WEDNESDAY, Jan. 9, 2008 - John Farmer (Import with a "cavallino rampante" logo)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Calendar - 7 theme answers all contain three circled squares, which form abbreviations for the days of the week, SUN thru SAT (bonus - the three circled letters are the first, middle, and final letter of the theme answer in every case)

A fine puzzle from Mr. Farmer. I have seen a variation on this theme before (days of the week), but the structure here is quite elegant, with internal symmetry adding a strangely Classical dignity to a puzzle whose fill, by contrast, is highly modern and playful. I was most impressed, however, with the structure of the west coast of this puzzle, and the northwest in particular, where I had all kinds of plausible wrong answers for a time. Deceptively simple answers mix with the most improbable of consonant combos to create a great northwest adventure. This puzzle also features some fantastic cluing, a spate of TV and pop culture answers, and at least one word I have never seen before (or do not remember having seen, at any rate).

Theme answers:

  • 18A: Blindly (S ight U nsee N)
  • 23A: Have as a focus of one's studies (M aj O ir N)
  • 32A: Weekly founded by Walter Annenberg (T vg U id E) - what I like about this answer is the gaudy consonant run at the beginning; a little showing off (TROUNCE would have worked there, for instance)
  • 36A: Club choice (W hole wh E at brea D)
  • 45A: People of Burundi (T he H ut U) - by far the most insane answer, if only for the "THE"
  • 55A: Import with a "cavallino rampante" logo (F er R ar I) - that must mean "horse rearing up"
  • 59A: Expose, with "on" (S hine A ligh T)
This puzzle got off to a weird start for me. Got HOO (14A: Boo follower) and then right under it wrote in ELL (where ARM is supposed to go - 17A: Extension) and then right under that, wrote in EDEMA (where STING is supposed to go - 20A: Possible cause of swelling). This gave me -HEE-- for 1D: Challenges for daredevil motorcyclists, and so, blithely ignoring the obvious pluralness of the answer (as well as spelling conventions), I wrote in WHEELY. Eventually got SENSATE (31A: Feeling), but that clearly couldn't go under MAJOR IN (23A: Have as a focus of one's studies), because, I mean, what the hell ends in "JN?" Right? Right? Am I right? So MAJOR IN became MINOR IN ... but that didn't work. Once I determined that MAJOR IN had to be right, the former Mrs. ROMIJN-Stamos's name came to me (3D: Actress Rebecca of "Ugly Betty"). That woman is custom-named to stymie solvers. So 1A: Vacation rental ends up being CAR, which is So Obvious - how come the only answer I could come up with off the top of my head was SKI?

The California region of the puzzle was also thorny, even though I got THE HUTU with no problems. Couldn't remember exactly what insane, vowel-ridden Southern name went at 43A: Neighbor on the 1980s sitcom "Mama's Family" (Iola), and couldn't make much sense of 38D: Sub in a tub at first - felt strongly it had to be OLEO (and it was) but it took me a while to figure out why (OLEO is a "sub"stitute for butter). This section also had the hard-to-parse TO ORDER (54A: Customized) - all-in-all, a worthy patch of toughness.

Check out the cavalcade of pop culture:

  • IOLA
  • LINNEY (53D: Actress Laura) - at some point in my life she replaced Teri Garr as my Biggest Celebrity Crush - probably the moment I first saw her on screen as Mary Ann Singleton in "Tales of the City"; oh, and then there was "You Can Count On Me," which is near perfect ... I could go on, and on. Love her! (PS I still have a huge crush on Teri Garr and always will)
  • ADIA (29D: 1998 Sarah McLachlan hit) - remember this one; you'll need it again
  • "I LIE" (35A: "Would _____ to You?" (1985 Eurythmics hit) - so much better than [Netman Nastase])
  • LAHR (39D: Bert who sang "If I Only Had the Nerve") - good clue for this common answer
  • "I TAW" (24D: "_____ a Putty Tat" (Friz Freleng short))
  • SANT (22A: Filmmaker Gus Van _____) - perpetrator of horribly unnecessary "Psycho" remake
  • ARIANA (52D: Sister of Albus Dumbledore, in the Harry Potter books) - hard core. I've read them all and I couldn't retrieve this one

Love the stacking of IRISH (67A: From Cork, e.g.) over CELTS (70A: Boston five - the most favorite team of my youth is Finally playing like a professional basketball organization again, and I'm so happy). Let's see, what else do we have here...?

