TUESDAY, Aug. 14, 2007 - C. W. Stewart

Monday, August 13, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Doofus" = clue for six theme entries

This was an enjoyable puzzle, but only because I never saw the alleged punchline - after a puzzle full of "Doofus" clues, we end up at 61D: A person who is not a doofus (you). Hey, puzzle, when did you turn into such a condescending, smarmy @#$#? I have plenty of self-esteem, thanks. This is the kind of ego-stroking nonsense that led Time to declare me "Person of the Year" for 2006. My response: Go to hell. It's such an insulting advertising ploy, like any of the terrible ads that tell me "you deserve it" as in "you deserve a shamefully overpriced luxury car" or "you deserve to have your husband take you out to KFC." Basically, I don't want my puzzle making any assumptions about me. Maybe I am a doofus. "An incompetent, foolish, or stupid person" - I have definitely been two out of three of those things, and recently. To sum up, I respect puzzles that throw fastballs up around my eyes and then taunt me more than those who throw hanging curve balls and then give me a "You're a Winner!" ribbon when I knock the ball over the fence. If you follow.

Theme answers:

  • 4D: NUMSKULL - I would have spelled this NUMBSKULL, which is why I didn't fill it in straight away when I had the NUM-
  • 48A: DING-A-LING
  • 55A: NOODLEHEAD - the least likable word of the bunch; is this even an expression?

Loved the pop culture clues today, though they were relatively easy. Had BRIT for ICON (1A: David or Victoria Beckham). Wondered, for about a second, what sitcom had the catchphrase NANA NANA before the part of my brain that blocks all thoughts of Robin Williams shut down temporarily and allowed me to remember Mork's NANU NANU (13A: When doubled, an old sitcom goodbye). I love "Clueless" and all things Austen, so 23A: Novel on which "Clueless" is based ("Emma") made me happy. I'm teaching Austen in the fall, possibly to prisoners, which should be ... awesome, actually. Amused by 36A: Stanley's love in "A Streetcar Named Desire" (Stella!) because I've never seen the play / movie, and so my only experience with the name-shouting moment is in the "Simpsons" musical parody, where a very muscular Ned Flanders (as Stanley) shouts "Stella!" before going on to rhyme it with "yell-a" and "hell-a."

There are two difficult terms in the puzzle - 41A: Craggy mountain ridges (aretes) - which looks wrong even as I type it - and 54D: Hebrew month (Adar). My ignorance of flora led me to write in POPPIES instead of PANSIES at first for 7D: Pretty violets. Speaking of LED (as in "led me to write..."), I botched 38A: Shown the door (led out) at first by having LET OUT, which seems to work equally well (except, you know, in the cross, where I had TUMBBELL). Had an inexplicably hard time bringing up the obvious JUDAS (34D: Traitor), and yet DONEE - a stupid word - was the first thing that popped into my head for that clue (33D: Recipient). For 24A: English philosopher who wrote "Wherever Law ends, Tyranny begins" (Locke) I had the -KE and wrote in the much more unlikely and obscure BURKE (?). The little clue that slowed me (and wife) down the most was the annoying, gnat-like 53A: Airport stat. (ETD) - we both had ETA, and that (plus our near vegetarianism) made 43D: Chicken _____ (Tenders) hard to see. EPITHET (42D: Nickname) was difficult to get too, for some reason. Had the EPIT- part and could think only of EPITOME, obviously wrong. Lastly, I enjoyed the double double-O answers in the SW, both of which have no true "OO" sound in them: 49D: "Shall _____?" ("Want me to continue?") ("go on") and 50D: Nary a soul (no one).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Linda G 11:22 PM  

It does my heart good to know that someone else struggled with JUDAS. Even more so because you also had ETA, thereby not seeing TENDERS.

Ooh, I missed the multiple OOs in the southwest.

Anonymous 11:54 PM  

That final "You" made no sense to me as I did not take it to mean "me" but you. I even double checked my spelling of "luau." I guess my ego is not an issue. "You" "You talking to me,"-- different puzzle.

Rex, I had most of your first halts and attempts although Adar is easy for me as I was raised with both the Gregorian calendar and the Jewish one, although the Jewish one was secondary and took me years to remember correctly. Had I known it would help my puzzle skills, I would have memorized it earlier. Must tell the rabbis to stress how learning the Jewish/Hebrew calendar will improve one's cross word skills.

Anonymous 11:59 PM  

In defense of the allegation of smarmimess, I read the "YOU" punchline not as fulsome praise but as a gentle jab--many of us are quick to slap all sorts of negative labels on others while viewing ourselves as paragons of all that is virtuous. Much as not all people can, despite their self-perceptions, be above average, not all of us "YOU"s out there can be free of doofusness.

