SUNDAY, Dec. 9, 2007 - Patrick Blindauer

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Secret Santa's Helpers" - (grid is a Word Find hiding 20 ELFs)

Short write-up today, as we have breakfast guests arriving shortly.

I feel like I should like this more than I do. Perhaps my blah reaction has to do with the non-theme. Nothing holds the words in the puzzle together - the whole thing is a gimmick (albeit a clever one) whose "fun" is dependent on your already having solved the puzzle. I suppose that knowing that there are ELFs hiding in the grid might have made it easier to solve the puzzle (higher likelihood of E's, L's, and F's), but beyond that, the theme had little impact on the solving experience. I do like that all the answers that would be "theme" answers (9+-letter Acrosses) contain ELF, running either forward or backward, or both.

  • 23A: Yuletide celebration (TwELFth Night)
  • 33A: Rock group with the 12-time platinum album "Hysteria" (DeF LEppard) - one of the only highlights of music during my college years: I have a secret, shameful love for this album.
  • 44A: Like Narcissus? (sELF-reFLEctive) - I had SELF-RESPECTING! Wrong on so many levels.
  • 63A: Last time? (shELF life) - great tricky clue.
  • 66A: 1964 Beatles #1 hit ("I FeEL Fine")
  • 81A: Classic outdoor winter toys (FLExible Flyers)
  • 97A: Bond's man? (Ian FLEming)
  • 108A: Precious cargo of legend (Golden FLEece)
I don't know if it's the massive letter repetition or what, but there are a lot of words that look / sound alike in the grid today. There's ...

RENEE (54A: Longtime soap actress Jones)


RANEE (30A: Hindu queen)

ARDENT (105A: Burning)


ARGENT (9D: Silver-colored)

ARLENS (4D: Sen. Specter and others)


ALLAN (101A: Quasar co-discoverer Sandage)

ABLE (61A: Fully functional)


ABEL (55D: Genesis shepherd)

and then ... this interesting run of words:

FLEE (36D: Bolt)

FLEECE (in 108A)

FEAST (36A: Gorge)

EFFETE (27A: Decadent)


FREED (64D: Let out)

There are also two guys from the Monty Python troupe: John CLEESE (94D: John of "Rat Race") and Eric [IN] IDLE (92D: Out of gear).

Question marks:

  • 8D: Mushroom stems (stipes)
  • 8A: River or city of Maine (Saco) - that crossing (the "S") was a total guess; weirdly arcane intersectors for a Sunday.
  • 21A: Vessel lost at Pearl Harbor (Utah) - took me a while to realize it wasn't a kind of vessel.
  • 22A: Piz Bernina or Eiger (Alp) - never heard of either ... unless "The Eiger Sanction" has something to do with the Alp of the same name.
  • 39A: Weena's fictional race (Eloi) - no idea what "Weena" is, but as always, "fictional race" = ELOI.
  • 50A: Popular Hispanic newspaper name (El Sol) - Makes sense.
  • 58A: Year England captured Normandy at the Battle of Tinchebray (MCVI) - I guess I should be happy that this wasn't clued as [Twelfth century year] or [Year in the reign of some pope].
  • 85A: "Climb _____ Mountain" ("Ev'ry") - spelling! I had no idea...
  • 102A: Pope of 452 who met with Attila (St. Leo) - again, I have to object to this cluing of guys as "saints" during years when they were not, in fact, saints, i.e. years when they were Still Alive.
  • 3D: Repetitive exclamation from Shakespeare ("Fie, fie!") - and here I was trying to decide among "DIE, DIE!," "LIE, LIE!," or "HIE, HIE!"
  • 15D: Edward O. _____, card-counting author of "Beat the Dealer" (Thorp) - ???
  • 43D: Senior Saarinen (Eliel) - I blanked ... but then he came back to me. He's been in the puzzle recently, with the same clue.
  • 65D: Current with the wind (lee tide) - I think I am familiar only with NEAP tide, so this was a nice change.
  • 81D: Carrie Chapman Catt, for one (feminist) - briefly confused her with "Carrie Nation," and so wanted a shorter word for TEETOTALER.
  • 91D: "Crimes of the Heart" playwright Beth (Henley) - I knew this one, but completely blanked. I knew she started with an "H" and so I just started muttering H-names, stubbornly refusing to move on until the name finally came to me.
  • 75A: Spitchcock (eel) - whoaaaaa. Whoa. Huh? OK. Total guess. I am now imagining a cartoon character called "Alfred Spitchcock" - a rotund eel who says everything with a deadpan expression and appears at least once in all of his films.
  • 99D: "We Got the Beat" group (Go-Go's) - First albums I ever bought on my own, in a record store, without my parents present, were "Beauty and the Beat" by [the] Go-Go's and "Don't Say No" by Billy Squier. This was a Wherehouse Records in the Fashion Fair mall in Fresno, CA, circa 1981, in case my future biographer wants to know.

