FRIDAY, Jun. 1, 2007 - David Quarfoot and Katy Swalwell

Friday, June 1, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium-Hard

THEME: too many 3-letter words (or, none)

There are 16 3-letter answers in this puzzle. Is that normal? I mean, for a Friday? I'm sure that no one else found this remarkable, but ... I like my Friday and Saturday grids wide open, with a minimum of short fill. I got a bit bogged down by being unable to confirm very short crosses very effectively. For instance, I had ----OFF for 24D: Change course (veer off), and wanted VEER, but, though I immediately thought VHS (24A: Recording standard) for the V-cross and EMI (29A: Decca rival) for the first E-cross, for some reason I was hesitant to pull the trigger. Felt iffy. Also had trouble with 3-letter abbreviations, like DET (46A: Lead seeker: Abbr. - short for "detective") and IRS (42A: Form letters?) and especially REL (49A: Bill of Rights subj.), which I only just now figured out is short for RELigion. So I was just ... slower than I might have been. This isn't really a complaint about the puzzle - more of an attempt to process my relative slowness today. I also want to beg Will not to pull the "repeated clue phrasing" thing more than once per puzzle. The clues make the puzzle fun - I want as many clever clues as possible. I do NOT want to see [Marine menace] and [Hooded menaces], then [Floods] and [Flooded], and then [Subject of some sightings] and [Subject of some sightings].* These aren't even particularly good clues. Mix it up!

*[answers, in order: PIRATE and ASPS, SPATES and OVERRAN, ELVIS PRESLEY and UFOS]

Inquiring minds want to know? Who is Katy Swalwell? Is she training at the foot of the master themeless constructor, or is she some kind of DQ handler, keeping him from getting too out-of-control with his pop-culture answers? Or something else?

Featured Five

1A: White-bearded, red-capped patriarch (Papa Smurf)

I love this for So many reasons. First, it is becoming a hallmark of the DQ puzzle to have a fabulous, long pop culture answer at 1A. Off the top of my head, I can recall both JON STEWART and STEPHEN COLBERT being 1A answers in recent DQ puzzles. Now add PAPA SMURF. The best part about this clue is that I could Not shake the image of SANTA CLAUS out of my head. The answer remained hidden til almost the very end because my first efforts in the NW were all horribly futile - I had ASPS and AMPS and that's about it. So PAPA SMURF had to wait - a great way to end the puzzle, as it made me feel my struggle had somehow been worth it.

36D: Cactuslike tree of the Southwest (ocotillo)

Nope, even typed out, on its own, outside the grid, it still doesn't look like a word. Words I know that end in -ILLO: tomatillo, armadillo, peccadillo, brillo ... then things get hazy. OCOTILLO looks more like a musical term than a plant. This is the one answer in the grid today that truly stumped me. A year ago, I would have included APIA (53D: Capital where tala are spent), but frequent crossword exposure has taken care of that bit of ignorance.

57A: Wally Schirra commanded it in 1968 (Apollo VII)

I guess you had to be there, and if the year is 1968, then I wasn't there. Literally. I did not exist. This whole area of the puzzle was a bit of a train wreck. I had SENHORS instead of SIGNORS for 40D: Modena misters, but then crossed it out when the "H" became untenable. For 52A: Doctor's orders (scans), I wrote in SCRIP, and then, off of that "R," I wrote in RIGA where APIA was supposed to go. All this took a while to fix - the very phrase EASY TO SEE (62A: Plain), which runs right through this section of the puzzle, seems like it was designed to taunt. Anyway, re: APOLLO VII, I eventually got APOLLO and then waited to see what Roman numeral would take up those final three spaces. One other problem here in the SE: My wife and I realized this morning that we aren't entirely sure what TIRE IRONS (60A: Car-jacking aids) are, or how "car-jacking" is being used in this clue. As far as I know, you "jack" the car with ... a jack. Or are you "car-jacking" as in stealing the car by force, threatening the driver with ... a TIRE IRON? When I asked my wife if TIRE IRON was the instrument used to remove the lug nuts (which, going by the picture, it appears to be), she scoffed: "No, that's ... some kind of wrench." [Correction: picture is of a lug wrench. Here is a link to an actual "tire iron," which has a chisel at one end and a socket wrench on the other]

10A: G.I.'s sod (U.S. of A.) - fantastic answer. Colloquial in the best way. At first I was thinking USAFB, but a "G.I." doesn't call an Air Force Base home - then the phrase just leapt out at me. I love that "sod" has come back to taunt me after I recently claimed that no one who wasn't British and / or pretentious would refer to his home country as "sod." This answer sort of proves my point. We Americans don't @#$# around with metaphor. We know our country by three letters. At Olympic events, we can often be heard chanting them. This is part of our annoying charm.

