SUNDAY, April 5, 2009 (syndicated crossword) — Will Nediger

THEME: "In the Nonfiction Section" — Seven phrases that begin with TO take an initial HOW to become hypothetical how-to books.

Quick reminder: If your newspaper gives you the daily L.A. Times crossword edited by Rich Norris but it doesn't offer this Sunday puzzle, you can get it online. Register at Cruciverb.com (standard membership is free) to be able to download the puzzle in the Across Lite format. You can download Across Lite 2.0 at the New York Times website.

Crosswordese 101:

Today's featured topic is the Muses and the Fates. CLOTHO (31A: Thread-spinning Fate) rarely appears in the puzzle grid, but sometimes she's in the clues. If you encounter a clue like Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, the three FATES are who you need. In Greek mythology, CLOTHO spun out the thread of life (and no, the word "cloth" isn't related), LACHESIS measured the thread of life allotted to each person, and ATROPOS cut the thread, determining how and when people would die.

The real crossword all-stars are the nine Muses. ERATO is the MUSE of lyric poetry, and she is the unofficial Muse of crossword constructors thanks to her common letters and alternating vowel/consonant sequence. CLIO, Muse of history (and the name of an advertising award), is the next most common. The rest have longer names and are more likely to show up in clues as ERATO's sister than to appear in the grid. Here they are:
  • CALLIOPE, epic poetry
  • EUTERPE, music
  • MELPOMENE, tragedy (Bonus: fun to say out loud! Four syllables, stress the POM)
  • POLYHYMNIA, choral poetry
  • TERPSICHORE, dance
  • THALIA, comedy
  • URANIA, astronomy (not so hard to remember if you link her with the planet Uranus)
I know, I know—TERPSICHORE is the furthest thing from crosswordese. But this puzzle was packed with so many interesting, showy answers, it was hard to notice many "repeater" answers.

Theme Answers:
  • 23A: Handbook of euphemisms? (HOW TO PUT IT MILDLY)—You know, that could be a useful book.
  • 37A: Manual for talk show guests? (HOW TO BE ANNOUNCED)
  • 44A: Guide for sore losers? (HOW TO BLAME)—Oh, I don't think anybody needs help on this front.
  • 62A: Self-help book for compulsive liars? (HOW TO BE PERFECTLY FRANK)
  • 78A: Reference work for modelists? (HOW TO SCALE)
  • 85A: Vade mecum for neologists? (HOW TO COIN A PHRASE)Vade mecum means "go with me" in Latin; the term refers to a handbook you might carry with you.
  • 105A: Therapeutic book for blowhards? (HOW TO SAY THE LEAST)—Ooh, this could be a popular secret-Santa gift.
(I asked my husband to name a famous Frank to illustrate the PERFECTLY FRANK answer and he chose Charlemagne. Why, yes, he did study history. How did you guess?)

The Coolest Answers:

Three 6-letter verbs at the bottom of the puzzle go together beautifully: CUDDLE (96A: Get lovey-dovey); WIGGLE (87D: Toe movement); and NESTLE (88D: Get cozy).

