FRIDAY, Jul. 6, 2007 - Pete Mitchell

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

This has not been a great week for puzzles. Today's is an improvement over Th and W, but it still had flaws. Speaking of FLAWS, I had one Major one today. The NYT applet kept rejecting my grid, over and over and over, and I Googled just about everything, double-checking all my answers that were even remotely iffy. Nothing helped. Of course the second I emailed Crossword Fiend for help, my error sprang forth. It was hidden within an answer that was so solid in my mind that I couldn't even see its wrongness. I was so proud when 33A: The last novel featuring him was "Stopover: Tokyo" ended up being a virtual gimme that I never ever stopped to consider that I had @#$#ed up the spelling, typing MR. MOTA instead of the correct MR. MOTO. I have a MR. MOTO book on my shelves! Unh! The cross was completely plausible to me: 14D: Result of cross-fertilization within a population gave me GENE FLAW. I figured "Well, sure ... inbreeding will do that." And GENE FLAW got many Google hits. GENE FLOW (the "correct" answer) - Lord only knows what that is (I mean, besides crappy fill).

My other great wrong answer (one that I rooted out much more quickly) was at 36D: Hammer activator. First of all, I was trying to imagine "hammers" that one could "activate." Was it some arm-related answer, like WRIST or something? Was the Hammer involved MC Hammer? So I worked from crosses ... only I got the verb tense wrong on 55A: Punish publicly, perhaps (make an example of) and wrote MADE instead of MAKE. Then I got the wrong Patty/i at 60A: Rocker Patty who married John McEnroe and wrote in SMITH. So in the end, for 36D: Hammer activator, I had PIANO DEI - The Piano of God!!! "Feel his musical wrath as he brings the hammer down ... literally!"

Kwik Kuts:

1A: Actor whom People magazine erroneously declared dead in 1982 (Abe Vigoda) - a great clue and answer. I must have Googled his name several times during my desperate error search, as the "I" in VIGODA just seemed wrong. But it wasn't. ABE VIGODA gets whacked at the end of "The Godfather." And he was in "Barney Miller."

15A: Persian's gift (nine lives) - can I get a question mark for this clue, please? Please!? I first considered that "Persian" referred to a cat, but then decided that cats don't really give gifts, so started considering various Iranian products / delicacies...

17A: Basis of "America" ("God Save the Queen") - is "America" the song that starts "My Country 'Tis of Thee..."? Aha, it is. OK, that makes sense - all I could hear in my head was Ray Charles singing "Oh beautiful for spacious skies etc."

22A: Turkey dough? (liras)
41D: Dough must be squeezed out of them (misers)

Double "dough?" D'oh! I say no. If you're going to play the "dough" trick, play it once. Twice is overkill / laziness.

46A: He served between Hubert and Gerald (Spiro) - my SPIRO Agnew watch hangs on a bulletin board not two feet from me. One of my favorite possessions. Thanks, mom! I really should get it fixed and wear it.

50A: Pizzeria chain since 1943, informally (Uno's) - thank god for this clue. Sahra likes to eat here whenever we go to the movies, so I know this restaurant well. Really helped open up the SW corner.

52A: Val d'_____ (French ski resort) (Isere) - Looks wrong. There is a river called the YSER and so I wanted ISERE to begin with a "Y."

4D: Line of motor scooters (Vespa) - briefly considered MOPED, but then VESPA presented itself to me, in all its obviousness. Like UNO'S, this was a gimme that really helped open up a potentially tough corner.

33D: Melvin of the Orioles (Mora)

Briefly considered MOTA ... ironic, considering my MR MOTO/MOTA error, doubly so when you consider that MORA and MR. MOTO intersect at their first letters. So I wanted MOTA twice and got it ... zero times. Where's Manny MOTA when you need him?

42D: Distinctive director (auteur) - hmmm. OK. I've heard this word used in film theory, as a way of describing an approach to film criticism that treats the director as the AUTEUR or author of the movie (as opposed to a vision of film-making as a kind of collaborative "authorship" among director, writer, actors, etc.). Never thought of it as applicable to a particularly "distinctive" director, but ... I guess it makes sense.

49A: "Affiction" star, 1998 (Nolte) - can we please retire this clue for Mr. NOLTE. He's done a TON of movies, and yet "Affliction" continues to be the go-to reference. Next time, I vote for "Down and Out in Beverly Hills."

