MONDAY, June 29, 2009 — Samantha Wine

THEME: In the Dirt — three theme answers end with phrase "IN THE DUST," "IN THE EARTH," and "IN THE MUD," respectively

I want to be kind, but I have to be honest: I think this is one of the most poorly constructed puzzles I've done all year. The answers FNMA (47A: Low-cost home loan org.) and INNYC (41D: Where MoMA is) are virtually unforgivable in any puzzle, let alone an early-week puzzle. The fact that they intersect is just mud icing on the dirt cake. You can see what happened. The grid is screwed from the get-go, as theme answers immediately force you into an "I---C" situation, and all the decent answers that will fit there give you a terminal "I" or "A" for your 52A answer. Just because you can find an answer in the cruciverb database (INNYC, 2 examples) doesn't mean you should use it. And if you somehow *have* to use a poor bit of fill like that, dear god don't cross it with something nearly equally terrible. FNMA has just 7 examples in the cruciverb database, and the NYT has never used it. Why? Because everyone knows that the abbreviated form of the Federal National Mortgage Association is (wait for it) ... FANNIE MAE. FNMA spells FAIL in this instance. More FAIL — year in Latin is "ANNUS." "ANNUM" is the objective case (32D: Year in old Rome). You need something in the clue to cue that "M," especially when your cross is a terrible abbr. (FNMA) no one uses ever never. The middle of this puzzle is such a disaster that the quality of the rest of the puzzle (middling at best) is almost irrelevant.

Theme answers:
  • 21A: Overtaken and easily surpassed (LEFT IN THE DUST)
  • 38A: Classic novel by Ole Rolvaag ("GIANTS IN THE EARTH") — I'm sorry ... what? You said "classic?" By ... whom? This is a Monday theme answer? Really? On what planet?
  • 56A: Old fogy (STICK IN THE MUD)
I could go on — the clue on BIO LAB (1D: H.S. class with slides) is terrible, in that the "class" H.S. students take is called BIOLOGY. Separate classes called "lab" don't come 'til college. There's a "THE" in the "FBI" answer (3D: J. Edgar Hoover's org.). Why? No one knows. The newest e-bomination to hit the streets is, apparently, the E-LIST (10D: Online mailing tool). I would have clued that [Group below Kathy Griffin?]. It's just yuck everywhere I look. FETISH doesn't even get an exciting clue (37D: Magical object). I would continue to IDEATE (22D: Imagine, ugh) how this puzzle ever got made, let alone published, but I'm just too tired.

Crosswordese 101: IMHO (15A: Chat room "I'm just saying ...") — stands for "In My Humble Opinion," and (in my experience) rarely signifies genuine humility. I was promoting "IMOO" ("In My Obnoxious Opinion") for a while as a more accurate substitute. Do people go to "chat rooms" any more? Where? Seems like such a 90s concept. Abbreviations of this sort are more commonly associated with text messaging and all forms of e-communication. LOL is perhaps the most famous "chat room" abbrev. Look for IMO, OMG, WTF, and ROTFL, all of which have decent currency. Actually, you will likely never see WTF in a mainstream publication. That "F" pretty much kills it.

What else?
  • 16A: "It depends" ("I MAY") — OK, I guess that's one of the many, many things "It depends" might, sort of, mean.
  • 25A: Like a tinkerer's kit, briefly (DIY) — as in "Do It Yourself," but ... what? Is the kit really called a DIY kit? Do you mean a tool set? A tool box? This clue/answer pairing is just a mess.
  • 4D: Country singer Axton (HOYT) — barely there, somewhere, on the margins of my brain. Why?

  • 7D: Sodium hydroxide, to chemists (NAOH) — if it's not NACL, I don't want to see it 'til later in the week.
  • 11D: Volcanic output (MOLTEN LAVA) — this, and its symmetrical counterpart DON'T RUSH ME, I do indeed like. There. I feel better.

