SATURDAY, Oct. 20, 2007 - Patrick Berry

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

It had been a while since I timed myself on a Saturday, so I was somewhat surprised to find that, despite feeling like I wasn't moving particularly fast, I finished in the 12-minute range. The puzzle had many words I did not know, and yet it didn't feel hard. Yesterday's puzzle actually gave me more trouble - or, rather, I had a "free fall" experience yesterday (you know, where you're stuck in a corner and nothing is happening) and I didn't today. The grid structure today was pretty open, with two ways into all quadrants, so I never felt trapped or closed in. Psychologically, that makes a big difference. To me, anyway.

First two answers into the grid were BIKINI and STILTON. Then I hit HINTON, a gimme (14A: "The Outsiders" author). "Three in a row, right off the top!" I thought. But HINTON was the only right answer of the bunch. BIKINI was really SPEEDO (1A: Small suit) and STILTON was something called SAPSAGO (7A: Cheese with a greenish tint). I've eaten some pretty exotic cheeses in my time, but I've never even heard of this one. Reminds me of the killer cheese from Byron Walden's 2006 Tournament Puzzle #5 ... what was that cheese? It was in the upper-right corner ... I know that that cheese ate some very good solvers alive. Anyway, it was Italian-sounding and unknown to most of the free world. Perhaps SAPSAGO is more common. As always, it's possible that I'm just plain ignorant on this one.

I'm noticing now that the puzzle has only four 3-letter answers - narrow parts in the NW and SE - and they are all easy. Or 3/4 easy - I had to get ALI (24A: "Infidel" author Ayaan Hirsi _____) from Crosses. The others were as follows:

  • 20A: "Mr. _____," 1983 comedy ("Mom") - starring Michael Keaton and my longtime celebrity crush, Teri Garr
  • 44A: _____-Hulk (Marvel Comics character) - OK, maybe this is only a gimme for someone who haunts comic book stores (from time to time). But it seems pretty inferrable. Also got help from another comics character today: ARLO (30A: "_____ and Janis" (comic strip)).
  • 41A: Application file extension (exe) - more of a Tuesday or Wednesday clue

When short answers are relative easy, transitioning from section to section in a puzzle become easy. Again, the more modes of entrance and egress, the more confident I am in any particular section.

I love that every long Down answer is a very familiar two-word phrase:

  • 5D: National chain of everything-costs-the-same stores (Dollar Tree) - had DOLLAR TIME for a few seconds
  • 6D: Eloise of Kay Thompson books, e.g. (only child) - very, very vivid childhood memories of this little girl who lived in The Plaza. Sahra went through a brief period of enjoying Eloise, but for the most part she went straight from Olivia to Harry Potter, with a brief stop at The Magic Treehouse. At least that's what it feels like from my perspective.
  • 10D: Figure seen in a store window (sale price) - true enough; not as lively as the other Downs
  • 26D: Typically green tube (garden hose) - I like this simple phrase. I actually paused and nearly closed my eyes to think of all the tubes I could think of that are green. GARDEN HOSE was the second image that came to mind - right after a piece of pesto-covered rotini.
  • 29D: Often -unanswered missive (fan letter) - I have had fan letters go unanswered, it's true. But I've also gotten responses. Lynda Barry wrote me a nice reply once. And James Kochalka (author of the magnificent pigs-in-space comic "Pinky & Stinky") replied to a fan letter from my daughter with a funny Holiday card - and he even drew a picture of Pinky (or maybe it's Stinky) on the envelope. So he rules. Buy his books.
  • 28D: Gaffe at a social gathering, in modern lingo (party foul) - I can't stand this phrase in real life, yet I like it here. Come to think of it, I haven't heard this phrase in real life in a long time. Feels very 80's - early 90's. Maybe because those were my heaviest partying years.

The SW corner was an unpleasant place to be, with HATRED (32A: It's "heavier freight for the shipper than it is for the consignee": Augustus Thomas) directly over IRATE (39A: Ready to explode). Sitting on top of TCBY (42A: Big seller of smoothies) those answers make up the worst frozen yogurt toppings ever. Then there's ODIOUSLY just a few floors down (49A: In a despicable way). Yesterday ODIE, today ODIOUSLY. I wonder if they're related. But there were lots of smile-inducing answers to offset the SW's negativity, including TRIPLANE (17A: Aircraft for the Red Baron), which reminds me of Snoopy, MOLL (31D: Tough's partner), which reminds me of many of my campy vintage paperback covers, and ENCOMIA (3D: Laudations), which is just a word I love. So much better than the ugh-ful "laudations." Ooh, PINHOLE (2D: Camera obscura feature) is good too.

