WEDNESDAY, Oct. 17, 2007 - Paula Gamache

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Add "-ILE" - "ILE" letter string is added to first word of familiar two-word phrases, creating wacky two-word phrases, which are clued

No time to write today. I've painted myself into a corner, work-wise, and though I can be very irresponsible and blow stuff off like nobody's business, even I have my limits. So - to be brief: this puzzle was very unpleasant, theme-wise, and mostly adequate, otherwise. LOTS of crosswordese - OONA, SSNS, STYE, ORTS, EPEE, INRI, EERIE, OSSO, the delicious IHOP, the ugh-y plurals OTTS and EDENS, the newly crosswordesey IMUS, and the once and future crosswordese stalwart ONE L (61A: First-year J.D. candidate). And yet there was enough cool fill to keep me from hating the puzzle completely.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: All the rockets in existence? (missile universe) - this concept just lies there ... not a funny phrase, not a dynamic phrase, not a phrase I can envision ... meh.
  • 26A: "Dry-clean only," e.g.? (textile message) - a little better, but not much
  • 44A: Cooking utensil from central Spain? (Castile-iron pan) - terrible; if the "utensil," and not just the iron, is from "central Spain," then you need the adjective "CASTILIAN."
  • 58A: HAL 9000, in "2001: A Space Odyssey"? (hostile computer) - first of all, the term "host computer" is only semi-familiar to me. Not as in-the-language as I'd like my baseline answers to be. Second, I'm somewhat insulted that the clue doesn't just stop at [HAL 9000?]. Of course it's from "2001: A Space Odyssey." It's not like I'm going to confuse this HAL 9000 with the one on, say, "Happy Days."
Let's play: Fun or tough?

  • 1A: The Velvet Fog (Torme) - FUN: first thing in the grid, easily
  • 23A: Noughts-and-crosses win (OOO) - oddly, FUN: simply opting for the British title of this game changes everything
  • 3D: Angry reaction (rise) - TOUGH: I had RI-E and had to run through the alphabet. All I could think of was RILE
  • 9D: Mutual fund redemption charge (exit fee) - TOUGH, and maybe slightly FUN: kept thinking the answer was one word
  • 10D: Deep fissure (crevasse) - FUN: it's a great word that sounds both vaguely foreign and vaguely dirty
  • 18D: Sarge's superior (looie) - FUN: in that it's fun to say; I had LIEUT, then LOOEY
  • 29D: As a friend, to the French (en ami) - TOUGH and FUN: I've never before seen this phrase. I had 7 years of French in high school / college
  • 31D: Astronaut _____ Bluford, the first African-American in space (Guion) - TOUGH and FUN: possibly the wrongest-looking name in the history of names. Had GUIDO at one point because, I mean, come on, what other name (in five letters) begins GUI...?
  • 37D: First N.F.L. QB with consecutive 30-touchdown passing seasons (Y.A. Tittle) - FUN: might have been tough, but he was in the puzzle less than a month ago. Loved his name then, and still love it...
  • 42D: "_____ Organum" (1620 Francis Bacon work) ("Novum") - TOUGH and FUN: well, FUN for people who enjoy Latin and / or Early Modern English writing
  • 46D: Subject of the 1999 film "Le Temps Retrouve" (Proust) - FUN: possibly TOUGH, if you didn't recognize the play on Proust's "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu" ... so maybe TOUGH if you are most people
  • 59D: Geezers' replies (ehs) - FUN: Who doesn't like the word "geezer"? My favorite geezer: Abraham Simpson.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 9:16 AM  

You must be tired, or rushed.
Way too NY for me, with Tittle and Ott; knew them, but I'm from the Nawth End of Baastn, originally.

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

...and Imus is also NY. Hear he's coming back.

Rex Parker 9:19 AM  

A simple "you have an error, sir," will do.

It's fixed. Thanks.

MBG 9:48 AM  

Fairly easy one, although I tried very hard to make exit fee into exit tax, and Afta, the shaving products, into Atra, the razor. I'd never heard of Afta.
Never heard of Guion Bluford either, although as someone who dabbles in genealogy I love unusual names, and that's a good one.

Orange 10:04 AM  

I think it's the V in CREVASSE that gives it that vaguely dirty vibe. Really, look at all the V words: virile, Viagra, vulva, vagina, vibrator, vas deferens, Venus, venereal.

I mean, come on, what other name (in five letters) begins GUI...? Well, there's Guich Koock, who was on the late-'70s sitcom, Carter Country. (He's the young white guy on the right, IIRC.)

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

I'm with annielee on throwing atra in where afta belonged... atra being almost weekly crosswordese these days and me not being a regular shaver.

My favorite fill for some reason was the muskox... love him, and he gave me lots to work with, with the K and the X in there.

