FRIDAY, Mar. 14, 2008 - Kevin G. Der (M.I.T.'s CLASS RING, FAMILIARLY)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

I think the puzzle was mostly Easy-Medium or Medium - until the NW, where I had to fight like hell to get real traction. APPLE PIE (16A: Mom's partner?) was the first thing that went in the grid, and from there it was a smooth progression from the NE down to the SE, then back up toward the NW. Couldn't get into the NW, so went down and polished off the SW (the second-hardest part of the puzzle), and then went back and scratched and clawed my way to the end. Getting CHAMPAGNE BOTTLE (17A: What a toaster may hold) very early didn't help much - not as much as I thought it would. As far as I was concerned US BANK (1A: Los Angeles's _____ Tower) and NORTON (15A: Alaska's _____ Sound) could have been anything. KNACK was very vaguely clued (6D: Touch - I wanted SMACK), while ATM was very absurdly clued (4D: Long green box? - when's the last time someone referred to money as "long green?" I'm not that thrilled about the "box" part, either). Somehow, some way, I was able to coax AMATOL out of my brain (32A: Bygone explosive), but I spelled it AMITOL, so at the end I was left with BRASS RIT for the most enigmatic and loopy (to my mind) of all today's answers: BRASS RAT (3D: M.I.T.'s class ring, familiarly). I'm sure M.I.T. grads everywhere are chirping with dorky glee, but I really have to wonder (out loud) if this is xword-worthy. Finally changed RIT to RAT and finished, but I was not at all sure I had everything right.

Got both 15-letter answers easily today: CHAMPAGNE BOTTLE was nice, but UH OH, SPAGHETTIOS is some kind of genius (61A: Refrain from eating pasta?). I somehow got the answer off of just the final few letters (figuring that "refrain" must be the word affected by the "?"). I haven't heard the SPAGHETTIOS jingle or seen an ad in what feels like two decades, but it's indelibly imprinted on my brain from my childhood. Other things I remember from my childhood: Dungeons & Dragons (34A: Dungeons & Dragons race = OGRES) and the 1984 Olympics (52D: Twins' name at the 1984 Olympics = MAHRE).

While the puzzle was mostly enjoyable, there was some cluing I didn't care for. Take 56D: Serenade, as the moon (bay at) - do wolves really "serenade?" Or do people "bay?" Something is lost in this equation. Then there's 57D: Bygone crown (tsar) - so the TSAR is the "crown"? Is that some kind of METONYM (36A: "The White House," for "the presidency," e.g.)? I don't like that there are two "bygone" clues in this puzzle (explosive, crown). Today's puzzle is heavily European, with the bouncy EUROPOP (38A: Abba's style) sitting on top of MILANO (44A: Lombardia's capital) and across the grid from LORRAINE (64A: Where to find Nancy). MILANO is a delicious Pepperidge Farms cookie - and that LORRAINE clue is nasty. I was trying to remember the name of the town where Nancy and Sluggo lived. Wait, I somehow left SAN REMO (7D: Post-W.W. I conference site) out of my Euronalysis. If only SPAGHETTIOS were actually Italian, this puzzle would have some claim on being the most Italian puzzle of the year.

Cool answers:

  • 58A: Noted fifth-century invaders (Jutes) - they invaded England, along with the Angles and Saxons.
  • 60A: Regrettable E.R. status (D.O.A.) - this answer makes me laugh. "Regrettably, your husband was D.O.A., ma'am." "Regrettable" just seems too ... tepid. "We regret to inform you that you ... are dead."
  • 1D: One known for finger-pointing (Uncle Sam) - good one. I had ACCUSANT at first. Is that ... something?
  • 41D: They may be received by free subscriptions (podcasts) - I listened to "Fresh Air" and "This American Life" PODCASTS all last fall on my drive back and forth to the prison in Elmira. Very, very useful technology. Way more useful than the dreaded E-CARD (20A: Modern greeting).
  • 54D: "I _____ Lover" (1979 John Cougar hit) ("Need a") - more childhood memories; I'd forgotten he sang this. He doesn't come into focus for me until about 1982 (circa MTV and the "Jack and Diane" video).