  • 15A: "You know ... it's ... um .. like this ..." ("I mean") - not sure what this clue is going for. Wouldn't ["It's like this"] work just as well? Or are we meant to imagine someone saying only "I mean..." as if he can't think of anything else to say? Odd.
  • 69A: Wry faces (pouts) - which meaning of "wry" am I forgetting? People with "wry" senses of humor do not POUT, do they?
  • 2D: Blood lines (aortae) - one of the pesky quirks of crosswords is that they can swing arbitrarily between English and Latin (or Greek) plurals. ULNAS / ULNAE etc.
  • 48A: Language family that includes Finnish and Hungarian (Uralic) - whoa. Yikes. My linguistics knowledge is rusty. URALIC would seem to refer to a mountain-dwelling people of Russia. But no.
  • 25D: One of the Low Countries: Abbr. (Neth.) - winner of the first daily ECUA prize for crappy country abbreviation.
I haven't plugged my vintage paperback site in a long time, and since the latest cover is particularly gorgeous, I think I'll do that now.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Today's other puzzles:
  • LAT 5:55 (C), Paul Guttormson
  • NYS 6:33 (C), Edgar Fontaine, "I-Catching Names"
  • CS 4:57 (C), Patrick Blindauer, "C-Span"
  • Newsday 3:57 (C), Norma Steinberg, "The Basics"
  • Onion AV Club 5:39 (C), Matt Jones

[drawing by Emily Cureton]


wendy 7:58 AM  

This puzzle had the kind of cluing I love, especially for what little crosswordese there is. Almost nothing is overly obvious and thus, it's fun but not likely to kill you.

I wanted Herring for FERRARI for a bit, and Distress for DISGRACE, but those were the main problems. Had the same problem you did parsing TO ORDER, but it was fun when I got smacked with the realization.

Sub in a tub was too fabulous. Anything to do with OLEO given its nefarious history in my family is welcome to me.

Knew ARIANA, but didn't think it needed the extra oomph of "in the Harry Potter books," could there be any confusion on the provenance of Dumbledore?

Has ROMIJN ever been in a puzzle? That was astonishing to me.

Glad to see Laura LINNEY as well. I too discovered her in Tales of the City, one of the best TV miniseries ever made and one of the best literary series of modern times. I only wish the entire original cast (Paul Gross, Chloe Webb and Marcus D'Amico) could have continued in the several sequels; didn't care for their replacements at all. Recently read Michael Tolliver Lives, which catches back up with the Barbary Lane folks many years later. Can't say I loved it, but I would have been hard pressed not to check it out.

Anonymous 8:41 AM  

Rex, I am so happy that you also had trouble with Ariana. I went completely blank on that, and I consider myself a major Harry Potter fan. Guess some rereading of Book 7 is in order...

Anonymous 8:57 AM  

Found the THEHUTU, OLEO, TOORDER area tough.

Didn't help myself by putting GIGA for TERA despite being a math and computer guy.

Anonymous 9:15 AM  

Glad to hear that I wasn't the only one with the MAJOR IN/SENSATE stack indecision. That really hung me up in the NW for a few minutes. Of course it didn't help that I had LIGHT UNSEEN for 18A. Oops.

Once that all fell into place and the theme emerged, all went together well except for the IOLA/OLEO crossing which I missed. I had no good idea for "sub in a tub" and ended up with IONA/ONEO, thinking perhaps there's a toy submarine called the "ONE-O".

New fill today for me: ROMIJN, ADIA, LINNEY, IOLA. I obviously need to bone up on my pop culture knowledge.

And alas, add me to the list of those who forgot poor ARIANA.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

I came here to ask for an explanation of "sub in a tub" being oleo... and VOILA... REX to the rescue!

