MONDAY, Jul. 6 2009 — Wall St. whiz / Baltic sea feeder / Wavy pattern on fabric / Pattern on pinto horse / Pindaric pieces

Monday, July 6, 2009

Constructor: Fred Piscop

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: political spectrum — theme answers begin with LIBERAL, MODERATE, and CONSERVATIVE, respectively

Word of the Day: MOIRE (11D: Wavy pattern on fabric) — adj.

Having a wavy or rippled surface pattern. Used of fabric.

  1. Fabric, such as silk or rayon, finished so as to have a wavy or rippled surface pattern.
  2. A similar pattern produced on cloth by engraved rollers.

[French, from past participle of moirer, to water, from mouaire, moire, moiré fabric, probably alteration of English MOHAIR.]

I learned the word MOIRÉ from this past Friday's puzzle, though I didn't learn 'til just now that the final "E" had an accent aigu. MOIRÉ seems like a word that belongs in a Friday puzzle. Sticks out horribly in a Monday puzzle. I'm guessing the etymological connection to MOHAIR (47A: Angora goat's fleece) is not something the constructor was intending to evoke today, but the fact that both words are in the puzzle is an interesting, loopy coincidence. Still MOIRÉ feels out of place, and this whole puzzle feels slightly wonky all over. I thought I'd seen this theme before — turns out, I've just seen the (not wonderful) theme answer LIBERAL BENEFITS before, in a puzzle that focused only on the LEFT end of the political spectrum (Lynn Lempel, Feb. 18, 2008). Today's theme is unambitious and the theme answers kind of dull. MODERATE DRINKER is OK, but CONSERVATIVE TIE is weak. It's barely a thing, any more than a CONSERVATIVE SHIRT or HAIRCUT is a thing. That is, I can imagine that a CONSERVATIVE TIE is one that is less bright and wacky and Snoopy-covered than some of its counterparts, but the phrase does not feel very snappy or in-the-language. Googling CONSERVATIVE TIE gets you some tie-related sites, but not many that use the phrase "CONSERVATIVE TIE" as if it had much clout. First page of results also turns up a site with the sentence "CONSERVATIVE group tries to TIE Obama to Ayers."

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Company-paid medical and dental coverage, college tuition, etc. (LIBERAL benefits)
  • 37A: A sot he's not (MODERATE drinker)
  • 59A: Bit of attire for a business interview, maybe (CONSERVATIVE tie)

Rest of the grid just felt blah. An overall crosswordiness (AIDA and ARIA?) and a bunch of words that were valid but more common as other parts of speech. MOTTLE wants to be a verb, or, with a "D" on the end, an adjective, but it's a noun (46A: Pattern on a pinto horse). SIMP (25D: Nincompoop) wants to be the verb SIMPER. EFFUSE (10D: Pour forth) wants to be the adjective EFFUSIVE. Whole puzzle just had this slightly off feel to me. And two partials containing the word "GO?" — GO NO (ouch, hurts to write that, 42A: "This will _____ further!") and I GO (39D: "Here _____ again") — Is that even legal?


  • 20A: Controversial substance in baseball news (steroid) — again, it's valid, but as a singular, it just feels ... off.
  • 63A: Bowlful accompanying teriyaki (rice) — mmmm. Now I'm hungry (I do my write-ups before breakfast, so it doesn't take much).
  • 64A: A slave to opera? (Aida) — kind of a cute clue, insofar as slavery can be cute.
  • 66A: Pindaric pieces (odes) — klassic krosswordese (clue and answer)
  • 4D: Baltic sea feeder (Oder) — ditto ... and just one letter's difference from ODES.
  • 6D: Hard-to-find guy in children's books (Waldo) — not that hard. He's on every page.
  • 48D: Egg-shaped (ovoid) — went with OVATE at first.
  • 54D: Politico Bayh (Evan) — Senator from Indiana and onetime darling of the Democratic party. Backed the wrong horse in the last primary. Why is he intersecting CONSERVATIVE?
  • 60D: _____ Tafari (Haile Selassie) — exclaimed "D'oh!" when I got this. RAS Tafari ... RASTAFARI!
  • 61D: Beaujolais or Chablis (vin) — nothing here really signals the Frenchness of the answer, as both wine words, while undoubtedly French, are common in English.
  • 62D: Critic _____ Louise Huxtable (Ada) — as my wife said last night, I know only one lady Huxtable. Her name is CLAIRE.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. my write-up of today's L.A. Times puzzle is here.


mac 8:28 AM  

Agree with all Rex said in the write-up. Noticed exude and effuse both in the North. Good words, like guile, above-mentioned effuse, and mottle.