Mysteries and miscellanea:
  • 19A: Un article defini (les) - ACCUSANT at 1D led me to UNE here, despite the fact that I not only understand French, but also know Very well the difference between definite and indefinite articles. Ugh.
  • 21A: Plays intensely, in jazz slang (wails) - I like this clue / answer pairing, for no particularly good reason.
  • 26A: Fictional upper class (Eloi) - you can't hide from me, ELOI. You think just because you're clued without reference to "Wells" or "race," I won't know who you are? Ha. You'll need a better disguise.
  • 31A: TV's Spike, once (TNN) - Isn't the channel's name "Spike TV?" Apparently not - this damned channel has had more name changes than John Cougar!
  • 45A: Game with sticks (nim) - ??? I feel like I've been befuddled by NIM before ... OMG, it's the dorkiest of math dork games, all the rage with the BRASS RAT set, no doubt.
  • 2D: "It's the truth" ("so help me") - took me an Embarrassingly long time to get this, even with --HEL--E in place.
  • 13D: Long Branch Saloon visitor (Dillon) - never heard of this place. The Saloon seems to have been a real place, but Marshal Matt DILLON is a fictional character on "Gunsmoke."
  • 23D: Bond girl player Shirley (Eaton) - NOPE (5D: Informal demurral), don't know her.
  • 33D: Preacher Beecher (Lyman) - Also, the distinctive flavor of Sprite.
  • 37D: Small, round sponge cake topped with fruit and whipped cream (Mary Jane) - how did I know this? You know what a better, much shorter clue would have been? [Good name for a pothead?] or [80's R&B group The _____ Girls].
  • 63D: Fort Worth sch. (TCU) - Horned Frogs! I had SMU here, then corrected myself (in my defense, SMU is very close by, in Dallas).

Thanks to all those who wished me well over the past few days. I am feeling much better this evening, so your wishes must be working. It's that, or the Excedrin. Either way, I'm happy.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:23 AM  

The NW was really bad. Brass Rat isn't nearly well known enough to be in a crossword. A quick Google search of Kevin Der shows that he went to MIT, which explains why he put that phrase in the grid by not why Shortz approved it. The ATM clue makes no sense, and Norton Sound's Wikipedia entry is only 3 paragraphs long. Just a whole lot of ridiculosity in that area.

Unknown 1:54 AM  

Any puzzle that includes fill like uh-oh spaghettios gets my respect. Makes me think of Still Life with Woodpecker.

Puzzle started off feeling like a tough Saturday for me... one or two answers here and there. Finally came together until I hit the NW corner and stared blankly for probably 10 minutes with NOPE, --ACK (which I kept wanting to fill as smack) and synonym (a probable carry-over from yesterday) being the only entries I had (and chamgagne bottle). So help me I thought of packing it in right there, but uncle sam stepped in and saved the day.

As a chemist I should have known amatol immediately, or at the very least known that am-tol wasn't amytol. Should have.

Glad you are on the upswing. Hopefully a low-key weekend is ahead to finish the recovery.

Anonymous 3:49 AM  


I was shocked to see you posted already considering you were so ill. Glad that you are doing better. Quite better if youwere able to finish this one. By the way your discussion of metonym the other day really came in handy and I got the white house clue quickly because of your earlier comments re metonyms. As for Jutes I was thinking the sack of Rome and had Goths for a while. Serendipitously, Today I was reading about the invasion of England by the Angles, Saxons and Jutes so I managed to catch my error, otherwise i would have been stuck in Rome with the Goths or Huns Britian

I plodded my way through and was dumbfounded, stress on the dumb, by USBANK and Norton. I hate to resort to Google especially when I've completed a difficult puzzle except for 2 clues of which I had half the letters. US__n- and NO_ _ O. Broke down and Googled Los Angelos tower and was able to figure out the rest. Frustrating as the ATM clue was awful. It makes no sense to me other than green being money. What is a long green box? No pun, nada, awful.


Brass Rats, wtf, I had the rats part ugh and thought of glass-rats and brass-rats. Glass made more sense as school rings usually have a glassy stone. Why couldn't Norton be clued with something from "The Honeymooners"?

Anonymous 5:14 AM  

Yes, the tough part this was NW! I worked through the E side of this with out much hesitation. SW took a little more effort but wasn’t that hard. My two problem areas were the MARYJANE/JUTES (MARYJANES are also a stylish pump) and BRASSRAT/METONYM crossings. I guessed right on MARYJANE but when I googled MEMONYM I knew needed RAT instead of RAM.

In NW I was also looking for some variant of ACCUSER, initially had SMU in SE, must of missed Rex’s blog on METONYMS (or forgot it) or I wouldn’t have made the mistake, and CHAMPAGNEBOTTLE didn’t help me much either.

