WEDNESDAY, Nov. 28, 2007 - Ray Fontenot

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Driving to an unfamiliar place - theme answers are all things one does when one gets lost while driving somewhere. Bonus feature today is a NW-to-SE diagonal clue!

I have a dentist appointment in exactly 50 minutes, which means I've got about half an hour to write this up, tops. So sorry. A thousand pardons.

I sailed through this puzzle without having Any Idea what the theme was, or even reading a single theme clue, until I was nearly half done. Interesting that in a puzzle about getting lost and taking shortcuts, I solved this in such an oddly circuitous fashion. Somehow, after flubbing the NW corner completely, I got STEER (4D: Be in control) and the "R" gave me TORTE (24A: Rich dessert), and then I was off and running - sprinting, almost - on a nearly perfectly southeasterly diagonal. I hit the SE, solved it, and then went due W, and solved everything in my path - still no sign of a theme (I'd blown right through that 15-letter theme answer in the middle of the puzzle without looking). Finally I hit the completely inscrutable 55A: What you might do next?, which, initially, I did not know was a theme clue. BUY A what now? I then saw 39A: What you might do next? and figured that this was the theme - all answers would have something to do with the word NEXT ... BUY A what? I don't get it. Then I Finally got around to looking at the "first" theme clue, and it all became semi-clear.

Theme answers:

  • 22A: What you might do while driving to an unfamiliar place (get lost)
  • 39A: What you might do next? (find a gas station)
  • 55A: What you might do next? (buy a MAP!)

It was not until after I'd solved the puzzle completely that I noticed that (in AcrossLite format) this puzzle had Notepad instructions:

  • DIAGONAL: What you might do eventually to make up for last time (take the shortcut)

In the end, I really liked the puzzle. It was frustrating to solve it from the bottom up and thus have the theme obscured for so long, but, frankly, that might actually have helped. My brain was undistracted by theme-thought and I just solved the clues in front of me, 1, 2, 3, boom, boom, boom. Even with the theme confusion - and a totally botched NE corner - I came in under 6 minutes.

By way of explaining some of my beefs about yesterday's puzzle (whose author, by the way, appears to be a thick-skinned sweetheart ... all politeness and humility ... sickening, really) let me praise today's short fill, which, while not shocking or even terribly unfamiliar, is yet, on the whole, somewhat more colorful than yesterday's. Somehow, odd letter combinations tend to please me even if the words are common in crossworld - words like RHEE (68A: South Korea's first president), which crosses the cleverly clued BARR (55D: Roseanne, again). Or SIOUX (54D: Victors at Little Bighorn) crossing my beloved SKUA (67A: Gull-like predator). Of course, it helps that this puzzle also has a Discernible (and enjoyable) theme.

Can't believe I blanked on 1A: "Jabberwocky" start ("Twas...") both because it's in the puzzle a lot and because my wife knows that poem well and can recite parts of it off the top of her head. She's weird like that. I absolutely love the symmetricality of WHOLE HOG (5D: All out) and TROOPERS (41D: Smokeys), for reasons that maybe you can explain to me. I've narrowed it down to two possibilities. Either 1. it's because HOG is slang for a motorcycle, which a TROOPER might ride, or 2. it's because a HOG is kind of PIG, and PIG is pejorative slang for a COP, of which TROOPER is one variety.

Didn't know:

  • 17A: Zuider Zee sight (dike) - I would rather see ZUIDER ZEE in the grid than in the clue, even though I've no idea what / where it is.
  • 50D: Be too good to (spoil) - can't figure out the syntax here ... and I just did. F@#$! It's obvious. I thought "to" was an infinitive verb waiting to happen... "Too good to WHAT!?"
  • 12D: Publican's stock (ales) - I had AMMO. I then went to 13D: Made rhapsodic (sent) and entered SANG. Hence my above comment about a botched NE corner.
And other assorted oddities:

  • 36A: Vintner's prefix (oeno-) - told ya so
  • 43A: Garland's "cowardly" co-star (Lahr) - STILL pausing over this guy's name Every time it comes up: BAHR? BEHR? LEHR? Every Time!
  • 40D: Relevant, in law (ad rem) - despite many years of Latin, I completely forgot the accusative form of RES and entered ... RES. "BUY A SAP!? Are we going to knock someone out on the way to gramma's house?"
  • 46D: Emulates Daniel Webster (orates) - I'm just happy that I got this from the clue alone, without even looking at the grid. Feels like I'm developing finer and finer puzzle reflexes.

