SATURDAY, Sep. 29, 2007 - Robert H. Wolfe

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Somewhat more lively fill than yesterday's themeless puzzle, with a number of curious and occasionally cool entries. Lots of multi-word answers, several of them highly colloquial exclamations, which I tend to love. I wasn't amazed by the puzzle, but overall it was solid Saturday fare. Maybe a touch on the easy side - I finished the NW corner in about 20 seconds and thought there must be some mistake; this can't possibly be a Saturday puzzle. But then things slowed down a bit, I hit patches of ridiculous / unknown / made-up-sounding words, and it ended up feeling plausibly Saturday-ish after all.

Three 15- letter answers:

  • 17A: "Nonsense!" ("That's ridiculous!") - what I said after filling in NARCO (6D: Pusher)
  • 36A: Delicacy (sensitive nature) - I was looking for exotic food here
  • 55A: "I'm not volunteering!" ("Hey, don't look at me!") - truly awesome answer

As I said, the NW fell fast, with MATA HARI being the first answer into the grid (15A: She was executed in 1917) and the surrounding answers falling quickly thereafter. Mort SAHL is back in the puzzle again, this time as a Kennedy joke writer (2D: Joke writer for many Kennedy campaign speeches), and though OMARR is gone, astrology is not, as we are treated to the unexpected STAR SIGNS (3D: Astrological set). Had absolutely no idea about CLEM (20A: Boy in the comic strip "Rose is Rose"). This seems a very cruel clue, as I believe there to be very little overlap between the people who read "Rose is Rose" and the people who solve the NYT Crossword. VERY little. In fact, I would venture to say that if you are an adult who still reads the Sunday funnies for pleasure, there might be something wrong with you. Not necessarily ... just see your doctor. Especially if you ever actually laugh. Other things in the puzzle that befuddled me:

  • 25A: Minute (teentsy) - oh how I challenge that spelling...
  • 11D: Scarlett O'Hara's mother and others (Ellens) - I saw the movie once, so this character's name was nowhere to be found in my brain
  • 12D: W.W. II vessel (E-boat) - oh sure, why not give every letter a boat? That seems fair.
  • 27A: African evergreen shrub (Erica)
  • 26D: Nicholas Gage title character (Eleni) - I know this (vaguely) only from its past appearances in crosswords, and got it only with several crosses in place
  • 23D: Director of the Associated Press, 1900-35 (Ochs) - not even a first name for this guy? (it's Adolph)
  • 34D: "Piece of My Heart" singer Franklin (Erma) - took one look at clue and thought "well, I'm pretty sure it's not going to be ARETHA, so I'm out..."
  • 53D: 2002 Literature Nobelist Kertesz (Imre) - I don't ... read ... much

Never heard of "Tonka," but SAL MINEO (62A: "Tonka" star, 1958) was easy enough to get with just a few crosses. It does not look like the kind of movie I would like ... or that could get produced today ... for various reasons:

One movie that was made recently, and that was pretty damned good, was "Sin City." Based on the Frank Miller comic of the same name, this movie was the first DVD I played when I got my surround-sound system last year. Shook the house. So cool. Anyway, I guess people think Jessica ALBA is hot. I ... do not. I mean, she's lovely, don't get me wrong. But ... I don't know, too young, too obvious. But that's just me. I'm weird that way. If I'm supposed to find something sexy, I tend not to. Had trouble at the 59A: Ring of anatomy (areole) and 56D: Land of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (Ned) crossing. Wanted AREOLA, and so had NAD ... which is not a word you can really let stand for long. Vaguely recalled a character (not a place) called NED Land, and so fixed things. Totally guessed at ALI (58D: Figure in the Sunni/Shia split) - did you know that there are issues with the Sunni/Shia split in American prisons? It's true. The things one learns... Am used to thinking of ARILS (when I think of them, which is next to never) as seed coverings, not appendages (7D: Botanical appendages). Was proud to get ENS (39A: One-striper: Abbr.) off just the "S" - military abbreviations are not my thing.