53D: Graphic artist Nolde (Emil) - not sure why "graphic" is in the clue. Most artists who draw / paint are "graphic" artists. He's an artist. And a good one. His stuff is unnervingly wild and smeary and creepy. I wish NOLDE could have been in the grid with NOLTE. They make a nice pair.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 1:14 AM  

How cool is ABE VIGODA? The Beastie Boys feature (well, mention) him in a song on their premier album...and now this!

Anonymous 4:38 AM  

It's great to hear that the 166th greatest crossword puzzle solver in the universe googled to solve a puzzle. We can all feel a little less inferior.

Rex Parker 7:52 AM  

While Google has helped me solve a puzzle or two in the past, in didn't help here. I was "done" with the puzzle and was Googling to confirm the rightness of my answers. Every one I checked was right.

I discovered the MR MOTA/O error on my own, sans Google. My error was due to carelessness and stupidity, not ignorance.

Also forgot to mention that I spelled LOOIE with a U at first (LOUIE) and thus for [Implication] had OVERTUNE, which annoyed me for a second ("That's not a word")...


Anonymous 8:15 AM  

For me there was an intriguing Vietnam-era link today, with ERROL Morris, director of the awesome documentary The Fog of War, about Robert McNamara and his view of his role in that war during the LBJ Administration, followed by SPIRO Agnew, who was swept into office with Nixon after LBJ packed it in, and who did everything in his power to make a bad situation worse.

For the Nick Nolte clue, I vote for I Love Trouble (KIDDING). How 'bout Teachers?!? That was shot in a school building in Columbus, Ohio, where I was living at the time, and the town was all in a hubbub about Nick's being on the scene. Woo hoo! I really liked him in Cannery Row and Prince of Tides, though.

Orange 9:02 AM  

The pop culture haters might prefer the Affliction reference for NOLTE, as they may be completely unaware that the man has been in other, less critically acclaimed movies. I'll cast a vote for Another 48 Hrs.

Little-known fact: The ship that brought the Statue of Liberty to the U.S. was named the ISERE. Have seen this in two crosswords—I'll be ready for it if it arises again.

I have no fondness for MR MOTO. MR ROBOTO, on the other hand...

Linda G 9:16 AM  

I also had LOUIE. Because I didn't check my solution via Across Lite, it stayed that way. When I saw OVERTU_E, I put an R in the blank, without reading the clue. That make 32A court, rather than count. All good words, albeit wrong ; )

Thanks for making me realize the error of my lazy ways.

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

Hi Rex:

After hogging so much space yesterday I thought I'd spare a comment today but...I am moved to say that I thought this was a terrific puzzle (in light of your less-than-stellar appraisal).

The fill is crisp and clean -- in some places I almost hear a snap, crackle, and pop!

One of those places was GENE FLOW. First of all, it has an F and a W -- very nice...

Moreover, I understand that this GENE FLOW stuff is important to those BIO types who study evolution and such (well, as much as terms like GENETIC DRIFT and GENE POOL are, whatever those might be worth).

Still, works (for me) as a nice sciency clue that isn't too obscure or specialized (again, imho).

Okay. Have a nice week-end, and don't spend my whole two cents all in one place!

Pen Girl :)

Alex S. 9:51 AM  

I found it a relatively easy Friday puzzle. Of course it helped that I had almost the entire top half of the puzzle done before I ran into any kind of trouble (a 1A gimme is always much appreciated, especially when that was all I needed for 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and somehow 9 down). The bottom half was much slower.

Are lieutenants (which I assume is what LOOIE means) really military VIPs? Aren't they at the bottom of the very tall officer totem pole?

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

I found this hard but finished sans googling. I liked "leafed" for paged and "naive" for gull-like. Clever and tricky.

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

I found this hard but finished sans googling. I liked "leafed" for paged and "naive" for gull-like. Clever and tricky.

Campesite 9:53 AM  

Linda, I did the same thing you did with OVERTURE, but I mangled several other areas too.
I loved North Dallas Forty and Rich Man Poor Man as a kid, but those are perhaps too dated as Nolte references.

Howard B 10:05 AM  

GENE FLOW stopped my flow a bit on this one, but I do like learning new sciency terms(to plagiarize Pen Girl). Otherwise, was a fun Friday puzzle, not too many snags in there.

Domo arigato for the info, Orange. I agree.

