MONDAY, Dec. 3, 2007 - Harvey Estes

Monday, December 3, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Synonyms for "powerful" - every theme answer begins with one

A reasonably entertaining Monday puzzle. Never saw the theme (until I was done) but then that often happens on early-week puzzles. The theme is also very very ... basic, but two of the answers are so nice - and the non-theme fill is interesting enough - that I don't care. I have mixed emotions about my time - about 25 seconds slower than last week's record, but ... I stumbled A Lot and still got in under four, so my speed skills appear to be developing slowly but consistently. My only goal at this year's tournament (Feb. '08: right around the bend!) is to place better than 166th. I think I've got to focus more on perfect puzzles than on speed, actually. I was very pleased with last year's speeds, but I had mistakes on two puzzles, which Really kills you, scoring-wise ... but I'm getting ahead of myself. When the ACPT officially begins accepting registrations for the tournament, I'll let you know. It's in Brooklyn this year - you know you wanna go ... come on! It's fun. See my Lengthy write-up of last year's tournament starting here (Part I) at my other blog. Find parts II-V in the sidebar under "March."

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Profanity, e.g. (STRONG language)
  • 36A: 1995 Woody Allen comedy ("MIGHTY Aphrodite")
  • 49A: Classic "Jeopardy!" category ("POTENT Potables")

Couple of anagrams in today's puzzle. Not too thrilled by COALS (6D: Snowman's eyes) and COLAS (9A: Pepsi and RC), but somehow LONE (51D: Companionless) and ENOL (52D: Hydroxyl-carbon compound), with their parallel neighborliness, are adorable to me. When I saw that TIGER WOODS was an answer (27D: Golfer named A.P. Male Athlete of the Year four times), I immediately thought "Wait, isn't 'Elle WOODS' in one of the clues today?" Then I checked and saw that, no, REESE Witherspoon was clued in relation to a completely different role (31D: Witherspoon of "Walk the Line").

Here are the Many places that I stumbled:

  • 19A: White-plumed wader (egret) - had EIDER
  • 46A: Becomes frayed (wear) - I had TEAR
  • 57A: From days of yore (olden) - wouldn't come quickly, for whatever reason
  • 60A: Saltine brand (Zesta) - I'm only vaguely aware of its existence
  • 1D: Self-pitying cry (alas) - what happen when you do way too many puzzles? You see an easy clue like this and write in "AH, ME"
  • 4D: Monument carved from a single stone (monolith) - I am not kidding you when I saw that for much of the puzzle, I had MONUMENT written in here (if you don't know why this is funny, just re-read the clue)
  • 22D: Dead duck (goner) - had the "GO" and wanted only GOOSE (as in "Duck, duck ...?")
  • 28D: Senior moment, e.g. (lapse) - got it easily, but wanted to say that I HATE this expression. It's far too cutesy ... and I will Never be able to blow off my creeping dementia with such a breezy, off-hand expression. Or maybe I'll be so demented that I will, who knows? People age and their short-term memory goes. I know. And I sympathize. And it will happen to me. Don't think I don't know this. Oh, there's another reason I don't like this expression: I feel like perfectly brain-capable people (age 50+) use this expression as a way of explaining the fact that they just @#$#-ing forgot something (the way we all do). And I'm done.
  • 30D: Pure-and-simple (utter) - these feel like opposites to me, though I see that they are not.
  • 37D: Have a hankering (yearn) - had the "YE--N" and all I could think of was "Yes ... YEN ... a YEN is a hankering ... what the hell are those other letters doing in there?"
  • 43D: Gird oneself (get set) - couldn't parse it quickly: GETS IT? GETS AT?

I was very happy with some of the no-look action I had today. Got DIRT BIKE (38D: Off-road two-wheeler) and MIGHTY APHRODITE without ever looking at the clues. Plus I nailed at least one answer that had been tricky for me in the past: IONA (56A: College in New Rochelle, N.Y.).

Must go.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS sorry for no pictures two days in a row; they'll return tomorrow

PPS Oh my god how did I not blog 25D: Brit's service discharge (demob)? That was the one clue that left me completely stumped. Don't remember ever seeing it. The only D-Mob I know is this one (from the nadir of pop music history, i.e. my college years).


Anonymous 10:04 AM  

This was too fun. Some of it seemed (and turned out to be) so easy that I had several hesitations, thinking "this couldn't be right." Like TIGERWOODS, MIGHTYAPHRODITE, POTENTPOTABLES, STRONGLANGUAGE, and DIRTBIKE. I didn't know there was a theme until reading it from Rex. But very happy that it fell for me in under six.

PuzzleGirl 10:04 AM  

Finished this one in 3:56, my personal best. Even with my husband watching over my shoulder and my 6-year-old whining about needing cough medicine. (I mean really. Once I put them to bed shouldn't they just STAY there?)

