SUN 7-22-12 Indulged in some capers? / Their empire was the Land of the Four Quarters / 1% group / Pork-on-a-stick? / Copter's forerunner

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley

Relative difficulty: Medium (= I had to Google, once)



THEME: "A.A. Meetings" — Theme answers are created by inserting two As into common phrases, creating wacky new phrases, clued by wacky questions.

 

Word of the Day: LARRUP (129A: Lick but good) —
Synonyms: bang, bash, bat, beat, belt, biff, bop, box, buffet, bust, chop, clap, , clout, crack, cuff, dab, douse [British], fillip, hack, haymaker, hit, hook, knock, blow [dialect], lash, lick, pelt, pick, plump, poke, pound, punch, rap, slam, slap, slug, smack, smash, sock, spank, stinger, stripe, stroke, swat, swipe, switch, thud, thump, thwack, wallop, welt, whack, wham, whop (also whap). (merriam-webster.com)
• • •

Hello Puzzle People! Once again I am Pam, in Seattle, subbing for Rex, who is still in New Zealand. It's starting to feel like we haven't seen him IN AGES (115A: For years on end).

The prolific B.E.Q. provides a solid Sunday puzzle, just right in terms of difficulty, with a spattering of fresh cluing and much chortle-worthy wordplay. My one disappointment is that the theme answers aren't, as the title suggests, about people getting sober. Or are they?

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Like the winner of the Miss Influenza Pageant? (SICK AND TIARAED) AA members talk about "being sick and tired of being sick and tired."
  • 36A: "I can see Mexico's southernmost state from this ship!"? (CHIAPAS AHOY) Newly sober people do eat a lot of cookies.
  • 123A: Far Easterners signed to a St. Louis baseball team? (CARDINAL ASIANS) One of the twelve steps requires AA members to atone for their bad behavior.
  • 56D: Answer to "Did you see which Greek goddess walked by?"? (THAT WAS ATHENA) "That was then" could be an AA slogan.
  • 17D: Dos Equis-filled item at a birthday party? (PINATA OF BEER) and 63D Filthy kid's laconic question? (BATHTUB AGAIN) Aha!
But also:
  • 105A: Funding for a Spanish seafood dish? (PAELLA GRANT)
  • 14D: Steam bath enjoyed just before bedtime? (MIDNIGHT SAUNA)
  • 46D: Pork-on-a-stick? (PIG SATAY)
  • 52D: Scent coming from a Netflix envelope? (DVD AROMA)

The detailed cluing helped me fill in a lot of partial theme answers (Chiapas, Cardinal, pinata, DVD) which made finishing the puzzle easier than it might have been, given some of the more obscure fill. There was a lot of "you know it or you don't," from GROH (34D: "Rhoda" co-star David) and HAIM (2D: Onetime teen idol Corey), which I did, to VYE (104D: Eustacia ___, "The Return of the Native" woman) and TANAKA (6D: Tomoyuki ___, creator of Godzilla), which I didn't. But the YKIOYDs are well scattered, with reasonable crosses, so I never got Naticked.

Another highlight was the fresh cluing for familiar fill, such as SENECA (130A: Philosopher forced by Nero to commit suicide), MR. T (76A: Entertainer with a Mandinka warrior haircut), and NIKON (102A: Company with the slogan "At the heart of the image"). The grand prize goes to the decidedly non-Jabberwockian clue for TWAS: "___ like a Maelstrom, with a notch" (Emily Dickinson poem) (99A). B.E.Q. earned his $$ there.


Bullets:
  • 21A: Sexual drive (THE URGE) - I wasn't expecting a "the" phrase. I had "th" and was looking for something Greek like "thanatos." And is "the urge" confined to sex? I feel like I've heard it used more broadly, re eating ice cream, buying shoes. stuff like that.
  • There's another "the" at 54A: Rate setter, informally (THE FED). Not sure how I feel about this trend.
  • To me, a HIBACHI (61A: Literally, "fire bowl") is a non-bowlish miniature grill popular with apartment dwellers. But Wikipedia set me straight. It's a fun word and I was happy to see it here.
  • 67A: ___ dish (SOAP) - I'm a fairly slow solver because once I enter an answer I'm reluctant to change it. Here, I stuck with "side" for way too long.
  • 120A: Game whose lowest card is the 7 (ECARTE). Can we please call a moratorium on olde card games?
  • 39D: Hyundai model (AZERA) - I rent a lot of cars but don't know this one. It sounds vaguely Middle Eastern (not that there's anything wrong with that).
  • 68D: Some  Facebook friend requests (PENDING) - Lovely clue that stumped me as I was thinking "old flames" or "co-workers."
  • 117D: Copter's forerunner (GIRO) - This is the one I had to Google. I was stuck in that corner; EARN (118D: Make) and SNUG (119D: Tight) were clued too generally for me, IN AGES (115A: For years on end) and SPONGY (132A: Like mushroom heads) just weren't coming, and I've never heard of LARRUP (129A: Lick but good). GIRO gave me enough traction to figure out the rest.
Happy Sunday,
Pam de Puzzler

93 comments:

Danny 3:33 AM  

1. I enjoyed this puzzle. Not über-immensely, but well enough to have said "Well, that was fun" upon completion. Pretty smooth sailing, as far as filling goes, until...

2... I became stumped on two answers I eventually Googled: the GIRO/LARRUP cross and the PANZA/AZERA cross. Had no clue with the first one. I wanted the second one to be PANLA/ALERA. I'm just not a car person. ALERA sounded like a car I knew of, but I'm never sure. I sometimes forget what car I own myself.

