SATURDAY, Nov. 10, 2007 - Dana Motley

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

Theme: none

Despite some harrowing clues and answers, I finished this one up in about average Saturday time (circa 15 minutes, for me). One square was an utter and complete guess, and I was actually stunned when the Times site accepted my grid. I thought for sure I'd get the dreaded "Your puzzle is incorrect" message. I still don't understand how the answer fits the clue:

29D: Some matériel (arms)

ARMS isn't even a French word, as far as I know. So I remain baffled. If you know the answer, let me know (NOTE: by the time you read this, it is likely that many people will have already answered the question in the "Comments" section, so if you know the answer, just check first).

The long answers are all worth noting, so I will note them now:

  • 17A: Knee problem (grass stain) - love the triple "S"
  • 21A: Capital, usually (metropolis) - hmmm ... not sure this is true. Maybe national capitals are, but ... is Carson City really a METROPOLIS? Salem? Olympia? Helena? I could go on.
  • 3D: Feature of many a big do (teased hair) - recently thumbed through my high school yearbook, and saw much of this.
  • 49A: Like Y, e.g. (next to last) - part of me admires this clue, and the other part feels like some essential ingredient is missing in the clue (or answer)
  • 54A: Soft, high-fiber dish (mashed peas) - had the MASHED part and my first thought for the rest of the answer was YAMS. Why?
  • 28D: Some clichéd writing (journalese) - by far the most brutal of the long answers. I stared at -OU---LESE for a good while. That "J" would really have helped, but holy moses that cross was obscure (see below)
I like NONOS (9D: They're proscribed) and NO MAS (45D: Mexican uncle?) in rotational symmetrical positions. Also like TOADIES (35A: Hangers-on)and CULT (39A: Following group) together, in a kind of group hug with IDIOTS (38A: Other drivers (never you, of course)). My biggest problem with the puzzle was in the Far East, where the aforementioned ARMS and JOURNALESE make their homes. What those answers both have in common is that they cross the ruthless RAJAH (27A: Rogers Hornsby's nickname, with "the"). If you search ["the rajah"], you get only 72K Google hits, and none of the ones on the first page refer to Mr. Hornsby. And a search of [hornsby rajah] returns a scant 1090 hits. The greatest-hitting second baseman of the first half of the 20th century was somehow like an Indian king? Tell me more! Seriously, tell me more, 'cause I don't understand.

Many sparkling clues and answers today, including:

  • 31A: Senior ctr.? (sch.)
  • 34A: Before analysis, after "a" (priori) - see explanation here
  • 1D: Maker of a historic touchdown (Eagle) - it has landed, or so I hear
  • 7D: Had a causerie (chatted) - OK, this isn't so great, but I love the word "causerie" - I initially forgot what it meant; it sounds much more violent than "chatted" - like "caustic" or "cauterize"
  • 10D: Jaunty (debonair) - what was great about this was not the clue or answer, but my initial wrong fill. I had HAZE instead of DAZE at 10A: Fog, and thus for 10D: Jaunty here I had HEB... and I was like "Heb...raic? Really? But it won't fit..."
  • 39D: Game derived from 500 rummy (canasta) - reminds me of many a summer vacation up the west coast from Fresno to (eventually) Seattle, sitting in the back of the van, playing cards over and over and over again with my sister and stepsister. How we ever got hooked up with such an old-fashioned game, I don't remember.
  • 42D: Light carriage with a folding top (calash) - well, SURREY wouldn't fit, and after that, I was all out of carriages. CALASH reminds me of an ethnic food of some kind on "The Simpsons" called "klav kalash."
Got a bit thrown by 57A: Topic lead-in (as to), as I was trying to think of a prefix that went with "topic." More problems with 31D: Do something emotionally to (stir) - I had SCAR. My big victory of the day was partially remembering the name of 23A: Leon who won both a Pulitzer and a National Book Award in 1963 (Edel). Off the "D" I wrote in EDER, which was very close and easily corrected. I know of Mr. EDEL only from doing crosswords.

