FRIDAY, Sep. 21, 2007 - Paula Gamache

Friday, September 21, 2007

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Parts of this puzzle were easy to do, but I had such a horrible time up top, and then had one square where I had to make a complete and utter (correct) guess, so I had to go with a "Challenging" rating. My first pass through the short Downs in the top third of the puzzle left me with about four answers, only two of which I was reasonably sure of. Hey, they all start with "A":

  • 1D: Thrashers' home in the N.H.L.: Abbr. (Atl.)
  • 6D: Vote for (aye) - I toyed with YEA and even PRO...
  • 9D: Lambs: Lat. (agni)

Had DUSTY for SOOTY (7D: In need of a sweep - I only just this second got that the sweeping was of the chimney variety...), FATE for DOOM (10D: Destiny), and BASIC for NAIVE (13D: Simple). Had ENGR for ENGS (15D: Some specialize in elec.), which is nearly right. Should have noticed the plural, but ... I don't like that you can apparently abbreviate "Engineer" with or without the "R." Or did I make the "ENGR." abbreviation up? It's possible.

Puzzle took me longer than it might have because I refused to move on. I get that way sometimes, especially if I'm working on a nearly totally self-contained part of the puzzle, where I know that "moving on" will not necessarily bring me new, needed information to help me solve the hard part.

This was a very political puzzle, with three of the nine 15-letter answers (one in each bank of three) coming from the world of contemporary American electoral politics. The best of these (from a solver's standpoint) is "THERE YOU GO AGAIN" (16A: Classic line of debate?), which is meaningless to you if you were not reasonably grown up in 1980, when Reagan said it (condescendingly, Ward Cleaverishly) to Carter during their debate. [Now I have the Dolly Parton song "Here You Come Again" in my head and it Will Not Leave - but that's OK, 'cause I love Dolly] I absolutely refuse to listen to any talk radio (except NPR) because, well, people are idiots. I don't care if the talk radio is liberal or conservative. No thanks. So I have no idea who this Randi Rhodes person is (sounds like a pro wrestler) because I have never not ever not even once heard anything aired on AIR AMERICA RADIO (37A: "The Randi Rhodes Show" network). The last political clue is just the simple LIBERAL DEMOCRAT (53A: Left-of-center party member).

I loved the multi-wordishness of the long answers in this puzzle - four of the nine have four or more words! In addition to the Reagan quotation, there's:

  • 1A: Just the pits (as bad as bad can be) - 6 words! Is that a record!?
  • 30A: Sewn up (over and done with)
  • 57A: "I'll take whatever help I can get" ("Any port in a storm")

Funny that so may people went for LSD TRIP over EGO TRIP yesterday - you were one day early for LSD it seems (39A: It'll change your mind - it sure will). My total-guess square was at the intersection of BAIN (46A: Winner of three consecutive Emmys for "Mission: Impossible" - before my time! BAIN of my time = Conrad Bain) and BLAS (46D: Longfellow's "The Bells of San _____"). BLAS is officially the ugliest, worst, least sonorous word I've seen in the puzzle. At least today it is. I thought my Longfellow bell knowledge had to extend only as far as ATRI, but no; more bells, more stupid names. There were a number of correct answers it took me a while to understand (see SOOTY, above), including TMS (56D: Logos and the like: Abbr.) - TM = trademark - and SHIM (2D: One just filling up space), which I always thought was something one did up a tree. But maybe that's SHIN. Or SHIMMY. But then I remembered that when my friend helped me install a door to my basement, we had to use many SHIMs to get the damned frame to sit true.

