SUNDAY, Sep. 16, 2007 - Mike Nothnagel

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Lingo" - familiar terms and phrases have "LING" added to them to create silly terms and phrases, which are clued

A familiar theme conceit - add some letter combo, get new wacky terms - and yet it doesn't feel stale here because, for the most part, the wacky terms (all seven of them) are quite good. For the second day in a row I really felt like I torched the puzzle, and my time was very well within the "2 x best solver" metric (taking the top solver's time from the NYT applet, online) - somewhere in the low 14's. I stumbled twice, in both the Central and Southern California sections of the puzzle, where first a brutal crossing, and later a couple of cleverly disguised two-part phrases, forced me to flail around a bit before I set everything in order.

Theme answers:

  • 24A: Bit of news at the aviary? (a starLING is born) - first one I got, thought the theme was about birds, then (like any good solver) I actually read the puzzle's title
  • 34A: Notion of an underwater creature? (squid inkLING)
  • 47A: Fraternization on an army base? (military coupLING) - had MILITARY COURTING for a while, forgetting that the puzzle's title was "Lingo," not "Tingo"
  • 63A: How courteous swordsmen fight? (with all dueLING respect) - nice
  • 80A: Farm young 'un with a blanket? (duckLING and cover)
  • 93A: Local cutie pie? (town dumpLING) - my favorite, possibly because the LING changes the context of the word So Much
  • 108A: Capture of a Mafia runner, e.g.? (underLING arrest)
As I said, I tripped in exactly two places. First, there was the intersection of NONCE (72A: Particular purpose) and HACK (66D: Succeed, with "it"), which is nowhere I'd want to live. NONCE is a word I know only from having read a lot of Chaucer in the 90's. It's known today (I think) only from the term "nonce word." HACK just baffled me until this second, when I understood (vaguely) how the phrase was intended to be understood. "He couldn't HACK it," e.g. "he failed or quit." In the far SW I somehow wrote in AGENDA for POINT A (101A: Start of an itinerary) and then off the wrong "G" wrote in EGYPT for IONIA (97D: Land bordering ancient Lydia). So that took some time to undo. Couldn't even commit to the obviously correct NOEL (82D: "Away in a Manger," for one) because the "L" gave me a word ending in "TL" for 96A: Calf feature. It was only when I allowed my brain to entertain the possibility of a "TL" ending for a few seconds that the fabulous SILENT L leaped forth in all its undeniably correct glory.

In addition to SILENT L and POINT A, there were a couple of other words that ended in odd or unexpected letter combinations: 15A: N.H.L. great from the Czech Republic (Jagr) was rough, especially because his tell-tale first name (Jaromir) was denied to me; and in other sports-related madness, 5D: Injured, in baseball lingo ["LINGO," cute] (on the DL). For the sports-impaired, the "DL" is the Disabled List.

As with yesterday's puzzle (and perhaps with just about any puzzle), if you solve regularly, certain "difficult" words will begin to become familiar. Here are some important words for your solving vocabulary:

  • 40A: Least populous U.N. member (Tuvalu) - usually clued in terms of its tiny population, this little country involves insane but occasionally handy letter combinations
  • 3D: Small interval of time: Abbr. (N-Sec) - because you never know when you'll need a four-letter word beginning "NS"
  • 8D: Work of Michelangelo, e.g. (arte) - it's just Italian. Get used to it.
  • 79D: One trying to find the right combination? (yegg) - one of my favorite words, and one I actually learned from collecting vintage paperbacks (especially crime fiction). A YEGG is a safecracker, in old-timey crime "LINGO" (!)
  • 71A: Elegance (luxe) - no one would use this word as a synonym for "elegance" and yet I've seen it twice clued this way in recent days
  • 87A: Jordanian queen (Noor)
  • 119A: Ethyl cinnamate, for one (ester) - god the puzzle loves this word
There were some cool names in the puzzle today, including two TV actresses (63D: Comic actress Sykes (Wanda) and 54D: Sanford of "The Jeffersons" (Isabel)), a singer (10D: Singer who spells her name in all lowercase letters (k.d. lang)) and a quarterback who played for a hard-luck team (58A: 1980 N.F.L. M.V.P. (Sipe)). Don't think I've seen STASI (53A: East German secret police) in the puzzle before; unpleasant subject, but cool-looking word. I would object to I LIKE YOU (14D: Comment to a new friend), in that I do not believe you have ever said that to a new friend... but I LIKE YOU is such a well-meaning little phrase that I find it hard to be angry. I also have a quibble with 37D: Like many Scots (kilted) - really, if you go there and look around, not many of them are actually KILTED.