I have to say, along with the joy of reading Rex's and everybody else's take on the puzzles, the first thing I do nowadays is scroll down to see what delight Emily has in store for us. She is a marvel!

I made the lap/leg mistake, as well as alef for alif and orren for orrin, and was clueless on the crosses. I'm sure if I look it up I will find reference to amour for intrigue, but it isn't a word I think of immediately. Neither is pout for wry face. I've never heard of a clam bar so that slowed me a bit.

After I got the SUN in circles, I went looking for MOON and found myself short an O, so it took a few more fills to get the theme.

To my shame, Iola and Romijn were two of my gimmes... but then so was ferrari.

bougeotte 10:24 AM  

Rick- I was stuck on oleo, thehutu and toorder. I couldn't for the life of me understand sub in a tub. I kept picturing a bathtub submarine you play with when you are a kid. Fun puzzle though.

Anonymous 10:48 AM  

Three Dutch clues in one day! Woohoo! Like Rex, I hate NETH as an abbreviation. Never seen it before.

Lots of potential Dutch confusion with the last names - ROMEIN and ROMEYN would work, as would ZANT and ZAND. Thank God for crosses.

HOO made me smile - makes me think of Horton, although he heard a WHO I think.

The Ferrari comes indeed with a rearing horsie (Cavallino being the diminutive). I like how this makes me think of a rocking horse. Fun puzzle!

Anonymous 10:52 AM  


For "sub in a tub" my first thought was soap.

Orange 10:55 AM  

I suspect that the majority of "tub" clues are for OLEO.

My favorite OLEO clue was Byron Walden's [Promise kept in a tub, perhaps]. It evokes all sorts of lewd scenarios, doesn't it?

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

34 down, what is a sec as to half a mo -- not moment, which is long than half a second. A lot of stupid stuff in this puzzle.

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

Enjoyed this puzzle.

Many rhymes: splat(last seen 12/31)/drat, mean/ene,light/sight, and too/hoo.

Also liked the Southeast Railroad crossings of RRs: Orr, Ferrari, Orrin and tarred.

PhillySolver 11:24 AM  

I decided to guess wrong as often as I could today...tag instead of LEG in a relay because I had the g. Misspelled WITT w/WHIT so hola looked fine but iheututu seemed wrong, but possible. Tried nne for the ENE. Clamdig for CLAMBAR, HSA for HMO and ontopof for INTOTAL. Wanted nano for TERA. ugly mess and DRAT, I didn't correct the WITT error so a bomb for me today.

I have never watched Ugly Betty, but better remember that name as it was the second to last fill as I said to heck with it and wrote in a J to then check here.

Why is a SEC half a mo (moment?) I was thinking ides or ide (not a word I guess) for the 15th of a month, but the crosses saved me.

I did like slip in a tub, oops! I mean 'slip in a pot' and the 'sub in a tub' clues.

McGuff 11:32 AM  

I was pleased to see the fresh clue for OLEO, and love the Promise clue shared by Orange. Almost on a par with the award winning (Leaves alone, sometimes).

Mostly same errors as RP in NW and W areas. DISHONOR for DISGRACE.

@Wendy: Pretty sure Romijn was in puzzle about 2-3 months ago.
@Rick: Everyone should get ready to see PETA and (var. PEDA) in the future, following TERA. A petabyte is 1024 Terabytes.

Agree on the great redhead cover on PopSensation, and Emily C drawings. I now share them with my non-puzzling wife (non-crossword puzzling, that is).

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

"Sub in a tub" is a great clue for OLEO, nearly as fun as my favorite: "Pat on the buns" from Fred Piscop.

PhillySolver 12:12 PM  

How about a "pat on the buns" for oleo by Fred Piscop?

@ Phineas
Romijn has not been in a NYT puzzle, so welcome to Betty. Maybe you saw her in some other puzzle land.

@ Paul in MN
IOLA has been around and usually it is clued as a place in Kansas, but I didn't know it this way.

Anonymous 12:16 PM  

This is the kind of puzzle that makes me feel positively perky while solving. So many great long multi-word answers: tvguide, sightunseen, shinealight, wholewheatbread. For anyone who missed Katarina Witt's performance to Carmen, it was stunning.