@karma – My problem with ACPT#2 is that I only had a vague idea of what a word ladder was (my only exposure to it was a NYT puzzle a few weeks ago). I initially didn’t see the connection between the grid in the corner and the main grid and it took me a lot longer than 25 min. (about a day) to realize what was going on. When I finally figured it out I agree it was a very clever/enjoyable puzzle and only medium in difficulty (using Rex’s criteria). If I had known more about the “word ladder” concept I could have finished more of it but in no way would I have completed it in the allotted time.

Bill from NJ 5:25 AM  

"LONG GREEN" is also a synonym for money so, on that level, box makes more sense.

I had a friend in college who always referred to money as "long green whipout".

I got both long clues with minimal crosses for a change and was able to anchor both ends of the puzzle.

I knew USBANK Tower from my days in LA so that was a gimme for me and so was JUTES so I ended up going back and forth from N to S and eventually cross-ruffed this hand out.

Bill from NJ 5:50 AM  


Welcome back to the land of the living!!!

I knew you were better when you sniffed out ELOI.

Anonymous 7:24 AM  

Glad you are feeling better, Rex.

Very good Friday puzzle except for one crossing: AMATOL/LYMAN. I never heard of either. I happened to guess correctly, but still felt this was an unfair crossing.

I liked the clues for 1-Down and 36-Across

Anonymous 7:41 AM  

rex, FWIW, I know people who are inclined to BAYAT the moon, at least on equinoxes and similar special days.

The Big E 9:06 AM  

Glad you're on the mend, Rex! I have to say, though, that I was mildly disappointed when I read your blog this morning, as I was SO hoping that after I sussed out 1D, you would have a picture of the Uncle Sam "I want YOU!" poster on your blog! :-( Oh well! You more than made up for it with the Spaghettios picture!
I found this remarkably easy for a Friday and breezed through it this morning over coffee, with Metonym/Eaton being the last square to fall! I was extremely confident of Nebula and Mayors, but when I ultimately got Idahos, I was also doing a wtf on NIM! Huh? Never heard of it, though I think somewhere in the recesses of my mind I have seen it in a xword before!
Also had a little (brainfart) problem with Lorraine, as I initially had "POT" as a gambler's place, not "PIT." I guess after my numerous trips to the casinos, I thought the PIT was where the Pit Boss and the dealers were, behind the ropes, and the floor was the area where all us degenerates sat - am I wrong on that? Seems that as such, the clue is somehow in error...
Any thoughts?

Happy Puzzling!

Pete M 9:43 AM  

Was slowed down in the NW by SYNONYM instead of METONYM. A few obscurities here, but a nice puzzle overall.

Re BRASSRAT (which I'd never heard of): My son finds out tomorrow whether he's been accepted to MIT; perhaps this clue is an omen. One can only hope. :)

The Big E 9:57 AM  

@Pete M:
I have knocked on wood that he is accepted! Good luck!

Happy Puzzling,

Anonymous 9:58 AM  

The Long Branch was the saloon that Miss KItty worked at and Matt Dillon was a frequent visitor. Throws my mind back a long time to many Saturday nights in front of the TV :)

Glad you're feeling better. Welcome back.

GlobalPittsburgh 10:31 AM  

This was one of those bearish puzzles that fell in the gaps of my knowledge/memory. Felt more like a Saturday to me, with much putting down and coming back. Ah, humility.
- Tom

James F 10:36 AM  

Sure you know Shirley (Eaton), Rex.
She's the woman who died from too much gold paint in "Goldfinger." A classic Bond image, with pillows in strategic places.

Tough puzzle. I had Lugano, which is the capital of something in Italy, and I never recovered.

Jim Finder 10:38 AM  

Feels great when the flu is finally over, doesn't it, Rex?

This was like a Saturday for me, floundering around, looking for any 3-letter answer, and then gradually it gells. And AN AWESOME GRID PATTERN.

I didn't know 36A METONYM and was trying any rhetorical device I could think of. In college a few eons ago, one of my Dad's core courses was Rhetoric. And now, looking at Wikipedia's rhetoric page, I can understand why it was a freestanding, very interesting and useful course.

PhillySolver 10:38 AM  

I propose the hidden theme is things that are associated with gassy bubbles...

Other foods,,,MILANO cookies, quiche LORRAINE, Edam cheese, mom's APPLEPIE, AMUSEs bouche, MARYJANE cakes, IDAHOS potato, pea PODcasts, UNCLESAM cereal and none of which Jack Sprat could eat.

I found it a hard puzzle overall and a few errors like openpage and seeto added to my time. I started to write it was a good day to read the paper, but just remembered the scandal du jour is the GOP finance chairman seems to have taken a million dollars, which isn't DECENT.

barrywep 10:48 AM  

BRASSRAT was alien to me but made sense when I got it. I prefer that to words I can't be expected to spell like AMATOL and METONYM. It was only because BRASSRAT made sense that I got AMATOL correctly.

