FRIDAY, Aug. 3, 2007 - Charles Barasch

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Well I NEVER (46D: "How dare you!") heard of the FIBONACCI SERIES (35A: "The Da Vinci Code" sequence). That basically tells you all you need to know about my solving experience. I wouldn't touch "The Da Vinci Code" (book or movie) with a ten foot pole. Oh, and the GAELS (30D: Iona College athletes) is the stupidest name for a college team ever. GAELS is barely a word. I had GAULS for the longest time, making SERIES invisible to me. In fact, I kept getting frustrated that I couldn't make ANYTHING out of the crosses I had for FIBONACCI SERIES. Wanted ACCESSORIES to be involved somehow. So bad was all this that I second-guessed MALRAUX (26D: France's first minister of culture, 1959-69), kept changing INSECURE (36D: Wobbly) to UNSECURE and back again, and repeatedly cursed the downright stupidity of the clue for B NATURAL (37D: Note offering good advice for life?). Speaking of B NATURAL, if you have never seen this short film from "Mystery Science Theater 3000," you really should. Oh, and here's Part II, if you really want more.

The rest of the puzzle was tough, but fair. The other 15-letter answer in the puzzle, VOODOO ECONOMICS (8D: Derogatory term popularized by George H.W. Bush) was s-h-h-h-ooooo much better than that "Da Vinci" code crap. I was thinking TAX-AND-SPENDER or some such dreck, but the actual answer is great (used by Bush against Reagan and his "supply-side economics," back when he and Reagan were both running for the Republican presidential nomination). I'd forgotten about that phrase. Had PANTIES for JAMMIES (53A: Undercover wear?), so that screwed things up a bit. Really like the way KOOKY (49A: Out there) looks over JAMMIES, btw. SKI TOW (43D: Help in getting up) is a weird term. It's called a T-BAR where I come from.

I don't think I ever knew Chamorro's first name - 15A: Two-time Nicaraguan president Chamorro (Emiliano). Was lucky to remember SAHL (54D: "Look Forward in Anger" comedian) from a puzzle not too long ago. I thought XENA had a sidekick. Didn't know she was one (51A: Gabrielle's sidekick, in a TV series). No idea how I remembered (almost instantly) the name of the family on "Soap" - 6D: "Soap family" (Tates). If I hadn't lived my early life in California, and had relatives in the Bay Area, I might still be puzzling over SAN MATEO (17A: County whose seat is Redwood City). Wanted 23A: Beaucoup de Louises (rois) to be ELLES, so feminine does that plural look. Had I'VE GOT IT for 1A: Celebratory cry (Mazel Tov), and even after I knew the answer, the spelling ... was another story. Other tough bits (for me) included

  • 44A: _____ Bay (South China Sea inlet) (Subic) (!?);
  • 10D: Head makeup (suds) (which I only just now got);
  • 2D: Stuff in a bomb (amatol);
  • 4D: Hackberry relative (elm);
  • 5D: Pseudologue (liar); and
  • 55A: Prescription notation (ter) - TER means "three" in Latin, but this could have been anything; I had B.I.D.

Oh, and I don't think I've ever seen JEAN in the singular (53D: Sturdy, twilled cotton fabric). Oh, and further, 56A: Bottle (nurser)!?!?! Yuck. [Sipper] or [Mother, perhaps]. The bottle can't actually "nurse" anything without the agency of a human (oh, unless it's one of those upside-down bottles that hang in animal cages, I guess, ugh). This answer does tie in semi-nicely, however, with 42A: Temp takers (RNs) and 52A: Place for 42-Across (ICU). Two other parts I liked - appropriately, I find the word ANODYNES soothing (14D: Soothing things); and 58A: Horror cry ("It's alive!") is easily the best answer in this grid.