Is it my imagination or has Maya Lin become very popular in the puzzle lately?

I really want to go to the tournament this year, but we already have a trip scheduled for that weekend. I'll be there next year!

Alex S. 10:21 AM  

I think I had a really good time (for me) but a stupid typo screwed things up. After 15 minutes of looking I still couldn't find where I had made my mistake so I actually gave up.

I guess I was just too close to it to see it. When I woke up this morning, I saw the typo (LARGE PRING) in about 2 seconds.

I don't recall seeing Lin a lot recently in the puzzle unless she came up a lot while I was gone the week of Thanksiving.

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

I wasn't a big fan of this puzzle for some reason. It sort of lost me at COALS. I think of coals as being something that comprise a fire. When making a snowman you would use "pieces of coal". There were so many other better clues that could have been used that there was no reason for a contrived one. Same with many of the long non-theme answers. The whole thing just seemed kind of trite to me. As pointed out be an earlier commenter, many of them seemed so obvious that I thought "this can't possibly be right".

Rob G. 11:03 AM  

I don't time myself on puzzles, though this one made me wish I had. Certainly my personal best, whatever it might have been. Non-stop fills until I was done. Hooray!

BT 11:27 AM  

Fun... and also the fastest I've ever completed a NYT puzzle. Yes, Maya has been around a bunch and I still never remember her name.

Anonymous 12:04 PM  

like others, this was a thumbs-downer for me even though or (maybe because) it was so easy i finished it with what for me was blinding speed. also hated COALS (jim: i am in the *exact* same boat as you on this one -- there were a thousand places you could go with the clue for a word like that).

Anonymous 12:27 PM  


Anonymous 12:35 PM  

A member of DEMOB can DO TIME for a HEIST .

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

What about when "Senior moment?" equals "prom"?

PuzzleGirl 12:44 PM  

Went to the other blog to read Rex's write-up of last year's tournament, got distracted by the soundtrack to his life, read that in detail, did my own, e-mailed it to several friends and, well, now the day's about half gone. Damn you, Rex Parker!

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

I thought this one was OK. Aren't Mondays supposed to be easy?

SARTREs also been around recently (Sat).

BTW age related short term problems are not inevitable and doing crosswords may help.

Apparently DEMOB is short for demoblization.

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

Oops, that should be short-term memory problems. Must have been distracted.

Anonymous 2:15 PM  

Just happy to finish this one today after my debacle on Saturday! (I don't do the Sunday one- I like my puzzles 15x15.)
Did it in about 6 minutes which seemed about as fast as I could write (but there's always room for improvement).
-Add me to the "I hate the clue for COALS" list.
-Good thing I didn't see "earthenware jar", that would have held me up! Will add OLLA to the list.
-Had -ESTA for "saltine brand" but all I could think of was NESTA (like nestea). I knew they were the Keebler brand of saltines but just couldn't think of the name. Finally saw ROZ, though, and that was that.
Overall, an enjoyable Monday puzzle.

Anonymous 2:24 PM  

I liked COALS and maybe it's a senior thing. To me, coals are precisely those pieces of coal we used to make snowmen's eyes.

Hungry Bird 2:50 PM  

I just finished up yesterday's puzzle. Don't you just love when you don't get a chance to do the puzzle for some reason and the next day you get to do two of them?

I want to share this poem, jogged loose by the clue yesterday about Laurie Anderson and the post about Lou Reed.

Does anyone remember that a few weeks after 9/11 the Sunday Times Magazine was full of prose and poetry reactions? One poem was by Lou Reed. It's so evocative of that day.

'Laurie Sadly Listening' by Lou Reed

Laurie if you're sadly listening
The birds are on fire The sky glistening
While I atop my roof stand watching
Staring into the spider's clypeus
Incinerated flesh repelling
While I am on the rooftop yearning
Thinking of you

Laurie if you're sadly listening
Selfishly I miss your missing
The boundaries of our world now changing
The air is filled with someone's sick reasons
And I had thought a beautiful season was
Upon us

Laurie if you're sadly listening
The phones don't work
The bird's afire
The smoke curls black
I'm on the rooftop
Liberty to my right still standing
Laurie evil's gaunt desire is
Upon we

Laurie if you're sadly listening
Know one thing above all others
You were all I really thought of
As the TV blared the screaming
The deathlike snowflakes
Sirens screaming
All I wished was you to be holding
Bodies frozen in time jumping
Bird's afire
One thing me thinking
Laurie if you're sadly listening
Love you
Laurie if you're sadly listening
Love you

fergus 2:56 PM  

Rex's comment regarding 1D, about instinctively dropping in AH, ME as an indicator of polycryptographical pathology caused a little stab of guilty self-awareness. Not that I do too many; I do them sometimes when I maybe ought be doing something else. Didn't Karmasartre face an intervention a couple of months ago, and compromised with a resolution to stick to just one a day? Wonder how that's going?

