Undersize keyboard / FRI 7-30-10 / Rare equine hybrid / User record-keeping device quipu / Sage exiled planet Dagobah / Amanti maker

Friday, July 30, 2010

Constructor: Kevin G. Der

Relative difficulty: Medium?

THEME: none

Word of the Day: HINNY (41A: Rare equine hybrid) —

A hinny is a domestic equine hybrid that is the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey (called a jenny). It is similar to the more common mule, which is the product of a female horse and a male donkey.
• • •

Was on phone with my sister (working out vacation details / gossiping) while solving this puzzle, so I don't know exactly how hard it is. Felt pretty Easy, but initial times at the NYT puzzle site seem more Medium. As is typical for a Friday, I had a few moments of "huh?" followed by a slowish hacking away at a small portion of the grid, and then bam: openness. Here's what my grid looked like after the first few minutes:

I've gotten more and more fascinated by *how* people solve—that is, the route by which they get from blank to done. Just watching the finals at the ACPT, where only three people's work is visible, you can see the incredibly different paths different minds take. Combination of special knowledge and luck (i.e. the luck of getting just the right crosses that will let you see a word you couldn't see before).

What's weird to me is how often my initial guess is correct for certain answers. Like today, I wanted SMASH UP right away at 1D: Bad traffic accident, but wouldn't commit to it. Ditto HIVED, which seems like a made-up word and yet is the word I immediately wanted (21A: Joined the swarm). It's tough when you want an answer but can't get any of the crosses to confirm its rightness. Today, my start was pretty pedestrian and cruddy—wrote in the -ED suffix at 21A and then the RE- prefix at 26A: Convened anew. Then put the "T" at the end of that answer because I knew it was either RESAT or REMET. DREARY came easily from there (22D: Overcast), as did ERRS (27D: Goes off). Got THANE with no crosses (30D: Ross, Lennox or Angus, in Shakespeare), and then PESTERER became the ugly-but-unavoidable solution to 29A: Nag. As you can see from the partial grid above, I was able to stake a cross right in the heart of the grid early on, which was a big help in breaking the puzzle open. HARD CLAMS was easy off the "HAR-" (32A: Quahogs), and then off only the "-ARC" I got GREEN ARCHITECTS (8D: Ones concerned with sustainable design). After that, I was able to move methodically through the rest of the puzzle—those stacks of 15 aren't that hard to blow up if you can get a few crosses through them.

The only trouble came at the very end, in the SW, which seemed to me the very hardest portion of the grid. I had two answers I didn't know crossing two answers I didn't know! Oy. Thankfully, I was able to infer ENFANTS (36D: "Jeux d'___" (42-Across [BIZET] keyboard work)) and PIANINO (35D: Undersize keyboard). "F" from ENFANTS made RAFE a virtual certainty (44A: ___ McCawley, Ben Affleck's role in "Pearl Harbor"), but I had to run the alphabet to see the last letter—the "H" in HINNY / SHRIVEL (kicked myself for not seeing SHRIVEL with S-RIVEL in place, ugh). HINNY made me laugh as just tonight, at the dinner table, I told my family something I learned via Katie Hamill on Facebook—that a rare zebra/donkey hybrid was recently born (in GA), and it is called a ZEDONK! Best Animal Name Ever. No wait ... I'm sorry, correction. The best animal name is HONEY BADGER. HONEY BADGER is the best. I apologize for any offense I might have given any HONEY BADGERs out there. Again, that's HONEY BADGER 1, ZEDONK 2.

  • 1A: Christmas trifle (STOCKING STUFFER) — great answer. My favorite thing in the grid, right after LAZY SLOB, which is virtually unbeatable (33D: Epithet for an annoying roommate).
  • 24A: Actress Edelstein of TV's "House" (LISA) — Do *not* understand popularity of this show. *Do* understand popularity of Hugh Laurie, though. So maybe sentence 2 takes care of sentence 1.
  • 34A: Potential game stoppers (SPEARS) — G-r-r-eat clue. Took me a long time to get it, and the surprising answer was totally worth the wait.
  • 6D: User of a record-keeping device called a quipu (INCA) — had the last "A" and honestly considered "PARA" (as in "PARAlegal").
  • 11D: Japanese salad plants (UDOS) — no idea how I know this; I just do. UDON, UDO, same cuisine.
  • 47D: Masur's New York Philharmonic predecessor (MEHTA) — As conductors go, he is kind of a big deal. Got him off the "M." Zubin! There's a name I could stand to see more of.
  • 50D: Sage exiled on the planet Dagobah (YODA) — someday I want to compile every YODA and EWOK and ENDOR and other "Star Wars" answers; I'm pretty sure I could come close to reconstructing the plots of at least the first (last) three "Star Wars" movies just from crossword clues alone.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