6D: The Elite Eight are associated with it (March Madness)

The most depressing moment of my solving experience was Finally getting this answer. I've watched the NCAA basketball tournament, or parts of it, every year of my life since I was a teenager, so I threw out Every Answer I could think of, and none of them would fit. Let's see, what did I consider?: BASKETBALL, COLLEGE HOOPS, TOURNAMENT, SWEET SIXTEEN, FINAL FOUR, NCAA TOURNEY. Ugh ugh ugh. And I can't be mad because the answer is perfectly appropriate. MARCH MADNESS is indeed the colloquial / commercial term for the annual tournament. Best part about this answer: it intersects RUPP ARENA (17A: Lexington Center centerpiece - where many an "Elite Eight" game has been played) and FSU (47A: Seminoles' sch.) - don't know how many times they've been to the "Elite Eight," but they lost the championship game to UCLA in 1972, so they must have been there at least once.

Last thoughts: I've barely heard of ACER (22A: Toshiba competitor), which must be the most obscure electronics brand ever to grace the grid. I was surprised by the cluing of FRAT BOY (9D: One who's made a pledge), as I have always found that term to be at least mildly derisive. You make a "pledge" to become a "brother," as I understand it. People who object to your sense of entitlement and your demeaning treatment of women will call you FRAT BOY. Finally, I thought 1D: Marine menace was PIRANA (sp!?!?). Actual answer: PIRATE.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 10:56 AM  

Good puzzle with many good clues and I didn't mind the repetition. One AWFUL clue was 14 Down.Redundant and just not up to the rest of them. Unlike Rex, I liked the repeated clues as they made me think of the same words in somewhat different ways.
For me all was not "easy to see" but I finished sans googling.

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

I started this puzzle in the SW. ROIL, ARLES, IGLOO, and NEONS were pretty much gimmes. So then, I thought 36D Cactuslike.. had to be amarillo, thinking the city was named after some kind of plant. Turns out I thought right about the city, just wrong plant for the clue.

Moved over to the SE and guessed APIA correctly. The rest of that corner fell pretty quickly. I knew APOLLO but not the number, so waited on that until BRAVOS revealed itself.

Then the NE where FIRELANE and YINYANG pretty much iced that corner. Did a double (triple?) take at ASTRINGS, clued as it was.

In the NW, since I had the -NESS of 6D, MARCH MAD came pretty easily. RUPP ARENA caused me to chuckle, 'cause it was clued incorrectly a few years ago in a NYT puzzle and received lots of discussion in the Times Puzzle Forum. And, what can I say about PAPA SMURF? Great fill that totally threw me...was thinking St. So-and-So for way too long. Also entered PIRANA initially. Toughest quadrant for me.

All in all, a pretty good puzzle. Lots of good fill and clues, not a cranium crusher, but sorta tough.

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

Did you know you can already get the Saturday and Sunday puzzles at WIJ's website? Very unusual.

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

With this puzzle, I kept getting stuck and making small breakthroughs, over and over. Maybe six times. Challenging, but ultimately satisfying.
Or, I could say, this puzzle had me by the YIN-YANG, and every time I'd break loose, it'd grab me again...
Tire iron: yes, it's what you use to remove the lug nuts, and it usually does double duty as the lever that drives the jack. Didn't get the pun (er, double entendre) on car-jacking, though. Thanks for that. [Btw, I don't know why, but I thought Rex's wife was British, so I would have expected her to scoff, "No, that's some kind of spanner."]
Similar process to yours, Rex, on coming up with MARCH MADNESS. But I don't think I've ever watched a game from the Final Four.
I enjoyed finding...
...BY GEORGE (35D--Cry when you think you've got it). Seems like "you" should be Henry Higgins, and "you've" "she's." But that would have given it away.
...U S OF A
(among others). All surprising in an amusing way.
I even sort of enjoyed A STRINGS, but--is that allowed!? Quartet in a STRING quartet--A STRINGS!? The clue contains the answer! Because of this, I resisted filling in STRINGS until, one by one, every letter was confirmed by a cross.

Like the concise blogging, Rex. :]

Anonymous 11:19 AM  

From Will Shortz at the NYT Puzzle Forum:

"A few things about puzzle clues: First, the repetition of "string" in the clue and answer for 14D today was unintentional and unfortunate. This was an editing goof that got by all the test solvers."