Smiley faces:

  • 106A: Adam Sandler's "Spanglish" co-star (Téa Leoni) - a name built for crosswords.
  • 24D: Manx trait (no tail) - so cute. I was briefly frustrated, wondering why "BOB TAIL" wouldn't fit.
  • 101D: "The Night Cafe" was painted there (Arles) - I got this with no crosses in place. I am no art expert, but if you do enough crossword puzzles, your brain starts to make connections instinctively. "Night Cafe" - Van Gogh - Arles.
  • 105D: Frizzy coif (afro) - return of the 'fro. There was a Jimi Hendrix clue, a couple days back, whose answer was also AFRO. That answer inspired this drawing by reader Emily Jo Cureton:

Here is her website:

I don't normally volunteer to give free publicity to readers, but her work makes me so happy that I can't help myself - here are the other drawings in the series so far. This one is Orange's favorite:

And this is my wife's favorite:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 8:55 AM  

Weena is the female Eloi character in "The Time Machine". Yvette Mimieux played her in the movie.

Anonymous 9:58 AM  

A very enjoyable Sunday puzzle that shoulda been constructed by Jon dELFin.

Anonymous 10:02 AM  

Wasn't too bad, and I had to do it on a long flight without reference books, google or Rex to help me! Missed the S in 8AandD. When I just started out, without reading crosses, I wanted "A horse" for 3 down......

Anonymous 10:20 AM  

In THE TIME MACHINE, Weena was the name of the female Eloi that the Time Traveller meets.

I've long contended that, if you were a heterosexual male between ages 15 and 30 in the 1980s, you had a crush on at least one Go-Go and at least one Bangle. For me, those were Jane Wiedlin and Susanna Hoffs, respectively. Hubba-hubba...

Interesting that GOGO was in just a couple of days ago.

I got ATNO by crosses, but had no idea what it meant (13 to Al? Who's Al???). Then this morning, it hit me: Al = aluminum.

I think I might have liked this puzzle more WITHOUT that explanatory note at the time. That is, you'd have to figure that there was an unspecified word hidden so many times in the puzzle. (Actually, I think there are more than 20 if you don't go in straight lines: for example, check out how ALFALA and SOIREES intersect.)

However, even without that, I got a kick out of this one. I can even forgive the inclusion of the name of the hated Orel Herscheiser, who shut down my Mets in the 1988 playoffs.

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

I solved the puzzle but I can't find 20 ELF's Can anyone help?

DONALD 10:31 AM  


Check out

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

I'm still glad to have found this "Rex Parker Does..." page, though I find it hard to put off reading it until I've finished the puzzle! Talk about arcane, to me: Defleppard. And I'm glad I didn't notice the bonus "word-search" -- what a pain! There aren't 20 of "elf" unless you count going around a corner like a knight's move in chess. Another tiny quibble: 57D - forces in the water - misleading, aren't they on the water? Oh well. And I did hold onto Cleo for 40A too long, though I knew it must be amor. Love the reclining feline!

Anonymous 10:47 AM  

Eiger was the Alp in "The Eiger Sanction"

You may have always solved in crosses without seeing the clue but Eiger appears a lot as a clue for "ALP"

Rex Parker 10:49 AM  

Yes, of course, it's JIMI. Thank you.


Rex Parker 10:51 AM  

There are 20. You have to go diagonally through black patches a few times, but they're all there, just like the Notepad promises.


