THURSDAY, Jun. 5, 2008 - James Sajdak (_____ Montoya, DC Comics heroine known as the Question)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: OPEN MARKET (57A: Where things are freely bought and sold ... and what the starts of 17-, 23-, 36- and 46-Across do)

This is the kind of theme I expect to see on a Monday or Tuesday - very straightforward, where first word of several theme answers can be put before some main word to create familiar phrases. The scope of the theme is perhaps a bit greater here than it typically is on an early-week puzzle, and the theme answers a bit bolder - love BULL MOOSE PARTY - but otherwise this is typical early-week stuff. I have grown accustomed to trickiness and unusual grid architecture on Thursdays, which made this puzzle ironically tricky in its untrickiness. I kept waiting for the hammer to fall, and when it fell ... it was OPEN MARKET. FLEA market, FARMER'S market, SUPER market, BULL market (now if BEAR Bryant had been where FLEA CIRCUS is, I might have liked this puzzle a lot more). OPEN MARKET itself was exceedingly easy to get - I filled it in with no crosses in place.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Tiny sideshow attraction (flea circus)
  • 23A: Old weather forecaster (Farmer's Almanac) - got it off just the FA-
  • 36A: When a big game is caught (Super Bowl Sunday)
  • 46A: Roosevelt group (Bull Moose Party)

There was only one part of the puzzle that slowed me down at all: the NE. I'd never heard of the castle (really ... "castle?") in Toronto (10A: Casa _____, Toronto castle => LOMA). What kind of warp in the time/space continuum caused a Spanish castle to be built in Toronto? Anyway, while I was helped in the NE by the fabulous Anne MEARA (12D: Half of a popular comedy team), I blew one of her neighboring answers badly. 13D: Ancient Greek had to be STOIC, right? Wrong. The answer is ATTIC, a far less common word, and one normally associated with a rarely seen floor of your house. It didn't take me long to sort all this out. The one super-zinger of an answer today (from my perspective) was OUIDA (15A: "A Dog of Flanders" novelist, 1872). I know nothing about this book, this author ... nothing. The title is familiar - was this made into a movie? Yes, twice (1960, 1999). Whoa, OUIDA is like PRINCE or CHER - one name. It's a pseudonym of Marie Louise de la Ramée.

I still think of GYP as a racial pejorative, and am surprised whenever I see it used in the puzzle (35D: Con).

Having five long theme answers can make your non-theme fill start to creak a little under the strain, and this puzzle is no different - though it manages to hold up pretty well. ERSE (60A: Celtic language) and ORA (57D: _____ pro nobis) and ICE-T (16A: Rapper with the gold-record album "O.G. Original Gangster") and UP A (31D: _____ tree) and especially O IS (ugh, 54A: Sue Grafton's "_____ for Outlaw") are just a handful of the tired and/or wince-inducing fill today, but the medium-range fill is pretty fantastic. Well, REDEVELOPED (24D: Like land in urban renewal) is kinda blah, but LIFT A FINGER is a great phrase (10D: Do anything to help), and SHAVE OFF (40A: Remove, as a mustache) and WINNIPEG (32A: City nicknamed Gateway to the West) make nice bookends in the middle of this puzzle (the "books" they are holding: SUPERBOWL SUNDAY and the equally athletic if much, much goofier WWF - 32D: Former grapplers' org.). Oh, I almost forgot - I actually had to guess one square. Well, educated guess. I routinely confuse ARIL and ANIL (both hardcore xword words) and I have never in my life heard of REEF in the context in which it's clued here - 28A: Shorten, as a sail - so I had to debate with myself over which is more likely to be the sail-shortening term: REEF or NEEF. Yes, the latter sounds stupid, but that has never stopped a word from being real before. Luckily, my instincts were correct: ARIL is 25D: Seed case. ANIL, for future reference, is the indigo plant or the blue dye obtained from it. You should probably also look out for AZO, which is itself a dye. And because AZO sounds/feels a bit like AZUL (Spanish for blue), there's a slippery, muddy continuum in my head from ARIL to ANIL to AZO to AZUL.

New Caledonia:

