FRIDAY, Nov. 27, 2009 — Dan Naddor

THEME: Medieval puns — phrases all have word "medieval" in them, and all answers involve puns on things associated with the Middle Ages

I studied medieval literature in grad school and still sometimes teach it, so this theme was up my alley (though there's nothing particularly literary about it). The theme answers don't exactly sizzle, but they're all solid puns, CHANNEL SERF being by Far the best. There was a bit too much cruddy little fill in this puzzle for my tastes. ONEL and N-TEST, and SSS (UGH) and KER and ILA and TSGTS (which I've never seen in a puzzle before — SSGTS and MSGTS are familiar) (49D: Some USAF NCOs). There's a general lack of care with the small stuff that gives the puzzle a dull cast, rather than the shine it ought to have. SOMA ILA MASSA STOA — all legal, but none of it good. I just finished a puzzle in which I *had* to use ILO and it's still killing me, right now, even as I type. ILA (7D: Tuscan marble city) might have caused me to tear the whole thing down. On the plus side, DIDDY (35D: Bad Boy Records founder, as he's now known) and NAS (40A: "Thugz Mansion" rapper) and BASIE (22D: Count in jazz) give the puzzle an unusually upbeat, musical vibe.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Medieval commuter between Dover and Calais? (CHANNEL SERF)
  • 22A: Medieval castle owner's view? (BARON LANDSCAPE)
  • 34A: Manages medieval real estate holdings? (MINDS ONE'S MANORS)
  • 46A: Medieval lord's efforts? (FEUDAL ATTEMPTS)
  • 53A: Weapons for medieval warriors? (KNIGHT CLUBS)

I was really slow on the uptake with AT THAT (42D: Besides). It's a phrase I never use and couldn't clearly define, frankly, so I needed crosses aplenty. Also double-stacked some wrongness in the NW, putting in CHE over DEAR before realizing that 12D: Sell at an inflated price had to be SCALP, which meant CHE had to go to MAO (19A: Revolutionary leader) and DEAR to DOLL (21A: Honeybunch).

Crosswordese 101: Jack OAKIE (15A: Jack of "The Great Dictator") — As far as I can tell, Jack OAKIE is the only acceptable clue for OAKIE. He is famous today only to cinephiles and crossword aficionados. Why does his fame live on in crosswords? One word: vowels. He's 80% vowels, this guy. To a constructor, that's like AIOLI in IONIA (i.e. tasty). His lack of massive fame, and the slightly Scrabbly "K," keep him from being ENYA-common, but he's definitely a repeater.

What else?

  • 39A: 1950s Edward R. Murrow news show ("SEE IT NOW") — ooh, I like this too. Before my time, but right in the heart of the period that my favorite crime fiction comes from. Mmm, Cold War.

  • 21D: 747 competitor (DC TEN) — I would never have thought of plane models as being in "competition" with one another.
  • 47D: Peak near Jungfrau (EIGER) — learned it from xwords
  • 55D: Pique condition? (IRE) — Peek-a-boo! Throw in PEKE and you've got yourself a weak crossword theme!

See you Friday,


PS For those of you who have been away for the past couple days, I want to draw your attention to a puzzle I wrote to benefit the breast cancer foundation of Christina Applegate (whose birthday was Wednesday). Please go HERE to read about it and download it or print it out, and please share it with anyone you know who likes puzzles (or breasts). I'm going to be promoting this puzzle for the rest of the weekend. Check it out, and then go here to get the completed grid and commentary (and to leave comments).

PPS here's a recent Slate article by Matt Gaffney about how it is that two constructors might come up with virtually identical puzzles completely independently of one another — very informative about constructing issues.

