Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: add L to make adverbs ...

I am not a fan of this theme at all. That is about all I have to say about that. The phrases that result from the added "L" can't stand alone. Noun feels completely disconnected from the adverb that follows. I just don't get it. I mean, I get it, but ... seems like a "theme" for a much less reputable puzzle. And I say this as someone who would love to see THOMAS HARDY in the puzzle much more often, in general:

Theme answers:

  • 24A: Appetizer, entree or dessert? (dinner, partly)
  • 38A: Bonbon and how it should be divvied up? (sugar plum, fairly)
  • 51A: Doubting apostle? Not by a long shot! (Thomas? Hardly)

The non-theme fill is often fabulous, however, so the day was not a total loss. Not by a long shot! I have no idea who BOB AND RAY are (4D: Old spoofing duo) - I thought maybe the "Car Talk" guys, but no. They make a nice long answer, whoever they are, as does FISH SOUP (I had fish STEW - 41D: Bouillabaisse). I have smiley faces and / or "hee hee"s written next to the clues for WELK (18A: Lawrence of the North Dakota Hall of Fame), VELMA (7D: The nerdier of the "Scooby-Doo" girls), and MACARENA (22A: Dance craze of the mid-'90s). Initial thoughts about these clues, in order, were: "Lawrence WELK played football?" "I guess 'nerdier' is nicer than 'homelier'" and "The mid-90s were like a horrible nightmare, a cultural cesspool ... not sure why I think this decade's any better, but I do."

Biggest trouble came in the NW, where I did not know MINIM at all (9A: 1/60 of a fluid dram) - to me, a MINIM is a particular kind of stroke a scribe makes in a medieval manuscript. Even after I guessed MINIM, MONA LISA (9D: La Gioconda, familiarly) remained invisible to me; the letters I had made me want to guess MONALITH here for a few seconds. Then I remembered how to spell MONOLITH. I didn't know this TONY fellow (63A: "West Side Story" fellow), nor did I know the Disneyesque nickname of TONGA (51D: Archipelago known as the Friendly Islands). Other than that, a pretty easy puzzle.


  • 1A: "Ishtar" or "Heaven's Gate," famously (bomb) - Horrible feeling to get something this easy and blow it. I instantly (and accurately) wrote in FLOP.
  • 26A: Reuben server (deli) - why this clue was so thorny for me, I don't know. I was imagining a waiter or a serving dish of some kind ...
  • 64A: Popular block game requiring nimble fingers (Jenga!) - It's fun to shout for no reason. Like "Yahtzee!"
  • 65A: Caesar's almost last words ("Et tu") - I just did a very awesome drawing of Caesar uttering these almost last words, but it's part of a book project and so you'll have to wait to see it. Actually, as I am a comically terrible artist, the drawing will never be in any book. So what the hell - here's a set of three notecards I constructed to help me organize my thoughts about crossword words:
  • 10D: White key, informally (ivory) - at one time, this could have been clued [White key, actually], right?
  • 28D: Picador's opponent (toro) - today was a good day for you if you love picadors: 57D: Cheers for picadores (oles)
  • 29D: Traveler's alternative to De Gaulle (Orly) - most important non-US airport in CrossWorld
  • 30D: 2001 Oscar nominee for Best Original Song, "May It Be" (Enya) - she's everywhere you want to be, sadly. Make her stop!
  • 47D: Big bird of myth (Roc) - I'm trying to imagine Big Bird flying down and carrying off Sinbad in his talons.
  • 33D: S-curve (ogee) - wow, the OGEEs I've seen don't look like esses. They look like this:

But I appear to be conflating OGEE with OGEE arch (two OGEE shapes that meet in a peak in the middle). Interesting.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Hey, I'm in "MUG - Manhattan User's Guide" today. I don't know what that is, but it sounds good. Thanks to Ellen R. for notifying me about it.


Anonymous 8:45 AM  

JENGA? Never heard of it. Is it me? Did you all grow up playing Jenga? Is it an American thing? Am I too old to know this - or too young? Can any Canadian out there talk about a childhood with Jenga?

It wouldn't have mattered if I hadn't put MAYA instead of MAJA for the second time this month. GOYA = MAJA. GOYA = MAJA. Must insert in brain. GOYA = MAJA.