The question marks:

  • 1A: Vegetable oil, e.g. (ester) - at this point, I'm beginning to wonder what isn't an ESTER...
  • 40A: Character lineup (rst) - I knew this, just couldn't believe it was right. I can tolerate answers like this, and DCC (55D: Multiple of LXX) in an otherwise very strong puzzle.
  • 42A: Ammunition carrier on wheels (caisson) - learned the word from crosswords; before seeing the word in a crossword, never knew what it was exactly that went rolling along in that song.
  • 46A: Target of a rabbit punch (nape) - I wrote in SIDE; thought it was a kidney punch.
  • 56A: Red-bellied trout (char) - ... nope, don't know it.
  • 4D: Neighbor of Monterey Park, briefly (East L.A.) - never fails to evoke the Cheech Marin song "Born in EAST L.A." (sung to the tune of Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A."
  • 8D: The sacred bull Apis was his embodiment (Osiris) - didn't know it, but his is an easy name to piece together from crosses.
  • 11D: Botanist's angle (axil) - does a rose have an AXIL, 'cause that would make me happy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Rick 8:19 AM  

Materiel is indeed from French, but is used in English to refer to military supplies.

I finished this puzzle with a sense of accomplishment that I haven't felt in a while. My first pass through the grid yielded only one answer in the SE corner. I was able to build off of that to scratch and claw my way through the remainder until it all eventually came together. Brutal and satisfying at the same time.

Anonymous 8:46 AM  

"Calash" is an anglicization of the French "calèche," also the name of a perfume by Hermès. Yes, a small coach. My favorite fill was "no más!" for "Mexican uncle." Grrreat clue! For some reason had a lot of trouble with "caste." Was looking for some technical beekeeping term! Good puzzle today.

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

Good morning!

Rex, could you please post the grid...I like to check my answers here.

I also had haze for daze and was wondering about the heb...

I thought that the RAJAH was a gap in my (nonexistent) sports knowledge and that Rex and others would have that section of the puzzle opened up in a way that I had to fight for. I guess it was hard for everyone!

I had HOUNDERS in for DOUBTERS for the longest time.

Tough, but fun puzzle. Have a nice weekend.

QP 10:00 AM  

RABBIT PUNCH could also mean a "kidney punh" (googled)

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

Why YAMS? Perhaps because you have good taste. Trust me. Mashed peas are nothing to write home about but they were a gimme.

Three stars for 32D Word preceding various colors. NOT color code but the lively CODE RED kinda code. I am still oddly enamored of the 40A Character lineup clue. Not sure why but I really like it.

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

Thought it was pretty tough but fair.

ECON is becoming like Alec, if it's a four letter college course it's going to be ECON.

Got hung up for a long time in the NW because I knew 1D had to be LINDY and would not let go of it.

NE had me going for a while also, had UNIT for EXIT. I've seen AXIL in puzzles before but did not remember it. Would of helped a lot.

"The Rajah" really does sound old. I think that's what we should start calling Arod.

Thoroughly enjoyed it.


Anonymous 10:25 AM  

I was staring at the EXIT/AXIL cross and trying to figure 'edit number' or 'exit number'? Both sounded equally reasonable, and I guessed wrong. Also, I call the other motorists MORONS.

I liked the QUIZ SHOW clue also.

Anonymous 10:33 AM  

Who is that in the photo at the end of the blog?

Anonymous 10:53 AM  

RAJAH could be a way to say Roger in some obscure eastern (US) dialect...hence the Rajah. I thought this puzzle was a little...ho hum? Maybe cuz Ii was ready for some zzzzzs at the time.

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

Found this one very difficult because everything I put it was close but wrong -- cavities for eateries, obit for exit, gameshow for quizshow, scar for stir, crust for plate, neck for nape ... a nightmare.

wendy 11:03 AM  

I call other motorists MOFOS. Which doesn't fit, but whatever.

As much as I loved yesterday, today I just said NO MAS and walked away. I got SHAW and CREEL and thought I'd gotten 23A with URIS which was wrong. Beyond that, it was google time, and I've gotten to the point where if I have to start with the crutch that early, I just don't enjoy the experience.

It amused me that I got CREEL because I am not a fisherperson but I will never (apparently) forget the time I bought a chocolate one from Eddie Bauer for an outdoorsy co-worker for a long-ago gift exchange. Came in handy but lotta good it did me.

I also question whether mashed peas are very high in fiber. I was searching for a grain or something coarse.

wendy 11:12 AM  

PS anon 10:33:

That's Rex! Or a young William Bruce Rose, Jr., aka Axl ...

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

Rex, you didn't mention the school theme with 6A ECON, 31A SCH, and 30D HIST (though you did mention the first two separately). I thought it was pretty brutal--I had to look up nine answers.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

Rex, I really enjoyed the write up today, especially "what isn't an ESTER...". Plus, you somehow remembered to switch from bold to non-bold on the second right paren following "never you, of course". That's pretty impressive for whatever time of the morning you wrote the blog...