  • 5A: Clothing retailer on the New York Stock Exchange since 2006 (J Crew) - nice awkward opening consonant combo.
  • 19A: Juggling nine balls, e.g. (feat) - really puzzling when I had -EAO ...
  • 22A: Cyberball maker (Atari) - who else. Almost all game maker clues are ATARI. Maybe NES, but usually ATARI. Maybe SEGA. More often ATARI. XBOX, rarely.
  • 27A: _____ Bridge, first to span the Mississippi at St. Louis (Eads) - a great crossword name I learned ... from crosswords.
  • 41A: Title film role for Robin Williams (Garp) - I was in grade school and for Some reason (possibly because it starred Mork) my parents took me to see this. They also took me to see "Blues Brothers" and some Richard Pryor movie I now forget ... aha, found it: "Bustin' Loose." All those R-rated movies between the ages of 10 and 12. If you were in grade-school back then, you probably remember your R-rated movie-going experiences. Vividly. It's sooooo much easier for kids today to see "adult" content of some kind.
  • 61A: _____ Montoya, DC Comics heroine known as the Question (Renee) - this answer is Astonishing on many levels. RENEE Montoya has been The Question for only a year or so, which is about five minutes in comic book time. RENEE is an easy enough name to guess, but O My God I'm guessing that this is By Far the most obscure answer in the whole puzzle. I can't imagine that more than the tiniest handful of crossword-solving comic nerds (guilty) knew this. I'm going to guess, in fact, that this is the least known NYT answer of the year. Unless you read "52," you simply did not know this. No, you didn't. You couldn't have.
  • 62A: First name in horror (Bela) - wanted only BRAM. Still want BRAM. My brain is like a pitbull, and will not let go of BRAM.
  • 65A: Movie hero with a fedora, familiarly (Indy) - as in Indiana Jones. The Question also wears a Fedora.
  • 1D: Daily trippers? (oafs) - icky clue. If you can't pun on "Day Tripper(s)," then give up.
  • 2D: Sign of treble? (G clef) - Great clue. Now That's a pun.
  • 3D: Radio host Gibbons (Leeza) - her name is infinitely mockable.
  • 7D: Gin joint in "Casablanca" (Rick's) - more fedoras
  • 11D: Place to use an echograph (ocean) - "echograph" is a new word to me.
  • 43D: "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" lyricist (Lerner) - I solve all pre-rock song/lyrics writers by feel. Is it me, or do their names all have lots of Es and Rs in them ... ?
  • 46D: Arty topper (beret) - It can also be the "topper" of some pretty tough guys.
  • 48D: Disputed holy city (Lhasa) - Tibet ... where those little dogs are from (APSO is far more common in the puzzle than LHASA)
  • 59D: Big stat for Manny Ramirez (RBI) - I was looking for 500, as in HR, as in bam! But he does have a hell of a lot of RBI, it's true.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS I am discontinuing my "Weekly Wrap-Up" (which had been appearing on Mondays for a while), but I am going to continue having a "Comment of the Week" and a "Word of the Week," both of which I will include somewhere in my sidebar on a regular basis beginning this Monday.


Parshutr 8:45 AM  

Total agreement with Rex today. Just want to add a story about Wm. Saroyan (in context of today's puzzle).
One day, Saroyan SHAVEDOFF his trademark handlebar mustache, and his young son asked what happened to it. Saroyan said he had shaved it off, and his son replied, "Well, shave it back on."

PuzzleGirl 9:01 AM  

Okay, I'm disappointed. I really expect a lot more from my Thursday puzzle. Thursday is my favorite puzzle day of the whole week. I want zing! I want trickery! I want all the clues to start with the same letter! Something! ....

Luckily, the Onion puzzle was there to pull me out of my misery. That puzzle literally shocked the snot out of me. (And by literally I mean, of course, figuratively.) I won't spoil it here -- and you shouldn't either! -- but, I promise you, there's a clue in there that would Never pass Will Shortz's breakfast test. Just thinking about it makes me laugh (and go "ewwww" at the same time).

ArtLvr 9:05 AM  

A good Thursday puzzle, I felt. Aside from OUIDA, the pen name, and LEEZA, most of the answers floated up from buried memory! At least everything came together with crosses, and rather fast too, for me. My overall impression was mainly of very fair clues.. but that always depends on one's own background, of course.

We'd recently spoken of SEZ, and ORA pro nobis. In UTERO, REEF for shortening a sail and OCEAN use of an echograph were gimmes, and I got a kick out of FARMERS ALMANAC, FLEA CIRCUS, BULL MOOSE PARTY.. but my favorite was LIFT A FINGER. The SUPERBOWL SUNDAY was cool too.

WINNIPEG was a surprise, as I was thinking "St Louis" was the Gateway to the West for Lewis and Clark, and I've hardly heard of Castle LOMA but think it's advertised along the QE2 highway north of Niagara. BORO was an afterthought for some reason -- again, the clue was quite fair.

If I thought yesterday's campaign GUSTO might be muted at last, no such luck. I need CURERS.


Anonymous 9:07 AM  

I couldn't let this one go by, it drives me nuts to see the plural of RBIs written as a singular. I cringe everytime I hear it on ESPN.

"Neil asked a related question: how to make initialisms plural when you’re pluralizing the first word of the phrase when it is written out. For example, RBI can stand for “run batted in” or “runs batted in.” Well, Neil, it's OK to add an s to the end of RBI to make RBIs the plural of runs batted in, even though the s is added to run when you write the whole thing out. So a run batted in is an RBI, and runs batted in are RBIs."

Joe in NE

Ray Greenberg 9:21 AM  

A week or two ago Rex raved about a shopping trip he took and got a furminator to take the undercoat off his dog. I'd been grappling with hair everywhere from my White Shepherd / Lab mix and the furminator has effectively solved this problem. I can now stop wearing white all the time to hide the hair. Thanks Rex, King of Dog Groomers!

Anonymous 9:24 AM  

I have been doing NYT puzzle since high school, but only recently discovered your puzzle blog. I truly enjoy it, and it is now part of my morning ritual, as i usually finish the puzzle on my ride to work, and it amuses me to see what you have to say about puzzle do's and don'ts.

