WEDNESDAY, Nov. 7, 2007 - Richard Chisholm

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Two Kinds of Boats" - 38A: What 18-, 23-, 55- and 63-Across each comprises

I'm not very ... nautical. I had no idea there were so many kinds of boats. What's a "Party Boat?" Anyway, there is much that is ungainly about this puzzle, starting with the theme clue and answer, neither of which is worded very pleasantly. There are other items of unpleasantness below. What impressed me about this puzzle was me (I), in that I had many blind stabs that ended up being correct, despite feeling very shaky at first. This was definitely a puzzle where lots of prior puzzle experience paid off. ERIN, EULER, and CAIRO, for instance, came instantly, which they would not have even one year ago, and that helped me sail through this puzzle relatively unscathed. Lots of crosswordese (both high- and low-end), but no real challenges - only one word that was out of my comfort zone. So overall, this was a BLAND (52D: Short on flavor), if somewhat heartening experience.

Theme answers:

  • 18A: Romantic goings-on (love life) - this slowed me down, as I had the LOVE and couldn't figure out what followed, which kept me from flowing nicely into the NE. Had to go down and approach it from below.
  • 23A: Tupperware sale event (house party) - they are called "Tupperware Parties." "HOUSE PARTY" was a movie about very bad haircuts, featuring rap duo Kid 'N' Play
  • 55A: Catching cold? (ice fishing) - first, clue = [gag]. Second ... nope, that's it. Just first.
  • 63A: Cockpit datum (air speed)

There were two compass directions and one near-compass direction, which just seems lazy:

  • 66A: Vane dir. (NNE)
  • 10D: Suffix with Brooklyn (ESE) - sorry, still a compass point
  • 6D: Sound of a leak (SSS) - pretty damned close

There was also too much of the puzzle talking about itself:

  • 40D: "_____ Believer" ("I'm a")
  • 57D: Answer to "Who's there?" ("It is I")
  • 67A: "You lookin' _____?" ("at me")

And two different times of day. Come on!

  • 43A: Early time to rise (six a.m.)
  • 71A: When many stores open (at nine)

The only part that gave me trouble was the crossing of PIPETS (47D: Lab tubes) and PHIS (61A: Fraternity letters). PIPETS in general gave me trouble, as I barely know the word. The clue on PHIS is horribly non-specific, but I figured that PIPETS was a better guess for [Lab tubes] than PICETS, so it all worked out in the end. Speaking of non-specific clues, what's up with 22A: Poetic land (Erin)? I mean, I got it instantly, so maybe that means it's a good clue, but ... couldn't many lands claim to be "poetic?" Cuba? Iran? Troy? My greatest triumph of the day was guessing LIAISE (4D: Act as go-between) - a ghastly word - off of just the "E." Got FOCI (42D: Points that may have rays) pretty quickly even though my first instinct was to see "rays" as fish. I live quite near UTICA (34A: Erie Canal city) - always nice to have a geographical edge. Some part of me is pleased to see geographical-sounding answers clued in non-geographical ways:

  • RENO (21A: Clinton cabinet member)
  • PENN (24D: "All the King's Men" star, 2006)

Lastly, HUB (28D: Important airport) reminds me of a fantastic John Updike story called "The Christian Roommates," which I just finished teaching in my Honors Seminar. "HUB" is the main character's nickname. He practices yoga and prays effusively and tears up letters from the draft board without reading them and steals busted parking meters from the scenes of car accidents ... and generally disturbs the hell out of his more staid roommate ("Orson the Parson"). Why am I talking about this story? Not sure. But it stuck with me, clearly, so maybe it's worth checking out.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 9:27 AM  

Armed with Epee, nee and Utica I sailed through the lower half of the puzzle. Had a great laugh at my exense as I wanted it to be "two kinds of brats."

My time in the midwest seems to be taking over my New England persona.

The upper left (starboard) found me in irons as I had tribes instead of asians and the clash was a long time coming.

Perhaps I shall watch Taxi Driver or take your advise Rex and read Updike.

QP 9:37 AM  

23A: HOUSEBOAT, not a PARTYBOAT.... in the south people actually live in houseboats

Barney Google 9:47 AM  

In Detroit people also live in houseboats year round.