In case you ever wondered what Billy GRAHAM (60A: Religious leader who wrote "Peace With God") would look like on top of SELENA (62A: Jennifer Lopez title role) - now you know.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:21 AM  

Anyone who was in the Navy and stationed in the Phillipines has a very strong memory of Subic Bay.

If you go to anyplace that sells baby bottles, you will note that the mfrs thereof call them "nursers" on their boxes.

A Fibonacci Series generates a spiral I believe. Leonardo worked out the math before 1500.

Another tie to San Francisco Bay is of course GAVIN Newsom, the mayor of SF. I'll bet Mr. Barasch is from the Bay Area.

Nice to know the Zinnia was named after Herr Zinn.

I believe "ski tow" is a generic term for several lifts, including a T-Bar.

Anonymous 12:30 AM  

This puzzle follows up nicely on the discussion on yesterday's comments about our interior rules for crediting ourselves with solving a puzzle. My experience with this one mirrored Rex's very closely. I threw in the towel on the T in the ANATOL/STN crossing--I've never heard of anatol and don't feel stupid for not having heard of it, and I don't know how STN is a "D.C. union, e.g." Like Rex, I'm a DaVinci Code illiterate, and I googled out of curiosity when I had all the letters for the DaVinci clue except the I/U and the end(same as Rex, I went from INSECURE to UNSECURE many times before determining that neither was going to get the answer for me). The "SERIES" part of that clue kept me from getting the six or seven or eight Kentucky/Tennessee squares that followed from that portion of the puzzle (didn't know MALRAUX, XENA, SUBIC or TER, and had BETIDE but with not much confidence.) All told, I don't feel rotten for not solving this one. Probably just a sign that I'm comfortable in my ignorance. Several Maker's Marks might have something to do with it, too.

Anonymous 12:42 AM  

The Fibonacci sequence has all sorts of fun applications. I remember one had to do with rabbit breeding. I don't remember how it figured in that murk of a novel, however.

Wade, [Union in D.C.] (note the capitalization and abbreviation) is Union Station.

I thought the MALRAUX/SUBIC cross was an unfair crossing of obscurities.

Orange 12:53 AM  

Rex, I say the Gamecocks have a stupider name than the Gaels. Also? "Panties" is an icky word.

Subic Bay was a sort of infamous U.S. naval base in the Philippines. In '91, the Philippines said "no more" and told the U.S. to git.

I Googled NURSER and one of the first hits was this Playtex bottle. Yes, they appropriated a verb that means "To cause or allow to take milk from the breast; to feed at the breast of." Pseudologues!

Anonymous 1:30 AM  

It must say something about my age, but MALRAUX was the second thing I got with certainty. (Wade, the last thing was that T.)

It's too bad a ridiculous novel ruined the good name of the Fibonacci sequence, which is a a bit of mathematical culture everyone should know, if just for fun. To generate it, just start with a couple of 1's. After that, just add the last two numbers you've written to write the next one. Thus you get 1+1=2, 1+2=3, 2+3=5, 3+5=8, and the sequence begins 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, ...

I liked the two long crossing entries, and wasn't the layout elegant?

Jeffrey 4:25 AM  

B Natural? Oy...

I had Fibonacci, because I suffered through the DaVinci Code, but that B-N combination was murder.

There's no reason to read the DaVinci Code, but if you can find Anthony Lane's review of the film from the New Yorker, it's worth reading. It's the best skewering of the book I've ever read.

Rex Parker 8:29 AM  


RE: Panties.

I beg to differ.


Unknown 8:31 AM  

I also was tripped up on MALRAUX/SUBIC (I guessed an I).

The Fibonacci sequence is worth knowing about entirely separate from the Da Vinci Code... it's just a series of numbers starting with two ones such that each number is the sum of the preceding two. (1,1,2,3,5,8,13,...)

Although if you want to get nitpicky (which I do in this case), in mathematics a sequence is a bunch of numbers in order, whereas a series is their sum. Though "fibonacci series" gets 127K hits on Google, so I guess I'm in the minority with this gripe.