One think that you have touched on that always strikes me is how the range of a puzzler's breadth of knowledge is affected by the era they grew up in. Because I am a few years older (47), there are times you comment that you have never heard of something which is totally familiar to me, and other times the reverse occurs.

I had a minor quibble with one of the non-theme long answers in Thursday's puzzle, which I thought you would jump all over. I had been tempted many times before to ppost a comment, but this is what got me to put keyboard to screen, so to speak.

The answer 'Lift a Finger' to the clue 'Do anything to help' is the kind of thing I expected to see a finger-wag from you in the blog.

It seems to me the phrase is much more common in the context of 'not helping', i.e. 'don't lift a finger'.

Anyway, I just wanted to say again how much I enjoy your blog.

Keep up the good work!

Big Fan

JannieB 9:26 AM  

Can't brag about this one - the NE killed me. Loma?? (And I've been to Toronto several times). I wanted to spell it WinnEpeg so I had a devil of time parsing "lift a finger". Once I conquer geography, I guess I should learn more rappers than Eminem and Dr Dre. Never saw the error in the Dakotas - a Shaman as a "carer" left me with Oaida - and since it was an unknown name...

The theme and its fill were fun - Otherwise, this was much more of a medium for me.

JannieB 9:28 AM  

PS - @Big Fan - I agree - "Didn't lift a finger" is much more "in the language"

alanrichard 9:35 AM  

I got the theme and the SE immediately. Then for some reason I wrote in Buffalo Society, mostly because I have a business account named Buffalo Market. This, of course, threw me off for a while. Flea & Farmers & Super were gimmies. I guess James Sajdak is Canadian - I was trying to think of a US city that began with WINN and ended with G. HAHA. All in all this was a fun & fairly quick puzzle once I got past correcting Buffalo. And I liked that fly catcher clue, sort of reminds me of my wife's old boy friends!!!

Anonymous 9:42 AM  


Isn't the point of this clue/answer that people won't expect the negative? It works, IMO, because you can add "didn't" ahead of both clue and answer to make equivalent phrases.

I liked this puzzle, but I'm surprised it was this late in the week. I think I beat my Tues. and Wed. times--under ten minutes, which is probably my best Thur. time ever..

Unknown 9:57 AM  


I'm with you on GYP ("Con"). It's time to let this word fade way, treated as an example of bad manners if nothing else. We wouldn't accept JEW as an entry for "Cheat" or "Drive down the price" -- and probably don't accept WELSH as a synonym for "avoid payment" (although the origins of that one are interesting). I'm not a big fan of the "breakfast test," but as long as it's in place, I tend to choke on stuff like this. Language changes; let this change.

Best clue/answer of the day was LIFT A FINGER (for "Do anything to help"). Even after I had LIFT, my mind wanted the burden to be something BIG ... y'know, in the spirit of MOVE MOUNTAINS. Having the answer go the other way and still fit the idiom perfectly ("I won't lift a finger/do anything...") gave me that magic X-word moment. Reminded me, as well, of the way we use the phrase, "The least you could do...." Oh no, I'm certain I could do much less.

One last thing. I really wanted to keep FINGER IN THE AIR as my "old weather forecaster" of choice.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

Casa Loma was a guess, from Glenn Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, a pioneer swing band in the 20's into the early 30's and a studio band in the early 50's. I think I have a few old vinyl recordings banging around some where.

SethG 10:18 AM  

My third fastest Tuesday ever. What's that you say? A Thursday? Oh, well then it's my fastest by two minutes.

Didn't know OUIDA or RENEE. But I'm used to not knowing stuff, and at least RENEE is a name. I even reexamined OUIDA, thinking that it could cross SHAMAN with a J. Wonder if he tried that, but don't really see a way to make it work.

I liked the puzzle, but I'd have been happier overall if it ran instead of either of the last two days' and we had some of PuzzleGirl's zing or trickery for Thursday.

Rex Parker 10:38 AM  

@anonymous RBIs guy,

It may shock you to know that "grammargirl" is the final authority on nothing and plenty of dictionaries have RBI and RBIs both listed as acceptable plurals. Here's just one, obvious example.

You "couldn't let it go?" Really? Are you sure?


Anonymous 10:54 AM  

Just back from a 48 hours round trip across the continent, including a puzzle less Tuesday, so I must be tired. How else to explain entering Casa LOMO, when I used to live a few blocks away from it?!

By the way, do any of you suffer from puzzle withdrawal symptons if you go without for a day or more? Is there a patch you can wear?

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

Easiest Thursday ever. Makes me very afraid for what's to come.

Anonymous 11:06 AM  

My fastest Thursday ever. Like, by 50%.

After I whined yesterday about Canadians being at a disadvantage, Sadjak served up Casa LOMA and WINNIPEG (which ironically I got only after I realized that STLOUIS didn't fit).

I agree with GYP being Answer Non Grata.

I'll have to take Rex sailing and teach him how to tie REEF knots (also called square knots, which, yes, were used by early sailors to shorten their sails).

