FRIDAY, Aug. 17, 2007 - Roger Barkan

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

I got destroyed by this puzzle, especially in the top half. How? Here's how.

I've never heard of - NEVER heard of - CHARLOTTE AMALIE (14A: Caribbean cruise port of call). That's a long answer not to know. Kind of like T. BOONE PICKENS (see many weeks ago). Also didn't know one of the crosses, 9D: Title aunt in a 1979 best seller (Erma). Though almost all those Downs at the top look gettable now, I couldn't see a damn thing when they were blank. GTOS (4D: Classic cars with 389 engines) was the only thing close to a gimme. Working backward didn't help. Had the TEA in CHAI TEA (14D: Coffee alternative) without knowing what kind (went with ICED at first). Had the ONE in SHIN BONE (12D: It's guarded in a soccer game) and thought I was dealing with some kind of ZONE. And O My God I had -T-NDINGO before I parsed STANDING O correctly (1D: Star performer's reward). Early guesses included FANDANGO and MANDINGO, neither of which fit. A-PLUS (3D: 100, say) also looks nuts when you come at it from the wrong end. RHEAS (7D: Birds with a name from Greek myth) is hard to get without any crosses, and I had none (except the "S," which hardly counts). I tend to think of hotels as offering "roll-aways," not COTs (5D: Hotel room option) - it's not a field hospital, for god's sake. Loved the clue on SALAD (11D: Leaves alone, sometimes) ("How can that end in a 'D!?'").

And all this failure after being so proud of myself for nailing RICO (13D: "Copacabana" antagonist) and ZASU (19A: Early film actress Pitts). Less proud for nailing Van DAMME (37A: Van _____ of "Double Team" and "Double Impact"), though no less happy for the entertainment. It was finally getting TEARIEST (10D: Most affected by pathos) that allowed me to hack my way into the top and eventually work it all out. STEP TO THE REAR (12A: Bus line?) is fantastic and nicely colloquial, though it sort of brings to mind Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott... maybe that's just 'cause I watched a PBS special on the 60's last night.

Lived in California much of my life, never knew there was an EEL river in it (15D: Third-longest river of California). Only just recently commiserated with my wife about the nutso spelling of the UINTA Mountains (26A: Utah's _____ Mountains), and still, today, couldn't retrieve it. Knew it started U, some other vowel - but that's it. Had MAD AS for AS MAD (28A: Comparable to a wet hen). Thank god for MIX TAPE (43A: This-and-that recording for a friend or a party), which is the first answer I really could build something substantial off of.

Guessed HINDUS (16A: Diwali revelers) correctly, but had No Clue about MALAYALAM (29D: Language of India with a palindromic name); got the first three letters and was happy to be able to fill in the last three letters as a result. APPLETON (30D: Home of Lawrence University)? Whatever. Had DESK KIT for DESK SET (31D: Accessories for a secretary), then wondered how in the world a hula hoop could be a GYRATI - 52A: Hula-hoop, say (gyrate). Is HAYES Rutherford B. HAYES (49A: Profile on a 19¢ stamp)? ANDES seems to vague an answer to 18A: Home of the Cotopaxi volcano - it's a big mountain range! As someone who has written Many a Footnote in his day, it took me a surprisingly long time to get 21A: Abbr. after an author's name, maybe (ibid.).

Bottom half of the puzzle was far more tractable, though I had ANTEDATE for ANTECEDE (33D: Go ahead of), PLUSH for PILED (46D: Like 1-Across), CAGIER for WARIER (43D: Like someone who's been fooled before) - which caused me to entertain CALK ("shouldn't there be a 'U' in that?") for WALK (43A: Cement layer's work) - and my favorite mistake, RENO for OREM (45D: Self-styled "Family City U.S.A."). The gimme-ness of 55A: _____ diet, food plan emphasizing olive oil, fish, fruit, vegetables and red wine (Mediterranean) almost made up for the CHARLOTTE AMALIE fiasco up top. DESERT STORM (56A: Gulf war offensive) was a cake walk too. URIC ACID (50A: Major component of kidney stones) does not pass the breakfast table test for me, though neither does "Wickiup" - which wins the award for most made-up-sounding word in a clue this year: 44D: Wickiup, for one (hut). Thought it might have something to do with Wikipedia. No. All in all, it feels a little bit like I ATE DIRT (38D: Accepted bad treatment), but I have no business complaining too much about a wicked Friday when I whined so much about easy puzzles all week long. Touché, puzzle. You win this round. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 11:32 PM  


Just wanted to write in and say that I really enjoyed this puzzle. I give it a 9/10 - one of the first puzzles of the year to earn a score this high. I really hope Roger will construct more puzzles in the future - his stuff truly connects with my tastes. Bravo and standing O.