Anonymous 10:59 AM  

A juvenile dolphin from Norway
Was smitten while south on a foray:
His mother said, "Son,
She's an eel -- not the one
for you!" "Ma," he sighed, "that's amore."

Anonymous 11:05 AM  

This puzzle slayed me and I absolutely hated it (the former doesn't necessarily lead to the latter). I have never had to google so much on a Sunday in my entire crossword life.

I think that Mr. Shortz is becoming way too influenced by this blog. The comments this week consistently bemoaned how easy the puzzles have been and I think he made a concerted effort to make today's puzzle way too hard. Adding insult to injury, the acrostic was fairly brutal as well.

I could complain for paragraphs, but I'll limit my harumphs to 2 particularly annoying items. 4D: Sen. Specter and others - as a CSPAN addict, I know very well who ARLEN Specter is, HOWEVER, the Sen. part led me to believe that the answer should be an abbreviation. WTF is with that? I thought that was a strict crossword rule. 85A: Evry? Why on earth would Hammerstein intentionally misspell the word and who on earth would know that he did? That's how it's usually pronounced.

On the positive side, thank goodness that he threw in Eiger with Piz Bernina or that would have been a 3 letter stumper for me (I must file the other one in my xword memory bank). The sole moment of pure joy in this puzzle was the Little Rascals' He-Man Women Haters Club.

I never saw the explanatory note, but I doubt it would have made a difference. I had minimal problems with the theme answers.


Anonymous 11:11 AM  

Billnut.... Al is ALbert Einstien

But I'm no genius ---

I fell for the obvious LEAVES (fall colors) and kept rooting for A HORSE (shakespearean repetitive phrase)

Rex Parker 11:13 AM  


It's hard to understand why ARLENS wasn't the first thing you tried. That clue is profoundly obvious if you a. know who ARLEN Specter is and b. have done crosswords for any length of time. Abbreviation shmeviation.

EVRY was very easy to get. Yes, spelling is weird, but you KNOW the answer, and once you get even one cross, you know how the answer is going to be spelled.

There have been far far FAR harder Sunday crosswords, even just this year.

But I do understand the post-puzzle frustration that happens when you tank a puzzle. I've been there, often.


Anonymous 11:22 AM apologies...I see you explained the Al was for Aluminum

Make that three stupid mistakes...!

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

Composers and lyricists in the mid-twentieth century frequently spelled out the pronunciation; Climb Evry Mountain did, I think, have an apostrophe in it.
Bess, yo is mah woman now...
But this puzzle wore me out.

Anonymous 11:44 AM  


Evry wasn't hard thanks to ALVIN Ailey. It just bugged me, probably because so much of the puzzle bitch-slapped me.

I did want to put ARLENS in despite my doubts about the abbreviation, but I hesitated because the rest of the section was killing me. Prolly 'cause I wanted to put GODOT in the "Waiting for" play (I don't know squat about who wrote what play, so LEFTY was one of my many googles). Once I got the area, I really liked the clever cluing for RAINY.


Anonymous 11:48 AM  

I didn't like this puzzle at all: A theme that doesn't help you at all in solving the puzzle is no theme to me, and to add insult to injury, it was called a "bonus"--whoever heard of a bonus on top of nothing? I thought initially that at least all the f's would be part of the hidden elves, but once I got 1A, even that (almost) saving grace went out of the window. Yikes.

Anonymous 12:31 PM  

What's with the spelling of "fogi?' A geezer is an old fogey. Is a fogi a word in english? Yikes. Fogy. But that still looks amiss somehow.

Michael Chibnik 12:35 PM  

Like others, I was a bit slower than usual on Sunday because the theme was of only a very little help. Otherwise, the puzzle seemed to me to be of average Sunday difficulty.

Arlens was just about the first answer I got. But the clue is "Sen. Specter and others." A routine crossword puzzle convention. But can anybody think of any other "Arlen" of even minor fame?

wendy 12:40 PM  

Huh. I liked the puzzle. Put me in the camp, if there is one, of those for whom knowing about the presence of elves helped in the solving experience - a lot, actually! I lost track of the number of answers that revealed themselves to me when I stuck in that extra letter.