Thought this was very good for a Wednesday.

Orange 9:48 AM  

Beata, 23A leads to both houseboat and party boat—each theme entry has two kinds of boats.

Rex, I thought it was here at your blog that it was established that EIRE is the Irish name for Ireland while ERIN is the name that was apt to be used in poetry. Not a particularly poetic land, per se (though the Irish, of course, will tell you about their poetic tradition when they're drunk), but the name of the land according to poets.

P.S. That thing about drunken Irish is a joke. Rex has had cranky and defensive Irish-Americans holler at him here before.

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

A party boat is a largish day fishing boat - the public (200-300) shows up at the dock at some God-awful time and goes fishing for the day.
Then name probably has something to do with the ration of beers consumed vs fish caught.

PuzzleGirl 10:26 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
PuzzleGirl 10:27 AM  

I've worked places where the company rents a big boat and takes all the employees out for a big party. It's called a -- wait for it -- party boat. Google "rent a party boat" and you'll get a lot of hits. Oh and they did this exact thing on an episode of "The Office." Roy and Pam set their wedding date on the party boat. Alas, it was not to be.

Anonymous 10:35 AM  

I thought the theme was clever. But I started out by finishing most of the middle of the puzzle, and had "TWO KINDS OF __AOS" for 38A (with FOR[ward] for 36D, rather than CTR). And so I was waiting to be dazzled by four very metaphysical theme answers that meant "TWO KINDS OF CHAOS." I certainly couldn't think of a single candidate...

SpeedoBoyNY 10:49 AM  

Had the same problem with the Pipets/Phis clues. Didn't think of "chi" though. I was thinking that it was going to be either "rhos" or "phis". Figured it out because I'd heard of "Eider" but not "Eoder". Puzzle was a challenge espeically that NE corner!
I'd say medium puzzle overall.

Hungry Mother 11:27 AM  

I've got a Ph.D. in math, but it took me a while to get Euler. I pulled his name out for other things he did.

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

Rex, I agree that this puzzle suffered from some lazy construction. I count ten abbreviations. Also, I have never seen "pipette" spelled "pipet." Any lab/medical people agree?

Anonymous 11:43 AM  

Pipette is one of those words I've learned from puzzling. But I too thought I learned it as Pipette.

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

Around here, we always called these party boats.

Warning: The bad part of using Google to find pictures of party boats is that you inevitably stumble onto something like this.

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

I thought it was pretty easy. But then, I didn't really finish it, as I ended up with PICETS and CHIS. I agree with Rex on having two "times" (SIXAM and ATNINE). Not fun.

HUB, hub, hub...where have I heard that name before? One of the Bush brothers? A movie character to whom the Patricia Neal character says "You ran over my flowers", to which the Paul Newman character responds "Move your damn flowers!"? So familiar....

(Aside to billnutt -- thanks for the We Five reminder yesterday, great song, didn't know Michael Stewart is gone.)

So, what to do on a Wednesday. An OK but not soul-stirring puzzle, a heavy, grey cloud cover over Lake Washington, and a hump day all at once. I've got! At the top of the puzzle where it says "Richard Chisholm" I'll cross out the name and write in Brendan Emmett Quigley. Where it says "Wed.", I'll cross it out and write in "Sat.". Then I'll look at my great accomplishment, smile serenely, and take Ralph the chocolate lab out for his third walk of the morning. Hallelujah!

Anonymous 12:02 PM  

I've heard of eider down, but I've never seen an eider. I had no clue what it is. Of course I live in a suburb......

According to Wikipedia, "The Common Eider, Somateria mollissima, is a large (50-71cm body length) sea-duck, which is distributed over the northern coasts of Europe, North America and eastern Siberia. It breeds in Arctic and some northern temperate regions, but winters somewhat farther south in temperate zones, when it can form large flocks on coastal waters."

Anonymous 12:12 PM  

Now I'm intrigued! A comment deleted! Was it an insult thought better of? I'm waiting for fisticuffs to break out on this blog. Everyone's so damn civil here. Bah.

p.s. I was disappointed that there was no picture of David Niven.

