FRIDAY, Sep. 28, 2007 - Harvey Estes

Friday, September 28, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Despite two triple-stacks of 15-letter answers, this puzzle left me a little cold. Looking this puzzle over for clews (!) as to why I feel this way, the only answer I have is that the puzzle is resolutely un-Scrabbly. 90 squares given over to 15-letter answers and no high-value Scrabble letters. In fact, just one "V" and one "Y" and nothing else that would liven things up in the least. An answer like ASSESSMENT ROLLS is both boring and ... well, it seems like a crutch, especially at the bottom of the puzzle, where all those common letters give you tons of options for your Down crosses. I realize that 15-letter answers, especially stacked ones, need common letters. But here, there is nothing to break the monotony - though I am impressed that only two of those five "S"'s in ASSESSMENT ROLLS were used to create plurals. Way to show restraint.

The stacks:

Up top:

  • 1A: Doesn't sit well (leaves a bad taste) - immediately wrote in RUBS THE WRONG WAY...
  • 16A: Class in which various schools are discussed (Art Appreciation) - like every half-clever solver, I assumed that "schools" referred to fish and so was looking for something aquatic here, like MARINE BIOLOGY or the like.
  • 17A: One way to solve problems (by trial and error)

And down south:

  • 57A: Daydreaming, e.g. (escape mechanism) - liked this one
  • 62A: Completely gone (dead as a doornail) - also nice
  • 63A: Records of interest to real estate agents (assessment rolls)

I had no idea a VARMINT was a 4D: Predatory critter. I thought it was just a critter, particularly one being hunted by Yosemite Sam. First answer in the grid was ARLO (7D: 1968 folk album) - total guess; nearly chose JOAN or BAEZ. ARLO gave me the cool OMEN (19A: Red sky, perhaps), which gave me the grossly clued ACNE (9D: Adolescent outburst). I like the colloquial feel of DIDN'T (10D: Louis Armstrong's "Oh _____ He Ramble") and KINDA (28D: Rather informal?), the latter of which I use in informal written correspondence all the time. Also loved "I'M IN" (51A: Hacker's cry of success), if only because it wasn't clued by way of poker (you say that in poker, right?). "30 Rock" is one of only three or four sitcoms I watch with any regularity, so 33A: "30 Rock" creator (Tina Fey) was a gimme. LOVE her. Hard for me were LEGIST (21A: Expert in ancient law) and TOE OUT (49A: Front wheel divergence) and all the longish Downs in the SW:

  • 42D: Curly-haired "Peanuts" character (Frieda) - ???????? Wanted FRANKLIN ...
  • 43D: 20th-dynasty ruler (Ramses) - I was thinking China at first ...
  • 44D: Lois Lane player Durance and others (Ericas) - which incarnation of Lois is she???

Didn't know TETON (23D: Dakota tongue) as anything other than something Grand in Wyoming (is that right?). Two words I don't care for at all: TOOTLE (14D: Drive along leisurely) and ENROOT (15D: Firmly establish), and these two stand right next to each other in the NW. Yuck. They do cross the lovely TUPELO (24A: City on the Natchez Trace), though, which simultaneously makes me think of Elvis and Van Morrison. Besides 1A, I also had initially wrong answers for 48D: It may be wrapped in a bun (tress) - I had TWIST?? - and 40A: Balloon attachment (gondola) - I had PERGOLA, which ... I don't even know what that is. Just looked it up:

An arbor or a passageway of columns supporting a roof of trelliswork on which climbing plants are trained to grow.


Had worst time in the "Georgia" section of the puzzle, where none of the answers felt secure. Got ARMORIAL right away (37D: Relating to heraldry) but was missing the first three letters of I MEAN NO (41D: Emphatic turndown), and none of the crosses was making any sense to me. Already told you I didn't know what the hell TOE OUT meant, so didn't get that. Had -RIS for 41A: Object in a Monet painting (iris) and -MES for 46A: Frauen, across the border: Abbr. (Mmes.), but my brain could do nothing with either answer for a while. Then I ran through the alphabet and the shoulda-been-obvious IRIS came into view, and the puzzle was done quickly from there.

Sydney OMARR (50D: Astrologer with the autobiography "Answer in the Sky") needs to go on up to the Spirit in the Sky and get the hell out of my puzzle for a while (see Wednesday).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 8:32 AM  

Had a problem with the same location although for different reasons.