With the 61a wine clue, I considered "red" because there was no direction to the Frenchness. Maybe it should have said "Beaujolais ou Chablis".

jeff in chicago 8:30 AM  


Peter S. 8:35 AM  

Always learning, I never knew that MOIRÉ patterns occurred in textiles. Those wavy interference patterns are something I only know from printing and scanning -- like when you get odd patterns from a poor scan of a photo or a comic book.

Aside from that, I too found it a tricky Monday, mainly from words/clues that seem a bit out-of-the-ordinary. PLY didn't come easy, because I was thinking of organic (not bathroom "tissue layer"). And, as Rex notes, who uses the MOTTLE like that? ("That's quite a mottle on that pony! It looks just like a MOIRÉ pattern!") And the source of MOHAIR seems a bit specialized.

Even "a slave to opera" (AIDA) seemed a bit undeserved as a clue -- but maybe I just hate opera.

I also goofed myself up by too quickly putting in DIET for LITE (matching the MOHAIR cross) and FOOL for SIMP.

Then again, I did like finding out that the Monopoly rules really did call those "property cards" (my term) DEEDs.

joho 8:36 AM  

I loved "DO I look like a minder reader?" Not so much the puzzle. And @rex, it also made me hungry. HENCE I'm off to eat some MELON balls.

DanaJ 8:42 AM  

Thanks RP, for the definition of MOIRE and for the pic of those hairy blue shorts (must be very itchy).

Hungry Mother 8:51 AM  

As my third puzzle today, it seemed pretty easy.

PIX 9:04 AM  

MOIRE, ADA Huxtable, NERO Wolfe...needed more brain cells than usual for a Monday...

HudsonHawk 9:19 AM  

Agree with Rex and other commenters. This felt sloppy. In addition to the GO NO and I GO mess, we had TAN for 9D and "TANning lotion abbr." as the clue for 34A. Meh, indeed.

@mac, I thought about RED for 61D, but Chablis is a white wine, so figured it must be VIN.

Anonymous 9:23 AM  

Can someone please explain 7D? ARB for wall st whiz, do I need more coffee? What am I missing?

Norm 9:29 AM  


Anonymous 9:33 AM  

MIT Career Development Office
Dress for Success

"Neckties – Ties can definitely make a statement about who you are. If who you are includes a Bugs Bunny tie, then develop an alter ego for the interview. Conservative silk ties are best."

Legitimate answer, methinks.

Charles Bogle 9:33 AM  

Agree in part w Rex and everybody--some seemed blah/sloppy; some seemed unusually tricky...bottom-line--didn't leave me smiling in any way

MODERATE DRINKER for "a sot he's not?"

If the past two years of economic chaos have taught us anything, hasn't the paper of record learned that an ARB isn't (necessarily) a "Wall ST whiz"?

Did like RASTA

Rex, whose "mug shot" w the CONSERVATIVE TIE is that...looks a little like Cheney...

Rex Parker 9:37 AM  

Anonymous, methinks that quot. does not have the phrase "CONSERVATIVE TIE" in it. No one said a tie couldn't be conservative. Most anything *can* be conservative.

And ARB = arbitrageur


Jim Weed 9:42 AM  

"conservative tie" is a familiar phrase to me. whether it's familiar or not, i agree with rp. zzzzzz. write up feels spot on. MOHAIR and MOIRE were out of place.

retired_chemist 9:46 AM  

Liked it. Thank you, Mr. Piscop. Got the theme from fragments of the first two theme answers and, for the third, with no crosses, confidently wrote in CONSERVATIVE SUI… WTF! - easily fixed.

Agree with mac - re a nit to pick @ 61D – if the answer is French, shouldn’t the clue be Beaujolais ou Chablis?

PlantieBea 9:47 AM  

Interesting Mohair shorts and connection with MOIRE--didn't know there was an accent mark involved...