And thanks for explaining that 31D was UP A tree, 'cause I had never heard of an UPA tree before.


Anonymous 11:09 AM  

"A Dog of Flanders" was also made into a Japanese anime series in 1975 called "Flanders no Inu", directed by Yoshio Kuroda. Think it was redone as a feature movie in 1997...Sally

cartzero 11:12 AM  

@ janieb et al: There are a number of rappers that have great crossword names beyond EMINEM, DR. DRE, and ICE-T. Many of them are probably too obscure for the NY Times, but here's a quick list you might be on the lookout for:
DEL(the funkee homosapien)

Unknown 11:14 AM  

Sailing time...Mostly in older ships a REEF was a strip of cloth and later a rope that when combined with others helped raise and lower heavier sails. The Midshipman was in charge of the sails requiring reefs and was sometimes called the reefer. There are other REEF based terms, but sailors had to be economical in communicating, so the command REEF meant raise the sails, but often it was meant just raising them part of the way to take the strain off of the sail in high winds.

I admit I did not know the Question but got the answer, which seems like a fabulous arrangement. I, too, found this easy, but I did trip up in the SW by thinking of the State bird of Oklahoma, which is a Scissor-Tailed Fly Catcher and put in bird for TOAD.

Orange 11:31 AM  

Crosscan, there's no patch, but I've considered getting a 10x10 crossword grid tattooed on my skin so that I am never without a crossword. (Getting new lists of clues for different fill could be a problem, though.)

RodeoToad 11:32 AM  

I'm with all of you on the puzzle. Passable but not too zingy. I can't quite get on board with the objection to the use of GYP to mean "con," and I was going to post my reasoning, but it was long and I didn't want to junk up this board, so if anybody's interested I've put it on my "blog" (which isn't really a blog but is just a place to post long responses to things on this site. Maybe someday blogger will have the capability to create threaded topics/responses.)

Parshutr 11:40 AM does one get the Onion crossword

jae 11:44 AM  

Very easy for me also. No real hiccups although I did briefly ponder the ANIL ARIL/REEF cross and had to stare at C_RERS a bit before the U became apparent. Got UPA but thought it was short for or related to UPAS which is a tree and also the street in San Diego where the blood bank is located. An over think.

Belated old stuff:

(1) STA vs. STN. I asked Orange about the rule for this a while ago and she ignored me so I guess there isn't one. When I saw this on Tues. (?) I put in ST and waited for the cross.

(2) I also feel awkward about using DR. (Cognitive Psychology) so I mostly don't except when I'm trying
to impress someone in a argument as in "That's DR. A**hole to you sir!"

PuzzleGirl 11:47 AM  

@parshutr: Follow one of the links under "The Country's Other Puzzles" over on Rex's sidebar.

ArtLvr 11:53 AM  

re GYP: Rex says "I still think of GYP as a racial pejorative" and some others agree -- Learn something every day, is my reaction! In that context, you all are probably right and it should be avoided. On the other hand, it's probably already largely out of use, except in the occasional crossword... "I've been had" or something stronger is more current than "I've been gypped", don't you think?

The word "gypsy" was applied to the Romany, who actually call themseves the Rom, and "gypsy" was supposedly a corruption of "Egyptian" -- a generic wandering foreigner often of darker skin... Most common usage in the US in fact relates to the Gypsy Moth, whose caterpillars are now a major destroyer of forests in the Northeast, and that's as cautionary a tale as the more recent importation of killer bees!

A French artist named Trouvelot settled near Boston in the 1850's, and his side interest was seeing if he could get a silk worm industry going here. A few caterpillars he had brought from Europe escaped behind his home and he sought help -- but was ignored.

Trouvelot switched his attention to astronomy instead, won fame for his illustrations of the sun and Venus, and was eventually given a faculty position at Harvard University in Astronomy (no PhD required in thise days). A crater on the moon was named in his honor and he won the French Academy's Valz prize for his astronomical research.

In 1882 Trouvelot returned to live in France; the timing of this move coincided with the appearance of the first gypsy moth outbreak on his street. He died in 1895; the imported scourge still spreads. So in that sense, we've been "gypped"!


Doug 12:09 PM  

@RP: Beating up on Grammar Girl? You schoolyard bully, you! ;)

Casa LOMA - finally a gimmee for which I don't need a PhD or be a NYC resident! I grew up in Toronto and the "castle on the hill" was on the visitor must-see list because of it's uniqueness. Imagine driving through a plain old residential area and then seeing a full blown medieval castle in front of you?

The tycoon who brought electricity to Toronto made a fortune and then lost it all around WWI, but he left behind a full blown castle that is now a public building. Hidden elevator, secret tunnel, armour, turrets, etc. Really cool place:

dk 12:32 PM  

@orange, I worked with some research firms that use nano technology very creatively. I think if we JOINED nanotubes with radio frequency devices (RFDs not RBIs) and mobile phones we could get the clues to change on your tattoo. (patent pending)

I did not need to REEF my sails for this puzzle. I even knew ICET and SUPERBOWLSUNDAY.

I am still perplexed as to how fleas, bulls, farmers and super are open.