Taylor Dayne - Don't Rush Me (Official Music Video)

See you Friday, for better times, I hope.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Relaxing soak (BATH); 5A: Confined, with "up" (PENT); 9A: Send back, as into custody (REMAND); 15A: Chat room "I'm just saying ..." (IMHO); 16A: "It depends" ("I MAY"); 17A: Fled to wed (ELOPED); 18A: Follow orders (OBEY); 19A: Each (A POP); 20A: __ mignons: steaks (FILETS); 21A: Overtaken and easily surpassed (LEFT IN THE DUST); 24A: Wall St. trader (ARB); 25A: Like a tinkerer's kit, briefly (DIY); 26A: Try (ATTEMPT); 30A: Flips of hits (B-SIDES); 32A: Farmland measure (ACRE); 34A: Frosty's button, e.g. (NOSE); 35A: Granola bit (OAT); 36A: "__ if I can help it!" (NOT); 37A: Dental thread (FLOSS); 38A: Classic 1924 novel by Ole Rolvaag (GIANTS IN THE EARTH); 43A: Caffé with hot milk (LATTE); 44A: Cashew, for one (NUT); 45A: "Total Request Live" airer (MTV); 46A: Arabian chief (EMIR); 47A: Low-cost home loan org. (FNMA); 48A: Prejudiced (BIASED); 52A: River mouth area (ESTUARY); 54A: Bro's sib (SIS); 55A: Atmospheric pollution meas. (AQI); 56A: Old fogy (STICK IN THE MUD); 60A: Four pecks (BUSHEL); 63A: Exude (EMIT); 64A: Caesar's 53 (LIII); 65A: Orwell's "__ Farm" (ANIMAL); 66A: Au naturel (NUDE); 67A: José's hand (MANO); 68A: Web surfing tools (MODEMS); 69A: Letters on a phone's "0" button (OPER); 70A: Red sky, to sailors (OMEN); 1D: H.S. class with slides (BIO LAB); 2D: Yellowish-brown colors (AMBERS); 3D: J. Edgar Hoover's org. (THE FBI); 4D: Country singer Axton (HOYT); 5D: Keyboard players (PIANISTS); 6D: Like a useless gas tank (EMPTY); 7D: Sodium hydroxide, to chemists (NAOH); 8D: Work at a keyboard (TYPE); 9D: Disprove (REFUTE); 10D: Online mailing tool (ELIST); 11D: Volcanic output (MOLTEN LAVA); 12D: Swinger in the zoo (APE); 13D: Take-home pay (NET); 14D: Cavity filler's deg. (DDS); 22D: Imagine (IDEATE); 23D: Evil Vader (DARTH); 27D: Heath-covered wasteland (MOOR); 28D: Hissed "Hey!" ("PSST!"); 29D: Pianist John (TESH); 31D: "I'll finish it when I finish it!" ("DON' T RUSH ME!"); 32D: Year in old Rome (ANNUM); 33D: Terra __ (COTTA); 37D: Magical object (FETISH); 38D: Cloud-nine feeling (GLEE); 39D: Pet food brand (IAMS); 40D: Going __: squabbling (AT IT); 41D: Where MoMA is (IN NYC); 42D: Rankle (EMBITTER); 47D: Bells and whistles (FRILLS); 49D: Green eggs and ham promoter (SAM I AM); 50D: Horse (EQUINE); 51D: "Play It As It Lays" author Joan (DIDION); 53D: Top-notch unit (A-TEAM); 54D: Nastily derogatory (SNIDE); 57D: Number-picker's game (KENO); 58D: "Still in bed?" response (I'M UP); 59D: Saint with a fire (ELMO); 60D: Emeril exclamation (BAM); 61D: Juan's one (UNO); 62D: Caesar of comedy (SID).


Anonymous said...

Hum..Got up on the wrong side of the bed, did you?

humorlesstwit said...

I was left with a blank at the crossing of ANNU_/FN_A. I still have a blank there, because I just didn't care. Which is damming.

Denise said...

I read "Giants in the Earth" at some point, a long time ago, but it took me a while to recall it. This was a very hard Monday puzzle.

I thought I was done, but I didn't get my friendly cartoon, so I switched to "regular" and had to change ANNUS to ANNUM. Why?

When I was dealing with "BIO ---" I realized that there weren't enough spaces for BIOLOGY.

Lots of unnecessary confusion on a Monday morning.

PuzzleGirl said...

Anon 7:18: I don't think Rex got up on the wrong side of the bed. I think he didn't like this puzzle for many reasons, all of which he explained in his post.

The irkiness of this puzzle started at 1A for me. I think of a SOAK as a "Relaxing bath," not the other way around. Also having PIANIST in both clue and answer isn't good. Especially because there any number of alternatives to cluing John TESH.

I really liked the theme answers and, other than the ickiness pointed out by Rex, the puzzle was just fine. Unfortunately, that ickiness was pretty icky.

gjelizabeth said...

