SATURDAY, Jul. 14, 2007 - Victor Fleming

Friday, July 13, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Happy Bastille Day, and Happy 12th Birthday to my oldest cat (and my first non-childhood pet), Wiley.

This puzzle was enjoyable, rocky in parts (due to some semi-insane fill) but ultimately quite do-able. I'd like to thank crossword stalwarts TNUT (23A: Threaded holder) and OGEES (27A: Sigmoid curves) and UAR (22A: Neighbor of Isr., once) and RDAS (10D: Intake optima: Abbr.) and GRE (55A: Educ. Testing Service offering) and EIN (45A: One along an autobahn?), along with utilityman NESTLE (31A: Swiss multinational), for giving me good toe-holds. The first answer I entered was ART SHELL (a first guess for 1A: Player in three 1970s Pro Bowls), and when I got SAG off the "S" cross, and then REVENGE off the "R" cross, I was astonished at how lucky my ART SHELL guess was. Well, REVENGE was right (2D: It's sweet, it's said), but the others were dead wrong. The far easier (Terry) BRADSHAW ultimately took ART SHELL's place, turning SAG into DIM (4D: Lower, in a way). Anticlimactic.

Didn't have any other significant trouble Except... for the NINONS region of the puzzle (46D: Curtain fabrics). NINONS!?! Even now I can't believe it's right. I was like "well, that's silly; good luck getting that answer accepted." I had NYLONS, then later, in desperation, LINENS. But no, NINONS is just one of those Saturday words. See also BIGARADE and ZYZZYVA.

Went frequently to B DALTON (1D: Waldenbooks alternative) as a kid, but took forever to get the answer tonight (ART SHELL didn't help matters). As you know, my hometown had a restaurant called EL TORO Tambien, but that didn't help me with the tequila clue at all (62A: Tequila brand with a red sombrero bottle top).

I had MARCO for MATEO (49D: One of the Gospels, in a Spanish Bible) at first, but was quite proud of rooting out the problem and getting the right answer in there rather quickly. I've seen the painting mentioned in 25A: "Christ's Entry Into Brussels in 1889" painter (Ensor) in person (it's at the Getty in L.A. ... or was two years ago), so that was easy for me. They Might Be Giants have a song called "Meet James Ensor," so that guy's name is pretty permanently engraved in my head. The CASTRO (18A: San Francisco neighborhood, with "the") is the epicenter of Bay Area gayness, which I know very well ... and yet I still needed four letters to uncover it.

Don't like 59D: Family V.I.P.'s (mas), as nothing in the clue cues the hickness of the answer. Sports knowledge failed me on 19A: Basketball analyst Elmore (Len), but I was on more solid ground with the baseball clue 44A: Mets manager Minaya and others (Omars). Speaking of baseball, the Tigers are playing the MARINERs as we speak (53A: Columbus, e.g.) - Tigers are up 4-2 last I checked. And speaking of baseball some more - this blog will go dead for two days (unless someone wants to take over ...) this Tuesday and Wednesday, as I will be in Boston for my first ever trip to Fenway Park, woo hoo! Sox lost tonight, but so did Yanks (to Tampa Bay, HA ha), so who cares?

Wife and I watch this PBS show called "Simon Schama's 'Power of Art'," where each hour-long episode focuses on an artist, with a particular emphasis on one particular work of art. He hasn't done ENSOR, but he did Picasso, which made DORA MAAR's name (58A: Picasso mistress and subject) somewhat fresh in my mind (though I needed a cross or two to jog it loose). BEATLES (20A: Former Shea players) was nicely tricky, and WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA? (8D: "Hey!?") is a stroke of colloquial genius.

Lastly, the remaining stuff I just didn't know:

13D: Plant of the arrowroot family (maranta) - ??? the "M" cross with PRISMS (9A: Dispersion devices) was the last square I filled in

26A: Snow on an album cover (Hank) - Phoebe, yes. HANK? No. He appears to have been country (when country wasn't cool).

47A: Aunt who sings part of "The Farmer and the Cowman" (Eller) - this is from ... "Oklahoma?" Yes! Good guess for me, as I know nothing of musicals.

Enjoy the weekend.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orange 12:38 AM  

They Might Be Giants have a brand-new record out.

Anonymous 6:05 AM  

not to be picky, but Omar Minaya is not the Mets Manager, he is their General Manager. To a baseball fan there is a huge difference

Anonymous 9:42 AM  

Wiley -- that bring back memories. Somehow it seems so long ago that I can't believe he's still alive. So happy birthday Wiley indeed!