Stuff I didn't know:

  • 75A: Gwen _____, Spider-Man's first love (Stacy) - I do not read Marvel Comics, so ???
  • 73D: Russian conductor/composer Markevitch (Igor) - luckily, his name is common enough
  • 118A: "Think big" company (IMAX) - somehow I don't think of IMAX as a company

My favorite answers in today's puzzle are:

  • 4D: Prolonged complaints (jeremiads)
  • 103A: Junked (deep-sixed)
  • 10A: Style of Japanese writing (kanji)
  • 76D: What a specialist men's store may offer (tall sizes)

Trickiest clue of the day:

39A: Load bearer? (dryer) - even when I had it, I didn't get it. Then the laundry frame of reference came to me, and it all seems obvious in retrospect.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of Crossworld


Anonymous 9:25 PM  

Agree with most of your comments. The only thing that struck me as a bit off in this puzzle was the theme wanna-be EELING sitting right on top of TOWN DUMPLING.

JC66 9:35 PM  


Good puzzle and a good blog to go with it, but why no comment on your grandmother's favorite cartoon pet? (-:

Orange 10:16 PM  

Jerome stole my comment.

I'm guessing that when Will Shortz, the test-solvers, and the proofreader are checking over the week's puzzles, they try to avoid cluing a word the same way twice, partly in the effort to key difficulty to the day of the week and partly to avoid repetition, giving us one DINO-short-for-dinosaur and one DINO-the-Flintstones'-pet clue this week.

Rex Parker 10:22 PM  

But there are so many other DINOs. Why not go by way of Dean Martin? Or this guy

Anonymous 10:33 PM  

i have never heard the term 'jeremiads', i got it with a lucky guess. can anyone explain it?

Anonymous 10:43 PM  

from my online dictionary (mac widget):

jeremiad |ˌjerəˈmīəd; -ˌad| noun a long, mournful complaint or lamentation; a list of woes. ORIGIN late 18th cent.: from French jérémiade, from Jérémie ‘Jeremiah,’ from ecclesiastical Latin Jeremias, with reference to the Lamentations of Jeremiah in the Old Testament.



Orange 12:35 AM  

Clearly you want data, Rex—cold, hard data. All right: The database shows 31 unique clues for 55 DINO appearances in the puzzles indexed:

The Flintstones' pet 6
Flintstones' pet 5
Flintstone pet 4
Pebbles's pet 3
Producer De Laurentiis 3
Flintstones pet 3
Bedrock pet 3
Pebbles' pet 3
"Serpico" producer De Laurentiis 2
Rat Pack nickname 2
Singer Martin, to friends 1
Classic Ferrari 1
"The Tiger and the Pussycat" director Risi 1
Rat Pack name 1
Film producer De Laurentiis 1
Hollywood producer de Laurentiis 1
Bedrock denizen 1
Pet voiced by Mel Blanc 1
The Flintstones’ pet 1
Pet of the Flintstones 1
T. Rex, e.g. 1
Bedrock barker 1
Bedrock tail-wagger 1
Pet on "The Flintstones" 1
Pet for Pebbles 1
Cartoon Snorkasaurus 1
Pebbles Flintstone's pet 1
"The Flintstones" pet 1
Flintstone family pet 1
Toon snorkasaurus 1
Pebbles' purple pet 1

Restricting our view to just NYT puzzles, we see 16 DINO appearances. The three previous Monday DINOs were all clued as the Flintstones' pet, so the dinosaur clue this past Monday was mixing it up a little. (Variety is good, no?) Tuesday clues: De Laurentiis and Martin. Wednesday: Flintstones and Pebbles. Thursday: De Laurentiis. Friday: Rat Pack name, "The Tiger and the Pussycat" director Risi, De Laurentiis. Saturday: Rat Pack nickname, [Bedrock denizen] (I like that one!). Sunday: Bedrock pet, Flintstones' pet, classic Ferrari.

