MONDAY, Sep. 24, 2007 - Fred Piscop

Monday, September 24, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Location? - three theme answers begin with HERE'S, THERE'S, and WHERE'S, respectively

This isn't much of a theme, and yet it hardly matters because the theme answers are colorful and the non-theme fill is tremendous, especially for a Monday. Fellow xword blogger Orange semi-ruined this puzzle for me by sending me a message telling me how she thought this puzzle was everything a Monday puzzle should be. Her message was marked "No Spoilers" - and yet knowing that I was supposed to expect goodness made the goodness less affecting when it came. But I still enjoyed the puzzle quite a bit. And I set a record time for me - 3:36 or 3:37, I forget. One of those.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Old "Tonight Show" intro ("HERE'S Johnny")
  • 39A: Admonition to a showboating athlete ("THERE'S no 'I' in 'team'")
  • 53A: Kid's book with a hidden character ("WHERE'S Waldo")

This puzzle has a whole lot of what I like in late-week puzzles: colloquialisms and multi-word answers. In fact, several answers are multi-word colloquialisms, including:

  • 14A: "In my opinion..." ("I'd say...")
  • 9D: Benchwarmer's plea ("Play me!")
  • 41D: Zero (not a whit)
  • 66A: Out of favor, informally (in bad)

Not to mention THERE'S NO 'I' IN 'TEAM', the great multi-word colloquialism in the middle of the puzzle. Did not know 22D: Nita of silent films (Naldi) - actually, I'm almost certain I've seen this answer before, but her name just didn't stick. She crosses 25A: Bygone Rambler mfr. (AMC), which is a gimme for me, for reasons I don't understand. GMC sounds like it could be right too, but there's no one (I'm fairly sure) named NGLDI, so no problem there. I had a hell of a time with EYE SHADE (5D: Poker player's headgear), first because I hate poker-mania and the elevation of loser poker players to TV personalities and the general culture of dickishness that goes along with poker. Second, because I call an EYE SHADE a "visor," I think. Coolest non-theme answer in the puzzle: TOWNIE (46D: Local noncollegian, to a collegian). Reminds me of "Breaking Away." Second-coolest non-theme answer: VENAL (49D: Open to bribery). Least favorite word in the puzzle: CREME (29D: Oreo's filling). I feel about CREME the way I feel about BLEU and THEATRE, i.e. not good.

Thanks to ALF (6A: Furry TV extraterrestrial) and PACMAN (27A: Classic arcade game) for representing the 80's today. My kind of OLDIEs (44A: Almost any doo-wop tune).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Doug 9:01 AM  

Looked up Johnny Carson last week when I was desperate for the "persona" answer (SWAMI e.g. Carnac.) What a good guy, sorely missed. Many fond memories of sneaking the show with my head squeezed between the upstairs bannisters while my mom's smiling face glowed in the dark from the television screen image.

Grew up in Wisconsin near the AMC plant in Kenosha. Wow, when I go home I still see really old Pacers and Gremlins crawling around.

Just watched some Cheers reruns on the plane from Vancouver and couldn't believe that no one knew that big rabbit pelt on SAM's head was fake.

WHERES WALDO is WHERES WILLY in its original UK version. Guess the Brits thought the Yanks would march in streets after Sunday church and burn their sex drenched foreign books. Yes, totally agree that seeing the word WILLY in a BOOK would influence young American boys far more than allowing them to blow away Nazis on the PC every afternoon.

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

I really liked the North Pole region: LEAH / LEA / LAW. For some reason the TV series L.A. Law popped into my mind.

JC66 10:29 AM  


Fred Piscops's name doesn't ring a bell, but I agree this is one fine puzzle.

BTW, belated congrats on the SOX clinching a playoff berth, but it somehow takes away from the Yank's sprint to the tape. Hopefully, they'll both make it thru the 1st round and meet again in October.

Unknown 11:04 AM  

I liked 38D: Sport with beefy grapplers.

And the EYESHADE referred to as Poker player's headgear reminded me of a Damon Runyon vision of a poker room, or maybe those poker-playing dogs, than the current vile TV programming.

So I was in the mood for PURSE (Derby prize) and ODDS (5:2, e.g., at a racetrack.) Even ALIBI and IN BAD seemed to fit with the mood.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

WHERESWALDO? Exactly where he belongs, right between Ralph and Emerson.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

Fred Piscop has been the editor of the excellent Washington Post Sunday crossword for about five years. He recently announced that the Post will drop their own puzzle next March and publish a syndicated one instead.

Unknown 12:54 PM  

This relates more to yesterday than today, but do you (Rex, or anyone else) ever do the Cryptic Crossword? I didn't realize about how they're doubly-clued, and suddenly I'm much more interested in them. But I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around all the rules on the wikipedia page.