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

This puzzle bored me. Even though I got some wrong fill (I did go for LINENS as Rex was tempted to do, which means I got EIL instead of EIN, and DERAMAAR instead of DORAMAAR), I kind of don't care. If I had checked more closely, I would have known EIN, but I still wouldn't have known Dera from Dora and have never heard of ninons. Maybe I should know Dora; if so, I'll take the heat. Otherwise, I'm saying this puzzle fails due to obscure crossings there (not to mention that the family VIP could also have been PA if you have never heard of Dora Maar.) The rest went too easy for Saturday and had no inspired entries or crosses for my taste, except that I was pleased to see the Canadian Cowboy Hank Snow in the puzzle (he's one of the Hank Triumvirate of hardcore country music: Williams, Snow and Thompson).

Orange 10:33 AM  

I suspect Dora Maar is one of those names Will Shortz expects the typical literate Times reader/solver to know.

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

What about the typical illiterate Times reader/solver?

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

What exactly is a hiree? I've heard of new employees being called new hires, I've never heard of one being called a hiree. I had to Google the name of the painter for the cross because while I suspected the answer might be hiree, at the same time I thought "No, it can't be hiree, that's stupid. No one calls new employees hirees, but what do I know?

ScottK 11:07 AM  

Hurray for 'They'! Without them I would never have met Belgium's Famous Painter, nor would I have known, earlier this week, that an ECHIDNA was a mammal.

But thanks for your blog today, Rex. I was certain I had NINONS and DORA MAAR wrong. That crossing O was simply a guess.

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

Can we all agree that "ninons" is the stupidest word in a long, long time? Also thought that "Venice" as the locale of the Antonio/Shylock litigation was too obvious to be correct, so that threw off the "Marco"/"Mateo" cross. But, at least this Saturday effort bore some resemblance to reality.

Linda G 11:29 AM  

Actually knew NINONS -- we had ninon sheers behind the heavy drapes in my childhood house. That way you could open the drapes and get some light but still have privacy.

But there was plenty of stuff I didn't know ; )

Rex Parker 11:34 AM  

Well ... DORA MAAR is fair, it's true, but I'm not sure about the "typical literate Times reader" part. That person would know Picasso, surely, and "Guernica," probably. Cubism, yes. Blue Period, likely. But DORA MAAR - it's not blazingly obscure, but it's a bit deeper in the Picasso waters than the majority of literate, not especially art-loving folks have waded. I'm guessing.

Anonymous 12:21 PM  

For me, the M in Dora Maar was the last letter of the puzzle. There was no help from the cross because either Mas or Pas could be correct. But I thought that if I had ever seen Paar I would have connected it with Jack Paar, so I entered Maar and finished correctly.

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

I fell into a lot of different traps than Rex...I tried DIABOLIC for DEVILISH, ATE A MEAL instead of HAD, and ENTRYWAY for ENTRANCE. I got B DALTON early, but then tried to replace it with BORDERS for some reason. And not knowing Oviedo is in Spain, I tried DES instead of DEL, which was the last mistake I found.

barrywep 1:26 PM  

I had DORAPAAR which gave me PAS instead of MAS and could not have been corrected without trial and error on the applet or googling. NINONS was inane. The Aunt ELLER clue was a good example of a clue that tries to be fresh buts ends up too easy. Aunt ELLER is a crossword staple and that song screamed Oklahoma!
Now that my ranting is over i should say I enjoyed Vic's puzzle nonetheless.

Anonymous 2:09 PM  

This puzzle just a disaster for me. Don't know much about art, nor San Fransisco, nor ninons, and - augh. Just too many holes for me today.

I never even knew the Edsel had been around long enough to have models. I wasn't even sure Pacer was right.

On the plus side, I had BRADSHAW right way and WHATS THE BID IDEA. Those were early in the puzzle and I thought I was on my way.

Maybe next Saturday.

Anonymous 2:14 PM  

This was tough - obscure crossings, dora maar, ninon, etc. But hey, it's a Saturday (and I am only up to finishing Thursdays so far)!

I would like some comments on what makes a great Friday/Saturday puzzle - my favorites are those where sparkly fill is retained, most answers are semi-recognizable, and once you get some crossings you get some ahas! Can't say the same for today's puzzle hence the relevance of this question.


Rex Parker 2:26 PM  

Nitpicker, I wrote a whole @#$-ing treatise on what makes a great FRI/SAT puzzle ("Themeless"). See sidebar. Though maybe ... you want to hear what other people want to say. Seems unnecessary, but OK... :)


Anonymous 2:43 PM  

I got most of the clues quickly and got stuck where others said they got stuck--I had Marco instead of Mateo, and at first had Martin for pope instead of Adrian. Got The Castro right away, and Ensor, but I do not understand "rare" for the clue thin.