The Washington (state) area was unbreakable. My residency afforded me no relief. Uris in EDEL's spot didn't help much. No idea there was a Monterey Park in LA, I was in the wrong part of the state for a while and then the wrong country altogether.

At a site called listafterlist(dot)com, there is a list titled "Homerun Hitting Players' Nicknames" which includes "The Rajah of Swat (Rogers Hornsby, a play on Ruth's nickname, as well as his own name)". Perhaps Rick was alluding to this, above, with his own nom du jour, "The Sultan of Swat" (one of Ruth's nicknames).

I'm more interested in his first name, Rogers. Were they expecting twins and got disappointed? Typo? Planting the seeds for MPD?

Loved the clues/answers for TOADIES, QUORUM, CAISSON, PRIORI. Just the right degree of challenge and fun. CALASH was new for me....stumbled around with Hansom and Landau (but not Bain) and even Tonneau. But the crosses gave it up.

CREEL was easy becasue I have a good friend named Greil (rhymes) and we have been playing with his name since high school.

I would love it if the week went Thu, Fri, Sat, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun.

Today's theme could have been a very weak "messy green things" with only two theme answers.

JC66 11:54 AM  

I think Joanee hit the nail on the head with the Rogers/the RAJAH connection. Things were so much simpler back then, although Arod & Big Papi don't take much imagination, either.

Anonymous 12:12 PM  


All but the terminal flowers on a rosebush emerge from axils. (It means "armpit.")

While "axillary" is a bit more precise, since it makes you happy you may call such a bloom an "Axil Rose" without fear of contradiction.

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

Easier than yesterday but is rst short for roster? I agree with lack of fiber in disgusting mashed peas or as the Brits would have it, mushy peas. Ugh I say.

Anonymous 12:58 PM  

Tough puzzle.
Loved the Rogers Hornsby comments.
Rajah of Swat - Inspired like Sultan of Swat by the movie "The Shiek."
"Rogers" was his mother's maiden name.

Anonymous 1:01 PM  

Character lineup.

Three characters in a row.
I liked it :-)

Anonymous 1:21 PM  


Anonymous 1:35 PM  

I thought I ws on a roll with daisies, creel , caissons, NACL, priori, econ (the only college major?), acme, char and loss.

But Uris for Edel, So. Pasa for East LA and Abbs for Nape (even tho I know abbs has one b).

Thus, I share your pain, however it was a well spent 90 minutes.

Anonymous 1:46 PM  

I kinda like RAJAH as a baseball nickname. Shows much more imagination than some of today's: BURNSIE (for Burns) and GREENIE (doh).

Unknown 2:18 PM  

1d, Maker of a historic touchdown, could also refer to Doug Flutie's famous Hail Mary pass to Gerard Phelan to win the Orange Bowl in 1984. The Boston College Eagles, after all, and I guess Flutie or Phelan can be considered an "Eagle."

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

for a saturday to fall as readily as this i had to be rather fortunate...

...i've eaten 'arctic char' at least once

...and as a young'un i spent undue hours familiarizing myself with the contents of the Baseball Encyclopedia far as caissons are concerned, i thought they were some kind of bulkhead used in building bridges? i seem to remember a ken burns program talking about how the brooklyn bridge construction workers contracted caisson's disease which was later discovered to be the bends (sp?).

Anonymous 2:50 PM  

Deion, you're right, "caisson" has at least 2 meanings.

This was a VERY tough puzzle for me, but now that it's finished all the clues and answers seem fair.

I wanted Leon URIS for the longest time. I had IDIOTS and CAISSON but knew they couldn't be right because they conflicted with "move" (instead of STIR) and "gameshow" instead of QUIZSHOW. Played around with neck, back and side endlessly before finally getting NAPE. Had haze for DAZE, ammo for ARMS, ratted for TEASED.

But in the end, great puzzle.

Rex, love your comment on ESTER. couldn't agree more.

Anonymous 3:08 PM  

Not too bad for a Saturday puzzle – didn’t seem to have to stretch or twist to make sense of clues but did have a real bare knuckler right down to the final round. I had an odd lack of confidence today which prevented me from putting down what turned out to be correct answers. I usually refuse to give up wrong answers but today I refused to accept answers I had that were correct. Didn’t’ get NE correct until I checked in with Rex. Had EPIC/APIL and ECES. Botany and French are Greek to me.

fergus 3:20 PM  

Wendy, Tony Soprano once mixed up MOFO with Amour Fou in one of his finest malapropisms. Maybe bad drivers are thinking crazily about their beloved?