The puzzle was pretty easy for me. My husband and I have been enjoying Nero Wolfe episodes on DVD and reading a bit of Rex Stout, so NERO snapped into place right away. I guess I don't think about paint horses being mottled so much as splotched. My one false start came with "here I AM again" rather than I GO.

@ Rex: The "post a comment" link is not up today. Had to get in by clicking on the puzzle title hot link.

XMAN 10:05 AM  

@Rex: Re "GO": "If the President says it's legal, then it's legal." Ours is not a confederation bound by laws but a band held together by common interest and...well...something akin to whimsy.

Denise 10:14 AM  

An easy puzzle that I got to late last night -- a relaxing end to a long and busy weekend with all the family.

I wondered about "go" -- I never saw that before, same word twice.

Those mohair hot pants are the BEST!!

mac 10:23 AM  

@Hudson Hawk: I think there are red Chablis. I've been googling, but don't have time now to really go into it. Isn't Chablis the region? Not too far from Beaune?

Those hairy pants!

John 10:24 AM  

Those shorts look they were made out of shag carpeting! I've always associated mohair with those very uncomfortable sofas in the 1920's in the Empire style.

I found the puzzle to be a easy smooth solve?!

Ulrich 10:32 AM  

Since I don't have anything to add to the puzzle discussion, a comment about Ada Louise Huxtable, who's not exactly a household word, it seems: She was an architectural critic whom I respected--unlike her successors at the NYT (the current one not included), she was not beholden to a specific school of thinking, was no member of an insider clique, and did not use her column to propagate the respective party line. As a result, you could not predict at the outset what she was going to say, and that made her worth reading.

And I agree: What a hot pair of pants!

JannieB 10:57 AM  

I usually enjoy Fred Piscop's puzzles - today I was surprised to see his name on the by-line. His themed bonus puzzles are much more lively. This one was disappointing, but one of my few sub-five minute solving times. Go figure.

obertb 11:01 AM  

Re 61D, Beaujolais and Chablis are French place-names for the wines made there, NOT the name of the grape from which the wine is made, so you're drinking either, you're necessarily drinking French wine. This despite the fact that some less-than-honest American wineries will use French place-names for their wines--Burgundy and Champagne are other examples.

Noam D. Elkies 11:11 AM  

I guess the advantage of solving such a puzzle using only the Downs(*) is that I don't see half the clues ;-) I was a bit surprised that 42A:GONO turned out to be right; has that partial appeared before?

(*) Well, almost solving: I fixed DIET to 45D:LITE, but didn't know 46:MIMI/MOTTLE from just the Down clue — I wish they gave an opera clue there too. About 46A:MOTTLE, says the noun is the original form ("probably back-formation from motley"), and the more familiar adjective "mottled" is derived from it.

59A:CONSERVATIVE TIE feels about as OK to me as the other theme entries. With CONSERVATIVE gobbling up 12 letters the constructor didn't have much choice, at least assuming the standard 15x15 grid. BTW If you want to look up a phrase like "conservative tie" on Google, rather than just pages that link the two words, enclose the phrase in quotes so Google treats the search term as a single unit.


Crosscan 11:12 AM  


HudsonHawk 11:25 AM  

@mac, some Burgundy regions produce red (pinot noir and gamay) and white (chardonnay) grapes, but only chardonnay is planted in Chablis.

Beaune is south of Dijon, while Chablis is to the northwest, but they're not too far apart (about 100 miles). Here's what Hugh Johnson's Modern Encylopedia of Wine says:

"It was the merchants of Beaune who made Chablis famous. In the simple old days when Beaune, being a nice easy name to remember, meant red burgundy, Chablis meant white. The name was picked up and echoed around the wine-growing world as a synonym for dry white wine. In California, it still is."

Clark 11:26 AM  

I want to defend VIN, respectfully, from @mac and r_c and Rex, though Rex qualifies his comment ("nothing here really signals the Frenchness of the answer"). While 'Beaujolais' and 'Chablis' may be common in English, they are still obviously enough French words. It seems like that should be enough to put me on notice that the answer just might be in French.

Stan 11:43 AM  

I liked all the M's in this one (smooth). The MOHAIR / MOIRE connection in Rex's comments was the surprise of the day.

fikink 11:49 AM  

ARBitrage: the simultaneous buying and selling of securities, currency, or commodities in different markets or in derivative forms in order to take advantage of differing prices for the same asset.