I never mind seeing Orr in the puzzle as he comes from the Bruin dynasty I grew up with. And the Celts under Irish. Rex, I share your delight that the Celtics finally have a decent team (29-3), making it a stellar year for Boston sports fans. If you were a Pats fan, you'd be jumping of your shorts. Garr and Linney eh... I'm beginning to see a pattern.

Wry look = pout. I'm not buying it, though one definition I found referred to a temporarily twisted look of distaste or displeasure. My pouts are not particularly twisted, but I'll concede for this elegant and beautifully conceived construction.

I love the word splat. It sounds like what it means. Clue...very CSI. Favorite clue for oleo: sub in a tub, but Promise and pat on the buns are too too clever.

Re: I taw a putty tat... Tweety is my hero and the object of my keychain collection. He was created by Bob Clampett in the cartoon, A Tale of Two Kitties, but Fritz Freleng pitted Tweet against Sylvester after Clampett left Warner Brothers. He's just about the cutest character ever.

Anonymous 12:18 PM  

Count me in the sec/mo dispute. This puzzle had it's share of crosswordese clued in somewhat novel ways which were a nice change but this clue was a sour note. Otherwise a good puzzle for a Wed. Two Ponies

PuzzleGirl 1:26 PM  

I eventually gave up on the NW, even after Googling to get ROMIJN. I, too, had SKI for CAR. I also desperately wanted YAH for HOO. (Too much ESPN?)

I decided Laura Linney was the Worst Actress Ever after seeing her in, oh, what the heck was that movie called? Fatal something? Richard Gere was in it. And Edward Norton, who was brilliant. Anyway. Changed my mind after seeing "You Can Count On Me." Awesome flick and I even bought the soundtrack.

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

I first read Tales of the City in the SF Chronicle where it was a serial. It generated a lot of buzz (if buzz existed in ~1974). Casting LLinney was genius.

Re. "pat on the buns". I rarely think of a pat of margarine, just of butter. Perhaps a dollop. Will google.

Emily C continues to delight and surprise.

Great puzzle.

Anonymous 1:41 PM  

I have to dissent about today's -- putting the Dutch (Dutch-named, anyway) actress and the Latin plural of AORTA side by side, the second with a curveball clue, was way over the top for a Wednesday. I particularly don't like the introduction of THE into answers where that's not organically part of the concept, as in THEHUTU. I seem to remember that Mr. Farmer did this in a previous NYT puzzle.

wendy 1:44 PM  

puzzlegirl - Laura LINNEY is one of those actresses who shines when she is well cast and grates when she is improperly cast. Primal Fear was in the latter category. She can seem awfully one-note in those kinds of things. She was trained as a stage actor (her father is the playwright Romulus Linney) and she can come off as too-too precious in some films. But if you haven't seen Tales of the City, per my earlier comment, give it try. You won't be sorry, I predict.

Anonymous 2:04 PM  

OMG...finally got "Slip in a pot." I guess I don't play enough poker!!

kumar 2:14 PM  

What are the odds of Mort Sahl being in two crosswords on one day (NYT and NYS, today!)?

Anonymous 2:24 PM  

Sub in the tub had me thinking of heros and pitas. The whole wheat bread answer above triggered my little gray cells for oleo.

Sorry to say puzmensch that the IOU answer came to me right away... sigh.

I also wanted to rent a ski even thou I knew it would have had to been skis.

fergus 2:31 PM  

Wry face also offered for AMOUR Clued by Intrigue right above. Two SECs make a full mo? The Totaled Clue and the IN TOTAL answer seemed unusual, especially in the same region.

Stuck with CLAM BED for quite a while, and felt pretty clever pulling UGARIC out of some forgotten Linguistics text. Problem with feeling clever, however, is that often you are wrong -- sometimes flat out, other times just enough. DRAT. I wonder if the Tutsis are in Burundi, too?

Even though I chanced up the the weekday circles almost right away, and that helped populate the grid extensively, there were still lots of snags, a few quibbles, and some genuine wry smiles. Adds up to a good puzzle, I would say.