See you tomorrow,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 9:00 AM  

re: ...HOG is slang for a motorcycle, which a TROOPER might ride, or 2. it's because a HOG is kind of PIG...

and i was struck by the proximity of "wholehog" (at 5a) to the clue "fat-pig filler" at 7a.

somethin' to oink about!



Anonymous 9:30 AM  

Bert Lahr had a career as a burleque/standup comedian. His son John was the gay tennis player seduced by the coach's wife in Tea and Sympathy (When you speak of this, and you will, be kind), and is now drama critic for the New Yorker.
Eckshually, found this puzzle a BEAR to complete. Gave up with about 30% left.
On the other hand, diazepam is kicking in for my ailing back.

Orange 10:03 AM  

Wait, this short fill is better than yesterday's? Let's take stock:

WAACS (plural acronym)
OAST (crossword's favorite oven)
OSTEAL (boring)
ODEA (boring vowel-heavy quasi-Pantheon)
OENO (essentially a crosswordese prefix)
ATO, ASA, LOVEA, OFNO (partials)
LAHR (whose fame endures in crosswords because of his common letters)
SKUA (which I like from that penguin cartoon movie, but most people probably group with TERN and ERNE as boring crossword birds)
RHEE (have also seen this one many, many times over the crossword years)
IDIO (vowel-heavy prefix)
REOS (crossword's favorite old cars)
ENID (crossword's favorite OK town)
ATEST (you ever see this outside crosswords?)

It's all acceptable crossword fill, yes, but I wouldn't call it "colorful." Maybe that's just me.

Raise your hand if you like Rex/Orange crossword spats.

Kathy C. 10:03 AM  

I did the puzzle quickly this morning and missed the NW to SE trickery--very clever! Enjoyed the puzzle, too. Easy but not cloyingly so.


Anonymous 10:04 AM  

Do gas stations sell maps these days? I can't figure out who was driving. A guy would never find a station and buy a map. A gal would have the map with her when she started.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

I disliked the theme until I read Rex and saw the diagonal theme clue and phrase. Now I love the theme! Two questions, if anyone could please help me out: (1) How is 13D (made rhapsodic) SENT? (2) Is OH ME (26A) really "in the language," to use Rex's phrase? OH MY, sure, but.... Maybe it's a generational thing.

Rex Parker 10:11 AM  

Orange - way to be one-sided. Put up yesterday's short fill and see what you get. (Answer: Victory for Wednesday)


PS OSTEAL is in no way boring unless you are a medical editor. And WAACS is hardly bad, plural or not. AND I could see SKUA every day and not be bored by it.

Rex Parker 10:16 AM  

Further, Orange, my only comment about today's short fill was, and I Kwote:

"somewhat more colorful than yesterday's"

And that is true.


Anonymous 10:46 AM  

While the bulk of this puzzle was indeed easy, I got hung up in a couple spots.

In the NE, I had GETAMAP, which threw me off for awhile, especially since I hadn't heard KILLSHOTS used as a volleyball term, and I totally flaked out on the obvious fact that Serento and Sedona are two types of KIAS.

Then, having already used MAP, it took me a long time to get BUYAMAP in the SW.

I know Rosanne BARR, but I just don't get the "again" part. Can someone explain?

The other blank I wound up with was not thinking of John locKe in combination with a complete ignorance of SKUA.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

Note to parshutr: John Kerr is the actor from Tea and Synmpathy (also South Pacific). John Lahr is a writer/critic and Bert Lahr's son.

evil doug 11:06 AM  

I always presumed troopers were called "Smokeys" because their uniforms were akin to the original fire-fighting bear---broad-brimmed hat, so forth. "Only you can prevent forest fires...."

Orange 11:12 AM  

Korova, "You really send me" is an old-fashioned way of saying, essentially, "You delight me." I don't think "Oh, me" is in the language. When I Googled it, though, I was reminded that it's the title of a Meat Puppets song that Nirvana covered in its MTV Unplugged concert, and I love that album and will go listen to the song now.

Anonymous 11:29 AM  


Rosanne Barr, again.