3. Maybe someone can help me here. From a constructing point of view, how does one come up with the "add one-or-two letters" themes? I've never even tried to construct such a theme before because I don't know where to begin...

jae 3:41 AM  

Let me preface this by saying I'm a long time BEQ fan. 

I really liked this one.  When you start by taking a whizz and then get SICKANDTIARAED it's hard to go wrong.  Fresh, clever and genuinely amusing theme answers coupled with some zippy fill...THEURGE, IDOIDO, SPINDOC, the SKA-MON pair...makes for a fine Sun.

Maybe because I've done so many BEQs this was pretty easy for me.  The only resistance came in the lower SE.   SPINDOC took a few tries, ANTONYM was a nice misdirect, STAT before ASAP, and staring at LARRUP for a long time before I finally accepted it (the Evan Natick Heuristic said it had to be right) made for slow going there.

Very nice one Brendan and nice write-up Pam.  

Anonymous 4:11 AM  

BEQ is delightful!

Kenneth Wurman 5:49 AM  

Very nice write-up Pam!

The Bard 6:48 AM  

Othello

Act 3, Scene 3


IAGO

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands:
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.

OTHELLO

By heaven, I'll know thy thoughts.

IAGO

You cannot, if my heart were in your hand;
Nor shall not, whilst 'tis in my custody.

orangeblossomspecial 7:25 AM  

Like Pam, I had Side rather than SOAP for 67A.

I also had heli as the intro to 117D copter, as in helicopter, and I always thought it was GyRO copter rather than GIRO copter. But after enough write-overs, it fell into place. In Frank Capra's film "It happened one night", King Westley arrives at the wedding on a girocopter (or gyrocopter, whichever is appropriate).

r.alphbunker 8:08 AM  

When applying Evan's Natick Resolution Heuristic, be sure to do a complete alphabet run.

I finished with PANcA/AcERA. Was not happy with PANcA but rationalized that maybe c was pronounced ch in old Spanish. AcERA looked familiar because of the train acela. Had I made it to Z in the alphabet run I am not sure if I would have thought that AZERA was the name of a car, (confusing it with Hank Azaria) but I think I would have preferred PANZA to PANca.

The theme was novel. It is unusual to insert non-contiguous letters into a phrase.

joho 8:36 AM  

Today the theme really helped me get the answers I didn't know like P(A)ELL(A)GRANT and DVD(A)ROM(A). I'm more familiar with A cDROM.

SICKANDTIARAED was the first I got and in the end my favorite because it was the wackiest to me. Or maybe because "sick and tired" is a fun phrase while a lot of the other theme answers are just things like the "midnight sun." For the same reason I liked THATWASATHENA.

Very nice write up, Pam De Puzzler!

And, thanks to BEQ, too. Not so much today, but oftentimes I think we can call you the "LARRUP Kid." Love learning new words.

Anonymous 8:42 AM  

Nice write-up, but I would say easy for Sunday

Ruth 9:28 AM  

My mushroom caps were "SPORED" for a long time. That was a hard corner.

loren muse smith 9:32 AM  

Like @Jae, I’m a huge Brendan Emmett Quigley fan, and the one-two punch of WCS’ cheeky clue crossing the stuffy WHILST is unmistakably BEQ.

Since the fill-in-the-blanks didn’t yield much, I actually started in the NW and saw the trick at SICK AND TIARAED, but only after I learned the hard way that “bridge” and “tunnel” have the same number of letters as TEATRO. SICK AND TIARAED evokes such a strong mental image! I picture her up on stage, dark circles under her eyes, Kleenex in hand, tiara slightly askew. . .

I had a bit of a mess due north with “surries” and “teatre” and not questioning them for a while.

As @Jae alluded to – it’s always tough to choose between “stat” and ASAP, because it seems the “a” is always the only easy letter to figure out.

All the foreign words! Patois, Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese. . .I bet I tried three or four times to squeeze in “habanero” for HIBACHI. It. Just. Doesn’t. Fit.

EIGHTHS has five, count’em, five consonants in a row.

Favorite clues were for SPOT, WCS, HAN SOLO, LAND, AND REDS.

BEQ – you’re certainly among the ELITE constructors, and I’m sure you have more PENDING at the Times. In the meantime, thank you for your Mondays and Thursdays. “Shiners” was really, really clever and difficult.

Thanks for pinch hitting, Pam. Perfect Sunday.

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

Loved this puzzle! That is all.

Sue McC 9:53 AM  

Loved this, despite LARRUP, which I didn't know but just had to accept based on crosses. Fun theme answers, my favorite of which was PaELLaGRANT. Clever all around. Well done, Mr. Quigley, and nice job on the write-up, Pam.

Milford 9:54 AM  

Fun puzzle, another great write up. I admit that I had at least 3 theme answers in before I got the wordplay (MIDNIGHTSAUNA, THATWASATHENA, and PAELLAGRANT).
The first time I visited this site a few months ago, there was a debate going on about DNF/googling. Here is my thought, FWIW. As a novice solver of latter-week puzzles, I have a couple options:
1) Complete what I can, declare a DNF, and check a site like this to see what I could not figure out myself, or
2) Complete what I can, google a tough one, unjam that area, complete more of the puzzle, and repeat until finished.
I guess I feel like if my goal is to eventually complete a tough puzzle using only my own brain, the 2nd option is going to help me in the long run, because I'm learning as I go along. Im sure some people feel the first way is better, and I get that.
Honestly, the googling has already decreased significantly. I've learned to be patient, go over clues again and again, and run the alphabet.
And I must admit, I just like having that puzzle be completely filled-in in the end. Someday I hope to complete a Saturday sans-google!