I had no trouble with TOEOUT although I did want it to be TOESIN.

I ended up incorrectly with IBIS crossing ABMORIAL. When I think of irses Van Gogh comes to mind not Monet. Goggled just now and there is no Monet ibis painting, there are irises so I changed it.

Also had SITU for LIEU for a long time. I probably spent 95% of my solving time on this one little patch.

Anonymous 8:38 AM  

ala grecque
what does this mean?

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

I believe it means cooking in the style of Greece

Anonymous 9:02 AM  

could someone help with 61D, please? Even though I got, I still don't get it. What is/are MLS?

Rex Parker 9:08 AM  

Major League Soccer

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

thanks for the "major league soccer". I never would have gotten there in this life if the acrosses hadn't filled it.

I enjoyed 52A "something needed for your sake" momentary misdirection for "rice". Great clue, IMO.

QP 9:48 AM  

I thought MLS had something to do with politics. My favorite was RICE (I felt sooo clever, since I'm not all that good at puzzles, had to peek at the blog to get the top)

QP 9:49 AM  

Oh, and Grand Teton Natl Park.... awesome place to vist... great skiing too

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

FRIEDA was a gimme for me. "What's the good of having naturally curly hair if nobody's jealous?" Thankfully, since I did woefully bad on the rest of the puzzle. Especially the stacks, the North Carolina area, the New England area, and Wyoming. And I kept trying to make informal Rather a nickname for Dan.

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

I got it by trial and error but found it tough. Also was looking for Dan's nickname and forgot Frieda. Thought she was Francy.

Orange 10:52 AM  

I Googled Erica Durance, suspecting she was some actress in a '50s TV version of Superman. But no! She's Lois on Smallville...which I don't watch, so I'd never heard heard of her.

Unknown 11:37 AM  

The segue from the Monday-Thursday to the Friday puzzle is always a tough one for me. This puzzle almost killed me and alas I was unable to finish it. I had no idea who TINA FEY was and did not get KINDA as a result, nor TETON. In fact, I'm still confused about TETON, is it a language? And I persisted in trying to convince myself that Dan Rather's show was a Q AND A, informally, even though that left me with a U-less Q hanging out where EKES should have been.

A mess.

But I am a little proud of getting all the rest, even those intimidating stacks, without references.

Beata, I did not understand the RICE clue til I saw your comment. Thanks!

Anonymous 12:18 PM  

Whee, got the top three acrosses right away then came to my usual grinding halt for Friday puzzles. Didn't have a clue about Tina Fey. Tried to make it orrorial for the heraldry clue thinking it might have to do with gold--not that that's a word. Had trouble with that section too. Got the toeout; had situ instead of lieu; had mlle instead of mmes but should have known that frauen was a plural. Liked 31A; thought it meant a senior at first. Had sorta for kinda and thought, at first, that 28D would be Danny, except it was Rather informal not informally.

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

Teton, apparently, is a dialect of Dakota. Who knew? Thankfully (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), this was not clued as a French word in a puzzle that had quite a lot of French, didn't it? Member of la famille immediate ? I'd say that's pushing it for some people...

Anyway, with only SC in place and FRIEDA starting to emerge, I figured 57A must be something with ESCAPE and wrote in ESCAPE FROM REALITY -- which fit! -- and for 62A, DEAD AND BURIED, which came up short. I liked DEAD AND BURIED, but DEAD AS A DOORNAIL was even better.

And I guess I'm not half clever :) as a puzzle solver, 'cause it didn't occur to me think fish for 16A.
About 31A...Am I misreading this, or does retiree mean "dead person" here? Kinda creepy wordplay if so!

Anonymous 12:22 PM  

My half-clever "schools of" answer was GREEK PHILOSOPHY, since I was going for schools of thought, and which worked because I had managed to eke out -ERY for the cream suffix. One can perhaps picture how much chaos ensued.

Without TINA FEY, who I also adore (new eps start next week!!!), and FRIEDA, who was the first cultural icon to make my otherwise problematic naturally curly hair socially acceptable as a child, I would have been dead in the water (or perhaps DEAD AS A DOORNAIL, which I didn't get despite the fact that this expression was used with regularity in my house and I use it myself still). I managed a few other things on my own, but I just didn't have time today to keep at it.