My favorite clue in the grid is 33A: Like VCRs in the 1970s (new). I absolutely love how ridiculously, comically, brazenly far that clue goes to get a super-basic word like NEW. Also liked 9D: A telly may get it (BBC), though that one was much more obvious. Oh, I almost forgot the super-tricky 28D: Tout's opposite (rien). So cruel, what with TOUT's being an English word and all - hard to see that French coming. I could go for some tasty POLENTA (44A: Cornmeal concoction) right now, but I'm hoping my wife and daughter will actually make chocolate pancakes, which would be even better. I have to go provide encouragement.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 8:14 AM  

A few things here really bugged me today:

1) E-Boat. I didn't get this at all, thinking U-Boat was the only possibility, suggesting then that BLEEPS was actually "BLEUPS" which I interpreted as some bizarre way of spelling "bloops" as in bloopers.

2) TEENTSY. What I think about this spelling would be bleuped by the FCC were this a broadcast medium.

3) Even with an Ivy education (two degrees) I really don't like SENSITIVENATURE for delicacy. I agree that it is valid but that doesn't make it a good clue.

4) ASSOONAS. As soon as what? I don't think this is colloquial for "when" in my part of the world (the Midwest).

My take on today's puzzle: THATSRIDICULOUS.

Anonymous 8:18 AM  

It finally dawn on me that 28D "tout" was French, hence "rien".

Anonymous 8:22 AM  

Nowadays, with Sunnis and Shia having, er, issues in places like Iraq -- the issue of Ali is pretty important. It makes Christianity's various schisms seem petty in comparison. Martin Luther had nothing on Ali when it came to befuddling adherents.

barrywep 9:43 AM  

Isn't "tasty polenta" an oxymoron. Former governor Cuomo always used "polenta" as a synonym for "bland" and my own experience confirms the usage.
I figured that "tout" was French but thought the opposite was more likely "nien" than "rien".

Anonymous 9:49 AM  

OH!! I did not see the "tout =/ rien" drift until coming here!! I had tout firmly in mind as somebody/something to do with horse racing, so of course REIN might be its opposite in some context. Now I LOVE the clue & answer.

Guess I really need to up my reading glasses RX LOL!! I also had a reading problem with Nicholas Gage, skimming it as Nicolas Cage... and got nowhere until looking closer.

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

Generally my gripes with clue/answer pairings are fairly nitpicky, but NARCO is the exact opposite (and natural enemy) of a pusher. How did that one make it past the editorial board.

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

p.s. I also vote "ban the 'teentsy'" spelling.

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

I had hopes that boring people would turn out to be pedants or others such as myself. Windbags, droners, intoners etc. Drillers a big letdown in my books.

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

I finished this puzzle eventually, but I did not find it easy at all - even for a Saturday puzzle.

On the other hand, my old French lessons got me RIEN easilty enough.

For the longest time I had GORDITA for cornmeal concoction. Once I figured that wouldn't fit I was stuck for a bit.

I also got sidetracked on the VCRs in the '70's by entering VHS. In short, I did myself no favors.


QP 10:30 AM  

Anonymous 9:52 - it's NARC that's pushers enemy (never heard of word NARCO though)

drillers or grillers ? (although, the latter would be clues "annoying")


wendy 10:36 AM  

I did see the doctor about the fact that I solve the NYT crossword and still read the Sunday comics (but NOT Rose is Rose) and he said I was good to go ;)

I figured out an interesting way to push myself on the difficult puzzles today (i.e., not resort to google too quickly). Maybe it'll help some others, I don't know.

Started out with barely any answers, maybe 8. Thank God for BABAR! It took awhile, but when I had 23 answers (I started writing them down for no reason I can think of, just to do it) I said, why not try for 25 before surrendering? So I did that and it worked. Soon I was up to 30, then 40, and finally 57 before I really said uncle. Maybe I could have made it to 60, but I was spent at that point.

Three of my answers were wrong (had U-boat for ... you know), Blouse for BLEEP, and Rule for ROLE. I'm definitely going to use this ploy again.

