MONDAY, Nov. 19, 2007 - Lynn Lempel

Monday, November 19, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (again, it's RELATIVE difficulty)

THEME: Things you'd find in a PAPER (40A: Where you may find the ends of 17-, 23-, 52- and 63-Across)

Before I get a bunch of comments saying "What do you mean, 'Challenging,' I thought this was easy. Way easier than yesterday's, which you rated 'Medium,' etc." let me first say, sigh. Second, the difficulty ratings are relative to the day of the week of the puzzle. So this puzzle, today's, I found "Medium-Challenging' ... For A Monday.

Why? I don't know. I just stumbled over a lot of answers, some of which seemed perfectly fair, others of which seemed kinda ugly. Take CRIPES (5A: "Jeepers!") - I could not come up with that word at all, and its first two crosses - 5D: U.S. health promoter: Abbr. (CDC) and 6D: Auto last made in the 1930s (REO) - also did not come instantly. I can't remember the last time I heard someone say / saw someone write CRIPES. I hear both CRIMINY and YIPES more often. This CRIPES must be their bastard son. Further, 27A: Searched (trolled) tripped me as well. It's just not the first word, or second, that comes to mind with a generic clue like [Searched]. In other parts of the puzzle I was just slow on the uptake. Took me a couple beats to retrieve the very easy (bordering on Pantheonic) DENALI (15A: Native name for Mount McKinley), and I looked at B--- for what felt like a while before the name I wanted, BURR (36D: Jefferson's first vice president) finally leaped into my head. Other hiccups included:

  • SEDGE (33D: Marsh plant) - I have had SEGO / SAGO confusion before, and those words were fighting it out in my brain while SEDGE sat mildly, quietly by.
  • SMITH (52D: Suffix with black or silver) - never ever thought of -SMITH as a suffix. I suppose it's correct, just not intuitive to me. Thus, another hiccup.
  • BEANIE (70A: Freshman's topper) - come on. COME ON. When is the last time any "freshman" wore a BEANIE??? This kind of outdated cluing has to go, or it has to be clued as outdated. It is a question of date, right? Is there some college ritual still going on of which I am unaware?

Then there's the theme, which ... wasn't strong. Theme entries:
  • 17A: Subversive group (fifth column) - here was the main problem - the reason I got off to such a poor start: I've Never heard of this phrase. Pure, plain ignorance. FIFTH COLUMN means nothing to me right now.
  • 23A: Soap or lotion, say (toilet article) - had trouble committing to it because my ear wants only TOILETRY ARTICLE
  • 52A: Notorious stigma (scarlet letter)
  • 63A: Coveted film honor (Best Picture)

So there wasn't a lot of joy in puzzleville today - though I should say that I got through the puzzle in reasonable time (4:45), despite all my tripping . I did love ELMIRA (9D: New York city where Mark Twain is buried), since that's where I go every Tuesday night to teach (in the maximum security prison). Also, I find I have an inexplicable love for IBIS (37D: Curve-billed wader). The VILE (22A: Repulsive) / VIALS (22D: Pharmacy containers) intersection was mildly cute. Otherwise .... well, see you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 8:11 AM  

At the risk of incurring another sigh from RP, the puzzle was, relatively speaking, easy. Burr was a gimme since years ago I worked for one of his descendants who spent an inordinate amount of the university's time trying to prove that Aaron Burr was not a bad man and probably never even fought a duel. Well, he didn't go that far but he was one of the founding members of the Aaron Burr Society. Enough.

Hungry Mother 8:15 AM  

Rex, you're right about outdated. This geezer found it easy because there were lots of terms I used long ago. Being old isn't alway a bad thing.

Anonymous 8:29 AM  

I'm gonna start using CRIPES now. Like CRIPES, that Saturday puzzle is hard!

I missed on the ELI/ELMIRA cross. I convinced myself it was a y, not an I. And I've even been to the Twain gravesite, which was a normal, well-marked set of stones in a typical hilly cemetary. The town did not make that much of an impression on me.

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

CRIPES must have been well clued because it came right to me.

I think JEEPERS and CRIPES might be two Jimmy Olsenisms.

First thing that popped into my mind for BEANIE was Flounder from "Animal House". I'm not even sure if he had a beanie on at any time in the movie.

BEANIE, CRIPES, FIFTHCOLUMN: Felt like a 50's movie.