Unknown 11:33 AM  

Not so easy for me. Maybe because I took a circuitous route and was a long time in uncovering the theme. But that diagonal answer is very cool and I never would have noticed it without this blog.
Today I glanced at the clock and jotted down my start and finish times. The less said about that, the better.

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

I thought this was about average for a Wednesday until I saw the Notebook message after solving. I am now impressed. The only place I got slowed down was NE it took a while to figure out SENT, ALES, and KIAS. One thing that struck me about the fill is that now that I've done 1500 plus puzzles things like NAIAD, OAST, SASE, ODEA, ENID, etc. are gimmies where a year or more ago I would have been maddly looking this stuff up.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

Loved this puzzle even more when Rex pointed out the diagonal!

lislepammysue! LOL! Thanks for that.

Parshutr and anon,
That coach's wife who was trying to "save" the boy from his homosexuality was the great Deborah Kerr. She also engaged in that scandalous kiss with Burt Lancaster on the beach in "From Here to Eternity". She died last month.

Jim, Rosanne Barr became Rosanne Arnold when she married Tom. When she divorced him, she became Rosanne BARR again.

Anonymous 11:55 AM  


I essentially demand a retraction in the name of oenophiles everywhere. The UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Oenology, down the road, has graduated the oenologists responsible for most of the California wine that makes crosswords so much easier to complete the next morning.

edmcan 12:29 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 12:31 PM  

Re the diagonal clue - Both the applet and the across-lite versions clearly suggest one "SEE NOTEPAD". I printed the puzzle from across-lite and was able to view the notepad entry giving this extra clue. When I looked at the applet, there was the "SEE NOTEPAD" notice but I have no idea how to view it from the applet. Anybody hip to this one?

Rob G. 12:40 PM  

Solved this one in two sittings (the perils of puzzling at work!) but got through it without too much incident. Hung up briefly on the Midwest section because I had "GOTOAGASSTATION", but after getting ADAPTABLE the rest fell into place.

Is it just me, or were there an unusually high number of occurrences of the letter "o" today? (20)

Anonymous 1:16 PM  

This was enjoyable while it lasted....enjoyable in the sense that I pretty much filled without pause. It must have been all the gin and tonics last night which put my brain in an oddly right direction this morning, but this sure seemed like a romp-in-the-woods Monday puzzle.

Anonymous 1:18 PM  

The Zuider Zee is in the Netherlands, land of the dikes. It's now called IJsselmeer, probably since it was closed off from the Waddenzee/Noordzee by a long dike named "de Afsluitdijk". I found the puzzle easy but a lot of fun, and I am so impressed with the diagonal! Thanks for pointing that out, Rex.
P.S. Keep on arguing, you too!

Anonymous 1:20 PM  

This puzzle very cleverly assuaged my ire with 19A (I know I know but throw me a freeeeekin’ bone at least and make the answer slangy too for chrissake [ahem sorry]) and yet posting without complaint somehow just feels too kiss your sisterish.
I noticed while solving this puzzle I kept measuring each clue and the puzzle as a whole in terms of Rex’s approval and curiosity about the accuracy of this measure had me make the following predictions before reading Rex’s blog. He will approve (perhaps enthusiastically) about the running theme and will enjoy the cluing. He will like NAIAF and SOUIX (I hope he mentions PATOIS) and OENO, LAHR and/or TAOS may get less supportive acknowledgement as tired but true fills. He will rate the puzzle Easy/Medium and poignant pictures and pithy comment will reveal the extra attention put into today’s creation.
I need a life.

Anonymous 1:29 PM  


Campesite 1:34 PM  

I dug the shortcut, which indeed is a direct route to get from the first square in the grid to the very last square in the SE corner.
[Orange: fast time for me on the web-based applet, so I feel e-sharp today.]

Anonymous 1:36 PM  

Fun puzzle, although I object to the Dutch Zuiderzee (South sea) clue, if only because I put in MILL at first and got totally stuck in the NW.

The one thing you would definitely NOT see is a DIKE, since it was the dike that Mac mentioned (Afsluitdijk - closing dike) that changed the name Zuiderzee to IJsselmeer (IJssel lake) in the 1930s. Since the Zuiderzee was an inland sea, I doubt there were any other dikes around it. The dikes were all at the coast of the North Sea.

