmmm. Rinds, maybe. Olives. Onions. I think of a drink garnish as ornamental, but isn't ZEST a fine shaving of the outer skin of a fruit? Maybe I'm just not drinking enough. That can be fixed.

10D: Like some relations (sexual) - dang. Saucy. I had SEXUAL and then changed it because it seemed impossibly good. Also, that "X" was making no sense, as I had ARK for 8D: Heavenly altar, and so the end of 17A: Antic brother (Groucho Marx) looked like this: ...OMKRX, which made me think I was dealing with yet another typewriter keyboard theme for a little while. I changed ARK to ARA (very late, as I barely know ARA) once GROUCHO MARX became indisputable. Though I tanked ARA, I did get the other "heavenly" answer up in the puzzle's north section: 6D: Praise from a choir ("Gloria").

4D: Rolled along (trundled) - wow, that's a great word, and I can't say as I've ever seen it in the grid before.

2D: Violinist Zimbalist (Efrem)
15A: Lash of bygone westerns (Larue) - these guys aren't Pantheon material, but they are reasonably common nonetheless. Get to know them!

29A: Order in the court ("All rise") - fantastic clue / answer pairing

11D: Place to pick up valuable nuggets (gold field) - not a phrase I have ever heard. Gold comes in fields, now? Is that what that horrible Sting song is about?

40D: 1970s TV's "The _____ Show" ("Gong") - before humiliating and shameless Reality TV, there was ... "The Gong Show." It was the "American Idol" of its day. Just replace Paula Abdul with Jaye P. Morgan, and there you are.

58D: "The Match Game" host Rayburn (Gene) - "Gong Show"-era greatness. Along with Dawson's "Family Feud" and "Lingo" (when it was hostessed by that aggressively British chick with the huge rack), "Match Game" is my favorite game show of all time. BETTY WHITE! Everyone smoked and drank right on camera. Dawson was ripped half the time, and still he was the smartest guy on the stage by far.

49D: Equine color (sorrel) - along with ROAN, the horse colors you need to know to succeed at crosswords.

50D: Milquetoast (wuss) - I had WIMP, but WUSS is much better. Less common, more insulting and ambiguous in its implications - the word appears to be a hybrid of WIMP and ... I'll let you guess. Let's just say that WUSS is a shortened form of WUSSY.

68A: Coffee for bedtime (decaf) - this clue is insane. There is no coffee explicitly designed for "bedtime." "Sanka: The Bedtime Coffee" (TM). ??? "Our coffee helps you get to sleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake feeling refreshed." That's some unnatural coffee right there. Pharmaceutical coffee.

52A: Like many Chas Addams characters (ghoulish) - Hey, you know who starred on "The Addams Family?" John Astin, that's who. See, I know who he is now. Are you happy!? (note to befuddled new readers - I previously made claims about his relative obscurity and was hounded and jeered by readers, including my best friend)

64D: Alternative spelling: Abbr. (Var.) - yes, I prefer you in my grid to in my clues, VAR.

This puzzle is a little heavy on the crosswordese, with STET, ESSO, ELIE, EDEN, SSE, and ABAB. HAN (62A: Chinese dynasty), OTC (66A: Non-Rx), ODETS (71A: Clifford who co-wrote [get it? ... CO-wrote ... see puzzle authors] "The Sweet Smell of Success"), and EDO (65D: Tokyo, once) are all words I learned from doing crosswords. Something about the stacking of INANE and FERAL is pleasing to me. I'm trying to imagine someone/thing being both INANE and FERAL. Maybe a HYENA, or an Alabama cheerleader yelling "Gimme AN A" (43A: What Alabama cheerleaders say to "gimme" four times). You may be asking, "Is there no END TO this?" (45A). Thankfully for all of us, there is.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 7:18 AM  

Loved all the Gs today; I counted 9.

ALL RISE was definitely a highlight. GOLD FIELD was pretty lame although wikipedia does allow it as "an area where gold mining occurs." Until just now I didn't realize that ARA was a constellation that means altar in Latin. Well, now we know.

