Saudi Arabian province / SUN 7-25-10 / Silas Marner foundling / 1940 Fonda role / WNW Grand Canary Island / Patron saint of goldsmiths

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Up Starts" — theme answers are familiar phrases in which the initial letter has been bumped one space UP the alphabet, creating wacky phrases etc.

Word of the Day: ASIR (56A: Saudi Arabian province) —

ʿAsīr (Arabic: عسير‎) is a province of Saudi Arabia located in the southwest of the country, named after the confederation of clans of the same name. It has an area of 81,000 km² and an estimated population of 1,563,000. It shares a short border with Yemen. Its capital is Abha. Other towns include Khamis Mushayt and Qal'at Bishah. The governor of the province is Faysal ibn Khalid (appointed May 16, 2007), a son of the late king of Saudi Arabia, Khalid ibn Abd al-Aziz. He replaced his cousin, Khalid al Faisal who, on the same date, was made governor of Makkah Province. (wikipedia)
• • •

I think the NYT must be suffering from a dearth of decent Sunday submissions at the moment. This one is pretty lifeless. A weak concept, infinitely reproduceable (i.e. we could come up with possible theme answers All Day Long)—and one that has Been Done, in various forms, for sure. Further, there is only one good play on words in the whole bunch of theme answers — CORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY — and even that one only made me wish that the first word were PORN and the puzzle were ... well, completely different, theme-wise. Meanwhile, quality of fill is apparently not of anyone's concern today. It's a yawnfest, with some creaky ugliness here and there. The ASIR / TENERIFE (33D: It's WNW of Grand Canary Island) area in particular reeks of a "whatever" attitude to the non-theme entries. Almost makes me think a computer filled this grid with little human oversight. EPPIE (1A: "Silas Marner" foundling) and IGER (84D: Media exec Robert) = unwelcome odd names that don't get us anything pretty. LISSOM is an odd, long variant (72D: Willowy: Var.), and ODORED is, well, ODORED alright. I just don't see anything noteworthy or remarkable here today. At All. This puzzle is a good example of why so many puzzle-lovers I know simply don't bother with Sundays—just big, not interesting.

I spoke too soon. Now and forever, I will always love FRED ROGERS (19A: PBS figure from 1968 to 2001). Put him in your grids all you want, I'll never complain.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Cause for Adam to refuse the apple? (FAST OF EDEN)
  • 28A: Precamping preparation? (TENT PACKING)
  • 35A: Christmas, for Christians? (SEASON TO BELIEVE)
  • 51A: Bountiful harvest? (DREAM OF THE CROP)
  • 67A: Independence Day barbecue serving? (CORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY)
  • 86A: Unnecessary part of a jacket? (HOOD FOR NOTHING)
  • 98A: Ultimatum from a spouse who wants nicer digs? (MOVE ME OR LEAVE ME)
  • 106A: Refusing to watch football on New Year's Day (NIXING BOWLS)
  • 119A: Nathan's annual hot-dog contest, e.g.? (EATING GAME)
  • 46A: Locale in a 1968 Beatles song (U.S.S.R.) — had -SS- and actually had to stop and think. Embarrassing. Wore out the White Album when I was in college (20 years after the White Album was released).
  • 49A: British P.M. during the creation of Israel (ATTLEE) — I'll always think of him as "that guy who, after the war, beat Churchill." Also as "that guy with the odd name I learned about from crosswords."
  • 117A: 1970s-'80s horror film franchise, with "The" ("OMEN") — I've said it before, and I'll say it again: late-70s / early-80s period had the Scariest horror films. Less gore, perhaps, but Far more terror. Everyone looks grainy and pallid and nightmarish.

[Actually, parts of this are funny, esp. Damien controlling the baboons and giraffe]

  • 122A: ___ Chaiken, creator and writer of "The L Word" (ILENE) — news to me. Normally, this answer gets [Actress Graff] as its clue, so hooray for the new.
  • 127A: Magnetic induction unit (GAUSS) — learned this word from a puzzle I did almost immediately prior to doing this one. Coincidence!
  • 11A: Self-motivational mantra ("I CAN") — I don't buy this as a "mantra." "I THINK I CAN" or "I CAN DO IT" or "DOGGONE IT PEOPLE LIKE ME," maybe. "I CAN" on repeat just makes you sound loony.