On the other hand, Al Sanders (MIT Grad) doesn't need or deserve any special edge unless it's on the final board at Stamford in Brooklyn, where yhe Xword Gods owe him one.

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

NW was a bear for me. Had to google LA tower and Alaskan sound.

I would have prefferred Mary Jane as peanut butter candy or old penny candy, but that's probaly showing my age.

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

I plan to spend the last ten years of my life, assuming I can figure out when that period starts (it may already have), listening to every radio episode of Gunsmoke and watching every tv episode in order. I have a sense that Gunsmoke explains the secret of America, or at least the first couple hundred years of it.

What was the deal with Miss Kitty? Was she a hooker? Was Matt Dillon the original Client #9?

Why do I know that Gary Busey played the last character to die on Gunsmoke?

Is there any cooler opening shot on any tv series than the showdown on the main street of Dodge just before the music starts?

Ted 11:47 AM  

I also found the NW tough in spite of the fact that 3-Down was a write-in. "Long green box?" bugged me forever but made prefect sense once I filled it in. However, what really did me in was keeping BARROW for NORTON for way too long.

Here's a little edification on BRASS RATs. The 'rat' in question is a bas-relief beaver ("The engineer of the animal world.") which takes the place of the usual stone on the ring. There is a tradition that as an undergraduate you wear your ring so that the beaver is right-side up from your perspective. When you graduate, you flip it over so that it is right-side up from the perspective of someone facing you. The saying that goes along with this is "The first four years the beaver [defecates] on you. After that he [defecates] on the rest of the world."


Anonymous 11:54 AM  

I can't believe I did this one without a google, though I was so happy with UNCLE SAM and CHAMPAGNE BOTTLE and APPLE PIE that I didn't do a thorough check-over at the end. Had left a wrong letter in the SW for the start of the twins in the 1984 Olympics, of whom I'd never heard. Too bad!

I didn't mind the ATM as a box for money, but a "slot-machine" -something might have been easier to see. There were some funny errors in my first tries, wanting "taters" for IDAHOS, and "soap crud" for SOAPSUDS, "Dordogne" for LORRAINE, yikes! But the wrong'uns came right in time..

Rex, so glad you are recovering -- UPTILT and take it easy on the weekend!


Anonymous 12:56 PM  

I'm glad to hear you're on the mend. I was in exactly the same boat with wanting une, despite knowing French and the difference between def./indef. articles. I so wanted a variance of accuser, that I assumed it was a cluing error.

SW was 2nd hardest? Really? I couldn't get anything (I had a couple of correct hunches, but wasn't ready to take the plunges) until I wandered down there. Here's my pretty laughable stumble that took me forever to get out of: I interpreted refrain as abstaining, so I had "Uh Oh Spaghetti No," thinking it was a goof on the jingle. DOH!

The entire North was pretty beastly for me, but I muddled through eventually.


Anonymous 1:15 PM  

I nicknamed this puzzle "bottoms up". That's how I solved it. SE then SW then NE and lastly the dreaded NW. For some reason that corner is almost always the hardest for me. I did get some early traction in Central California - for some reason "else" and "Sprat" jumped right onto the page. Then "fared" and "doth". The H told me I was working on Spaghetti - but I too thought it was Spaghetti-no! Held onto "Goths" for a bit too long as well. Uncle Sam finally opened the NW for me, and let me know synonym wasn't working. But an enjoyable outing, all the same. Rex, glad you're making your way back amongst the living. Happy weekend all!

Anonymous 1:18 PM  

Hi, Rex: A couple days ago, you asked about Sea Scouts. My husband was one in the early
60's. His troop got to go out on a Navy destroyer once (in horrible weather, so most of them got seasick and that kinda was the end of his unit).

He was on the East Coast (New Jersey), but I'd bet they were also on the West as well. I'm pretty sure they died out by the mid-60's.

klochner 1:56 PM  

thank you 11th grade english class - got metonym cold, which, IMHO, makes the tsar fill that much more clever. Obscure alaskan sounds don't do much for me though - anything you can google doesn't strike me as clever.

Anonymous 1:57 PM  

I really liked this puzzle, but I do have a small pet peeve with the spelling of "Gaea." Just looks wrong, no? I'm more familiar with Gaia, I think. Yep, it has about a million and a half more googles. Well that's settled.