Sparky 10:05 AM  

Some missing letters here and there in the NW and SE so DNF.

Took a while, picking out letter by letter and might have finished if I took the rest of the day. I became so curious to see what I was missing that I had to blog.

In any event, I love BEQ puzzles. There is just someting about his turn of mind that tickles me.

Got it first with MIDNIGHTSAUNA. Liked best PAELLAGRANT and PIGSATAY since STY is almost crosswordese.

Very nice write up Pam.

Sparky 10:07 AM  

That's something.

Bird 10:08 AM  

Pam - great write-up.

Rex - Your guest bloggers have done a terrific job filling in for you.

A BEQ puzzle, on a Sunday. What a treat. First time through yielded little, but answers started to come with the second cup of coffee. After I got 17D I thought the theme was going to be alcohol related (A.A. in the title), which made it tough for a while.

The NNW section is a mess. I had TENAM for 50A, then ARM for 37D and ALERO for 39D. I can barely make out the letters in that area.

Agree that 117D should be GYRO. As I started typing GIROC, Google immediately listed answers for GYRO.

Something about SPINDOC doesn't sit right with me. Just looks wrong. Had SPINNER at first because SPIN DR didn't fit.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

Italian A A
Somehow this puzzle reminds me of the stereotypical imitation of the accent
Wella donna

jackj 10:27 AM  

Stubbornness is a word that has never appeared in a NY Times puzzle and it’s a quality that should be jettisoned from a crossword solver’s quiver too, as I reminded myself after challenging BEQ straight up and right at the puzzles beginning.

Because, surely, “During which” seemed to be a clue for WHENCE and I fought for it for far too long until finally conceding that WHILST might be a better fit and SICKANDTIARAED of that corner I moved on to greener pastures.

As usual, BEQ’s construction is first-rate and clever cluing and unexpected answers abound; ahem, “Sex drive” is THEURGE?, (Sounds quaint enough to be something learned from the nuns in Southie). And, “Lend for a short while” has a local spin to it, too, when the answer is SPOT, as in “Hey Jack, can you SPOT me a fin until Friday?”

Brendan’s masterly touch shows up at 71 across with the quiet clue, “With 41 down, Ford part” and the first part seems like it might be a HUB CAP something or other but the four letters at 41 down aren’t cooperating until the “AHA” hits hard and HAN SOLO turns out to be the (Harrison) “Ford part”. Of course!

Then, we end up with a word Rudy Vallee might have used in one of his hokey films, when he, as the resolute Ivy leaguer, would challenge the local bully with such nonsense as, “Leave or I will LARRUP you within an inch of your life!” and we are grateful we weren’t LARRUPed by BEQ today.

Wonderful theme, exquisite fill, super puzzle!

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

Accent also from Hyundai

Tita 10:34 AM  

@jae - I liked all the stuff you liked,,,but my DNF was in Oregon...
Not knowing my Mexican states, football stats, pals of Don Quixote, knowing the Hyundai AlERA all conspired to do me in.

Great fun - picked it up at MIDNIGHTSAUNA, fav is PIGSATAY, which is in fact a real thing that we often make on our HIBACHI.

Way too many favs to list - great job, BEQ!
Thanks for an illuminating writeup, Pam de Puzzler...in particular the insights into A.A.!

AndYetAnotherDietLady 10:38 AM  

Great Sunday fun! I managed to finish with only 1 incorrect letter. I thought ALERA looked more like an actual car model even though I knew PANZA wasn't right. Although that strategy actually worked for me with LARR UP.

OldCarFudd 10:43 AM  

GIRO is correct. It's from autogiro, an early type of rotary-wing aircraft that preceded the (heli)copter. It was invented by a Spaniard, who gave it that spelling. Originally Autogiro (capitalized) was a patented name, but later became generic. Autogyro was a variant spelling that seemed more correct to non-Spaniards.

Davis 10:59 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Davis 11:03 AM  

I'll voice general agreement with this post. I had no real stumbling blocks, as I got LARRUP with the crosses, but I was convinced that was wrong until I finished (and learned that it was correct). I guess a learned a new word today.

In addition to the clever theme cluing, I thought there was some nice fill today. I don't think I've ever seren HIBACHI come up before; ANTONYM is kind of satisfying; INNARDS may not be new, but it's a good word; SANGRIA, because booze clues are always good; EIGHTHS, because that word just always looks funny to me; and PANACHE. It's also nice to see Corey HAIM make an appearance, for those of us who remember the days of "the Two Coreys."

retired_chemist 11:12 AM  

Took me 6 (!) minutes to find my error. Had DAY CARE instead of DAY CAMP and rationalized NYR as the NY Rangers. Don't even know if the NHL has an East. AME made no sense, clearly, but my checking started at 1A and 125D was my next to last. If I can't even check an almost correct Sunday puzzle in AL in less than 6 minutes, I bow to those who solve anything in under 4.

Liked the theme. Liked the fill. Not much IMO too obscure (just a few names, as Pam pointed out) and no really tough crosses.

Came to 99A as TWA_ and thought, "Not even BEQ would be THAT edgy, despite 21A."

Tried KODAK @ 102A on a guess. Wrong. Tried KESTREL @ 30A. Right.

Thanks, Mr. Q. And Pam for a fun writeup.

chefbea 11:14 AM  

No one has noticed...two sundays in a row with A.A. Last week trip Around the world.

DNF spelled surreys wrong and did not know Chiapos. and what is a pell grant???