I liked BIOLAB, THEFBI, and INNYC, because they were different. All three were clued with abbreviations, which I learned to note from discussions here. I felt BIOLAB was fair because the lab part of Biology class is the only part that uses the little glass slides for microscopes. I never hear FBI referred to without THE in front of it. And an answer to the question "Where's MoMA?" is likely to include a preposition as well as a place. I'm also fine with FNMA. When FannieMae didn't fit, it was easy to revert to the initials that were blurred into the popular name. I have only a rough sense of what makes a puzzle suitable for different days of the week but a sense of "playing fair" seems to be especially important in the early week puzzles. I felt the constructor "played fair" because the obvious answers to the problematic clues were the wrong length, so I didn't get led off in wild directions.

obertb said...

As I was doing this puzzle, I thought, Gee, this is kinda hard for a Monday LAT. But after finishing (took longer than the NYT) I realized that it wasn't hard, it was just...stupid, right from the outset. The clue for 1A is ass-backwards; a relaxing bath might be a SOAK, but no way is a relaxing soak a BATH. A bath is what you take to get yourself clean; a soak is what you do to relax. And it just goes on like that.

There must be some kind of Natick-y name for the terrible cross of ANNUM and FNMA, the former being grammatically incorrect and the latter generally unknown.

GIANTS IN THE EARTH was actually a gimme for me, but it does seem more Friday-ish than Monday-ish.

And so on. Gotta agree totally with Rex on this one.

*David* said...

There was some unpleasantness with "the" FBI and NYC. I did however like the fact that it felt harder then a typical Monday which amde up for its shortcomings.

I think that sometimes, as a solver, there is too much limited expectation of what a puzzle will represent. If you let go a bit even puzzles like this one can be enjoyable.

Orange said...

This seemed like a Wednesday puzzle from 1982 to me. Granted, there are answers (IMHO, e.g.) that didn't exist them, but it still felt like doing an old, pre-Shortz era crossword.

I think chat rooms still exist. Friend of mine chatted in "adult" chat rooms recently. I haven't encountered any chat rooms in years in my own online travels, though.

chefbea said...

I agree.. Hard for a monday puzzle. Never heard of FNMA. I thought the mouth of a river was the delta

Gary Lowe said...

IMOO. That's very good.

Never read "Giants in the earth", but now I have this Stan Rogers song, "The Giant" stuck in my mind. Haven't heard it years, and I doubt anyone here will have.

Cold wind on the harbour and rain on the road
Wet promise of winter brings recourse to coal
There's fire in the blood and a fog on Bras d'Or
The giant will rise, with the moon

'Twas the same ancient fever in the Isles of the Blest
That our fathers brought with them when they went West
It's the blood of the Druids that never will rest
The giant will rise, with the moon

So crash the glass down, move with the tide
Young friends and old whiskey are burning in-side
Crash the glass down, Fingal will rise, with the moon

Rex Parker said...

I get the "wrong side of the bed" comment every time I don't like a puzzle. [yawn] Bring the rebuttal or shut up, I say.


P.S. I think I was too hard on the "THE" in "THE FBI." Just a little.

mac said...

I'm afraid I have to agree with Rex and PuzzleGirl; the editor didn't do his job this time.

Liked fetish: mine is a shoe one.

eileen said...

I started working the puzzle and soon realized that it seemed nonsensical, especially for a Monday. FNMA-you got to be kidding! Also, all our phones have no other letters than O on that button (but quickly caught my error). And to make matters worse, our newspaper editor didn't include the clue for 62D.
Overall, it was pretty bad.

Charles Bogle said...

Am totally w Rex, @puzzlegirl, @obertb@, @mac, @eileen, others...although I only have been doing these for two months, I feel I've gotten sense for what is "professional," and this inane puzzle really rankled me...for once I feel a total waste of time and effort

In addition to the examples cited, STICKINTHEMUD is an age-neutral term, although it's wrongly clued as "old fogey"__you can be a SITM at any age

So far as I'm concerned--and I am not normally critical of the construction--the only pleasures I had were in the shout-outs to SID Caesar and SAMIAM

In NYC (where MOMA is), we'd call this one: dreck

Charles Bogle said...

Am totally w Rex, @puzzlegirl, @obertb@, @mac, @eileen, others...although I only have been doing these for two months, I feel I've gotten sense for what is "professional," and this inane puzzle really rankled me...for once I feel a total waste of time and effort

In addition to the examples cited, STICKINTHEMUD is an age-neutral term, although it's wrongly clued as "old fogey"__you can be a SITM at any age

So far as I'm concerned--and I am not normally critical of the construction--the only pleasures I had were in the shout-outs to SID Caesar and SAMIAM

In NYC (where MOMA is), we'd call this one: dreck

Charles Bogle said...