Howard B 8:33 AM  

gk beat me to the Fibonacci series definition. Mathematical fun.

Woohoo, thanks for the Mystery Science Theater link! I forgot about that short. I believe Mike Nelson and the writers ('The Film Crew') have recently launched a new enterprise in the spirit of MST3K,

Oh yeah, the puzzle today didn't beat me - it lightly marinated me before roasting me on a spit. Just brutal.

DONALD 9:23 AM  

"Rex" said: "I wouldn't touch "The Da Vinci Code" (book or movie) with a ten foot pole."

Donald asks: "Why?"

sonofdad 9:27 AM  

The reason why "Louises" looks feminine is that it is feminine. French sentences and English pluralization rules don't mix well.

Orange 9:30 AM  

I expect to live out my lifespan without ever having read or seen The Da Vinci Code. Absolute hooey plus terrible writing? I'll pass.

Rex, throw down! The panties war is about to begin.

Anonymous 9:42 AM  

My wife's sister gave her a copy of the Davinci Code a while back(actually, if you just step outside your door chances are there are a few dozen copies lying around within reach). Last night I found it and (still under the influence of those Maker's Markses) opened it up. I couldn't make it past the first sentence. Actually I couldn't make it past the phrase "renowned curator" in the first sentence. No offense to hard-working, brilliant, conscientious curators, but I have a hard time with the phrase "renowned curator." Who is renowning these curators? I asked myself.

Anonymous 10:00 AM  

What you are making painfully clear, Rex Parker, is that you have trouble with the NYT Crossword Puzzle. Too bad.

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

Given Wade's rules from yesterday I did OK on this one. Only the AMATOL/EMIL... crossing at the M required a trip to google. I admit to seeing the Da Vinci movie which gave me the F..SERIES but I've no intention of reading the book. My 60s Navy experience made SUBIC a gimme and the wife helped with the X in MALRAUX. My single error was BESIDE for BETIDE. I reasoned that someone coming to pass me would be BESIDE me and that SER meant SERUM. I did like this puzzle and most of it went pretty fast for me (under half and hour). It was just those couple of pockets of obscurity....

Anonymous 11:17 AM  

anonymus (12:21 AM): The Fibonacci Series is a sequence of numbers first created by Leonardo Fibonacci in 1202.

I really have trouble why KOOKY = Out there. Can someone explain?

Anonymous 11:17 AM  

I slugged it google...and guessed (correctly I was amazed to see) on Xena, Subic, Malraux, Gavin and Gaels. I credit this blog for making me more apt to stick with it, so that when I finally read the posting, I can empathize with all of the other puzzlers. Quite tough today!

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

Made hamburger out of this one.

Had WHOOOHOO and WASSUP for NW corner. Cheated and peeked at Rex's MAZELTOV (which is really congratulatory more than celebratory)

ATCHOO for ASTHMA ...I was big on the OO's today which helped me VOODOO ECONOMIES (instead of economics) and DOOZY instead of KOOKY for "out there" (isn't DARMA the same thing as KARMA?) and GAOL for GAEL, ruining lots of small victories.

After paying good money to see ITS ALIVE, I spent the entire movie staring at my knees and asking my friend, "Did they show it yet?"

PS> How do I get a username other than anonymous?

Anonymous 11:47 AM  

re: username:

click "other" button
type in a name by "name"
ignore "web page"
hit "publish your comment"


Orange 11:58 AM  

Re: Anonymous said...
What you are making painfully clear, Rex Parker, is that you have trouble with the NYT Crossword Puzzle. Too bad.

We have a winner! Today's Jackass Commenter Award voting is now closed.

Anonymous 12:04 PM  


Anonymous 12:15 PM  

easl -- think of "out there" as not being particularly attached to reality.

from, here are some other synonyms:



Deviating from the customary: bizarre, cranky, curious, eccentric, erratic, freakish, idiosyncratic, odd, outlandish, peculiar, quaint, queer, quirky, singular, strange, unnatural, unusual, weird. Slang screwball.