I'd stopped watching Smallville a few seasons back when it became unbelievably downbeat, so I didn't know the Lois Lane actress. All of the characters sigh constantly. It was causing me to hyperventilate, I think.

I'm down with the OMARR banishment; what's up with that oddity twice in one week?

Anonymous 12:43 PM  


Re: 31A, I do believe these retirees are on their way to bed, not dead as a doornail.

Anonymous 12:51 PM  

oh, right...I feel better now!

Campesite 12:51 PM  

Thought I might break my Friday record with this puzzle until I hit a buzzsaw in the Carolinas.

I too vote for no more OMARR (not Irish) for a while.

Doug 1:09 PM  

Kentucky to Tampa was hard for me today. I had all three of the long California to Florida crosses as well as MMES around S. Carolina, but I had LILY for Monet instead of IRIS and this was my undoing. Just couldn't get it done down there.

Good to see lovley TINAFEY in the grid and surprised so many people have not heard of her. Thought SNL had great ratings while she was on? Who was her co-anchor AMY...?

Had ENROW (sets up chairs) instead of ENDOW so the cross FONDLED (F_NRLED) was just impossible. I thought "Leave it to the NYT to concoct a verb like ENROW."

Some nice clues but LEFTABADTASTE in my mouth.

Doug 1:09 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
QP 1:10 PM  

DEAD AS A DOOR NAIL: isn't that from "Christmass Carol" ?

Anonymous 1:11 PM  

could replce the clue with: "meditating pirates chant" but that would be omarrg

Anonymous 1:34 PM  

I too had problems in the mid east. I knew TOEOUT, guessed at IRIS and ALA, and queried the wife about the correct abbr for madamoselles. The rest of it went pretty quickly. 1a got me thinking about alcohol so I had DRAM for 8d for a while. BEAM also works as moonshine if you think Jim Beam.

The OMARR repeat is KINDA consistent with the pattern over the last two weeks with back to back ORATORIA(S) and INTONE(S).

Anonymous 1:51 PM  


MME is the abbreviate for Madame, and MLLE for Mademoiselle. MMES is the better counterpart for FRAUEN.

Manoj 1:59 PM  


MMES is the right counterpart, not a better one. MLLE will be wrong.

Anonymous 2:38 PM  

For me, the answers to this puzzle came in fits and starts. I got a far number of boxes filled in quickly (well, for a Friday at least), ground to a halt, got the three long answers accross the top in a fit a solving frenzy, ground to a halt again, got a few more things, ground to a halt, and then the bottom finally fell.

I enjoyed this puzzle even though I do agree that it was a bit on the boring side. Nothing to really pique my interest, just work to complete it.

fergus 2:55 PM  

Since the Dakotas region fell in so readily I didn't have to work BY TRIAL AND ERROR. As mmpo said, though, TETON is a French word which kept me from plugging it in as a Dakota tongue. Aren't all the Native American language groups derived from the local term, and not something European? I can't think of any other Teton exceptions at the moment, but I'm sure there are some ... .

My major bungle today was inverted Daydreaming, looking for some form of ESCAPISM. I even thought about putting in ESCAPER ESCAPISM, but had to conclude that this example redundancy was didn't have much merit.

My image of the Retiree's SHEETS came from covering up old furniture in a disused part of an old mansion. I know that's hardly defensible, but hey, it worked and that was the sort of solution experience I was having today -- just about everything falling into place, almost subconsciously. Happens every once in a while.

Haystacks, Waterlilies, Rouen Cathedral; how many other Objects (?) would you come to before IRIS before assigning it to Monet? If an Iris is an Object so is a Japanese garden. I don't think Monet painted a 'nature morte' of a dissected eyeball, either. Didn't the same Monet IRIS combination also show up, in a slightly different form only recently?

Anonymous 3:10 PM  

Beata. Look up dead as a doornail on google and some will be explained.

Anonymous 3:11 PM  

So thats why she said "you mean madame" when I asked her!

Anonymous 3:58 PM  


This Teton comes from a Lakota word for their tribe and language. It has no etymological relationship to the "Grand" Tetons, which French blog software might not allow us to discuss.

