SUNDAY, Dec. 23, 2007 - Adam G. Perl

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Yule Outsourcing" - a "holiday verse" step-quote*

*[A correction, from Ms. Orange: "Today's theme is a quote/quip verse but not a stepquote. Stepquotes have seldom appeared during the Shortz era. What they were was a single unbroken quote stair-stepping its way from 1-Across to the bottom corner. They were even more unsatisfying than standard quote themes for two reasons: (1) Without line breaks between words, the end of a line could be the middle of a word, so you had to use the crossings to piece things together. (2) The corners where the quote turned were unchecked letters, so the crossings couldn't save you."]

Short entry today. Very very full day, including early Xmas celebration this morning, and an interview with local TV in the afternoon, the latter of which is making me a bit queasy. I tried to tell the guy who asked for the interview that nobody cares about a dumb crossword blog. He disagreed. And now cameras are coming to my house.

I didn't like the puzzle much at all today. I find quips and step-quotes in general very unsatisfying, and this one had the added non-bonus of being completely ungrammatical. Part IV of the "verse" is a complete non sequitur - or is at least missing a transitional phrase.

SANTA'S HAD AN EASY SEASON (23A: Start of a holiday verse)
LYING IN HIS BIG RECLINER (48A: Verse, part 2)
IF YOU ASK HIM FOR A REASON (78A: Verse, part 3)
EVERY TOY IS MADE IN CHINA (106A: End of verse)

Toys are not made in China on the condition of my asking Santa for a reason why he is a lazy fat-ass. If I ask, then presumably HE WILL TELL ME. I like the RECLINER / CHINA rhyme, though, I will say.

Lots of ugly stuff in the grid today, like ANENT (38A: About), which is painfully coupled with IN RE (50D: Memo starter). Then there's the Odd Job QUEUER (15D: Line former). The annoying inclusion of IRES (59A: Ticks off) and IRATE (12D: Heated) in the same puzzle. And the absurd BIOTA (74A: Flora and fauna) right next to IOTAS (75A: Some sorority sisters), which I'm guessing was supposed to be cute, but isn't. There was some cuteness, however, including the pairing of:

  • 13D: Word repeated in "Now _____ away! _____ away! _____ away ... !" ("dash"), and
  • 108D: Word left off the end of the clue at 13-Down ("all")

and the letter pairing of

  • 109D: Poor grade (dee), and
  • 110D: Satisfactory grade, in kindergarten (ess)

I did appreciate the attempt to get in as many Christmas-y clues as possible, without horribly forcing the issue (see clues for 8D: IND, 47D: TREE, etc.). My main complaint today is that the grid is flat-out boring. I count one "Q," one "J," and one "K." In a Sunday grid? That's a shockingly low number of "Scrabbly" letters. The only "Y's" we get are in the quip. It's sort of astonishing. The only non-Wheel of Fortune letter in the entire NW section is an "A." That "H" in 24D: HST stands out starkly against its bland surroundings.

Assorted comments:

