THURSDAY, Jun. 14, 2007 - Donna Hoke Kahwaty

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "ARTLESS" (38A: Ingenuous ... or like 17-, 24-, 50- and 60-Across [or, like Paul Simon's solo career?]) - four theme answers are familiar phrases which have had the letter string ART removed. New, weird phrases are then clued.

Once you figure out the theme, this puzzle is a piece of cake. The whole thing felt far more Tuesday than Thursday. I'm going to call this puzzle an anti-rebus: instead of multiple letters (or a picture, if you will) shoved into one square, you have the equivalent removed from the grid entirely.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Con man's pay? (sting salary) - ART-less "starting salary"
  • 24A: Satan? (He of Darkness) - ART-less "Heart of Darkness"
  • 50A: Slapstick staples? (surprise pies) - ART-less "surprise parties"
  • 60A: Parts of dollhouse dinner table settings? (mini-glasses) - ART-less "martini glasses"

That last one took me the longest to figure out; I had the MINI- and kept trying to think of a word long enough to have ART taken out of it and still be seven letters long. Interesting mini-coincidence - today's Newsday puzzle features MINI ME as one of its answers.

At first I thought the puzzle was a rebus, because I could tell from crosses that I was dealing with something OF DARKNESS for the "Satan" clue. I thought some part of PRINCE was being rebused, but then realized the rebus would have to be five letters long - either PRINC or RINCE, and neither seemed likely. Somehow between -SALARY and -OF DARKNESS, the possible preceding fill made me realize the theme, allowing me to fill in ARTLESS with no crosses. And then the puzzle was child's play. Speaking of "Child's Play" - Andrew, remind me that I have #1 and #2 of the new "Chucky" (from the movie "Child's Play") comic for you...

Super-fast featured five...

20A: Supply at a changing station (talc) - threw me for a second. Figured the answer had to be plural. Really wanted NAPS, as in Wet-NAPS, but the very fact that I have to qualify my answer should have tipped me off that it was Wrong.

40D: Fit to stand trial (sane)
46D: Snaps (loses it)

These make a nice parallel yin-yang pair in the southeast-ish part of the grid.

2D: 1930s film dog (Asta)
56D: Town ESE of Turin (Asti)

Here's a not-so-welcome pair - tiresome old world fill. ASTA is past president of the Pantheon, though, so I guess he (it's a he, right?) deserves some respect.

11D: Jailed (up the river) - it's worth noting that the puzzle does have two sets of parallel 10-letter answers in the SW and NE; this answer is my favorite of the four. Crime-related slang ("Crookspeak" or ARGOT - see last Sunday's puzzle) always makes me happy - anything Jimmy Cagney might have said in "White Heat."

55A: Clanton rival (Earp) - I don't know my Western mythology nearly well enough. I was thinking CLANTON was a make-up brand, like Clairol.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orange 9:57 AM  

Doc Holliday's line of skin care products are the best! Way better than the Earp stuff.

JC66 10:10 AM  

I originally wanted PRINCE OF DARKNESS, too.

BTW, Sing Sing prison, is located in Ossining, NY, about 30 miles north of NYC on the Hudson River. Ergo the "argot" UP THE RIVER.

Linda G 10:26 AM  

Jerome, thanks for that tidbit.

Looks as though most everyone wanted PRINCE OF DARKNESS.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

Too funny, Amy.

Hello, Art Garfunkel! Always loved that guy and his sometime pal Paul Simon. (Not sure if they're currently speaking to each other or not.)

I'll gloss over the theme because even though I got ARTLESS I couldn't conjure most of the theme clues except for SURPRISE PIES and that I had beforehand. From that I thought we were going for one of those deals where the words in the phrase are sort of punny rhymes, which I abhor, so I turned my attention to solving the rest of the puzzle, which I liked.

Some favorites: Cartoon beeper for sure, which should have (but didn't) tip me off to the ploy in DDT banner - I kept trying to think of some sort of signage that would go along with spraying DDT back when it was legal to do so. Finally had the aha moment though.

Lot of 'white' themery going on here today with Almost white, Went white and Symbol of whiteness. Not sure of the significance ...