SethG 12:37 AM  

SW definitely hardest for me. I blame ENTER INTO DETAIL. I had xxxx INTO DETAIL early. It took me 20 minutes in that section to believe ENTER. Go. You go into detail. Seriously.

It'd have been faster if I had any idea at all what a THANE was. Without knowing that, HINNY (I wanted ZORSE. A lot.), RAFE, or any of the downs, that's a really tough section.

Nice looking grid, though.

Tobias Duncan 1:14 AM  

Wow my puzzles never start like yours. Very first thing to go in was STOCKINGSTUFFER followed by GREENARCHITECTS. Since I am not really a solid friday at all, I figured I was making a breakthrough and this puzzle would be my turning point.But after a few more gimmies like taser and octaves , I was back to my normal Friday DNF slog. To dang much French for a New Mexican and while I love Bizet on Performance Today , I never remember the names of pieces of classical music.
Oh well, even taking on a Friday is fairly new for me so I guess I cant complain.

chefwen 2:47 AM  

It took two of us to unravel this and we still ended up with a couple of errors.

REmeT at 26A instead of RESAT did not help at all, BUTaNE before BUTENE, atrophy before SHRIVEL really threw a big 'ol monkey wrench into the solve but we slogged through it all and came out O.K., not great, but close enough for "I can't do Fridays" moi.

andrea caro michaels 3:48 AM  

funny you should mention "unRaVEL" that's what I wanted for SHRIVEL.

ZORSE!!!!!! You so funny. Between that and Rex's hysterical writeup...and the picture of the Zedonk!
Why isn't Horse + Donkey = Honkey? (esp if it's all white) HINNY...I thought that was the sound it made (or is that Whinny?) or at least Hinkey...something!
(all to say I wanted liger!)

I just got SPEARS NOW. That area is a mess, but the rest was pristine and easy-ish.

Did not know CAELIAN. Wanted CApitola till I ran out of spaces.

Anyway, I've missed Kevin of few black spaces.

Those stacks of 3 15s are amazing...but woefully non-Scrabbly 'cept that fabulous LAZYSLOB/BIZET crossing.

Oh, and my usual one mistake: I decided they were HARtCLAMS and that NECROSEt was a word!

And I would have bet dollars to donuts (drachmas to donuts?)
Kyrie ELEISON was spelled "i before e".

Love you, miss you! But did you make up PIANINO? It gave me HIVED.

r.alphbunker 4:05 AM  

Wouldn't it be great to have a crossword puzzle program that would record all your keystrokes as you were solving the puzzle and then let you play them back? If I had used such software on this puzzle, the resulting movie would have had a promising start (hinny, thane, caro, hard clams, all gifts from a crossword puzzle god)and then a lull in activity (the software really would need a fast forward capability) concluding with a frenzy of activity following an increase of confidence brought about by seeing "green architect".

RP's blog would really be enhanced if it could show movies of his solutions.

The Bard 7:47 AM  

Macbeth: Act 5, Scene 4

[Drum and colours. Enter MALCOLM, SIWARD and YOUNG SIWARD, MACDUFF, MENTEITH, CAITHNESS, ANGUS, LENNOX, ROSS, and Soldiers, marching]

joho 8:16 AM  

@SethG ... a ZORSE, of course! First thought was jenny but knew that wasn't right, it HAD to be part zebra, right?

PIANINO isn't in my dictionary. I must need a new one.

I was awed by the grid at first glance but managed most. I had to Google ENFANTS to finish that corner so I could get on with my day.

Nice Friday, Kevin Der!

Oh, my word today is natike ... very apt word to describe the whole SW Natick Town Square!