I looked up the etymology of the word "rare" and found this:

"unusual," c.1420, originally "few in number and widely separated," from O.Fr. rere "sparse" (14c.), from L. rarus "thinly sown, having a loose texture," from PIE *er-, *ere- "to loose, split, separate" (cf. Skt. rte "besides, except," viralah "distant, tight, rare;" O.C.S. oriti "to dissolve, destroy;" Lith. irti "to dissolve;" O.C.S. rediku "rare;" Gk. eremos "solitary"). "Few in number," hence, "unusual" (1542). Rarity is attested from 1560, from M.Fr. rarité (16c.), from L. raritas "thinness, fewness," from rarus. In chemistry, rare earth is from 1875.

I've never seen the word rare used for "thin." Except for today.

What's the big idea?

Unknown 3:06 PM  

I generally like obscurities in Fri/Sat puzzles, but the obscurities here (ninons and Dora Maar) sucked. Obscurities are good when they're about something interesting or moderately useful, but both of these are pretty much meh. The only people who care about ninons are interior decorators, and I don't particularly like Picasso's work and don't care who he was sticking it to. Other than that, I thought the puzzle was pretty good.

Anonymous 3:16 PM  

What's the deal with MICR? I can see microminute but micr? Please explain if you can justify this!

fergus 3:41 PM  

I think it was in 2001 when the Metropolitan Museem of Art had a little show of Picasso's mistresses, most of whom were weeping and I think the most poignant was the picture of DORA MAAR bawling her eyes out. My problem with this puzzle came from giving her two Rs instead of As.

Had a TA in Art History who was doing her dissertation on ENSOR, so this anchored the puzzle for me.

Knowing SF very well I tried the Haight, the Marina, the Sunset ... and then just decided to circulate the City and finally drop in to a gay bar.

Also had qualms about VENICE, so traced it in very lightly until I could FORGIVE FIREBOMB and MICR and assertively ink it in.

fergus 3:49 PM  

And to Isabella -- I've heard both Thin and RARE used to describe the upper reaches of the atmosphere. I wanted to put in BARE, or even possibly PARE but just had to accept Columbus as a MARINER, even though I was trying to come up with some Marxist terminology that ends in B or P.

Anonymous 3:56 PM  

I made the DERA PAAR mistake too, but it looked no worse to me than NINONS instead of I left it

Person who asked how RARE can mean thin? I just thought of rareified air.

Person who thought MICR was missing the O, I agree.

I totally missed PRISMS. Had to cheat and peek at Rex's solution. Fun puzzle, though. (Especially loved seeing Hank Snow, who is like the Django Reinhardt of country music.)

Anonymous 8:02 PM  

Pretty much had the same SE problems as everyone else (e.g. NINONS, DORA MAAR). BRADSHAW/BDALTON were gimmes so I did NW in a couple of minutes. SW was also pretty easy except for MICR which I was reluctant to pencil in. Did not know ENSOR or ELLER but could get them from the crosses. Not so with MAAR which I had as PAAR and had to change. I thought this was a good and interesting Sat. puzzle with the exception of SE. Too many obscure crossings!

Anonymous 2:00 AM  



will read treatise (which of course i had missed) - altho would like to hear from some crossword constructors a well.


Anonymous 2:06 AM  

ok, having now gone back and scanned the themeless post (i HAD read it, just forgotten the key points), i want to know why this is a puzzle worth accepting - compound phrases: bah humbug - had a meal? give me a break, breadth of vision - lacking, supple joints - none, only creaky joints here.

thanks for helping me analyse my own thoughts as to why this puzzle sucked.


Anonymous 1:30 PM  

6WL ::::

I entered WHATSTHEBIGdeal instead of IDEA which had me going in ovals for quite a while. Tried Brentanos instead of BDALTON...wonder it they still exist? Other big goof was going with DES instead of DEL which gave me "shells" for shucks instead of LIESTO...only the E was correct!

I guess it would be deshells. I remember the first time in a Triumph TR3, reading the instruction manual, which told me to "dedust the dash".

Michael5000 5:33 PM  

Well, it feels good to have had pretty much exactly the same solving arc as the 166th greatest crossword puzzle solver in the universe. (Except for taking, I'm sure, five times as long, and there being two of us. And it having fallen into the usual pattern of appearing impossible at first, and then Mrs. 5000 making some breakthroughs, and then me making some breakthroughs, etc., off and on through the morning and afternoon, until we final wrestled that sucker down.) But we got across the hurdles IN THE SAME ORDER, is what I'm sayin'.

Anonymous 9:04 AM  

For the recycled crowd: This seemed a moderately difficult SAT puzzle. Being late to the party means that pretty much all the relevant things have been said, particularly about NINONS and RARE. I drank my fair share of tequila in college and haven't come across El Toro but maybe that's just me.

Anonymous 8:18 PM  

... and thirteen years later, I still don’t get LIEDTO for Shucks!

Tom in East Aurora

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