123 across was the easiest

Shamik 11:16 AM  

It's probably rather easy to come up with puns that use synonyms or 1 or 2 letters added to the beginning or end of words. It's quite another to see those broken up AA's. My favorite was PAELLAGRANT. Felt like a long slog, only to find it was an easy time for me. This puzzle did not LARRUP me.

Shamik 11:17 AM  

Pell grant is one of the things you get in a student loan package.

GLR 11:19 AM  

A surprisingly smooth solve for me. I usually struggle with BEQ puzzles. Got the theme early with SICKANDTIARED, and the only real hitch after that was in the SE. Like @Sue McC, I didn't know LARRUP, but after pondering it for a while, I couldn't see any alternatives for the crosses.

Fun Sunday.

@Danny, one of the last Oldsmobile models was the Alero - that may be where you got Alera.

Glimmerglass 11:26 AM  

Nice write-up, Pam, and a fun puzzle. I expect Rex would grumble that some phrases also contain other A's which are not extra, sometimes two others.

chefbea 11:27 AM  

@shamik Thanks for explaining

thursdaysd 11:28 AM  

Another good write-up + another good BEQ puzzle = happy Sunday. I had a hard time accepting LARRUP, and an even harder one with CHIAPASAHOY, which fit the theme, but which was based on something I'd never heard of.

@retired_chemist - Checking a puzzle this size for one wrong letter is a royal pain. I eventually gave up, and only after coming here discovered I had HAm for HAN, which was carelessness.

captcha seems to be lewises - odd coincidence as I'm just finishing rereading C. P. Snow's "Strangers and Brothers", eleven novels about one Lewis Eliot.

retired_chemist 11:30 AM  

123A reminds me of Jaime, Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila from 1974 to 2003.

Norm 11:33 AM  

@ Glimmerglass: That's my complaint. For most of them, the additional As were far enough away from the added ones that it didn't matter, but CHIAPASAHOY really threw me for the longest time -- and I even had TEATRA for awhile, so I was really stumped trying to see which were the extras and which were "real." Minor grumble (the A in AZERA was my last entry, and was I ever happy to see Mr. Pencil appear). Otherwise enjoyed the puzzle, although it was definitely medium for me.

ww2buff 11:38 AM  

@thursdaysd: I just finished reading that series as well, and remember wondering if I'm the only one who has read C.P. Snow in recent years

I bought BEQ's book Sex, Drugs and Rock n' Roll and love love love it. My only complaint is the blurb on the back indicating that Grandma's won't enjoy the book. Well I'm a grandma but that doesn't mean I don't welcome a good puzzle challenge or have a good sense of humor! Buy the book!

r.alphbunker 11:40 AM  

@Danny [3:30AM]

Here is my reconstruction of how BEQ came up with the theme.

He was eating some chicken satay in a Thai restaurant while doing a crossword puzzle in which one of the answers was STY. He noticed the connection between sty and satay and wondered how many other words were related that way. He jotted this idea down in a notebook.

Later he wrote a small computer program that scanned a dictionary finding words that had two 'a's in them. For each such word the program removed the 'a's and checked if the resulting word was also in the dictionary. If so the program printed the word out.

Once BEQ had the words, he then had to think of phrases that contained the words and then clue them appropriately.

I wrote a small program to do this and it found again->gin, paella->pell and sauna->sun. But it did not find the others because the database that I was using did not have the those double a words in it.

FWIW, my program did find the following possibilities. The words in brackets and the clues were added by me.

[pig]pen --> [pig]paeans {Farm poetry?}
[half]pint --> [half]pinata {Detritus at a Mexican birthday party?}
[goodclean]fun --> [goodclean]fauna {disease-free animals?}
[church]spire --> [church]spiraea {Sunday school shrub?}

The best constructors guard their word databases very carefully and are continually updating them.

jae 11:43 AM  

@lms -- It's like I have a twin. Me too for surries and theatre, resutling in the meaningless CHIAPASAHes until I got back to it.

@Milford -- I'd be will to bet $3.00 that no one commenting here decided to try doing crosswords for the first time and picked up a late week NYT and sucessfully completed it with out any help. I'd even be willing to bet $1.00 that the same is true for a Monday puzzle. Your second option is clearly the way to go. The way you get to a "hands free" point is by doing a lot of puzzles and looking stuff up and learning the crosswordese. It also helps to pay attention to what's going on in the world around you and to have an atlas on your coffee table. Ask your non-crossword friends if they know what EDO is, or who Bambi's aunt is, or what do you call an eastern nanny, or what the main river in Spain is...

Oh, (and this is not a shameless plug) go over the Amy's (Diary of a Crossword Fiend) site and find out where to buy her book. I've seen it at Barnes and Noble.

lawprof 12:07 PM  

Nice way to start a Sunday. Not overly difficult with lots of aha moments.

Writeovers mcrib/SALAD, mvd/DMV and latte/LECHE. The latter would not have occurred had I noticed earlier the heavy emphasis on Spanish/Latino references in both the clues and answers, por ejemplo: Chiapas, sangria, Panza, una, Latina, paella, Inca, pinata, solo (ok, maybe not).

syndy 12:17 PM  

I'm old enough to remember when using an Atlas for a sunday puzzle was completely guilt free!Somehow that was "looking it up" googling is just asking.CHIAPASAHOY was my AHA moment and I never looked back-well I looked-but crosses gave me LARRUP? so no Naticks.excellent BEQ sunday and excellent PdeP writeup!

loren muse smith 12:19 PM  

@retired_chemist re Cardinal Sin - "Fanny O'Rear" was an entry in the Chatanooga phone book for years while I was growing up.