With some 30,000 clues a year, you ain't gonna love 'em all, but you'll like a lot of them.

P.S. Access to the Cruciverb database is included in the Gold Membership for folks who donate at least $25 a year.

Anonymous 2:33 AM  

This was fun. Catching on to the theme early actually helped. I went through most of this pretty quickly for me. I got hung up in Flordia when I didn't see DEEPSIXED right away and had trouble getting DUMPLING for "cutie pie." In Calif. POINTA and SILENTL felt a little more Saturday than Sunday. Lucky guess of the day was the A in the TUVALU/JEREMIADS crossing. I had no clue about either. Rex is right about picking stuff up as you do more of these. In addition to the ones he listed, things I did not know or wouldn't have picked up on a year ago include UVEA, ALII, XOUT, STDS, REVS, and ERSE.

Alex S. 3:51 AM  

I did not catch on to the theme until I was about 70% done with the puzzle. That's when I got my first theme answer completely. Based on the puzzle title I was trying to add LINGO, which wasn't working out for me.

So, I had A STARLING O-----. Which gave me no choice but to go with I LOVE YOU for the new friend comment, which seemed really forward but on Rock of Love and other online reality dating shows that seems to be how fast it works.

I did like jeremiads even if it took me extra long to see because I always misspell Buddy EBSEN into Buddy Ebson. Apparently I want him to found a printer empire with all his Texas tea profits.

I am proud that my brain immediately knew Queen Noor. I am less proud that it apparently things it is spelled Ngor. I was all set to be impressed by corssing NG-- words.

If a nearby child said LATEN I would probably correct them. But apparently it is correct for me to say call my boss and say "I'm sorry but I'll miss this morning's meeting because traffic is latening me and I was already running late after my wife latened me by turning off the alarm rather than hitting snooze."

Did everybody immediately get USE TAX since it was used and clued similarly a few months ago?

Will someone please send Mr. Shortz an order of take-out shish kabobs so that he can get over the craving and let a bit go without them appearing in the puzzle.

No so familiar with the word ODIUM, so when facing O-IUM ("Dishonor") the only thing I could think of for a while was OpprobrIUM and for a bit feared we were in for the most awkward rebus puzzle of all time.

Anonymous 7:46 AM  

How about "For the nonce"? for the time being

Anonymous 8:32 AM  

Since I am new at this, could someone please translate the following comment from today's blog? "2x best solver" metric (taking the top solver's time from the NYT applet, online). I am a NYT subscriber so I can access NYT Select, but is this information only available via the $39.95 annual subscription? Finally, what does low 14's mean? Thanks.

Anonymous 8:33 AM  

"stasi" -- if you haven't done so, do see the lives of others. it's bound to make a lasting impression.




Rex Parker 9:12 AM  

If you solve the puzzle online ("Against the Clock") you can see a list of solvers and their times off to the right side of the screen.

"2 x best solver metric" is just what it looks like. I double the best solver's time and use that as a measurement of my success; if I'm under that, I feel very good.

Low 14's = Low 14's, i.e. 14 minutes and change.


Anonymous 11:29 AM  

I love it when I do a NYTimes puzzle and one of the clues coincides with something I'm reading. I got the 97D clue on Lydia because I'm halfway through Gore Vidal's historical novel "Creation," which deals with the Persian Empire. I just finished the section on Xerxes as a young man traveling with the fictional narrator from Susa to Lydia.

I got the clue 2 minutes into solving the puzzle, and it was easy going all te way. I didn't even howl at the 96A clue, "Calf feature" as I normally do when I get caught in those cutesy silent letter traps.

Fun puzzle.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

To Orange,

Re: The list you posted for DINO clues. Here's another:

DINO: Democrat In Name Only

That's in the news a lot as is RINO. Wonder why it isn't used.

wendy 12:17 PM  

I'm going to start saying to people that I don't have a 'SQUID INKLING' about something. Just love that answer, although TOWN DUMPLING is indeed a cutie pie.

