MONDAY, Nov. 10, 2008 - Gail Grabowski (Open-textured cotton fabric / Jazzy Latin dance site / Gift-giver's urging / Alpine dwelling)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: TACO TOPPING (64A: The start of 17-Across or 11- or 33-Down)

A very straightforward puzzle. One problem. Tacos have FILLINGs, not TOPPINGs. Ice cream has TOPPINGs. Pizzas have TOPPINGs. My wife tried NACHO TOPPING (a far better answer), but didn't get far before she realized it wouldn't fit. Oddly, the answer I struggled with the most in this puzzle was YIPES (29D: "Holy cow!"). Those expressions are not synonymous in my vocabulary. "Holy cow" expresses amazement or wonder, where YIPES expresses (usually mock) fear. Now, amazement and fear *might* go together, but usually, not. I had YOWEE. Or maybe YOWIE. And possibly YIKES, before I got YIPES. Not that the crosses weren't very easy. You have to imagine all these blunders taking place at a relatively high speed.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Open-textured cotton fabric (cheese cloth) - possibly the toughest answer in the puzzle, though not very tough at all. The main problem for me - seeing "fabric" and thinking "something people wear" or "something people might make drapes out of"
  • 33D: Jazzy Latin dance site (salsa club)
  • 11D: Russian church feature (onion dome) - we have many of these dotting the landscape of our fair burg. There's a very large Ukrainian population here - so big that the city actually has a Ukrainian Independence Day flag-raising. Ever seen an ONION DOME on a structure that looks like a log cabin? Now you have:

[Sacred Heart Ukrainian Catholic Church, Johnson City, NY]


  • 1A: Like the air around Niagara Falls (misty) - cool clue, and an unusual opening gambit. The whole NW is actually really lovely. The tough guy MACHO (1D: Like a he-man) and the beatnik I'M HIP (2D: Beatnik's "Got it") make a nice contrasting pair. Both look good in SUEDE (3D: Napped leather), and both AMUSE me (14A: Entertain). I've probably posted this fantastic Blossom Dearie song before, but if so, I love her so much that I'm posting it again:

  • 8D: Completely, after "from" (A to Z) - one of those oddities that is likely to make novices blink in disbelief ("What's an 'atoz?'") and make even seasoned vets hesitate.
  • 22D: Backyard apparatus for kids (swing set) - "Mom, can we play on the apparatus!?"
  • 9D: Shipboard pals (mateys) - this made wife grumble. She questions whether shipmates are all "pals." She also doesn't like the spelling (though I assured her it's correct). She also thinks it's just a silly word, which is true enough. I sort of liked it.
  • 41D: Entertain with a tale (read to) - wrote in REGALE without hesitation. This one gave me nearly as much trouble as YIPES.
  • 52D: Port-au-Prince's land (Haiti) - site of a horrible school collapse this past weekend. Sometimes life doesn't pass the breakfast test.
  • 60D: Dunce cap, geometrically (cone) - how much time has to elapse before the "dunce cap" is no longer a familiar cultural reference? Since its origins appear to date back to Duns Scotus in the 13th century, probably not any time soon. From "The Straight Dope":

[O]ne of the more mystical things Duns [Scotus] accepted was the wearing of conical hats to increase learning. He noted that wizards supposedly wore such things; an apex was considered a symbol of knowledge and the hats were thought to "funnel" knowledge to the wearer. Once humanism gained the upper hand, Duns Scotus's teachings were despised and the "dunce cap" became identified with ignorance rather than learning. Humanists believed learning came from internal motivation rather than special hats, and used the public shame of having to wear a dunce cap to motivate slow learners to try harder.

  • 64D: Profs.' helpers (TAs) - I have five! Over the course of the term, they have gotten too cool for school and have moved from the front of the auditorium to the balcony, where they hang out and, I don't know, drink and smoke, probably. Good thing I like them.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


ArtLvr 9:12 AM  

Fastest puzzle I ever did, not even trying to hurry! I was glad, on reading Rex's comments, that I hadn't noticed tacos take "fillings", not toppings! I think a very floppy taco could qualify, though...

I really liked was the info on Duns Scotus' hat. You might have spelled it out that TA stands for Teaching Assistant, because somebody will ask. Do yours wear the wizard headgear? Or onion domes?


mmorowitz 9:18 AM  

Filling vs. Topping doesn't bother me in this case as salsa or cheese is a condiment to a taco. Calling a condiment a topping is ok by me.

I was more bothered by EVIAN as a rival to Perrier. Evian is still water. Perrier is sparkling. They don't seem like rivals to me.