JC66 10:48 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
JC66 10:54 AM  


Is there really a difference between GOOGLING to find a correct answer and GOOGLING to find an incorrect answer? If you had, in fact, spelled VIGODA incorrectly this would count as getting assistance; but since it's the correct spelling, it's not?

It seems to me there is difference between knowing one has the right answer & not being sure one has the right answer.

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

I think Nolte was critically accalaimed for PRINCE OF TIDES, which I frankly didn't like. I thought his best movie ever was Q and A.

I had just the opposite experience of Alex. Toough top, easy bottom.

Steve M.

Orange 12:07 PM  

Jerome, I'm guessing you don't do the puzzle in the NYT's timed applet. When you have an error in there, the system won't accept your grid and you can't just move on with your life with that clock ticking away. (Maybe some people could just declare themselves to be done—I can't. And Rex posts his finished grid here, so he's also going to continue until he knows every square is right.) So you read through all the answers, looking for a typo or error. If it escapes your eyeballs' notice, you begin Googling to make sure the things you think are right truly are right. Invariably it turns out that there's a stupid typo or error that eluded your sight for no particular reason. It's not the same as Googling because you don't know an answer—it's an applet-driven venture of insanity.

I rarely ever Google while solving a puzzle, but I certainly don't discourage others from Googling if need be. I just hope that they try to store the name or fact in their brain for future use, rather than finishing the puzzle but learning nothing. It's not cheating if (1) it's not a tournament setting and (b) you learn something.

Anonymous 12:41 PM  

So, if I forget it again then am I cheating retroactively? :)

Thanks all for the kind words and comments. I wish I could take credit for all of the clever clues, but many of them are Will's.

FWIW, "gene flaw" gets around 2,500 Google hits, while "gene flow" hits about 1.5 million...

Michael 1:35 PM  

I don't mind GENE FLOW, but why does gull-like = NAIVE? I got the N and the I from the down clues, so I figured the answer had to be NOISY. You ever hear a seagull? They're not so naive about how to steal your beach food, but their squawking makes a *$@#%! racket.

Anonymous 2:12 PM  

michael--not sure if you're kidding or not, but def. 1 of gull is about the bird, and def. 2 is "a person who is easily tricked or cheated; a dupe."

Hope this helps.

Anonymous 3:22 PM  

My first entry for 17A: Basis of "America", was AMERIGO VESPUCCI - only to quickly and sadly learn it could not hold. Was I alone?

Now back to watching genes flow on a rainy afternoon in Southeast Texas.


frances 4:25 PM  

Message for Pete M.--

I think the definition for 41A is incorrect. "Malar" is an adjective, "of or pertaining to the cheekbone" (American Heritage Dictionary). Cheekbone, as a noun, is the Latin word "mala."

Anonymous 4:48 PM  


Here is a dictionary source that lists MALAR BONE as an appositive noun and MALAR in one other entry as a noun. I am inclined to agree with your general observation, however.

Steve M

Anonymous 5:01 PM  

Re: Google protocol etc... There's a huge distinction between Googling because you don't know an answer and Googling to resolve an "I know I'm right; what the hell is the problem" problem.

Some people seem to Google routinely as they hone their crossword chops; I personally don't feel a sense of satisfaction if I Google to complete a puzzle. If I can't finish it myself, I consider the puzzle the winner. And I challenge it to a rematch on another day. Just my thoughts. Long time eavesdropper, first time two-cents-er. (What do you call it when the conversation you're observing is written instead of spoken?) Anyway, I love your blog, Rex. You're tough but fair, like a good crossword.

green mantis

fergus 5:23 PM  

For 'America," having the GOD start I was working along the the lines of SHEDDED GRACE or ABOVE JUSTICE, but I'm pretty sure cynical politics would not appear in the puzzle so overtly.

My only sticking point was cleverly thinking ENCORE for 43D, until realizing I was at a Rock Show and not a Dance, as the clue had stated.

Anonymous 5:43 PM  

To Google or not too Google:

I admit I sometimes Google an obscure word (or what have you) from time to time.

This is no more cheating than looking up something in an encyclopedia.

Still, a good puzzle, imho, is one that is gettable -- that is to say a puzzle that can be solved with a decent grasp of general knowledge
and a basic comprehension of grammar and spelling.

If the puzzle rerquires esoteric knowledge (think BIGARADE) then I don't think there's any shame in employing similarly cheap tricks...

PG :)

Jules 6:12 PM  


Do you have your own crossword published anywhere?