I think I'm in love with Mike Nothnagel. His puzzles thrill me. Though I had a few missteps I was able to finish on my own with the one exception of the TUVALU/ON THE DL intersection. Just couldn't glean the DL for some reason though now of course it's obvious.

LOL at your comment about I LIKE YOU; I agree I've never said that to a new friend, at least not one that I wanted to remain a new friend ;).

The KILTED answer was funny to me as this past week I was in the Appalachian MTN range on vacation with not-new friends, one of whom is of Scots descent. He can be very dour and testy at times, which some people describe as the 'kilt flying up.' Had never heard that before, but I like it. So Rex they may all wear one but more metaphorically.

As a child of the Nixon administration and thus a Watergate junkie, I was amused to see G. Gordon Liddy now clued as a "radio talker." As opposed to, say, "mastermind of the Watergate break-in." ;)

I agree with jae; I can really see myself either intuiting or outright knowing answers that I would never have gotten when I first started this. It's very gratifying. (At least on a good day.)

Will stop JABBERing now. Fab puzzle, Mike Nothnagel!

Anonymous 1:09 PM  

Could I change the subject for just a minute? Was wondering if anybody out there (hopefully a whole lot of bodies) would be willing to help me out with an issue I'm having with The Cleveland Plain dealer over their refusal to publish the names of the crossword puzzle constructors. They claim I'm the only one who as ever asked them to do it - which is their way of say ing they won't do it. Personally, not knowing the name of the constructor to me is like not knowing the author the book I'm reading. Not to mention that credit ought to be given where credit is due. So . . . would some of you be willing to write to and dkordals @ with a blind copy to me ( I'd really appreciate it. And sorry for horning in on rex's site. - Just sign me a kiltless scott.

Anonymous 1:39 PM  

From this week's Wordsmith. From: John Bonner (johnnybonner
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nonce

Today's word, nonce, did surprise me. For you see, here in England, the
word "nonce" has always been a slang word used both by the police and
their criminal counterparts.

Years ago a nonce was an police informant. A 'grass'.

Sadly, now, a nonce is prison slang for se xual offenders, especially those
who assault children.

Anonymous 3:40 PM  

For those in love with Mike Nothnagel--here's a bit of trivia for you: The name is a German word (spelled the old way) meaning "emergency nail" or "nail in need", used to indicate a last-minute substitute.

wendy 4:50 PM  

Well, now I'm even more in love ;)

Anonymous 5:06 PM  

Never heard of laten but since it is in the dictionary...

gaga and drool seems forced.

Thanks Mr Parker. Because of your Blog I'm doing crosswords again. It helps to go over the answers in a timely fashion and not pay $1.49 a minute.

Anonymous 5:41 PM  

Rex, I thought you were going to comment on EELING. I thought it was kind of cute on top of TOWN DUMPLING (where it unduced a moment of uncertainty), even if Kratsman didn't like it. I loved WILL ALL DEULING RESPECT and laughed out load at it. When we figured out 39A "Load bearer?", my fiancee remembered that she had to put her laundry in the DRYER! Fortunately, a bit later down, she knew NOOR right away. We had lots of fun doing this puzzle.

Anonymous 5:42 PM  


As always, a spectacular effort from Mikey N. The pyrotechnic coup de grace was, in my mind, MILITARYCOUPLING - a fun, homoerotic nugget that left me smiling all day. It's good to see that there are still constructors out there that can warm my "ugh-I-hated-themed-puzzles" heart.

I think you can really see the talent in this Joe Six Pack by checking out the non-theme entries. Few constructors will slave to get Spunk like ONTHEDL, SILENTL, ILIKEYOU, etc. to fit - it takes hard work, and you get paid just the same if you go the REASSESSED, TSETSE, anything goes+ER route instead.


Anonymous 5:58 PM  

Thank you, Janie.

Orange 6:07 PM  

Anon 5:06, you didn't notice Wendy drooling over Nothnagel? She's totally gaga over his puzzling skills.

Kudos to DQ for the phrase, "homoerotic nugget." Way more fun than chicken nuggets!