STILT was a great answer for the clue provided, as was PSST, VIM and REMAND. I thought there might be a trick involved with 14A since I had the S but didn't think it likely the airline would be US AIR when it just morphed into US AIRWAYS. But I was wrong (and right at the same time).

Still not sure why NAIL is the answer to Polish locale. Something painfully obvious, I'm sure.

Speaking of unwelcome, ENYA is in the Pantheon, isn't she? I wouldn't know an ENYA song if I tripped over it, and I tire easily of seeing her regular appearances. And her cousin EDNA Ferber. How about EDNA St. Vincent Millay once in a while, people? Or EDNA O'Brien? Or EDNA Buchanan? Or even better, Dame EDNA?

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

Polish-as in nail varnish-I had the wrong reading too

Harleypeyton 11:20 AM  

Awful puzzle -- or at least awfully easy for a Thursday. Strolled right through, didn't need (or in truth, get) the clue, at least until the more obvious "He of..."

Brief delay with the clever "Polish locale" -- hmm, Polish city, starts with N, ends with L -- but other than that?


Harleypeyton 11:24 AM  

By the way, agree re Enya (not as bad as Emo Phillips, but still) -- but can't find an alternative.

There's a subset of some architectural org -- ENYA (Emerging New York Architects)...

Too obscure?

Back to Google!!

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

Why is "speak" a dog command?

Rex Parker 11:37 AM  

Because it is. It's a command to get your dog to ... SPEAK, i.e. bark.


Anonymous 12:03 PM  

Ah, nail ... polish ... yes, it was indeed painfully obvious ;)

Anonymous 12:18 PM  

I was surprised by the mini-theme of SNOW, ASHEN, SOOT, and PALED. One of these things is not like the other...I would have been happier if SOOT had been the only one to cross Satan.

Alex S. 12:57 PM  

I got through it but did not find the theme easy.

What is funny is that I almost immediately saw HE OF DARKNESS but found it so clunky I wouldn't commit to the HE part in favor of finding some rebus.

I must say that I am completely unfamiliar with the word "artless" as a synonym for ingenuous. Does that mean "artful" as in "the artful dodger" means disingenuous?

Anyway, I had MINI GLASSES completely, -- OF DARKNESS, -----SALARY, and SURPRISE---- before finally getting enough crosses to figure out ARTLESS. That immediately finished the theme words. It is good I already had MINI GLASSES since it still took me a bit to fingure out where the ART was supposed to go in it.

NW was thrown off because I had WIPE as a gimme instead of TALC. Really like the Polish clue. I immediately saw it as varnish but WIPE held me up. For some reason I always have a riddle from elementary school in my head: What is the only word that changes its pronunciation if you capitalize the first letter. The answer being polish/Polish (I don't know if that is true about it being the only one but that was the way it was presented).

Campesite 12:58 PM  

I got ARTLESS from the theme answers, not the clue. I was reading it as ingenious not ingenuous (Vanna gave me a U instead of an I).
Rex, very funny Simon & Garfunkel reference. For some reason it reminded me of the nearby Art's Deli, where "every sandwich is a work of Art."

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

I too found this puzzle pretty easy, but I think the "theme" in this case was really weak and never entirely revealed. I completed it, filled-in every square, and then had to sit and think for a while to get what "artless" had to do with it.

The themes should be there to help, to give you an "a ha!" moment as you're working, not an obscure, hard-to-discern pattern that occurs to you only later.

one of the least pleasant puzzles i've done in weeks.

Unknown 1:21 PM  

Disingenuous is canny, sly, artful, a mite deceitful, but I never thought of ingenuous as artless. In fact, I have never thought of ingenuous at all........

Anonymous 1:23 PM  

Well, this one stumped me. It displayed exactly the kind of trickery that I abominate in the Shortz-era puzzles. I got ARTLESS, but just couldn't plug it in anywhere -- kind of a mental block. I got MINIGLASSES; thought HEOFDARKNESS was really, really lame, even by the standards of this sort of thing; got hung up by SURPRISEPIES because I couldn't let go of LOCKSIN instead of LOSESIT. And so it went. Ick.

Anonymous 1:35 PM  

What is ERG??

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

"White Heat" was the US B-side to the singles "Open Your Heart" and "Who's That Girl."