Anonymous 12:23 PM  

This is nitpicking, but the clue from the Da Vinci code is bad mathematica grammar.

The answer "Fibonacci series" is incorrect. "Fibonacci sequence" is the correct phrase (but notice "sequence is part of the clue.)

In mathematics, a series is a SUM of a sequence of numbers. There is no such thing as a Fibonacci SERIES. I had put in Fibonacci but could not think of what the second word was until I got some of the crosses.

Again, I know this sounds pedantic. But I'm a mathematician and I hate it when people misuse mathematical terms.


DONALD 1:11 PM  

"Orange" said: "I expect to live out my lifespan without ever having read or seen The Da Vinci Code. Absolute hooey plus terrible writing? I'll pass."

Donald asks: How can you yourself know without ever having read a piece of literature or viewed a film that it is what you deem it to be?

I am not defending the subject, but only asking what qualifies your judgment.

Anonymous 1:23 PM  

I knew I was in trouble with today's puzzle when the first pass through left me with a lot of blanks. Hey, when was the last time "messrs" was used? Had to Google too much--first name of Chamorro, J-Lo's title role and the Da Vinci sequence, for instance. Could never understand the popularity of Da Vinci Code--never made it past the first 50 pages.

Anonymous 1:33 PM  

As far as I'm concerned, Jean (or really Jeans) is the garment and DEMIN is the fabric. I've never heard the fabric itself refered to as jean(s).

Anonymous 1:34 PM  

The Finonacci series can be accurately described in non-technical language as a sequence of numbers and is frequenly referred to as a series. Goggle "fibonacci series" to convince yourself of that. Having taken a lot of math courses, I know that in math it is always referred to as the Fibonacci Sequence (capital S), but I suppose you could call it the Fibonicci series (small s to indicate you are not using the technical term).

By the way, you need know nothing about the book or movie to have gotten the answer. All you need is knowledge of what Leonardo Da Vinci did in his lifetime.

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

Donald, I'm with Orange on DaVinci Code. There's a chance that the DaVinci Code has merit Orange would recognize and appreciate if she read the whole thing, but life is short and you can't give everything a full and fair hearing--you have to have some faith in the critics, reviewiers, and other readers you respect when they say something is rancid. For me, "renowned curator" was enough to render final verdict. Not fair maybe, but Dan Brown is probably not suffering much from my verdict.

Anonymous 2:20 PM  

Anonymous (the one misspelling "Fibonacci" as "Finonacci" and "Fibonicci" and "Google" as "Goggle") is incorrect. Others including Liebestraum and Dan are correct: in math, the Fibonacci sequence is never referred to as a series, since in math a series indicates a sum (although in English the words are used fairly interchangeably - hence students' confusion for a couple of weeks in calculus 2).

Anonymous 2:46 PM  

Shouldn't 42A: "Temp takers" be clued as "Temp. takers" ??

fergus 3:01 PM  

"And there she lulled me asleep,
And there I dreamed, Ah Woe BETIDE!
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

Read some Keats just the other night so BETIDE came to pass quite nicely.

This puzzle was a slog. First of all, aren't baseballs made with HORSE not COW HIDE? Maybe they've changed since I was a youth? Hesitant with FIBONACCI since I couldn't remember which letter to double. NURSER sucked. Spurn for SCORN left a lot of answers dangling. 18A I DUNNO could have been filled in in many places.

I'm siding with Orange on the Panties issue. Sounds too childish, especially when you get into the fancier end of the lingerie spectrum. I do like the little bows that seem to be a frequent feature ... .

Anonymous 3:05 PM  

Alas,laziness has set in. I hardly ever Google clues anymore, noe=w that I have Rex.