Greene 9:30 AM  

Well this was a delightful little puzzle. Extremely easy, yet fun and satisfying. I remeber struggling with Monday puzzles not so long ago. I'm reminded of David Sedaris's story about learning to do crosswords and how proud he was to have completed a NYT Monday puzzle in only 2 days. Then he carried it in his wallet to show others, hoping they would say something like, "Why, you're only 40 years old and you did this all by yourself? Without any help at all?" Ahh...good times.

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

I agree with michael on tacos. When making a taco, first you put in the filling, which would usually be meat but us veggies use beans or maybe fake meat. Then you add the TOPPINGS, like salsa and cheese and lettuce and tomatoes (spare me the onions, please).

This was a typical Monday--filled it in on autopilot, then forgot to go back and see what the theme was. More an exercise in speed-solving than enjoyment of the puzzling activity, not that those are completely mutually exclusive.

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

I go to a pub trivia night where the emcee awards a giant dunce cap to the team that submits the dumbest answer and they have to wear it for the next round. It definitely adds to the fun.

Anonymous 9:40 AM  

I had one big gripe about this puzzle which Rex expressed for me! Being a native California who's been eating tacos for many moons, toppings just doesn't cut it. No way, no how.

This was pretty good Monday puzzle otherwise. I scratched my head at 41D: READTO. Not as bad as ATOZ but close into figuring it's not one word.

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

A taco (the shell) is *topped* as it is open, like a pizza with bent up edges.

A burito (sp?)is filled, as in rolled up, but can also be topped with things on the list.


Anonymous 9:56 AM  

The meat/bean is the filling, and the vegetables are the toppings!

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

"Mom, can we play on the apparatus!?" Hilarious!!

I have to say I agree with @treedweller on the FILLING/TOPPING of the taco business. Yes, tacos have filling that is mostly some sort of meat or "meaty" in nature (I'm thinking potatoes and chorizo as a good example), THEN you add a topping such as salsa, chopped onions, chopped cilantro, cheese (that would be at taco bell) and even pineapple on Tacos al Pastor! (if you haven't yet tried those, I suggest you do).

As for the puzzle, I did it without blinking! I wish I had timed me.

Rex, thanks for the lecture on Dunce Caps. I have wondered about that for a looooong time. You are the best teacher ever!

Tony from Charm City 10:25 AM  

I can go either way with the toppings/fillings debate. They both work for me.

As for ATOZ, it always reminds me of Mr. Atoz, the overseer of the library and atavachron from the Star Trek episode "All Our Yesterdays"

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

(10/29/2008- 46 down)

I agree with @Ben 10:56 a.m.

Doug 11:04 AM  

@tony Damn, I've seen episode a handful of times and never made the ATOZ connection!

Nice Monday all around, some regulars from the Pantheon, a lot of new fill, and the tasty bunfight over tacos that you only find in this wonderful blog. Will we break 100 posts because of it?

Nice to the "The Soo" in there, our Canadian term for Sault Ste. Marie. Tomorrow is a holiday for us (Remembrance Day) so we'll remember you early risers from beneath the duvet.

My favorite ONIONDOME is in Munich at the "Dom zu unserer lieben Frau" AKA Frauenkirche. It's my favorite because I've normally just spent a few days hefting very large beers and pork knuckles at Oktoberfest and need a break.

fiddleneck 11:11 AM  

Query: why is that the syndicated puzzle makers don't get authorial credit? The two newspapers I've done them in ! don't, so not a very big sample.

archaeoprof 11:16 AM  

All I can say is TGIM. Fri, Sat, and Sun kicked my backside, so it was nice to have a puzzle I could actually finish.

Glad to hear you're kind to your ta's, Rex. In that role I often felt like a teenager: not a child, but not yet grown up. It can drive you to smoke and drink...

Anonymous 12:46 PM  

Ahoy Mateys!
(Yes! Creepy spelling!)

Which two papers? Call/Write the editors! This is a very shameful practice and a handful of constructors are trying to address this issue publicly.
(Most of us make puzzles solely for the byline as we get NO reprint fees, so syndicated papers leaving off the byline (they always claim "layout issues") is borderline criminal...

Let's get this corrected before Gail Grabowski's lovely Monday puzzle goes uncredited weeks from now.

We should force the "anonymous" syndicated forces to wear dunce caps till this is resolved...YIPES!

(For more incoherent rantings about this, feel free to check out Ryan and Brian's podcast.
Blagodaria, I mean, thanks for the mention, Rex! I love you!
The onion dome brought tears to my eyes) (IS that contest for most obsequious still open?)

Cryptic shout out:
I remembered last night that Nikolai was from Bulgaria!)