  • 16D: Patron saint of goldsmiths (ELOI) — yeah, this clue doesn't make this answer less gratingly crosswordesey. In fact, the irksomeness is only amplified.
  • 39D: Maker of the trivia-playing computer program Watson (IBM) — Watson = onetime IBM chairman, not Dr. Watson. Big name in these parts. Eponym of Binghamton University's School of Engineering.
  • 70D: 1940 Fonda role (JOAD) — as in Tom. As in "The Grapes of Wrath."

  • 114D: "On&On" singer Erykah (BADU) — Let's listen to something a little more recent and ... revealing:

And now your Tweets Of The Last Several Weeks — puzzle chatter from the Twitterverse:

  • @Johnedale Pooping with a crossword is like pizza with ranch. Once you have it, it's hard to imagine it without it.
  • @fotobug1900 Woman in car next to me is doing crossword puzzle!
  • @Nerdandahalf1 Why are Tuesday crosswords always the hardest?
  • @rosannecash I got so many emails & tweets about this- Thanks! RT @susanchamplin Congratulations on making an appearance in today's NYT crossword puzzle.
  • @mummyblogger Someone just found my blog by googling 'How to do the crossword sex'. What is crossword sex?? Sounds fun...
  • @JCGiggles In the middle of a pep talk, my mom asked: "What was the song by the village people-- something about a man?" It was for a crossword puzzle
  • @jamesmitchem Girl on the train next to me is totally cheating on her crossword puzzle. She is literally just making up words.
  • @thatgrlmichelle all these kids in my ir class are so smart..they like, read time magazine and do the nyt crossword and drink green tea and perrier. wtf.
  • @HeidiPdot I'm pretty sure Olympia Dukkakis is sitting across from me here at Starbucks on Spring Garden...I think she's doing a crossword puzzle. ;)
  • @r_wolfcastle Die Will Shortz Die for your crossword answer of a never-nominated actress in a 62-yo crap remake that also was not nominated for anything
  • @thatpuzzleguy TOLU crosses MEALIE in today's USA Today crossword. I know it's Thursday, but Christ.
  • @nuttylichee still super bummed that the answer to this crossword clue "Ruins an oboe?" is WRECKS REED instead of my original choice, BREAKS WIND.
  • @CMYKaboom Today's Lesson: AM New York's crossword is far inferior to the Metro's. I think my cat could solve it. And my cat is blind. #crosswords #nyc

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. Shortz defends JEWFRO and other allegedly "offensive" words in his puzzles.


The Bard 12:52 AM  

Merry Wives of Windsor > Act IV, scene II

MISTRESS FORD: Nay, good, sweet husband! Good gentlemen, let him not strike the old woman.

[Re-enter FALSTAFF in woman's clothes, and

MISTRESS PAGE: Come, Mother Prat ; come, give me your hand.

FORD: I'll prat her.

[Beating him]

Out of my door, you witch, you hag, you baggage, you
polecat, you runyon! out, out! I'll conjure you,
I'll fortune-tell you.


chefwen 1:55 AM  

Unlike our leader, I really liked this one. Loved all the long answers, esp. NIXING BOWLS, I use those a lot. MOVE ME OR LEAVE ME was cute too. Got all the way done and kept staring at ADHOMINEM at 80D thinking, I really have something wrong there, checked all my crosses and everything looked kosher, so I asked my husband if he had ever heard of that word. Oh yeah, it's Latin, didn't you ever study your Latin, me. no I never took Latin, Him O.K. there you go, you should have taken it.

Anyhoo, a fun puzzle finished Google free.

Skua 1:59 AM  



George NYC 2:12 AM  

The AD HOMINEM clue repeats a common misconception. It's not about attacking a person per se; rather it's discrediting an argument by undermining the arguer rather than the argument itself.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:15 AM  

Thought it was a kinda cute little puzzle.

FWIW, WATSON was the subject of an article in the Times Magazine on 6/14/10.