I succumbed once again in the face of the alternate meaning of capital, failing to realize it didn't mean capital city, and I should have gotten that with no problem. Although I got IN A DILEMMA, I have a TEENTSY issue with the comparison; I don't think the clue really matches the answer. If I'm truly trapped, that's more than a dilemma.

Was really proud to get THAT'S RIDICULOUS with just the crossing I and S.

Campesite 10:56 AM  

I had a difficult time with this puzzle as well. I never knew ERICA was an African evergreen shrub--can't we get a Susan Lucci clue? And I've got to save IMRE Kertesz in the brain, I think he'll come up again.
I guess NARCO could pass here only in the prefix sense (narco-terrorist, narco-trafficker) but it wasn't clued as such.
I tend to not admit it in public for fear of ridicule, but I read the comics daily, including Rex Morgan, MD.

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

Agree with Wendy. A dilemma is a choice between two options. Once the choice is made, albeit difficult, you're done. You're not "stuck with no way out."

"Reoil" is RIDICULOUS. The word is 'oil'. OK, so you may oil something that was oiled before, or add to oil that's already there ... it's still "oil."

The E-boat seems to have been a German PT boat in WWII. OK, now someone please list all the types of [__]-boats for us, so we'll have them.

Thought "erica" was edelweiss, but it's really heath. Anyway I thought it was European.

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

I'm always at a loss to assign puzzle difficulty on days when I breeze through 98% of the puzzle but have to come here for the other 2%

And thanks to the RIEN OCHS corner today was no exception.

Orange 11:44 AM  

My dictionary defines NARCO as:

1. A dealer in drugs.

2. A narcotics officer.

Whoever decided to use the same informal word for these opposing parties must've been hopped up on some pretty heavy drugs.

Dan Ruby 11:49 AM  

I saw Mort Sahl last week at the Monterey Jazz Festival--he's still going strong at 80. "Bush is supposed to have been born again. If you were born again, why would you want to come back as George Bush."

Anonymous 12:24 PM  

NARCO sounds like a word they would have used in the 80s during the "Just Say No" campaign.

Got TEENTSY right away but didn't trust it because the spelling was indeed suspect.

And huzzah for BABAR, a childhood favorite! The spats! The colonialsm! The incest! It's all there, but as a kid they had me at an elephant in spats.

JC66 12:27 PM  

After a while, I figured tout might be French. I got RIEN from the crosses. Can someone tell me what it means?

Anonymous 12:38 PM  

Tout means all, everything while rien means nothing, nil.

Orange 12:43 PM  

Flailer, your remarks on BABAR made me and my husband laugh out loud.

wendy 12:44 PM  

campesite, don't be ashamed of reading Rex Morgan everyday. It's one of the things that gets me going! Plus there are any number of great strips out there right now, and my daily paper carries a good many of them in addition to the dreck like CLEM and his dotty mother Rose. Further, if you didn't read the comics you wouldn't have the joy of reading Comics Curmudgeon (see Rex's links list if you're unfamiliar). Now *that's* funny!

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

NARCO was no problem as I happen to own a 45 of "Friendly Neighborhood Narco Agent". Google the phrase to get the lyrics -- funnier than the Sunday comics.

I agree with jim in nyc about REOIL. It's like redoing the crossword puzzle every morning.

I'm still struggling with the delicacy/SENSITIVENATURE combo.

I find POLENTA to be tasty, albeit not a delicacy, I saute fresh corn kernels in a little butter till they're golden brown, and stir them in at the end. Yumm.

I thought 51d Aurora producer / OLDS could have used an EX- or some such to indicate past tense.

Minor carps for a nicely challenging puzzle.

Anonymous 12:54 PM  

AS SOON AS (when) I tried to find an opposite for the English TOUTS, I thought, hmm, awfully slippery, must be the French.
Was also very tickled by HEY DONT LOOK AT ME, especially because with a smattering of letters in place, I came up with DONT LOOK AT ME, saw that it didn't fit, decided to try it anyway, then (bling! lightbulb), the HEY fell into place. A delightful moment.
Also, PSHAW...can't think of when I last (or ever) heard anyone but Aunt Polly say that. Actually, I do know someone who says it, but with ironic distance...Quaint indeed!