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

Oh, he sure did.

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

Excellent pete.

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

I much prefer CRIPES as the bastard son of criminy and yipes than the possible fact that someone wanted to say Christ! but chickened out. Google research refers to this as near-swearing that relates to the Divine. Apparently terms like golly-gosh are seen to be insults to the Divine as well. Poor Pollyanna is probably burning in hell as we speak. Since I like the word cripes, I'm hoping to find a more interesting ancestor fot it. Crikey! Maybe we should just start a Rexicography. It would do the world good.


Anonymous 10:20 AM  

BEANIE brought back the memory of the freshmen mixer--the beanie bounce. Are there sock hops anymore?

Anonymous 10:20 AM  

I disagree with the speculation that "cripes" is the bastard son of "crimimy." Here in the land of the brat and the bubbler (Wisconsin), it is a commonly used term even today. Often it is used with other words, most notably as "for cripes sake" and "cripes almighty."

Thus, it appears that, in the best George Carlin sense ("They can't fool me--'shoot' is 'shit' with two o's!"), "cripes" is a genteel expletive form of "Christ."

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

Questioned "Suspect's excuse" as a clue for ALIBI: an excuse is a mitigating reason for having done something, an ALIBI is proof that you didn't do it.

How do you guys minimize time? This was the easiest, for me, puzzle in a long time. There were only 4 clues in this puzzle that I didn't get immediately from the clue, and they all fell immediately from the crosses - I never once had to go back to a clue. Yet it still took me 6 minutes. Does doing it on paper take longer? Am I simply slow?

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

Odie’s becoming popular.

Anonymous 10:51 AM  

CRIPES as the bastard son of criminy and yipes did not appear to me to be a speculation about the origin of cripes. Golly-Gosh. I thought it was a joke. I even laughed.

If I tell the teacher the dog ate my homework it is an excuse. If she believes me I don't have to stay after school.

If my husband tells the judge I was home when the fire started he has given me an alibi. If she believes him I can take my matches and go home.

Works for me.

Anonymous 10:51 AM  


I think a lot of people are just fast at crosswords whether online or on paper.

You can probably improve your online speed by improving your keyboard skills. I'm just guessing, but I think the speedier solvers rarely use their mouse.

Anonymous 11:09 AM  

FIFTH COLUMN: just watch a few more WWII films that focus on the home front (and that were made at the time) and you'll get the lingo down.

Anonymous 11:17 AM  

I found it to be extremely easy, but I did have to ink over two wrong entries: I had "guy" for BUB, and "Opie" for ODIE. I really wanted 65d to be be "parlez" (of the devil).

By easy, I mean my time = ((Orange's + pi) x 4 - 4pi).

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

A little googling tells me that the BEANIE was popular in the 1920s, and FIFTH COLUMN originated in 1936. Even I am not old enough for those guys (although I'd heard of them both).

Anonymous 1:17 PM  

A quick and easy one, my only problem was CDC/Denali. I picked up something that surprised me in anonymous 11.04: is it acceptable to read through the entire puzzle and only then start the timer? If so, I'm a lot less impressed by the incredible times some of you post!

Rex Parker 1:35 PM  

Nobody who posts his/her time here pre-reads the puzzle. That would be cheating for sure. Most of us who post times have been timed under tournament conditions, so while it may seem impossible to get such fast times, it's really not.

I don't worry about anyone else's time, slow or fast. Hard to imagine why anyone would care enough to impugn someone else's honesty.


PS if you are going to send me hate mail, at least make it interesting. Some guy calling himself "Fred Bird" (sounds made up) just sent me a message that read simply "Fuck you." As insults go, that's pathetic. I expect a little more creativity out of you people.

Anonymous 1:41 PM  

Did any other older women remember wearing a little brown beanie as part of their Brownie uniform? I just loved mine!

Anonymous 2:13 PM  

I must say I thought today's puzzle was fairly easy. Got some of the answers I didn't know straight away from the crosses (like CRIPES and BUB). Actually, it's a good thing I did wait for the cross on BUB because otherwise I would have written in BUD. (I like to wait until I'm sure before I write in the answer. I hate crossing out or writing over- I prefer my puzzle to be pristine when I'm finished. OK, so I'm anal.)

Least favorite clue: How do you get LET ON from "Pretend"? Seems fairly opposite to me.