Anonymous 3:29 PM  

Blasphemy #1: I enjoyed The DaVinci Code. Much more than this puzzle -- I had trouble with the NW, the NE, the SW, the SE, the MW, the ME, the heartland, the dust bowl, and deep in the heart of Texas.

Blasphemy #2: I love the college athletes' name GAELS. Superior to Hoyas, right up there with Banana Slugs (UC Santa Cruz).

Blasphemy #3: Shouldn't it be ProfFILL?

frances 3:44 PM  

Barasch should have found a different clue for "rois;" that so-called plural of Louis was a real clunker. He must have been on a French kick, what with "Malraux" and "messrs" defined by the Free Dictionary (on RefDesk)as

"(from the French messieurs) is the plural form of both Mr. and Monsieur. Its use in English is decreasing, although it is still used in formal (particularly legal) correspondence. It appears regularly in the magazine, The Economist. Informally, it has appeared on occasion in articles in The Wall Street Journal."

Anonymous 3:48 PM  

I once took a course in Fortran programming, and the instructor introduced me to Fibonacci. It's such a great name that it stuck, although it took me a loooong time to ferret it out. Not having read the book, I was not expecting something from a computer science class.

Would someone help me with STN as a "Union in D.C."?

Anonymous 3:54 PM  

Sue -

Union Station (railroad) is in WA D.C.

Anonymous 3:57 PM  

Thanks, karmasartre! And a beautiful station it is.

Rex Parker 4:00 PM  


I'm all for "throwing down" where panties are concerned.

That may be the oddest sentence I've ever posted on this blog.

Thanks, Andrew, for throwing down, math-style. I like how you pre-empt rebuttal by smearing your would-be opponent's face in his typos. Nice. Old School.

It's raining so hard I told Sahra she better build an ark. She looked at me like I *might* be serious. The huge tree in our neighbor's yard got cut down today. Very dramatic. It was 70+ feet, so a huge crane was involved, as well as a shirtless man in the tree with a chainsaw. This all has zero to do w/ xwords. Orange, I saw your book at my local B&N today, though it was shoved down on a shelf in the games section where it could hardly be seen. I interspersed a couple throughout the NYT Crosswords section / display.


fergus 4:16 PM  

I think gg is right to question Temp takers. The abbrev. convention wasn't observed. I would allow Temp without a . if it were referring to a Temporary office worker, but Temp as in what's shown on a thermometer just isn't a common enough part of an expression to merit standing free. Busy law firms might be Temp takers, but not R.N.s.

I'm glad no one is going to tell me to "get a life."

Anonymous 6:11 PM  

Of all the things...

I was up way past my bedtime last night talking about the Fibonacci sequence. LAST NIGHT. And then to find it in my crossword the next day? I'm obviously poised at the throbbing vortex of some very strong cosmic forces. But what to do with this incredible power? Lottery ticket? Submit my patent for a keychain that records your location in a mall parking lot? Audition for American Idol?

Anonymous 6:11 PM  

The Merriam-Webster OnLine Dictionary actually lists "temperature" as the first definition of TEMP. The second definition is "a temporary worker." If you have the misfortune to hang around a hospital long enough, some nurse will eventually come in and say that she/he needs to take your temp. Guaranteed.

Orange 7:58 PM  

We talk about the temps with regard to both weather and fevers.

Apparently Jim in Chicago has never owned a jean skirt. (Jean skirt outpolls jeans skirt two to one on Google.)

Wade is on target. I'm not going to see Captivity in order to pass judgment on it as a torture-porn horror movie that should never have been made. I read some commentary about it; that was enough. And perhaps the strongest reason to skip the Da Vinci Code movie is that greasy hairdo Tom Hanks sported.

Green Mantis, why don't you focus your thoughts on millions of dollars finding their way to me?