There were a handful of odd or unpleasant clues today:

  • 15A: Band seen at parties (streamer) - you have to torture "band" to make it say STREAMER. I'm talking cigarette burns, water-boarding, the works. And even then, I'm not sure you can trust the information.
  • 47A: It's cleared for a debriefing (throat) - slightly cute, but objectionable nonetheless. First, not necessarily. Second, it's cleared for Lots of Things. I was briefly worried that this clue was going to have something to do with removing one's briefs.
  • 1D: Troupe leader (showman) - ???
  • 53A: Future hunters (eaglets) - true enough, but ... well, they are pretty cute, so I'll let them go.

Guessed ESTHER (52A: Book before Job) correctly. Liked AMATEUR (11D: Pan American Games participant) because the clue wants you to think the answer is a country. Speaking of countries, I could only half-retrieve LESOTHO (36D: Country of two million surrounded by a single other country). SOWETO kept blocking its path to the front of my brain. Never heard of MARC (31A: Linguist Okrand who created the Klingon language). Could not retrieve VEBLEN (43A: Economist who wrote "The Theory of the Leisure Class") until I had nearly all the crosses - which isn't much of a retrieval. My Ph.D. in English couldn't help me (much) with two different poetry answers: ROSSETTI (19A: "The Blessed Damozel" poet) and RONDELET (35A: Poem whose first, third and seventh lines are identical). Never heard of the Goshen raceway, but its length was easy to infer: HALF MILE (45A: Goshen raceway's length). Lastly, my favorite answer in the puzzle, and a gimme, was O'REILLY (13D: Author of the 2006 best seller "Culture Warrior") - but only because the cover of that book makes me laugh out loud every time I see it.

He's off to war ... in recreational boating gear!

Godspeed, Culture Warrior!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


ScottK 9:16 AM  

An obscure cheese and Thorstein VEBLEN in the same puzzle? Surely the theme was "Great Wisconsin Cultural Contributions."

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

I really struggled to get going: after twenty minutes or so all I had were TABLING, MUTE, RHODE, and H__TON (Outsiders author). The only reason I knew (part of) the latter was that there was an article (AP?) about her in the last week or so, still in Tulsa, doing different sorts of writing.

So, I was flummoxed. I felt like Randy (Ralphie's little brother) in "A Christmas Story", who, dressed head to toe in layers and layers of snow gear, gets dumped on his back and can't get up. Turtled. But I really wanted to do the puzzle, so I resorted to googling one answer in each quadrant to give me a bootstrap.

SAPSAGO was just one of many answers I did not know. For 11d -- Pan Am Game participant, I was trying seven-letter central and south American countries: Bolivia, Uruguay, Ecuador. So far off base.

Now, I see Rex found it easy-medium. Quelle humiliation! Reminds me of figure drawing class, where the best people could get a body curve perfect with one pencil stoke, and I would kind of etch-a-sketch my way to a decent representation of the model, plodding, erasing, and fixing my drawing, gradually producing an OK result.

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

Thought there were some wierd clue/answer pairs today also. Got HINTON right away, figured 5D had to be DOLLAR something (I have never written the word DOLLAR before and could not remember if it was AR or ER)

Wanted 17A to be SOPWITH something.

Had HALFPRICE instead of SALEPRICE, SAPHORO instead of SAPSAGO (Saphoro, a japenese city?).

23A PEEL was ugly but fair.

Needless to say, but, I had a tough time in New England today.

I must have channeled some past teacher because RONDELET came immediately. If the clue/solution had been reversed I would have no idea how to define RONDELET.

Loved seeing NEAPTIDE in its entirety, also RHODE island, for some reason, seemed refreshing.

I have never heard the term PARTYFOUL, it sounds like something from a beer commercial.

26A GRUEL had to be the easiest answer in the puzzle unless you read OBJECT as OUTCOME (I've got to stop doing these at 4:00 AM).

Good Saturday puzzle, I thought it was much harder than last weeks.

mellocat 9:39 AM  

Sapsago gets only 977 Google hits (English -- expanding to any language brings it up to ~9,000). The cheese in the killer puzzle #5 (piave), by contrast gets 424,000 English Google hits...but it is also the name of a river in Italy, with a battle named for it, hotels with the name, etc. Restricting the search to "piave cheese" gets you only 1,040 Google yeah, those are both some pretty obscure cheeses.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

I HIGHLY recommend reading "A Thousand Splendid Suns" (fiction) along with 24 Across "Infidel" (Nonfiction) to get insight into the Muslim culture and particularly its treatment of women around the world.