Jennifer 8:51 AM  

Hi Rex, longtime reader here. I recently added you to my Google Reader and this was offered up by the Google gods as a suggestion:

Had you seen this before? There's clearly more of a lag than with your postings, but it's great to compare and contrast the drawing's focus with your focus for a given puzzle.

Thanks, Jennifer

Tony from Charm City 9:00 AM  

Though I, too, disliked the theme, I like puzzles that have my name in it (West Side Story fellow). FYI, Rex, TONY is the male lead in the musical.

Not sure, but I think this is the first time I've seen JENGA in a puzzle

David 9:03 AM  

I might have entered in MAYA too if I hadn't seen the clue for JENGA---but I got that one instantly, so dodged the decision.

The bit that screwed me up was 1A, which I definitely botched worse than Rex. I know that Ishtar was a movie flop, but I don't know the movie Heaven's Gate---I only know it as the cult. So I went with CULT. OMOO helped fix it, since I really wanted MOURN and OMANI, but it took some time.

I know that by now OMOO is reasonably standard for crosswords, by the way, but I still remember it and Typee from some sort of Melville book report years and years ago. So I get a false sense of pride for knowing it. I wish it weren't used so often just so it could be my secret weapon.

Rex, you didn't know Tony? I've never actually seen the show, but he and Maria are the two names from West Side Story I've got down---they're the main characters, the Romeo and Juliet. Add in the Jets and the Sharks and I'm basically spent. I'm surprised TONY hasn't come up enough to be on your radar.

I also laughed at the VELMA clue. A lot. I thought it was fantastic, in that way that also makes you think you should feel terrible for the person. The clue doesn't pull it's punches, or use a maybe---sorry, VELMA, it's just a fact. I guess thank goodness she's fictional...

LOWERLIP was another great clue. You can potentially know exactly what they want right away, but it still felt novel, and definitely holds together as a phrase.

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

I thought 12 down was kinda lame, "Home in on". Got it but took a while to realize it was three words. Ugh.

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

Why is drooling an act of only hungry wolves? Many animals including humans drool when hungry.

Larry 9:19 AM  

I was going to object on nouillabaisse being a soup when I thought just the other day it was a stew, but then I couldn't find it looking over the past week's answers. Then it hit me -- I did the USA Today puzzle on an Airplane on Friday. Proof once again of the superiority of the NYT: bouillabaisse is a soup!

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

I also went straight to flop, but then couldn't get any downs, so deleted it. I came back at it from below later and got BOMB instantly once I had the final B in place.

The theme only made vague sense even after I got it, though seeing it here with commas helps (a little). It just seems very arbitrary.

Rex, you really should google up some Bob and Ray. Funny guys.

janie 9:41 AM  

while i don't think i ever saw bob and ray on tv in the 50s, i did catch up with them as a young adult. as a friend of mine used to say, "droll -- very droll." chris eliot (get a life, everybody loves raymond, etc.) is bob's son. one of the team's catchphrases: "write if ya get work"...

bob and ray

"minim" is a word i knew from music as another word for "half note." had not known about the "fluid dram" context. looking it up last night, also learned about the callig. stroke usage as well. handy "little" word... (in the '60s, there was also a b'way show [from s. africa?] called wait a minim.)

i had great fun with this puzzle's gimmick and especially enjoyed the "poetic" ne: minim, mesa, inon, ovine, nonos, nine. atop macarena? made me happy.

chacun a son....



Unknown 10:01 AM  

When I finished this I could just see Rex writing, 'What the L?'

I haven't paid attention to the constructors until fairly recently, but the number of new ones seems unusual. We are very lucky as solvers to have so much talent entering the ranks. Congratulations Adam.

I also added 'tew' after getting FISHS, but waited for a cross, so I did not go with flop. I did pretty well until the NE and MINIM was new to me and I placed too high a score on the dive by entering 'aten'. I got BOBANDRAY, but had some bald guy in mind so the picture here was informative. Jenga Arrived after my childhood and would not have known it except for YouTube videos.

I hope Bill form NY gets a chance at this one. Heck, write me and I'll drive over the Ben Franklin Bridge and sit down with you and make errors in ink on your puzzle.