Here's a bunch of clues / answers I liked:

  • 47A: Batman creator Bob (Kane) - more clues like this, please
  • 58A: Pro team whose mascot is a blue bird named Blitz (Seattle Seahawks) - I've been a fan for almost thirty years and I still didn't know this. You'd think the "bird" and "Blitz" part of the clue would have clued me in.
  • 52D: With 4-Down, black magic (Dark / Arts) - I've got a little girl in the firm grip of Harry Potter mania, so the DARK ARTS are familiar to me, especially in the context of "defending" oneself against them.
  • 11D: String player? (cat) - cute
  • 21D: They may give you a seat (caners) - I should hate this... but I don't.
  • 22A: Illumination indication ("I see...") - Aha! I see...
  • 5D: Arm raiser, informally (delt) - I was thinking NERD or some other kind of class know-it-all. Arnold Horshack came to mind.
  • 36D: Perfect (hone) - ah, a verb! I had A-ONE!
  • 34D: Peculiar: Prefix (idio-) - I just like that this came to me instantly

Here's a bunch of clues / answers I didn't know:

  • 3D: Second of 24 (beta) - I had BETH, going Hebrew (right?) over the far easier (to me) Greek.
  • 21A: Songwriter Coleman and others (Cys)
  • 8D: Ragged edges, in metalworking (burrs) - wanna stump me? More metalworking clues. You know what I know about metalworking? LITTLE OR NOTHING (17A: Just a bit, if that).
  • 12D: Ottoman officers (Aghas) - I kinda knew this, but only kinda.
  • 22D: Spring river phenomenon (ice run) - no idea what this means, but it sounds cool.
  • 31D: 1856 antislavery novel ("Dred") - never heard of it. A "novel?" About DRED Scott?
  • 45D: New Hamphire's _____ State College (Keene)

I'd like to thank the puzzle for making ALTE a gimme for me (48D: Old man, in Mannheim). Lastly, a goat says what now? MAA (55D: Billy's call)??? That sounds right to my ears, but looks all kinds of wrong on paper.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 8:09 AM  

There's also a "Vy" Coleman which made me stick with "VOTERS" for 21D far too long.

I also thought "Little sash" must be some kind of sushi.

Doug 8:14 AM  

As with RP, the top 1/3 was a mystery, but I got the center and bottom albeit with a few googles. Even after googling the whole top half to death I was stymied.

Barbara BAIN you may know as Barney Miller's wife after her stint on M:I. Had ON A LAP for "caught" instead of IN A LIE. Thought what a racy grid this was, with drugs (LSD) and sex!

BURRS are both nasty little weeds (nothing like a plant using your clothing to get sex) as well as irritating little metal bits that tear your clothing.

wendy 8:32 AM  

Doug, Barney Miller's wife was Barbara Barrie, not Barbara BAIN. Big difference.

Bain was great as Cinnamon Carter, I always thought she was more alluring than Emma Peel on The Avengers.

Anonymous 8:43 AM  

After winning three Emmys she pulled a David Caruso and ended up on the worse than forgetable "Space: 1999"

Orange 8:46 AM  

Hey, Doug, it was your turn to mix up the Barbaras B. I did it last time.

Note to solvers: BUR and BURR are largely interchangeable spellings for the metal rough snag, a metalworking/dentistry tool, a bone at the base of an antler, a sticky-like-Velcro plant seedpod or flowerhead, or a type of woodgrain. A Scottish BURR accent has two Rs.

And Rex? In crosswords, lambs say BAA and goats say MAA. Similarly, cows say MOO and horses say BOO. (What? Special Halloween-themed episode of "Mister Ed," maybe?)

Anonymous 8:47 AM  


Anonymous 9:09 AM  

After a first run-through resulted in only a few fills, I started in the bottom third with PLIE and PAINE. Completed the bottom, only to find that it didn't really help me connect with the rest of the puzzle. It was like 3 puzzles in one...only 2 connecting spaces between segments. Great puzzle, and as usual, very nice write-up.

JC66 9:38 AM  

Barbara BAIN was HOT and married to another co-star of MI: Martin Landau. I think they both left the show after losing a "power struggle" with Peter Graves.

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

Sorry, I know Barbara BAIN chiefly from Space 1999.

I wanted to put in SASHIMI for the little sash. Then, I wanted something Jewish, like knizel or latke. The TAMALE set me aright.

