SUNDAY, Sep. 2, 2007 - Lee Glickstein and Nancy Salomon

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Put It In Writing" - "IT" is inserted into familiar titles to create a new, silly title, which is clued

[updated / completed 11:00 a.m.]

I liked the puzzle a lot, despite the fact that the theme was Way too easy to get. Once I figured it out (early), I played a little game with myself to see how many crosses I would need to get a theme answer. So I just worked my way down the puzzle, and as soon as I had a few letters in a theme answer, I'd read the clue to see if I could get it. I never needed more than four letters to get a theme answer. Hadn't even heard of one of the authors, but the title was predictable / familiar enough that I got it quickly. Luckily, the theme answers are (mostly) funny enough that I can excuse the super-easiness.

Theme answers:

  • 23A: Quentin Tarantino paperback about a minister's stories? ("Pulpit Fiction")
  • 29A: Randy Shilts expose of an outlaw musician? ("And the Bandit Played On")
  • 57A: Susan Howatch novel about protesting clergy? ("Sit-ins of the Fathers") - this is the author I did not know
  • 82A: Marlo Thomas storybook about liberated vampires? ("Free to Bite You and Me") - by far the best fake title
  • 107A: Grimm Brothers story about a sorry leader, with "The"? ("Pitied Piper of Hamelin")
  • 121A: Shakespearean play about a monarch who writes bad checks? ("Kiting Henry IV")

We have breakfast guests coming over in exactly ten minutes. So I'm posting this now, and will complete it in late morning. I love you guys, but chocolate chip pancakes (and houseguests, I suppose) win out.


And I'm back.

It's a very right-wing puzzle, or Republican at any rate, with Bush (27A: State where Geo. W. Bush was born) and Nixon (80A: Old presidential inits.) and former press secretary ARI Fleischer (40D: Former White House press secretary Fleischer) all making appearances in one way or another. Then there's ABU Ghraib (2D: _____ Ghraib, Iraqi prison), which puts recent Republican policy in a not-so-nice context. I don't think I've seen ABU Ghraib referenced in the puzzle before. It's not very breakfast-tabley, but it's certainly in-the-news enough to be a valid entry.

Had my greatest challenge in the "Utah" region of the puzzle, where lots of unknown names and terms went colliding into each other. I had SSGT for MSGT (52D: Certain NCO) - as of right now, I don't know what MSGT stands for - aha, Master Sergeant. Anyway, changed "S" to "M" when ALARUS made no sense at 51A: Warning signal, once (alarum). MSGT intersected the very unknown (to me) OTOMIS (67A: Mexican Indians), which I was certain was wrong when I first clicked "Done" on the applet. Thankfully, the answer clearly ended in "S," because that "S" was the first letter in a name I did not know: 70D: "Elephant Boy" boy (Sabu), which parallels yet another answer I didn't know / don't understand - 79D: Canon alternative (Mita). Oh, it's a copier brand? OK.

There are very cool vocabulary words in this puzzle, including one of my favorite words in the English language: EPIGONE (119A: Copycat). I use this word when talking about any group of slavish or unimaginative imitators (started using it to describe Chaucer's immediate poetic successors, but it works in lots of contexts). Another fabulous fancy word is PICAYUNE (89A: Piddling) - had that -YUN- run and thought "???" then saw the clue and thought "Damn ... that's hot." It sits above a less pretty word, ERGOT (95A: Rye malady), which longtime readers will recognize as a word I first learned from doing a puzzle about 6 months ago. Lastly, as far as cool vocabulary words go, there's OBLATE, which (because I'm a medievalist by training) I always associate with religious orders, but here's another meaning for my edification (20A: Squeezed at the ends, as leaves).

Clues that gave me pause, confused me, or annoyed me:

  • 22A: Some unwritten rules (oral law) - I have never heard this phrase. I pieced it together from just a few letters, but it's not a term I'm familiar with.
  • 53A: Triangular kerchief (fichu) - Nutso word which I've seen before. Had that final "U" and thought "uh oh," but when I got the initial "F" the word came to me instantly.
  • 128A: Second _____ (banana) - yes, I suppose, though [Top _____] would have been a little more in-the-language (according to Google, almost precisely 3x more in the language).
  • 4D: Red-______ sapsucker (naped) - yikes. Did not know this. NOSED? NAKED? Nope.
  • 6D: Peevish (tetchy) - are you sure this isn't just a hick pronunciation of "touchy," which can also mean "peevish?"
  • 8D: Believer's goal (Mecca) - I was thinking in Way more abstract terms, like NIRVANA or the equivalent.
  • 24D: Bloom of Paris (fleur) - tricky cluing; it's just French for "flower"
  • 86D: Leandro's love (Ero) - Italian version of "Hero and Leander," a poem I know pretty well and teach often. Lacking the initial "H," this one fooled me a bit.