Unknown 10:02 AM  

Sorry Bill, that's NJ

Pythia 10:28 AM  

Fiat LUX. LUX et veritas. Veritas.

Truth, not a fan of this theme either, especially 38A, which has a tortured clue and still is nonsensical. One might comment that the puzzle is a little light on theme material, and that the three theme answers are oddly bunched in the middle, if one cared for the theme.

With the exception of RETHREAD (which could probably have been a lively, interesting answer given its location and only two fixed letters to include), the longer nontheme answers were excellent. Some juiciness in the clues, too. Bouillabaisse, La Gioconda -- say those words out loud. Pouter's protuberance for LOWER LIP is delicious in the alliteration of both clue and answer. JENGA and MACARENA were fun encounters.

Loved the art of the puzzle. Have seen MONA LISA (sadly half-hidden behind bulletproof glass) many times, The Naked MAJA (not hidden in any sense) only once. Exquisite, both.

Factoids learned = MINIM; WELK in the ND HOF

ArtLvr 10:40 AM  

I didn't know what 1A was getting at, just let it fill in BOMB right away from the downs. VELMA was another question mark, but not a problem, The rest of the solving went fast, except for the cross in the SW of JENGA and TONGA -- sheer guess there.

The theme emerged best in the THOMAS HARDLY, so I went back and fixed DINNER PARTLY -- all I had in my mind for a while was "parsley" even if it made no sense! Not my favorite kind of theme...

I liked MACARENA, MINIM, MY EYE, and also WELK and LOWER LIP. The misdirection of the town names cluing for CIGARETTE was pretty good, and getting OMOO and OGEE in the same puzzle okay, but that was about it. If one could have TONY from West Side story, why not comic ZERO Mostel? Ah, well.


Anonymous 10:41 AM  

I've a nit to pick with 39D, as film only needs to be rethreaded when it's in the projector or camera, and not on the reel. It should be clued as Fix, as film in a projector.

Joon 11:08 AM  

i liked this puzzle's theme and clues quite a bit, and some of the fill was outstanding. that makes the use of OGEE, OMOO, ARETE, OLES, ETTU, ENYA and MIAS pretty forgivable.

like david, i started with CULT at 1A. it would be a perfectly correct answer except for the quote marks in the clue. but it fixed itself pretty quickly with those downs, and i was off and running.

anybody else have a mental image of the MONALISA doing the MACARENA? no? okay, just me, then.

Parshutr 11:25 AM  

I found the entire puzzle -- theme and fill -- delightful, fun, easier than most Thursdays.
Something about being older, and remembering hearing Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding on the radio. As I recall, their act split somewhat acrimoniously, as did so many comedy duos.
My only wrong guess was PROWL instead of DROOL...neither really meets the criterion of accurate cluing, but there ain't much perfection in cross-world, or anywhere else.
In the 90s I did a lot of wedding photography, saw way too much MACARENA. But it's not as bad as the 00s cRAP.

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

Bob and Ray started on radio, moved to early TV with a i5 minute daily show and then played Bway as "The Two and Only".

If you haven't heard their stuff, you should really get an earful! Particularly 'The Slow Talkers of America' and their continuing takeoff on a female radio commentator of the day (Mary Margaret McBride) transmuted to Mary Margaret McGoon.

This is Bob and Ray saying "Write if you get work" and "Hang by your thumbs".

mac 11:38 AM  

A quick Wednesday with a theme I really had to stare at after all was filled in.
I had "my ear"for a sec before changing it to "my eye", and had resplice (probably nonsensical with the -re) for rethread. I also liked lower lip, fish soup and Mona Lisa, while Maja saved the day since I had never heard of Jenga. We spent the morning at the "Uffizi" where I saw many, many versions of the above-mentioned lady's pose, plus many beautiful pieces, still so fresh-looking after almost 500 years.

Hang in there, Bill, hope you are doing better.

JC66 11:40 AM  

Bob And Ray's ad campaign for Piels is a marketing classic. The ads for this very mediocre regional beer were so hilarious ( that they gained huge nationwide attention. The company figured they'd take advantage of this high awareness, expanded production and rolled out nationally. People. eager to try the new beer, did so in droves and, after tasting the stuff, just as quickly, went back to their old favorites. Piels went out of business shortly thereafter.