Barney Google 12:12 PM  

For the origins of Calculus I think of Newton and Liebnitz but Euler is in so many puzzles I filled his name in without thinking.

Rex Parker 12:30 PM  

EULER is the King of Crossword Math. Undisputed King. There are some other, minor math stars, but he is the Sun.

No idea why comment was deleted. If people want to delete their comments, that's their business.


Anonymous 12:47 PM  

Who says 'It is I'? Who's there? It's me! Took I from a five minute finish to twelve. Pffff!

Eric Selje 1:12 PM  

I opine that only a poseur would say "It is I" (or maybe your butler. Certainly not a BrooklynITE using BrooklynESE (ugh, slowed me down).

Seems we've had a lot of ASIANS lately too. And is 6:00am early? Here in the midwest we might consider that about normal, which is why I had TWOAM for a long while.

Anonymous 1:16 PM  

Lori, I was going to complain about "pipet" too, but it's apparently an accepted alternative to the "pipettes" I used in college. Google has more, 5 million, "pipette" entries, but there are 1.3 mil for "pipet", the first one being this from Dartmouth’s Chemistry Department. (And what’s with the suction bulb anyway? In my day put the end of the pipette in your mouth and you sucked it up, literally. Now that’s when men were men… and chemistry students got poisoned!)

And I agree with DK. I too had too many problems in Oregon for a Wednesday. In my case I was up to the GUNNELs by being too clever about boarding places. Nothing would fall til I fixed that.

JoeMama 1:20 PM  

I would've breezed through the NE if 12D had been clued "Michael Caine title role", but that's my fault. Blanking on 16A PALE___ didn't help either, but I still finished in 8 minutes.

It's an okay puzzle, it just isn't very difficult, clever, or original.

Anonymous 1:23 PM  

Started in NW and all I could fill in was STEIN. Got a couple in NE before going south. The south, fortuately, was easy and with the theme in place the rest of the medium north fell. Nice to see EULER again, I've been waiting for his return. I agree this was sort of a meh puzzle.

I'm a big Updike fan. The Rabbit series does an amazing job of capturing what was going on in this country over four decades.

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

Thanks for the picture Pete M. For some people Speedos should just be illegal. Where were the fashion police?? Lori

fergus 2:03 PM  

The sobriquet, RafaelthatMF, keeps making me laugh, being a Peter Sellers fan. I thought 55A Catching cold? was one of the best clues, and wanted to dispute FOCI, but realize I wouldn't have a leg to stand on. Contesting Euler as a 'pioneer' could be much more fruitful. After all, he came considerably later than Newton and Leibnitz (as Average Joe implied), and I've always most closely associated Euler with natural logarithms, or the exponential function. I finally understood 2.718 ... and the beauty of 'e' only after a Calculus final exam, and perhaps some herbal insight. Math was like that for me -- straightforward mechanical computation, and only later perhaps the conceptual epiphany. You couldn't argue that EULER wasn't a highly influential Calculus dude, but to call him a pioneer seems to be stretching the meaning of that term.

My other quibble is entirely idiosyncratic climatically with regard to IRISES. I have a whole bunch of purple beauties but it seems like springtime is the only season that they aren't blooming. Took me a while to get around to the Sunday puzzle but I share several stated irritations about IRIS IN, and mostly because that seemed to have the preposition wrong from the way it was clued.

Anonymous 2:49 PM  

Too hard and too boring. I am too lazy to bother with the struggle to complete.

Anonymous 2:57 PM  

We named our high school math team the Eulers, in the hope that people would hear it's homonym "Oilers" and conclude we were football players. Hope sprang eternal.

PuzzleGirl 3:05 PM  

anonymous 12:12 -- I deleted my comment because I was too dumb to proofread it before I posted. When I saw a mistake in it, I had to re-do it. That's just how I am. Sorry to burst your bubble. I mean, if someone has a PROBLEM with that, I'm happy to fight them. Yeah, I'm lookin' at you, Orange. :-) (And I'm absolutely NOT looking at you, Rex... Mr. Parker... Sir.)

fergus 3:06 PM  

"In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse."

