THURSDAY, Oct. 4, 2007 - Sheldon Benardo

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

[updated, 10:21 a.m.]

THEME: "Space Race" (32D: Event started by 38-Across)

Did this puzzle quickly (circa 7 minutes) after driving home from prison late last night, so I find that this morning I can' t remember a damn thing about it. Hang on, let me refresh my memory a little...

OK. There are a lot of funky little answers, which I liked. The theme ... was OK. Didn't cohere too well for me, but the answers are fairly interesting; plus, I learned how to spell GAGARIN (wanted GRAGARIN, don't know why). I especially like that in a puzzle about the SPACE AGE, we get a nice, fat Star Trek clue - 38D: Enterprise log entry (Star Date!).

Two out of the three baseball games last night did not go my way, but the most important one did. Josh Beckett shut out the Angels 4-0 and is now tied for second place All Time (!) in career post-season shut-outs (3). He's only 27 years old.

Theme answers:

  • 38A: Newsmaker of October 4, 1957 (Sputnik) - aha, 50th anniversary puzzle. Timely.
  • 11D: 38-Across, e.g. (satellite)
  • 32D: Event started by 38-Across (Space Race)
  • 17A: Leading Russian in the 32-Down (Yuri Gagarin)
  • 60A: Leading American in the 32-Down (Alan Shepard)
There were several (to me) weird words in the puzzle, including the icky REBALE (15A: Pack again, as hay) and the possibly ickier SILTED (58A: Blocked, as a harbor, with "up"). I adore the strange, random stacking of EARHART (48A: "20 Hrs., 40 Min." author, 1928) over FERNDALE (56A: Detroit suburb named for the plants the area was once overgrown with). Had no idea EARHART had ever written anything. In fact, at first I didn't really notice the date involved and wondered why I'd never heard anything about Dale EARNHARDT's authorial career before. Lived outside Detroit for a while and have no recollection of FERNDALE. FERNWOOD I remember.

My Chaucerian expertise came back into play today with the REEVE (23A: Pilgrim in Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales"), whose tale comes immediately after that of the MILLER, whose tale is better known because ... well, it's far better. Ass-kissing and farting and parodies of the Flood story ... you can't beat that stuff. My "Simpsons" expertise was also brought into play today as tertiary character Disco STU makes a welcome appearance (61D: Disco guy on "The Simpsons"). A couple of pairs of answers that are both colorful and well known to me: two hippie liberal counties: TAOS (43A: New Mexico county or its seat) and MARIN (8D: California county - home of my aunt Sue), and two fabulous rock music partials: AXL (16A: _____ Rose) and HALEN (49D: Van _____). Speaking of music, the cryogenically preserved body of CLIVE Davis is also in the house (36A: Record producer Davis). If you've seen him on "American Idol," you know what I'm talking about. He's undead at best.

Let's take a trip outside my comfort zone: I've seen SANIBEL before (24A: Florida island resort), but couldn't remember it so had to piece it together from crosses. Love that 27A: Prayer word went Islamic with ALLAH - of course the vast majority of NYT solvers (including me) are going to presume a Christian frame of reference at first. BLINI is one of many exotic words I know only from doing the puzzle (9D: Shrovetide dish). I keep looking at the puzzle and wondering who ALAN D. is - turns out, it's just a partial biblical phrase (50D: "_____ flowing with milk and honey" (Canaan, in the Bible)) - which reminds me: there seemed to be more long (8+ words) clues than usual today.

What I object to:

  • 1D: One with checks and balances? (payer) - you can dress up a pig in satin; it's still a pig
  • 44A: Basted (sewn) - wtf? Is that what mom's been doing to the turkey all these years? Sewing it? Whatever works, I guess...
  • 30D: Odist, e.g. (bard) - grumble grumble. Wanted POET, of course. Why not "NY college that runs a B.A. degree program inside the NY State Prison system"? That's a good clue.
  • 34D: _____ Pi (dessert lover's fraternity?) (eta) - ugh ugh ughiest clue/answer pair in a good long while
  • 3D: Durango direction (norte) - it alliterates, I'll give it that. Other than that ... you could have at least made direction part of the clue: [Durango à Las Vegas dirección] or something...

Lots and lots of 4-letter names in the puzzle today. Here are a few:

  • 46A: Korea's Syngman (Rhee)
  • 5D: Composer Khachaturian (Aram)
  • 42D: 1972 Wimbledon winner Smith (Stan)
  • 47D: First name at the 1986 Nobel Prize ceremony (Elie)
  • 7D: Newsman Sevareid (Eric)
  • 18D: "The Waltons" actor (Geer)

Wow, I'm done. How anti-climactic.

Check out "Pop Sensation" if you need more amusement.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 9:02 AM  

Hey all!