Otherwise, perfect difficulty level for my brain. Although whenever I got stuck, the constructor's name looked like it was mocking me. " idiot."

miriam b 3:13 PM  

A Mary Jane is also a kind of kiddy's shoe, usually patent leather. I'll bet Nancy of the comics wears that style.

Fine puzzle today, though I'd always thought it was Oh, oh, Spaghettios". Of course, NEBULA disabused me of that pretty fast.

So glad you're feeling better, Rex.

Anonymous 3:21 PM  

I sat next to Kevin Der at the ACPT Awards banquet this year. Seemed like a really nice guy -- but, MAN, a killer puzzle for me. I knew, knew, knew(!) that "cakes" in 7 across referred to something other than edible cake, and guessed it was about soap, but couldn't for the life of me get "soapsuds." Didn't help that I had "PSA" instead of "APB". Got "champagne," but kept trying to stretch out "flute" to make it six letters (turns out, it can't be done). I also had "amazes" rather than "amuses" and "bet" rather than "pit" (I figured "gambler's place" was refering to the second place bet -- too clever by half).

All in all, a very difficult puzzle for me.

Oh, and I agree that, while Kevin may have wanted to give a shout out to his pals at MIT, Will shouldn't have allowed it.

And that Gaia is spelled, well, "Gaia."

Jeffrey 3:43 PM  

The NW corner left me cold... I had to limp in here for answers, and once they're now revealed, I'm not sure I'd have ever cracked that.

"Brass Rat"? Huh? And cross that with "Amatol" and "Metonym" and my erroneous "Uncle Tom", and there's no wonder I couldn't pull that together.

"Europop" and "Podcasts" are two of my favorite clues in recent memory, and when I got "uh oh spaghettios" off of four letters and one mistake (OTB for Pit)... damn, I was proud!

Anonymous 3:50 PM  

Still can't get the "where to find Nancy" connection to "lorraine' - not an easy one..

The Big E 3:55 PM  

Nancy is a city in the Lorraine region of France!

Anonymous 4:55 PM  

Congrats on yesterday's official correction in the NYT. Well Donne !

The Beaver looks like a rat because they are both in the order Rodentia.

I put SURFER for 13 down because I was sure 21 across was RIFFS - you see Long Branch is a town on the Jersey Shore. Uh oh.

I had a real nasty flu two weeks ago- Just feeling good now.

RP: I hope your recuperation is as fast as your solving skills.

Ulrich 4:56 PM  

How or why does a "sprat" "not chew the fat"? Even googling didn't solve this remaining mystery to me.

My favorite clue today: "One known for finger-pointing"--took me way too long to get it (with the c,l,e and m crosses in place, no less!), and then I laughed.

Anonymous 5:01 PM  

I loved this crossword. Everything a Friday puzzle should be. Several truly brilliant clues, lively fill, and no groaners (although a fair amount of obscure clues/answers, which is to be expected in a late-week crossword, so quit belly-aching, belly-achers.) Kudos to Kevin G. Ber.

miriam b 5:06 PM  

@ulrich: Old Mother Goose rhyme:

"Jack Sprat could eat no fat,
His wife could eat no lean.
And so, between the two of them,
They licked the platter clean!"

Ulrich 5:24 PM  

@miriam b: Thanks. That makes a lot more sense than a "small European marine fish of the herring family" not "chatting with friends" :-)

Not having grown up in this country is simply a handicap I have to accept if I go on puzzling.

Jim Finder 5:40 PM  

Ulrich, your English must amaze everyone when you visit back home! Puzzling is the best way to learn another language. Bravo.

Anonymous 5:50 PM  

My problem lay in the NE because it didn't feel right to drop in the whole BOTTLE. And just the opposite of Rex, I was completely confounded by APPLE PIE. Then a reminder of an excellent Simpsons episode where Barney is the PLOW King competing with Homer's Mr. PLOW.

This all fell while waiting for a friend to finish dealing with the teller at a bank. I, of course, had to explain my triumph, and was quickly reminded me that people who don't do crosswords really couldn't care less. She did think the BOTTLE was stupid, though. And sang the jingle ...

misterarthur 6:10 PM  

Glad to hear you're feeling better. Gaea threw me off, too. (Not you, Mr. Crossword King, but one of your commenters). Caterpillar isn't really known for making plows, either, but I guess that's being petty on my part.

misterarthur 6:10 PM  

Glad to hear you're feeling better. Gaea threw me off, too. (Not you, Mr. Crossword King, but one of your commenters). Caterpillar isn't really known for making plows, either, but I guess that's being petty on my part.