Just so ya know.

Rex Parker 11:49 AM  

Wow, STRING repetition got by me, too.

I too started in SW w/ ARLES etc, and I too had -NESS - only unlike kratsman, I still couldn't suss out MARCH MADNESS til very late. Weird.

Couldn't get ROIL because my printed puzzle made "churn" look like "chum." So all I could think was that when you CHUM the waters ... they will ROIL with shark activity?


Harleypeyton 12:24 PM  

Thank you Will! Just spent several minutes on the phone with solver pal -- a morning ritual -- and we both felt the double strings was a violation!!!

Anonymous 12:36 PM  


To get the big question out of the way, Katy Swalwell is a friend I met through Choate's summer program. I learned last year that she was very interested in puzzles, so we tried this collaboration. Turned out aiiiight, right?

As for clues - I was saddened to see Will change the clues at 1A and 1D. Katy had brilliantly dreamt up: 1A: Blue, bearded leader and 1D: Bluebeard's leader, say (or some variation of this). Much of the orgy of double cluing is my fault. I love doing that, and Will wisely removes it each time I do. I'm trying to quit - but it's so hard. This time he let more of it by.

As for 14D: Quartet in a string quartet, this was a pitfall I initially made also. But I noticed it and changed the clue submitted these instead: "High wires, to a violist" OR "Quartet foursome".

My favorite entry was FRATBOY, and Katy is responsible for the amazingness of RUPPARENA and MARCHMADNESS.

Hope all enjoyed it.


Anonymous 12:56 PM  


What is WIJ and its website?

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

wij is a "who" -- will johnston, moderator of the nyt puzzles forum. if you go to the fourm page, the "puzzle pointers" link at the top will take you to the nyt puzzles (and *many* others) you can print out.



Anonymous 2:33 PM  

There may be 16 3-letter words in this grid, but I've got 16 Super-Hot Entries highlighted, so I'd say that's a balance I'm willing to live with.

MARCH MADNESS came to me almost immediately, but for some ridiculous reason, I had E-V------LEY for the loooooongest time and couldn't do anything with it. I guess that's why I don't do the Friday puzzle right after teaching class anymore.

Way to go, DQ (and KS)...thanks for a great puzzle on my birthday!


Campesite 2:47 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Campesite 2:48 PM  

Signor DQ,
Nice puzzle. I was thrown a bit with 'string' in clue and answer, so thanks for the clarification.
I liked this puzzle, particularly the cluing for Ice Skater & Igloo and I loved seeing Elvis Presley, Papa Smurf and March Madness in the grid. 'Bravo'

Anonymous 3:22 PM  

That chum/churn ImbROILio happened to me, too. I guess that's the kind of PUN that some people scorn...I let it stand by way of (counter)example. :] (Do not try this at home. These bloggers are trained professionals...)

Anonymous 4:25 PM  

great points about the clue for car-jacking aid. i'm still trying to figure out how a tire iron aids a theif who violently demands that a driver get out of his/her car. cheers. -- nunyo.

Anonymous 4:49 PM  

I remember a tire iron as a bar bent near one end with a hex wrench for the lugs on the short end, and a lever for prying the hub cap on the long end and to insert into a hydrualic jack lever to jack up the car. When I was very young, we used the pry end of the lever to pry the tire bead off of the rim. Tire irons were a favorite weapon in fights among Zoot-Suiters.

My Dad had a pair of tire irons for his motorclcles that were short and rounded on the ends so the tube would not get punctured when removing the tire. I never heard of anyone being intimidated by motorcycle tire irons.

Anonymous 5:12 PM  

Sounds like this puzzle was a little tougher for me that for others....good tough, though.

Loved Papa Smurf, USofA, Easy to See, ApolloVII, Bravos, I goofed...

Speaking of which, I goofed at 43A -- had IOC for awhile. And at 38A had "Cyclops" for "Cyclone." Seeing the singular eye and a cyclops...well you know, has one eye. -- Actually I kind of like Cyclops better but that's just me : ) It didn't work with March Madness though. So on I went to plan B.

DQ thanks for clearing up the co-conspirator question. My first thought when I picked up the puzzle was "who is this Katy person and what is she doing with 'our' DQ" (meant nicely -- just curious) Looks like the collaboration works well.

MN -- my birthday is today too! Have a good one.

Anonymous 6:14 PM  

The picture is not of a tire iron. It is a lug wrench and its cross shape provides handles for gaining torque to loosen the lug nuts.