  • 1A: Literary slips (errata) - gimme! (which, coincidentally, is the name of the coffee my friend Donna gave me yesterday for Xmas. Thanks, Donna) [the coffee is called GIMME, not ERRATA ... you understood that, right?]
  • 14A: Grade school administration, maybe (IQ test) - they really give these in grade school? People still put credence in that test?
  • 22A: Fashion's Bartley (Luella) - mystery woman of the day. LUELLA is a great name.
  • 32A: Former Japanese P.M. Shinzo (Abe) - that's what we call "ABE the hard way."
  • 71A: Young amphibian (eft) - Pantheonic!
  • 84A: Theodemocratic state (Iran) - nice clue for a common answer.
  • 90A: Unemotional type, slangily (ice man) - really? OK. I thought this was the name of the caveman dude they found in the ice ... somewhere. Archaeology!
  • 99A: Decorative gateway in Japan (torii) - definitely seen it before, but blanked on it today.
  • 101D: Classic role played by Gerard Depardieu in "The Man in the Iron Mask" (Porthos) - hmmm ... how did I never see this clue?
  • 114A: Source of "we three kings" ("orient") - at first I was like "?" Then I thought "O ... it's actually in the lyrics - 'we three kings of ORIENT are...'" - Here's some more ORIENTAL goodness for you.
  • 6D: Fictional detective Lupin (Arsene) - befuddled, and it pains me to say that. I felt bad not knowing this, until I realized that I was thinking of Poe's "Dupin" - I don't actually know this "Lupin" guy at all.
  • 18D: Blue-black berrylike fruit (sloe) - it's always SLOE.
  • 66A: "The Sandbox" playwright (Albee) - it's always ALBEE.
  • 33D: Univ. QB, perhaps (BMOC) - nice to see this abbrev. back in the grid. It's Terribly dated now. Do people under 30 even know what it means? I'm over 30, and it was dated when I was in college.
  • 34D: Grammy and Emmy-winning soprano (Sills) - an opera name I actually know. Huzzah.
  • 49D: Garfield's assassin (Odie) - just kidding: GUITEAU (which I know only from a Johnny Cash song)
  • 53D: French-named city on Galveston Bay (La Porte) - more foreign-sounding cities I don't know. See yesterday's puzzle.
  • 63D: What snow shovels may produce (paths) - I weirdly like this clue.
  • 73D: Joint part (tenon) - word I know only from xwords (that list is Long, it seems).
  • 89D: Out-elbowed? (akimbo) - fantastic clue. Goes nicely with 69D: Elbows (pokes).

Bottom of puzzle is Loaded with crosswordese, including:

RELO (95D: Move, in Realtor-speak)
AVER (96D: Swear)
DEMI (97D: Moore of "G.I. Jane")
OYER (100D: Court hearing)

and the long-dormant but apparently not dead

ONER (104D: Lulu)

Hope your day is a ONER.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[drawing by Emily Cureton]


Anonymous 8:50 AM  

TV interview .. can they YouTube or 'site' it for we cruciverbalists.

Arthur Radley

Anonymous 9:02 AM  

I've done TV interviews, I've done teaching.

TV is way easier; unless there's some big crossword scandal I've yet to hear of?

QP 9:49 AM  

BMOC ? And I am over 30

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

OK, not that I've made a study of such things, but weren't there more of these rhymes in Sunday puzzles in the era before Will Shortz? That's how I remember it, anyway.

And compounding the retro feel of this puzzle, the idea of every toy being made in China has taken on a very different connotation this past year. (Ironically, this very issue of the Magazine has an article addressing that.)

So this wasn't really my favorite puzzle, although there was a lot to like, with reference4s to everyone from Beverly Sills and Igor Stravinsky to Edward Albee to Fiona Apple (Her EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE album of a couple of years ago was TERRIFIC.) One or two pedestrian clueings ("Archer William" comes to mind.), but overall, this was OK.

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

BMOC=Big Man on Campus

Agreed the quote wasn't very fun. But I liked seeing ANENT again. And I got the QUEUER off the -er.

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

Took the cureton drawing to see that yesterday's killer puzzle was a black swastika!

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

Nah, they're pipes. Which makes it my favorite Cureton yet.

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

I like the RECLINER / CHINA rhyme, though, I will say.

I liked it too, Rex. But that's because I'm from Baahstin where we actually beleve reclinAH and chiNAH do rhyme.

This was an annoying puzzle.

Christmas cookie ingredient? Pecan? No. Butter, and more butter.

Merry Christmas to all.

Anonymous 10:27 AM  

Beata, BMOC = Big Man On Campus

wendy 10:43 AM  

Hmm. Certainly a topical "verse," and a nod to how out of control our materialism has become. No one's minding the store while the global economy goes where it will and domestic companies ignore what's happened to their supply chain. Then blame it all on the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Oh don't get me started on this ...

Didn't know there were sororities with IOTA in their names. Thought it was some kind of joke. I take issue with the cluing of ICE MAN, which is the moniker of the divine soul man Jerry Butler. His devastatingly cool demeanor while singing about profound feelings is anything but unemotional. Was listening to Your Precious Love just last night.