DataGeek 7:49 AM  

Liked it well enough. My Natick, though, was the crossing of MOA and AYLA. If it isn't ROC, I have nooooo idea about old birds. I have since learned that MOA is a real bird, whereas Roc was a mythical one. Never got into the whole Narnia thing, so AYLA was a complete mystery, and not even very inferrable.

Last Sunday in July... Where did Summer go? Enjoy!

Leslie 8:03 AM  

@DataGeek: To my embarrassment, I'm able to correct you: AYLA was the heroine of "Clan of the Cave Bear." In my mind, this book is permanently glued to memories of retiling a shower stall, which is what I was doing as I listened to the Books on Tape version.

Yeah, I'm easier to please than Rex. Thought the only really weak theme answer was DREAM OF THE CROP; loved NIXING BOWLS. Proud of myself for getting GAUSS and MONAD. LILAC is an eye shadow shade, although when girls start getting to that end of the color spectrum, I think they look like they've got pinkeye.

Oh, boy--Second Sunday is a diagramless!!

joho 8:29 AM  

Only writeover was toreRO before ELTORO.


When I look at EATINGGAME I think, what's so unusual about enjoying a piece of venison.

I liked it better than @Rex but was also happy that it was easy and therefore quick to finish.

@nuttylichee's tweet: LOL

chefbea 8:35 AM  

Got tent packing and dream of the crop and assumed the theme was words you could add up to. ie: packing up and crop up...but no couldn't make anything else work.

Was fairly easy any who. Never heard of adhominem and I took three years of latin!!!.

Glimmerglass 8:42 AM  

Clue for 86A is lame. How about "sweatshirt bonus"?

Geometricus 8:57 AM  

Totally agree with Rex. Doing this puzzle felt like marching band practice. Two fails: did not know EPPIE/PRAT (thank you, Bard, for the Shakespeare lesson) and TENERIFE/ATA. As for fugly fill, Rex forgot NGAIO.

Greene 8:58 AM  

Typical NYT Sunday as near as I can tell. Change a letter and create a mildly amusing phrase; in this case very mildly amusing.

Haven't we reached a point where we're ready to admit this theme idea just needs to be retired, or at least reserved for really funny puzzles? I'm serious. Maybe the Sunday puzzle should morph into a giant, challenging themeless or better yet, more of those structural tour de force delights that Liz Gorski routinely submits like the Guggenheim puzzle or the one with the giant martini glass.

As is so often the case, Rex's writeup was more entertaining than the actual puzzle. Really enjoyed the video clips today and the Tweets are always a delight. I want to meet the girl on the train who makes up words while solving her puzzles. Sounds like my kind of woman.

Punster 9:10 AM  

@DataGeek -- Hate to ruin a joke by over-analysis, but you seem to have missed the point of 60 D, "Bird that is no more", i.e., the bird that is "no mo - a" is the MOA!

Literalist 9:23 AM  

@Punster - or it could be simply that MOAs are extinct, i.e. are no more.

Punster 9:28 AM  

@Literalist -- It works both ways. That's what makes it a good pun!

Literalist 9:33 AM  

@Punster - First, you have to find someone who pronounces more as MO-A. Then you have to convince me the same person believes that No X = X. Then it works as a pun.

Josh 9:56 AM  

I'm in total agreement about the general pointlessness of Sunday puzzles. As puzzles grow exponentially in size as one goes from 15x to 21x, so does the potential for blah. I was bored beyond distraction last night, which prompted me to do the puzzle, and the puzzle proved me correct, as it wasn't enought of a distraction for me to bother to complete. I would much prefer two 15x puzzles, one say a Thursday, one a Saturday. Or, mabye I should simply add AADD to my list of diagnoses and quit whining.
Where I live, CORNONTHEFOURTHOFJULY sucks. Corn should only be eaten within an hour or two of being picked, picked only when just nominally ripe, steamed for 13 minutes, served with enough salt and butter to horrify your cardiolgist. Then, it's perfect. Unless you live well south of the Mason Dixon Line, corn is just not available in the required state on the Fourth of July. In the NYC Metro area, and points north, it has to be shipped in from NC. It was probably good when it went on the truck in NC, inedible when it got off the truck. Just be patient, wait until your corner farm stand has their own corn.