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

Fastest puzzle yet by far for me, even with those stumbles at YIKES and REGALE that Rex had. I would hate to have a taco filled with cheese and salsa, I'll take mine on the top thank you. I love the dunce cap history.

Anonymous 1:20 PM  

Whoa -- never mind topping vs. filling; the other theme answers aren't of a piece either: "onion dome" is named because of its shape, "cheesecloth" (one word, BTW) for one of its uses; and "salsa club" for an activity that just happens to have the same geographic origin as what you put on (excuse me, in) your taco...

Ah well. I wonder what Will's cooked up for tomorrow's Veterans' Day puzzle.


Anonymous 1:44 PM  

I was snookered just a bit by 18 D, Lure into a crime. I had ENT and confidently put in ENTICE until I was corrected to ENTRAP.

@Tony and Doug: Another familiar ATOZ reference might be from L. Frank Baum's Wonderful Wizard of Oz. According to Wikipedia: The name "Oz" came from a file drawer labeled "O–Z" according to reports from Baum and his sons.

@ Greene: Your Sedaris story reminds me of the following: A certain fellow had completed a jigsaw puzzle in two weeks, a feat of which he was very proud. When asked by a challenger if he really thought that was an accomplishment, he replied, "Of course it is. Look, the box says two to five years!"

Bob Kerfuffle

chefbea 1:48 PM  

such an easy monday puzzle!! and of course fun!! We havent had a food puzzle in quite a while. I fill my taco shells with beef and then put cheese, onion and sour cream on top of the meat.

@Doug we too have a holiday tomorrow - Veteran's Day

Anonymous 1:49 PM  

Like treedweller I felt this more like solving practice than actual enjoyment. Something one must do to make oneself eligible for the official event. I think the addition of one or two tangential thematic tie ins would have put to rest any topping/filling controversy and would have endowed this puzzle with a proper $1.50 worth of enjoyment. I’ll take as compensation the page one article on secret orders allowing US forces to attack Al Qaeda anywhere as compensation for any perceived shortage.

Anonymous 1:50 PM  

The ACME podcast is very interesting, with a lot of great insight into the behind-the-scenes work of the crossword puzzle constructor. I guessed Bulgarian when she couldn't remember Nickolai's homeland. A highly recommended listen.

Anonymous 1:57 PM  

who are you and why are you so nice?! are we related? (oh wait, then you wouldn't be so nice!)
oops, I really just mean, thanks!
ANd yes, Nikolai the pathological liar, was indeed Blugarian...I feigned forgetting his homeland to protect his non-innocence and my early dotage...

@kerfluffle, greene
love the Sedaris and jigsaw jokes which I intend to appropriate.
(hmmm, is that the same spelling as appropriate?)
(Rex, how do I make sound on this blog thing?!)

Orange 2:28 PM  

Andrea, you gotta go with crazy phonetic spelling: uh-PRO-pre-ATE vs. uh-PRO-pre-it.

Orange 3:02 PM  

(I'm gonna start spelling like that all the time.)

dk 4:37 PM  

oh Andrea....just the chance to hear your voice....swooned Seldom Seen Slim (icon photo)

My family loves David Sadaris' work because we know he is writing about us.

I am going to copy and use the dunce picture, Rex thanks for the story and the photo.

WOLFS down seems more like a code word for some sort of misson or a comment about ones pet.

Easy peasy and fun puzzle

dk 4:38 PM  

I have been away: whats the news on the trashcan... still MIA

Anonymous 5:28 PM  

Funny, I did this puzzle last night, then while on the bus this morning I checked out the syndicated puzzle, which I had apparently skipped 5 weeks back (actually, I often skip the Mon/Tue puzzles).

For the record, the Seattle PI and Seattle Times both include constructor bylines.

Anyway, the theme of the syndicated puzzle was fillings for burritos! It must be Mexican Monday or something.

mac 5:29 PM  

Just an easy breazy Monday puzzle, where the "huh?" situations didn't really slow me down. Really liked the dunce cap explanation and the onion-domed log cabin, but they didn't bring me to tears....

I enjoyed hearing Andrea Carla, she's a pistol! Husband is not at home, so I'm going to listen to the clips, loudly.

mac 5:31 PM  

Hey, dk, you are right, I don't have a trashcan either. Now I really have to start previewing before publishing.....

Anonymous 5:32 PM  

Actually, now that I check JimH's calendar, I see the syndicated puzzle (at least up here) was a reprint from 2/20. Five weeks ago was the dollar bill puzzle, maybe they had some trouble printing that.