REEFER in the puzzle? It was probably needed to leaven its otherwise downtrodden backbone. Did like the DASH away entry, the clever LENTEN, CIRCLE for group, LIFER and AKIMBO.

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

Re. the grammar of the quote.
In the crossword puzzles we can't see the punctuation. I imagine the last part of the verse like this:

If you ask him for a reason:
"Every toy is made in China."

Anonymous 11:49 AM  

Nice to have an easy one after yesterday, and I don't mind quip puzzles so for me this one was OK.

IQ Tests (the Ravens) are given in the 2nd grade in CA and some class assignment decisions are based on them.

Like it or not Rex you are getting famous. I was talking about crosswords with some grad students at Stanford a couple of weeks ago and they mentioned your blog with out me saying a word.

Anonymous 11:54 AM  

"Charles Guiteau done shot down a good man, good man / Charles Guiteau done shot down a good man low"... I too remembered the name from Johnny Cash's great "America"album... though I think that version was a re-recording...
I guess I was a little more forgiving of the grammatical looseness of the verse... not side-splitting funny, but more the "gee, that's true" type

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

China and reclinER don't rhyme unless one has a NY or New England accent. Whatevah!
Dumb puzzle but maybe good as people are less likely to waste time on it at this busy season.

Ellen 12:33 PM  

The ICEMAN of puzzles is Doug Hoylman, famous for whipping through the playoffs without breaking a sweat. He was one of the unfortunate invisible four, filmed for "Wordplay" but left on the cutting room floor.

Ulrich 12:42 PM  

I share with Rex a real distaste for verse puzzles--I have no rational reason, but they rub me the wrong way. I actually think the faux China/recliner rhyme is the saving grace of today's verse: For some reason, I found myself solving the puzzle from the bottom up, and "China" was about the first complete verse word I had--so I was thinking: What the hell is going to rhyme with THAT? Higher up, I found "recliner" and thought, cheeky! Inbetween, I had "reason" and immdediately wrote "season" in the first line--an obvious gimme that helped a lot in the upper part.

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

Wendy - IOTAS doesn't necessarily refer to a Greek letter in the name of the sorority. It could be a chapter name within a specific (nationwide) sorority. This from a total Non-Greek Non-Org.

Anonymous 1:46 PM  

The verse could have been more timely:

Santa's had a queasy season
Tossing in his unmade bed.
If you ask him for a reason,
the Chinese toys were made with lead.

True, this doesn't solve poem's grammatical issues.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

Anonymous 2:05 PM  

Sondheim fans will recognize Charles Guiteau as one of the assassins in "Assassins," an underrated show of the Broadway master from a few years back. Admittedly, I had never heard of Guiteau until that time. But then, Garfield isn't high on most people's historical lists—the president, not the cartoon cat, that is. Anyway, I can thank Sondheim for my getting that particular answer. I think he's a puzzle fan, too.

Anonymous 2:15 PM  


Of minor interest to trivia fans: Sondheim is a Williams College graduate and President Garfield was shot while on the way to his 25th Williams reunion.

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

I actually thought QUEUER was a fun odd job. (I picture someone standing alone at a bus stop or such.) And the crossing there with IQTEST was nice since it's one of those Q without U fills. But otherwise the puzzle was truly lacking for Scrabbly letters as you noted, Rex.

The RECLINER/CHINA rhyme did bring a smile.

And I seem to remember in the Clint Eastwood movie, "Unforgiven," that the character, English Bob, refers to the Garfield assination in a conversation on the train and talks about how one could shoot a president but no one could shoot a queen because of the air of royalty. I don't remember if Guiteau is mentioned though.

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

Emily Cureton's Saturday cartoon with its reference to Magritte is just great! I hadn't noticed that the black squares formed pipes. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous 2:44 PM  

No time for today's time absorbing puzzle, but had to check the comments. Clearly, the creator of this blog should draw some notice. Next two steps will be a long article in the NYT, then a Documentary! Good luck with the interview. When and where will it be broadcast? Surely not in La Porte.

Thanks too for the clarification on yesterday's puzzle. I think my brain deserved the rest from that one.