Anonymous 2:14 PM  

I must say I thought today's puzzle was fairly easy. Got some of the answers I didn't know straight away from the crosses (like CRIPES and BUB). Actually, it's a good thing I did wait for the cross on BUB because otherwise I would have written in BUD. (I like to wait until I'm sure before I write in the answer. I hate crossing out or writing over- I prefer my puzzle to be pristine when I'm finished. OK, so I'm anal.)

Least favorite clue: How do you get LET ON from "Pretend"? Seems fairly opposite to me.

Anonymous 2:15 PM  

Surprised the constructor didn't go with "ionic" or "doric" column. Same amount of letters and much more common. At least to me.

Anonymous 2:54 PM  

Re: very dated clues/answers cf 'beanie' (aka 'dink')

I am a very old guy and I really wonder why references to Nita Naldi, Myrna Loy, her little dog Asta, and Adele Astaire etc. continue as though any one alive would have just rushed down to the Bijou to plunk down 35¢ to watch "Return of the Thin Man".

I know the references only because of my parents referring to them as though the references were a part of the current culture. And this was in the '40's-50's!.

I can only assume these are ritualistic responses to catachismic responses and as well-know to us cross worders as celebes ox.

Is it time for puzzle propounders to update the lexicon? Or is the mass in Latin more satisfying?

(Rex: I know this crosses on to the general, but at least I started with my beanie on (no longer worn at Williams even when I was a freshman in 1956).

Anonymous 3:09 PM  

Oh, God- I shall wear my trousers rolled. By 195two when I was a frosh, beanies no longer worn.

Constant readers might wish to remember 'dink' in case a cluing ever sez 'Stover at Yale'!

Anonymous 3:22 PM  

Thought this had lots of good fill for a Monday. Liked the waft/wisp crossing and the vile/vials. Softtouch & interlude were good long answers. Wonder why it is that some answers show up in a clump of puzzles. Odie comes to mind. He's been popping up a lot lately.

LOVE Tim Burton. He is so devilishly creative. Burr reminded me of Gore Vidal's book "Burr." The only vice president up for murder charges during his term. The charges were dropped. He claimed Hamilton shot first and missed. Maybe that's the answer to world peace. Let all the big guys duel it out.

Cripes was one of my mother's laundered expletives. Along with "A-double-crooked-letter" as in "don't be an a-double-crooked-letter." Now that's a mouthful for a little word that wasn't a swear even then.

Pretend/leton? Hmm... I'm thinking of sentences... I pretend to be a princess. I let on to be a princess. Nope. Orange, anything come to mind to make this work?

Fred're a vile, uncool, hairy gopher. A hex on your toilet articles. Cripes... what an a-double-crooked-letter!

Anonymous 3:23 PM  

P.S. Orson Beanie... that is hilarious!

PuzzleGirl 3:27 PM  

CRIPES made me think of Velma on Scooby-Doo, although I don't think she ever said it. She said something similar though I think....

I finished around 6:00, which is about right for me. And < 2x Orange, so I'm feeling pretty good about myself right now.

Anonymous 3:32 PM  

I normally solve my puzzles in 3 to 8 minutes but then wait an extra 12 to 103 minutes before pushing the button just in case someone somewhere might think I'm cheating.

Do I have to use a smiley face here?

My dink was red. My time in the Brownies lasted for about one meeting. It had nothing to do with the beanie though.

Maybe Amy is having something done to her eyebrows. When she returns she might let on that it was merely a trip to the grocery store but I'd want to check her eyebrows first.

Anonymous 3:46 PM  

Gotta agree that "Suspect's excuse" was a wrong clue. Penny, if your example is trying to justify it I don't get it. You are making an EXCUSE for not having your homework - don't need an ALIBI since it is pretty obvious you don't have it!

whoops - gotta run, late, but just checked the dictionary and I am so wrong! Def. 2 under "alibi" is "an excuse ....". Please ignore all the above :(

fergus 3:51 PM  

Didn't Mike Naismith of the Monkees usually wear a BEANIE? OK, that's not exactly current but it's a little closer. Rex's account of Fred Bird's creative elocution did make me laugh however, if only because it beggars the imagination how someone could bother to compose such an inventive critique.

For 56D: How about "The Wizard of Oz still wants to LET ON (Pretend) that he hasn't been exposed by Toto." That works for me, but maybe someone will come up something more fluent.