Michael5000 12:01 AM  

ryc: It's a coincidence: I wrote mine without reading yours.

Or maybe it's not a coincidence. Maybe this is the day that we, the Undeserving, rise up against those would tell us what we deserve.

Rise up! They can not buy us with their rewards!

Anonymous 12:04 AM  

Arete looks wrong because it is wrong, since according to the American crossword puzzle convention one ignores diacritics, in this case the circumflex over the first "e." It's arĂȘte in French. I was taught that the circumflex indicates a succeeding "s" has been lost (or in some cases that linguists mistakenly thought it had been lost).

I had a rough idea about an arĂȘte ("some kind of high mountain feature"), but it was fun to Google a better explanation.

Regarding NOODLEHEAD, this seems to be the bowdlerized version of DOODIEHEAD, which is much more satisfying as an immature putdown.

Campesite 12:24 AM  

I too had an issue with NUMSKULL--doesn't one's skull have to be numb to qualify as a doofus?

Arete was once quite common fill.

Orange 12:25 AM  

GK, American crosswords disregard diacriticals. This pisses off Spanish speakers when [Year in Madrid] is ANO without a tilde over the N, which means this in Spanish (don't follow that link, Rex).

One of the main characters on Lost is named LOCKE. There's also been a Burke, Rousseau, Hume, Bakunin, and Cooper, as discussed in this look at philosopher shout-outs on the show.

Anonymous 1:03 AM  

profphil's comments reminded me of a scene from the Simpsons where Bart is in front of a Smokey Bear-type animatron that asks him "Only *who* can prevent forest fires?" Bart selects 'You' from the choices of 'You' or 'Me'. Smokey responds "Wrong. You pressed you referring to me. The correct answer is you!"

Anonymous 1:10 AM  

wow - Wikipedia in Spanish - who knew?!

thanks Orange


Anonymous 2:37 AM  

Can anything be pluralized? SONYS bugs me, because I think there is only one. So how can SONYS be a word? Maybe it's just the late hour...

ScottK 6:48 AM  

I had NUMB, saw there wasn't enough space left for SKULL, and had a shocking moment when I thought the rest of the answer might be NUTS. . .

As for 61D, I took it to be a wry observation that such EPITHETs were easier to give than to receive.

Anonymous 8:00 AM  

Rex, were you not a Seinfeld fan? There was an episode where Elaine, visiting Jerry & his family in FL, takes too many muscle relaxers because of sleeping on a fold-out bed. She attends a banquet honoring Jerry's father, meets a woman named Stella, and does a hysterical over-the-top Brando impersonation. Loved that show.

Anonymous 8:21 AM  

Still today one of my all-time favorite Seinfelds, that one.

DONALD 8:27 AM  

Thought I was too harsh on this one until I read your post! Just had to post a link -- great stuff!

Anonymous 9:01 AM  

i had chicken VENEARS instead of tenders. Now I'm laughing at myself, had no idea what ARETES was, so I made up a word (AREVES seemed a good one)

Anonymous 9:17 AM  

I didn't mind being praised or condescended to by the puzzle setter. I can be a numBskull but still a bit of flattery at times.

JC66 10:36 AM  

Rex - I love it when your rants go over the top. Today's post is a beaut.

profphil - I come from a similar background as you, but only seem to need to remember ADAR and ELUL for crossword puzzle purposes.

Anonymous 10:40 AM  

Re: Scott's post
Having already filled in NUMB, I went ahead and daringly filled in the rest with NUTS... Only to get PILL and STELLA and realize that my smirk had quickly faded.

Anonymous 11:06 AM  

btw, it could been Iyar instead of adar... i think it would have been more clever

BT 11:13 AM  

The Beckhams are icons? Not in New York... and I believe the newspaper in which this crossword puzzle is printed is the New York Times.

Just 'cause you're on television doesn't make you an icon, does it?

Or maybe I'm a doofus (even though the puzzle said I wasn't!)

Doug 11:15 AM  

I floundered in the SE. It's early in the week for SOU, ESPY, ALB and ADAR and ARETES. Yesterday's coffee is still sloshing around somewhere and the grey cells are just smoldering. To reference Monday, they are not aFLAME quite yet. What's up for Wednesday?

Anonymous 11:41 AM  

As a fresh mind to the world of crossword (as of Feb 2007) I enjoy the medium level puzzles like today's.

This dialogue on the word "you" has been highly over analyzed. Call it negating attributes or even poking fun, however, as a newbie it is refreshing when one comes across clever compliments. Perhaps in a society where compliments are almost extinct with the exception of occasional affirmations from ones' immediate family (almost limited to birthdays "for he's a jolly good fellow") we cannot fathom the possibility of any compliment being genuine.

This puzzle brilliantly makes one smile rather one admits it or not.