JenCT 8:35 AM  

Just wouldn't give up on NECROTIC (instead of NECROSED, which threw me.

Ah, DNF for me - I guess I was too intimidated by all the white squares.

Leslie 8:47 AM  

@JenCT--Yep, I was sure it was "necrotic," until it couldn't be. Before that, and before STOCKING STUFFER, I was trying to stuff "gangrened" in there instead.

@Tobias: I, too, got STOCKING STUFFER and GREEN ARCHITECT fairly quickly, and thought I was doing well.

If the Derminator had wanted to, he could have thrown down a "be a victim of Bernie Madoff, say" clue for 56A.

My word today is "cablinge:" Glitteringly expensive cole slaw ingredient.

dk 9:05 AM  

Excuse me:

TAURINE - how you serve soup
HINNY - where a bad dk gets swatted

and what is wrong with ExplaiNINDETAIL.

Sailed through the top half. But the HINNY part - geez louise. My excuses:

Now that I am sixty I cannot write the word SHRIVEL. Given that I am mentally 12 I cannot stop laughing once I write DUTY.

**** (4 Stars) A great Friday the transcontinental fill is vintage Der (just trying to make Kevin feel old).

@sethg, Rex may be vacationing in MN let us not tell him we live here.

nanpilla 9:07 AM  

Put in stocking stuffer right off the bat, and never looked back from there. Had to be BUTENE, because butane has 10 hydrogens.

Had NECROtic first also.

@r.alphbunker : cool idea- mine would definitely make you dizzy-
I'm a scattershot filler.

Off to Boston for the weekend-any good restaurant ideas in the harbor area anyone?

Elisa 9:11 AM  

The ZEDONK is cuter than the HONEY BADGER for sure. Looks like he is wearing striped socks. Adorable.

Zeke 9:23 AM  

A glance at the grid, then a glance at the constructor scared the hell out of me initially. NECROTIC leapt out at me, as it would anyone who has twice read their horse's post surgery report where the vet said they recessed 20 feet of NECROTIC small intestines. NECROTIC/GREEN_??/SEPTET was enough to get started in the heartland, then the entire upper half. HIVED was difficult to enter, because once bees are at a hive they're not a swarm anymore, but it's Friday and concessions must be made to the grid.
I stared at an empty California for ages, wondering of all valid words had left to seek employment in areas with a functional economy. I actually know HINNY but was looking for ZORSE/ZEDONK or something truly rare. A HINNY is undesireable, so rare, but I was stuck on exotic. SPEAR occurred to me, but I just couldn't enter it. I guess it's ok, because people SPEAR fish, and it's ok to kill wild fish but not wild bunnies.
Ultimately, a satisfying DNF

joho 9:26 AM  

Pia Zedonky is a star on the "Animal Planet."

Bob Kerfuffle 10:09 AM  

Hey, just the other day we (at least I and one other poster) were reading "Stocking stocker" as STOCKING STUFFER, and today the latter shows up in the grid!

Just two write-overs, fell for NECROTIC and BUTANE as others did.

Good puzzle overall, maybe learned CAELIAN, if I remember it!

chefbea 10:19 AM  

Tough puzzle. Had to google a lot and still DNF.

Why is total=come to???

@nanpilla I ate at Legal Seafood many moons ago and it was great. I assume it is still there.

Jo 10:28 AM  

Interesting solving process for me. I got going with difficulty, but had some fill that made IAN the logical finish for Rome's hill. So I googled and put in CAELIAN which broke the whole thing open and it was all downhill from there. I got it done before my workout which is always satisfactory. Reading through this blog made me finally wake up to SPEARS which until then was a mystery. I knew HINNY vaguely and PIANINO is not in my dictionary either so some issues there but all came out well in the end.

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

This was an interesting solve for me. I filled in 1A immediately, and began working on NW, and then moved to the other downs running off 1A, including 8D. I'm not sure how it happened, but once I replaced the ending of NECROTIC with the correct one, the top of the puzzle was done in just a few minutes.

South, however, was an entirely different animal for me, and I struggled mightily before I folded my paper, sighed, and decided to come here and see the errors of my ways.