Just saw the new INDY movie and I love all things fedora. When in New Orleans see Meyer the Hatter
( who knows all things fedora.

Rex, Sorry to see the weekly wrap-up go. I will try to "let it go."

@phillysolver, thank you for adding to my info base. I wonder if REEF and reefer are at all related.

Sorry I digress, back to the fast paced world of intellectual property... psst wanna buy a SECRET.

dk 12:34 PM  

One more thing, I got a Furminator for my cat and dog. They work! The dog is less than thrilled. I am the cats new best friend.

Thank you Rex and fellow furballs.

Anonymous 12:41 PM  

think of a rolled up sail and a joint and maybe you will see a similarity.

JannieB 12:53 PM  

@cartzero - Seems like I'll need a Berlitz course to make sense of these, but thanks so much for the Rap Sheet! Now to commit it to memory.

Anonymous 12:54 PM  

As to gyp, it is not as bad as "Jew" me down or "Indian giver" as those words obviously refer to ethnic groups pejoratively. To gyp, however, is not obviously derived from gypsies. One needs to know the etymology of the word before one realizes that it is offensive and denigrates the Roma.


miriam b 1:11 PM  

@Crosscan & Orange: I'll be in CA from 6/10 through 6/24 and will probably take a gave up smoking cold turkey years ago, so I think I can do this, especially in view of the fact that I know it's temporary.

@dk: I plan to get a Furminator. One of my cats, Dinah, has a deceptively smooth-looking coat, but is nevertheless the Queen of Hairballs.

BTW, I wonder why vets always refer to the "hair coat"? Is this to distinguish it from the stupid-looking clothes people sometimes buy for their dogs?

Actually, I saw something endearing yesterday. It was raining rather heavily, and a dark-haired woman dressed in black was walking her tiny black dog along the street. Both were wearing yellow slickers. I wish I'd had my camera at hand.

miriam b 1:53 PM  

Somehow I compleetely messed up my first paragraph - meant to say "probably take a hiatus; I gave up smoking..."

I must be excused for being pixillated today. Yesterday the work of my oldest daughter, who is autistic and an emerging outsider artist, was exhibited at a benefit event at the Marlborough Chelsea Gallery in NYC. One piece was auctioned off. My son managed to capture the excitement and suspense of the bidding. I know this is off-topic big time, but I try to behave, and I haven't posted links until now. Susan and I are seen mostly from the back. She's at the right, in a light blue top. I appear fleetingly at the left - graying hair, dark dress, hand clutching wine glass and program.

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

Hey Rex,
I just noticed that I copied the author's spelling from your post and we're both wrong. His name (according to Across Lite version) is James Sajdak, not James Sadjak.

Apologies, James.

George NYC 1:59 PM  

I liked this puzzle if only for "liftafinger" "fleacircus"and "bullmooseparty"
Rex, I recommend you read or give your daughter to read one of the classic British children's books of the Swallow and Amazon series by Arthur Ransom. Books are great in themselves but also will provide you with all the sailing words you need, eg Reef, Genoa, Painter etc. Off to find the Onion. George

Joon 2:05 PM  

i didn't find this puzzle at all easy. most of it was straightforward enough, but i totally blanked at the intersection of OUIDA and CURERS (double-ugh for the -ER and the -S), and the NE was almost impossible for me to gain any traction in. eventually LIFTAFINGER fell into place and i made some good guesses after that. i've heard of anne MEARA but i don't actually know who she is or who the other half of that comedy team might be. also, i went to the dentist this morning and half my face is still numb. i'm trying to eat an italian sub but can only taste it with half my tongue. it's the oddest feeling.

agree 100% with rex on GYP. the fact that the etymology of it isn't as "obvious" as jew (the verb) or indian giver doesn't make it any less offensive. would you consider SPIC and WOP and NIGGER offensive? i think those slurs have about the same level of etymological removal from the ethnic group they are denigrating as GYP does. it's definitely long past time to retire GYP.

dk, the theme phrases aren't themselves OPEN. they "OPEN" MARKET in the sense that the can precede "market" in a word or phrase. kind of like how the torch-lighting ceremony OPENs the olympics.

Orange 2:11 PM  

Jae: The STN vs. STA rule is this: It's whichever works for the crossing. Maybe dictionaries don't like STN, but this horse is out of the crossword barn already.

DK: FLEA, BULL, etc. open for MARKET in phrases like "flea market," "bull market," etc.

As for GYP, ask a European to tell you how terrible the Gypsies are, and you'll see how strong the bias against the Roma is, even today. They'll even assure you that it's fact-based and not racist stereotyping, and that the Roma themselves are deliberately choosing to blah-blah-blah. I find it astonishing how naked the negativity is.

Orange 2:12 PM  

(Too slow answering DK's question...)

Anonymous 2:19 PM  

Anne Meara used to be on Ed Sullivan regularly with her husband Jerry Stiller (as Stiller & Meara). Times have changed: Jerry is now better known as Frank Costanza (George's dad) from Seinfeld, and as Arthur Spooner (Carrie's dad) from King of Queens. Anne Meara is now probably best known by the younger generation as Ben Stiller's mom.