Seeing GROUCHO MARX reminds me that a new employee at my firm, age 23 and at the top of her class in college, had never heard either of him or his brothers when they were mentioned in a conversation. Ouch!

Oddly, I don't think of milquetoast (after the comic strip character Caspar Milquetoast, which she probably hasn't heard of either) and WUSS in precisely the same sense. Per my dictionary, the former is "timid, shrinking, apologetic" while the latter is "weak, ineffectual, overly sensitive." Perhaps my imagination is a little too finely tuned on this point.

Now that I've gotten my daily Rex fix and guffaw, it's off to the coalmines/goldfields. Thanks Rex. Along with Dannon coffee yogurt, you've become a necessity in getting my day going.

Anonymous 8:12 AM  

...I have seen a lot of wheat in a wheatfield, but I have not seen a lot of oil in an oilfield....

DONALD 8:33 AM  

Great write-up!

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

A ZESTy, saucy SLICE 'o morning-wake-up puzzle pie! Mmmmm. Definitely not DECAF. And, Rex, what are you doing up at 4:28AM?!?

Had to chuckle at the answer INATRANCE, which is so devilishly similar to yesterday's clue enTRANCE, which gave me fits.

Your comment about "that terrible Sting song" cracked me up, even though I must admit to LOVING that song.

And the random re-appearance of Kermit made my day :)

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

A ZESTy, saucy SLICE 'o morning-wake-up puzzle pie! Mmmmm. Definitely not DECAF. And, Rex, what are you doing up at 4:28AM?!?

Had to chuckle at the answer INATRANCE, which is so devilishly similar to yesterday's clue enTRANCE, which gave me fits.

Your comment about "that terrible Sting song" cracked me up, even though I must admit to LOVING that song.

And the random re-appearance of Kermit made my day :)

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

Oooops, sorry for the double post! Good thing my comment didn't appear as many times as I pressed "publish" only to be thwarted once more..... Aaaaargh!

Orange 10:00 AM  

im in ur grid solving ur puzzl3z

Home rule pertains to local government, and house rules dictate "take your shoes off when you come in," say, or "$50 limit, aces high" (that's fake poker-speak because I'm not fluent in that dialect).

I am blanking on Ty Treadway's character. Troy? I think it was Troy. And he was a doctor, or maybe a fake doctor, and tussled with Lindsay and, I think, also with Nora when she had amnesia and forgot she was in love with Lindsay's ex, Sam...or something like that. (I haven't watched for a few years.) Google tells me he also played Troy's evil twin, Colin—forgot that part. And he was congenial on that SoapNet talk show, so I think he can pull off hosting a game show. But does he have the crossword smarts for Let's Do Crosswords (which I think is the new title)? We shall see.

Rex Parker 10:05 AM  

To be clear, I know what HOUSE Rules and HOME Rule are ... the near synonymity of HOME and HOUSE just bugged me. Not a lot. A little.

I like "Let's Play Crosswords," but even with "Let's Do..." the host's intro phrase is going to be somewhat awkward "Let's Play 'Let's Do Crosswords!'"


Rex Parker 10:07 AM  

Oh, I found another RULE in the puzzle. LARUE is an anagram of A RULE.

Orange 10:08 AM  

(Forgot to say that mentions of Match Game and mid- to late-'70s game shows are always welcome! Remember High Rollers? Alex Trebek and giant dice?)

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

Time flies like an arrow.
Fruit flies like a banana.

Linda G 10:57 AM  

I guess I thought I had to elaborate on the theme, since I'd pawned it off on Orange last week. Your way was so much more succinct.

An excellent write-up, but that never surprises me. Very delicate description of WUSS.

Also had OMKRX for a time and wondered what the...

Rock Rabbit -- Rex was sleeping in today. Yesterday he posted at 4:22.

Fipper 12:11 PM  

can't figure 9d out - bedroom community, briefly is burb? suburbia?