Could any one explain 23A ONER?

jesser 10:30 AM  

This puzzle kicked my posterior.

Store! (really? That's it?) -- jesser

Sparky 10:31 AM  

All that white space put me into shock. First thought was sugar plums for 1A but not long enough. Moved onto filling in an occasional s. 20A FIT fit. Kept on plugging. Had gINNY and finally had to look it up. Not in dictionary, wrong first letter. Had to Google, alas. SPEARS didn't make any sense to me but now it's explained I get it. Also expected Dave. RAFE (?) American for Ralph. Had BUTaNE. Anyway, square by square filled in. Kind of a slog but very satisfying when finished, even with help.
I am puzzled. My comments drop down has no Atavars. The other day, using another computer, there were very nice pictures in the little boxes. Why is that? I am often in a fog with the comuter. Sorry.
Looking forward to Saturday and hope you are, too.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:35 AM  

@chefbea - "When I ate at Legal Seafood, the bill totaled more than $100." "When I ate at Legal Seafood, the bill came to more than $100."

@tptsteve - ONER is crosswordese for something stunning, a knockout, etc. I'll guess from "One of a kind."

Jim in Chicago 10:49 AM  

I got off to a great start by immediately putting in STOCKINGSTUFFERS and then also taking a guess at AUTOACCESSORIES. Those two let me fill in the entire top have in about a nanosecond. But then, like Rex, I slowed to a halt in the SW. I think "medium" is about right if you balance out the easy top with the much harder bottom.

dk 10:49 AM  


Union Oyster House
Casa Maria in the North End with a cannoli from Michael's for desert.
Les Zygomates in South Station.
The Elephant Walk on Commonwealth

Legal Seafood is always good, the above are good and unique.

Ulrich 10:55 AM  

After the usual panic attack caused by a wide-open grid, I did not have to struggle too much to solve the top half, but the bottom only opened after non-puzzle wife gave me HAVE after I spotted her A COW--never heard that phrase. Resisted GREEN ARCHITECTS for too long b/c it looked too easy for a Friday (I never trust my first guesses late in the week--bad habit). She then spotted me VINTAGE after I gave her CLOTHING, and after that, things ended successfully. So, I guess it was a team solve (the captcha "colab" confirms this!)--on the upside, no googling involved. And the overall solving pattern resembled that of rain slowly running down a window pane

SPEAR, I suppose, in this context, is an illegal move in football, right? Now THAT is mean late-week cluing!

Zach 10:56 AM  

My only hope is that little guy learns to head butt, and they name him Zinedine Zedonk.

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

My morning fog kept me from adding that I find it hugely annoying, and impossible to remember, that ONER and onerous have entirely are in no way related, and have diametrically opposite meanings.
For all those who can't seem to find PIANINO in your dictionary, it's probably because your dictionary isn't an Italian dictionary.

Zach 10:58 AM  

@Ulrich: I'm pretty sure it means game, as in animals hunted for food. Spear being what you'd hunt with, stopping the game.

mitchs 11:03 AM  

I took SPEAR to be the weapon that stops game, as in hunting. I also got started on DREARY - then the top fell pretty quickly.

But the unusual (irritating?) part of this solve was looooong time it took to fill in the SW, even after the SE had revealed over half of each answer!

Rex Parker 11:23 AM  

SPEARS = hunts game. With a spear. Yes.


Play it, Sam 11:25 AM  

@Anon 10:57a


PIANINO: German term for small upright piano.

Wiki redirects to PIANO, but doesn't define as such.


son of dad 11:26 AM  

There are some puzzles that have one mind-bogglingly dumb 15-letter answer that should disqualify the puzzle entirely. Enter into detail is a phrase that no one uses or has used, ever. It's simply a made-up phrase that happens to span the whole grid. Were I King of Crossworld/NYT crossword editor, I wouldn't allow this kind of stuff. I don't get how Shortz tolerates it. (I should say that I usually enjoy KGD puzzles, and most puzzles by math/science nerds. This one was an exception, though.)

In case anyone was curious, I remembered from high school English that Macbeth was Thane of Cawdor. That helped with the thane answer. Go me.