Cool Dude 9:58 AM  

I know you don't like getting comments of the, "I can't believe you didn't know..." ilk, but you deserve one this time.

You should know the name Gauss.

Carry on.

Van55 10:18 AM  

I liked the theme a whole lot more than RP did. FAST OF EDEN was the best of the theme answers for me.

That said, I have to agree that the fill left a great deal to be desired. When 1A is the fairly obscure EPPIE... Well I ended up getting my foothold at the bottom right and worked my way upward and to the left with the P in PRAT being my last entry.

Leon 10:25 AM  

Thank you Mr. Arbesfeld.

@Josh: In NYC the Greenmarkets all had fresh (picked that morning) local Corn as of June 26th. On July 3rd they had both white and Bi-Color ears.

JenCT 11:06 AM  

I must need new reading glasses - I kept reading 82d as "Alternative to groundhog," and I'm thinking, what's a 4-letter word for woodchuck???

Maybe too many cocktails at our big party last night...

Josh 11:33 AM  

@Leon - You have way more faith in truth in packaging than I. I've had that corn, and I've had corn I've watched picked from local fields in the same area, and we're comparing styrafoam with ambrosia here. Maybe I was just unluck, but I'm too much of a cynic to think it was merely that.
@Cool Dude - Rex didn't say he didn't know GAUSS, he stated how he knew GAUSS, specifically as a the term used as a unit of magnetic conduction. Not cool, dude.

PanamaRed 11:45 AM  

I rated this harder than most of you - took me a long time and had to ask Mr Google for help.

Got the gimmick at 119A.

Wanted GONAD at 102A, but I have seen ADHOMINEM, so that saved an embarrassing error.

Enjoyed the tweets - and I have witnessed drivers doing the crossword puzzle while on the freeway! I move away from them as quickly as possible.

Mel Ott 12:20 PM  

OK puzzle. Mildly interesting theme. Nothing great.

Hate clues like 1D and 77D.

AGELONG is not only an ugly word (if it is indeed a word), it gets nowhere near the concept of "Eternal".

Ulrich 12:26 PM  

Since I have nothing to add re. the puzzle, let me say this for the record, picking up where @George in NY left: AD HOMINEM is a two-word phrase, meaning something like "directed at the man". Example of an ad-hominem fallacy:

"Lenin said it's five of clock, but that can't be true b/c Lenin is a communist".

archaeoprof 12:35 PM  

Like @DataGeek, MOA/AYLA was a Natick for me.

And thanks to @Ulrich and others for the clarification on ADHOMINEM.

Otherwise, I agree with Rex, especially about Mr Rogers.

ArtLvr 12:39 PM  

The letter-shift's been done before, sure, but I found this quite clever. NIGEL Bruce and Basil Rathbone were my favorite portrayers of Watson and Holmes. (Did you all know that was Rathbone playing the role of love-sick Freddie in the film of My Fair Lady?)

And speaking of CORN, we're getting delicious fresh local corn in northern MI. EATING GAME was funny...

MOVE ME OR LEAVE ME was my favorite though, since we heard a rumor just last night that our neighbor immediately north of us at Crystal Lake has recently married -- and was informed by his bride that she wants a place on nearby Lake Michigan instead of this one with his bachelor-days memories! We await more news with fingers crossed and bated breath...

A perfect example of "AD HOMINEM" weaseling was then-young Wm. Buckley Jr.'s performance during a debate with Norman Thomas in the early 1960s -- Bill was hissed on his own home ground at Yale for resorting to such low tactics!


Rube 1:44 PM  

I too enjoyed this puzzle and thought the theme answers were humorous and the "one-up" trick very clever. Like our leader, thought ODORED was terrible, but most of the rest of the fill was perfectly acceptable.

Except ASIR. This is the kind of word that gives crosswords a bad name. Now c'mon, who is expected to know the provinces in Saudi Arabia, (except Saudis). This is a particularly obscure province, apparently best know for it's rainfall of 12-20 in/yr, more than any other region in Saudi Arabia, and it's mountains. I learned to accept a few pop culture names that I don't know like BADU and TALIA, and love to see old friends like NIGEL and NGAIO, but ASIR!? This shouldn't be in a puzzle with sparklers like PARKPLACE and FREDROGERS.