BTW, Chris Elliot is Bb Elliot's son.

alanrichard 11:40 AM  

Never heard of Minan or Jenga ot Gobsmacked but I got them contexturally. By the time I realized the theme I was done with the puzzle.

Anonymous 12:03 PM  

I played some Jenga in college, so I am familiar with it. There is also a very funny "American Dad" episode where Roger the Alien spends days deciding on a single move in a game of Jenga. The game originally was marketed in England, and then came to the US in the 1980's. It's only been in the last 5-10 years, however, that the game has become more popular.

I also fell into the trap that David did, putting in CULT instead of BOMB for 1A. I too only noticed the quotes around "Heaven's Gate" and "Ishtar" too late, and instantly thought of the cult rather than the movie.

Am I the only one who had a problem with 56A (MOTORCAR)? The term "Horseless carriage" should really define the word automobile, which is what the first cars were called (at least in the US). MOTORCAR was a term later used to distinguish steam-powered cars from those with an internal combustion engine. My point is that one can have a "Horseless carriage" (i.e. a steam engine car) that is not a MOTORCAR.

Also didn't like the cluing for 60A. "Without a chaperon" does not imply that you are ALONE, it simply means that you are not being supervised. I have been on plenty of dates without a chaperone, but I was never ALONE on any of them.

Other than that, I pretty much agree with Rex. The theme was horrible, but the fill was for the most part OK.


Anonymous 12:11 PM  


Totally agree with you regarding 53D. I don't see why DROOL is strictly associated with hungry wolves in any way.

A more appropriate cluing may have been to write something describing the Pavlovian response of dogs to a bell in his famous experiment. That is where my brain, at least, instantly goes when I think of drooling animals.

-ronathan :-)

Anonymous 1:01 PM  

Velma is homelier? Just depends on what floats your dinghy. If I'm doing the crossword puzzle I'd rather have her around than Daphne. I wouldn't call Velma homely. Nerdy, yes... but in some circles that's a good thing.

Bill from NJ 1:03 PM  


Thank you very much for your kind offer but I can make my own errors in ink, if you don't mind.

I found the theme to this puzzle a little arbitrary, too, but setting the adverb off with commas seemed to add a little splash of color.

I never heard of MINIM and am wondering what the M represents but being of a certain age I knew about BOBANDRAY.

I really like the crossing of MONALISA/MACARENA - two cliches from different ages.

I want to thank everyone for their expressions of good will - a truly fine community of truly fine foke.

SethG 1:29 PM  

Dear Internet,

You've failed me once again.

I've been gone for a couple of days. And I really liked this puzzle, so I wanted to celebrate my return by wowing everyone with a fantastic link to the commercial that Ivan LENDL made for Snapple, which Ivan LENDL could not pronounce the name of.

Why, Internet, why do you not contain a copy of this ad? (Or the one for the Pittsburgh Diesel Institute?)

I can't see without my glasses,

jae 1:42 PM  

I also was not a fan of this theme. Too forced/awkward. However, the fill was fine. Debated between BOMB and FLOP and let the crosses sort it out. Knew JENGA and VELMA (Linda Cardellini played her in the movie and she is not homely.) I also tried STEW but that was pretty much my only misstep. I vaguely remember BOBANDRAY routines being in MAD Magazine in the 50's, not positive though.

Sarah 2:01 PM  

Where have I been? Just found this site and bookmarked it!

Loved the somewhat obscure pop culture references (ishtar, bob and ray, welk, velma, igor, tony, macarena, jenga). The themed answers seem like dorky jokes my 9 year old nephew would tell... sugarplumfair(l)y and dinnerpart(l)y... ha ha.

I wrote flop and fishstew immediately which got me in a world of trouble, but cigarette helped unravel the whole southeast quadrant. Drool was an odd surprise though. Feel like an idiot that I cannot remember omoo no matter how many times I see it. Maybe I should read it this summer.

Can't wait for tomorrow's puzzle! Thanks Rex.