Anonymous 6:40 PM  

And speaking of The Simpsons, wasn't there an episode where they introduced a character whose catchphase was "UH OH SPAGHETTIOS"?

I thought of Rex when I filled in JUTES. The last
time jute was in a puzzle I got it easily, this time, not so much.

Like everyone else, the NW killed me. I had to do a lot of "google checking" to finish this one. In particular, BRASS RAT would never have come to me, as I was not familiar with AMATOL, LYMAN or METONYM.

I wasn't thrilled with TON OF bricks as it's usually "a ton of bricks". Neither with UPTILT- that one seemed forced. And, is NEBULA really interstellar matter? I guess it is an interstellar object but isn't the nebula itself a formation consisting of matter?

I also seem to recall DOA being clued similarly in the past, with a similar reaction from Rex and the Peanut Gallery (myself included).

I did like SETAE- I've been trying use that one as fill for years and finally it did fit.

miriam b 7:08 PM  

@ulrich: I thought of the fish too, at first.

Your English is super. You can't be faulted for not knowing a nursery rhyme.

I often wonder what non-English-speaking German tourists, visitors or immigrants make of Gift Shop and Heimlich Maneuver. The latter certainly isn't very "secret", as restaurants are required to post instructions as to how to perform it.

Anonymous 7:29 PM  

Not bad for Friday! I got a good start in the center with KEEPS, AMATE, GAEA, ECARD, then OPEDPAGE and I was off and running. I managed to pretty much fly through the top right and came down to the bottom right, still moving quickly. Then hit a slow patch! The right side was complete and the left was virtually blank. I got a few clues here and there, but I couldn't regain the steady rhythm I started out with. It took me a while to get UHOHSPAGHETTIOS - I was sitting there wondering what the heck kind of pasta could end in IOS???

For me the toughest part was in the midwest - EATON, LYMAN, AMATOL, METONYM, BRASSRAT. I liked UNCLESAM the most. I had the --CLES-- and was just scratching my head! A great clue. SOHELPME had come out for me earlier, but then I wanted to erase it and put in 'synonym' at 36A (when I first saw that clue of course it brought back memories from yesterday's discussion here.) Then I remembered that there are lots of different -nyms and thought it might be something else. The last square I put in was the T of BRASSRAT/METONYM. I was also considering an M, but memonym just didn't sound right. Lucky guess!

[Speaking of -nyms... NIM was ok for me because I'm one of Rex's aforementioned math dorks.]

Another great Friday grid; it's always delightful to see so much white space. Finished today's in just under 16 min - yesterday's took longer. Bring on Saturday! (Famous last words)

Anonymous 7:34 PM  

Hey, 16-Across is quite appropriate, since today is Pi Day (3/14)! And on Pi Day you bake pies! I'm making a mincemeat tonight. Yeah, Rex, it's one of those holidays for dorky MIT mathy nim-players.

I really enjoyed this puzzle, and it was my third-fastest Friday ever! It was one of those where I start off very slowly, and it looks like I can't get anything. But then I find a little stronghold and work out from there.

BRASS RAT was a gimme and one of my first entries. I didn't go to MIT, but I know a lot of people who did, and I just wrote a crossword puzzle with "brass rat" a the clue. I also got UNCLE SAM pretty quickly after CHAMPAGNE BOTTLE, so the NW didn't cause me too much trouble. The only parts I really struggled on were the NE and the SW. I said, "Oh, APPLE__E, that must be APPLEBEE.", though not really understanding how it was Mom's partner. But "UBTILL" wasn't going to cut it, so, yay for pie! In the SW, I was trying to figure out why Nancy was in LORNA ONE, but then I figured out POT/PIT and got LORRAINE.

Oh yeah, thanks, Rex, for teaching me METONYM by mentioning it recently! :)

Ulrich 7:50 PM  

@miriam b: We're getting off on a tangent here again, but as long as it is language-related, it may be OK. As to your question: To Germans, this will look very familiar because the language they encounter in their daily lives in Germany (stores, ads, TV lingo) is a mixture of English and German in which English words sometimes outnumber German ones. It has reached a state where purists are predicting the death of German as we know it--some German blogs are lamenting this incessantly.

My reaction (aside from laughing at some of the effects, like when I see an English verb conjugated the German way, e.g. "gesponsort" as the past participle of "sponsorn"--sponsor in English) is: not to worry. If I read Chaucer, it sounds to me not like English, but like a mixture of French and German, and look what we've got in the end: a language with an unbelievable rich vocabulary.