Impressive clues and answers:

  • 1A: Heart of a bus. district (Main St.) - I love the two-wordness, where one word is an abbr. I don't know why. I just do.
  • 76A: Disney movie with a hacker hero ("Tron") - You gotta go back 25 years for this one. Raise your hand if, in desperation, you entered NEMO or LILO.
  • 29D: Little League issue (age limit) - some of those kids look very very post-pubescent. It always seems like cheating when this 5'10" kid with the first traces of a mustache comes out and starts throwing heat at these 4'10" skinny kids who are swimming in their batting helmets. This is a long way of saying, yes, the AGE LIMIT is an issue.
  • 65D: Hunter of literature (Thompson) - a very talented, funny writer. Slightly insane. His name really needs its middle initial to feel complete.
  • 45D: Joyce Carol Oates novel ("Them") - another literary clue; also, a movie about killer ants!

That's it.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Congratulations to Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz for no-hitting the Orioles last night - in only his second major league start (!). After having their asses handed to them by the Yankees, and then losing another ugly one to the Orioles on Friday, the Red Sox really really needed this. He's only 23! Hopefully the Red Sox won't trade this great young pitcher to the Rangers for a redundant closer who screws up team chemistry and nearly single-handedly drives the season into the ground.


Billy Belman 9:49 AM  

was anyone else surprised to see a word (Rye) both in a clue (95A) and on the grid (41D)?

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

Hi Rex,

I agree that it was rather easy today, although that made it easy to make my personal best time of 42 minutes. Stumper area for me was 119A-Copycat. Knew what the answer was but in my rush I misspelled it. Makes it rather difficult to get the 'down' words in that case (smack to the forehead)

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

John Prine has a song on Sabu (Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone).

Anonymous 12:00 PM  

This is the first Sunday puzzle I've loved in a long time. The theme was eminently gettable (Randy Shilts gave it away) but so many of the minor answers brought smiles and exclamations of pleasure, which hasn't happened much of late.

Some major missteps, one which I think is not my fault. I thought the Frasier character was ROS not ROZ. Also had Bitchy for TETCHY and was trying to make King Lear work in 121A for the longest time despite the extra letters. Also was trying for Gregor instead of SERGEI and Mamba or Samba for SALSA. Plus And Cut! instead of And HOW. (I've tried that in the past for a different clue and it wasn't right then, either. Someday ... )

Smiles and exclamations came from:

PEEP for Least complaint;
FLEUR for Bloom of Paris;
SLEEPS for Is out;
EHS for Hardly glowing reviews;
TEA for Social type;
THREES for Crowds, it is said;
AMOEBA for Study in mult. and div.;
TOTO for He was chased by the CL;
TIP for Line just above the total
(TOTAL was also an answer elsewhere, ala RYE mentioned already);
CLOTHIER for One whose work ...
Liked EUR and ENG match-up

Finally, the Pantheon's President OLEO makes an appearance after a long hiatus! Ooo yummy.

Rex Parker 12:06 PM  

I enjoyed a nice OLEO ("Smart Balance," to be precise) on my chocolate chip pancakes this morning. My dog, left unattended when we went outside to play, devoured an entire stick of butter, but apparently couldn't get the lid of the OLEO open - we found the tub still sealed on her dog bed.


Anonymous 12:18 PM  

One of the many advantages of plastics (and plastic food) ;)

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

I got Tron right away. I don't know ANYTHING about this film but I do know that if you're looking for a four letter movie name in a crossword puzzle "Tron" is a pretty darn good bet.
Least favorite clue for me today was 21A: Crumb catchers, often (beards). Ewww. Fortunately I wasn't eating breakfast while I was doing the puzzle.
Mmmmm, whole sticks of butter. My dog loves those, too.

Doug 12:42 PM  

Got about 75% Saturday night with the boys chiming in. MECCA from the 14-year old in about 10 secs. Then TELLALL and ALLIN before he left me to struggle alone. Finished up this a.m. but just couldn't get the area around ALARUM for some reason.

Nice puzzle, funny week, really need palette-cleansing Monday grid now.

GaryB 12:44 PM  

Regarding Buchholz..who was the Red Sox rookie pitcher who lost a no hitter in the ninth inning on opening day in 1967 in the House that RUTH built? You know Ruth, he was the guy responsible for the Red Sox curse.

C zar 12:50 PM  

Loved the use of ALARUM, frequently seen in stage directions in some editions of Shakespeare, as in "Alarum. Enter FALSTAFF, solus" in Henry IV.

Great new words for me, FICHU and EPIGONE (which sounds like a play by Euripides), both of which I had to look up to make sure I was correct.