Rex Parker 2:08 PM  

@jennifer (today's second commenter),

Sorry I didn't reply earlier. I know Emily's site very well. I link to it in my sidebar. She did the illustration on my donation thank-you cards (which are almost all out, those of you who haven't received one yet). I plan to work with her on future crossword-related projects. In short, she rules.


chefbea 2:13 PM  

I liked today's puzzle and found it pretty easy. Never heard in minim but did listen to Bob ad Ray on the radio way back in my youth.

Going to a dinner party tonight to be held outside. Hope it doesnt rain. We will probably have fish soup, then Reubens followed by bon bons for dessert. Probably wont be any music so we wont be doing the macarena. I wont tell you what I am bringing - no recipes allowed

foodie 2:21 PM  

@ Jennifer
Rex introduced us to Emily Cureton's drawings by posting them for a stretch of time as part of his blog. They were always terrific, but I think they keep getting better! Some of them make very strong statements (see for example, her drawing Friday June 6, 2008). I agree with you that it's very interesting to compare what Rex focuses on vs. what she does. Her goal is of course different and I often need to go back and check for myself some of the juxtapositions that inspire her. So many different ways to be creative!

I agree with Rex's assessment re today, great and fun non-theme answers, but a little awkward on the theme. I feel that a good theme with a play on words is most satisfying when it leads you to parse a familiar phrase a bit differently, like looking at that drawing with leads you to see either on old lady or a young woman depending on how you focus.. But the phrases today are not familiar, nor even very likely to be used in standard speech... But obviously, some people liked it and I'm glad for the constructor.

fergus 2:23 PM  

So many Ys today.

Anonymous 2:41 PM  

Didn't anyone have a problem with HOME IN ON? Isn't it HONE IN on or am I crazy? Well -- I AM crazy ... but I really thought it was Hone in On. Responses?

Sarah -- you will LOVE this website!

Rex -- How much money did you raise? I hope A LOT!



Velma homnely? you should see her without the sweater....

My wife and I are, compared to most of you Rex-ers, are crossword neophytes. We've progressed to the popint of finishing most Mondays on on our own and 90%of Tuesdays. Downhill form there of course.

To the first post of the day, Jenga is a balancing game wherein you first build a tower out of 1/2" by 1/2" by 3" pieces of wood lyaing them three one way, then three another about a foot high. there you taking turns pulling them out 'til someone fells the tower....

of course when yer in college, there is beer involved....

Anonymous 3:58 PM  

@JTSTERN: Thanks. If it involved college and beer no wonder I can't remember.

We all started like you. Keep doing puzzles and reading the blogs and the later week ones will come. Amy "Orange" Reynaldo's book "How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle" is also a great help.


Shamik 4:05 PM  

Anonymous...I agree with HONE IN ON as a phrase even though it makes no sense. Must be a regional thing.

Gobsmacked! Has anyone ever heard this word before?

It was a Wednesday puzzle that felt like a Monday. And even though I, too, am of a certain age...I know BOBANDRAY because my dad used to talk about them when I was a kid.

Rex Parker 4:23 PM  

The phrase is "HOME IN ON" - though "HONE IN ON" is a very common mistake.

Discussion here.


Leon 4:25 PM  

Nice puzzle Mr. Fromm.

Some sort of Soap thing going on in this puzzle : LAVA, IVORY, LUX and MAJA.

Anonymous 4:36 PM  

Rex, I am GOBSMACKED that you did not know TONY from West Side Story! I remember talking to someone from my office who I regard as well-informed, and when I started discussing Romeo and Juliette, she had no idea of the connection! I was double-dog gobsmacked.

Anywho, I think deep down I visit the blog to reassure myself that I am not a complete idiot, and am glad that some others had no idea what MINIM was. Crossing, could not for the life of me get HOME IN ON.

Found the theme doable but not all that fun(ny). I think a tie-up clue/answer, ("What the L?", "Unknown L-ement", others??) would have helped wrap it up more neatly.

ETTU and ENYA, have you seen my old frient ETUI lately? I have a feeling he will be coming around...


Anonymous 4:41 PM  

@hobbyist & @ronathan - Don't understand your objections to the "drool" clue - what part of "what hungry wolves do" implies the answer must apply ONLY to wolves?

