WEDNESDAY, Sep. 5, 2007 - Richard Silvestri

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: An "idle question" ... (?)

Well, after yesterday's befuddling theme, today we get a straightforward quip. It's sort of cute, I guess. It's just, well..

OK, first, here's the "idle question" in question:

  • 21A: Start of an idle question - IF VEGETARIANS EAT
  • 42A: Middle of the question - VEGETABLES WHAT DO
  • 60A: End of the question - HUMANITARIANS EAT?

My answer: many humanitarians are also vegetarians. And vegetarians eat way more than just vegetables. And non-vegetarians also eat vegetables. . . I'm sorry, did you just want me to say "humans?"

The question was very easy to get, with huge chunks of it being inferrable even before the whole thing came together; the WHAT DO part of line 2, for instance, or the EAT part of line 3 - both clear once you get the phrasing of the question from the first line. VEGETABLES was pretty easy to infer as well. And since none of the non-theme fill was very tricky, this puzzle went down fast.

Looking at the rest of the puzzle, I hardly have anything to say. The most vivid answers in the grid are 27D: Language from which "safari" comes (Swahili) and 40A: Ruby's victim (Oswald), both of which are undermined somewhat by being gimmes - though I will admit that I could actually hear my brain churning on the Ruby clue - "... searching for people named Ruby ... OK ... know it has something to do with JFK ... OK ... assassin's name was what now? ... Oh yeah, right." Whole process probably took three seconds, but I could feel myself, physically, thinking about it. It was like I was waiting for some fortune-telling machine at the fair to spit out the answer.

Since when is a 5A: Bit of broccoli a SPEAR? Asparagus comes in SPEARs. Broccoli pieces = florets. I'm pretty sure. Well, about half a million Google hits tell me that "Broccoli spears" is in fact an in-the-language phrase. I concede this one.

Some familiar and not-so-familiar names in the puzzle today. Not surprisingly, I didn't know the science-related name, but got the (high-culture) art and (low-culture) music name.

  • 15A: _____ Turing, the Father of Computer Science (Alan) - I like how "Father" is capitalized, like he's God. Or a god, anyway.
  • 6D: Painter Mondrian (Piet) - love his aesthetic, though it looks like any fifth-grader with a steady hand could paint what he paints. I'm pretty sure that's not true.
  • 74A: "Bang Bang" singer, 1966 (Cher) - yeah! That's what I'm talkin' about! Bring on the pop culture cheese. More more more.

Used to play Canasta like crazy on cross-country family vacations, so even though I haven't played in over 20 years, 25A: Canasta plays (melds) came to me pretty quickly. Love the Double-Dogness of 51A: Rover's pal (Fido) and 13D: Hammett pooch (Asta), though having ASTA and ESTA (7D: Is, to Isabella) in the same grid is, well, a bit like having ISLE (71A: Tropical spot) and AISLE (16A: Usher's domain) in the same grid. Not so pleasing. By the way, [Usher's domain] should have been MODERN R&B or SLO JAMS. Which reminds me: PHAT (14D: Excellent, slangily)?! I wonder when the NYT will realize that the term is already dated? Considering that the puzzle still gets a lot of mileage out of NEATO, my guess is: a long time from now.

I would like all four-letter eye-related clues to be IRIS. All the time. I couldn't even tell you what a UVEA is. Lastly, I have zero idea what to make of 64D: "_____ corny ..." ("I'm as..."). Change the "C" to an "H" and the phrase might start to have some sort of meaning.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 8:00 AM  

I'm as corny as..........Kansas in August

Anonymous 8:03 AM  


I'm as corny as Kansas in August...

ScottK 8:18 AM  

Besides, if the clue was "________ horny" the temptation would be to fill in MESO.

Anonymous 8:27 AM  

Uvea is the Latin word for grape. If we think of the eye as a hollow, fluid-filled, 3-layered ball, then the outer layer is the sclera, a tough coat, the innermost is the retina, the thin light-gathering layer, and the middle layer is the Uvea. The Uvea is made up of the iris, the ciliary body and the choroid.

Anonymous 9:02 AM  

The uvea is the blind spot, where the retina devolves into a "black hole", and "I'm as corny as Kansas in August" is the start of the song "A Wonderful Guy" from "Oklahoma"

Rex Parker 9:12 AM  

OK, I'm now going to count how many times people answer the "corny" question. So far there are three comments and two private emails that have done this. I will give you a complete tally later. I want to say "why don't people read the comments?" but then again, there are a lot of them, so perhaps it can feel a bit onerous.