@r.alphbunker - how 'bout

RABBIT WAR ARENA (I can't clue)

Great themes inspire people to try their hand at it just for fun IMO.

Milford 12:19 PM  

@jae - Thanks for the book tip, I'll have to check it out. I do check out that blog as well.
I'm also fairly certain my family wouldn't know what a kimono sash was, nor an architect Saarinen. Or the southernmost state of Mexico!

retired_chemist 12:31 PM  

@ loren - there is a book I had and lost called "Remarkable Names of Real People," by John Train (1977 - there is also a 1979 update). it's available on Amazon and I just might buy it. Some examples:

Mrs Belcher Wack Wack [Miss Belcher married Mr Wack and then married his brother]

Bambina Broccoli, New York City

Positive Wasserman Johnson, Evanston, Illinois.

Dr. Zoltan Ovary, Gynecologist, New York Hospital, New York City.

More examples may be found here.

Tita 12:42 PM  

@ret_chem - ha ha! I think all those folks have been on the payroll at Car Talk.
I think "Aptonym" is the term for those where the name fits the profession..

Here is an article by my friend where he discusses these, all the way back to ancient Rome...
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/chatterbox/2005/12/charol_shakeshaft_topped.html
Carol Shakeshaft, Topped

thursdaysd 12:43 PM  

@ww2buff - thanks for the BEQ book suggestion. "Strangers and Brothers" has lived on my book shelves for years, not sure why I suddenly decided to reread it, but it was just as engrossing this time through.

Gill I. P. 12:46 PM  

CHIAPAS AHOY mate! I loved that there were a ton of Spanish references today. I did want to sneak Acapulco in but she wouldn't let me.
Again, could have quessed correctly that this was a BEQ puzzle; it has his name written all over it!
PAELLAGRANT was one of my favorites and BATHTUBBARGAIN my least..Even so, this was loads of fun.
@r.alph. Actually, if you add that little squiggly thing at the bottom of the c in Panca (I forget what it's called) it would be correct. But Panza (meaning fat belly) is more fun to write.
@Milford: Sometimes I just stare and stare at the clue and the answer sort of pops up..@jae is right on though.
Off to our favorite little place on the river that lets pups in for brunch.
Thanks Pam - enjoy your Sunday.

loren muse smith 12:48 PM  

@retired_chemist – what a hoot! I’ll look into getting that book. I can’t believe:
Dr. Zoltan Ovary, Gynecologist, New York Hospital, New York City.

In grad school there was a guy in my dorm whose name I can’t spell but it sounded like Wrong Way Chow.

Since it’s a slow Sunday, and since we’re plugging books, one really worth a look is Non Campus Mentis. It’s a compilation of parts of essays from actual college students. It’s full of gems like:

“Prehistoricle people spent all day banging rocks together so that they could find something to eat. This was the Stoned Age.”

“Civilization woozed out of the Nile about 300,00 years ago. The Nile was a river that had some water in it. Every year it would flood and irritate the land. This tended to make the people nervous.”

“Mesapotamia was squiggled in a valley near the Eucaliptus River. Flooding was erotic.”

"The British defeated the French from 1793 to 1815, but at gastronomic cost."

"Castro led a coupe in Cuba and shocked many by wiggling his feelers every time there was trouble in Latin America.”

Brookboy 12:53 PM  

Although this puzzle may have been medium for most, I found it quite challenging. Spent almost all day Saturday staring at those empty boxes, wondering what the hell could possibly fill them correctly. Slowly, though, (VERY slowly) the answers came.

A wild guess on SPONGY began to clear up that entire corner. DAYCARE drove me crazy until I thought of DAYCAMP.

Got Sancho PANZA right away, because many years ago I was friends with a couple who had named their cat Sancho Panza. It's great to have literate friends.

I have a cavil, though, with SPOT being the answer to a short loan. I think more of SPOT as a gift (e.g., "He couldn't spell CAT if you spotted him the C and the A.")

But the difficulty translated into even more enjoyment upon finishing the puzzle.

Loved the write-up.

r.alphbunker 1:08 PM  

@lms
re RABBIT WAR ARENA (I can't clue)
Cute!
How about {Watership Down venue}
But the fact that there is already an A in warren may be a problem.

Lewis 1:10 PM  

A smooth solve, didn't feel like so many Sunday slogs. Interesting theme. Two very competent puzzles in a row.

Anonymous 1:17 PM  

I might be nitpicking but a humid steam bath (moist heat) 14D is not a SAUNA (dry heat).

archaeoprof 1:28 PM  

@jae: you will win both those bets.

First time I correctly solved an NYT, I proudly cut it out and put it on my office door. A colleague came by and said, "So you got a Monday. No big deal."

I hadn't even noticed that late-week puzzles were more difficult. They were ALL equally tough for me.

JohnV 1:35 PM  

Assays lovin a BEQ puzzle. Wanted HITACHI so had that one mistake. The theme was fabulous! Thanks, Brendan.

r.alphbunker 1:36 PM  

@Gill I.P.
Your PANcA comment inspired the following modification to the Evan Natick Resolution Heuristic:
"If two letters seem equally plausible for the blank square, use the one with the highest Scrabble score."

Ulrich 1:41 PM  

@Milford: I have to second what @jae said--#2 is the way to go. That's how I progressed from being dependent on Mr. Google's help to becoming self-reliant, for most of the time (speed is still a problem, though).