Rex, Why the qualification about Rogers Hornsby? All time best, I would say, though perhaps you're giving Carew a shout? And Leon EDEL has to be one of the finest literary biographers (just getting through all of the late Henry James is testament enough) though Richard Ellmann, with his works on Joyce, Wilde and Yeats, is probably the most deservedly celebrated.

Last time I was in LA drove out to Monterey Park, expressly to dine at 'Dumpling Master' because the name sounded so appealing. Definitely would go there again. Many, many Chinese EATERIES there.

I still don't understand SCH for Senior ctr.? High school HISTory students' locale? And EXIT has the most nebulous of clues. That bumped me into a DAZE from the erstwhile HAZE. QUORUMS seems a bit odd, too. Wouldn't Sufficient groups be more appropriate?

The one-word clues, like Up and Beat, are very cleverly much broader in possibilities later in the week than earlier. This is worth looking into more closely since the one-word clues on Monday and Tuesday always seem so exact. Maybe my expectations color this observation, though?

fergus 3:25 PM  

Learned CAISSON at a very young age watching the JFK funeral on TV.

Michael Chibnik 3:29 PM  

I thought the level of difficult for a Saturday was about average. I got through it, but it took a while (a lot more than Rex's 15 minutes). One clue I got right away was rajah for Roger Hornsby, but when I wrote it in I thought that this was really obscure for most people. But I guess that's Saturday solving...

Anonymous 3:37 PM  

I have to add that I liked the "Multiple of LXX" clue because there were so many combinations that would fit: CXL, CCX, DLX, DCC, CMX, MMC. Definitely not a gimme!

As for Rajah- remember that TV show,"What's Happening"? That character, Roger, was also called Raj. (I didn't figure this out, though, until late in the solving process.)

All in all, a pretty fun puzzle.

frances 4:16 PM  

Northwest was the last to fall, and then only after Googling Leon Edel. I had the last half of 17A and thought it must surely be wrong; a knee problem ought to be a "strain," but the crosses made "stain" unavoidable. For 54A, I initially mashed up "tofu" because I wanted the oil holder to be "cruet." That sorted itself out pretty quickly, though.

Anonymous 5:08 PM  

Memory time, Fergus. Caissons. No wonder I got it so quickly. Highly memorable caissons. I was there and as we heard the caissons approaching someone in the crowd who had his portable radio on proclaimed "Oswald's been shot!".

Talk about your hysterical historical moments ...

Anonymous 5:16 PM  

Yeah. what is this sch. for seniors center? Please elucidate, somebody...

Anonymous 5:23 PM  

Loved this puzzle. The NW fell fairly easily with Eagle and Ester, and the SW came next. Had a little trouble with the SE as I wanted Nape to be Neck, but Easel and Creel had to fit so it led nicely to the middle west and the NE. Bill James has a great article in his Historical Baseball Abstract about the types of nicknames that were popular in each decade.

Michael Chibnik 5:26 PM  


sch. for seniors center = school

At least that's my guess.

Anonymous 5:30 PM  

Hobbyist - sch. is school for seniors center.

Anonymous 6:39 PM  

I'm with Wendy on this one. I just couldn't get hold of it. Started late last night and the puzzle was literally blurry.
I had so few things on the first couple passes through. I thought I was brilliant for putting "psycho" for "before analysis and after a". I still love it, except for it being WRONG. Got tripped up by Uris, and had goalies for toadies, which I also thought was a great clue/answer until it was WRONG. Loved no mas and idiot was the first thing that came into my mind and was RIGHT.

How is an axil a botonist's angle?

Those Brits and their mushy peas. Great pub lunch side.

Woke up with a fresh eye, but still found this one challenging and not as much fun as yesterday. But, buggery is in the eye of the buggered and I could barely breathe all morning because my son, at 20, made his debut with the Orchestra of the Swan outside of London. (Brag...)


Orange 7:32 PM  

Rikki, just Google up a definition for axil. It's a plant term. (Not to be confused for axle or Axl or axel.) Closely related, as Martin hinted, to axilla, the Latin name for our armpit. (The royal we have our armpit?)

Hobbyist, the senior class goes to school, so the seniors' ctr. is a SCH. Does that work for you?