Chucky, yay!

Howard B 2:20 PM  

With all due respect, when I get caught in a puzzle because I didn't quite pick up the theme or became stuck on a wrong answer, I don't really see that as a knock against the puzzle or its design - sometimes I'm completely off the wavelength, but just because I couldn't get my mind to grasp whatever it was the constructor was going for. I guess it's a matter of taste and style though.

For example, my local paper switched out its fun LA Times puzzle for one (Tribune Media?) where you can pretty much solve every clue by looking in a dictionary or filling in a blank. It's completely devoid of trickery, and I find it as dull as eating a bowl of oatmeal with a head cold. Some really great fill all over the place too, stuff like KAME(?) and ETUIS. Bleh. You lose the wordplay, but gain some clean, very literal clues. Personally, I'd rather go to the dentist than solve that thing. But some people still do like that, so they're not going to take as well to the Shortz-edited stuff. Tomato, tomahto and all that ;).

I do hate when two actors' names, uncommon abbreviations, or some other similar area cross at a letter that could be just about anything. Man, that drives me up the wall ;). A few really rough spots can really make some puzzles a bit less fun, so I hear you on that.

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

Erg = a unit of mechanical energy equal to the force of one dyne (a word that itself often appears in these puzzles) exerted for a distance of one centimeter. From the Greek word for work. ERGo - a 'bit' of work.

Hey, here's another way to clue ENYA: Minor planet #6433 named in honor of an Irish singer. (Good grief ... I should have a planet if she has one) There's also another association called the Enterprise Network of Young Australians as well as an actress named ENYA Flack. What did constructors *do* before ENYA blew onto the scene?

Anonymous 2:43 PM  

I was on a totally different wavelength from Rex and many of you today. I thought this puzzle was tough and had several pockets of difficulty.

On the other hand, once the theme finally, mercifully, became apparent to me, the word artless meaning ingenuous is one I was very familiar with. The word DISINGENUOUS frequently appears in the SAT, which I tutor, and I always explain it by mentioning that a child is frequently artless, straightforward and lacking in cunning (ingenuous) as opposed to the sly, conniving politician (disingenuous).

Steve M

Anonymous 3:08 PM  

Howard B, we don't disagree (even rhymes!). The Shortz-style vs. Maleska-style conflict, if I may so dignify it, is one of genre definition. I don't mind getting stumped on a puzzle because I don't know the words that turn out to be the answers (I can always learn more words!); I mind getting stumped on a puzzle because some trick prevents me from getting to the question that's being asked, if you follow. But that's me, and it's a matter of taste. Today's was kind of a meta-trick, a rebus (a trick) that turned out to be the opposite of a rebus (a trick about the trick, in that, as someone observed above, you have to take out the extra letters instead of putting them in). I hate when that happens. Others love it. As you say, to-may-to, to-mah-to.

Anonymous 3:13 PM  

Would someone please explain why SURPRISE PARTIES is a SLAPSTICK STAPLE ? I got the answer but didnt feel good about it !
Otherwise, a quick finish today !

Anonymous 3:15 PM  


It's "surprise pies" (without the art) that are a slapstick staple: pies in the face.


Anonymous 3:30 PM  

Thanks Profphil, that makes sense

Anonymous 3:33 PM  

i'm curious if anyone does the new york magazine puzzle. i don't really "mess" with the friday through sunday NYT. i give up pretty quickly. so i save the NYM for the end of the week, although it's delivered to my mailbox monday. whoever does the NYM puzzle, would you agree that it's the equivalent of a thursday NYT puzzle? wednesday?
cheers. -- nunyo.

Howard B 3:57 PM  

Yep, read you loud & clear, Bluestater.
Hope people didn't have too rough a time with today's puzzle, otherwise. The Sun puzzle, that's another story for other blogs ;).

Anonymous 4:45 PM  

New York Magazine is the equivalent to a Tuesday-once you learn how to interpret the basic style in which the questions are written it really goes quickly.
But it took me a long time to get what was being asked!
Re NYT-I have worked on them for years and can now sometimes claim to have finished a Saturday-tho it took years to get there.