Almost threw in FLOE for the Arctic floater. Thought about a quibble but I reckon the same percentage of a FLOE would be submerged as that of a BERG. And a floater can be anything that's not a sinker, I suppose.

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

Snarkygirl, thank you for posting that copy of Lou's post-9/11 poem. I actually was thinking of that poem when I mentioned Laurie and Lou yesterday. As far as I know, he's never recorded it as a song.

Rex, in OLDEN days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking. Now, heaven knows, anything goes.

I agree with the impression that Maya Lin has been appearing a lot lately.

Add my name to the list of people who didn't "get" today's theme until after the whole she-bang was finished. However, DON'T add my name to the anti-COALS list. Didn't bother me.

Bo Diddley claims that he got the inspiration for the beat that bears his name (bom, bom, BOM-BOM) from the Gene Autrey recording with the lyrics "I've got SPURs that jingle jangle jingle."

Funny thing about 49a. The first thing that popped into my mind was POTENTPOTABLES, but assumed that wouldn't be it. Then I started doing the crosses. JEOPARDY champ Ken Jennings has said that he was nervous about that category coming up because he's a teetotaller.

Today's puzzle was OK but relatively undistinguished. Guess that makes it a typical Monday, although I DID seem to fly through it. (I don't time myself.)

Is the tournament that people have mentioned the same one as featured in WORDPLAY? I thought it was always held in Stamford, CT?

Hungry Bird 4:25 PM  

Today was probably my fastest time ever, but I don't like that. I like it when it takes me forever to finish a puzzle. Like a really great book, it's so enjoyable you hate to come to the end.

I grew up in Larchmont, the next stop on the Stanford local after New Rochelle (pronouned "Nur-shell" where I come from") home to IONA. Lucky me.

I liked "APHRODITE" and "MARS" in the same puzzle, despite the GRECO-ROMAN MISHMASH. (Recalling puzzles of YORE.)

DEMOB gummed up the works, despite the fact that I work at the VA.

Anonymous 4:26 PM  

'Scuse me while I stop playing the title theme from "The High and the Mighty" in my mind's ear. ALAS, it won't go away. But, I can still give these comments my divided attention....

I flew THRO this one. Only ink-over was the aforementioned ALAS. Got POTENTPOTABLES from one P. My father was a Harvey, maybe that's why I was so tuned in to Mr. Estes' wavelength. Much fun when it happens, just a totally different sort of experience than a Friday or Saturday vital-organ grinder.

I am down with coals, up with people, and in agreement with jae (how's Stanford?) on demobilization.

Rex, the pictures are missed!

Fergus, my recovery is going well...I only cheat (2 puzzles) six days a week. Thanks for asking.

Anonymous 4:53 PM  

As jae pointed out, DEMOB is short for "demobilisation," British in origin. And I suspect that Rex has indeed seen it before if, as a student and professor of English literature, he's ever read Eliot's "The Waste Land," (which he assuredly has) where it pops up in line 139:

"When Lil's husband got demobbed, I said--"

I discovered Rex's blog one Saturday last spring while Googling (yes, I admit it) a clue in the NYT puzzle, and have enjoyed it, and the comments it evokes, enormously every day since then. I never Google clues until I've admitted defeat, but that Saturday brought me a victory, for which I'm grateful.

Anonymous 5:30 PM  

I was left looking blankly at the ROZ/ZESTA cross...neither one rang any bells for me.

billnutt, the crossword tourney is the same one from 'Wordplay', but it's gotten too big to fit in Stamford anymore, so it's going to be in NYC for the first time this year. A little earlier in the year, also.

My fun fact for today: in 2006, *I* was the 166th Greatest Crossword Puzzle Solver In The Universe! I can't believe it took me until now to notice. Warning, Rex: don't focus too much on the number, as the field may increase in size again this year. This year I 'improved' to 214th place.

Anonymous 7:26 PM  

doc john

It would be interesting to see the penmanship of those who claim to solve in 3 minutes -- perhaps they find no need to fill in the spaces with actual writing until they have declared the puzzle solved?


Michael Chibnik 7:54 PM  

Missed a letter on a Monday -- a rare event for me. The roz zesta cross of course.

Anonymous 7:57 PM  

Good time puzzle for early in the week.

On speed: It is not my penmanship that slows me down it is putting i the wrong letters. For example I was reading ahead as I put a G on the end of monolith and a P as the first letter for Lin. The result was 4.36 became 4.5

Thus the old saying the hurrier I go the behinder I get.

Anonymous 7:58 PM  

or forgetting letters like the n in in above.. . darn Macs they can't type for pop

Anonymous 8:06 PM  

I did this puzzle in 27 seconds, but of course I'm lying.