Had to satisfy my curiosity with PICAYUNE, since it also is in the name of a New Orleans newspaper, the Times-Picayune. If Wikipedia is to be believed, the paper originally cost only one picayune, a Spanish coin worth only about six cents, and from which we also get the sense of something "trivial."

Chocolate chip pancakes? YUM!

Anonymous 12:56 PM  

Couldn't get the DONEN EPIGONE crossing as I knew neither. Just left my SSGT in place, figuring ALARUS was some form I didn't know. Nice combo Mexican references: SALSA TABASCO and OTOMIS. It dawned on me that while I know all the Canadian provinces, I know about two of the Mexican states. Didn't know that EDAM wrap was paraffin. Enjoyed the "Became fuly evident" clue for SANKIN. Does ".....BITE....ME" pass the breakfast table test?

Anonymous 1:22 PM  

Knew TETCHY was what the author wanted because of all the crosses but swore it was slang until I looked ut up in my Webster's Unabridged and there it was, exactly as clued. Dict also offered alt spelling of TECHY. Look for that soon in an NYT Xword.

Alex S. 1:29 PM  

The applet screwed me in the NE corner. I assume this happens for everybody but maybe it is my browser but the applet doesn't handle special characters, instead displaying a question mark. Not generally a problem since most of the time the special character is in the middle of the word or dropping the final character is nonsensical. Not so with 25A where "Expose" became "Expos?" so I was looking for a punny answer related to the former Montreal baseball team or trade fairs.

NW corner was also a problem because instead of MAIN ST. I had WALL ST. which was thrown into doubt when I had --TCHY and could only assume somehow BITCHY was in the puzzle (I'm not familiar with tetchy as a word).

I did find the theme generally easy but had trouble with PITIED PIPER OF HAMELIN because my first downs were the PER part and I decided the story in question must be the emperor's new clothes so pre-filled EMPEROR. Took a while for that to fall by the wayside.

Anonymous 1:59 PM  

More from Emily Latella:

MANNA instead of MECCA
FRO (afro) for MOP

But at least I didn't come up with a word like BALKY (whatsup with that?)

grouchonyy 2:34 PM  

The pitcher was Billy Rohr (and this from a Yankee fan since the game was against the Yankees. Horace Clarke specialized in breaking up no-hitters.....and speaking of no hitters, what is the expalnation of 58down "ooo"?

Anonymous 3:07 PM  

Glad you were amused by the theme, Rex. The seed entry was the classic opus on waterway pollution--and a perfect (21)--SPITOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY. But Will said no because it was too controversial. (Either that, or it's spelled SPITTOON:)

Alex S. 3:21 PM  

OOO is a winning combination in tic-tac-toe.

Orange 3:25 PM  

Alex, it's not just you in the applet. Peter Ritmeester, the Dutch tech guy who's in charge of the applet, has been notified and says he'll get it fixed.

What's with all these pottymouths trying to fit BITCHY into the grid? I betcha anything bitch-related is too vulgar for the Gray Lady (or the Gray Bitch, as you'd think the anti-"liberal media" types would call it).

Anders Weinstein 3:26 PM  

Boy was I happy filling in "Pulpit Fiction" and "And the Bandit Played On" on the empty grid, with "Kiting Henry IV" following after confirming a few crosses. "Free to Bite..." held me up because I didn't think of inserting in the middle and changing the sound. And like Rex, I never heard of Howatch.

However, I find it anticlimactic to have to finish a puzzle after all the theme answers are filled in. In some sense I think of getting the theme entries as the goal I am working towards.

My real question: can someone please explain "Roz" for "Love Child?"

Anonymous 4:21 PM  

A fun puzzle. My only hangup was the EPIGONE/DONEN crossing. Fortunately my "O" guess was right.

Anders -- 100a is EROS (love child) 102a is ROZ (Frasier character).

Anonymous 4:22 PM  

Sorry, I meant my "N" guess.

fergus 4:33 PM  

I was going to guess Jim Lonborg for the Red Sox ace of 1967, who presumably would have started the first game. That was the first pennant race I truly followed, and it was spellbinding. Suburban Chicago boy I was a White Sox fan at the time, and they crumbled on the last weekend. Anyone remember who the White Sox pitcher was who threw a no-hitter late in the season against the Detroit Tigers? In my first decade of baseball the Yankees were nearly irrelevant, though I did get to see Mickey Mantle hobble around. Also saw Koufax's last regular season game at Wrigley, which I think was that year as well. Clemente and Bob Gibson were also especially memorable, as was Frank Robinson at Comiskey. Sorry, non-baseballers, I'll move on.

EPIGONE was completely foreign to me, but it's such a good word that I'll just have to slip it in at a dinner party tonight. It has the connotation of being a cheap, crappy imitation according to the dictionary I used to confirm the pieced-together answer.