I had the worst time in the Oregon area...I wanted all-american radio, and debated MAKE vs Have A RESOLUTION. Putting Nike in for the shoe didn't help either.

I did really like the long answers.

PuzzleGirl 10:46 AM  

Great puzzle. I usually don't make it to Friday, but I only had a few unfilled squares after some googling, so ... fun!

I had some of the same problems Rex had: dusty/sotty, a-one/hone. Plus I started with FAJOLI for FAJITA. Oops.

I really wanted 16A to be "Jane you ignorant slut."

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

Second day in a row I threw in the towel--I couldn't get a strong foothold in the middle section. I think I'm losing my stamina, as I should have figured out the AIRAMERICARADIO, but did not. I've never listened to the program, but I see it referenced a lot in the lefty mags I read. The Randi Rhodes (or whatever variant spelling applies) I had stuck in my head was Ozzy Osbourne's guitarist from the eighties, who died, I think, in a car wreck or a plane crash, and I kept trying to work "CHANNEL" onto the end of the answer.

Anonymous 11:09 AM  

This very fine puzzle was layered like neapolitan ice cream. The bottom was easy, the middle medium, and the top challenging to the point of "yikes." So much for feeling good about breezing through yesterday's, this one took me over an hour because of the North. I also had VOTERS for 21d for a while as well as NIKE for 24d and TEMP for 2d. North broke for me when I finally saw the Reagan quote. Rex is right, if you weren't around at the time you're sort of screwed. Seems to me BAIN came up fairly recently in a Sunday puzzle?

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

RP: More often than not, I have trouble with your gimmes and vice versa. That tends to make your write-ups especially interesting to me. Today was the exception (and the exception to the exception was Randi Rhodes - I knew that one instantly). BTW, don't bother listening; she's pretty obnoxious, albeit not in the league of Limbaugh. Oh, and you did NOT make up ENGR!

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

I'm glad I'm not the only one who wanted 23A to be sushi or sashimi!

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

A wonderful set of across entries, completely unforced. How did Paula ever fit them all together? I especially liked the Reagan quote, although "You're no John Kennedy" also came to mind. (It's far too long, of course.)

You're right on the money, jae, in describing those layers.

Doug, thanks for a good LOL.

Anonymous 11:21 AM  

I finished but had to google home of the Thrashers. My engr. husband explained at length why a volt-ampere is not synonymous with a watt but explanation was as alien to me as sports clues.Top part VERY hard

Anonymous 11:21 AM  

Rex: seriously???

class know-it-all == Arnold Horschack?

I think the whole class was a remedial education class. True, Arnold may have been among the brightest in that class, but, well, that ain't saying much!

Rex Parker 11:47 AM  

Anyone who watched even one ep of "Welcome Back Kotter" knows EXACTLY why Horshack is a pardigmatic "arm raiser." See title, and third paragraph, here.


Anonymous 1:01 PM  

I zipped through the bottom third thinking this can't be a Friday puzzle--my first fill was liberal democrat. Couldn't possibly be right, I said. Rove as in Karl; alte as in Der Alte? Really? And then reality set in. Had to Google Randi Rhodes (Hey, Rex, I "listen" to NPR on their website. That way I can pick the topics I want to hear such as Shortz's Sunday show at my convenience.) Had nerd for jerk and then what in the world was fanita? Of course the present tense was needed in 38A. I'm a foodie so I figured out lamb in Latin because it's agneau on menus.

Campesite 1:09 PM  

Count me in with the crowd seeking the wrong cuisine in the Oregon section. I just couldn't dislodge sushi and sashimi, yet I must eat Mexican food at least an average of once a day.

Alex S. 1:52 PM  

Bottom was super easy with PAINE being a gimme and somehow that being enough for both LIBERAL DEMOCRAT and ANY PORT IN A STORM to come to mind. They quickly proved out and the bottom was done (SEATTLE SEAHWAKS was also a gimme; I couldn't have named the mascot but in reserve it wasn't a problem).