Guion is the most interesting first name I've come across in a while, and I am abashed to admit I hadn't seen/heard of it before. Any idea how he pronounces it? GWEE-on? G(hard g)EE-on? accent first or second syllable?

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

Thank you Annielee. I too wanted Aftra. I never heard of Afta eitha.

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

I didn't remeber Afta either so I googled it and came up with Afta aftershave lotion which kinda rings a bell.

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

Venal, vomit, vamp, varlet, vat, venus, vermiform,vesicle, vice,violate,virgin,virago, vitriol.,vixen, voluptuous, vulgar...
The venal varlet vomited into a vat. A vixen, a voluptous virgin and a virago violated his vulgar act by observing the vermiform nature of the prod
uct of his vice.
In short, Orange, you are right re the existence of a lot of evocative V words.

MBG 11:17 AM  

"Any idea how he pronounces it? GWEE-on? G(hard g)EE-on? accent first or second syllable?"

Don't know for sure, but my first guess would be Gi-on, with a long i, hard g, accent on the first syllable.

Orange 11:29 AM  

Professor Google told me about "Guion Bluford's Song"—the lyrics page says, "The name is pronounced 'Guy on Blue Ford.'"

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

Thanks, orange!! I started thinking that might be the case on learning his nickname is Guy...

Anonymous 12:08 PM  

Thought this was much more difficult than Rex did.....maybe it's because the list of fun/tough that should be a daily (or at least weekly) addition to the blog, I found to all be in the TOUGH category.

Except for Novum Organum which has quite a mellifluous sound, as far as titles for "Early Modern English" writing goes.

Anonymous 1:07 PM  

I completely missed that they (?) had re-named Proust's work from 'Remembrance of Things Past' to 'In Search of Lost Time.'

Guess my 1932 2-volume hard cover set might be worth something?

Unknown 1:11 PM  

what does clue 61:first-year j.d. candidate answer-onel mean?

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

I'm not in-the-know. could you please say what is One L ?

Anonymous 1:17 PM  

One L is the nickname for first year Law School (L for Law, 1 for first year). It is also Scott Turrow's first book (I believe it's a memoir) of his first year at Harvard law School.

Anonymous 1:22 PM  

And JD is a law degree: Juris Doctor.

Anonymous 2:10 PM  

Rex must've had crevasse on the brain to not comment on the rather gross "stye seep" in the SE.

Anonymous 2:29 PM  

Afta, Y.A. Tittle and IHOP seem to be common words of late.

I happened to like Missle Universe for no known reason... reminds me of the daisy ad from the Johnson/Goldwater days

My grandmother told me Mel Torme was known as the velvet Fog and I have never forgotten that.

All and all a fun trip down memory lane.

Anonymous 3:11 PM  

I liked this one. I also had ATRA and put in RAGE for RISE which slowed me down a bit. MUSKOX made me smile, I don't think I've ever seen it in a puzzle before. Didn't know GUION, PROUST, or NOVUM but all were easily gettable from the crosses. Nice to see some different clueing for AORTA and EPEE. Like Rex, I was looking for CASTILIAN until the theme became apparent after I fixed RAGE.

fergus 3:17 PM  

Was HAL really a HOST COMPUTER? Isn't that a term that came about when a bunch of PCs were networked and the locus of the LAN was the HOST? There were a few terminals on the spacecraft connected to HAL but that wouldn't constitute a network. I'll leave the expert terminology and interpretation to the experts, but this did seem a bit off.

Which was maybe why, even with MISSILE, TEXTILE and CASTILE I felt a little stuck, confused about the theme. So had to puzzle a bit until the obvious appeared. Probably, this is the most a theme has ever helped me, in terms of letter production as a direct result of its recognition

Didn't know there was a Proust film. Maybe more than one? Suppose this one might work better than some 'consciousness' novels, but this is the sort of film I would be very reluctant to see, having long ago seen "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" kicked around. Steered clear of Under the Volcano, The Idiot and Ulysses for that reason. (Now, if that were the full title of a film, I would go see that.) "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" I thought was a success, though. It's definitely a matter of taste as to how you want your internal monologue served up.

Isn't a CREVASSE only found in ice fields, though?

Orange 4:24 PM  

Fergus, HAL didn't need to be a host computer—just a HOSTILE COMPUTER. After all, Miss Universe has no ballistic weaponry.

Anonymous 4:44 PM  

I guess liking a theme because I got it and it helped me solve the puzzle and liking it because it's a good theme are two different things, as I am discovering as I read this blog and think more about puzzles than I used to. This one falls into the former category. An easy Wednesday for me. Wednesday is where I usually slow down and often can't finish without a google or two. But soared through, starting with Torme which I knew because my husband, a jazz guitarist, calls Mel the Velvet Frog.