I particularly liked what seemed to be some fun cluing, a very wide variety of answers and many that I'd never seen before.

Loved NO TAIL. I had a Manx growing up and he was my favorite of all our cats - the offspring of a normal cat and one that had a stub of a tail. Herman had nothing at all. Sadly, Manxes usually have a lot of health problems and he was no exception, so he didn't live as long as our others, but he was one of the major joys of my young life.
He made me laugh every day, which was important because I was, as most adults were quick to point out in exactly these terms, quite a PILL as a child. Hey, you'd be grouchy too in my situation. But I survived.

Also liked I FEEL FINE, although I remembered that as a later-than-64 song. Although I did get ETCHING eventually, I was heading in another direction with 'dropping acid, say'.

I haven't called for a moratorium for awhile, but today I do so with STYE. First of all, it's more often spelled without the E although the dictionary allows it. Second, ick.

BE OF good cheer! Thanks for sharing the illustrations, Rex.

Campesite 1:11 PM  

Great illustrations, Emily Jo. Thanks for putting those up, Rex.
I like Patrick Blindauer's constructions, for he clues cleverly, the fill is usually fresh, and he tends not to use too much crosswordese. This wasn't my favorite puzzle of his, but I thought it was somewhat fun.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

Bill: ATNO = atomic number. Sometimes you see similar cluing for atomic weight.

Anonymous 1:22 PM  

Hobbist: fogy - as in "old fogy".

Question for all: on the alp cluing there was a "piz" something -- is that short for 'spitz'?
I'm at a big disadvantage doing these puzzles because I listened to no pop/rock music after the very early 70s and so when groups or albums are mentioned - such as the one that Rex feels a guilty pleasure enjoying - I am at a loss.
Steely Dan's AJA left me guessing some days ago.

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

Thanks Rex! Once I looked beyond the box (that is the black box) I was able to find all the ELF's. Have a restful Sunday.

Ulrich 1:35 PM  

Re "piz": It means mountain top in one of the Romanesque languages spoken exclusively in some parts of Switzerland. I don't think it has anything to do with German "spitz", which isn't a noun anyway, except when it refers to a dog breed.

flyingpig 2:05 PM  

I took awhile doing this puzzle and didn't discover the "theme" until I had done 80% of it. I enjoyed the "aha" moment of discovering it even though I was almost done --it was with Twelfth Night that I caught on. Loved

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

Rex you old pun-hater: I laughed at "Alfred Spitchcock" -- good one! I watched him direct one scene of Family Plot from the passenger seat of a limo in SF in 1975 or so. The scene: a car would proceed down the street (Webster) and turn into a garage. A lackey would jog to Alfred's window, which he would lower half-an-inch, mumble instructions, and they would re-shoot (and re-shoot and re-shoot)

I found this puzzle pretty challenging for a Sunday, with hazards in many areas of the course (especially the NW). I hit most of the snags already mentioned, plus I didn't know LEPPARD was spelled such, and hadn't heard of THORP, and wasn't thinking clearly because the first four letters looked dangerously close to THRO.

Great to see FLEXIBLEFLYERS hit the big-time.

I found the puzzle interesting though the ELF bit wasn't really happening for me....

Unknown 2:43 PM  

This puzzle took me forever, or more grammatically, I took forever to do the puzzle. But I did not think it was hard. Just sort of cloying with the corny Christmas theme.
ATNO I got on crosses and had to read the whole blog to figure out what it meant. Thanks.
Saco River, obscure
Piz Bernina? I even Googled it wrong. Biz Pernina. Whatever.
St Leo, same objection as Rex. Improper cluing.
Fogi? Please.
I had Lowes for Loews so i got pretty screwed up "down there"

Finally, is anyone else sick of SGT and its progeny?
These military ranks are getting old.
Time to decorate the tree!

Anonymous 3:12 PM  

Dear dear - the more I learn the more stupid I feel ..... I also had to look up SO much, I feel quite the idiot. Had in Stalks for Stipes, Chasm for Feast and At Rest for At Ease - not the prettiest grid by the end though I have to say that I love a crossword that makes me learn new things.

Anonymous 3:19 PM  

Nice present of a puzzle.