Anonymous 2:32 PM  

I don't care for "getting off SCOT free". The etymology has nothing to do with Scottish people, though.

Parshutr 2:55 PM  

@puzzlegirl...thanx! More laughs than the mag!

chefbea 3:59 PM  

@artlver. St. louis is definitely the gateway to the west. That's what the arch is all about. I saw it being built from my father's office on the Mississippi river. When that last section was put snapped into place. What a feat. From his office I could see Eads Bridge.
There use to be a place in downtown St. Louis called the Casa Loma Ballroom. I never went there.

A fun not so hard puzzle for a thursday

Anonymous 4:06 PM  

Yes's random "guess that crossing vowel" brought to you by the ancient greeks of Toronto!

99% easy, 1 square impossible (for me). Is that an "easy" puzzle or an "impossible" puzzle?

Oh James or Will, with hundreds of possible clever clues for attic, WHY go with something so obscure???

Thanks, Rex, for correcting grammargirl's admirer!

Joon 4:15 PM  

why don't we compromise and go with RsBI? that will make everybody happy, right? (*snicker*) no, seriously, it's like "attorneys general."

chefbea 4:18 PM  

@miriam b what a great video. Congratulations to your daughter!!

Anonymous 4:20 PM  

It's a good puzzle, but disappointed in that I took it to the hairdresser and I finished it way before I was done, and I hadn't brought anything else to read...

I don't know how I know reef but I do, but I never heard of "gyp".

@crosscan: I know how you feel. We're flying tomorrow, and I just hope we will have a newsagent closeby to get the Herald Tribune. I did buy a fresh Sudoko book just in case, and I may bring an old NYT crossword puzzle book as well.

What is the etymology of "scot free"? I have always felt it had more to do with a "shot".

mac 4:21 PM  

Somehow google doesn't accept my password anymore.....

mac 4:22 PM  

.....and now it does!

Bill from NJ 4:30 PM  


When I did this puzzle last night, I, too, was ready with the Saroyan anecdote but you beat me to it!

I don't know why I had such a hard time with this puzzle. It was straightforward enough but it was a long hard slog to the end. I had to play Guess the Vowel at the O*IDA/C*RERS crossing but managed to guess right.

I don't know any way to preface this so as not to sound racist but - and you knew a but was coming - when I was in Arizona going to school in the late 60s, I worked at grevhound racetracks at night. We had a real problem with what can only be described as a Band of Gypsies who tried to cash fake tickets all the time. We had to cancel a round of ticket-style drawings for prizes because these people moved heaven and earth trying to think up ways of fixing the outcome of these drawaing and succeeding on several occassions.

I cashed winning tickets for a while and it is hard to describe the lengths these people went to to trick the cashiers. It was a reign of terror that went on for several weeks before these people moved on.

The Phoenix police sent around fliers to warn us about these con men and women and referred to them as a plague of locusts.

One man's personal experience with a stereotype.

dk 4:49 PM  

@orange and @joon, thank you

@miriam b, You have every right to "B" pixillated and proud.

Band Of Gypsies you say:

Now, where did I leave that rolled up sail.

miriam b 5:18 PM  

@bill from nj:

I'm not talking stereotypes, either. A group known as Travelers are well known for conning, or tring to con, homeowners. I'd be willing to bet that they were involved in the situation you described. A typical tactic around my area is to approach the intended mark and promise home repairs at a low cost. Said repairs, if sanctioned by the gullible victim, will be shoddy or worse, and the worker(s) will have disappeared when the victim seeks reparations.

Last summer I was on my porch when a man approached me and said that he had just finished surfacing a driveway in the neighborhood, had some material left on his truck, and could do my driveway for ONLY $1000! I told him, "Sorry, I'm not stupid." If he or someone like him returns this year, maybe I should learn a few words of Shelta (Google this if you like) so that I can give him a clearer answer.

Yes, there are groups in the world whose culture dictates that they try to take innocent people to the cleaners. We just have to be alert. PCness has nothing to do with it. Horse sense does.

ArtLvr 5:18 PM  

@ miriam b -- Congrats to you and your daughter on her recognition as an artist! What a thrilling event: Best wishes for her continued achievement..

@ chefbea -- Thanks for reassuring me about my image of St. Louis. I think I saw a short fim about the construction of the Arch, how they managed to keep the weight to a minimum and put it all together, still taking into account the worst of possible gales. Seeing it completed in person must have been exciting!


p.s. Speaking of pix, I'm floored to hear that our Junior Senator from NY is still refusing a photo op including herself and family with the Junior Senator from IL and his family. She seems bent on attaining the 17A clue, "tiny sideshow". The Senator whose seat she took over on his retirement, my late brother-in-law, would be speechless. (Sorry, Rex; no more of that here.)

Anonymous 5:19 PM  

@mac: One downside to getting better and faster at puzzles is I go through the books too quickly.

I suspect Orange completes a puzzle book before she reaches the cashier.

And then there's the Jon Stuart dilemma - waking up at a hotel and the only available puzzle is USA Today.