In the middle the AIR AMERICA part was a gimme (I've never listened to her show but have seen her around enough to know) and the RADIO part quickly became obvious. FOAM, JERK, DIS, and WATT was enough for me to figure out the other two longs in the middle.

One big question: what the heck is a CANER that they might give you a seat? The only thing I can think of is that CANERS are people who use canes but then they don't give you a seat, you give them a seat.

FAJITA took forever to come to me and I had no idea that it what the word meant. I SEE was impossible to get because of a scanning error.

I had TAMALE first. And the clue for that was "an alternative to 23A" (FAJITA) but I kept looking at 22A. Do you have any idea who difficult it is to think of a word or phrase that is both an "Illumination indicator" and an alternative to tamales? Not very, I'll tell you.

So I was doing the top with only one inroad. I assumed the sweep clue was DIRTY or DUSTY so put in the D--TY and CYS worked. That was no help at all in the top part.

BETA, ARTS, AYE, AGN- were gimmes but no help. THERE YOU GO AGAIN finally popped into my head and slowly (with my first additional help from Google) the top unraveled.

Two questions: why the question mark after Classic line of debate? That's pretty much a straighforward clue/answer pairing isn't it?

Can I safely assume that the "agnus dei" is the route by which a reasonable person is expected to know the Latin word for lamb, and therefore the proper pluralization?

frances 2:04 PM  


Would it make you feel better about the syllable "Blas" to know that San Blas is the Spanish rendition of Saint Blaise? San Blas/Blaise was an Armenian physician and bishop who is venerated as helping those with throat problems, especially objects (like fish bones) stuck in the throat. Bilbao, Spain has a nine-day celebration of San Blas, beginning on his saints-day, which is Feb. 3.

In the way that things, once noticed, keep showing up in other contexts, we should perhaps look for another interation of "Blas" in a forthcoming puzzle, clued as a drama by Victor Hugo, "Ruy Blas." There is an overture by Mendelsohn of the same name.

Anonymous 2:24 PM  

Alex - caners are people who fix your chairs - when the seat or back is broken. They have to reweave it all

Anonymous 2:31 PM  

Thanks, Rex, for the link to the "Oh! Oh!" article. The name had slipped from my memory, but not the schtick.
I agree with jae's layers of difficulty analogy, but...which is the most difficult flavor of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry? :)

Anonymous 2:37 PM  

Barbara, thanks for explaining CANER. I was looking for a connection between getting "caned" (remember the infamous incident in Singapore several years ago when some kid got sentenced to a caning because he put chewing gum on something?) and getting flogged--i.e., spanked with a cane on your seat.

Anonymous 2:50 PM  

mmpo -- I was thinking chocolate as the dark challenging flavor and strawberry as the pink easy one, but thats just my take.

Alex S. 2:53 PM  

Thanks on caners from me as well. I had put the word into after finishing the puzzle last night but it came back with nothing. I must have fat fingered it because this morning it finds the definition you give.

Alex S. 2:55 PM  

wade, while it is still an over punishment. The kid was arrested for vandalizing cars I believe.

I will say, Singapore was the least oppressive-feeling extreme-nanny state I can possibly imagine (not that this makes it ok).

Anonymous 3:04 PM  

Hebrew has got 22 letters in its alphabet not 24.

Anonymous 3:04 PM  

Hey Rex,

"Shinny" is what one does up a tree.

fergus 3:21 PM  

Like quite a few others the neapolitan strawberry on the bottom fell pretty easily; the vanilla middle took some errant paths but dropped due to the four-letter endings; but the messy chocolate top was hard to digest despite, or because of, the Reagan quotation.