I think there is a clear pedagogical reason for this: If you have no or a wrong answer for some problem, knowing what the right answer should have been is extremely valuable as a learning experience. I'm glad the purists here who insisted for a long time that googling was cheating have moved back into the woodwork, for the most part--it's NOT a moral issue. It's an issue of how you, personally, want to enjoy doing crossword puzzles and how you want to get better at it.

@r.alphbunker: I raise my hat to you!

retired_chemist 1:48 PM  

@ loren - A friend of mine actually knew him. Dr. Ovary pronounced it O-VAR'-EE.

John V 1:55 PM  

That would be lovin.

Anonymous 2:41 PM  

add me to side dish instead of soap dish for the longest time.

Wonder how the attendance is the forthcoming Lollapuzzoola 5>

Anonymous 3:16 PM  

TEC for private eye? Kept me from finishing. Still don't get it. Any insights?

JohnV 3:20 PM  

@anonymous deTECtive

Clueless in Texas 3:36 PM  

@Ulrich.
I feel the same way. I have learned a ton of information over the years doing crosswords. In fact, most of my sports knowledge (sadly) comes from doing them: Mel Ott, Bobby Orr, Bruins, STLO, etc.
The puzzle is a great mental exercise and learning opportunity. It's not a test for me. I use google to enjoy the puzzle and to appreciate the clues even more. If it were a competition, then any assistance would be cheating, but it's not for me. I complete it on my iPhone while I have some down time.

Tita 4:14 PM  

@mac...re: your son's question from yesterday...
"Question from my journalist/blogger son: do you think there is a connection between being good crossword puzzlers and entrepreneurship? Thanks for any responses."

One commenter mentioned the pettifogging in a negative sense...I agree, insofar as that doing the crossword is often a negative tool for procrastination (and I speak from direct experience). However, I also know that creative people, entrepreneurs being among them, often have great AHA moments, totally unrelated to the task at hand.
It is precisely the refocusing of one's thoughts in a different direction is what opens up new pathways in unexpected ways.

chefbea 5:52 PM  

just watched our xword golfer win!!! Yeah Ernie

Carola 6:04 PM  

When I saw BEQ as the constructor, I thought "Oh, boy," in both senses - "fun" and "here comes trouble," as I usually get stuck somewhere in his puzzles. Indeed - I loved the theme, but became enmired in the SE and also ran aground on the northern California coast.

@loren muse smith - "habanero" might not fit where HIBACHI belongs, but "karACHI" does. I thought, "How neat that the name of this no-doubt hot city means "fire bowl"! But, of course, I could do nothing with the "kar-" part.

So, having gotten stuck, I spent some time making up stories. ADA OTT ATE EEL. "IAM ILL!" RUE. WCS.

Then I took a nap, after which I was able to finish things up, although I doubted the GIRO/LARRUP cross until I came here.

Thank you, BEQ for the fun and the challenge and Pam for the great write-up!

jberg 6:05 PM  

Turns out you can get the NYT here, but you have to drive to a store in Stonington - so I'm coming to this late.

Fun puzzle, even an imaginative clue for Mel OTT -- but just putting two As in seems a little too random for me. Some are one letter apart, some more. Since the title is "A.A. Meetings," I wanted them to start further apart and then get closer together as the puzzle went along, but no. Also a little unhappy with the similar gas pump clues at 111A and 24D.

On the other hand, I really liked the reverse-crosswordese at 112A.

Finally, really surpised at the number of people who don't know Sancho PANZA. One person's gimme is another one's stumper, a truth born out over and over.

Gill I. P. 6:15 PM  

@r.alph: How very Quixote of you...

Anonymous 6:24 PM  

The movie Babette's Feast is one of my favorites. How nice to see it in this puzzle and be reminded.

Nice write-up.

Larrup is inexcusable.

Z 6:40 PM  

Left for the Tiger game with the HIBACHI section and the SW unfinished, nothing but BOHR, CLARITY, and a little toe hold with BEHAVES. After finishing the sweep I came home and finished up. Guessed MR T and that M gave me HUMBLE pie to HIBACHI to BATH TUB A----. Then I realized that "Rapper poses" was actually "Rapper posse" (I must have misread that clue a dozen times) and ta da - only 8 1/2 hours from the W in WCS to the C in SENECA. A fun puzzle.

billocohoes 7:35 PM  

Old baseball articles referred to the Yankees' Iron Horse as "Larrupin' Lou Gehrig", the only time I've seen the word used.

Read 43D as "pigs at a Y" (in the road, stuck at deciding which fork to take?). Thanks for pointing out it's a food.

mac 7:39 PM  

Loved this puzzle! I rarely feel that way about the big, cumbersome Sunday.

Found a mistake after coming here: the Z in Azera/Panza. Oh well.

Thank you Tita, I've passed it on.

P.S. I hate blogger.

Anonymous 8:27 PM  

Can't believe that BEQ continues to get the blind faith and love of a xword following that clearly has drunk all the Kool-Aid. Another unsatisfying grind of a puzzle ending in far more WTFs rather than AHAs. Obtuse and obscure doesn't begin to describe the theme and so much of the fill in this puzzle - nothing more so than "I am what" and "what I am" And Ecarte? Eustacia Vye? David Groh? Corey Haim? Larrup? And "Tec" is suppose to be an actual word in the language? Please... Maybe I'm off base on one or two of these, but all in all this puzzle confirms once again that Emperor BEQ has no clothes here on planet Natick.

Deb 8:56 PM  

I popped in here in the wee hours shortly after the blog was posted, but I was too traumatized by Bambi's demise to comment.

@jackj - You're a little rusty on your old-timey English. "Whence" means "from where," not "during."

@ww2buff - Amen! This old-enough-to-be-a-grandma woman doesn't need or want her puzzles sanitized either, thank you.