Anonymous 4:48 PM  


Anonymous 4:55 PM  

I loved today's ARTless, although I generally prefer anything ART-ful. Found it not hard but still had a few head-scratches over the theme answers. Oddly-worded, indeed. (MINIGLASSES? Give me a martini instead!)

I liked the SOOT/SNOW pairing, the RIVER by the FIRE, the NOISY SNORES and ARDENT BITES. Very fun.

Anonymous 5:27 PM  

I didn't get the theme until I was retyping the puzzle into the applet. Thus, I resisted filling in HE OF DARKNESS until the bitter end. I found all of the expressions very odd, also considered a rebus (but dismissed this when most of the puzzle was filled in without rebus squares), but was ultimately quite tickled to discover the trick of this puzzle. I had fun. And because I didn't get the theme until I was done, the puzzle was not excessively easy for me.
I also loved UP THE RIVER and got a kick out of Cartoon beeper.
And I agree that Wendy should have her own planet if she wants one.
Artless is akin to guileless, in case that helps...
Oh, one more a little bit mixed up on the 1930s fim dog. I was calling him ASTI (yes I know there's another ASTI in the puzzle), and decided "Changing station" was another way of saying "pit stop" I had TIRE for 20A and was still looking for something Polish to complete 3D. I finally got DANCE for 1A (I get it, but it's enough of a tricky association that it eluded me until the end), this yielded CINCHES, and the Polish/polish trickery was suddenly revealed. And I was done. Thank you for playing. Good night.

Anonymous 8:14 PM  

mmpo: laughing out loud! Yes, I agree Wendy should have her own planet!! And a major one not a minor one.

I hope it's not next to Planet Enya though. Don't want to think about the astrological problems that might cause :)

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

Shortz himself estimates that the NYM sunday puzzle is equivalent to a thursday, difficulty-wise.

I've become so addicted to the acrostics -- a blog someone! -- that on those weeks (they appear every other week, below the puzz), i rarely start the main puzzle. oh how i look forward to acrostic weeks. sad.

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

For anyone who's reading this six weeks later, I just want to express my appreciation for the inclusion of Asta in the puzzle. Love the Thin Man movies and my favorite scene has William Powell walking Asta. You can't see the dog, only the leash, and it's a hoot!

Also, when my husband and I first started solving the NYT Puzzle we were working on it in a restaurant one day when the server walked up and said, appropo of nothing, "The dog's always Asta". It was my first introduction to the concept of "the pantheon".

Keep up the good work, Rex, and thank you as always.

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

6WL ::::::

Rhonda, great Asta story, thank you.

I wonder if Art's Deli (see Campesite, above) serves BLTs?

I found the ARTLESS theme artful, mainly because I have never seen the letter-removal trick before. A bit of trouble around Florida, as I never knew who Wyatt fought.

Anyone with the first name ENYA should have the last name Face.

Anonymous 12:49 PM  

I thought it was easy, but must admit I couldn't figure out the theme until I read the blog. I thought the "artless" meant that those other 4 were just silly.
Thanks Rex and all the contributors here.

Anonymous 2:33 PM  

6WL :: Had a devil (ha!) of a time with NW corner. FLICKER about made me LOSE IT. WAVER was obvious answer but WASH or WIPE didn't work. Tried MOVIE but no joy. Tried DUST (liked US AIR) but couldn't think of a changing item starting with T. (I didn't think of a home station, only one of those in restuarants or stores.)

I resisted ASTA because I figured on a thurs that's what puzzler expected me to think and wasn't it past time for another dog? (Apparently there is no other dog.) Couldn't get CINCHES at all even tho I had STINGSALARY and ERG.

So I'm ARDENT in thinking this puzzle BITES. Think I'll SCARF down some ASTI and paddle my KAYAK UP THE RIVER.

Anonymous 3:02 PM  

Artless studs??! Lots of scratchings today (pen and paper solver), but I made it through. We "Rebound" bloggers (6 weeks later)are picking up the volume...

- - Robert

Anonymous 3:36 PM  

katya --

I really liked "apparently there is no other dog." There's probably some snappy computerese acronym for "I really liked" or some symbol made of punctuation marks to indicate me having really liked the phrase, but "I really liked" will have to do....

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