Anonymous 2:58 PM  

UGARIC was almost on the right track. Finnish and Hungarian both belong to the Finno-Ugric language group which lies underneath the larger URALIC language family. However, I didn't know the larger family until today when I looked it up with Mr. Wikipedia. This despite spending a semester in Budapest back in 1995 and learning enough Hungarian to get myself into trouble.

Anonymous 3:18 PM  

All you computer solvers have it pretty easy. Join the elite ranks of the pen and paper solvers and see how you do.

Rex Parker 3:30 PM  

Anonymous 3:18,

First, get a name. Second, your comment is massively ignorant. The "elite" solvers solve on screen all the time. They also solve on paper, under tournament conditions, and have blisteringly fast times. If you were anywhere near the "elite ranks," you would know this. On the computer or on paper, the grid and clues are the same. If you don't know what you're talking about, it's best to keep quiet.


The Big E 4:06 PM  

I was also a tad annoyed at the "half a mo" clue, and was idly looking around for some sort of rational explanation for it! I found something "almost" plausible! The atomic number 42 is for Molybdenum (MO) - The atomic number 21 (half of 42) is Scandium (SC). Just missing that elusive "e!" Oh well! :-)

Anonymous 4:22 PM  

This puzzle reminded me of a conversation I had that startled me into a new awareness. In line at the college book store, I asked a deaf student about her schedule. She made a "m" and drew it down, then a "w" next to the original m and drew that down, then a parallel "f". I had never seen a calendar depicted visually as perfectly. (then she plugged in the times but that's irrelevant to this puzzle)

fergus 4:25 PM  

If there's a Venn diagram with Wry looks and POUTS as the circles, I suppose the tiny intersection could be found where the contrariness of the former approximates the sullenness of the the latter. That's the best I can charitably discover for recognition as an acceptable clue. There's a fair amount of protrusion in the definitions of Pout, but no mention of crookedness or distortion, which seems to be the hallmark of Wry's appearance.

Anonymous 4:51 PM  

You pen and paper and online solvers have it easy. In my day we had to do our crosswords on the back of a coal shovel.

Howard B 5:16 PM  

And you shovel solvers had it even easier. Try cuneiform solving... and don't even get me started on trying to fill in a rebus puzzle on a cave wall. That stuff smeared like crazy.

Anonymous 5:17 PM  

"Phooey!" and "Sen. Hatch" right next to each other in the clues. Coincidence? Or am I projecting?

This puzzle was quite fun. having both TOORDER and TVGUIDE in the same puzzle was rather fiendish , to say nothing of UNLV.

Dave Stewart's guitar work on "Would I Lie To You?" just flat-out rocked.

Have to say that, after the puzzle earlier, having ARM and LEG as unrelated answers in the same puzzle didn't quite do it for me.

I know that, with my surname, I should have gotten NUT in a SEC, but it took me a couple of mos.

Orange 5:30 PM  

Cuneiform and cave walls? Hell, Howard, you had it easy. Just try solving a Saturday Times puzzle when you are but a mushy mote in the primordial ooze.

Anonymous 5:58 PM  

I solve the puzzles in my mind and have done so for thousands of years.

Anonymous 6:07 PM  

This was tougher for me than recent Wednesdays. Very doable but lots of pausing/staring. Had many of the same missteps as Rex and others in NW and the IOLA area.
Really liked the theme and the symmetry. Getting it helped with the southern third. Great clueing! I agree that POUTS seemed a bit off and SEC a bit odd.

Count me too as big LINNEY fan!

Anonymous 6:17 PM  

Thanks all for the lively conversation, which is always interesting to read whosever puzzle is up for the day. I am glad many of you enjoyed today's, and if not, good to have your feedback anyway.

One quick note: for THE HUTU, I don't think that goes against any crossword convention. Adding THE works best with titles, but for many proper nouns, I think it's acceptable. THE FBI, THE MET, e.g., are fairly common, but you wouldn't want to use THE MOVIE THEATER. Anyway, adding THE to HUTU was needed to make the puzzle. Otherwise, I had just 6/7 of a theme, since I couldn't find another useable T_H_U entry. THE HUTU it was.