@jae - Re the relative difficulty of NYT puzzles: I've been doing xword puzzles since I was in grade school, but for years and years I passed up the Sunday NYT puzzle that my paper printed every week because the clues and answers just seemed like gobbledygook to me. I don't recall now how or when I finally broke into one, but probably not until I switched to a paper that published the syndicated version daily so I could cut my teeth on the early week puzzles.

@Anon 1:17 - You're correct that a sauna is DRY heat and it's not the first time I've seen it clued as "steamy." Really annoying.

@Anon 8:27 - You seriously have never heard anyone say "I AM what I AM"?! I missed Eustacia VYE completely (the crosses filled it out for me), but David Groh and Corey Haim are on my radar and TEC is pretty commonly found in crosswords as slang for "detective." I think all of us were thrown my LARRUP.

Enjoyed the write-up, Pam (now that I've recovered from the violence ;).

Anonymous 10:16 PM  

Anon @ 8:27 - I have to hand it to you. Aside that you are Anon (we all are really but most here deny it) it took some courage (or you were drunk) to denigrate an icon like BEQ. I actually liked the puzzle, although I agree that there was a lot of obscurity (not to mention foreign words) in the fill. The theme was fairly discernible in the Title for the puzzle so I'm not sure about your complaint there. But I applaud you for speaking your mind. I get tired of these blogs when everyone follows like cattle falling off a cliff in a silent western before there were animal rights....

JFC

phil mchale 10:59 PM  

All well and good - but is no one else going to complain about "Before, to a poet". There is no satisfaction in writing "ere" for the umpteenth time. A bit of creativity, please.

paulsfo 1:07 AM  

I'd never come close to finishing a Sunday until a prospective date mentioned that she loved the Sunday crossword. We never did date but the thought "well, if *she* can do it..." spurred me on. A few months later I finally finished one. When I emailed and told he she said "Oh, I've never *finished* one...." :)

@Gill I. P.: you said that "BATHTUBBARGAIN" was your least favorite. But the actual answer is "BATHTUB AGAIN?" Is that more pleasing? ;)

paulsfo 1:09 AM  

.

paulsfo 1:13 AM  

@phil mchale: Re a better clue for "ERE".
How about "What the Cockney husband said after moving the couch for the fifth time?"

Anonymous 1:39 AM  

I'm afraid 112A is an error in cluing: there is no compass HEADING actually called "North by northwest". The direction between Northwest and North-northwest is properly called "Northwest by north", and between North-northwest and North is "North by west", but that's as close as you come.

The meaning of the title of the Hitchcock film "North by Northwest" is one of the enduring mysteries: it doesn't clearly refer to anything in the movie, other than the characters flying on Northwest Airlines at one point (and they were in fact headed west or northwest, not north). But the effect has been to add a non-existent point of the compass to many people's vocabulary.

Fun puzzle, though. I actually completed it not realizing that PIG SATAY and DVD AROMA were theme answers (because they are on the short side, I guess). I just thought they were oddball things I had never heard of!

And @Brookboy 12:53pm: "Can you SPOT me $20? I'm short on cash today." (That's just an example; I'm not actually asking you for money.)

Anonymous 2:07 AM  

@anon1:39am here again.

I see on a popular on-line, user-edited encyclopedia that "North by Northwest" (the film title) may not be so mysterious after all: it is a quote from "Hamlet". Interesting! But it's still not a valid HEADING, so my point stands

loren muse smith 10:36 AM  

I just saw these posts from last night –

“Can't believe that BEQ continues to get the blind faith and love of a xword following that clearly has drunk all the Kool-Aid.” From Anonymous 8:27 and then

“Anon @ 8:27 - I have to hand it to you. Aside that you are Anon (we all are really but most here deny it) it took some courage (or you were drunk) to denigrate an icon like BEQ” JFC

Ok. It’s official –this most assuredly UNanonymous Pollyanna here has blown a gasket. I’ve been accused of blindly appreciating a puzzle solely because of its constructor (kind of an argumentum ad vericundium swipe). Those j’accuse anonymice are just like the person who writes off my complaints as pms when actually the complaints are valid, and such accusations get my GOAT.

This is a very subjective, um, subject, so I feel confident in ranting. Sunday’s puzzle entertained me. It’s really just that simple. It made me have funny pictures in my head. Lots of them. It made me smile. That BEQ’s name was at the top did not force this “sycophant” to stomach such “offenses” as LARRUP or ERE (are you KIDDING me???) so that I could jump on the BEQ bandwagon and sing his praises. I can’t spout off word counts, black square counts or whatever, but he had TEN symmetrical theme answers – tricky answers- that, for me, were really fun, in addition to a lot of other periphery smiles. As I told someone in an email – any clumsiness of SICK AND TIARAED I completely forgave because the entertainment payoff was just too great. And, having tried for a couple of hours to come up with my own version of the theme only to create ONE example just made me appreciate the constructor’s effort even more.

@Deb - thanks for calling @anon 8:27 out.

Sometimes the negativity goes overboard. By and large, all the puzzles entertain me, and I forgive them their ORONO/OTARU crosses because such small blemishes (and that’s too strong a term but I’m not a writer) are nothing compared to the pleasure that solving any puzzle, rife with ERNS and OTTS, brings me. Sure, every now and then a theme or fill falls flat for me, and maybe I should be more vocal, but that’s actually a rare day, and without exception, lots of other people sing those puzzles’ praises. I choose not to “wee” all over someone else’s enjoyment (as Gareth said, that had to be a first for a NYT clue and, yes, I’m that mad).