Anonymous 5:46 PM  

Yep, that was pretty easy--my second-fastest ever! Even though I did have a few stumbles, like Rex's "REGALE" for READ TO.

fikink 6:32 PM  

Well, Rex, I don't know how you do it, but FIL squealed when he saw your post of Blossom Dearie. At this rate, beware of opportunities to post Bucky Pizzarelli - you will have to open a request line!

Anonymous 7:23 PM  

@andrea carla michaels: just finished listening to your podcast. I was riveted. If I went on as I would like to, I would take brown nosing up to a whole new level on this site. And that's saying something.

I've been doing the NYT puzzle since I was 18 .. and I guess we're about the same age. The process has never been described to me so eloquently as you did to your interviewers who I think were totally outclassed by you .. they even knew it. Funny.

Why in the world, indeed, can one not publish a puzzle with HEATH, LEA, MEADOWS and FIELD? I would have been thrilled to do it but never got the chance. Being a theme person myself, I can see that I was deprived of some great solving.

Regardless, what you've done by yourself and with your collaboraters will push the envelope and make the puzzles better, hipper, more interesting and, in the end, more satisfying.

Excuse me, Rex, and everybody here, for going on so long, but I never realized before what really goes on into creating a puzzle, a "baby" really.

Andrea, it's obvious to me that your wit, imagination, determination and generosity make you a very special constructor. I look forward to your next puzzle.

Ulrich 7:53 PM  

@acme: Yes, the contest seems to be going on, but to the detriment of my chances, its focus has shifted from Rex to you: Whereas I was first once, I'm now a fellow-traveller--what can I do to catch up? Praise your mellifluous voice, the sexy undercurrents, the profound insights, the shoutout to people who don't speak English? I guess I have to concede defeat...sigh

Orange 9:05 PM  

joho, maybe Andrea addressed this in the podcast (I haven't heard it yet)—her HEATH, et al., crossword did get published in the LA Times. You already know the theme, but if you still want to solve the puzzle, send me an e-mail—I have Andrea's breezy puzzle in Across Lite and would be happy to send it along.

Michael Chibnik 9:37 PM  

well, I learned a word (phrase?) -- onion dome -- that everyone else seems to know. I wonder how I missed knowing this. Of course, I've seen a lot of onion domes...

foodie 12:18 AM  

Andrea (are you impressed I did not say Carla?), this was sooo much fun to listen to! I've been up to my ears dealing with science stuff, and it was great to be immersed for a while in the world of words.

I laughed at the talk of boyfriends who don't speak English. It reminded me of my ex brother-in-law's family-- his father was a musician and his mother was deaf. That couple seemed to get along famously.

I was on the plane the other day and there was a NYTimes puzzle in the Northwest Airlines magazine. It said: Edited by Will Shortz, but no constructor name! It really bugged me. I probably wouldn't have noticed before this blog, but it matters on so many levels--appreciating creativity and recognizing the unique talent of the constructor, guessing which day of the week it must have been, and even filing away the puzzle in my memory bank... There is not a single reason not do it.

The first time I visited Finland back in the 70's, I was struck by the fact that they had the pictures and names of designers next to various everyday items-- like drinking glasses. I loved that. I bet you they make more beautiful glasses because their names and pictures are on display. What they do to you is like taking the signature off a Chagall painting-- who does that?

As to the compensation, it's so clear to me that I get the NYTimes every day because of the puzzle. The rest, I read on line. I bet I'm not the only one. The constructors most definitely deserve a significantly greater share.

We need to find us an intellectual property lawyer who is a serious puzzler. Anyone out there?

Sorry, this was 3 posts in one!

Vega 1:17 AM  

I've fallen in love with Andrea Carla Michaels.

That's all I have to say for today.


Anonymous 1:21 AM  

After your sweet comments (I'm still blushing, first time in YEARS!) I have decided to retire from much easier than risking disappointing you!

@mac, foodie, dk, gnarbles, et al
seriously, these comments today have made me cry.

(I was embarrassed in listening to the podcast that I never let them get a word in edgewise...I'd like to blame that on the distance/sound/ confusion of being on the phone, but can't!)

Thank you for tuning in...and then actually taking the time to write!
Check out Brian/Ryan's other podcasts on Patrick B, e.g. They do them every week!

In the meantime, everyone please subscribe to Peter Gordon's Sun puzzle thru!
(Only $12.50) He needs our help!
Healthy competition = better puzzles all around! He's fought hard to get us properly paid.

still no contest... where would any of us be without Rex?!!

Waxy in Montreal 4:30 PM  

From syndicateland -

The Gazette (Montreal) to their credit always include the constuctor's byline.

CindyLou 10:04 PM  

Also from syndicateland,
The Dallas Morning News gives the constructor credit. Would be shameful not to, IMHO.

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