Another Prufrock quote that seems especially Xword-appropriate, though better suited for later in the week. That poem has been rattling around since Monday, and this jumped out as a perfect excerpt.

Anonymous 3:15 PM  

Hi! My name is Project 71. Weird name I know, but my masters are weird too. My masters also say that I'm a really interesting website. So why don't you consider reading what I am. Masters say it won't take you more than 22s to read. :) Enjoyy!

Anonymous 3:27 PM  

Guess I just don't understand what Rex and some of the rest here judge themes by - are you sure it's not more your state of mind when solving than anything actually about the theme? I thought this was a fine one: 4 two word phrases, all 8 words common boat types, none of the phrases having anything to do with boats, all phrases common, and linking it with a puzzle spanning, unforced, description. What is it that is "boring" or "ungainly" about this? It seems supremely "gainly" for a hump-day theme to me. Anyone care to ellaborate as to just _WHY_ they found it substandard?

Theme aside, I would agree with the comments on the "laziness" of some of the fill. Oh well, can't have everything.

Anonymous 3:27 PM  

Jay Peg: Might you be thinking of the character Hud? One of several PN movies from the sixties that blend into one for me and all begin with H (Hud, Hombre, The Hustler, Harper) or have H in the title (Cool Hand Luke, The Secret War of Harry Frig, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof). Huh.

Did Monday thru Wednesday in one sitting last night after being out of town for a couple days. Finished the three in the time it took me to eat a corned beef sandwich from Nate 'N Al in LA, the best Jewish deli west of the Carnegie, so they were either pretty easy or I was just in a cosmic trance on rye with mustard and one with the universe, including crosswording.

The puzzles all seemed to be fun, without eeewwwws or uuuugggghhhs, themes cute enough, nothing to look up, even after the fact (though I did enjoy rereading Prufrock) and a minimum of misdirection or fills that needed to be erased. Had to work bottom to top on this one, but got the theme immediately so that helped. "Kinds of boats" is certainly used loosely, as a party boat is more a "kind of use" and not a type of boat. Different kinds of boats can be used for party boats (e.g. fishing boats, ferry boats that cruise harbors). Kept expecting to see ferry or row or tug in there. And Love boat? Only with reference to the old show--not a type of boat at all to me, though it did remind me that my husband proposed to me while we were swinging in a blue row boat that hung by chains from a tree in a children's playground, so I always think of that as our love boat.

Fergus, you live in CA, don't you? That could explain why your irises bloom at times other than spring. The climate here is so uniform that it will depend on when your bulbs were planted. They will go through a yearly life cycle of blooming and being dormant, but with the mild climate, they can be fooled into blooming in the late summer or fall. My mother (in the east) always had irises and daylilies and they were early risers in the spring just after the jonquils.

Speaking of early risers, I was up with Eric at twoam. Sixam seems pretty normal for most folk.

Things I knew just from puzzling:


Hmm... the list is usually longer...not that many this time.

Fun to read three blogs in a row. Always the highlight of my morning (not at 6 am, thank God). Thanks Rex et al.

Anonymous 3:51 PM  

Ungainly...I think this is a pretty apt word for this puzzle. My first issue arose when I realized how many abbreviations there were--most times, seeing an abbreviation means I skip it for the moment and come back around once I've got a cross or two. The presence of a bunch of them means that the flow is disrupted and the puzzle takes on a clunky, disjointed feel. Ungainly.

The second complaint had to do with the Tupperware clue. It just didn't work for me, and the theme clues should, in my opinion, feel pitch-perfect. Ungainly. A Tupperware party is a gathering of ladies who burp their plastic containers to test the fitness of the products; a house party is a gathering of young people who burp to test the limits of social standards.

wendy 3:59 PM  

Liked TWOKINDSOFBOATS but not the boats themselves; I felt blah filling them out. I would OPINE that it was borderline BLAND as a theme. Too generic, forced. Maybe answers like Schooner or Dingy, nifty words, would have enthralled me. But these didn't.

I too knew certain things I wouldn't have known a year ago - probably the same ones, like EULER, CAIRO et al. Funny how some things stick with you.