In this economy, in this heat, in this stressful life, I’m extremely grateful for the brief respite the NYT puzzle brings me every day. Since I’m being Miss Kisser Upper, I’ll ice the cake by thanking all the constructors like Lynn Lempel for coming up with elegant, clever puzzles day in and day out, by thanking Rex, Amy, and Deb A., whose very hard work and dedication bring all us like-minded people together, and finally by thanking Will for his thoughtful consideration when choosing/editing puzzles for publication.

Keith 11:00 AM  

Loved the puzzle! Sick and tiaraed indeed! Larrup was an interesting word. My Mother would often describe a toothsome dish as larruping. Is this a southern thing?

Z 12:18 PM  

@LMS - Wow.

I remember seeing a very early post (remember the commenter who was reposting five year old summaries) where RP suggested that it was fun to think of all the anonymice as a single poster. And then there have been @Evil's occasional anonymous posts (I haven't noted one in awhile - although there were some in June that sounded a bit like our pal). Then there is @anonymous/jfc who is in this weird spot between anon and not anon.

My response to the anonymice can be broken down into three types - legitimate questions get an answer; cogent critique is treated like any other signed comment; rants or ad hominem attacks are ignored. I am still working on that third response; I've deleted a comment or two and rewritten a comment or two in trying to follow it. And, while you labelled your post a "rant," I thought it laid out some very strong positions on why Sunday is considered a quality puzzle.

loren muse smith 12:31 PM  

Thanks, @Z. I feel like I was being called a BEQ groupie.

For the most part, I don't pay attention to the mean anonymice, but I felt yesterday's couple was aimed at a small group of us, me being in that group.

Yesterday's puzzle was enjoyable, regardless of who constructed it. But he has such a noticable style in his cluing and entries that one feels compelled to comment.

If you haven't, you should check out his Mondays and Thursdays, where he has a lot more freedom with cluing and entries - I think WEDGIE was in one - but don't look at them with liquid in your mouth. I've almost spewed my laptop twice! Today, there's a clue: "Man, I Feel Like a Woman singer (hate me later for giving you the earworm)"

Anonymous 12:34 PM  

43- "Don Quixote's pal" was misleading, as Quixote is the first name (last name is De la Mancha), and therefore the answer should have been Sancho - not Panza

Gill I. P. 1:17 PM  

@Anonymous 12:34. Wrongy dongy. His first name is Alonso.

evil doug 1:53 PM  

Z:

"And then there have been @Evil's occasional anonymous posts (I haven't noted one in awhile - although there were some in June that sounded a bit like our pal)."

Bullshit.

Evil

Eugene Guskin 2:58 PM  

I'm really at sea about 59 down. "Doughnuts, mathematically." The answer is "TORI." I still don't get it. Please enlighten me...thanx, Bc

Anonymous 5:40 PM  

Eugene:

TORI is plural of "torus", which is the mathematical (topological) term for a cylinder curved around so that the ends meet, in other words a "doughnut" (though technically the torus is just the surface, or crust, as it were, not the whole doughy solid).

Dirigonzo 2:07 PM  

From the land of Time Warped Insights, I found this puzzle to be a solidly satisfying solving experience - loved all of the theme answers (but I just now had to Google SATAY to understand that answer, which I got entirely from the crosses).

Strategically placed wrong answers (mcrib/SALAD, ayeS/YEAS, SPored/SPONGY) that persisted too long kept me looking at those areas for a long time. For a while I toyed with the idea of the Pro accompanier at 79a being a john but happily I decided to wait for the crosses, which produced ther ever-so-staid RATA - I like my answer better. Alas, I was certain (always a bad sign) that the Hyundai was an AcERA.

For the star-gazers among us, here's the August astronomical update: The Perseid (why is that word not in the puzzle more often?) meteor shower peaks on the morning of August 12, but early and late meteors should be visible for most of the month. My source (Bernie Reim, writing in the Maine Sunday Telegram) reports that during the peak time we can expect nearly 60 meteors per hour easily visible in a dark sky, because the moon will be three days past last quarter and won't rise until 1 a.m. on the morning of the 12th. Also, there will be TWO full moons in August, on the 1st and the 31st - the second occurence of a full moon in a month is called a Blue Moon, whence the phrase "once in a Blue Moon". Happy star watching, all!

Lennie Augustine 6:48 PM  

TEC short for deTECtive? Really? Tell me you're joking.

That's just horrible.

Dirigonzo 7:58 PM  

@Lennie - TEC appears with some regularity, so you might as well chalk it up as part of the "crosswordese" that we all complain about and learn to love it. It's nice that you came all the way from "down under" to join in the conversation here.

Spacecraft 10:48 PM  

Yeah, TEC is a slanger from the '40s. It replaces the 30's' [The Bank] dick, I guess because of the double-entendre.

I found this puzzle to be a bit of a slog. Lots I didn't know (VYE, LARRUP, etc.) had to be filled with crosses. There's a lot of late-week cluing, too. "Ford part" worked out to be HAN SOLO, e.g.

Loved SPINDOC and the all-too-familiar whine "BATHTUBAGAIN?"

And right smack dab in the middle, we have a shout-out to my all-time favorite Hitchcock heroine, EVA Marie Saint, who was recruited at the last minute to replace the then-fresh Princess. Coincidentally (?), the clue for 112a is North By Northwest. Brendan, did you do that on purpose? Wouldn't put it past ya.

BAM 3:46 PM  

Many of you had trouble with 61a, "fire bowl." But if you really wanted to get hung up, you should have tried "potaufeu" as I did.

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