Anonymous 2:50 PM  

I thought Emily's take on the Saturday puzzle was perfect....she knows her Magritte. What an entertaining addition to the blog.

I started the puzzle late last night and found it slow going. Then, thinking of Saturday's pinwheel, I realized (I had commented yesterday that I admired the puzzle's 90, 180, 270, and 360 symmetry) that all puzzles have 360 symmetry. Dumb!

Fell asleep without getting very far. When I woke up in the middle of the night, with only a few entries filled in, I surfed about and saw that JAE considered the puzzle easy, and I knew my synapses were entering a holidaze. Nothing to panic about, just slow. LENTal in LENTEN's spot didn't help. PLOD seemed apt given my speed. Took me until now to parse PERSE. The name ARSENE felt wrong. SARTRE fell easily.

Speaking of XMAS, a morning listen to the "Go Tell It On The Mountain" CD by the Blind Boys of Alabama got me energized, especially when on cut 5, "In the Bleak of Winter", Chrissie Hynde (yea!) takes the lead vocal. Just gorgeous.

The confusion about BMOC may be attributable to the fact that in 1977 it was officially changed to BPOC (person).

dick swart - l liked the "lead" reference.

I thought the puzzle was fine (I don't mind the step-quote format). I may have had a stronger reaction had I been more with it. I did not let the fact that the constructor's name is an anagram of "Ample Drag" curtail my enjoyment.

Anonymous 3:28 PM  

Could not get queuer or per se for the life of me. Perhaps it was my DEE in French which prevented my getting the crosses.

Loved the Cureton drawing and the Pipe outlines which I only saw after reading the comments.

Lots of E in this puzzle, about 15% of the total squares. Includes 24 words with two or more Es.

Anonymous 3:50 PM  

Rex... by now you're done with the interview and feeling better, but I was reminded of Woody Allen in Annie Hall who went to LA to give an award on TV and got sick to his stomach. As soon as the doctor said he should stay in bed and not go on TV, he started eating chicken off the room service tray. I'm sure you were fab! If you have time, let us know how it went.

The puzzle... I was surprised to see such an important political message tucked into a holiday theme. Right on Adam and Will. Re: outsourcing... I think that Americans would be shocked to discover the amount of outsourcing to foreign countries that US corporations do, not just for cheap labor in manufacturing, but also in customer service functions. Don't Americans need these jobs?

Queuer came to mind instantly having lived in London. For some reason I like the word, and flat for apartment.

My son once asked me where Orientar was. He also thought Franksin Atra was the crooner's name.

Thought about this iceman:

LOVE Jack Lemmon. Best role of his IMO was Some Like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis (directed by Billy Wilder). A perfect film. I highly recommend that you see it if you haven't. Just had drinks at the classic Hotel Coronado where it was filmed, though it was supposed to be in Florida.

Nit to pick: edibles for plum pudding and fruitcake. Liked that it was seasonal, but everything else in the world that you eat is edible, too.

Learned Rene Auberjonois, Arsene Lupin, and Luella Bartley, whose creative and fun fashions look great on .00425% of the population.

Liked it's a wrap (saran), and... um...I guess that's it. But after yesterday, it was great to breeze through.

Doug 4:44 PM  

Hi Rikki
I don't think Americans need those jobs. We've been doing fine by sending the low pay work overseas for decades and forcing the folks in the vacuum to get get better education and skills. I'd rather my t-shirt get sewn for a buck an hour in Vietnam, because it forces my kid to study more for the math exam. The easy job that used to be there is gone--Evolution, competition, etc. If those jobs were still here our economy wouldnt be growing at 3-4% p.a.!

Anonymous 5:59 PM  

Satisfactory grade in Kindergarden: Ess??

I don't get it, can somebody explain this clue-fill?

Hungry Bird 6:11 PM  

I just hated this puzzle. But I'm generally grumpy today.

Nit: Shouldn't it be "des lettres"?

Or perhaps not.

I'm spelling challenged in English, so cannot rely on nits in French.

Anonymous 6:12 PM  


Ess (s) for satisfactory.