I second Mac, GUILE is a great word. Nice to see it.

Anonymous 12:12 PM  

Anyone who's been on an interview in the business world knows what a conservative tie is. Great puzzle Fred.

"she's got a mohair suit, electric boots; you know I read it in a magazine...

mac 12:23 PM  

@HudsonHawk: you're right, Chablis is typically a white wine. I did find some red ones online, but the name is probably used inaccurately, just like Champagne.
I do stick with the suggestion to use "ou" instead of or to require the French "vin".

ArtLvr 12:40 PM  

Since we'd seen MOIRE so recently, (no accent on the capital letter), I guessed that the word of the day would be RAS Tafari...

Other than that, not much here in the way of surprises -- but thanks to Ulrich for extra notes on ADA Louise Huxtable!


Anne 12:45 PM  

I want to start timing myself and I'm beginning by doing the puzzle as quickly as I can without too much thought about anything. It makes for a very different experience. I know I've said this before and it's the last time I'll say it. I'm just venting. And seeing moire the other day helped my time.

still_learnin 1:23 PM  

After Friday and Saturday I was starting to think I was a SIMP, but today I didn't need to use my MELON much and EXITed fairly quickly (for me). HENCE, IGO into Tuesday EXUDE-ing confidence that I won't ERR as i PLY my GUILE towards ever-greater crossword DEEDs, ready to SNAG a personal best... or not.

archaeoprof 1:39 PM  

I agree. OK puzzle, but strangely lifeless.

Again this Monday, I miss ACME.

retired_chemist 1:45 PM  

I remain with mac - ou would have been preferable. Not that "or" was much of a slowdown.......

Chacun à son ou.....

Jim in Chicago 1:46 PM  

I always find it interesting when a modern usage completely overtakes a very old traditional one. Today the word is Moire, which is now used to refer to the wavy patterns you get when scanning.

The word actually goes back to at least 1660, when Pepys is quoted as saying "We bought some greene watered Moyre for a morning wastecoate".

foodie 1:51 PM  

I dunno, I liked it and found it quite easy. And I enjoyed seeing GONO in the middle, sort of a counterpoint to NOGO that we've seen of late. I liked many of the words pointed out.

I'm OK with STEROID being singular even though I understand that athletes are generally said to be on steroids in the plural. I imagine this is because in the olden days steroids were extracted and it was hard to separate one from the other. Now that people take synthetic forms, an athlete can take say Androstenedione, a particular anabolic steroid.

Whenever I hear of someone named Moira, I imagine her dressed in purple MOIRE...Beyond the sound, there is something about Moira meaning someone who assigns fate and the wavy look of MOIRE that go together well..

Rex, I'm old enough to have lived through the "Hot Pants" era. This puts a whole different spin on it.

Anonymous 2:41 PM  

It's fitting that EVAN Bayh is crossing CONSERVATIVE. He was never the "onetime darling of the Democratic party." He was the darling of a certain segment of the political class that thinks Democrats ought to act like Republicans, but just not be as nutty.

Tree 6:25 PM  

oof, because I can't count I did a good job of fitting "undecidedrinker" in place of "moderatedrinker". I didn't notice until I had three letters left to fill.

edith b 6:45 PM  

Several years ago, my husband's firm got into it with their younger associates over the issue of "conservative ties." The firm thought that neckties with hula dancers on them were not suitable attire for people who handled money for clients. The younger associates persuaded my husband to wear a psychedelic tie in solidarity with them and a good time was had by all.

As rex pointed out, this puzzle was slightly wonky with a bad mixture of simple and Friday level clues. This one must have had new solvers scratching their heads.

foodie 7:14 PM  

I wonder what Sanfranman's assessment will show. In scanning the numbers, I think that Rex's rating of Medium is spot on. If anything, I think the numbers will be slightly faster than the last few weeks, but within the noise..Or may be not: )

But I don't know how well the 800 people who solve on line represent the general solvers of the puzzle. The fact that the entire group can average a little over 6 minutes for a Monday probably says that most of them are pretty experienced. So, as @edith b suggests, there might be some head scratching...

