THURSDAY, Sep. 6, 2007 - Daniel C. Bryant

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: "IT'S REVERSED" (58A: Hint to 17-, 28- and 43-Across) - familiar phrases have "IT" reversed somewhere inside them, creating crazy new phrases, which are clued

This puzzle brutalized me. I couldn't get going at all, and even when I was done I felt like I hadn't made any headway at all. Every single part of the puzzle felt like work. Problems started in the NW where SCOTS (1A: Burns's tongue) was a gimme, as was TRIB (4D: Old New York paper, for short), but I wrote in SHIRT for 1D: Kind of tank (S.C.U.B.A.), and then RAMBLE for 20A: "Blah blah blah blah blah" (babble). Similar disasters followed. I think this Thursday took me longer than any Thursday I've done in a good long while. Not that there's not a lot to like about the puzzle; there is - it just felt deliberately Hard.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Wardrobe malfunction? (untied front)
  • 28A: Mood after a military victory? (martial bliss)
  • 43A: Where porcine pilots arrive? (landing sties) - figured out STIES immediately but could not for the life of me figure out a phrase that went _____ SITES. "Landing" - it's so basic. Ugh.
There were very few gimmes for me in this puzzle, and then ones I got were odd. I mean, ANTONIONI (11D: Director Michelangelo)? ADESTE (29D: Carol starter)? Those are weird, longish words to be gimmes. But when it comes to small words, damn, this puzzle was cruel. I think ICU (60A: Hospital dept.) was about the only short gimme I had. I'm exaggerating, perhaps, but not by much. Here are some examples of how I tripped all over the short stuff:

  • 16A: 3.2 million-member org. with a pi in its logo (NEA) - a familiar abbreviation, but this bit little factoid was unknown to me. Mmmm, pi.
  • 11A: Camel's end? (ash) - aargh! Tried to think of a suffix. Camel ... ite? Camel ... well, there's another three-letter word that occurred to me, but which clearly would not pass the breakfast table test. Finally, I decided to write in ELL. Clever, right? Right? Come on!
  • 19A: Atlantic City hotel, informally, with "the" ("Taj") - lots of casino names came to mind; this was not one of them. That "J"! The cross didn't help me, as it was equally exotic and out of my comfort zone: 13D: Muslim honorific (Haji).
  • 23A: "_____ Time" (1952 million-selling Eddie Fisher hit) ("Any") - such a little word, yet so much trouble for me. The crosses were all eluding me (see my NW problems, above). I actually had CRAIG for CONAN (2D: First name in late-night), and the phrasing on the clue 3D: Over near (out by) just made my head hurt. Had no idea what kind of phrase it was going for.
  • 48A: Grand Canyon area (rim) - come on! This is very true, and yet of course I was looking for something much more specific; a proper noun, perhaps.
  • 8D: Nickname among major-league sluggers (A-Rod) - again, the phrasing threw me. Sounds like the the "nickname" is something that (only) sluggers use, like it's specifically slugger lingo, as opposed to the nickname that Everyone calls that jerk.
  • 44D: "_____ U" ("I Luv") - yeah, how about "I OBJECT!" - does the appearance of a phrase on a candy heart make it valid crossword fill? Apparently.
  • 52D: "Cross the Brazos at _____" (1964 country hit) ("Waco") - my first guess. A flat-out guess, and one I second-guessed a Lot. Would have helped if I could have figured out its neighbor, 51D: Smooth (glib). I had SLIM (?) and so ... I don't really want to think about it. Even LAO was a struggle, in that I put it in and thought "that ... doesn't look like a word" (57A: Certain southeast Asian). This struggle in the SW made me lose all the joy I might have had at seeing BOS (63A: A.L. city, on scoreboards) in the puzzle.
  • 49D: Anatomical passages (iters) - tough but fair; common late-week crossword fill. Still - not easy without some crosses.
  • 42A: Estuaries (rias) - like ITERS, a tough word that lives almost exclusively in crosswords.

Again, I'm not complaining about (most of) those answers - just trying to explain why the solving experience felt like it took a ton of effort. Had a real problem with people's names as well, several of which I (guess what?) had never heard of. The worst of these was 28D: Late editorial cartoonist Bill (Mauldin). It would be tough enough for me to name a living "editorial cartoonist" ... come to think of it, I can't name ANY off the top of my head. So ... MA-LDIN stared at me til the bitter end. But wait, you ask, didn't you have INHUMAN in the cross? That would have given you the "U" - puzzle done! Uh, no. Why? Well, because I know lots of people who TOIL, but virtually no one who @#$#@$-ing MOILs (37D: Work hard). This gave me INH-TAN for 36A: Beastly. I don't even like recalling it now, in the pale light of morning.