Tire irons are not needed with the tubeless tires that are on most cars today. Automobile tire irons are the weapons of choice in many an older crime novel and were in real life too in the era that cars usually carried them.
Back in the day, they could be aids in car-jacking AND car-jacking.

Signed, Jo

Orange 6:57 PM  

The aforementioned Puzzle Pointers page is also accessible via a link on this very blog, over there to the right in the sidebar under "Other Crossword Sites." Me, I go there and to (also linked to the right) to download the day's non-NYT crosswords. These sites definitely enable a crossword addiction to flourish...

Linda G 8:13 PM  

This is the first DQ puzzle I've completed--even with Googling. I think Katy must have something to do with it.

I also had CYCLOPS. Good to know I wasn't alone. But I got ELVIS with only the first E in place.

Happy birthday, Kitt and Mike!

Anonymous 8:39 PM  

Linda: I'm sooo glad to hear I wasn't the only one with Cyclops.

Anonymous 9:44 PM  

Hooray! I can finally say "great minds think alike!" I had pirana, scrip, riga, and USAFB, just like King Rex. And I too, was stymied by the persistent mental image of Santa Claus -- that was a great mind-screw of a clue, DQ! Ooooh, it all rhymes! But Katy's pair of bluebeard clues might have been even better, IMOO, because I really dig clue pairs. On paper, I actually circled and linked them all in admiration. Fun fun puzzle.

Anonymous 10:22 PM  

I had CYCLOPS down, but I didn't believe it. .o

Anonymous 11:52 PM  

I originally had PUMPED rather than PEPPED for 3D, which made 17A "RUMP ARENA." I realllyyyy wanted that to be the right answer . . . but I knew it was too good to be true!

Anonymous 12:51 AM  

I like all the airplay string quartets and violas are getting lately...

A-strings, indeed. We don't like to go much higher.

Very good puzzle, Kty and Qty!

mellocat 10:19 AM  

Acer recently claimed the number three spot in worldwide PC shipments, according to Garntner:

However it is still not in the top five in US shipments, so maybe that is why it seems obscure here. Personally, though, I prefer Acer clued as the company than the "tennis whiz" sense -- have you ever really heard a tennis announcer refer to a player as a great acer?

Eggmaster 11:37 AM  

only one thing I know to use a tire iron for, and it involves going down by the railroad tracks...I mean, going down to the railroad tracks.

Anonymous 10:48 AM  

Is "aboard" really
"alongside, nautically"? I'm a ignorant landlubber, but isn't "aboard" ON the boat as opposed to alonside it? Despite its fitting, I had a hard time accepting that it was the right answer.

Unknown 1:51 AM  

Great comments, Rex Parker! I agree with you - - many of the clues in the 6.1.07 NYT crossword puzzle are "off", tone-deaf . . . not witty, just callously misleading. Am glad to have discovered your blog! We'll look forward to reading it. Thank you. Roger G.

Anonymous 1:00 PM  

I, too, wondered at "aboard." Wouldn't be "broadside", would it? I got "A strings" pretty quickly but I'm not sure how. Only had the A, then it occurred to me there were 4 As. Maybe it was Bach's Air for the G String ("air" sounding to me like A."

Anonymous 1:07 PM  

Awwk! I looked it up. Aboard, it is, but I've never heard it like that.

Happy Bs and also Fri the 13th!

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

6WL :::::::

Found this one easy except for the NE corner. I had FIRELANE but really stuggled with the rest. Couldn't bring myself to use (A)STRINGS in the Strings answer. Never did finish as I couldn't see the USofA (in my Chevrolet).

Never heard of any particular SMURF, but PAPA fell due to PIRATE.

I just didn't want to believe that ABOARD was right, so resisted entering the O as long as I could.

I had no idea what REL and BBB were, jus got them from the crosses.

Fairly easy for Friday but still fun.

Now I'll go out in a Blaise of Pascal.

Anonymous 3:14 PM  

I hate when there is a foreign word and it is misspelled: Modena misters is NOT, I repeat - NOT- SIGNORS - someone who wants to use a foreign word should use it correctly - the correct answer is SIGNORI, but naturally you wanted the s, so there you go.

Rex Parker 3:32 PM  

What I hate is when people rant about a word without looking it up. Here is the OED entry on SIGNOR, with plenty of SIGNORS in the examples, dating way way back...