Unknown 7:01 PM  

Please let me share something. It isn't quite juggling nine balls, but it is a juggling FEAT

Anonymous 7:57 PM  

Scot free the scot is from skot old norse for taxes

I almost ran away with a gypsy last week, Lulo Reinhardt...check out his music!
And anon: no excuse if you didn't know the derivation, once you learn it, then that's enough of a reason to stop using it...
I grew up in Minnesota and almost fainted first time I heard someone say "He tried to jew me down" and when we had a "creative discussion" about it he said he never once associated jew as a verb with Jewish people!
so, yes, live and learn and then don't use!

Anonymous 8:21 PM  

One of my 17-year old students used the word "gyp" yesterday.

Anonymous 8:47 PM  

I use the word gyp all the time. I get gypped a lot, being married to a Scot.

I just don't see it as pejorative. It never occurred to me that it was even derived from gypsy (in fact, when I saw Rex's objection to it, the first thought I had was that he had the word "gymp" or "gimp" in mind, as in handicapped or crippled person.) I'm no etymologist, but I'm betting there's a bunch of words out there in common usage with shady pedigrees. Gyp is such a handy word that sounds almost onomaetopaeic (screw you, spell-checker) and is so far removed from its derivation in common usage I say it gets a pass. It's not at all analogous to the racial slurs referenced earlier, which are used with the intent of denigrating people. It's not even analogous to "jew" in the sense of the phrase "getting jewed down," since the user is at least on notice of where the word came from. I'm not saying I don't foresee a situation in which I might need to insult a gypsy, but I won't do it by saying I got gypped by one.

Anonymous 9:06 PM  

fyi, and for what it's worth, on, "jew" used in the way referenced above is labelled "offensive," as is the n-word (it's called "the most offensive word in the English language," in fact.) "Gyp" used to mean swindle or cheat is not labeled offensive.

Anonymous 9:16 PM  

Hmmm... A little clarification on REEF. On almost all mainsails there are typically 1 to 3 horizontal lines of grommets with short cords hanging down on both sides. To REEF, the sail is lowered so that one of these lines level with the boom (horizontal spar at the foot of the sail), and the cords are tied around the boom, thus making the sail "shorter". On more expensive rigs these days the boom or a rod inside it can be rotated either manually or electrically, thus wrapping the sail around the boom and allowing the sail to be set to virtually any length. This is called "roller reefing". TMI?

Anonymous 9:27 PM  

Sorry, I can't agree that "gyp" is patently offensive, although I would say that it certainly sounds dated. There is no evidence that it is derived from "gypsy," and there are many words that have mistaken folk etymologies. Others have mentioned "scot-free," which has nothing to do with Scots supposedly being cheap (Andrew Carnegie notwithstanding). "Scot-free" is in fact Norse in origin. ( Will it now be open season on "welsh on a debt," "French kissing," and so on? The etymology of most of these expressions are of indeterminate origin. There are entire books written on false folk etymologies that are repeated so often that they are assumed to be true.
Back to gypsies, though, since the term itself refers incorrectly to Egyptians, wouldn't it be more in the league with "Indian summer," the ethnic group of which had never set foot on the South Asian subcontinent until well after that expression had been engrained into the English vernacular?

Rex Parker 9:39 PM  

The "french kissing" analogy is stupid, in that everyone likes french kissing, whereas no one likes being "gypped." In fact, "scot free," "welsh," etc. are all irrelevant to this discussion, in that each has a unique etymology. Everywhere I look online, incl the very reliable World Wide Words, acknowledges the likely or at least established connection of the word "gyp" to gypsies, though there are other possible origins, and of course words don't have to have just one origin. M Quinion (of WWWords) writes: "Even if the verb does come from gypsy, most people who use it probably don’t link the two ideas," which sounds right to me.

I'm always surprised, though, at the dismissive tone of those who want to claim that people are being too sensitive. Look at the evidence, make a reasoned judgment. How hard is that?


Unknown 10:03 PM  

Rex...not hard at all and I for one feel I learned something today and will be more careful, although I am more likely to say I was 'screwed.' Are their people from some place called the Screws? If so, I apologize and if I find the right person, I will French Kiss them to show my sincerity.

On to Friday's challenge.

Anonymous 10:03 PM  

I don't think anybody sticking up for gyp as being non-offensive has been dismissive, unless dismissive just means we don't agree that it's offensive. I didn't see anybody claiming the objectors were being too sensitive (but the anecdote about the Victorians putting skirts on their table legs did come to mind, I admit.)

fergus 10:24 PM  

The wisdom of Solomon, er, uh Rex.

If I had paid for the paper today to get the crossword I would have felt, well, um, ... you know. I feel sorry for Mr. Sajdak. Perfectly decent puzzle ruined by Thursday expectations. Other than TRIM instead of REEF, the grid was filled on autopilot. Where's Shortz's famous Clue calibration today? As someone suggested about LIFT A FINGER, this had the only clue that wasn't torpid.

David 10:44 PM  

You cannot know how happy I was to get RENEE Montoya as a gimme today.

Recently she's had 52 and Crime Bible, but I still remember her better from the often-overlooked Gotham Central. She's one of the few characters, by the way, to be created for a cartoon---Batman: The Animated Series---and then transition into comics. Which I'm sure you didn't realize you were dying to know.