Anonymous 2:01 PM  

Actually, UBOAT and EBOAT run the gamut of German warboats. Incidentally, the names were coined by the Brits who couldn't pronounce the German words that U and E stood for.

Anonymous 2:07 PM  

MATAHARI makes a double appearnce today. She is also an answer in the syndicated puzzle (from August 18). What are the odds?

Anonymous 2:16 PM  

Loved the "laurel" clue for old Olympic award. I can just picture Jim Thorpe having the wreath placed on his head and the King of Sweden saying, "Mr. Thorpe, you are the greatest athlete in the world." To which Thorpe replied, "Thanks, King."

Anonymous 2:17 PM  

"tout" = "rien" ?

C'├ętait injuste !

I had "start a fire" and kept it for a while because I had "star chart" for 3D, which I knew wouldn't be the answer, but I hung on to it for as long as I could.

Enjoyed this one.

Orange 2:23 PM  

Anon 2:01, Wikipedia tells me the Germans had the Schnellboot or S-boot (meaning "fast boat"). The Allies called 'em E-boats, possibly E for enemy.

I think the Germans called the Unterseeboot ("undersea boat") a U-boot for short, and that's pronounced "U-boat." I don't think either boat name in English relates to unpronounceable German words.

tsetse fly, would you say that Ford was the producer of the Model T or the ex-producer?

Anonymous 2:29 PM  

I still don't understand the clue/answer FRIES/SIDE?


Anonymous 2:40 PM  

Fries are a side order.

Anonymous 2:44 PM  

Fries are a side order, such as at a diner.

One common definition of a dilemma is having two bad choices. So even if you pick one, it's still a lousy choice.


Rick 2:58 PM  

I've got to jump on the TEENTSY bandwagon here. I know it qualifies as correct spelling, but to my eye it's just awful. Now that I'm trying harder to construct puzzles myself I tend to be far more lenient in my criticism; nonetheless, this one really bugs me.

Other than that I think this was a decent, moderately challenging puzzle.

Anonymous 3:31 PM  

I do the n.y. times puzzle every day after I read B.C. on the comic page

Anonymous 3:39 PM  

I had the same experience as pinky, relatively easy except for the ERICA/OCHS/RIEN crossings which required google to fix. I'm still trying to make SENSITIVENATURE work in my head and also found TEENTSY hard to swallow. I too will admit to reading the funnies daily. I need something to offset the front page news.

Anonymous 4:29 PM  

Apparently like many others, I found the ERICA/RIEN crossing the hardest spot. In fact it was the very last blank. There's no hint of French in that diabolical clue.

But you've got to allow (Adolph) OCHS as a fair entry in the NYT puzzle. I think his name is still on the newspaper's masthead every day! Is the present publisher related?

Michael Chibnik 4:35 PM  

Reading the comments is often reassuring. I too had start a fire crossing with star chart for a long time before thinking of "light a fire." And erica and rien was the last cross I got.

I read the comics when I can, but I only get the Times...But I would if I could.

Anonymous 4:49 PM  


The present publisher is Arthur O. Sulzberger. I'll let you guess what the "O" stands for.

wendy 4:51 PM  

gk - the current NYT publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr., is the great-grandson of Adolph Ochs. The paper has always been largely controlled by the family, though it's a public company. Adolph Ochs' daughter married into the Sulzberger family, and the torch has been passed three times. I remember reading an article within the last year, though, that examined whether any of the current generation of Sulzbergers have any interest in carrying on in the newspaper business. An heir apparent from the family is not a certainty, if I remember correctly.

JC66 5:00 PM  

Hobbyist - My French is mostly limited to menus. I knew tout. Now I know RIEN. Thanks.