Orange 9:13 AM  

I wonder how many careless readers filled in "ME SO corny."

Anonymous 9:28 AM  

Man, I read "USHER'S DOMAIN" and immediately typed in RANDB and I was sooooo proud of myself.

Crap. That's the last time I try to get clever.

Alan Turing is the one who came up with the Turing test. That is, if someone were to send/type questions to someone/thing hidden behind a screen, and the person sending the questions could not tell whether the answers were coming from a person or a computer, then if that "person" was a computer, you could say it passed the Turing test. (I hope I remember that correctly.)


Anonymous 9:32 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle, maybe because I'm too busy to solve the really challenging ones without cheating these days. Was tickled to get 10D because it felt like I was reaching back to first grade history. Also liked "Antelope's playmate" from a song that we learned in grade school.
I will add a comment on "I'm as corny as," as it befuddled me as well. I didn't know the song from Oklahoma! off hand, but I thought of the words from another Rogers and Hammerstein song--"It might as well be Spring" and went from there.
Note to Orange in reply to a question she posted yesterday (which I read this morning). Webster's unabridged lists *loathe* as a variant of the adjective *loath*.

Anonymous 9:57 AM  

I'm far less grumpy about today's puzzle, which at least made sense, but I also note that breakfast bled over from yesterday with "low fat breakfast dish". Now, I thought of a million items, but MELON was not on my initial list. First, melon is a piece of fruit, not a "dish" which to me means something one put together from diverse ingredients. Second, why melon in particular, as opposed to all the other low fat things, including every fruit on the planet, that would also qualify? I'm just not thrilled with that particular clue.

Anonymous 10:01 AM  

A couple other things.

Broccoli does indeed come in both florets and spears. The florets are the individual pieces from the end of the stalks. Spears are part of the stem with the floret attached - you can buy frozen Broccoli spears.

I'm surprised no one has commented on the crossing of EVEL and EVIL. I'm not sure how I feel about it. Sort of clever, but also an unusual use of pretty much the same word twice.

Anonymous 10:46 AM  

"I'm as corny as Kansas in August.." is from "South Pacific", not "Oklahoma"..."I'm in love with a wonderful guy, etc."

JC66 11:09 AM  


Count me in on IM AS corny (-:

South Pacific was the first B'Way show I saw. Starred your friend Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin.

Also, liked the EVEL/EVIL crossing.

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

one...broccoli spear

A lot on one's plate!?

I liked SCRAP on top of TRASH, FIDO near his LEASH, and another opportunity to spell ISAIAH correctly.

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

To me, this puzzle evokes a bucolic life in which deer, eagles and steer mingle with moo cows. Hay gets into bales, aspic is home-made and larvae invade the trash looking for corn meal and scraps from the farmer's meal.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

Also nobody is obese as they favor melon over potatos.

Unknown 1:53 PM  

I am a Monday through Thursday solver. I admire those who can blame the editor and author for a bad theme, such as "a lot on ones plate." I always assume that I am too dumb to see the cleaver connection so I turn to this blog to straighten me out.

I agree today's puzzle was well done. I am still puzzled by comments that suggest using "me so corny". Where does that come from? It escapes me.

I cannot not mention that I recall Mary Martin singing "I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy" on stage in the original production of "South Pacific" back in the 50's. I saw a lot of great shows in those days.

Anonymous 2:25 PM  

Me so horny. I'm as crabby as Rex in September.

fergus 2:29 PM  

PIET Mondrian is the rare painter who comes off worse in a museum than in an Art History book. His works look washed out, blotchy and lifeless on the actual canvas, but seem much more alive in (airbrushed?) reproductions. Well, that's my opinion having seen about a dozen in various museums. The starkest transition from book to paint I experienced was at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, where the oils were literally jutting out at you, giving a tangible third dimension to the art in addition to the visual depth.

Would have to place MOOcow in the higher culture category since it appears on the first page (perhaps even the first sentence?) of Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist". I'll have to find a copy -- having recently reread a buch of the "Dubliners" stories with even greater appreciation than before.

I was confused about Cambria since that's still the current name for the region that encompasses the Lake District in England. It's also a cool little town in Big Sur, known for its very expensive gasoline.

For some dumb reason I wrote SPRIG for the bit of Broccoli. That would have to be some baby vegetable.