OBLATE spheroid is a term that's stayed with me since elementary school. ORAL LAW seemed sort of weak, or is this actually a term people actually use?

An excellent week just concluded for the constructors, Will Shorz and the NYT.

fergus 5:17 PM  

Anyone know how the New Orleans newspaper "The Times-PICAYUNE" got its name? That's gotta be the least pretentious newspaper name around.

Anonymous 6:17 PM  

I was reluctant to fill in "oral law" for 22 across even though it was my first guess. As I am only familiar with it as one of the terms for the Talmud in Jewish Law, I thought it must be wrong. However, as i got more of the downs, I realized my first hunch was correct.

Alex S. 6:23 PM  

In an expansion of the current ban on the use of trans fats by New York City restaurants, the New York City Department of Health has extended the ban to include the major daily newspapers making it the farthest reaching fat-related public health law in the nation.

The dailies, most of which supported to the original ban now find themselves on the other side of the regulatory forces. Will Shortz, editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle responded "Sure, you can make cookies that taste just as good without using margarine but with a ban on oleo we may never get a full week's worth of crosswords produced ever again."

wendy 6:33 PM  

myron poindexter ... bwahahaha. Who were you before yesterday? If you can reveal that.

Anonymous 6:45 PM  

Wendy --


Anonymous 8:54 PM  

re:pottymouths... I think if NYT can get away with 'Live Transexually: As-A-Man', then 'Bitchy' shouldn't be a big deal.

Anonymous 8:58 PM  

I loved discovering the word Epigone. I remember reading Antigone as a freshman, about the same time I discovered the Weather Report album "Mr. Gone". I worried that reading Anti-gone while listening to Mr. Gone would cause some sort of explosion. I really expected epigone to be pronounced "eh-PIG-oh-nee"...

Orange 9:38 PM  

Anon 8:54, it's not as if transsexuals are vulgar. The word "bitch," however, is defined as offensive. There's a difference between human diversity and misogynist cussing.

Alex wins for the oleo story! Good one.

Fergus, someone at the NYT forum said the Picayune newspaper originally cost a picayune, some small coin of the time.

Anonymous 9:45 PM  

I was determined that The Boys in the Band was somehow going to fit for 29A. That threw me off until I finally remembered the title of Shilts' book. Had fun doing today's puzzle whilr trying to watch the US Open at the same time.

PuzzleGirl 10:56 PM  

Grew up on "Free to Be..." so 82A gave me the theme. (Whenever I think of that album I hear Mel Brooks saying "Bald, bald, bald. You're bald as a ping-pong ball, are you bald!") Had to look up EPIGONE and now love that word. Also wanted to pronounce it like Antigone. The reason I had such trouble with it was 120D. Can someone explain PRO for "backing"?

Anonymous 11:17 PM  

Puzzlegirl, if you're for something you're PRO as opposed to ANTI. So if you're PRO gay marriage then you are backing it. Does this help?

Anonymous 1:57 AM  

Orange: I find discussions of sexual behavior in my crosswords to be vulgar, whether those behaviors are diverse or otherwise. And in my mind, the "b" word, especially in the context of a verb or adverb, can be applied to either gender (so there were no mysogynistic intentions on my part, ladies). I (a male) have been guilty many times of being bitchy. But, you are right - it doesn't belong in the grid. I was more complaining about the former than defending the latter.

Anonymous 6:44 AM  

the breakfast rule I understand but the Sunday is more of a brunch puzzle so can incorporate the slightly risque

Orange 12:27 PM  

Anon, somebody who happens to be transsexual isn't engaging in any sexual behavior merely by living AS A MAN. Unless putting pants on is inherently sexual, in which case...

I like roro's brunch flexibility!

PuzzleGirl 9:40 PM  

jae, Thank you! I knew I'd feel stupid as soon as someone explained it to me. I kept thinking backing was a noun and referred only to the financial (so my answer would be, e.g., sponsorship). Then, when the answer was PRO I could only think it was short for PROFESSIONAL, since I was already down the financial path and, well, you can see where I would be confused. Thanks again!

Kate 11:01 PM  

I just got around to working this Sunday's puzzle. Aside from Epigone, I did okay - loved 82A, too.

Nobody's noted the confluence of 41D (TUNAONRYE) and 95A (ERGOT), though... great to have ergot on rye. Very nice.

Anonymous 8:30 PM  

I, for one, am very happy to have tyhe Rex Parker site as a resource.
It is great to visit after completing the puzzle to see how Rex progressed to the same end point I did. Our paths are never the same.

Anonymous 5:31 PM  

Of course, I'm a week late because I live in the sticks of Alaska. "Tetchy" was used by the Nurse in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. She is describing Juliet when she was being weaned.

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