Anonymous 4:31 PM  

For at least ten minutes I had Danny for "Rather, informally." I was trying way too hard on that one.

fergus 5:04 PM  

Well, what do you know ... thanks Martin. I should know well enough not to assert that only one etymological case should be correct, especially in relation to a puzzle as scrupulously edited as the NYT. I was more curious about name origins of Native American linguistic groups. So I now have in front of me a beautiful National Geographic map of American Indian Cultures, which includes TETON (Lakota) right on the South Dakota Nebraska border. There are a few European names but they usually have a local appellation too. NEZ PERCE (Inimiipuu); BLACKFOOT (Siksika), e.g. FOX and CROW are probably more native in origin, I would guess. There are some delightfully crosswordy group names as well: AIS, OFO, ITZA; GUALE; and the practical gimme, CHICOMUCELTECO.

Anonymous 5:15 PM  

On the desk of a friend with n.c.h. is a Peanut's cartoon, I guess with Frieda, saying: "People expect more from someone with naturally curly hair".

Anonymous 5:33 PM  

I also thought the retirees were "dead as a doornail" and had a wicked giggle.

Some have already said it, but RICE for "Something needed for your sake?" was awesome. I realized first that they meant sake the wine, and then because I had some crosses wrong I was casting about for some Japanese name for the little glasses, or something...

oh and thanks to whoever pointed me to what I had so obviously missed in the excellent SPAMALOT graphic. Gawd, this is Broadway? :P

Michael Russell 6:18 PM  

"Tupelo" is also the name of a great Nick Cave song about Elvis, check it out!

Peter Clothier 6:22 PM  

Got as far as -INAFEY and had to google for that T in TINA and the TETON. Just a dumb Englishman who doesn't watch too much TV and is short on American Indian language lore. Anyway, pleased to get that far on a Friday.

Anonymous 6:35 PM  


Some of the Native North American 'tribe' names like FOX and CROW were actually names of specific clans within a tribe. Some fur trader or explorer or Jesuit missionary would ask people "what do you call yourselves?" and they would respond with their clan totem (like the fox or the crow) and that name would stick for the whole tribe, even for those who had different clans and clan totems. A number of 'tribe' names of North American groups are just the word for 'people,' a pretty fair answer to the question "what do you call yourselves?".

Anonymous 7:04 PM  

I get it; I get it; rice as needed to make sake. Kept wanting to fit in Pete as in "for Pete's sake".

Anonymous 8:42 PM  

Sheets on furniture was the only image my brain could hook onto as well, Fergus. In other news, the word fondle gives me ick. And poker players are more apt to say "I'm ALL in" than "I'm in." To enter a hand without raising, you would just say, "I call."

Anonymous 8:43 PM  

Strange puzzle for me. Ended up Googling DIDN"T - music clues still kill me.

Had bits and pieces filled in and the three bottom clues, but I figured I was as dead as a doornail until I typed in TOOTLE and ENROOT out of sheer frustration. And then the whole puzzle filled in. Never had that happen before.


Michael Chibnik 9:09 PM  

Not too hard for a Friday. I still don't get sheet for "retiree's coverage." Why retirees? Don't non-retirees use sheets?

fergus 9:57 PM  


The retirees are those going off to sleep in a bed, as some of us finally realized. Unlike the Daydreamers who may prefer the couch.

Michael Chibnik 10:09 PM  

thanks, Fergus -- I finally understand. doh!

Anonymous 11:45 PM  

Had the most trouble with the center of the puzzle for some reason even though I had Tina Fey right away. Didn't know Teton and I was fooled by "french study" because I thought it meant a course of study instead of a room in your house (salle). I thought "fondled" for "didn't paw" was a bit creepy and it didn't come to me until I figured out gondola for "balloon attachment".

Unknown 2:08 PM  

I thought this was the easiest Saturday in ages. One clue was difficult for me as an ex-military guy. "One-striper: Abbr" was "ENS," but Ensigns normally wear bars, not stripes; stripes are normally for enlistedpersonnel and Privates First Class (PFCs) are called "one-stripers."

Anonymous 1:39 PM  

6 weeks later.....
11D - Initials of a noted "Wizard"
TAE? Wizard or Oz, Washington Wizard? Help?

Anonymous 3:01 PM  

to 6 weeks later-TAE is Thomas Alva Edison, the wizard of Melno Park. Bet you knew that and forgot!

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