In addition to the elfs, lots of Holiday flavor: The Whos of Grinch fame, Soirees, Alvins, feast, Santa's Reindeer and good cheer for the twelfth night.

Also liked that a member of the He Man Woman Haters club, Alfalfa, was snuck in to contrast to the clued feminist.

kumar 3:34 PM  

Did any one else have a problem with 46 Down? I thought an "Evening person" would be a reveler, not a leveler, unless you are Japanese and mix up the pronunciations of "l" and "r".

I am afraid I still don't get Leveler.

Anonymous 3:45 PM  

Even up, Kumar. Evening evens the day.

Anonymous 4:04 PM  

I had a puntastic time with this puzzzle, but I fell in love with cleo and got stuck there.

Thanks, Jerry, for the explanation for 40 down. AT NO time did it make sense to me.

Anonymous 4:38 PM  

In a speech to Congress, Ms. Cate refers to women haters.

blog editor 5:45 PM  

Kumar - when you level something, you even it out.

Eileen – After falling for “Godot” instead of “Lefty” so many times, I'm ready for it now.

Anon, I don't like it when rules are broken either. If the clue uses abbreviations, so should the answer. What is this world coming to if we can’t depend on crossword puzzles to follow the rules.

Rex, I found your blog yesterday. What a rare pleasure it is. I'll be back often, after I finish the puzzle that is (I hope).

Anonymous 6:18 PM  

I didn't do the puzzle today but just had to add my two cents' worth about Ms. Cureton's drawings. They're great!

P.S. re: Sen. Specter- has anyone ever seen "Mr." spelled out in crossword clues? I don't think so. IMHO, I would say that titles are the exception to the rule.

Orange 8:36 PM  

It's my sense that Doc John is right about title abbreviations. I was thinking that it was Times style to use Sen., but searching the NYT site for Arlen Specter revealed that news articles spell out Senator and then follow with Mr. (or Ms., etc.) subsequently.

Louis Catorze, the old sled is spelled with a Y, FLEXIBLE FLYER, crossing FOGY. There's no FOGI here.

'Cept when Yogi Berra got on in years and turned into Fogi Berra, that is.

Anonymous 8:51 PM  

wendy... my dictionary, and I think most crosswords, differentiate stye (eye infection) from sty (pig domicile) though both are pretty yucky. I've never seen the eye infection with no "e".

LOL, if I had waited a few minutes I could have let Orange tell me where that fogi was. I went back thru the whole puzzle looking for fogi, but since I flexibleflyers was one of my first fills the fogy/fogi spelling didn't happen to me.

thanks everyone for explaining who the heck Al is and why the number 13 is significant to him ;-) . AtNo is especially wicked since it does spell two perfectly good English words (unlike AtWt) which make perfectly NO sense at all in context of the clue.

skua76 9:58 PM  

I didn't like this puzzle.
Of course I started with LEAVES for 1D but that was just the beginning.

Anonymous 10:08 PM  

Had a Manx cat when I lived in Maine sorta close to Saco (Portland). It had no tail, weighed a ton and fetched.

Went sledding today on a Mad River Bomber not a Flexibleflyer.

For Night Cafe I was fixated on Hopper and Nighthawks at ...

So as always the 6 degrees of seperation help with the clues as do trends like Afro.

The ones I do not get often come when I just walk away (eggnog with rum seems to help as well).

And, I find this blog to be an integral part of the above mentioned amusement, etc.

It is on to a new week. (I can only hope to see Asta again).

Anonymous 10:18 PM  

Ulrick - Spitz as in Zugspitz.

Anonymous 12:20 AM  

iter? ain't no kind of duct i ever heard of!

Anonymous 1:17 AM  

This was not pleasent for me as the theme didn't really help me much and there were enough crossing obscurities so that I was guessing more than I like. Got really bogged down in NW until I gave up on GODOT and finally saw ALFALFA which helped me remember LEFTY. My only error was the "I" in the ELIEL/ALI crossing. I know I've seen ELIEL previously but just couldn't recall him and I've never seen Aladdin. I also needed this blog to find out what ATNO was all about. Ah well, still a relatively easy week overall.

BTW Great drawings, Ms. Cureton is to be commended!