More Goodies:
  • 70A: Penn pal (TELLER). I like the Penn & Teller play on "penpal."
  • 71A: Nincompoop (BOZO).
  • 76A: Facebook user's nudge (POKE). I like Facebook. I do. I just don't understand why they created this "poke" feature. "Poking" someone on Facebook is akin to e-mailing them a blank message or calling them and hanging up. "I'm thinking of you, but not enough to write a few words."
  • 3D: Scrolling 25-Down feature (NEWS CRAWL). 25D is MSNBC. I love/hate the news crawl—mostly hate—but it does make for a great crossword answer.
  • 12D: Blockbuster transaction (DVD RENTAL). I haven't gone to a video store in years. Netflix!
  • 41D: Road problem (POTHOLE). Chicago had a banner winter for potholes. I even saw 50-years-buried streetcar tracks and cobblestones in one pothole. History!
  • 57D: Make a peep (SAY BOO). For this sense of SAY BOO, the "wouldn't" negation is needed. I'm not sure SAY BOO works great without the negation unless you're talking about trying to scare someone. How awesome would it be if, instead of making a peep, little chicks said "Boo!"?
  • Two answers go together on my list of don'ts. 59D: Part of a femme fatale's outfit (STILETTO HEEL); 71D: Sunbather's depilatory (BIKINI WAX).
  • 89D: California's governor, facetiously is AHNOLD Schwarzenegger. We would also have accepted AHNULD, but the crossing theme answer demanded the O this time.
Tough Stuff:
  • 15A: "Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer" musical (CATS). I'm not sure what PuzzleGirl's stance on musicals is, but Rex and I are solidly in the "no, please, no" camp.
  • 26A: Opening word? (MAMA). I'm not quite sure how to interpret this. As in baby's first word?
  • 55A: Item stolen in Pope's "The Rape of the Lock" (TRESS). Locks of hair = tresses of hair.
  • 59A: Hindu god who rides a bull named Nandi (SHIVA). Not to be confused with sitting shiva.
  • 84A: Antidote target (TOXIN).
  • 99A: Quaint denial ('TISN'T). If you want to be a little more folksy in your denial, go with 'TAIN'T.
  • 104A: Venetian elder of yore (DOGE). This one's an old-school crossword answer. Are you tempted to round up all the DOGEs and sing "Git along, little doge"?
  • 109A: Colorado senator Mark (UDALL). Yes, he's part of the Udall political dynasty. Dad was Mo Udall; cousin is Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico; uncle Stewart Udall was in the JFK/LBJ cabinet.
  • 111A: Jazzman Hines (FATHA). Gotta love the name Earl "Fatha" Hines. I just might start asking to be referred to as Amy "Mutha" Reynaldo. Enjoy the video of Earl Hines on the piano.