Karmasartre -- I see you're still unwilling to let go yesterday's enigma. It still sticks in my craw, even if I don't really know exactly what this expression means.

Anonymous 2:31 PM  

The reference is to the title of a 2 Live Crew song, which in turn quotes a line from "Full Metal Jacket" -- "Me so horny. Me love you long time."

Anonymous 2:34 PM  

Pretty easy for a Wednesday. Haven't run across NEBOB since Agnew's rant in the 70's.

Anonymous 2:39 PM  

FERGUS, as far as I know, only parsley and possibly other leafy herbs (like Cilantro) come in sprigs, not baby vegetables. Oh, I guess you could also have a sprig of Mistletoe.

I also noted a discussion in another blog about the relationship between deer and antelope, and whether or not they're actually playmates. I must say that I always pictured them in the same field together, but not necessarily interacting with each other.

Rex Parker 2:57 PM  

I love how many of my readers are familiar with the lyrical subtleties of 2 Live Crew. The last time this blog mentioned "Me So Horny" (yes, there have been other times...), my good friend Andrew bought me the song on iTunes. It is one filthy song. Easily the filthiest song I own. And yet I find it hilarious. Its production values are ... low, as are its imaginative values. It's really bad in a really good way.

Anonymous 3:41 PM  

pad paper - lease - ugh.

Anonymous 4:32 PM  


I think the Lake District region is CUMBRIA.

Anonymous 4:46 PM  

I meant NABOB (damn dyslexia)!

Anonymous 5:16 PM  

Home on the Range where the deer and the antelope play.

Anonymous 5:17 PM  

I'm with Jerome, I liked Evel/Evil crossing. More of that kind of thing!

Anonymous 5:27 PM  

nabob and manse are horrendous answers!!

Anonymous 5:27 PM  

O give me a home
Where the Buffalo roam
And I'll show you a dirty house!

fergus 5:51 PM  

Sue, You're right. Isn't Cumbria one of those made-up regional administrative districts, like Salop, that replaced some of the venerable counties or shires? No more Rutland or Clackmannanshire; and all the cool Highland names got dumped in one bucket.

DJG 6:04 PM  

Alan Turing's is a very insteresting story. He helped the allies immensely in WWII by inventing a machine that could decode Nazi messages. After the war it was revealed that he was gay, and the English government stripped him of his security clearance and forced him to undergo hormone therapy. Extremely depressed he committed suicide by eating an apple laced with cyanide. Such a shame, especially considering he was one of the best mathematical minds of 20th century. His wikipedia pages are worth the 20 minutes or so it'll take to read them.

Luke Skyywalker, 2 Live Crew frontman, has a slightly less interesting story, but still worth a wikipedia once over.

Orange 6:22 PM  

Correction to jim in chicago: Rex's curmudgeonliness and horniness are both measured in sprigs, as I understand it. Sprig isn't strictly for leafy herb-type things. For example, "Yesterday, Rex's post contained 10 sprigs of cranky. Today, he was down to two sprigs."

Also, Rex, I wanted to let you know that "I'm as corny..." comes to us from the world of podiatry. The rest of the line goes " a giant bunion on my grandma's foot."

Anonymous 6:26 PM  

232 thousand hits on google for broccoli "STALK" and 427 thousand hits for broccoli "STALKS". Annoying, I grow both broccoli and asparagus, and would only describe the latter as growing in spears.

Today "ski" was described as a runner, the other day a car was described as a runne. Please explain

Orange 8:17 PM  

Johnson, Bjarne Ski and Rodolfo Auto were both noted marathoners.

Rex Parker 8:25 PM  

C'mon Orange - some people deserve tweaking and others not so much.

A ski is a runner in that it runs along the ground (the blades of sleds are called runners too, I think). A car engine runs, obviously, so it's a runner.

Orange 11:23 PM  

I know, Rex. The little devil on one shoulder won out over the lovely person on the other side. (Do you put runner = car in the same boat of blech as the flower = river clues?)

Waxy in Montreal 7:33 PM  

IMHO, it seems the NYT crossword degree of difficulty correlation with the day of the week (especially Wednesday) is becoming increasingly weaker.

For instance, wasn't it just last Wed. we had quite a challenging rebus puzzle? And today, only mundane Monday-like fare. What gives?

Unknown 8:07 PM  

All I know is, as a rookie crossword puzzle solver, this is the first Wednesday puzzle I have ever finished. I will love today's puzzle always.

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