Arthur Radley

Ulrich 7:09 PM  

Doug: You better tell your kid to hurry up. The jobs depending on better education will go to India and China, too (already started) as these countries start to catch up i.t. of education. According to the latest estimate I read, already 30% of the graduates in China are absolutely equal to their peers in the Western countries--and if my experience with advising PhD students is any indication, the percentage of people from India is even higher. I told last week in this blog the story of being extorted for ca. 25c in India by a cooperative of man and monkeys. What I should have mentioned was that 25c would by in the town where it happened (Simla) a delicious vegetarian lunch. As long as these differences in the cost of living exist and trade barriers are being removed under globalization, jobs OF ANY KIND will move to the "cheaper" countries. The right has no problem with this as it means "the market is working", but the left is in a terrible dilemma: Its traditional constituency is losing out, but it cannot really advocate protectionism (which wouldn't work anyway) because that would hurt what would be its constituency in the developing countries (Rex, I'm stretching your rules on what can be discussed in this blog, but I think both the verse and the relevance of the issue may give me some leeway)

Anonymous 7:19 PM  

Re: BMOC -- I think I learned that from Archie Comics. Ask Sahra.

Re: Your TV appearance. It is killing me waiting for an update.

xoxo and Merry Christmas Eve to you and your alter ego

PJ Parrish 8:39 PM  

I agree, Rex.
A decidedly inelegant puzzler.

Michael Chibnik 10:46 PM  

I'm still trying to work out (despite the previous comment about chapter names) why iota is a sorority name. Maybe I'm just slow because of a day spent in an airport in a failed effort to leave the land of ice and snow.

iota gamma?
iota iota iota?

The cureton drawings are getting even better (if that's possible).

HappyDad 10:56 PM  

Nice work Rex!!

click on the link for his video!

emilyjo.c @ gmail dot com 11:14 PM  

snarky should have been des lettres... i speak two languages but french isnt one of them. now im embarrassed and theres nothing i can do about it.

Anonymous 11:55 PM  

Like Doris, I wouldn't have gotten GUITEAU as quickly as I did without having seen ASSASSINS. "I'm going to my Lordy..."

Oh, and on the subject of Sondheim, my lovely wife and I saw SWEENEY TODD this afternoon. YOWZA!!!

PuzzleGirl 12:31 AM  

Didn't love the puzzle, but Totally Loved Emily's drawing.

Rex Parker 8:35 AM  

We need a ruling from someone French, because "jeu de lettres" gets more than twice the Google hits that "jeu des lettres" gets.


Anonymous 8:55 AM  

The French for crossword puzzles is "mots croisés." And the French for "wordplay" is "jeu de mots." I'm not sure that the expression "jeu de lettres" is even used.

The Rex video can be found online at:

Anonymous 9:16 AM  

Yes, "jeu de lettres" is an expression; I stand corrected (by myself). However, it is a generalized term for word and letter games. "Mots croisés" is the specific term for crosswords. BTW, "Scrabble" is "Scrabble" en français aussi.

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

"Jeu de lettres" is the correct form. Incidentally, Arsene (6D) was incorrectly clued, since Arsene Lupin is a "gentleman-cambrioleur" (genteleman burglar) and not a detective. If anybody's interested in his adventures, "L'Aiguille Creuse" is one of the best.

Anonymous 8:26 PM  

i found your blog one day when i was trying to find NY times crossword answers on line. your blog was pretty high up on the google search.whenever i get stumped on the sunday puzzle that they print in a conservative weekly paper here in charlotte, nc (it's the only reason i get it; that and the week's "pearls before swine" comic). i always come to your blog for the answers. such a great site!

Anonymous 4:26 PM  

One week later ...
Congrats on your TV appearance, Rex!

One request from us syndicated solvers who are six weeks back, but still enjoy reading the comments. Could you please not discuss the Saturday puzzle in the Sunday thread? We won't see it for some time.

I thought it was a fun puzzle, if a bit bland in the fill. But how could 90-Across NOT have been clued "Maverick's nemesis"?

Looking forward to following your blog next year, Rex.

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