Linda G 12:03 AM  

I didn't even see A-PLUS in there. Appropriate for what I thought was an A-PLUS puzzle.

URIC ACID may not pass the breakfast table test, but it was a I liked it.

Anonymous 12:57 AM  


Now you know how I usually feel on Fridays -- it's probably just an off day for you.

Although I did pretty well after much work. It all took a while but I enjoyed. I too had trouble with CharlotteAmalie: had Charlotte but could not firgure out Amalie although I kept on thinking Virgin Islands but since that wouldn't fit kept on plodding along until I had all but the last letter and Googled for "eel" river to get the final "e."

Anonymous 1:01 AM  

I hang my head. I hang my head. I'm just a Barkan dog. I've met my match and it's no match. I deserve a Monday. You win. I suck. How could I have something as meaty as MEDITERRANEAN and do so little with it? Perhaps I should try "So You Think You Can Dance?" I'm OK at thinking I can do things, like Friday puzzles....

Alex S. 1:34 AM  

Somehow when reading the clue for 1D, with no help at all the first thing that popped into my head was STANDING O.

So I experimentally typed it in and said "wow, it fits" and then I erased it because I am never that in synch with the puzzlemaker.

Then the exact same thing happened with CHAI TEA (though I don't think anybody ever really says that, just chai).

When I finally got a true break into the northern part one little square really caused me problems. Japanese shares are bought and sold on the Nikkei Stock Exchange so I put in NSE rather than TSE for Tokyo Stock Exchange. That one letter made seeing PEANUT impossible but once I did the rest of the north finally fell.

This was my learning clue for the day. Always thought Nikkei was the stock exchange. Turns out the Nikkei 225 is to the Tokyo Stock Exchange as the Dow Jones Industrial Average is to the New York Stock Exchange.

Anonymous 6:16 AM  

Alex, thought the same about Nikkei so had Peanun. Had Quito for ANDES, Somno for HYPNO, ERs for ORs, and Maharaham for MALAYALAM, plus had to google for a lot, although not nearly as much as I typically do on a Friday. I was pretty thrilled that I had so much unaided, actually, although the only long answer I could get was DESERT STORM.

Btw, in what universe is Dennis the Menace an IMP?

Anonymous 8:18 AM  

My only happy moment was "Charlotte Amalie" because I knew someone from there.

That, and getting "Shag Carpets" from the G on GTOs.

The rest of the puzzle was a nightmare for me. My two youngest sons play so much soccer, I really should've gotten "shin bone" faster than I did - especially for a Friday puzzle.

Oh well, I finished in under an hour, so I'm happy.


Anonymous 8:20 AM  

I kept thinking the famous aunt should be Mame; hit myself on the head when I realized it was a retooling of the usual ERMA Bombeck clue. Great puzzle! Lousy time!

Howard B 8:55 AM  

Trouble with STANDING O (loved that answer though), and didn't know how to spell the unfamiliar CHARLOTTE AMALIE, which hurt. That and a second silly typo on the bottom made life really difficult; but that was my problem, and certainly not the puzzle's. UINTA always seems like it's from some other dimension, but MIXTAPE balanced that nicely. So much cool stuff packed in this one, couldn't help but smile throughout.

Anonymous 9:17 AM  

Had ODDS (against) for HOPE
SACAD (stuttering, saccadic eye movements?) for SALAD
PEAN 'UN??? for PEANUT (got the U from ZASU and filled in 'UN)

I agree, it was a fun 'UN, though

Spencer 10:00 AM  

HAYES -- was a total guess based on partial fill. There appear to have been a couple of stamps with HAYES (yes, Rutherford B.) The 19c stamp with the profile was issued in 1938!

And I share your amazement at the SALAD clue. I had exactly the same thought: "How can that end in a D?!"