Other names I had trouble with:

  • 33D: Eleanor Roosevelt's first name (Anna) - had no idea
  • 51A: Early English actress Nell _____ (Gwyn) - once I got the "WY" part, I realized I had heard of this person before. Still, that took a while.
  • 5D: Artist Frank _____, pioneer in Minimalism (Stella) - thank god for various art books I've read and museums I've visited in recent years. Somehow, with just a couple crosses, this guy's name popped into my head out of nowhere. Stella!
  • 22D: Emmy-winning Phil (Silvers) - before my time, but familiar enough

STENOG is possibly the ugliest "word" I've ever seen (25D: Trial position, for short). Lastly, I would call an AGNOSTIC (38D: Doubter) someone who doesn't know, rather than someone who doubts (that person, I'd call a SKEPTIC!!). Word derives from Greek: Agnostos = "ignorant"; gnosis = "knowledge." A woman I know well and love a lot used to call AGNOSTICs "chickensh-t atheists." If you knew this woman, it would make you laugh to imagine such language coming out of her mouth. The kindest, most generous woman I know ... just don't get her started on religion, please.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Great new vintage paperback covers (and commentary) at "Pop Sensation"


ScottK 8:54 AM  

Let me register a complaint about STENOG (d25), which I believe is another bogus abbreviation.

Orange 9:18 AM  

Bill Mauldin won the Pulitzer—twice. Sure, he first gained fame during World War II, but he kept at it until 1991. Maybe his name was a gimme for me because he cartooned for the Chicago Sun-Times for many years? Anyway, check out the cartoon hew drew when JFK was assassinated, showing the Lincoln Memorial grieving. Brilliant conceit.

I'll bet some mohels work hard.

Orange 9:18 AM  

(He, not hew. My fingers were planning ahead for drew.)

Anonymous 9:36 AM  

SOLI plural of SOLO was a new one for me.

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

I moiled over this puzzle for a long time. Phil Silvers won an Emmy? I might have figured that out faster but that I was thinking of "Grammy" although reading "Emmy." Try as I might I could not see Phil Silvers in a musical. But I stuck the name in there anyway to see how it worked. And it did.
Lately when I finish the puzzle my husband asks, "What does Rex say?"

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

A clue I liked: "Start of a musical scale" - CDE (21A). A departure from conventional musical clues as well as "alphabet trio" clues.

I messed around a lot in the NW before it finally fell. Embarrassing, because I live on an urban cul-de-sac with "Court" in the name.

Anonymous 10:11 AM  

I agree totally with your "challenging" rating for this puzzle. (Now how many will write in saying that Saturday's puzzle was so much harder than today's?!) I still can't really make out pi in this logo.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

Hey, Matt. Thanks for posting the logo link! Pi is inside the E along with what appears to be a paper airplane.

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

A BAT was the only gimme on the first pass through. I felt blind as one the rest of the way.

And after all that work to get them, the jokes were real groaners.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

Today will go down in history as the day my first answer and gimme was ANTONIONI. Love that! Lots of great words like ANALOGOUS and ENDEAVORS. I was torn between Craig and CONAN too and basically had to google Eddie Fisher's song (because nothing he ever did is even remotely on my radar screen besides his various romances) to figure out which it was gonna be.

Orange 10:33 AM  

Omigod, they stabbed pi! Call 911.14159 now!

Anonymous 10:43 AM  

I also moiled over this puzzle. The SE fell first, working off UBOATS, which gave me MSDOS and then (with a groan) RIM. But, I then couldn't move out of the SE and had to start over elsewhere. The fact that I had ITARS instead of ITERS left me without ITSREVERSED for far longer than I should have, making the themed words difficult to figure out. Oh, well. On to Friday.

Anonymous 10:48 AM  

Had "David" for "Conan" and toughed out the rest until pigs flew.

Anonymous 11:07 AM  


It's nice to know that I wasn't the only one tortured by this "INHUMAN" puzzle. I almost gave up. Started last night but decided to try again this morning. "Moil" was my last answer, didn't want to give up toil but knew it had to be inhuman. When I filled in the "m", I still didn't like it but knew it was a word but never recalled that it meant work hard. I won't forget it now for all the hard work I put into it. I'd say I took my forty from the lash with dignity and pain.

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

MOIL was a killer; I too was stuck at INH_TAN. Also started with DONAHUE instead of SILVERS. Theme answers fell pretty easily, but the short fill was brutal!!

I won't bother mentioning my first instinct for the 4-letter fill for "___ U".... :)

Anonymous 11:22 AM  

29D The first thing that came to mind was OH COME. Right song, wrong language.
For 22D I guessed DONAHUE. 21A A DO (a scale - a do), but only for a sec. When 7D MARCHED IN, A marched out.
I'm really curious to know how long was a long struggle for minutes instead of three?