Poindexter is dead on. An NYT crossword consisting of two Thursdays, two Fridays, two Saturdays, and a Sunday would be awesome. Actually, make it two Thursdays, four Saturdays, and a Sunday. That would suit me fine.

Rikki 8:54 PM  

Thanks Orange. I knew I was in for a head slap. It was just that kind of puzzle for me. I was thinking of every other meaning for the word "angle" (point of view, position of entry, bias, etc.) and was thinking of an axil as more of a stem and not that it literally makes an angle.

Anonymous 9:05 PM  

While RAJAH could be some Boston Brahmin mangling of Rogers it is most probably a reference to the east which was popular in the 20's.

Everyone was the Sultan of this or the Rajah of that and with Sultans out ranking Rajahs it was probably a play on Babe Ruth's nickname as the best hitter in BB and Hornsby being not quite as great.

I have no idea if this is true but loved tieing together Brahmins, Rajahs, Sultans, India and Boston pronunciations in one post.


Anonymous 12:35 AM  

This puzzle made me say NO MAS. (One of the few clues I got correct.)

I could only think of Leon URIS and assumed CHAD for CHAR.

Maybe because we were getting ready for company, but I just couldn't get into this one AT ALL. well, it happens.

In retrospect, EAGLE, QUIZ SHOW and the aforementioned NO MAS were my favorite answers. Otherwise - yeesh.

I'm torn between humming the theme to BONANZA or Cheech Marin's "Born in East LA" (title song from the movie).

Anonymous 1:37 AM  

Long day. We had company so I worked this one off and one all day long and it seemed like that's all I really did. Definately, harder than yesterday's for me, but at least I did not need to google (although I was tempted). My only aids were checking the spelling of CAISSON (which I had spelled wrong intitally) and asking my house guest from Orange County about Monterey Park (he said Watts and I infered EASTLA). NW was last to fall because (1) I didn't want to believe ESTER (I guess everything is one) and (2) I had DAIRIES for DAISIES (hey, milk is fresh, right?). Tough but doable.

BTW I think Orange talked about the Mexican Uncle?/NOMAS clue a few weeks ago? I remembered it from somewhere so it was a gimme.

My take on RST and SCH is the same as michael, beth, et. al.

Rikki 3:08 AM  

All I could think of when it came to the rajah was...

I need a bun engine mine Benny Lava!

I'm still laughing, Rick :D

PuzzleGirl 10:13 AM  

I mentioned the NOMAS clue/answer pairing recently as my Favorite Crossword Puzzle Clue Ever. Actually, the first time I saw it, it was "Spanish uncle?" which I love. But I hated this one. The language is Spanish, not Mexican. So this one just seemed, I don't know, racist to me. I picture some redneck slob getting all indignant: "What are ya speakin' over there? Mexican?"

Anonymous 4:22 PM  

A nightmare. At the end of my first pass through the puzzle, I had one answer filled in and it was wrong. After another 20 minutes or so I four answers I was confident of and a few guesses sketched in, and I just gave up and started Googling left and right. Made me feel like a beginner again.

Anonymous 5:59 PM  

What fun to find this blog!!!! I am a lone solver up here in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Canada. I check your blog when I am stumped and nearly done. Thanks so much for sharing!!! (no smirk intended)

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

I guess I'm the lamest...not only do I live in SyndicationLand, but I found this puzzle hard. Lil Army Kid that I am (artillery officer dad) I got Caisson and for Materiel had AMMO... and gradually I got large chunks. With no real theme, it was harder to get my mind set on an angle...ultimately I did google Hornsby, Apis, and Monterey Park. The NE corner, of all things, left me in a FOG (Mist did not work at all)... so, thanks for the grid!

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

rikki west,

I looked up "I need a bun engine mine Benny Lava!" and found this video on YouTube.

Now I'm laughing, too!

I'm a six weeks behinder and I know no one will see this, but for any stragglers here, check out the video.

Anonymous 6:11 PM  

OK - I too had Uris for a LONG time, but I must have been the only one to get hung up on mashed pear instead of mashed peas. As to what isn't an ester - you should also wonder what German city isn't Essen or what golfer isn't Ernie Els. Same story - the word fits in crosswords easily.

OTOH a lot of compounds aren't esters. - proteins, sugars, DNA, RNA, most inorganic compounds..... some compounds are ethers, though, and that has hung me up occasionally.

Greetings from syndicationland.


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