Anonymous 5:00 PM  

Rose Is Rose is actually a very interesting strip. I haven't seen it in years because my paper stopped carrying it. That's when I stopped reading the comics. The only boy I could remember was Pasquale. Had to look it up to remember Clem.

I found it anything but dreck, Wendy. It had a sweet innocence without being saccharine. It's certainly not edgy if that's what you're looking for.

The characters expressed love toward each other and showed hidden or "unacceptable" emotions through their fantasies. Plus, it's drawn creatively. From Wikipedia:

"The strip also features highly daring "camera angles" and perspectives, often giving the illusion through frames of real motion."

Here's the link for more info:

And there's nothing at all wrong with me, Rex. I hardly even notice the drooling anymore since they fitted me with the chin bag. You wouldn't either once you got to know me.

Very Little Overlap

wendy 5:09 PM  

rockonchris, maybe dreck was too strong a term. I actually used to try to read it, but to be honest it's those 'camera angles' that really drove me crazy. It was like a migraine waiting to happen. And I felt they overpowered the story line.

Anonymous 5:12 PM  

Actually, I would have guessed very little overlap between the NYT puzzle and a penchant for vintage paperbacks, but I have been persuaded differently.

Anonymous 5:13 PM  


Looks like Alba's about to go after Tonka in your pics. Love this blog!

P.S. Add some chopped green chilis to that polenta along with the fresh or roasted corn. Yum!

Anonymous 5:43 PM  

I have realized that crossword puzzles are not made for science nerds. Last week I spent forever getting FOLGERS for type of crystals because I was thinking of actual crystal types (cubic,hexagonal or mineral crystals like feldspar or quartz, etc.) and today the very last one I got was OLDS for Aurora producer because I had IONS and refused to give it up unitl the end because I was thinking of the AURORA BOREALIS.

Oh well I guess this is broadening my horizons!

Anonymous 6:32 PM  

Orange: Good point. I'll buy it (Ford = ModelT producer). But, I still have trouble thinking of Bill as "President Clinton", as he is referred to often, when he ain't one no more....

Anonymous 6:36 PM  

I'm with you; I thought it should have been "dullards".
Never knew Erica (heather) grew in Africa.

Anonymous 6:58 PM  

Wendy: (from your 10:36 comment). I agree. Back in the day I'd just start googling on Saturdays. Too hard I thought.

I have found that if I persevere I can get a lot farther than I believe I can at the moment. This has changed my Sat solving experience.

Take Care~

skua76 10:48 PM  

Almost didn't seem like a Saturday. For the first time in a long while, I got the whole thing without looking anything up, only error was that tout/rien problem. Excuse my (lack of) French. Enjoyable puzzle (well, except maybe for teentsy :)

Anonymous 10:56 PM  

I read the daily and Sunday comics. I love Rose and her alter-ego, the Biker Chick. Her son is Pasquale. Clem is, I believe, a nephew. I do the NYT puzzle every day, rather successfully, too. Just a small voice crying in the wilderness.

Anonymous 12:24 AM  

Delicacy here means delicateness, and therefore sensitive nature.

Anonymous 5:34 AM  

I was sorry last evening that I hadn't had the courage to stand up and be counted as far as Rose is Rose was concerned. Haven't had a chance to read it in some years but when it first appeared it was very good and I particularly liked her biker chick persona. I am quite old, do the NYT puzzle, and enjoy the comics. Some of you kids are bordering on patronizing.

Anonymous 2:46 PM  

whitey's mom, thanks for weighing in. marykay, thanks for being a voice in the wilderness.

I'm particularly fond of little white cats and thought Peekaboo was enchanting and dear. I just really liked that strip and couldn't let Rex's comment go by unanswered.

Rock on!

fergus 7:07 PM  

On Sunday afternoon, for what it's worth, I thought this was the most intractable puzzle in a long time. That should have made it a peculiarly masochistic pleasure, but it didn't.

Anonymous 12:38 PM  

A haiku for Jessica Alba:

Forgotten passions of youth
Is your gift to me.

Anonymous 12:40 PM  

yes, I wrote that. :)

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