Anyone else have "Fit to a T" instead of "Hit home"?

Never heard of Lesotho...learn something new every day!

Have a great weekend.

Whitey's mom 10:20 AM  

Couldn't figure out who Aelo and Janis were until I realized I had spelled Tree "teee", the result, no doubt, of a brain freeze which occurs from time to time. Knew Veblen probably from an earlier brain freeze that thawed. Good puzzle. Thanks

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

First Saturday puzzle I've been able to solve without cheating in 3 weeks. First clue was Lesotho -- where my girlfriend spent a semester in college.

MBG 10:58 AM  

Amazing, a Saturday puzzle that gave me only a bit of trouble. But still, I wasn't nearly as fast as Rex. Sapsago was a big challenge, I think it was the last word to get filled in. I tried to make it stilton also.

Anonymous 11:46 AM  

I thought this was really easy for a Saturday, mainly because it took me only 35 minutes, half as long as all the others I've struggled through, and is the first Saturday I've ever gotten completely correct! In fact, I've only done two Fridays this fast.

I also read the S.E. HINTON books, so started with 14A and did the NW pretty quickly. Then jumped over to the SE, which also went very easily. For 45A, I guessed TWO MILE, but fixed it when I saw MUTE for 46D.

Arkansas and the NE are the only parts that really gave me any headaches. Didn't know VEBLEN and was looking for some phrase like "___ and tough" for 31D, and I'm not good with French, so I wasn't sure about 40A. But eventually MOLL came to me. I also had GRITS for 26A for a while, but then I got GARDEN HOSE and SALE PRICE, which gave me FAIRLY, which got me to change GRITS to GRUEL. Once I had that, finishing up the RHODE Island section (and the puzzle) wasn't so bad, even if SAPSAGO wasn't one of the cheeses the Cheeseless Cheese Shop didn't have.

I liked the FELLAS--FILLE--MOLL themelet, and SHE is right nearby.

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

Oh, 36D was a gimme for me and reminded me of my favorite geographical trivia question: Which four countries lie entirely in the South Temperate Zone?

Anonymous 12:54 PM  

By the way, if you have access, today's sydication puzzle is a good one...the Quigley with no three-letter words. Sad that at my age I can forget some answers in six-weeks, but so be it.

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

Personally I wouldn't have clued O'Reilly as author of "culture warrior". But I suppose "Abusive bloviator" would make it a gimme.

Anonymous 1:03 PM  

A book we bought because we loved the cover and the title: Sweet Jesus I Hate Bill O'Reilly. A cover image I'd like to see next to the one you reproduced!

Rick 1:16 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick 1:18 PM  

I had a girlfriend about 20 years ago who was a cheese buyer for a natural food store. We both had a thing for Sap Sago for about six months before moving on to something different. I put it in the puzzle this morning because it fit and was shocked to discover that it was correct.

Anonymous 1:27 PM  

Scott - Don't credit Wisconsin with SAPSAGO. It's from Switzerland.

Anonymous 1:31 PM  

This was medium to challenging for me. Definitely harder than yesterday's. HINTON, OREILLY, GRUEL, and TRIPLANE were gimmes and I got GARDENHOSE with just the G, but SE was a bear. I had MEAN as tough's partner and THREAT for THROAT and did not know RONDELET, LESOTHO (I also wanted SOWETO), VEBLEN, or FILLE so I was royally stuck. I finally handed it to my wife who returned it with RONDE.. and FILLE. This was a true Saturday for me as my biggest concern was being able to finish. As you might expect I thought the MARC, ROND..,VEBLEN, FILLE, stack was a tad unfair but otherwise this was a fine puzzle.

SethG 1:45 PM  

Probably a Saturday record for me. Mostly because of the large number of (for me on a Saturday) gimmes:

-(Mr) MOM
-VEBLEN (we share an alma mater...)
-TOOTLE (no idea why...)

Which led quickly to ETAL, TCBY, HALF MILE, EXHALED. Then I was off and running.

Some trouble in the NE (though I liked the STRIDE/STROVE), but still under 40 minutes. Which convinces me that I'll _never_ be fast...

But still, me likey,

Orange 2:01 PM  

Hey, I went to the same college as Seth G and Thorstein Veblen!

Trish in OP probably knows about the Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O'Reilly website.

Michael Chibnik 2:42 PM  

My reaction was similar to Rex's. Despite some obscure answers for me, I chugged through it while half-watching a college football game. As Rex says, I think the relatively easy and abundant entrees to the quadrants made the puzzle easier than it otherwise would be with these clues. This was clearest in the NE where sapsago was news to me, rossetti was buried in a far corner of my mind, and streamer struck me as less-than-great clue/answer combo.