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

I was on this puzzle's wavelength and went through it pretty quickly for a Friday--under 15 minutes--except for the last letter of CHARLOTTEAMELI__. I went through the entire alphabet (yes, even J/Q/Z) and still the applet wouldn't accept it. I went to your site and saw that it was an E, went back to the applet and put in E, hit submit, and got rejected again. I scanned the puzzle top to bottom and then again and again. I could see no mistake. Then finally, there it was: PEANAT. That's what I get for guessing ZOSA early on and then not catching the problem when the cross would have cleared it up.

I'm taking credit for this one but in expiation of my hubric sin I confess that I, an eleven or twelve year old boy at the time, read all of Erma Bombeck's books that were around in the late seventies.

Campesite 10:36 AM  

Put me in the group hammered by this puzzle. That said, this was a very clever puzzle-very little crosswordese, smart cluing, lots of misdirection.
I really got stuck with TOR instead of TON, which kept me from seeing the wonderful STANDING O.
My wife has been taking hula hoop classes at her gym (what next?), adding another gimme to the part of the puzzle that fell. CHARLOTTE AMELIE was utterly unfamiliar to me.

Orange 10:55 AM  

Wade, what the hell? Why would any 12-year-old read Erma Bombeck's books, which were aimed at suburban moms and grandmas? (Please answer. Because I read all her books too—I think I bought the "If Life is a Bowl of Cherries" paperback with my allowance money, in fact—and just don't know why. Were we that desperate for humor?)

Wendy, Dennis the Menace has been ann IMP in crosswordland for decades. You know those beer commercials with Man Law? This is Crossword Law.

If the audience is holding up their lighters while giving a standing O, is it called a flaming O? (Nice picture, Rex!)

QP 10:56 AM  

I feel like an idiot, but what is IBID (14A) ?

BTW, got Amelie, my daughter's best friend

Linda G 11:32 AM  

IBID is used in footnotes and bibliographies to reference the work just previously cited.

SALAD is another one I missed. I had ICON instead of IDOL, and when I changed EEN to EEL, I saw my error but didn't bother to look at the down answer that changed. Wicked clue...excellent.

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

My usual method for beginning a puzzle is to look thru all of the definitions to pick up the obvious, can't be anything else. That gave me STANDINGO and ZASU and MEDITERRANEAN.
The rest was typically Friday...difficult for me because I'm weakest on geography.
Favorite clue: Major in Astronomy made me smile...

Campesite 11:50 AM  

Judging by the picture you posted, OREM's city council members really have to reconsider their marketing strategy.

Orange 12:03 PM  

P.S. I hope the folks talking about "Amelie" just have typos—the US Virgin Islands town is CHARLOTTE AMALIE. And it's a 15-letter name, so it does show up from time to time in themeless crosswords.

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

I too had many of the same hang ups as Rex as well as icon for idol. Great puzzle through and through!

QP 12:25 PM  


yes it was a typo

Anonymous 12:31 PM  

This was the toughest puzzle in many weeks for me, Friday or otherwise. First one I had to Google for in that span.

29D and 30D were a double whammy. I doubt there are many people that know both MALAYALAM and APPLETON. HYPNO was tough without any background in Greek etymology.

It took me a long time to remember the EEL River, even though it flooded badly in 1967 or 68 and wiped out several towns. (There is still a marker pole there with a sign on it about 25 feet up recalling the high water mark.) As a young lawyer, I had to go to the flood site and assess the potential liability of a client of the office that built one of the bridges that was washed away in the flood. You'd think that would be enough to make me remember, but no.

The UINTA answer is often clued as the only mountain range in the U.S. that runs east and west.

Unknown 12:31 PM  


Liked your commentary very much - very much mirrored my own efforts this AM. One small bone, however, with a picture accompanying the column, looks like you are showing a flamingo, not a rhea...

Happy solving...

Anonymous 12:34 PM  

I loved this puzzle! I also got SHAG... off the G in GTO and then nothing except APLUS and ZASU. So, I worked from the bottom up which actually went pretty smoothly. I finished in under 45 minutes which is good for me for a Friday. Enjoyed the novel clue for EEL which was the last thing I filled in. (I live in CA and never heard of it.) Also, liked DESKSET which could fit with two different definitions of secretary.

Anonymous 1:18 PM  

Charlotte Amalie is the port on St. Thomas -- very familiar to anyone who likes those big cruise ships.