It took me forever to figure out CHALK as the victory term. I got CLASH right away, but little of the rest of NW fell until the bitter, bitter end (the next morning). Now that I see it all, it's pretty good stuff, esp. LIAISE, which I'm proud to know how to spell.

The one time I talked *to* the puzzle concerned the Jude Law title role cluing. It just frosts my butt when great movies like Alfie and The Thomas Crown Affair are recast with contemporary actors. I loathe it, to be honest. These movies don't need do-overs.

fergus 4:00 PM  

Yeah, Rikki, even different locations in town seem to have more influence on flowers' blooming than does the nominal season. So much depends on proximity to the ocean I find. Trees tend to stick to their seasonal expectations, though. Because of the equable climate so many borderline species show quite drastically different behaviors, such as the Jacaranda tree indicating whether the spring has been relatively warm or cool. The UCSC Botanical Garden is a fascinatingly different zone for plants despite being less than two miles away. You're down by SLO, are you not? I reckon the variance might be even more stark there? That old crossword chestnut, the ASTER, never shows up in Autumn here either.

Anonymous 4:18 PM  

wendy --
re movie do-overs: you are so right. Your last paragraph says it perfectly. Michael Caine is Alfie. You can have the Oceans series with the pretty boys as well. Entry requirement for a rat-pack should be rattiness, not Hollywood glamhype.

rikki --
Yeah, I know, "Hud". I was having a little fun with the Hub name. Can you imagaine a do-over with, say, TCruise in the Newman role? Yikes!

wendy 4:25 PM  

Oh bite your tongue, jay peg! ;) Don't give the suits any ideas ... not that they're known for having actual ideas.

Anonymous 4:46 PM  

Not a bad puzzle for a Wednesday. Didn't need to Googe anything and years of crosswords certainly helped. Started in the middle with Kansas and worked out from there. Ended up in SW corner, which took a little more time than I would have liked.

Anonymous 5:23 PM  

Rikki, I would put YSER in your list.

Pete M, I think of your (first) picture as somewhat like a PARTY boat, but I thought the awning had to be blue by law.

I've been invited to HOUSE parties that sell jewelry, candles, bags, and clothes. It's an evolving language thing, I guess.

Fast time for me, and I liked the theme.

Anonymous 6:25 PM  

I'm very surprised that Rex teaches Updike in a Honors seminar and yet is not acquainted with William Butler Yeats. Indeed some puzzles back he had some unkind words for the great Irish poet.

Orange 6:52 PM  

Puzzlegirl, puhleeze. You think I would object to deleting and starting over in the service of perfection? Nay! More power to you.

The house parties Karen mentioned—one of the greatest advantages to living in the city is that nobody here ever invites me to those parties. Well, nobody but my relatives in the suburbs, that is.

Pete M, re: your second picture: Aw, furry bears! There's actually a gift shop in my neighborhood for the bear community.

Barney Google 7:07 PM  

I said it the top and I'll say it again at the bottom: For a Wednesday this was puzzle with a great theme and construction.

I do not like a lot of ABBRVS or ABRVS or ABVS either but I think this was well done.

Barney Google 7:08 PM  

Stick an "a" in there when needed

emilyjo.c @ gmail dot com 7:25 PM  

liaise definitely maid me shirk. and isnt there a crucial difference between good-looking and good-looker? i think so.

Michael Chibnik 9:09 PM  

I thought this was really easy, but see that not everyone thinks this way. The other day, the suggestion was made by two noted constructors -DQ and MN -- that people rate puzzles for difficulty on a scale of ten. I thought this was a good idea. I find my ratings of difficulty don't correlate well with Rex's, even adjusting for day-of-the week. (I did not like the other idea at all-- of a veteran's section.)

Anonymous 9:34 PM  

Jay Peg... Hard to even think of Tom Cruise and Paul Newman in the same breathe considering the way TC seems to have given up acting and sold his soul. Too much ego is very unhealthy. I much prefer the way Paul Newman stayed quietly married to the same woman for years and put the energy and creativity of his mind and talent into being one of the first to put organic food into the mass market. Don't anyone tell me that he puts gerbils up his patootie or has 4-year-old Asian children making his products. I'll cry... I swear I will.