I have to go buy the NYT every day in Tennessee. Any chance you could ever post a blank crossword w/out answers so I don't have to go get it?

Anonymous 6:22 PM  

Shame's got nuthin' to do with it! If I am legitimately stuck (i.e., I have stared and gnashed teeth and I just can't eke anything further out on my own), I've got to google *something* if for no other reason than to break the logjam. I play this game with myself of picking that google item strategically so that (in my fantasy) I will have to do only the one clue and it will open the logjam for all else. Of course that rarely happens, but hey, it's a stretch goal.

The reality is that since December when I started doing the puzzle every day (vs. Sunday only) my abilities have increased astronomically. That's due to a whole combination of reasons, the blogs being a significant element of course - but I would never say going to google or wikipedia or wherever wasn't part of that equation. The first part of the week I rarely have to consult anything other than my own wits, and I always hope that I can stay away on Weds and Thurs although my success rate there varies. But had I refrained, I would have given up a long time ago. And where's the fun in that?

Anonymous 6:41 PM  

I know we've had this Google discussion before and I like the comments others have made (esp Orange, Wendy, and Pengirl).

To me this is a personal choice and really depends on your reason for doing puzzles. For me it's to be mentally challenged, and to learn something new every day. So, if I occasionally have to use an outside resource to learn that one new thing-- I'm so cool with that! I get psyched up by it. Which is also one of the reasons I love the blogs...learning new things.

I guess if I was trying to compete in the championship I might feel differently. But my motivations are much more humble.

Pete: love the "cheating retroactively" comment -- funny! Good puzzle today, thanks so much.

Anonymous 6:47 PM  

Julie: I'm not sure if you know you can get the the NYT Puzzles everyday on line. It costs $40 a year but you get the puzzle each day plus access to the archived puzzles. You can do the puzzles on line or print them out on your computer and solve them.

It's a pretty cool deal. And one of the cheapest hobbies I know of.

Here's the link the NYT

Linda G 7:45 PM  

Julie, I subscribed online several months ago and don't regret it. You can try it for a month for $7 or $8, but then you'll wish you just did the year for $40.

Publishing a blank NYT puzzle and all the clues is a violation of their copyright. Will Shortz would MAKE AN EXAMPLE OF anyone who did fact, he has.

JC66 8:45 PM  


You're right, I usually do the puzzle in the paper, but use the applet when travelling, so I'm familiar with it.

I also Google from time to time (when really stuck or just to check spelling) and I also discover mistakes/typos I've made when reading your and Rex's blogs (which I love & am addicted to). In none of these circumstances do I tell mysef that I finished the puzzle unaided.

Jules 8:48 PM  

linda g and kitt- thanks!

Anonymous 10:00 PM  

I also entered "Amerigo Vespucci" for the clue Basis for "America", but then realized the quotes around America probably meant something else, so I deleted my answer.

After a couple of crosses, I got the right entry.

I also confess I had to Google to find Mr. Moto. Before my time, I guess.

Anonymous 12:10 AM  

Green Mantis,
Eavesdropping on an on-line chat is called "lurking"!

Anonymous 12:35 AM  

Sweet! I knew there was a perfect word out there, as there always is.


Anonymous 8:56 AM  

50A: Pizzeria chain since 1943, informally (Uno's) - I'm new to this blog, but it seems to me that a regional chain is an unfair clue - if you aren't from that region how can you hope to know the answer? Uno's? - never heard of it.

Unknown 9:21 PM  

Pizzeria Uno is a very famous Pizza chain in Chicago and considered the birthplace of deep dish pizza. It has since become a franchise and I have seen one as far as California.

Much better pizza than NY style IMHO :).

Anonymous 1:51 PM  

6WL :::

I had no idea on ABEVIGODA and hence blew the NW quadrant. Also, no idea on MALAR but it eventually fell from the crosses.

All in all, fairly challenging and fun for me. Off to google "annular".

Anonymous 2:47 PM  

This is probably the most asinine post ever. But looking below at "choose an identity" I thought it read "Google Booger".

6WL Happy weekend

Anonymous 3:21 PM  

6WL :::::


Now that you mention it, "choose an identity" is pretty odd itself. I understand nowadays one can steal one, so I guess there's a choice in that scenario...

Anonymous 12:14 AM  

Come on people, you can do better than that!

Clue: Nick of time (48 hrs).

That's a nice change of pace.



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