Finished this with only one misspelling - I had Gegarin instead of Gagarin.

Don't understand the cluing for Tend to (Personality handle) or for Peer (Earl , for onr). Any help?

Have a great day.

Orange 9:11 AM  

TEND TO's clue is [Personally handle]—"I want this done right, so I'll TEND TO it myself."

PEER is a generic term for a member of the nobility (e.g., earl, duke, marquess).

Anonymous 9:12 AM  

Hey, Johnson.

The clue was PERSONALLY HANDLE. I can relate, having misread this one initially as you did.

In England, a PEER of the realm, a titled man, might be an earl.

SethG 9:12 AM  

Tend to was 'personally' handle, not personality. Which could be the source of your confusion.

And Earl is one of the ranks of British Peerage, along with Duke and Baron and such.

But Serge?

Orange 9:39 AM  

"Serge is a type of twill fabric,", Wikipedia explains.

Anonymous 9:45 AM  

A satisfying puzzle for someone whose Early-Space-Program-Mania is rivaled only by the likes of Tom Hanks and other Nasa obsessed people who hang around places like

So you can imagine my distress when I had problems getting the "launch vehicle". Too long for the LEM, too short for the ATLAS. I was still stuck in the glory days of 50's-60's space program. ARES is the launch vehicle of the future.

Happy birthday Sputnik!

Anonymous 9:50 AM  

Sorry, I should have blue-linked those

Nasa mania


Anonymous 9:54 AM  

I had a heck of a time with the NW, had ACHE for PANG, haven't read "Canterbury Tales" in 40 years.

Using th A from ACHE I figured 1D was some abbr. for accountant and used ACHE's erroneous C for CHARM at 2D.

Should have had 20A right away because it is the standard clue for ESTEEM, bu I didn't.

Finally skipped to the SW which give me the start I needed. I worked within walking ditance of FERNDALE for over twenty years.

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

Even though you all seem to have it resolved, I tend to have an issue with TTENDTO for "personally handle". In Orange's example, you need the "myself" to make it work. TENDTO could be an answer for "Handle". Seems that if you put "personally" in the clue, there should be a myself-related bit in the answer.

I hiccuped around the New Jersey area -- not knowing the last vowel in SANIBEL was my problem.

Since I got STARDATE before the other long down answer, I thought it would be space-related as well, but no dice or even deice.

I love the sky and the magical light in and around Taos.

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

The way the Sputnik anniversary has been covered in the media recently made the theme clues gimees for me, making the puzzle seem almost easier than a Monday puzzle.

Michael S: Apparently you don't like puns. I thought the clue for Eta Pi was hilarious. Makes me want to go to the fridge and eat some of my rhubarb-apple pie.

Michael 10:48 AM  

The Washington Post puzzle did a space age themed puzzle recently... Focusing more on the events than the individuals involved... although that ubiquitous monkey Enos is always good crossword-ese...

btw... Yanks are going all the way this year!

Spencer 11:12 AM  

on BASTED: clearly you've never done any sewing. To BASTE is to sew together quickly with long, removable stitches, before sewing a seam, in order to hold the pieces of cloth in the correct relation to each other. You do it especially on curvy seams or seams with gathering or pleats, because those are really hard to do with pins. You might also BASTE in order to gather -- after basting, you push the material together and the basting stitches hold it in its shrunken state.

I still remember Dave Dixon, late of WDET, talking about music events in "Fashionable FERNDALE". FERNDALE is on Woodward, just north of 8 Mile (so just outside Detroit proper.)

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

Well, the good news is that I liked this one better than yesterday's groaner.

Just a couple quibbles. I got "STARDATE" first and was thrown off by that, expecting the other answers to have something to do with Star Trek. A bit of a red herring in my book.

I also had no idea that Blini were connected to the Russian Shovetide. Being a good Anglican, I think of Shrovetide as the period in which you use up your non-lented food by making pancakes (related to Blini, I admit) and frying up that Bacon (yum). Shove Tuesday, which completes Shrovetide, is a traditional day for a church pancake supper. So, I instantly put in BACON, (off the B in ABOMBS) which sent me into the woods for awhile.

I'm surprised no one has commented on the crossing of ABOMBS and OBAMA!

Unknown 11:14 AM  

Wow Rex, that prison thing is really great work you're doing, and it's given me a second reason to like Bard. The first is that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen went there.

Orange 11:41 AM  

Rex, I watched Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, but I never watched Fernwood Tonight. That clip you linked to is hilarious! (People, if you like stuff like Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman, you'll like Rex's FERNWOOD link.) Do you think you could serve up another YouTube clip from the show with every post? (I could look them up myself, but I prefer my comedy gold to be spoon-fed.)