  • 1D: "The Farmer in the Dell" syllables (HIHO). As in "hi-ho, the derry-o, the farmer in the dell."
  • 2D: Wavy lines, in comics (ODOR). A green miasma is also effective in cartoons.
  • 6D: Pampean cowboy (GAUCHO). I suspect Pampean is the adjectival form of the Pampas, where those cowboys work.
  • 7D: Beat in a regatta (OUTROW). Holy cow! Here's a news story with "out-row" in the headline. Just when I was thinking this was a word nobody would ever use.
  • 16D: Mauritania's official language (ARABIC). It's located on the west coast of Africa's wider top half.
  • 46D: Obsolescent vote finalizer (LEVER). I had the damnedest time understanding this clue. This may be because I started out as a punchcard-and-chads voter and have never seen one of those old New York-style ballot levers.
  • 97D: Jan Vermeer's hometown (DELFT). Delft china has characteristic blue-and-white decorations.
Everything Else — 1A: Motorists' warnings (HONKS); 6A: A great deal (GOBS); 10A: Lincoln in-laws (TODDS); 19A: Utopian (IDEAL); 20A: Nimbus (AURA); 21A: Humble home (HOVEL); 22A: Where Camus's "The Plague" is set (ORAN); 27A: MDs' workplaces (ORS); 28A: Film introduction? (MICRO); 29A: Close call (SCARE); 30A: Hinder (EMBAR); 33A: It's commonly twisted (ANKLE); 34A: Sight in le ciel (ETOILE); 35A: High do (AFRO); 40A: Large envelope feature (CLASP); 42A: Chapel Hill sch. (UNC); 43A: Patty Hearst alias (TANIA); 48A: He played Sheldon in "Misery" (CAAN); 50A: Future elm (SEED); 54A: Sushi fish (EEL); 56A: Bouncer? (BALL); 57A: Bareback rider's lack (SADDLE); 60A: Programmer's output (CODE); 61A: Bronze coatings (PATINAS); 67A: U-Haul rental (TRAILER); 68A: Drift gracefully (WAFT); 69A: Hard thing to kick (HABIT); 72A: Lord's home (MANOR); 73A: Road crew goo (TAR); 77A: Stand-up comic's need (MIKE); 80A: "Use your head!" (THINK); 83A: __ Paulo (SAO); 93A: Jason's vessel (ARGO); 94A: Melodious (ARIOSE); 95A: Drinks for Radar (NEHIS); 98A: "Bingo!" (RIGHT); 100A: Fencer's move (LUNGE); 101A: Flapper's wrapper (BOA); 108A: __ Girl: former teen fashion mag (ELLE); 110A: Court statement (PLEA); 112A: React in shock (REEL); 113A: Ready to ship (BOXED); 114A: "Sesame Street" guy with a unibrow (BERT); 115A: Walk, often lightly (TREAD); 4D: Kit__ (KAT); 5D: Replay technique (SLOMO); 8D: Con __: spiritedly (BRIO); 9D: Took a load off (SAT); 10D: Actor Alan (THICKE); 11D: "Trés chic!" (OOLALA); 13D: Take-out order? (DELE); 14D: Cunning (SLY); 15D: Utterly ordinary (COMMONASDIRT); 17D: Food wrapped in a corn husk (TAMALE); 18D: Trapped (SNARED); 24D: Heart (PITH); 25D: 24-hr. news source (MSNBC); 30D: Notions holder (ETUI); 32D: Complex ABC drama (LOST); 33D: Top-notch (AONE); 34D: Many millennia (EON); 35D: Massage target (ACHE); 36D: Baffin Bay sighting (FLOE); 38D: Rolaids rival (TUMS); 39D: A Bobbsey twin (NAN); 45D: Hush money payer (BRIBER); 47D: Exec's "Fast!" (ASAP); 48D: Citadel student (CADET); 49D: Baldwin of "30 Rock" (ALEC); 51D: Author Buchanan (EDNA); 52D: Panache (ELAN); 53D: Student's station (DESK); 56D: Big, in Variety (BOFFO); 58D: To begin with (ATFIRST); 60D: Pet rocks, once (CRAZE); 61D: Factory (PLANT); 62D: Letters before ://www (HTTP); 63D: Oft-dunked treat (OREO); 64D: Forgo the bus (WALK); 65D: Fighter in the Battle for Endor (EWOK); 66D: Spring event (THAW); 72D: Heath (MOOR); 73D: 2008 economic stimulus provision (TAXREBATE); 74D: Sacha Baron Cohen persona (ALIG); 75D: Seat of Nevada's Washoe County (RENO); 77D: 6, on a phone (MNO); 78D: Mocking laughs (HAHS); 79D: West Virginia resource (COAL); 81D: Party giver (HOST); 82D: Bar stock (ICE); 83D: Barely rains (SPITS); 85D: Higher on the Mohs scale (HARDER); 86D: Colorful songbird (ORIOLE); 90D: More intense (ACUTER); 91D: Beach topper (SUNHAT); 92D: Trim or rim (EDGE); 99D: List heading (TODO); 100D: Lovett of country (LYLE); 102D: Workplace stds. org. (OSHA); 103D: To a slight extent (ATAD); 105D: Where spokes meet (HUB); 106D: LAPD alert (APB); 107D: Ring site (EAR).


Rex Parker said...

Liked clue on DVD RENTAL. Also liked the freshness of POKE and AHNOLD. Very slow start for me in the NW, due mainly to having HORNS for HONKS at 1A, which resulted in much dumb staring on my part.


Jeffrey said...

I had a pet rock, and my mother knitted it a sweater.

Hmm. This could be my last comment ever because where can I go after that?

Joon said...

sweet puzzle. nice theme, super-smooth fill, and some very modern clues. it was on the easy side, but i'm getting used to that.

xyz said...
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ArtLvr said...

@ crosscan -- re "I had a pet rock, and my mother knitted it a sweater." Don't go away! It could have died and been buried in a passé stilletto shoebox with full honors... Or donated to the Smithsonian?

Did anyone else miss the H in OOLALA?

chefbea said...

Yes.. this is the puzzle I did last sunday. It is in the Greenwich Time and Stamford advocate. So I have to wait a week to chime in.