Anonymous 4:11 PM  

Nope, Mike wore a toque.

Anonymous 4:12 PM  

The Cruciverb database lists the word pretend as a pretty popular clue for let on. It was used in another Lempel puzzle as well. A googled site lists let on as one of a trillion synonyms for pretend: feign, affect, simulate, claim falsely, profess, make a pretense, imitate, assume, counterfeit, fake, sham, make as if, make as though, dissimulate, dissemble, mislead, pass oneself off, pose, impersonate, bluff, be hypocritical, purport, allege, make a show of, put on airs, put on*, let on*, make like*, go through the motions*, sail under false colors*, keep up appearances*, put up a front*, put on an act*, play possum*; see also deceive.

Rob 4:31 PM  

Velma on Scooby-Doo said "Jenkies!" not "cripes." Tough to imagine what swear word Jinkies is a tame version of.

Anonymous 4:48 PM  

Orson B -- Love the formula! I liked this puzzle too, more because of the interesting fill than the theme. I would have made 2xOrange if my wife hadn't needed to get into a drawer at the desk I was sitting at and I hadn't misread Freshman as Fisherman which caused me to pause significantly in Texas (I also had GUY at first).

Here is the wiki link for fith column. It's kinda interesting and something I didn't know although I am familiar with the term. Sorry, I don't know how to create a link inside blogger.

Orange 5:12 PM  

Penny, I had an appointment downtown followed by lunch with three-time ACPT champion Tyler Hinman. We talked about crosswords, crossword blogs, crossword game shows, crossword people, and life. Good times, good times.

Anonymous 5:29 PM  

Is covet a SIN?

Anonymous 5:43 PM  

I imagine that "Jinkies" is a laundered version of Jesus Christ. Think the J and the K.

Anonymous 5:51 PM  

fergus --

Nesmith = Monkee

Naismith = inventor of basketball

Anonymous 5:56 PM  

Penny --

Unsure about covet/SIN, but I did hear that the Church was streamlining and combining commandments. I may return, as one of the newer ones is "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife in vain."

Michael Chibnik 6:39 PM  

Monday easy, of course, but I stumbled twice on 49D calm writing first soothe and then settle before getting serene.

shared others' reaction with "beanie" -- they were long gone when I started college (a place not far from Elmira where they probably did wear beanies at some time) long ago.

Anonymous 7:46 PM  

I'm pretty sure there's a commandment: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's beanie. If not, I take back my fourth confession.

I think "let on" may be one of those terms that I use in the exact opposite sense for which it is intended, as in: I would never let on that I was pretending to be smart." But, then again, we also used the term "unthaw" to refer to defrosting something in my house.

Anonymous 8:01 PM  

i'm a lifelong wisconsinite and i don't think i've ever heard the word "cripes" before.

Orange 8:55 PM  

Rikki, the "divulge" meaning of "let on" is much more familiar. "Unthaw," though...that's just backwards. It's like using "still unpacked" to mean "still packed" or "not yet unpacked."

Anonymous 9:03 PM  

And I've been saying cripes all my life but don't think I've ever heard of Wisconsin.

I lie too, of course.

And covet.

As Mark Twain said before he was buried in Elmira, "Heaven for climate, hell for society".

Anonymous 10:22 PM  

Thanks, Orange. I can remember being ten years old and trying to explain to my mother that unthawing would actually be freezing something. She got it, I think, but continued to unthaw things.

Anonymous 12:57 AM  

Orange.... that was me, not anonymous.

Anonymous 1:47 PM  

Must be older than Dick S-remember wearing a Freshman beanie in 1950-either wear it or suffer some horrible, forgotten fate. Gone now-the dog ate it!

Anonymous 6:43 PM  


Are there any more of us out here? I enjoy seeing if my difficulty rating matches Rex'. It has lately, but I enjoy when I think one's easier (than Rex). I thought today's was a snap. Thanks for the help, all. Still enjoying the forum (I dislike the term blog).

- - Robert

Rex Parker 6:55 PM  

Nobody likes the term "blog," believe me. Why do you think I started this endeavor under a pseudonym? The very idea of having a "blog" just seemed ridiculous. An unfortunate combination of BLOB and LOG, neither of which I care to be associated with. But there's already a "Forum" for the NYT - its inadequacy on many levels was what led me to start this "entity that shall not be named" in the first place.


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