Wendy... I feel the same way about remade movies, though I did enjoy the remake of the Thomas Crown Affair, probably for the pure sensuality of those two beautiful people dancing the tango. I'm a sucker for a tango.

Speaking of good-looking and good-looker, besides the obvious that one is an adjective and one is a noun, they seem to have the same meaning. Good-looker is the noun form of a good-looking person. Though unlikely to be used in speech, I think it is interchangeable with lots of other terms for a good-looking person (cutie, hunk, hottie, babe). These all seem comparable to me and any one of them would have fit the bill for the answer to the clue. Can a man be good-looking and not be a hunk or a hottie (or a dream boat if you were a teen in the fifties)? Wait... that's another kind of boat. It all comes together in the end.

Rex Parker 9:52 PM  

DREAM POLICE should have been an answer in this puzzle!

[it's a Cheap Trick album/song, in case you're wondering... with "The"]


Anonymous 10:27 PM  


I do remember very early on, when I had a couple wild oats left, Paul Newman saying "why go out for hamburger when you have steak at home?" Sounds sexist today but the opposite then.

And OK, the TCAffair is an exception...great scene in the museum with the clones in bowlers.

PuzzleGirl 11:12 PM  

The Dream Police, they live inside of my head (inside my head!)
The Dream Police, they come to me in my bed (me in my bed!)
The Dream Police, they're coming to arrest me, oh noooooooo.

Saw Cheap Trick many moons ago at a small club in Baltimore that no longer exists (Hammerjack's). I was a little bit older and more, shall we say, mainstream than many of the other young women in attendance. While standing in line for the bathroom while the band took a break, a girl in front of me exclaimed to her friend, "Robin Zander is, like, OLD."

Anonymous 11:16 PM  

Rikki, I seem to remember a song that goes: "Hey, goodlooking....".

Paul Newman lives in my neighborhood and is still with his steak, who is a charming, beautiful woman. He's very much involved with a summer stock theater, even built a restaurant with locally grown and raised food right next to it.

P.S. I seem to be night owl in this crowd

Anonymous 11:28 PM  

Rex, who is the man behind and next to your wife in her blog?

Anonymous 11:32 PM  


Hey good lookin'
Watcha got cookin'
How's about cookin'
Something up with me.

Hey sweet baby
Doncha think maybe
We could find us a
Brand new recipe.

That's a great one. Hank Williams wrote it and my dad used to sing it to me when I was little. Now, if it were Newman's Own recipe, I just bet I could find some wild oats in my cupboard!

Anonymous 11:52 PM  

Whats a steeple jack?


Anonymous 11:52 PM  

Whats a steeple jack?

-- multiple-degree-holding-intellectual

Anonymous 11:53 PM  

Whats a steeple jack?

-- multiple-degree-holding-intellectual

Anonymous 12:54 AM  

Jaypeg, glad to have reminded you of a fine song. (Nanci Griffith doesn't do a half-bad version of it.) Yes, a pity about Michael Stewart.

Rikki, thanks for throwing in the lyrics to Hank's "Hey Good Looking."

Wednesday's puzzle was OK. The use of types of boat was a rather clever theme, and there were some neat fills. No comic book clues, but you can't have everything. This weekend spoiled me in that regard.

Anonymous 2:08 AM  

rikki and eric -- SIXAM is early when bedtime is TWOAM. The night has just begun!

Orange 9:38 AM  

DREAM POLICE would've made this puzzle into something transcendently pop-cultural. My best friend in 8th grade moved to another state before high school. During those early-'80s teen years, she once saw Robin Zander in an airport. (My celebrity sightings include Jackie Mason in a restaurant and Carrot Top in a hotel elevator.)

Jeff 8:23 PM  

Good Updike connection to the short story. Seeing the Updike photo next to Hub reminds me of his great sports piece, Kid Bids Hub Fans Adieu. I've loved it and used in journalism class for years. The one time I've seen/heard Updike read live he made a passing reference to the piece. Good memories of that simpler time when I read Leigh Montville's Teddy Ballgame bio a summer or two ago. Thanks for posting the Updike pic . . .made my day!

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