UKLvr 2:00 PM  

@ArtLvr-Basil Rathbone did not play Freddie in "My Fair Lady". He would have been in his 60's when the film was released in 1964and certainly too old to play the young, love-sick suitor. My dear friend Jeremy Brett played Freddie. Perhaps you are confusing them because they both played Shrtlock Holmes..

George NYC 2:13 PM  

@Josh: Touche
@Ott: You are so right
@ArtLvr: What is the quote?

Silliest argument of the day: My corn tastes better than your corn.

Steve J 2:19 PM  

Found this a bit tougher than the past few Sundays. My Naticky area was MONAD/NGAIO, and I had to do a letter run to get EPPIE/PRAT (I don't know how I'm going to get my brain to remember that PRAT is one of a seeming thousand synonyms for butt).

I liked most of the theme answers. Although, the literalist in me immediately seized on the fact that you cannot barbecue CORNONTHEFOURTHOFJULY, or any other date. (I suppose you could, but corn that's been slow-cooked via smoke - which is the original definition of "barbecue"; otherwise, it's grilling - wouldn't come out very good, I don't think.)

Definitely liked NIXINGBOWLS, FASTOFEDEN and HOODFORNOTHING. Didn't even catch that EATINGGAME was a theme answer as I was doing this, so I didn't really like that one.

Unfortunately, the non-theme fill was, as most have said, pretty uninteresting. And there's lots of stuff in there that's just plain unattractive.

Mixed bag, overall.

Sparky 2:53 PM  

I just like doing puzzles. Every day of the week. I even did the puzzle in the Continental Airlines magazine. Argh. Slow down, it's Sunday. Have another cup of coffee. As for today's, it was okay. Had to look up Oscar Winner Goldie Hawn. All I could think of was Lauren Bacall and she wasn't even in the movie. Life goes on, even witin you and without you.

Shamik 2:58 PM  

UKLvr beat me to the punch on saying Jeremy Brett...whom I've never met...played Freddie in "My Fair Lady." He was great as Holmes on the PBS "Mystery" series.

Finished this one in a shade over 14 minutes. And personally found this Sunday puzzle to be very easy, ho-hum, familiarly themed and totally up the same alley as Rex found it.

On the other hand, I am NOT in favor of changing Sunday puzzles into something they are not. For years, the Sunday NYT puzzle was the only one I did. It is possibly the only puzzle that many non-puzzle cognoscenti do and they think of it as the icon of puzzles.

There are so many excellent constructors with published and online puzzles that those who make solving crosswords a major pastime will find these gems and solve them as individual puzzles. It's also fun to comment here to quibble about whether a puzzle makes for a good Wednesday, Monday or Saturday. It's what we do. But my vote is to leave the Sunday puzzle as what it is: large, themed, accessible, yet challenging to the occasional solver. We can be that generous.

Shamik 3:00 PM  

@Steve J: Are you crazy? Open husk but leave attached. Remove cornsilks. Soak in water for 10 minutes. Tie up the corn husk around the corn. Place on grill as is until husk is charred. Grilled corn is AMAZING. (AMAZING is not in the puzzle.) Saw this method at The Place in Guilford, CT.

syndy 3:26 PM  

absolutely! best way to cook corn! @ geometricus don"t be dissing Ngaio Marsh!!! 73 down -sure thanks for rubbing that in. ad hominem was my favorite answer-sundays aren't supposed to be spectacular

foodie 3:28 PM  

I'm sitting on a plane (getting ready to take off) near puzzle husband whose last name is Watson, so nice to see this twice in the clues today! So I read to him: "Meanwhile, quality of fill is apparently not of anyone's concern today. It's a yawnfest, with some creaky ugliness here and there". It cracked him up.

Thanks for the WOD Rex. Asir means "difficult" or "demanding" and I always assumed it was an adjective for the difficulty of crossing this area.

I agree both about the rating and about the fact that while occasionally amusing, it lacked sparkle. We need sparkle for our Sundays!