___ Island for "Rhode", while not hard, struck me as rather lame, but I sure don't know how I'd clue "Rhode."

Anonymous 2:54 PM  

Had a real fun time with this one. The things I didn't know (Hinton, neaptide, Rossetti, Marc, Veblen, Esther) were nicely spaced around the board, making them gettable with crosses. Loved the speedo clue, but had to get showman and pinhole before it became evident. Thought the only weak clue was "cleared for debriefing." What does debriefing have to do with it. Odd misdirection. I've never heard the word encomia, and had to look it up after the fact just to make sure it was correct. Have taken to looking things up after the fact, so now I know lots about tides and I read Rossetti's amazing poem which he wrote when he was 18. Have eaten sap sago, but discovered it is green from clover.

A good friday/saturday for me and an overall fun week of puzzles.

Now it's all up to Schilling to tie it up. Who better? I've got my Red Sox on!!!

fergus 2:57 PM  

Ezra, Nehemiah, ESTHER, Job. This little sequence seems like the most significant element I got from years of compulsory Sunday School attendance. Or perhaps I'm not crediting the virtuous instruction for the development of my fine set of morals? Whatever; that quartet is good for at least one Crossword answer a week.

Steady progress counterclockwise from the SE, with each answer cheered on by a marching band! The annual band review has been parading past my house since 7 this morning and I'm still not tired of them. They celebrated my AMATEUR's appreciation of ROSSETTI. They WHOLLY endorsed the PINHOLE SHOWMAN at NEAP TIDE; and were ON CALL for MOM ALI HINTON guesses. (Eeesh.) A lull of silence at the SW, though. A quarter of an hour wondering what the effects of varying the length of the Goshen raceway. HALF, Four or Five? Nine?? Faintly remembered it could be a horse track, or maybe a drag strip. Plonked in HALF; all the rest dropped immediately, and another marching band TOOTLEd by.

Even though Veblen wrote TTotLC in 1899 it's still one of the most relevant sociology and economics texts around. And way better than most of the crap you find in bookstores in these, or any other related category. Reread it a few years ago at the height of a new Gilded Age.

Not knowing Eloise I had __CHICK, and stuck with it even after filling in ONLY. Didn't know ARLO, either, obviously. Neither proud nor ashamed of lots of Pop Culture gaps, though I have to admit to more gratification from 19A and 43A. And PARTY FOUL? Must be a generational thing, because I've never heard it or seen it, though doubtless committed one many a time, even in the past few years when I ought to have become more GENTEEL.

I pounding on the keyboard to rhythm of a glockenspiel and the tinkling of a triangle -- plus my truck is parked behind a series blockades, so I guess I'll just have to march along with the high school bands.

Howard B 4:28 PM  

Nice and smooth, until the end.
Two words: SAPSAGO and RONDELET.

Cheese and poetry; two things I just don't do well with. Arrrgh. End of story :). Otherwise, fun times.

Anonymous 4:37 PM  

as a dumb ox, I kind of enjoyed RHODE Island. I got the RH and was all "wtf island starts with RH" and when it came to me it was a heel of palm to forehead moment, which is a crossword moment I enjoy! Puzzling!

Anonymous 5:27 PM  

The idea of Rex ever having heavy party years makes me smile. I guess he did say "heaviest," indicating relativity.

Anonymous 5:47 PM  

Really cinchy compared to last Sat's KILLER. I thought Eloise was a "city child." Well, she said she was.

Anonymous 8:46 PM  

Rex, I'm with you on Teri Garr as a celebrity crush. I knew few heterosexual males in 1975 who weren't ready to roll with her in the hay - literally or idiomatically.

My three favorite consecutive books of the Bible are Joshua Judges Ruth, not only because they form a sentence, but they constitute the title of a terrific Lyle Lovett CD. (If that's not a redundancy.)

Anonymous 8:52 PM  

I'm with billnut on Teri Garr and Lyke Lovett. Wenent searching for that CD before finishing the puzzle, because of the clue.

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

The answers that I got quickly were Rossetti, Lesotho, neap tide, and encomia, but I had a hard time with some things the rest of you found to be "gimmes." I'm just too old to know anything about today's pop culture!

Anonymous 6:40 PM  

What a lousy start to a Saturday puzzle for me - was sure Typically Green Tube (26D) was CATHODE RAY and that Oliver Twist (26A) had asked for another CRUST which now makes me irate!

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