Billy Belman 1:58 PM  

i had RAN----C- for 17A (Sprinted, perhaps) and really wanted it to be RAN TO MCI.

Anonymous 3:44 PM  

I really liked this puzzle for the most part. The "salad" revelation was like Christmas, and I decided the clue for it was the best I'd seen in a long time. That made up for some clues I felt were a little too "on the nose." By that I mean it seemed that opportunities for having a little tricky fun were squandered, like the mixtape clue. Why not come up with something we have to reach for instead of simply providing its exact definition? Any suggestions? How 'bout "aural olio" or some nonsense? Weeeeee!

Kind of felt that way about mediterranean as well, although I was grateful for such a meaty toehold.

Monabona 4:02 PM  

I'm way far from even hoping to complete a Friday puzzle. Just looking for some clarification: TON being the answer for the clue, MOUNTAIN--is that meant to be like "a mountain of work to do", "a ton of work to do?"

Rex Parker 4:04 PM  

Yes. That kind of "mountain."

Monabona 4:04 PM  

P.S. I LIVED in Charlotte Amalie for six years--even know a song with that title, and I still didn't get it.

Anonymous 5:20 PM  

Can someone direct me to the link for the interactive puzzle that is referenced here?

I do the paper version every day, but I'd like to try the interactive, thanks


Anonymous 5:21 PM  

PS - I got SHAG CARPET right off the bat !

Orange 5:27 PM  

Ron, you can subscribe (yes, it costs money) via the "The New York Times Crossword Puzzle" link in the side bar, near the end of Other Crossword Sites.

fergus 5:47 PM  

I didn't get eaten up by this puzzle because I took the simple expedient solution to incipient frustration: I went for a little stroll. With a little extra purpose -- to check the spelling on the plaque at a house around the corner from mine in Santa Cruz. "Childhood home of ZaSu Pitts, film actress 1893-1964."

Is this cheating? I'm very strict with myself in not using any outside sources, and have a good long streak going. This feels a bit like a hitting streak in baseball -- a questionable call, which the official scorer ruled a hit. Phew.

I had POP OUT for Squirt, tried some Herb TEA, and instead of STANDING O, I was sure I was right with Stoked Ego. Slightly humbling. All in all, nowhere close to meriting an A PLUS, but ATE DIRT only in the SALAD.

Rex Parker 5:59 PM  


That's clearly cheating. It's not even close. Whatever ump made that call was clearly paid off.

There's no shame in using outside sources, but by the standards of your little game ... you're out.


Anonymous 6:03 PM  

I raced through the bottom half of the puzzle thinking this couldn't be a Friday one. Well, it was because the top half stopped me cold and decided to give up and "cheat" by peeking at Rex. Ha! My internet was down for over an hour. Finally I get back on, and, as usual didn't get the answer to 1D. What was standingo? I love the answer of standing o(vation). Yeah, I had nse instead of tse and Mame instead of Erma, Glad to read that others had trouble too including Rex!

fergus 6:14 PM  

Damn, the last hitless game had that AMU DARYA River answer. My manager did leave the dugout to protest the call, only he decided instead to glare straight at me. And I am much chagrined.

PS While I have nothing against outside sources, my rules are to optimize the puzzle for my own peculiar solving experience. And as threads have shown in the past, whatever reason one may find to indulge in the Crossword is perfectly OK. Secular relativist, that I am.

Orange 6:50 PM  

Oh, Fergus, oh no no. You're going to Crossword Gitmo.

Unknown 6:59 PM  

I have discovered this site after swallowing my pride, and then that of my friends', and hopping online.

What seach got me here? A confirm or deny on 'Edna' which I'd guessed instead of Erma, which then locked me in to 'door' instead of 'rear' on the bus clue.

Loved the puzzle, love the feedbacks, way to go all! Hopefully will return as comrade rather than scavenger in the future.

fergus 7:31 PM  

Guess I can't really even ask what I'm being charged with if I'm being dragooned off to Gitmo?

Anonymous 7:38 PM  

Third longest river IN California is actually the Klamath at 263 mi. all but a dozen of which are in CA. However, the third longest river OF California (as the 15D clue specifies) is the Eel at ~200 mi. Klamath headwaters being in Oregon apparently doesn't qualify it as being OF CA. Splitting hairs aren't we?