Anonymous 11:46 AM  

I hope the Phillies get swept so I can stop hating baseball.

Anonymous 12:03 PM  

This was more like a Monday or Tuesday for me. Perhaps growing up in the 50s/60s when all this took place made it easy to remember. I concur that REBALE and SILTED are a bit iffy, I had to get a few crosses for those.

Maurice (karma?) -- if you leave "myself" off of Orange's example it still works.

Martin Mull and Fred Willard did some really off the wall stuff for 70s TV. I was a big fan of Fernwood 2night.

Anonymous 12:05 PM  

Regarding your dislike for 1Down, payer is a real word. One who writes a check is the payer, the receiver of the check is the payee.

Campesite 12:29 PM  

I think that Fernwood 2night appearance is why the quote "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy" is attributed to Tom Waits, but I'm pretty sure it was originally said by Dorothy Parker.

This seemed to be a very easy Thursday puzzle, felt much more like a Monday or Tuesday to me, but I liked it.

Anonymous 1:22 PM  

It's also a line in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" which predates Fernwood 2night

Anonymous 2:35 PM  

I liked the stacking of bass (Macca's my hero) above amp.

This may be one for the nitpicker, but sap for bonehead...I don't know. To me a sap is someone really gullible where bonehead is just an idiot. Looked up sap and the derivation is from sapskull and definition is foolish or gullible, but maybe the skull and bone thing make it okay.

Got the basted because I grew up in the time of Sputnik when mothers taught their daughters how to sew and knit and crochet... as well as make a mean turkey gravy which requires basting of the bird.

Beckett was brilliant!!!! Talked to my Dad in Boston. He's 84 and not much makes him laugh these days, but he was positively giddy.

fergus 2:40 PM  

Just recently heard an interview with Kruschev's son, who is now a scientist in the US, telling of his experience relating to Sputnik. He was around twenty years old in 1957, and spent the suspenseful time with his father in Kiev. Very informative, and entertaining since I love hearing Russian accents and like how the articles are almost completely eliminated. Anyway, with these reminders the puzzle was well on its way at first glance. (But I'll be muttering 'Spoootneek' to myself once again today.)

What about the 2D Beguile AMUSE pairing? It's a familiar complaint for me: something quite precise paired with something overly general; a subset well out of proportion to the universe of possibilities. That's just the way of the puzzle though, and I'm sure some folks have a preference for cluing this way.

With you Rex, on the Canterbury Tales. The Wife of Bath could match any modern sensual feminist in her beguiling assertiveness.

Anonymous 3:16 PM  

JAE -- you're right and you're right.

fergus 3:32 PM  

I think the code of the puzzle requires consistency on transitive and intransitive verbs. Lots of verbs can be both, of course, but it would almost certainly be called a gaffe if a clearly transitive clue had a just as clearly an intransitive answer.

(I wouldn't mind seeing LAY and LIE set out to demonstrate this standard, which I believe is rigorously observed.)

Anonymous 5:50 PM  

Thanks to Orange and Sue and Seth about my personally/personality mix-up. I guess I need to wear my glasses after all!

wendy 6:46 PM  

Dateline CLEVELAND, where the Indians-Yankees duel has just gotten underway ...

As a child of the Eisenhower administration, and daughter of an aerospace engineer, I was in the thick of the SPACE RACE, diving under desks to be prepared for when the Russians conquered the cosmos. I was thrilled that I could remember YURI GAGARIN. Of course ALAN SHEPARD was considered "hot" at the time. All astronauts were, really.

Loved all that, but still, my fave today was Arctic newborn SEAL PUP.

This is completely off topic but the Fernwood discussion reminded me; I've been watching the new DVD of the Maude series and can't believe how great Bea Arthur was in this. It's a show that today would never have gotten on the air. Anyone even contemplating getting this, should.

In re: Yanks going all the way - we'll see about that in a few hours!

Karma: I really love your many personas and hope you never go back to your original one.

Anonymous 8:28 AM  

Instead of Alan D. try to look at it this way

50 D "_____flowing with milk and honey"

like a land, think of Steely Dan's song do it again....

In the land of milk and honey.....

Anonymous 3:38 PM  

Six weeks later...
I grew up in Cocoa Beach during the Apollo program (dad was literally a rocket scientist) so this one went very quickly for me. Those Saturn V launches were certainly something to see.

Martin Mull of FERNWOOD Tonight also starred in a hilarious 70s movie called "Serial," which skewered MARIN County perfectly.

Anonymous 3:12 AM  

Not knowing 11A "sea" and 16A "axl" I was stuck with the clue 12D "no __" and an apparent answer "__it" and despite help from my wife, 22 yr old son, 16 yr old son, could not come up with "exit". But I trusted the NYT and knew there was another answer!

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