A fun puzzle. Can someone explain Sacha Baron Cohn= alig ???

PuzzleGirl said...

I remember having a spirited argument with an English professor once over "The Rape of the Lock." He kept arguing that cutting off someone's hair can't really be compared to rape and I, in my outrage, just kept repeating "He cut off her hair!!!" It's possible I had had a few drinks before that class. (HAha, get it? spirited?)

@chefbea: Sacha Baron Cohn is the guy who played Borat. One of his other characters is "Ali G."

@redanman: I'd love to respond to your comment, but I have to be honest, I'm not really sure what you are suggesting.

Greene said...

@redanman: I feel your pain, brother. Like you, I am an extremely average solver who plods through late week puzzles with slow solving times and marvels at the skill of the elite solvers.

I've been doing the NYT puzzle on a daily basis for a little under a year (and the LAT sporadically until recent weeks) and guess what I've learned? Much of crosswording is an acquired skill and like most any acquired skill one hones one's ability through repetition. Well, repetition and a good daily dose of Rex and Orange. I cannot tell you how much I have improved as a solver in just one year by persistence, repetition, and regularly reading the blogs. I am definitely not an elite solver, but I'll wager that many of them would give you the same advice.

In addition to persistence, crosswording also requires a broad range of general knowledge and there is simply no substitute for being an active part of the culture and having a nose for trivia. You have to read a newspaper, go to the movies, watch television (including sports), listen to music, and read books. Now I don't do all these things, but I've found that reading a newspaper is an enormous help, particularly if it has a good Arts and Leisure section.

If you are looking for a tool that will help you leap the hurdle from Thursday solving to weekend solving, I high recommend Amy Reynaldo's book "How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle." There is some excellent help in there, especially about learning crosswordese and tricks that constructors use to throw you off.

Lastly, if you want to get good at solving Friday and Saturday puzzles, then just keep doing Friday and Saturday puzzles. And forget about speed solving. You're never going to solve a Saturday puzzle in 5 minutes and neither am I. Our brains are just not wired that way. I think people who can do that, and God bless them, have genetic gifts that I lack, so what of it? I'll bet I can play piano better than most of them though.

So keep pluggin' along. I think your experience is a very common one. You will get better with time, just don't give up.

Thanks again to Rex, Orange, and Puzzle Girl for this new blog which I look upon as a kind of Crossword 101. I learn something new everyday here and I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn all the nuts and bolts. You guys could actually teach this as a course.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand all the ridicule and cheating insinuations against somebody who googles. I have learned countless facts while looking up something else. I may not be well read enough to know some remote quote from some unknown to me poet, so why not look it up! As Will said, so I've heard, its my puzzle so enjoy. Golfballman

chefbea said...

At breakfast this morning my friend said she was going home to make rainbow colored jello Easter eggs. I asked what colors and she tried to remember. I said that there is a neumonic (sp) for that and she didnt know what I was talking about. Of course I couldn't remember the order of the colors. What is the neumonic??

Rex Parker said...


What Greene said. Putting down or dismissing expert solvers just because they see puzzles differently than you do will get you nowhere. If you ever see an elite solver put down or deride a novice, you let me know. All I see at every crossword blog I've ever been to is a generally warm and generous (if occasionally cantankerous and fussy) community of solvers who enjoy discussing puzzles. If you disagree with the majority about a puzzle's quality, just say so; no need to put down those who disagree or write their opinions off prejudicially. (the lang. of your post is dripping with derision for speed solvers - what's the point of that?)

Also, I don't think a fast solver would understand what you mean by "rote" - nothing is "rote." As with any activity, the more you do it, the more familiar you get with its basic terms and the better you get at anticipating possible twists and turns and tricks. Memorizing word lists doesn't help much, and even if you did, common words (e.g. OLIO) get obscured by hard clues sometimes, making "rote" learning virtually useless. Hundreds if not thousands of people have written me claiming that constant solving and semi-constant blog-reading have improved their skill level and solving enjoyment. I'm sorry you are not among those people. I hope eventually you will be.