Then again, we have so many dikes around our seas and rivers, I probably overlooked one somewhere. Kudos to Mr. Fontenot for a bit of Dutch history in his puzzle anyway!

wendy 1:58 PM  

Like Jim in Chicago, I "got the map" from the getgo where I should have "gotten lost" instead. So although I saw the notepad before I even started solving, and had filled enough in to bag TAKE THE SHORT___, I didn't realize that 22/39/55A were all going to be related to one another, much less to the diagonal answer, because the latter two have question marks and the other doesn't.

And I had BOY something at 55 because I thought it was Oh Oh not UH OH. Well, I got there in the end, except for the NE, which suffered because of the wrong GET A MAP answer there. I forgot about the Kia models, know zippo about volleyball and couldn't figure out what adult beverage ended in A.

Overall, thought the puzzle TWAS brillig.

Anonymous 2:37 PM  


Thanks for the explanation of "SENT." A generational thing. And I'm glad to hear that I wasn't alone in questioning "OH ME." I too love Nirvana's performance of that song. The DVD of Nirvana "Unplugged" has just come out, by the way.

Anonymous 3:09 PM  

despite being able to write in "TAKE THE SHORT CUT" without even reading the clues or the notepad (just a lucky guess. . . quite proud of myself), i thought WAACS and CORGI was an unfair crossing for a wednesday.

Anonymous 3:27 PM  

I was gyring and gimbling in New England for awhile, thinking geographically about the Kias, certain that sent was sang, and having jumpshot for killshot. Went all the way around and back to the NE, erased it all and started again, getting idle and lien and finally seeing the rest. I really liked the addition of the diagonal clue, though I had taketheelevator and thought I was so clever until getting to the theme answers and the southern fill and finding shortcut.

Thought the puzzle 'twas brillig and chortled in my joy at finishing it.

Anonymous 3:33 PM  

Loved this one, except the nagging feeling that the theme clues weren't well 'connected'. Would have liked it better with something like:
Diag: Step 1 when late.
22A Step 2 (see notepad)
39A Step 3
55A Step 4

and if only there had been an answer ASK (3D almost works) the clue could have been "Woman's alternative to 22A, 39A, and 55A)".

Rex, perhaps the the WHOLE HOG / TROOPERS (Smokies) connection is you like your ham smoked?

rafaelthatmf: Welcome to the 1st church of Rex, you are not alone.

Anonymous 4:36 PM  

Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, me!
That's why OH MY is preferred.

Notes on a Cowardly Lion by John Lahr is a great read.

Unknown 4:39 PM  

This was a good theme, and diagonal answers always impress me.

Rex, you will not let up with Ms. Bowling! She takes your criticism like a champ, and still you rub it in. I fear the day of my own NYT debut.

Rex Parker 5:25 PM  


I'm trying to find a generous way to say 'you are high.' :)

I went out of my way to acknowledge Ms. Bowling's good humor and decency. Any hostility you sense, I assure you, is entirely ironic and self-mocking.


Anonymous 5:28 PM  

hi Orange - i do like the rex/orange spats
Chef bea

fergus 6:06 PM  

This puzzle struck me as sort of drab. And I was slightly perturbed to have my nice string of pristine puzzles thrown off by having to over-write the K in KIAS. On second thought, though, it did have some color.

Minor annoyance of the day was the contrast between Garrulous and TERSE. Of course, these two are leaning towards opposite ends of the talkativeness spectrum, but since there are so many words in this category, I would have preferred a more apt match. LACONIC would have been the best choice for the answer, but since TERSE fit the space, the flip side in the Clue could have been more elaborately embroidered by the mere Wordy.

I was surprised by AHAB, figuring that answer was going to be OMOO. It's been so long since I read Omoo or Typee, I can't remember which it was, or whether either was a Mariner. There was a puzzle recently where QUEEQUEGG was in the running until HARPOONER appeared as the correct answer. Moby Dick could be the basis for a rich theme for constructors, I imagine.

Anonymous 6:39 PM  

Was I the only one to go with WAVES instead of WAACS?
Quickly wrote in GETAMAP instead of BUYAMAP.
Another non-pristine day :(
Also, didn't notice the diagonal until I read it here- thanks, Rex!

Orange 7:18 PM  

If musician Brian Eno directed his creativity at wine-making and produced wines under the "Brian Oeno" label, I must say I'd have to sample them.