Anonymous 8:08 PM  

pg in nj:
The Waste Land -- I've only seen demobbed in it; nowhere else. As slang it's more spoken than written. Would you call it an elision?

Anonymous 8:11 PM  

I don't understand how people can do puzzles in the 2-3 minute range.
Not that I doubt them.

Often I redo puzzles and knowing all the answers in advance and needing only time for reading and typing, I find that it takes me about 3 1/2 minutes.

fergus 8:28 PM  

How can people type 200+ words per minute when I can manage a mere 50? Well, they just can. It's a cool skill, but not one that arouses jealousy or resentment or suspicion. Just amazement. Same goes for the jackrabbit solvers.

Hungry Bird 8:49 PM  

I'm so fast, I've already finished Wednesday's puzzle, but it was pretty easy.

Rex Parker 9:11 PM  

It's weird that people continue to disbelieve puzzle times in the 2-3 minute range. You can actually watch someone (namely, Al Saunders) do a puzzle in a hair's breadth over 2 minutes if you just watch "Wordplay." It's very cool to watch it happen in real time, actually. He really doesn't appear to be going That fast. And yet ...

My fastest time ever is 3:22. If you honestly think I'm lying, well ... I don't know what to say. It would be such a sad thing to feel the need to lie about.


Hungry Bird 9:20 PM  


I someone who has finished a puzzle before I even started it, I couldn't agree with you more.

I'm waiting for anonymous to challenge me on me stat. Then I'm going to challenge him/her to a duel that I already won tomorrow.

PuzzleGirl 9:25 PM  

snarkygirl: Stop it! Stop it! I can't take it any more!

Hungry Bird 10:01 PM  

I stopped it next Friday. You'll feel better then.

fergus 10:44 PM  


The speed consideration is spent, and while the "what constitutes cheating" issue still retains some allure, it may be time for another injunction.

When you further defined parameters for discussion topics just recently, you may have included some directives on style and accuracy in deriving a solution. While this thought may be more relevant to those of us who do the puzzle with an old-fashioned writing implement, I don't think it's contrary to your overall credo.


Anonymous 11:44 PM  

pg in nj -- thanks for the Wasteland reference it adds some context. Karma -- Stanford went well (see my Sat post which I posted on Sun). If anyone can save the world it's my niece, as for me I'm too old and way too cynical and apparently a bit slow.

Anonymous 12:03 AM  

Alas, this was my second-fastest time ever, but I got to RO_ and _ESTA and just had no idea. I briefly considered ROS, not knowing how to spell it, then went with ROB/BESTA. :(

Orange 12:03 AM  

Some think the 2008 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament will have lower attendance in the larger venue owing to the increased cost—the Stamford Marriott ran about $95 a night for the ACPT, whereas the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott will be $169 (and that's about half the usual rate). But then, all sorts of city folk who can sleep at home will find it easy to attend, so that could up the numbers. And then, Brooklyn is to many a more compelling travel destination than Stamford, Connecticut. Meantime, you might start checking out airfares. ACPT airport advice is available here.

Anonymous 12:08 AM  

For the record, I don't doubt your times nor others I see on the NYT
Play Against The Clock list by known speed solvers.

I only observe my 3 min + times spent redoing a puzzle whose answers I know going in.

If I solve an early-in-the-week puzzle in the 4 1/2-5 1/2 minute time frame I feel good about that and note that I often score in the top 1/3rd or even 1/4th percentile.

Anonymous 12:10 AM  

Puzzle girl -- next time I want a really fast solution time I'll find a six year old and a hanging-around spouse and -- there'll be no checking my speed!

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

Weird that not only did SARTRE show up in 2 consecutive puzzles (Saturday / Monday) but even in the same location!

Dave 5:56 PM  

Now that you mentioned the annual tournament -- you should correct your blog to say you are the 166th best player to show up at the tournament, rather than the universe.

Dave 5:56 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
nancy 8:18 AM  

I thought 'goose' for dead duck for a few seconds also, but knew that had to be wrong. it didn't take but a few seconds more to figure out it was 'goner'. I never heard of demob or mighty aphroditite, (live and learn) so my one mistake in the end was an "n" (denob and nighty aphroditie). I sped through this puzzle with confidence and ease. what a great way to start the week. I'm sure many challenges (puzzle wise) await me as the week progresses.

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

Six weeks later...
I thought this grid was impressive from a construction point of view. In addition to the 15 and two unwieldy 14s, there are also two 10s, 9s, and 8s. All fun words too, very nice.

Waxy in Montreal 9:03 PM  

My Dad having served in WW2 in the British Army, I can assure those doubters 6 weeks back that he and his contempories often used the term "demobbed" in everyday discussion to describe the return to their various Civvy Street vocations after hostilities ceased.

Also, can't help but agree that the ROZ ZESTA cross weakens an otherwise excellent puzzle.

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