Anonymous 8:03 PM  

The appearance of the BRASS RAT got me thinking about alternative history, though on rather a personal level. One sunny Sunday, back in 1975, I boldly dropped a hit of Purple Haze and spent the rest of the day intermittently considering whether to attend MIT or Berkeley. That was my only ever trip, but by Monday my motto was FIAT LUX. And now can't but wonder if the gender ratio were a bit less skewed at MIT, what alternative sort of geek I might have become?

Orange 8:13 PM  

There's a poem for math dorks—Francis Heaney anagrammed Gwendolyn Brooks into "We Long Bony Dorks," and wrote a poem in Brooks' style about Mathletes. You can read it here, or buy the whole delightful book of parodies. Especially if you're an English-lit dork, you will find the book delicious.

Joon 10:07 PM  

weird... APPLEPIE was literally the last fill in the puzzle for me. i sort of still don't really get why it's mom's partner--is it just because those things are so archetypically "american"? the whole NE, in fact, had me scratching my head for the longest time. i had SEESIN, OPEDPAGE, ELOI (they couldn't hide from me either), and TNN... and that was it. i figured the steering wheel had to be __TILT but i tried RETILT or UNTILT. didn't think of UPTILT (the P was the last letter i put in the puzzle). is that really a word?

METONYM was the first thing i filled in and sort of worked my way across the middle, thence to SE, SW, and NW. some lovely things along the way. love love loved UHOHSPAGHETTIOS. PODCASTS was nice. UNCLESAM was clued wonderfully. like others, i figured out ATM but wasn't at all happy about the clue. i don't think "touch" is quite right for KNACK, although i'm not sure what is. "uncanny ability," i suppose, but that's not quite as elegant a construction.

BRASSRAT didn't bother me, but i have some MIT friends. LYMAN beecher is pretty famous (he's h.b. stowe's father and a noted transcendentalist). i also started with SMU, realized "hey, that's in dallas, which isn't quite fort worth," and changed to TCU.

all in all, a very satisfying puzzle, but it took me a while.

Anonymous 10:20 PM  

The NE is what really irritated me:

Of course there's the issue that a toaster usually holds a champagne glass, not a bottle. Unless he is a whino or something.

Then, does anyone really say "uptilt your steering wheel?" I had tilt up, which is of course correct.

Thirdly, caterpillar does not make plows. Trucks, tractors, harvesters, excavators, pipelayers, scrapers, dozers, loaders and compactors yes. Plows, no.

Finally, shouldn't APPLE PIE be motherhood's partner, not mom's? Has anyone, even once uttered the phrase "Mom and apple pie?"

The NW was simple by comparison

Craig Richard Nelson 10:28 PM  

Joon, I think it's because of the phrase "As American as Mom and Apple Pie" linking the two. Loved the puzzle, love this blog!

Anonymous 10:58 PM  

Thanks, Orange, for the link to the "Holy Tango" lierary parodies! I love that stuff!


Anonymous 11:07 PM  


I really enjoyed your take on the subliminal ingestive aspect of this puzzle. All true of course.

I guess we've been in a food-related mood since Himmel Und Erde. Thanks for the wonderful recipes and discussion about that dish!

Like you Ulrich, there are gaps in my knowledge that are hard to fill because of not having grown up here. I wanted the answer to be "Yankee doodle dandy" for Refrain from eating pasta (you know-- macaroni), but I eventually got, and loved, "uh oh spaghettios". My kids used to sing the refrain and request that stuff (ew)!. And I even got Sprat. But it's obvious I need to brush up on my knowledge of Dillon and Gunsmoke (or actually learn about it almost from scratch...)

Orange 11:14 PM  

Anon 10:20, that's odd—the Caterpillar website lists a number of plows. The snowplow variety rather than the churning-the-soil kind, but they're called plows there all the same.

And not to be obnoxious, but here's a photo showing a toaster with a champagne flute in one hand and an ice bucket with a CHAMPAGNE BOTTLE in the other.

Also, apparently the American soldiers in WWII were apt to say they were going to war "for mom and apple pie," says Wikipedia.

Michael Chibnik 11:25 PM  

I got this, but it sure took me a long time. I was really slowed down by 29A which I had as "a date" for almost the entire time I was solving making 7D impossible. The very last letter I got was the m in San Remo/ a mate. All in all -- a hard, but fair puzzle. I really enjoyed "brass rat" even though I never had heard of it before.