Anonymous 6:38 PM  

Wasn't Igor Markevitch Ukrainian by birth & ethnicity? Calling him a Russian is like calling an Irishman a Brit...

Spencer 10:52 PM  

I made the mistake of doing the puzzle while sleepy. At my age (half century plus), sleepy equals "nod off randomly". It's hard to focus on a puzzle clue when you keep falling asleep. Finally, I finished, hit "submit", and was not surprised by the "incorrect" raspberry. My daughter then asked me "what's a dryel?" I had put in BABBLE for 15D(BAGR looks as good to me as JAGR). Then when 33A wanted an E, I changed it to BABBE (wrong of course, but I was sleepy), leading to DRYEL (which is a home dry cleaning product, and so could work with the clue.) Of course DRYER and JABBER worked a lot better. :=)

KANJI, on the other hand, was a gimme, due to a year of Japanese language class in grad school.

Anonymous 10:55 PM  

I was feeling guilty about not commenting until 11 pm, but now I'm glad I waited! Wendy's drooling, DQ's strangely flattering's all good.

To Ulrich: Somebody in my family told me that "nagel" did indeed mean "nail", but never got much further with "noth" than an Americanized version of the German word for "with". So when somebody asks me what my name means, I tell them "with a nail" or "using a nail". Not sure how I feel about the connotation of "last-minute substitute".

You're all too kind, as usual, but don't let me stop you.

Until next time...

Anonymous 12:30 PM  

tired of being "Hexed" - three times this week, at least. And "on the DL" could also refer to the homoerotic "on the down low" to men (like Sen. Craig, or Lawrence Olivier) who engage in homosexual acts but "ARE NOT GAY".
And you don't say "I'm out" in Pure Pokerese - I Fold.

Anonymous 3:07 PM  

And you certainly don't say "I'm out" if you're "on the DL"...

One learns so much from these puzzles! ;)

Anonymous 7:59 PM  

Re MILITARYCOUPLING, where have some of you been -- the military has both male and female members -- sorry to burst your bubble, but get informed.

As to NONCE -- prison abbreviation for Not On Normal Courtyard Exercise. British acronym. A period of time for prisoners who are not safe with the main group -- think shiv.

Anonymous 9:06 PM  

Just got online with your blog in the last month while searching for some answers...LOVE IT!

Good comments as STASI as the first word because I watched "The Lives of Others" JUST last night...great rent about that very subject!

Keep up the GW!
Shelton, CT

Eric 4:30 PM  

A little late here, but isn't IMOUT what you say when you're no longer ONTHEDL? :)

Anonymous 6:13 PM  

To Mike Nothnagel (this may be too late to be seen by you): "Noth" is the old spelling of modern "Not" (emergency, dire straits etc). A Notnagel (modern spelling) is a sturdy nail with an eyelet at its head that was carried by firefighters to be used when they were trapped on an upper floor: they could break a window, hammer the nail to the ouside wall and rappel down with rope threaded through the eyelet.

Anonymous 3:10 PM  

Re "I like you" -- I do believe the 7-and-under set still uses this, thankfully.

Anonymous 9:42 PM  

I like how STASI and STACY are in mirror-opposite spots.

Anonymous 12:17 AM  

Really enjoy the blog but I do have to respectfully disagree about a clue you praised - I felt like 96A Calf feature was a poor clue - I think it either needed to be clued as: Calf feature? or, though I think it would've been more awkward, "calf" feature. A silent L is not a feature of a calf, it is a feature of the word "calf", which should be represented as "calf" or the puzzler should be tipped off with the ? at the end.

Anonymous 7:30 PM  

This has been one of the funnest crosswords by Mike Nothnagel. After finishing it, I only had "Kanji" wrong, and that "J" created the word "Jog". I couldn't see that one. But, cute theme. Also, I agree... "Calf feature" should've had a "?" behind it.

Carl 7:59 PM  

Pretty good puzzle. I liked the LINGo theme. I figured it out early and enjoyed solving them. in 69 across, I had "affably" for the longest time and couldn't get anything else to work.

I think that the clue in "Love ___" should have indicated that it was 2 words.

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