And Google to your heart's content. Who cares? It is true that you'll get better the more patient you are and the more you resist looking stuff up, but there are only so many hours in the day, and better to know something than not know it, in the end, probably.

@chefbea, Mnemonic in question is ROY G. BIV.


Anonymous said...

Rex, Orange and PuzzleGirl - Thank you for this blog! Where do you find the time? Our paper (Vancouver Province) recently switched from the TMS puzzle to LAT and who better to break it down than my favourite NYT bloggers? Bonus: it's still fresh, not six weeks or even one week behind. Oh, joy!

@the redanman - I understand where you're coming from, but also see why Rex and others might take offense. Some of the NYT posters may be 'elite', but I don't find them condescending. Funny, sarcastic, maybe - but not mean-spirited. You can learn a lot from them. Years ago I bought a crossword dictionary and kept tons of notes on the back pages. It became so worn out it had to be held together with a rubber band. Haven't opened it in years, but who would care if I did? As for Google, it's an opportunity to learn something new, as opposed to just plugging in the correct letter based on the crosses. My personal challenge is to use it as infrequently as possible. Have a great Sunday, everyone.
Cheers, Jane

Eric said...

I could never remember a mnemonic for the colors but the word they formed was so unusual that I never forgot it. VIBGYOR.

chefbea said...

Thanks Rex. Now I know the mnemonic and how to spell it

Rex Parker said...

Jane - glad you can join blog discussion of a puzzle in "real time" now - makes a big difference, probably. Thanks for writing in. Vancouver is of the Top Ten cities that read my NYT blog. I don't know if that surprises anyone. Surprised me a little.


embien said...

As another non-elite solver, I feel @the redanman's pain. Today's puzzle took me some 33 minutes, but I kept plugging away (and grinning and laughing when another theme answer became evident).

Over at the other blog, Star Tribune Crossword Corner, I'm reading that many of those who formerly did Wayne Williams' TMS puzzle, which is no longer being syndicated, are up in arms and/or dispirited with the LA Times that now appears in their daily paper, as it's too tough.

My advice to them was to keep solving, keep solving. Many spent years learning how to do the TMS puzzle. This puzzle is different, and it may take some time to get into the swing of things.

imsdave said...

To redanman and embien - I still screw up on Fridays and Saturdays in the NYT, and occasionally on the LAT Saturday. It just doesn't matter a bit.

Yes there is some (really not a lot) of solving snobism on these blogs, ignore it as I do.

Join the community and enjoy our company. It's a pleasant place to be.

Nice puzzles at both the NYT and LAT today. No strained anything.

Best to the new bloggers and old hats.


LeeP said...

I've been reading Rex's blog for quite awhile - but I am out in syndicated land. I too am happy to find this blog - and be a current participant! I love the teamwork here & the different points of view.

My only question about today's puzzle is 45D 'Hush Money Payer' - Briber doesn't sound right. Seems to me the one who pays isn't the one who's committing the bribe.

Rex Parker said...

I'm going uncensored here, but I have to say something: The TMS puzzle was objectively Terrible, filled with lots of crap words and Roman numerals (sometimes three and four in a single puzzle!?!) and other junk that would get your puzzle rejected from most puzzle outlets. And it wasn't always easy (precisely because of the often ridiculous, capriciously arcane fill and bad design). I tried to do one once, and then went to CC's blog and told them all how bad I felt for them, and that a better puzzle world was out there. Not tougher or more "elite" - just plain better. Smoother. More thoughtfully designed. Etc.

Ex TMS'ers should count themselves lucky. In time, they will see what I mean. Nobody likes change, but the LAT puzzle is superior in Every Way to the old TMS puzzle. This goes for expert and novice solvers alike. No one who solved both puzzles (LAT and TMS) would disagree with me. Literally, no one.

Read other solvers' experiences solving a TMS puzzle here:

Rex, May 19 2008

I await your disagreement.

Respectfully, RP

xyz said...
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chefbea said...

what was that all about??????