The tendency to go Japanese on the "little sash" was surely from the recurrence of OBI. Since I was leaning on USHERS for the seat givers, ... I started pluralizing all the sushi varieties despite the clue implying a singular. Fortunately I have a baseball cap with the AVIA logo, so I didn't err with Nike. The right side was clever, with IDIO- and -TION, but weren't myterious enough to prevent a toehold. Had to hunt back through E&M for any four letter word, and since I had to change a lightbulb last night, WATT appeared, and I was off.

The top was recalcitrant because I couldn't equate Toot with BINGE and got stuck on Sweep in a sports sense. (And thought the Thrashers were from ST. Petersburg.)

My first ANY PORT IN A STORM job after college was in a machine shop, working for LITTLE OR NOTHING. First day spent inscribing threads in nuts; second day sand-belting BURRS off zinc bolts -- AS BAD AS BAD CAN BE with all the dust; third day exposed to poisonous glue for hours until learning that we were working as scabs. Vowed to MAKE A RESOLUTION and summarily have the job be OVER AND DONE WITH, citing the principles of a LIBERAL DEMOCRAT.

Anonymous 3:27 PM  

I'm pretty sure that Reagan said "there you go again" to Bush senior in their debates before Reagan won the nomination. He was objecting to Bush's supposed misrepresentation of Reagan's economic proposals.

Anonymous 3:53 PM  

"There you go again."

DJG 4:09 PM  

As a huge SEATTLE SEAHAWKS fan I loved seeing them as fill. (I wasn't so excited to see them fumble the game away against the Cardinals last Sunday.) I believe Blitz is relatively recent. I don't think he was around during the Steve Largent days, who was himself fill in a recent puzzle.

Daryl 4:32 PM  

I measure the level of difficulty of each puzzle by how often I need to peek at your answers .. I dont let myself enjoy reading your wit til I am done ..

Rick 5:00 PM  

Anonymous 3:04 - the alphabet you're looking for is Greek, which has 24 letters.

JC66 5:20 PM  

I think the CANERS here refer to those who make wicker furniture:

Also think its ANGUS DEI.

Anonymous 5:34 PM  

Got the bottom stack this morning, but then got stuck. Had to save the puzzle and got back to it after work.

The top stack came next for me with the "AHA" moment of "There you go again."

I stared at the middle stack of across words for the longest time and took a chance with Air America Radio because that was the only thing than seemed to fit.

The last letter that came to me was the "c" for caners. I didn't think it was a word at first, but then figured that there are chairs made out of cane, so what the heck? Glad to see I guessed right.

So - took all day (so to speak), but I got it done. I'm happy.


fergus 6:08 PM  

Jerome, I don't think there's an ANGUS DEI, unless our dear Lord has been revealed to be a Scotsman.

Anonymous 6:23 PM  

Doug and Alex, you two are so funny. Between your posts and Rex's excellent write-ups, I almost like reading as much as doing the puzzle. Hey, Barbara, just hit other and you will be official and not anonymous. This was a fun puzzle.

Anonymous 6:25 PM  

ANGUS DEI: And the meek shall inherit the firth

Anonymous 6:26 PM  

Ah, the importance of spaces! Have been pounding my head trying to make sense of 38A "MAKE ARE SOLUTION" for "Determine".
While I now see MAKE A RESOLUTION (thanks Fergus!) at least makes english sense, I still don't get it for "Determine" - seems like the wrong word form. If I "Make a resolution to ..." then I "am determined to ...", not I "determine...". Any one else havethis problem, or am I just missing the implied usage?

Anonymous 6:32 PM  

Just curious Rex-how did you select your avatar?

fergus 6:53 PM  


Your equation does feel ever so slightly awkward, but not discordantly so. I think theeir similarity is more exact in either the future or past tense than in the present. Another equation might come from the shared sense of finding some clarity ... in a picture or some chemical composition. You can determine that Braque's painting features a guitar just as well as make a resolution thereof. Again, their similarity seems closer in a tense other than the present. However, their parallel meanings make this a good clue/answer pairing, in my opinion.

fergus 7:13 PM  

... oh and I reckon the slight awkwardness comes from the disparity between active and passive voice. Not sure what the crossword conventions ar with regard to voice congruity. I'll bet Miss Orange can offer a definitive answer in this case.