Didn't like the theme much, but REALLY didn't like another un-finishable puzzle (for me) due to the MAJA/JENGA proper-noun crossing. Guessed wrong.

Anonymous 4:41 PM  

Jenga doesn't require nimble fingers so much as a steady hand.

Anonymous 5:01 PM  

@ca david

I guess my objection to "What hungry wolves do" is that phrasing implies that the ONLY thing that hungry wolves do is drool. In my mind, hungry wolves also howl, snarl, bite, bark, etc. They also hunt.

If the clue had simply been worded as "Something hungry wolves do", I would have been okay with it (although admittedly the words snarl, howl, and bite come to my mind WAY before the word drool does when I mentally picture hungry wolves).

-ronathan :-)

Anonymous 5:03 PM  


Conversely, as I said above, when I think of "Pavlov's dogs", the first thing that comes to my mind is that the fact that these dogs DROOLed in response to the sound of bell (this was, in fact, the whole point of Pavlov's experiment).


green mantis 5:17 PM  

If tempted to say "hone in on" rather than "home," maybe try thinking of homing pigeons zeroing in on their destination. Now "zeroing" looks wrong. Eh.

That's funny Rex, I got an image of a Roc swooping down to catch Enya and carry her away. And eat her. Not with Chianti though; it's too heavy. I'm thinking a Syrah or something. Open to suggestions. Must be light, airy, with a vaguely unnecessary mouthfeel and a self-serious nose. Hints of ugli fruit.

Anonymous 6:13 PM  

Can't believe you didn't know who Bob and Ray were. Surely you know of Bob's son Chris Elliot who has been all over TV at various times. You should check out some of their work when you want a laugh.

Michael Chibnik 6:56 PM  

What follows is puzzle-related, but not about today's ok, though, unremarkable puzzle.

I am about to take a two week trip out of the country in which I will be away from the NYT and the puzzle for all practical purposes. I wanted to take with me a book of Friday-Saturday level puzzles and remember doing this last year when I made the same trip for the same period of time. But I went to the terrific independent bookstore in Iowa City (here's a plug for Prairie Lights!) and couldn't find any such book (though there were lots of mixed collections and easy puzzle collections). I ended up buying Orange's book on how to sove the puzzles out of curiosity about what she would say and (not incidentally) a sufficient number of Friday/Saturday puzzles to occupy me in airports, etc.

My question is -- can any of you point me to a good book (preferably paperback, preferably not too large) of Friday/Saturday puzzles for next time?

Of course, one problem is that I am now doing the NYT Friday/Saturday puzzles regularly so collections of recent puzzles from the NYt might not be so good for my purposes.

Anonymous 7:10 PM  

Michael: Click on the 2007 Holiday Shopping Guide link on the right hand side for some suggestions.

Michael Chibnik 7:26 PM  


Thanks for the reference to the Holiday Shopping Guide. I think my best bet would be the New York Sun puzzle collections. I never see New York Sun Puzzles even when I visit New York City (which I do at least twice every year because I have family there).

jae 7:59 PM  

Michael: Try "The NYT Weekend Challenge" which has 75 Thurs./Fri./Sat. puzzles from 1997. I got it through Amazon. If you'd like a little text with your puzzles try "Crosswords to Keep Your Brain Young: The 6-Step Age-Defying Program" by Majid Fotuhi. It has a foreword by Will and 120 puzzles the vast majority of which seem to be weekenders. Many of them have accompanying vocabulary notes. This book came out in Jan. 08 and should be available from your book store.

fergus 8:13 PM  

The wolf that drools could also be the same who wolf-whistles, which is why I find the Clue works.

Anonymous 8:44 PM  

The information about hone in on
and home in on was fascinating. I
had no idea! I thought for sure it was hone in on though i doubted the puzzle could be wrong.

This comment blog is very fun!


foodie 10:42 PM  

Interesting re the history of "home in on" vs. "hone in on". But at least this confusion/conversion is not only understandable in terms of sound but also meaning. The one I find mystifying is when people say "flush out an idea" when they mean "flesh out an idea". It's like you have a single idea hiding in the recesses of your brain and you need to do something of flush it out...

Anonymous 11:57 PM  

"Hone in on" and "flush out an idea" are called eggcorns.

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