Orange 8:05 PM  

No, fergus, When the crossword government wants you to know something, you'll know it.

fergus 8:21 PM  

A hurricane freed me in a shipwreck during my transportation to Cuba. Care to guess which port of call I swam into?

Anonymous 8:52 PM  

I cannot believe how easy this puzzle was for a Friday one! It had been finished before I went to the gym! Anyhow, Charlotte Amalie in ST Thomas, US Virgin Islands was the destination of a vacation like--40 years ago! so i guess age does matter.

Anonymous 9:59 PM  

Fergus --

Best bet is to claim you are a citizen of the UK.

Anonymous 10:42 PM  

I know Roger, so I expected it would be a fun puzzle. But I was getting nothing in the top half and thought I would soon call it. Then I was reenergized after making it through the bottom and kept going. I almost gave up a couple of other times, but kept making just enough progress to keep going. Eventually, I made it through the whole thing, with just PEANON for PEANUT, with ZASO and NSE. It was a 75-minute slugfest, but I was glad I finally made it through. Whew! And I loved the clueing, especially for SALAD, STEP TO THE REAR, MALAYALAM, and TELEVISION PILOT. It was reassuring, Rex, to see that you had some of the same problems I did. And my group at work, who does the puzzle using only the down clues, really had to work for this one.

Anonymous 11:07 PM  

Most of you are probably already on Saturday's puzzle, but I did want to add a medical clarification. The majority of kidney stones are actually made up of calcium oxalate, with uric acid being a much less frequent cause.

Anonymous 11:17 PM  

The salad clue reminded me of a riddle that was going around back when I was reading Erma Bombeck's column (early 70s):
Q: What is the honeymooners' diet?
A: Lettuce alone.

Anonymous 11:46 PM  

Even after some googling (I suppose I have some sort of xword waterboarding in store, rather than just some dirt to eat) I STILL had PEANUN instead of PEANUT, relentlessly clinging to the 'un notion while, when it didn't work with the rest of the word, deciding that it was the actual spelling of a Yiddish word I've heard but never seen-- PUNIM, which I think means 'pretty face' or more generally a cute little one...anyway, this was a hideous rout for me. Anyone actually know how to spell (or transliterate) punim?

Anonymous 12:00 AM  

That's funny, mmpo.
I liked this puzzle very much, I thought it was satisfying.
Not that I had a perfect score: I had IGNITE instead of EXCITE. Therefor GMEN instead of XMEN. and I feel like I should have known URIC ACID but I did not and so I filled in some random letters to fill those squares. But I suffered far less than on a usual Friday.

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

I found this to be a tough one as well, but enjoyable and satisfying once in figured it all out, taking right at 25 minutes.

UINTA is weird.

My misfill was TOR for TON (mountain), ICON for IDOL, and UNCLE for MISER (the Scrooge McDuck clue). Other than that, it was slow going most of the way.

Anonymous 10:15 PM  

Oy! Oy! After putting in the "sure things" like ZASU and TSE and SAXE and GTOS, I put in SPROUT for PEANUT, TOR for TON, NARCO for HYPNO, etc..
Even after using Yahoo, I never finished the top half.
Great puzzle. I learned... humility!

Anonymous 4:10 PM  

I also don't think URIC ACID was accurate and they fudged a bit on EEL being the 3rd longest river. I do have to agree with COT, the last time I booked a room online in Chicago there was an option to add a COT to the room, although sometimes it is a rolleraway but more often an actual cot.

Anonymous 5:37 PM  

Another enjoyable slog for me. It is Sunday afternoon, and I have come back to it 7 or 8 times. I needed some outside help. Wife Hanne came up with 10d TEARIEST, after I looked up the exact definition of "Pathos" for her. I used our (very outdated, and falling apart at the spine) atlas to find the UINTA mountains, and the EEL river.

I was handicapped in that the Vancouver Sun didn't print the east coast stack of squares, and the full clues for 46d to 54d. Also, I had to assume AMMAN for 27d, as that clue was not printed either.

I agree that the clue for SALAD is the best clue in a long while.

You know a puzzle is outstanding when DQ comes on to praise it.

Another gem which no-one mentioned; Who would think Hula Hoop could be a verb? Very kewl!

Many trips to the tea and coffee pot.

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