Anonymous 11:31 PM  

p.s. The Americana theme was great! UNCLE SAM, Mom and APPLE PIE, Jack SPRAT and the UH OH SPAGHETTIOS refrain... Maybe some day various more modern phrases will come to be considered vintage too. Another Jack's Beanstalk morphing into a PODCAST? I'm trying to keep an open mind... meanwhile learning a lot of new things and enjoying the occasional recipe! Did anyone's mom ever make a Floating Island Pudding? Mine did.


Joon 11:36 PM  

i second artlvr. the "holy tango" was indescribably brilliant. thank you, orange (and francis)!

PhillySolver 11:46 PM  

@ artlvr

Thanks for your late night post. My travels to France found me growing fond of Isle Flotante (Floating Island) and my wife made it for me once. I am afraid the French have a secret on marange. But, the reason I am writing is that my mom made Devil's Float, which looked like floating chocolate cake islands in a sea of chocolate sauce. I requested it for every birthday in my youth. Yummy!!!

Orange 12:17 AM  

Artlvr and Joon, you've gotta buy Francis's book! It's enchantingly full of giggles. I've given one or two copies away as gifts, too.

It's not just poetry—there are also dramas. Euripides anagrams to "I Reuse Dip," a classical take on a Seinfeldian double-dipping scenario. Edward Albee? "A Wee Bladder." Woody Allen?"Woolen Lady." (Girlfriend turns out to be a sheep.) David Mamet's foul-mouthed prose spins "2001: A Space Odyssey" into "Dammit, Dave." Samuel Beckett yields "Bake Me Cutlets," a cooking show with Vladimir and Estragon.

And no, Francis doesn't give me kickbacks. He should.

Michael Chibnik 9:27 AM  

According to a friend who graduated from M.I.T., a "brass rat" is a beaver. M.I.T. graduates apparently are said to regard themselves as the beavers of the engineering world.

AndyHat 2:46 PM  

Coincidentally, the inventor of SpaghettiOs died last week.

Anonymous 7:35 PM  

As an MIT grad, I did, in fact, "chirp with dorky glee" upon finding a brass rat in the puzzle!

Anonymous 2:10 PM  

I so wanted "One who doesn't chew the fat?" to be "vegan" that this puzzle confounded me until I erased vegan and looked for an alternate solution.
I loved vegan as an answer to the clue!

Anonymous 11:26 PM  

Few days late and probably not of importance - but Nim, while admittedly a dorky math game, has also ruined many many lives! It is a con man's game, something that seems exceedingly easy to play and/or win, but actually takes some quick thinking and cunning to beat. I kid you not when I tell you that tens of thousands of dollars have changed hands on SINGLE Nim games. Pick up a copy of Simon Lovell's Billion Dollar Bunco if you're interested on this or any other con games of that sort - not as innocent as it seems!

Cris 12:11 PM  

One cannot confuse Fort Worth with Dallas, much less a Horned Frog with a Pony (Mustang). We are light years apart, if not in actual distance, then in just about any other way worth judging.

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

Am I the only one left who old enough to remember Gunsmoke as a (gasp) radio program?
Even so I had to fight for "Dillon"-kept wanting to put in Amanda (Blake)-but that was the name of the lady who played Miss Kitty! Agree with those who thought the NW had a few too many strange clues.

Aviatrix 4:11 PM  

Six weeks later ...
I did this grid boldly with a felt tipped marker, just putting in whatever came to mind. I thought it was going to become such a mess I had to abandon it, but sometimes boldness wins the course.

Initially I put TILTUP for the steering wheel. Isn't that what most people would say? I thought KEEPS and OPEDPAGE were going to be wrong, because they were the only things in there for the longest time. I considered things like CHARREDBAGELTOP for the toaster content. UHOHSPAGHETTIOS was a seriously weird one for me, because although we didn't have the ads, the phrase crossed the years or the border in kid culture. I was thinking "I can't put that! It only makes sense to me and my brother!" But I damned the torpedoes and put it in with my felt pen.

My first thought on Caterpillar was loaders and dozers and graders and ploughs, so I moved on to SILK. My favourite bizarre incorrect entry was LUTES for "noted fifth century invaders" Only problem is that "noted" as they are, lutes didn't invade Europe until at least the tenth century.

And finally I was caught by having too much specific knowledge. LaGuardia and Takeoff could only pertain to airports in my mind so I had to have almost every cross before I could think of them meaning something else.

Google was my friend today.

Yesterday's looked cool. Too bad I don't get the paper on Thursdays.

Anonymous 7:23 PM  

I have to agree with the comment about the PIT clue, in a casino usually the "pit" is the area behind the tables, where gamblers are definitely not allowed. Maybe a better clue would have been "Boss's place?"

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