My apologies for the double (now triple) entry. Guess I subconsciously really didn't like it double

toothdoc said...

IMPO this was an awful puzzle. As a DDS all I can recommend is that you brush and FLOSS the taste of this puzzle out of your mouth and hope for a better fill later in the week.

PurpleGuy said...

@toothdoc...totally agree.
Hated this puzzle. Am now going to floss and brush my teeth, then make a martini with an olive garnish, which I will sip while taking soak until I get soused !

imsdave said...

I'm sticking with the crowd - just didn't like it. I actually finished in a longish time for a Monday AND with an error. I never studied Latin (apparantly that wouldn't have helped anyway), and as I plopped in my last letter, I really wanted there to be an L in that mortgage abbreviation, so went with ANNUL.

IMOO a better clue for THEFBI would have been the 60's - 70's TV series by that name that starred Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (whose father, the violinist shows up with some frequency in xwords). Of course that could just be me showing my grey hair.

Anonymous said...

Agree with all the criticisms except FNMA. Fannie Mae is most often abbreviated FNMA in the financial industry.

chefwen said...

@Toothdoc and Purple Guy - you both made me smile for the first time since I started this awful puzzle solving experience today.

Joon said...

i had a mistake at the FNMA/ANNUM crossing (put in ANNUS and just shrugged when i didn't recognize the govt agency letter pileup), but the rest of this puzzle didn't bug me. part of why it took longer than the typical monday, which nobody seems to have pointed out, is that it's bigger: 16 squares wide, necessitated by the length of GIANTS IN THE EARTH. but yes, it's also somewhat harder than usual.

i can't grasp the complaint against BATH for {Relaxing soak}. i mean... a BATH is a relaxing soak. if you want to soak yourself without prioritizing relaxation, you take a shower. right?

i also chuckled when i saw "the editor didn't do his job." you know who samantha wine is? rich norris, that's who. it's another anagrammatic pseudonym: "samantha wine" = "what's in a name?"

Charles Bogle said...

Ok this puzzle turned me into grouch of the day so here's my beef w Saturday's JUMBLE,,,the first mixed up word was ELLIS. Now, this is not a Mensa exercise, but we couldn't come up w anything-

the directions call for an "ordinary and common" word

Find out in today's paper the unscrambled word was LISLE, which dictionary says is a type of thread from, of course, Lisle, France...

Pass me that pitcher of Martinis please!

mac said...

@Joon: I should have known! Didn't you point out another pseudonym a
few months ago?

chefwen said...

If you were a woman during WW11 you would have worn lisle stockings as nylon was not available. As I wasn't around during that war I'm not sure how I knew that word, must have read about it in some book, so I did finish that jumble, much to husbands chagrin as he had started it.

chefbea said...

I almost commented about the name - samantha wine. was going to say " it's time for a glass of "Wine"
Or "lets not wine about this puzzle"

easylob said...

I'm very late with this, so probably no one will read it, but I thought the puzzle was challenging but doable for a Monday, with a lot of non-crosswordese fill. Took a while to get INNYC and THEFBI, but I was pleased when I did. It seems to me (IMOO) that the speed solvers were irritated by this puzzle because it had some "unconventional" answers that slowed them down. Bruised egos, perhaps?

easylob said...

Oh, and isn't the expression "per annum" fairly common?

eileen said...

@ charles bogle: Thank you for your fantastic comments! I really appreciate your insight because your comments and encouragement really help me out.
You and the trinity (rex, pg and orange) are doing a great job at making this a fun hobby. And by the way, I don't have enough time to mention all the other nice and patient friends that are part ot this community.
I truly hope that each of you know how much I appeciate your help.


I agree with Rex and I think I've had too much WINE.
I know I won't do another one of her's.


Actually I had no problem with FNMA. I used to be a Realtor(T.M.) and we were told to never use FANNIE MAE for FNMA (Federal National Mortgage Association)... it was a cutesy Wall Street acronym and reeked of non-professionalism.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info, Joon!

Daize Shayne said...

Number 4 seed from 8 AAAAA will go into playoffs with losing record. Will it be Brookwood or Parkview in week 11?Goober……..Very good questions…….. 1. How will the four teams share the MAC next year when Veterans High opens…