Sparky 3:46 PM  

Thank you @ Shamik.

Steve J 3:54 PM  

@Shamik: Note, I clarified the difference between barbecuing and grilling in my post (they are, despite common usage, technically not the same thing).

Grilled corn is fabulous. Absolutely no disagreement there.

Barbecued corn, I would venture to guess, would not be. As previously stated, the literal and original definition of barbecuing (at least in American English) is the process of slow-cooking food using indirect heat and smoke. I could be wrong, but smoked corn does not sound good.

And, yes, I know that in common usage, people using "grilling" and "barbecuing" interchangeably. I did say this was my inner literalist picking up on this one. ;-)

jae 4:31 PM  

Medium for me as I needed a little help from my bride in the TENERIFE area. Thought the puzzle was kinda cute but nothing special. That said, I'm with Shamik on Sun. puzzles.

Anonymous 4:35 PM  

For one or two ears of corn, you can't beat microwaving. Put the ears, husks intact, into the oven for about 3 1/2 minutes for one ear, 5 to 5 1/2 for two. The husks and nearly all the silk peel off easily, and the kernels are plump, sweet and juicy. Only drawback--besides the fact that you can't do this for a crowd--is gripping the hot ear while you're shucking it. Use a good potholder mitt or secure the stem end with a corn pick.

chefbea 5:08 PM  

In today"s Parade magazine is a different way to do corn on the cob on the grill.

The way I make it is bring a pot of water to a boil. Place the shucked ears in the pot. When the water comes to a boil again take off the heat and cover the pot. Let stand for 10-15 minutes. yummmy.

joho 5:46 PM  

@shamik ... I agree with you about the Sunday puzzle. It also was the only puzzle I did for years and it holds a special place in my heart as I'm sure it does for others. Some of the best puzzles *ever* have been Sundays and also some of the most plodding. Today's was not the worst, it just didn't "sparkle," so well put by @foodie. But you know what, every single Sunday I start the puzzle, that's what I'm looking for and a lot of the time I get it.

Ulrich 6:21 PM  

@shamik, joho: Ditto w.r.t. the Sunday puzzle. It's where I discovered themed puzzles--not having anyone to share my experience with, I developed my own vocabulary (like "puzzle within the puzzle" for "theme")--rebus puzzles (took me several days to finally figure out what was going on)--and assorted rules of composition. It may be sheer nostalgia, though, when I feel that the quality of Sunday puzzles has dropped in recent years--or, maybe, it's the fact that I now have the other puzzles of the week to compare them with?

mac 6:39 PM  

I found this an easy but very decent Sunday puzzle. I have to say I'm in the "not-crazy-about-oversize-puzzles" corner. This one looks great, I don't think I had any write-overs so it is pristine.

Zeke 6:41 PM  

Nothing new to add to the puzzle conversation.
However, I thought I would share my FIL's recipe for corn:
Feed to pigs (preferably a barrow) for 6 months. Eat pig.

matt 8:47 PM  

Agree with Rex -- really didn't like this one. Terrible fill (MONAD, EPPIE, NGAIO, obscure ILENE, ALTI, AYLA, ASIR... I could go on). However, I do have to say that anyone who pays attention to any sort of business news should know who Robert IGER is. (Not to be confused with that other crossworder Robert Iler.)

chefbea 9:04 PM  

@zeke LOL

JenCT 10:05 PM  

@Zeke - do you grill the corn first???

Juicepit 11:12 PM  

Guass is unit of magnetic flux density. Henry is the unit of inductance. Inductors are measured in Henry's.

This answer is incorrect.

The operative word is magnetic 9:25 AM  


The gauss, abbreviated as G, is the cgs unit of measurement of a magnetic field B (which is also known as the "magnetic flux density", or the "magnetic induction".

•S: (n) henry, H (a unit of inductance in which an induced electromotive force of one volt is produced when the current is varied at the rate of one ampere per second)

and .. 9:27 AM  

...don't confuse induction and inductance

Timothy 1:11 PM  

A thoroughly Unitedstatesian puzzle. In the theme answers alone, we have Christianity (twice), the fourth of July, and football. Is this a crossword puzzle or an indoctrination?

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