Rex, thanks for doing the bookstore shuffle! Much appreciated. Speaking of tree removal, holy crap! You're not kidding about what an impressive process that is. Ben and I spent two hours in our parking lot watching a guy (shirt-clad) in an elm with a chainsaw, tying ropes around various limbs so his teammates on the ground could pull the lopped limbs away from a building with windows. Several of our neighbors joined us—we had people from ages 6 to 70 marveling at the tree cutting. Ben said it was better than watching TV. (Crossword tie-in: ELM.) As for throwing down panties: You first.

Linda G 8:05 PM  

I also did some re-merchandising at Barnes & Noble. Orange's book now appears in two areas there...a revolving rack filled with NYT books and (now!) the Games & Puzzles section where the front of the books face out. It looks quite impressive.

Howard, I absolutely love your description of what the puzzle did to you ; )

Anonymous 1:04 AM  

nice try orange.

Anonymous 1:56 AM  

Is it too late for anyone to see this post? You're all working hard on Saturday already, aren't you? Anyway, I'm 95% sure the plural of Louis is Louis. That clue bit the big one.

ttommott 4:22 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
ttommott 4:23 AM  

I was raised calling it 'the horsehide' as in, 'Knock the horsehide off that thing!'
But in 1974 (after my career as a little leaguer was well over) the commissioner Bowie Kuhn quietly authorized the use of cowhide.
Two reasons:
1. Horsehide was much more expensive.
2. The original use of horsehide was predicated on the fact that it didn't stretch as much as cowhide. In the old days they tried to play an entire game with only one ball whereas today a game might use 15 to 30 balls.

The puzzle was tough enough for me. I had INTACT for breakless, in a way which left me with only IV for the end of 1 across. Oy vey! And I misspelled KOOKY as COOKY leaving me with CASTE as a Hindu belief. The toughest slog I have seen in a while.

Anonymous 7:36 AM  

The Mother of His Majesty read The Da Vinci Code.

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

Hi. I don't know if anyone will see this at this late date but I think the SKI TOW (43 down)answer refers to water-skiing.

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

Mary, I'm sure you're right. "Getting up" is the water-skiing jargon.

Anonymous 12:12 AM  

I found this puzzle very difficult and am glad some of you did, too.

Unknown 3:33 AM  

I realize that others have said this before (especially lieb), but as a math major I feel extremely miffed that one of the two long answers would be so incorrect. The fact that "series" is a technical math term (and so closely related to "sequence", too) makes it pretty inexcusable to mislabel the Fibonacci sequence that way. In fact, I did the puzzle while I was at a math conference, and I almost quit the puzzle in protest (and in solidarity with our small but vibrant community) when it became clear that the answer had to be "series".

DONALD 2:29 PM  

Rex and Orange:


Anonymous 11:02 AM  

That "Beaucoup de Louises" thing has come very close to giving me an ulcer. More than a week later and it's still irking me. I expect errors in the editorial but the crossword should be sacrosanct, especially when helmed by someone who expects you to know various dumb crap in Italian.

Anonymous 9:36 PM  

ski tow is how you get out of the water, when water sking.

Anonymous 12:37 AM  

This was one of the most esoteric and inane puzzles I have solved in two years. I know that puzzlers can design a puzzle that is difficult and challenging and rewarding without resorting to gimmicks like this. "bnatural" is not funny not clever and certainly not phrasing it is quite simply inane and irresponsible I think the next time I see a puzzle by Mr. Barasch I will save the lead and place it directly in the fireplace where it truly has merit. The only redeeming quality of this puzzle is that the writer didn't make the collosal mistake of clueing "scan" for "peruse" probably because he didn't think of it.

Brian in Olathe

Anonymous 10:59 PM  

I just stumbled onto this website (thank you google!!). I have had this bloody crossword sitting at home unfinished for over 2 months (obviously). It has been driving me crazy. Very glad to have 1.) the solution & 2.)fellow xworders who had trouble with it.

Oh, and shout out to Brian in Olathe. I live just south of you in Gardner.

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