Anonymous 1:01 PM  

There's also a how-to on the puzzle page

Anonymous 2:05 PM  

If you subscribe to the NYT Crossword site, go back to the archived puzzles. Each month there is a bonus puzzle with a special theme.
Almost all of these bonus puzzles is authored by Mr. Piscop. Very much the same kind of puzzles: enjoyable and yet challenging.

Anonymous 2:06 PM  

Another link may be an easier place to start. A much better tutorial will entail buying a book, by Cox and Rathvon. It is very demystifying.

fergus 2:37 PM  

NOT A WHIT has everything going for it as a novel answer to the Zero, or Nothing type clue. "It matters not one whit," was a line from some bombastic fellow on "Fawlty Towers" that my five year-old son adopted for a while, to the consequent bemusement of strangers, as one might expect. Round about that stage I taught him the word 'insufferable' which he used almost immediately to describe Thomas Kinkaide's purported art gallery. The delights of children.

Anyway, I was pleased to see Rex's subtle and nuanced critique of the Poker phenomenon. Even if it is the NASCAR of card games, I have grudging respect for people who can play it well. As economics graduate students, our group tried to have a regular game, but we were all calculating the statistics and risk assessments in exactly the same way so that it made for a very dull game. The audacity and guts that good poker players must have tend to get undermined by the abstract analysis common to academics.

Aaron, what do you mean by doubly-clued with respect to the Cryptic Puzzle? I find that they are a lot of fun to do with other people, but that I tend to get too impatient when attempting to do them on my own.

Anonymous 3:24 PM  


Double-cluing is the basis of cryptic puzzles. Every clue contains a definition or "straight" clue -- one that would be allowed in a standard crossword -- and a wordplay clue. These two moieties can be in either order, but can't be intermixed. When concatenated, the two parts have a misdirecting cryptic "surface" reading. Figuring out whether the start or end of the cryptic clue is the definition is often much of the challenge in cracking the clue. Aaron's wiki link explains this better than I can.

fergus 3:52 PM  

Thanks; I had just never heard that term used -- got my cryptic training by wrestling with The Guardian, and from my uncle's muttering to himself over the Times. I've concluded that the ground rules are virtually the same here as they are in England. I would like to see a tighter grid to go with the cryptics, but I can also see why this isn't ordinarily done.

Orange 4:22 PM  

For cryptic-crossword beginners, I recommend 101 Cryptic Crosswords: From the New Yorker. They're easier than the cryptics the NYT occasionally runs on a Sunday, and worlds easier than the British cryptics. This book offers a good way to get your feet wet and master the basics of the form.

fergus 5:19 PM  

I was disappointed when the New Yorker abandoned their little cryptic. 'Caption the cartoon' is an entertaining replacement, but it is not a substitute. The Nation has some pretty good cryptics, with American themes and topical influences. That's the puzzle we do over afternoon tea when I'm visiting my parents, though occasionally my father will bring out a real corker set by Araucaria, the venerable Guardian constructor.

Orange 6:25 PM  

Fergus, the Atlantic has a good monthly cryptic (Cox and Rathvon), but it's available to subscribers online. I have a supplier who sends me the PDF each month--if you're interested in trying it, send me your e-mail address. Harper's Magazine also has a cryptic (Richard Maltby) that tends to be easier than the Atlantic, I think.

For an American, the British cryptics tend to be much harder--I'm treading water in a book of Times (of London) crosswords these days.

fergus 8:44 PM  

The Atlantic puzzle is a killer, as is the Harper's one. Even New York magazine throws you into a state of utter confusion. Sometimes just figuring out the guidelines that come with the instructions is enough to give up.

Nevertheless, I would very much like to have their current puzzle (email is, and I'm grateful for your offer. I'm always a bit behind with these magazines, so it might be nice to face the challenge before the little prize has been awarded.


Anonymous 9:41 PM  

When I lived in Hamburg I used to get the weekend "European" which had a puzzle which one could do as a straight cwp or cryptic.
This Monday puzzle was very easy, didn't even last through lunch....

fergus 11:49 PM  

Lest I left an alternate impression I am still most enchanted with the NYTimes style puzzle because I love having the stack of letter possibilities inviting a range of interpretation from the terse clues.

And there's not a better exemplar than the NYT, including the so-called Concise British emulations.

Anonymous 11:33 AM  


EYESHADE to me that means MASCARA

Anonymous 3:24 AM  

Do you think that "No I" center of the middle theme answer is a reference to the three missing I's of the contractions in the three theme answers? It seemed that way to me.

Jerome Brandon 12:29 PM  

??? I'm so lost. So confusing... Haaalp?!

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