Korova, I've already ordered the Nirvana DVD for my husband for Christmas. The best sort of present—one that's half for me, too!

Anonymous 7:33 PM  

Was anyone else bothered by the appearance of AAH, OHME, and UHOH? I think one gutteral utterance is more than enough for a puzzle.

Anonymous 8:29 PM  

John Lahr, the critic, is the son of Bert Lahr.

John Kerr is the actor from Tea & Sympathy who co-starred with Deborah Kerr (no relation).

Anonymous 8:47 PM  

Like many others, I didn't even notice the notepad until Rex pointed it out. Thanks Rex!

Enjoyed the puzzle, although it was substantially easier than Tuesday's. Don't you find that long thematic puzzles in "natural" speech tend to go faster, once you "get" them - so the whole puzzle goes faster, if not smoother.

I am one voting against long, drawn-out Rex-Orange battles. I like both their comments too much to find anything significant in the disagreement over subtle differences.

Let's get back to the main reason we are all here - the NYT puzzles and the wonderful commentary from both Rex and Orange.

Anonymous 8:55 PM  

Don't forget the WAAFS. Had ADJUSTABLE for
ADAPTABLE, before I realized that it didn't fit.
Love this site.

Anonymous 8:56 PM  

No, Doc John, you were not alone. I was Waving instead of Waacing for awhile, until corgi and sneeze came along to blow the Waves out. But that reminded me that I liked the cluing for O'Hare.

Also like the fact that Rex's and O's lists of crosswordese have become gimmees for me, and I'm not nearly as bored and exasperated by them as I am happy to fill them in around the things I have yet to commit to memory, or just plain don't know and need to get from crosses. I admit to being annoyed when the same word shows up a few days in a row or in a week. Then, even I can drum up a bit of a snarl. But I hang onto to the occasional snoozer on Friday and Saturday as if it were a lifeboat floating like jetsam (or is it flotsam) in a sea of empty boxes.

Anonymous 9:31 PM  

Orange, we call presents that are half or more for ourselves "monkey gifts". It's a long story.....

Alex S. 10:08 PM  

rex, orange! Please stop arguing. It is upsetting the kids!

Anonymous 10:36 PM  

The Zuider Zee in mentioned in a pretty song called "The Dutchman" that's been recorded by, among others, Steve Goodman and the duo of Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy (all of whom are no longer with us, I realize sadly).

My problem with the Nirvana Unplugged CD is the fact that I almost always play "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" to the exclusion of the other (excellent) songs. Don't get me started on this!

I thought this puzzle was a hoot. C'mon, how can you not love a puzzle with TERSE in it? And having a diagonal clue was a gas.

That said, I don't remember ever seeing WAACS before, although I'm familiar with WACS and WAVES.

And for the record, I'm not crazy about Rex/Orange spats, but I'm a pacifistic wimp.

Orange 12:50 AM  

Technically, nobody should be coming here for my commentary about puzzles. This is Rex's house, and I have my own crossword blog. I feel like I should be clearing the plates and doing the dishes after Rex prepares such lovely meals. (Though sometimes the meals give a touch of indigestion.)

My only problem with Nirvana Unplugged is that in my iTunes library (on my Mac—I'm not one of the iPod people), Nirvana's followed alphabetically by Old Town School of Folk Music, so Bill's favorite song ends and suddenly a kiddie song called "Good Morning" issues from the speakers. It's quite jarring. I've really gotta axe the kid songs. (After Old Town comes Pearl Jam.)

Orange 12:55 AM  

(Which is not to say you should ditch Rex and come straight to my blog—just don't lose sight of the fact that this is his baby, and I am not his babymama.)

Ryan 2:29 PM  

Re: your Latin skills, "res" is actually the accusative plural of the nominative singular "res" - perhaps you're not giving yourself enough credit.

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

Calady says: If you live six weeks out you don't get notepads or applets-whatever they are, so appreciated Rex's exposure of the "hidden" diagonal theme. Maybe I would have seen if I were neater?

Anonymous 6:46 PM  

6 weeks out here and my little local paper had the diagonal clue listed as: DIAGONAL 1 "What you might do eventually to make up for lost time?" Saw it last and even with that help, I found this one to be tough. Gave me a churning stomach there for awhile. Thought " Made rhapsodic" = sent was well explained here. Neat cluing. thanks...

- - Robert

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