Two Ponies 11:28 AM  

Top half was fine.
Like @Bob Kerfuffle I remembered stocking stuffer as a misread clue (yesterday?) and was surprised to see it today.
Necrotic seemed much more in the language for the medical community but necrosed is a close second.
I could not let go of trying to make green engineers fit.
I don't like to think of spearing anything except an olive for my martini so that one never entered my mind.
I'm supposed to know the chemical formula for a substance I've never heard of?
Rafe? Not a clue. Was there a Rafe in Oklahoma? Did not see Pearl Harbor.
Top half good, bottom half epic fail.

Rex Parker 11:31 AM  

Thought ENTER INTO DETAIL was odd/old-fashioned, but reasonable. Then I googled it (in quot. marks) and this site was on the first page of hits. Weird.

chefbea 11:37 AM  

@Bob Kerfuffle doh. thanks for the explanation

chris 11:47 AM  

@two ponies: Chemical formulas for hydrocarbons are actually pretty easy if you know the formula* (haha):

Prefixes for # of C:
1 - meth-
2 - eth-
3 - prop-
4 - but-
Then the rest are pretty standard numerical prefixes.

Suffixes for # of H:
2C+2 - -ane
2C - -ene
2C-2 - -yne
C is the number of carbons.

So C4H8 = butene, C4H10 = butane, C4H6 = butyne.

*Formula doesn't really hold for all cases since there are complications that aren't worth going into, but it's probably good enough for crosswords.

mac 11:48 AM  

Same here: easy top half, real trouble in the SW. It was a real Friday for me, I'm happy.

ArtLvr 12:10 PM  

One of my fastest Fridays ever! For some reason I'd been thinking of equine hybids like HINNY last night, possibly for a puzzle -- was there some ESP going on? Loved @ sethg's Zorse of course: a great Seuss use. Also agree with @ Elisa that the Zedonk foal's striped STOCKINGs are adorable, and thanks to Rex for the pic.

@ Zeke, I believe the vet did a resection of your horse's NECROSED intestine, not a recession. I had one myself after an auto SMASH UP: it saved my life, but involved only about 20 inches at most, not 20 feet! And whoever thought of "atrophy" for SHRIVEL, that's a great word even if a no-go!

Unlike Rex I'm nearly always a chicken when starting a puzzle with those longest-possible answers, even if the 1A looks completely obvious. I have to check some shorter words first. Here I'd finished the whole bottom half, starting with gimmes MEHTA and OMEGA, before returning to the top.

The clue "Walnut e.g." for COLOR struck me as a hoot, but I put in the correct answer right away, not sure why. I also appreciated TAURINE for "bullish", and the Greek ELEISON. (I speak only about seven Greek words, like "a drink of water, please, thank you".) Like @ Andrea, I saw the SPEARS for game-stopper connection only after the completing the puzzle. I still don't know why 54D TEL "might appear above e-mail"???

Now to review the Seven Hills of Rome, maybe! As @ Jo noted, it was all downhill after the CAELIAN.


captcha: subju -- short for sub judica?

Dough 12:15 PM  

Nice, humorous write-up today. I, like many others here today, started by filling in 1-A. Not usual for me where oftentimes 1-A comes much later on. Nice gift. Then moved pretty much top to bottom, doing the bottom from the right to the left, leaving the SW for last, of course. My only beef is LAZY SLOB which is one notch beneath a solid "in the language" phrase. I don't mind words like HIVED, rarely (if ever?) used, but in the dictionary; but I have a harder time with word combinations that are reasonable, but haven't quite risen to the level of cliché or slang. Anyway, oftentimes Mr. Kevin G. Der drives me to drink, which must explain why his name is an anagram of "KEG DRIVEN". Big kudos to Mr. Der for a terrific Friday offering.

Zeke 12:32 PM  

@ArtLvr - Of course a resection. Never multi-task posting with looking for your next client in a recession. The latter kind of sucks up all your consciousness.
In your address book, TEL is an abbreviation which may appear above e-mail.

Jim 12:47 PM  

Knew this day was different when STOCKINGSTUFFER fell immediately. Not too many backtracks but slow steady progress until...the SW.