Norrin2 11:32 AM  

I think the only place I've seen the word "moil" before today was in Robert W. Service's great poem "The Cremation of Sam McGee" which starts off:

"There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee."

Great poem -- even if I'm still not sure what a "marge" is.

Anonymous 11:33 AM  

This makes up for yesterday's easy one and last week's easy Thursday. MAULDIN was a gimme but I think its probably age related. Charles Shultz used to have Snoopy quaff root beers with him around Veterans Day. STENOG is just plain ugly! I'm not sure how UNTIEDFRONT is a wardrobe malfuction, seems more like a come on. Should 55a have read World War II? Craig is definitely funnier than Conan and thus rates the clue. Not a pleasant puzzle for me.

Anonymous 12:40 PM  

55a - "Threats to World War shipping" is legit. The Lusitania was sunk by a U-boat in 1915.

Orange 12:40 PM  

Pete M, I had the same thought for 18-Down, ["___ me"]!

I could see how an untied front for a hospital gown could be a horrible wardrobe malfunction.

Anonymous 12:41 PM  

"Marge" is just poetic for "margin." Nothing to do with good old oleo.

Bill Mauldin created the immortal sad-sack GIs Willie and Joe in his WWII cartoons. Two movies featuring these guys were "Up Front" and "Back at the Front" based on collections of Mauldin's work.

PuzzleGirl 12:56 PM  

Orange: Thanks for the link to Mauldin's JFK assassination cartoon. I got goose-bumps looking at it.

Anonymous 1:16 PM  

I think my problem is that I don't remember seeing World War in caps without a I or II following it.

Anonymous 1:31 PM  

How soon we forget. UNTIEDFRONT is clearly a reference to Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction of what - 2 superbowls ago? I thought it was a great clue/answer.

DONALD 1:48 PM  

Is the reason you refer to A-Rod as a jerk due to your infatuation with that team that wanted him and didn't get him, or is it because you feel he has some character flaw, which would certainly be forgiven if he were on the "right" team?

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

Yes, we remember JJ's wardrobe malfunction...but I wondered where the irony would be positioned--in relation to what's-his-name's usage, which was quite transparent feint or in relation to the idea that the armoire might not be working properly (for example). I thought LOOSE HINGES perhaps...

Anonymous 1:57 PM  

I dunno, the nickname A-Rod sounds more like something you'd shout at a taxi driver who just soaked you with a mud puddle...

Anonymous 1:57 PM  

Seeing AROD, MARIS and BOS in the same puzzle was a bit rough on this Mariners fan.

I didn't find it as difficult as many of you (which is highly unusual), probably due to long gimmes (MAULDIN, MARCHIN, ANTONIONI), a lucky stab on INHUMAN based on DIAL, getting the theme fairly quickly (SE was first complete quadrant to fall), and remembering a recent "____PLEX" discussion in these comments.

But, I flubbed the NE. Even with a pretty sure feeling about TAJ and ASH, I was miles away from NEA, had no clue on HAJI, and I guess I was brain-dead about SEAL.

This latter lapse could have been because "Cross the Brazos at WACO" (1964) got me humming first "Ferry 'Cross the Mersey" (1965), then "Many Rivers to Cross" (1969).

PuzzleGirl 2:01 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
PuzzleGirl 2:02 PM  

I think Rex refers to A-Rod as a jerk because A-Rod is a jerk. (P.S. I'm a Yankees fan.)

Chip Ahoy 2:13 PM  

Good one. Me like.

Howard B 2:47 PM  

The clues for the regular words and abbreviations didn't throw me for a loop as much as all those names did. I don't think I had known or heard of any one of the ones mentioned. It's always cool to see what in people's knowledge led to their 'gimme's. For me, taking any one letter out of MAULDIN or ANOTONIONI pretty much made them a guessing game on the crosses, although I have to admit the latter is a pretty fun name. I don't want to finish saying it, much like a little kid first learning to say 'banana'. Antonionionioni...

I can only hope that the next time those names come up (in a puzzle, reading, or conversation), I can remember them.
Antonioni...sono buoni!

fergus 3:22 PM  

You want a slugger jerk? How about the Giants' number 25? A-ROD is a jovial prince compared to this Camel-ending. For quite some time in Northern California there was at least some comity among the Giants and the A's and their fans. Recall the 1989 Series when lots of people wore split loyalty caps? As an A's fan, perhaps my revulsion to Mr. Bonds is due to the Sox-Cubs, Yankees-Mets type of regional rivalry that has arisen for reasons that may have something to do with inter-league play, SBC Park, or who knows why? Only a fraction of my dislike could arise from that, though, since the guy is, and has been since he arrived in San Francisco, completely ungracious, with his arrogance untempered with any hint of personality. Even the 756 celebrations revealed not a speck of humility amid the canned appreciation of the SF fans. He's almost in the same category as Ty Cobb. OK, that's enough. I actually like the Yankees (and ARod) despite many of the instincts that ought to make me despise the organization. A friend brought me back a Red Sox cap from her recent trip to Boston, so that has determined my affiliation in the AL East for the rest of the year.