Anonymous 7:29 PM  

Make are solution! Make are solution! Embarrassing how long I stared at that nonsense phrase.

Also totally take credit for sending trippy acid vibes from my third eye into the future and into this puzzle.

fergus 7:39 PM  

MAKE ARE SOLUTION is the real message Timothy Leary meant to convey. Don't let the puzzle gods know we're on them -- or is it that they're on to us?

Anonymous 7:45 PM  

Fergus- I'm watching Merv Griffin's Crosswords right now and it sucks. The set looks like it's made of cardboard, and the clues are terrible. I'm not making this up: "Kilauea is hotter when filled with this" and "This kind of catch is both spectacular and hard" (one-handed) Huh?

And grand prize is like thirty five bucks.

Anonymous 7:55 PM  

What part of the lamb is the angus?

fergus 8:02 PM  

Sounds like the negative review in the Times was generous. Maybe we'll get another report from Rex's associate (... Dog) who auditioned?

Anonymous 8:11 PM  

Alex -- I read the ? for the Reagan quote clue to mean that answer could either be some sort of classic debate tactic/strategy or a line from a classic debate.

Anonymous 9:23 PM  

Anonymous 7:55

Angus - cow, or McDonald's new high-sell burger.

Agnus -- Lamb in latin.

Anonymous 9:30

Orange 9:34 PM  

If I make a resolution that this is a good puzzle, then I determine that it is good, yes?

Cane seats traditionally aren't rattan or wicker—see for a glimpse of old caned chairs getting recaned. The caning is a woven insert in the seat area that lets your butt breathe while you sit.

Orange 9:35 PM  

And if you want to see daily rants about the quality of the clues on Merv Griffin's Crosswords, see Tyler Hinman's LiveJournal.

Michael Chibnik 9:48 PM  

Although I agree with most of you that the bottom third was easy, I had a different experience with the other parts of the puzzle. The top third came to me with a bit of work (though I didn't believe "shim" even after I got it, but the middle third was a total mystery. I went through every tv network I could think of without success for Randi Rhodes and finally had to google her to find that it was a radio network. Then I got almost of all of the rest, but still didn't find it easy.

Anonymous 12:54 AM  


The "cane" that's woven into a seat is usually made from rattan, any of a large group of palms. The bark is cleaned and split into the narrow strips that you see being woven. Many rattans are used in different ways, and you may be thinking of the whole rattan canes that look superficially like bamboo. Before it's split, seat cane like very long versions of those canes.

Some definitions of "wicker" are more restrictive, but generally wicker means any thin material of plant origin woven into useful objects. So seat cane could be described as wicker.

Anonymous 5:47 PM  

Just want to give a shout out for Randi Rhodes who is AWESOME and one of the few people on the airwaves speaking the truth about anything - such as things like Karl Rove. Keep up the good work Randi!

Anonymous 12:54 PM  

Six weeks later and I'm disappointed that noone else came up with RADIO FREE EUROPE for Randi Rhodes, whoever the hell he (oh sorry) she is.

Anonymous 3:05 PM  

I believe that Ronald Reagan also used the "there you go again" in a debate with Walter Mondale.

Anonymous 3:37 PM  

When an august body MAKEs A RESOLUTION, they "determine" policy.

I had a hard time getting started on this one today, but I finished it without any outside help, from the bottom up, like everybody else.

Started with PLIE and PAINE.

Lots of red herrings in the north:
AS BAD AS IT CAN GET across the top. BLARE for "Toot" (although the "B" got the top line repaired). FATE for DOOM, HALE for TRIM, POLE for MAST.

Remembered Agnus Dei from my Altar Boy days.

Loved this puzzle.

Anonymous 4:30 PM  

23A's "little sash"? I thought fajita meant "little girdle". For anyone who's worn one, there's a big difference...

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