Ulrich 10:55 AM  

jerry20020: It's not Zugspitz, it's Zugspitze. "Spitze" can indeed mean a mountain peak, like a "Piz".

Orange 2:38 PM  

Marcie, the Am. Heritage Dictionary lists stye as a secondary spelling for the eyelid woe; plurals are sties or styes.

A haiku:

In a pig's (red) eye
In a germy old pigsty—
Is it a sty sty?

Spencer 5:40 PM  

STIPE was a gimme for me. For several years, in the fall I would take a wonderful mushroom identification class offered by the local botanical garden. Bob Shaffer, who taught it, was exceedingly knowledgeable, and a wonderful person, too. (According to the U of Michigan directory, his titles include Lewis E Wehmeyer and Elaine Prince Wehmeyer Professor Emeritus of Fungal Taxonomy and Curator Emeritus of Fungi, Herbarium.)

The first year one took the class, one was required to attend the classroom sessions, but the real point of the class was the 4 Saturday morning mushroom collecting expeditions. We'd spend a couple of hours wandering in the woods (at 4 different parks/preserves) looking for mushrooms. Amazingly, it was usually nice weather.

Then we'd bring them back and lay them out according to their family classifications. Bob would then pick up interesting specimens and expound on this one's squamose stipe, that one's adnate sinuate lamellae, that one's scabrous campanulate pileus, and so on.

But the best part came after the "work" was over. That was the gourmet potluck picnic. People used to work to outdo each other with their offerings. The last picnic of the class usually involved a selection of cognac and other such beverages, and would last late into the afternoon.

Ah, life. Is it any wonder that some of the vocabulary stuck with me, with that kind of reinforcement?

Anonymous 11:27 PM  

Oh, I neglected to point at the 15D THORP was a gimme, since I met him at my friend's wedding! He's an old friend of my friend's father. He wrote the first how-to-win-at-blackjack book, before everyone else jumped on the bandwagon.

Stan 3:54 PM  

Sun Dec 16, 2007
Thanks all for the 46D: LEVELER explanation. Now it makes sense.
The south went very smoothly today. 97D: ISTOO was quite the gimme, which gave me a lot of SW fill. 108A: GOLDENFLEECE went in quickly and provided at lot of SE fill. I didn't know 91D: HENLEY but got it from the crosses. I did keep 77D: AFOR until I had to admit there's no such thing as an 77A: AAGLET. Then I hit the MW and went with 68A: ART (oil) 79A: SLEET (greet) 65D: EBBTIDE (leetide), etc, etc.
Took a while to sort things out.
Up to the NW where, after guessing on 2D: LOWFAT, 1A: ALFALFA presented itself and 5D: GODOT had to leave. I didn't know LEFTY; googled it after I finished. As for the bonus, my first fills in the south were FLEs but 66A: ELF showed the letters can go any way. Slow time but I managed to make it through without google help during, which is a first for me. *back pat*
86A: AWOL - nice clue IMHO
I finally found all the ELFs. Last one was F lyer, awoL, Ecce. Whew!
Great blog, as always.

Anonymous 8:55 PM  

Thanks to everyone who explained "13, for Al" I couldn't get that one or "air" next to it. "Pullon" sounded wrong, and I thought I needed another ELF.


Anyway, I couldn't decide if it was 13, for Al, or "for AI", so I was trying to divine between artificial intelligence, Allen Iverson, and maybe an Italian stereotype?

Anonymous 3:01 PM  

Anon: "Iter" (Latin, way, journey) refers to a connective passageway between anatomical structures.

All: Thanks for the explanation of "atno." Got it, but didn't know what I had.

Just discovered this blog. Fun reading and good to know others have some of the same questions I have.

Unknown 8:59 PM  

I was away for a few weeks, and just did this puzzle today (12/21).

I gotta say, it took too much out of me.
However, my gimme was 87D: He-Man Woman-_______ Club.
One of my favorite Little Rascals episodes!

Paul in SF 12:00 AM  

Found an old nyt magazine 7/2518 and was happy to also find the unfinished puzzle. Even happer to fin Rex’ review - I didn’t knowing been around that long. CHEERS!

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