All right, this is a Crossword blog, and I am in the distinct and unusual minority of those who breezed through this puzzle. MARTIAL BLISS pretty much gave it away -- scant further reason to look for a rebus. The longer clues just dropped in, as they do sometimes when you're thought process is ANALOGOUS to the constructor's. I only knew MOIL from what I thought to be the Bris surgeon, but that could be hard work but not Work hard. And despite all the BABBLE about things baseball I had to muddle more over Roger MARIS than any other clue. I wasn't even bothered by STENOG, since I have a benighted poet friend who decided to be one (his term), long after it seemed there was little future in the profession.

Anonymous 3:25 PM  

Howard, check out Blow-up, 1966. You'll never forget ANTONIONI. I recently rewatched it; it's quite dated, but definitely a flick of a certain time. (That would be the Johnson Administration ... )

Anonymous 3:30 PM  

To howard b

ANTONIONIONIONI -- I relate. At the local drive-thru SBucks, I started ordering a Doppio Macchiato Nonfatio. The "nonfat" portion seemed incomplete and insufficiently Italian. Within a month, all the baristas were saying nonfatio.

Anonymous 3:33 PM  

I'm agnostic, I suppose, on A ROD. The one I really really hate is Derek Jeter. Ick, even just the sound of his name. Was raised a Red Sox fan and suffered thru 86; but have become a rabid Cubs fan. There's an affinity there, if you think about it (or there was until 2004).

MOIL messed me up really badly, too, not to mention that I only know this word as its homophone-- A MOYL or MOHEL is one whose MOIL is to perform circumcision. So once I had to have the M for INHUMAN the cross had a sort of unintentional dark humor.

Anonymous 4:36 PM  

Thanks Orange for the link to Mauldin. I enjoyed looking at all the cartoons. Most apt for today's war is the one with the caption:

"Know any good Moslem prayers? I don't wanna miss any bets."

: )

Anonymous 4:53 PM  

"Stenog" predates "steno."

Here's a mystery: why is James Montgomery Flagg, with an extensive filmography including The Stenog, only known as an illustrator? His "Uncle Sam Wants You" is certainly more enduring than his contributions to early films, but his online bios lack even a mention of cinema.

Anonymous 5:41 PM  

I had a horrible time too with the NW corner. I forgot that I, too, lived on a culdesac with a COURT name. I kept trying to get septic tank into a five letter space, and I wanted jabber for babble (remember Jabber Jaw?)

I did like the return to the pun/rebus theme answers, after the so-so themes earlier this week.

I will remember the difference between EXTENTS vs extants for the next puzzle.

Anonymous 5:58 PM  

Yeah, today's puzzle went easily for me too, Fergus, because there are days when one answer seems to open up the puzzle. 28A did it for me. Being a senior helped me recognize Bill Mauldin--I remember his scruffy G.I.s.


Anonymous 6:05 PM  

Just like many others, I struggled with this one. At one point I looked at the timer and saw 9 minutes had lapsed and I had way more blank than fills. Ugh.'

I kept telling myself that this is a Thursday puzzle, so I should be able to finish this.

Well, I did - after about 30 minutes with tons of guesses.

So, a good puzzle. Just surprisingly difficult for a Thursday. I'll take it.


Anonymous 7:27 PM  

My recollection of the JJ incident was that part of her outfit was ripped off, not UNTIED. That fact that Orange had to dig so deep for an UNTIED FRONT example (hospital gown) shows how iffy the clue is.

BT 9:30 PM  

Yup, the pi is inside the E... getting shot by an arrow. Kinda indicative of how math learning is going in our wonderfully unionized "can't fire the deadwood" teaching system fueled by the NEA.

PuzzleGirl 9:39 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 8:56 AM  

to mary -- and yeah, i'm a day late, so i know i'm takin' my chances that you'll see this, but... re:

" Phil Silvers won an Emmy? I might have figured that out faster but that I was thinking of "Grammy" although reading "Emmy." Try as I might I could not see Phil Silvers in a musical."

phil silvers won an emmy for his role as sergeant bilko (50s tv...); and/but yes -- he was also in several broadway musicals (tony award territory) -- notably high button shoes, do re mi, top banana and a funny

not too shabby a career!



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