Linda G 12:16 PM  

bt, I'm with you. We're not all enthralled with the Beckhams, Brangelina, etc.

Butterfinger, I wasn't at all put off by the final clue...it also made me smile : )

Anonymous 12:32 PM  

Not being a speed solver, I just put in what I really knew and used those letters as additonal clues. Made me skip around a lot, but I got them all in pretty good time. Thus I thought the puzzle was very easy, until I read all the comments above. WHO KNEW?

Orange 12:39 PM  

karmasartre, there's only one Sony corporation, but I have three Sonys in my living room—a TV set, a DVD player, and an outdated stereo. (Actually, the TV set and DVD player are outdated too, now that we've switched to HD.)

Anonymous 1:03 PM  

Thanks Orange,

I don't have the clues in front of me, but wasn't it something like "RCA Competitor"? Only one of those named SONY. Your're thinking of "Outdated electronic devices in Orange's living room", no? I still can't imagine someone saying "SONYS" in the clued context....

Anonymous 1:31 PM  

"agog" is one of my favorite words. always thought it meant eagerly awaiting something. maybe there's a secondary meaning for being in awe. or i guess maybe you can be in awe of something you breathlessly await. just a little nitpick. nunyo.

Anonymous 1:44 PM  

Clue: RCA Competitors
Answer: SONYS

fergus 2:45 PM  

My first experience with "Streetcar" was reading it on a rainy afternoon. Some plays are great reads; some aren't (think King Lear, though some romantic poet might disagree). Still better than Brando's version, though the Simpson musical was awfully good. Loved it when Lisa had to explain the visual clues for craziness. And this reminded me of when the Gilligan's Island crew presented a musical version of Hamlet set to the score of Carmen. The pinnacle of high culture.

AURAS and Vibes just don't jive in my book. Maybe that's because I live in a place where people still use these terms regularly (and seemingly without embarassment), and make clear distinctions between them.

Thanks Orange for the 'speed trap' explanation yesterday.

Anonymous 3:47 PM  

Liked the theme, had a lot of trouble with the fill today! Will say that my Webster's does have Numskull as the primary spelling, with Numbskull as the variant. Velly interesting.

Have to go with karmasartre - the SONYS clue was just wrong. Products aren't competitors, companies are, and there is only one Sony corporation.

And when did ETD, or ETA for that matter, become a "statistic"? [Airport number] yes, [Airport posting] sure, [Airport time signifying wild-assed guess by airline doofus] you bet, but [stat] no no no!

Since I was the one writing the "YOU" for 61 down, didn't see anyway it could be aplying to me. Figured it was just C.W. Stewart getting everyone to assure her/him that she/he isn't a doofus!

PuzzleGirl 4:47 PM  

fergus: AURAS and VIBES don't dance? Use slang? Oh, wait a minute, I get it ... you meant JIBE. (Sorry, it's one of my top ten pet peeves.)

SONYS tripped me up too. But I did finally come around to orange's reasoning: the competitors of my RCA TV, DVD player, and stereo (RCAs) are my Sony TV, DVD player, and stereo (Sonys). But still, ugh.

fergus 5:07 PM  

Touche Puzzlegirl, now I going to go lay on the beach, because I'm disinterested and adverse to further work.

PuzzleGirl 5:18 PM  

fergus: LOL Yup, you nailed several of the other top ten.

Orange 5:52 PM  

Actually, I don't like SONYS with that clue. The clue does seem to ask for corporate rivals, and Sonys ain't them. Does anyone have multiple RCAs in their house?

Shupac 6:50 PM  

Revisions for a non-condescending puzzle conclusion:

58A: Place to Watch Dolphins? (ESPN)

64D: Weary (logy)


61D: Where the Violets Play: (NYU)

Anonymous 6:51 PM  

This was a really fun puzzle and artfully constructed. I liked most of the clues - not crazy about the Beckhams, though. In the 80's ARETE seemed to be in the puzzle a couple of times a week.

Anonymous 8:35 PM  

Did not care for SONYS and especially ICON. Realizing that ICON was the only fit slowed me down a bit. That pair are not icons here on the west coast either.

BTW I tried solving against the clock today for the first time and finished in around 15 min. When I looked at my time under recent solvers it read 8:20. Can this application be trusted???

Rex Parker 8:52 PM  

8:20 was (I'm guessing) the TIME that you finished... Clicking "fastest" would have given you the speed leaderboard.


Anonymous 9:37 PM  

Doh, it was time of day, -- thanks!

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

6 weeks later: I felt good in that I made the same mistakes as Rex...just slower...hehe. Disliked Sonys.
Also Epithet as a nickname? My dictionaries don't jibe with that.
Thanks Rex and most of the bloggers here!

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