Now if someone had only made a comic book about OUIDA living at Casa LOMA, I'd have had no mistakes today...

Scott 10:57 PM  

"Even if the verb does come from gypsy, most people who use it probably don’t link the two ideas,"

I think this sums things up quite nicely. The real question, in my opinion, is, if it is derived from a slur but is now used w/ no prejudice, is it acceptable for crosswords (and for cocktail party chat, formal letters, blogging, etc.)? I can see both arguments.

mac 11:10 PM  

Growing up in Holland I had a lot of fears (at age 3 - 8) of gypsies who were supposed to steal little children.
When I would hear the whining sound of mopeds at night, I thought they were coming to take me away!
Some years later I would read about the problems the authorities had making the gypsies send their children to school (for free): there were campsites with access to water and electricity just outside many cities where they could park their caravans and motor homes, but they would be required to obey the laws of the land, and one of them was that any children under 16 had to be in school.
Later again I went to several boat-and motor-home shows in Holland,
Belgium and Germany, and some of the most luxurious motor-homes, with gold-plated faucets and knobs and handles, incredible bathrooms and carpeted everything, were ordered by gypsies....!
At the moment, burglaries and break-ins in my part of the country are up tremendously, and the perpetrators are gypsies and Eastern Europeans. These people are treated very nicely in Holland, but I think try to find an easier way to make a buck than working a regular job. I've heard of cases in our neighborhood where small children were lifted up to open upper windows sothat they could climb down and open the door or window for the adults.
I never knew the word "gyp" and I wonder how it developed in the U.S. - did the Roma's cross the ocean?
I've also read some reports on the problems with gypsies in Ireland. It is a problem that most countries try to deal with sensitively, but it is definitively a problem.

Orange 12:03 AM  

See? I wasn't kidding about that "ask a European and watch the anti-Roma stories pour out."

Scott, my philosophy is this: If the word is offensive to anyone, anywhere, and you're not required to use it, it's reasonable to avoid using it. Crosswords are supposed to be entertainment—and a word that is jarring to a certain percentage of solvers detracts from that.

Now, in this particular case, there's maybe no easy fix. The G and Y are in long answers that are embroiled in lots of crossings. GYM wouldn't work with the crossing. GYR would, though (GARR). It's rather obscure, with the abbreviation for gigayear (a billion years) looking like the best bet. Word that raises some eyebrows unpleasantly vs. awkward abbreviation—which would you choose? I might have preferred a third option, adding a couple black squares to break the semi-iffy LIFTAFINGER into two 5s and redoing lots of fill.

Joon 12:28 AM  

i asked my wife about GYP today. she grew up in germany as a kid, and still vividly--and bitterly--remembers the time a gypsy girl stole her tricycle. (when we were in germany for our honeymoon, as she was showing me around town, she pointed out the scene of the crime.) but she admitted that GYP is pretty offensive.

i'm never on solid ground when it comes to making judgments about people whose cultures instill very different values in them from my own. literally everything i have ever heard about gypsies is either pejorative or at best neutral. but of course, i have only ever heard things from non-gypsies, and it sounds like most gypsy-non-gypsy interactions are acrimonious.

eh, i've gone pretty far afield here. sorry rex. i'll retreat to a position of "word GYP = bad; gypsies themselves, who knows?"

Orange 12:37 AM  

P.S. Imagine, if you will, that everything negative that was posted here about the Roma, Gypsies, and Travelers was instead written about any other ethnic/cultural group. Would it stand?

Anonymous 2:54 AM  

Yay Orange, that's the point exactly!
There aren't Romani to stick up for themselves and point out how offensive it is...and one doesn't have to be a member of offended group to feel offended...
NOn-jews have been able to say "It's wrong to use jew as a verb, etc." or NOn-asians have joined in to stop stereotyping Asians on TV. For example, no one says, "He hasn't got a Chinaman's chance..." anymore, do they?
Just bec there isn't an organized group defending themselves doesn't mean it's not offensive!
It's weird to me that people would rather continue risking offense and displaying their ignorance rather than be sensitive.

As rex pointed out more than once it seems, "Gyp" refers to gypsies etymologically, so it's time, as folks have evolved, (and now that your consciousness has been raised) to phase it out of your vocabulary and puzzles too.

@Joon, maybe time for someone to get some therapy over that tricycle! ;)

Bob the Benevolent 3:43 PM  


change the P in gyp to an N. A med. specialty that shouldn't break the breakfast rule: GYN

The across word creates a nice allusion to another My Fair Lady lyric results: "It's OOOWW and GARN that keep her in her place/Not her wretched clothes and dirty face."

Maybe a little harder word but this Thurs. puzzle really was too easy, as Rex pointed out. And kudos to him for pointing out that gyp really needs to be change.

Another offensive word that many non-Native Americans use is squaw, usually clued with Squaw Valley.

Waxy in Montreal 11:01 PM  

Geez. Casa Loma & Winnipeg in the same crossword! I'll never complain again about the NYT puzzle being too US-centric.

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