One minor complaint: I see a few references to a Mr. Farmer. Sounds more professional than anyone I know.

Thanks again.

- Just another LINNEY fan, who's named John

Campesite 6:37 PM  

Count me as one who likes a definite article in the grid.
Fine puzzle today. Good to see daredevils included as a group, not just puzzle stalwart Evel.

Anonymous 6:46 PM  


Didn't mind THEHUTU, minded that it took me so long to find THEHUTU

Good puzzle, really enjoyed it.

Anonymous 8:04 PM  

Off topic but just ran across this:

Pat Forde, “Buckeyes fans are fond of breaking into impromptu group spelling bees, shouting out ‘O-H-I-O.’ When a SEC team shows up on the other sideline it should be ‘O-H-N-O.’ They’re also fond of calling their school The Ohio State University. It might also now be called The Overmatched State University of the BCS.”

wendy 8:29 PM  

kratsman, that's harsh. The BCS needs to be overhauled and as far as this Ohio State alumna is concerned, we can avoid getting pressed into service for any more games in that venue until it is. I'm sick of hearing about how the whole thing was a sham to start with. So get rid of it already! Sorry for the OT but it's gotten on my last nerve.

Anonymous 9:07 PM  

This was a beautiful if a little difficult puzzle for a Wednesday. The Dutch language has some odd vowel combinations that have very different sounds: ij and ei(not really translatable, closest is ai), ui (totally untranslatable), au and ou (similar to the English auw), oe (English oo).

Anonymous 9:19 PM  

Fun puzzle, with tricky moments. OLEO fell pretty early on, but with only the O to go on, I pretty much convinced myself that we had MOUE again for POUTS. So that bit took a while to fall.

And seriously, has anyone ever heard of a clam bar? I even considered clammer for a while, but didn't think that existed either.

But Ferrari was definitely my favorite clue. I walk past the showroom all the time on my way home from a fiendishly expensive supermarket.

Anonymous 10:12 PM  

Actually "Jim in Chicago" is temporarily "Jim in Philly"....

Liked this puzzle also. I worked it on a plane, and it was one of those that I had to put down and let rest for awhile from time to time. I'd pick it back up and fill in a few more things. I'm not real fond of THEHUTU, but I'll live with it. I also fell into EXACTLY the same traps in the NW as Rex, I think they were laid on purpose!.

Unless I missed it, I'm surprised that no one mentioned IRISH being right on top of CELTS.

Anonymous 10:53 PM  

Wendy, you are an OSU almuna? The whole "The Ohio State" thing drives me crazy! I read something about why it is what it is, but what is your take, as an educated graduate of the school? Proper nouns....educational institutions? I know when I was at THE University of Maine, we didn't bother with the definite article.

And what's up with the person who thinks that the computer solvers get all the answers for free or something? Thanks, Rex, for correcting that.

It's really strange, but I've found that the clues and the answers are, amazingly and astoundingly, EXACTLY THE SAME, whether done on line or on paper. Depends on whether you type or write faster. Solving faster is another question entirely.

I'm behind the proverbial 8 ball, but still can enjoy it and avoid spewing venom, no matter how I choose to solve.


fergus 12:04 AM  


I thought about the Molybdenum angle, too, though I was trying to tie the SEC part in with the financial watchdog, or maybe with the cosmic hitch-hiker's reverence for the number 42, but to no avail.

wendy 6:41 AM  

Kathy - the emphasis on the THE occurred after I graduated and from afar (because I never joined the alumni association) I've always been mildly amused by it, as I think most alumni are. To others I gather it seems arrogant, unnecessarily self-congratulatory or just plain stupid. I honestly thought it was intended to distinguish OSU from OU, although who actually confuses the two, I do not know.

Anonymous 7:44 AM  

Loved SHINE A LIGHT to see a SIGHT UNSEEN. But see no connection to WHOLE WHEAT BREAD.

And there's a new Ugly Betty tonight!

Howard B 6:07 PM  

Orange: Touché. (Of course you had to travel through that ooze uphill, both ways).

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