I know this is crosswordese, but may I ask why orts is table scraps. I'm sure I'm in for a HS moment when I hear the reply. Thanks.

fergus 4:44 PM  

Orange, you're right; that was sort of symptomatic of my distraction, interruption and inattention to detail today (50th Anniversary of exposure to air). And so off the beach, perchance to catch a rainbow as the rainclouds recede.

Anonymous 4:47 PM  

The existence of plenty of uncomfortable v-words notwithstanding, couldn't it just be the ass in crevasse? I'm going with ass. But of course, I always go with that.

kumar 5:38 PM  

Anyone catch the terrific program on Crosswords on PBS last night? Really enjoyable.

A few days ago I posted a note in awe of the finish times of solvers much better than I am; some inferred that I was suggesting that the times may not be accurate. After watching the show last night, am humbled and chastened. Wow, doing a Sunday type puzzle in less than eight minutes! Wouldn't have believed it if I did not see it with my own eyes.

Anonymous 5:52 PM  

Rikki: ORT is just an english word for "A morsel left at a meal", so says my Webster. I believe people use "crosswordese" in general to describe any word that is really common in crossword puzzles, but not commonly used in normal speech. From my perspective, "ort" certainly qualifies!

And I think theme "quality" is in the eyes of the puzzler! I agreed with Rex on this today's, but often I really like themes he finds mediocre - independent of whether they help me with the puzzle solving.

Orange 7:17 PM  

Did somebody say "orts"? That's always my cue to ramble on about that high school paper I wrote about medieval dining customs. They'd throw the orts on the ground for the dogs, I wrote, a seasoned consumer of crosswordese even at that tender age. My teacher circled the word "orts" and appended a question mark, suspecting a typo, and apparently it didn't occur to him to consult a dictionary.

Chip Ahoy 7:31 PM  

Once I had a dream where my sister raised musk ox. She was wearing the most outrageous coat. And boots. And hat. In the background they were stupidly banging each others' heads for dominance like rams.

She also employed a team of native women cranking out a whole range of strange musk ox related handicrafts.

Therefore, I appreciate musk ox wherever it appears even though the animals themselves are quite dense and rude, and even when it needs to be spelled mutk ox in order to be rightfully thematically consistent.

Anonymous 8:01 PM  

Thanks for the orts explanations. For some reason, I expected it to be a modern acronym rather than a medieval word... like Ordinary Random Table Scraps or Overcooked Rotting Table Scraps or Out to Rover Table Scraps. You're groaning and glad I'm not a constructor, right?

P.S. Chip Ahoy: what did you eat before bed the night of Musk Ox dream?

Anonymous 10:44 PM  

I love your blog and learn a lot from it. But I was surprised by your comment that "host computer" isn't "in-the-language" enough. For a large segment of the world, it's a very ordinary English term. As you put it so well the other day "Doing the puzzle means having to know about a Lot of stuff you don't particularly care about," and for this clue that meant computer systems.

Rex Parker 10:59 PM  

"Large" is surely an overstatement, if you are considering a percentage of the "world" for whom HOST COMPUTER is a "very ordinary English term." And further, I knew the term; it just didn't feel strong enough (to me) to build a theme answer off of, especially in a theme as tenuous as this one.


Michael Chibnik 11:25 PM  

I found this an easy, enjoyable, run-of-the-mill puzzle.

For what it's worth, "host computer" seems like fairly ordinary English to me and I'm not a computer geek at all. The theme answer I didn't particularly like was castile iron pan.

Anonymous 11:33 PM  

"Host computer" gets about ten times as many Google hits as "cast-iron pan".

voiceofsocietyman 12:01 AM  

I didn't 'get' the theme until I had about 8 letters left in the whole puzzle and was completing the NW, and then suddenly it made sense. Granted, I'd done the puzzle in three separate attacks, so it wasn't coherent to me. I liked the puzzle over all, but I do have quibbles with CAST IRON PAN (pot, I thought) and HOST COMPUTER. I really liked MUSK OX, ONE L, and Y.A. TITTLE.

Anonymous 1:19 AM  

Hey I thought this was a great puzzle.

I didn't figure out the theme til near the end, but once I did, I thought that "MISS UNIVERSE," "TEXT MESSAGE" AND "CAST IRON PAN" were all very clever.

Bravo to the constructor.

Waxy in Montreal 7:44 PM  

From the future (or is it the past?), 6 weeks on:

ooo. Wasn't this just a great Wednesday treat? Inventive, challenging, yet extremely fair. Like anon1:19 AM, I too didn't figure out the theme until the puzzle was basically completed but the great thing is you don't have to in order to solve.

And I think the Castile Ironpans would be a super name for a team to play in NFL Europe.

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