1. In Italian use, or with reference to Italians: A term of respect placed before the name of a man in addressing him or speaking of him, now equivalent to the English ‘Mr.’
1584-7 GREENE Tritameron of Loue II. Wks. (Grosart) III. 140 By my faith (Signior Aretino) you haue found such a knot in a Rysh as will bee so hard to vntye as Gordias was. 1596 SHAKES. Tam. Shr. II. i. 85 A thousand thankes signior Gremio. 1605 B. JONSON Volpone I. i, Signior Coruino, come most wisht for! 1736 Gentl. Mag. VI. 648/1 These are the Thoughts of Signior Muffei. 1756-7 tr. Keysler's Trav. (1760) III. 350 The houses of..the signiors Verzi, Pompeii, and Pellegrini. 1818 SHELLEY Tasso 3 Did you inform his Grace that Signor Pigna Waits with state papers for his signature? Ibid. 13 O trust to me, Signor Malpiglio, Those nods [etc.]. 1863 Chambers's Encycl. V. 657/1 Ratazzi..was succeeded in office by Signor Farini.
fig. 1630 J. TAYLOR (Water P.) Wks. Dddi, Mounsieur Claret, and sweet Signior Sacke.

b. Used without the name, as a form of address, equivalent to ‘sir’ in English.
1590 SHAKES. Com. Err. IV. i. 36 Good Signior take the stranger to my house. 1599 B. JONSON Ev. Man out of Humour IV. iii, O but Signior, had you such a wife as mine is. 1797 MRS. RADCLIFFE The Italian i, The stranger..said, ‘Signor, your steps are watched’. 1842 S. LOVER Handy Andy iv, ‘Isn't one fight a day enough for you, signor?’ said the doctor. 1863 ‘OUIDA’ Held in Bondage (1870) 68 Thank you, signor, a thousand thanks.

c. An Italian gentleman, esp. a singer.
1779 SHERIDAN Critic I. i, Haven't we the Signors and Signoras calling here, sliding their smooth semibreves? 1782 V. KNOX Ess. (1819) II. cxvi. 290 The door is always open to player signiors and signioras.

2. A person of note or distinction; one having rank or authority; a gentleman or nobleman; an overlord. See also GRAND SIGNIOR.
a1577 SIR T. SMITH Commw. Eng. (1609) 12 Amonge whom there is no right Lawe nor Commonwealth compact but onely the will of the Lord and Signior. 1630 MASSINGER Picture II. ii, You Signiers Haue no businesse with the souldier. 1632 LITHGOW Trav. II. 63 The commodity of which redounds yearely to the Venetians, for they are Signiors thereof. 1668 R. L'ESTRANGE Vis. Quevedo (1708) 50 You know they are Cavaliers and Signiors already, and now (forsooth) they have an Itch upon them to be Princes. 1748 SMOLLETT Rod. Rand. lxvi, [He] promised to procure for us the company of an English signior. 1803 SYD. SMITH Wks. (1859) I. 56/2 The great mass of territorial proprietors in Denmark are the signiors, possessing fiefs with very extensive privileges. 1885 J. PAYN Talk of Town I. 47 Wise and reverend signors may well have learnt by experience to take trifling annoyances with equanimity.

Anonymous 7:45 PM  

Just wondering - since Will Shortz agreed that the 14D (a string) problem was a clue violation 6 weeks ago in this blog, why wasn't it corrected before the syndicated version of the puzzle appeared on July 13th?

Anonymous 12:06 AM  

Good point Anon. I wondered as well, but just assumed they don't bother once it's in print. It would be nice: "Re-edited by Will Shortz for those who are 6WL."

Anonymous 12:14 PM  

Glad to know there is 6WL cadre and late posts still have a chance.

Anonymous 5:05 PM  

I think Rex always checks back to peruse the late comments, but I doubt if any of the other "denizens" do.

As members of the 6WL club, we need to start posting really witty stuff to attract everybody back again.

Perhaps a nice scandal: (What is the REAL relationship between DQ and KS?)

Jesse Lukes 1:46 AM  

Had SAINTNICK in 1A for a long time... had to put it down while I went to work and then realized 5D had to be SKA.

CYCLONE (eye site) had me stumped for a while also because without a theme I just wasn't thinking in weather terms. Beauty of crossword puzzles I suppose.

I'm too young and/or too disinterested in sports for most crossword clues; yet addicted all the same.

Are there any other wine enthusiasts reading this blog. Because of my work I'm usually stuck solving late into the evening and often enjoy a glass of wine, I thought it would be interesting to share the wines we're enjoying...

I'm a dork for wine.

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