Norm 7:22 PM  

Rex: "And ARB = arbitrageur"

Doh! I knew that. Obviously hadn't had enough coffee yet and was riffing off the last case I worked one. My apologies to Anonymous@9:23

andrea go know michaels 8:54 PM  

Thank you for the shout out of the day:

Thank you very much... but it seems hopeless of late. Not to get too bitter, but I do feel if I had submitted this it would have come back with exactly Rex's commentary...not exciting enough, too much crosswordese, half the words only one letter different: AIDE/AIDA/crossing with ADA, ODES/ODER, IGO/GONO!!?! Many clues/words not Monday-enough, etc.
So I can only assume I'm still a bit of a persona(e) non grata(e), tho a bit afraid to say so so publicly, but what the hell!

(Makes me wonder why the only people defending this puzzle or complimenting Fred are anonymous! But Fred IS a great guy, normally fabulous constructor, and super close to Will plus no longer has his Wash Post gig so prob has a million puzzles to funnel elsewhere, now the NYT)

(That said, I have two in the pipeline, but both collaborations later in the week, so maybe I'm not total box-office poison...till this post!)

What I learned today:
Never knew what a MACRO was...only vaguely remember AIDA was a slave (I liked that clue a lot) and the whole accent thing for MOIRE.

Private tangent of the day:
I was weirded out by the very first clue. Melon balls are they cut? Can you cut something to make it round? Or are they scooped? Or formed somehow??
Just the phrase "cut into balls" seemed leg-crossing worthy and I'm not even a guy!

Scrabble lesson of the day:
VIN is no longer good in Scrabble. "They" took it out, deciding too foreign...but VINO is ok! GO KNOW!

Bleed-over word of the day:
from Orangebach's Sunday puzzle: HENCE

JannieB 9:07 PM  

@Andrea - there is indeed a device called a melon baller - it looks like a very small ice cream scoop.

And Mondays arent't the same without you!

chris 9:33 PM  

On my old Mac LCII back in the day, there was a screen saver called moire that, if I recall correctly, was a bunch of wavy lines that would change colors and undulate and stuff. My first response to seeing it was, "Oh, THAT'S a moire!"

Ulrich 9:54 PM  

@acme: Your intuition about Aida is really on: She was a princess from down south (egyptically speaking) and became a slave only when she was captured. Radames (aka Placido Domingo) would've never fallen in love with a mere "slave".

fergus 10:27 PM  

Lots of funny little errors today.

Guile for Guise, Skin for Skit.

There's some correspondence there, which others teased out, I'm sure, since I didn't read through as I normally would.

Why I chose Conservative Lie (sic) for the stated Liberal Benefits, came from reading an Atlantic article (dated 01-09) last night about the senior NY Senator, and his reclassification, as it were, of the middle classes. I won't get into the argument, but it did rest on a data reinterpretation that made a fair amount of sense.

I know there's no truck with political advocacy chez Rex, but when the puzzle itself insinuates a political consideration, I'm not averse in response.

sanfranman59 11:06 PM  

This week's numbers ... the numbers in parentheses are the number of solvers.

Mon (all) 6:38 (879) prev 4 week avg: 6:51 (898)
Mon (Top 100) 3:24 prev 4 week avg: 3:43

Today's puzzle was apparently on the easy side for a Monday. The 3:24 median for the top 100 solvers is the fastest time in the 5 weeks I've been tracking the numbers (although two weeks ago, the median time was 3:25). The 6:38 median for all solvers is quite a bit behind the median from two weeks ago (6:16).

fergus 11:10 PM  

Data Alert:

A significant portion of solvers, who do it on paper, is missing from the data. Lest we get too accurate in our analysis, let's not elide the dinosaurs. Many pen and paper types, who may be in the top 100, or they may not, should be part of the sample.

sanfranman59 11:33 PM  

Absolutely, Fergus ... the sample is only representative of people who solve the puzzle online. But I think the numbers can be useful for gauging the relative difficulty of a puzzle. I also find them useful for evaluating my own solve times.

fergus 1:31 AM  

With no way of knowing, I might presume there are a few that rip through, and the rest that follow your almost normal distribution.


(The chi-squared distribution, by chance, is showing up lately. What is one to make of that?)

fergus 2:01 AM  

.. yet the consistent analysis of a chosen constant and its variant is the only way to come to grips with things, as dull as this conclusion may be.

Denis20100 1:31 AM  

Should it have been "wall street wiz"? I thought one goes for a whiz or takes a whiz. Wasn't sure if there was a play on words with that clue.

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