Had CHEERS for SPEARS (Everybody wants to rule the world...)
RAFE fell (I don't know why that movie got such a bad rap)
ENFANTS was no problem (Jeux=games--d'=vowel sound. Ergo, ENFANTS!!)
LOSEONESBALANCE was OK and submitted to ENTERINTODETAIL once the -DL created by delveINTODETAIL wouldn't work.

So, had --N-AGACLOTHING. Obviously cannot see VINTAGE from that. Had I, the rest would have fallen but it NEVER occurs to me to reassess something like butane.
Why? Because, like Rex, I'm constantly surprised at how often my hunches are right and have learned not to question them too readily. And because it in no way surprises me any longer when a correct answer ends up being a phrase I would never have heard of or used myself.

niNjAGACLOTHING? Plausible. Some kind of Japanese-ified suffix? OK.
paNdAGACLOTHING? Why not? Wasn't that David Bowie's clothing label in the '70s?

The point is, if a phrase like ENTERINTODETAIL is right, then I can't question either of my two suggestions, at least not enough to make me rethink butane (bailed on pre-med before I got to organic chem).
On the other hand, with 3 (!) 15s stacked twice in the puzzle, and one more to bisect all 6 for good measure, they'll NEVER find enough common, interesting, mellifluous phrases to obviate the dilemma above. There will always have to be some questionable phrases.

For me, and my style of solving, however, I would prefer they cleaved to the clever and solid cluing and fill first, then did what they could to maximize length, etc. Even at the expense of an admittedly exquisite-looking layout like today.

archaeoprof 1:01 PM  

This one rated "challenging" for me. Had most of the writeovers mentioned so far, plus one: for 39D I first tried "sterile." It seemed like such a good idea...

GREENARCHITECTS reminded me of our LEED-certified house, currently under construction!

michael 1:53 PM  

Count me among those who held on to butane far too long before finally getting vintage clothing and finishing the southwest (and the puzzle),

ArtLvr 2:17 PM  

@ Zeke -- many thanks for the TEL. The art market, at least middle and lower range, has also been dead for about 2 years now, which is why I started trading the stock market again over a year ago...


syndy 2:29 PM  

agree north very easy; had stain for walnut -hey! same idea!only slowdown where necrotic crossed pesexxxx( Earls) then the south happened wrote in viminal but quickly changrd to caelian got clothing detail balance;okay lose ones balance but -in-aga clothing?finally saw vintage REFUSED enter intono no no all i can say is HARDCLAMS!!!

nanpilla 2:30 PM  

@dk and @chefbea : thanks for the suggestions. The concierge recommended Neptune Oyster House in the North End, and it was amazing! Best lobster roll ever (on brioche!) and all kinds of great oysters. Even a delightful provencal rose by the glass. Happy camper here in beantown....

chefwen 3:59 PM  

Until I got KIA, 1A wasn't a gimme, kept trying to figure out what an English Christmas Pudding might be called, food on the brain as usual.

jae 5:05 PM  

Pretty much the same experience as everyone else. Top half easy, SW a killer. I had to cheat to finish. I had BUTANE and was getting nothing so I googled BUTANE and found it was H10. Once I fixed that the rest came, but slowly (HINNY???).

James Graham 6:38 PM  

I too was stumped by SW corner.

Rex, are you still thinking about that 'defensive' maneuver by a Honey Badger facing a hungry lion?

Stan 12:28 AM  

Good puzzle!

How do I feel about the Hives' "Hate to Say I Told You So"?? LOTSA love.

A clip I unsuccessfully tried to post a while ago (from BBC's "Top Gear") had the following:

"Why's it called the honey badger?"

"Because that's what's made it angry!"

Petey C 9:53 AM  

What's the record for the fewest number of black squares ever in a Times puzzle? This one's gotta be close, no?

Surprised nobody is giving props for virtuosity.

Drew 3:56 PM  

@nanpilla :
Ten Tables in JP (call ahead)
L'Osteria in North End

SHRIVEL killed me because I couldn't let go of unRaVEL or unRiVaL.

ENTER INTO DETAIL doesn't quite sound right but can but I went with it after all else failed.

Bigsly 5:32 PM  

one correction I'd make to Rex's awesome comments... udo is a ginseng-like plant, udon is a noodle made from wheat flour.
you're right, spears was well worth the wait.

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