Campesite 12:12 PM  

I'm just happy that this gameshow host guy spells his first name with two letters and not something Tai or Taye or we would be living with him in crossword clues forever.
Great blog today.
"If you want to see a comic strip, you should see me in the shower" -- Groucho Marx

Anonymous 12:36 PM  

Ty Treadway - is that his porn name?

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -- Groucho, again

Anonymous 12:38 PM  


Ara was a crossword regular of Pantheon caliber years ago. I don't think I have not seen it in a while, though. However, it came to mind immediately -- those pantheon-esqe words stick with you for a lifetime.

Love the Groucho Marxisms. I forgot what a punster he was.

Anonymous 2:14 PM  

profphil -- if you like groucho, you may enjoy this site with lotso "grouchoisms." (you may need to cut and paste if the link proper doesn't work...)


best --


Anonymous 3:05 PM  

Does anyone else remember Brett Somers from Match Game? Now that was some kick-ass tv fare.

Anonymous 3:33 PM  

OED "burb"
colloq. (orig. and chiefly U.S.).
A suburb, a suburban area. Freq. in pl. with the.
Occas. depreciative, implying a dull ordinariness or lack of metropolitan sophistication among suburban residents. 1977 Washington Post 11 Dec. 25/2 Others are buying the American dream of a house in the burbs and two cars in the garage. 1987 K. LETTE Girls' Night Out (1989) 112 Why don'tcha go back to the burbs..where you belong. 1994 Sunday Tel. 9 Oct. II. 13/5 The problem may not be which 'burb to choose, but which to move on from first. 2001 N. DEMILLE Lion's Game xxiii. 198 Some bridge and tunnel types from the burbs.

Campesite 3:37 PM  

Another game show note: Groucho hosted "You Bet Your Life" on which there was this famous exchange:

Groucho: Why do you have so many children?
Female Contestant: Well, I love my husband very much.
Groucho: Hey, I enjoy a good cigar, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while

Rex Parker 3:48 PM  

Anyone still confused about the meaning of 'Burb need only see this movie. Then all will be clear...


Anonymous 4:48 PM  

A cannibalistic cult?! Yikes.

Great write-up this morning - thanks for making me laugh about the feral cheerleaders...

Orange 4:59 PM  

Funny you should mention Brett Somers, Dave. I wanted to be her when I grew up. Salty, mouthy, snarky, maybe nicotine-stained? Don't smoke, but am still striving to develop into Brett Somers.

DONALD 7:59 PM  

Hmmmm...yesterday's puzzle featured a "bend" -- SOUTHBEND (25A Home of Notre Dame); do we have the "bends" this week?

Unknown 12:13 PM  

From the Future / Six Weeks out

Rex, "British chick with the huge rack". I had concluded you were maybe late thirties but this line makes you 58 1/2 years old.

Like yesterday, I rate this as "Easy". Maybe it's morphic resonance: the answers have been dancing around the planet for six weeks so they are easier for new palyers to tap into. I like that theory, too bad it won't apply when we get to the Friday and Saturday puzzles, when I'll be staring at a blank grid for fifrteen minutes before tentatively entering some "S"s.

Re. Drink Garnishes (zests), I agree with Rex. A common mistake which could be cured by having all puzzle constructors attend the "'What is a potato?' -- 'A potato is a tuber'." school of taxonomy.

It's always a mystery to me how "easy" can be a point on the "relative difficulty" scale. Why to we call the continuum of easy-to-difficult "Difficulty"? or "Ease" for that matter. There should be a different word that pertains to the whole continuum to describe it, not a word taken from one-half of the continuum.

Now, back to the present.

Anonymous 10:08 PM  

Also, 6 weeks out

I usually don't have much to say about Tuesday puzzles. However, this one was a little more difficult for me than usual. I got slowed down in NW by ZESTS, GROUCHOMARX, ANA, and a couple of others (had OPER for phone button for a while). NW seemed more Wednesday than Tuesday. That said, I liked the puzzle, very clever for a Tuesday!

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