Everything Else — 1A: Like litigants (SUING); 6A: Campaign unpleasantry (SMEAR); 11A: Onetime lottery org. (SSS); 14A: Block house (IGLOO); 15A: Jack of "The Great Dictator" (OAKIE); 16A: Make a scene? (ACT); 17A: Medieval commuter between Dover and Calais? (CHANNEL SERF); 19A: Revolutionary leader (MAO); 20A: 1994 co-Nobelist with Rabin and Arafat (PERES); 21A: Honeybunch (DOLL); 22A: Medieval castle owner's view? (BARON LANDSCAPE); 27A: Hogwash (BALONEY); 28A: Geezer (COOT); 29A: Hope contributed to it for 50 yrs. (USO); 30A: Settled, as plans (FIRMED UP); 34A: Manages medieval real estate holdings? (MINDS ONE'S MANORS); 39A: 1950s Edward R. Murrow news show (SEE IT NOW); 40A: "Thugz Mansion" rapper (NAS); 41A: Mover or shaker (DOER); 42A: Threaten to attack (ASSAULT); 46A: Medieval lord's efforts? (FEUDAL ATTEMPTS); 50A: Easter bloom (LILY); 51A: Barbershop device (STROP); 52A: 007, for one: Abbr. (AGT.); 53A: Weapons for medieval warriors? (KNIGHT CLUBS); 59A: Flop preceder (KER-); 60A: Heart line (AORTA); 61A: Country known for its distance runners (KENYA); 62A: Big period (ERA); 63A: Bikini blast (N-TEST); 64A: Exorbitant (STEEP); 1D: [error left as is] (SIC); 2D: You might close your eyes when you say it (UGH); 3D: Dockworkers' org. (ILA); 4D: Amateur (NON-PRO); 5D: Been happening (GONE ON); 6D: One way to be responsible (SOLELY); 7D: Tuscan marble city (MASSA); 8D: Barely manage, with "out" (EKE); 9D: Inflation cause? (AIR); 10D: Whistle blower (REF); 11D: Island group near Fiji (SAMOA); 12D: Sell at an inflated price (SCALP); 13D: It's a wrap (STOLE); 18D: Seaside flier (ERNE); 21D: 747 competitor (DC-TEN); 22D: Count in jazz (BASIE); 23D: Single-handedly (ALONE); 24D: CBS military drama (NCIS); 25D: Campus quarters (DORM); 26D: "Brave New World" drug (SOMA); 27D: Saddens, with "out" (BUMS); 30D: "A __ Good Men" (FEW); 31D: Coffee mate? (DONUT); 32D: Continent-dividing range (URALS); 33D: Hissed "Over here!" ("PSST!"); 35D: Bad Boy Records founder, as he's now known (DIDDY); 36D: Greek portico (STOA); 37D: First-year law student (ONE-L); 38D: Author Ephron (NORA); 42D: Besides (AT THAT); 43D: Rockefeller Center muralist (SERT); 44D: Preschoolers' protection (SMOCKS); 45D: Task-oriented program (APPLET); 46D: Cereal bit (FLAKE); 47D: Peak near the Jungfrau (EIGER); 48D: Prefix with conservative (ULTRA); 49D: Some USAF NCOs (TSGTS); 53D: The Sunflower St. (KAN.); 54D: "As if!" ("NOT!"); 55D: Pique condition? (IRE); 56D: Nice one? (UNE); 57D: "Later!" ("BYE!"); 58D: Gullible one (SAP).


John said...

Dan Naddor got me! For 3D I had ILU, which made17A CHUNNELSERF. Perfectly reasonable. I know the Chunnel wasnt there in medieval times, but its better than CHANNELSERF!

Rex Parker said...

And I thought CHANNEL SERF was good...

Sfingi said...

I think I'll just limit my time on Naddor. Too tangential for me.

I knew Charlie Chaplin was in the movie, and now know Oakie is the guy with the domino symbols. Kept thinking "Listen Tomorrow to Murrow," tomorrow ending with "ow."
Knew Diego Rivera, lover of Kahlo, whose great murals were painted over because of Commie symbolism. Never heard of Sert. Looks like a pale excuse for Rivera's masterpiece. Knew Eiger, but not Jungfrau (I'll call it "Missy"). Non-postal state abbreviations are out, for me.

I suppose smocks protect kids from poster paint? Know zilch about rappers, dockworkers (we're landlocked). Did not know Samoa was a group. How is an assault a threat to attack? It IS an attack.

Is this Naddor guy like a Child of the Corn?

I await a debate.

Gareth Bain said...

I liked the first 3 puns. The last 2 were a bit blah.

I remember reading somewhere that Rich Norris likes puzzles with higher theme letter counts... This one's a 65, which is how all that other junk ended up in there... Still feel it comes out positive, just.

Only vaguely remembered OAKIE from somewhere, almost certainly other crosswords, so was rather hesistant in typing it in. Nice to meet him, BTW, he looks really goofy.

Ditto for the DCTEN clue being weird, in my case the plane is always associated with the song "Spanish Bombs"

*David* said...

I'm not a pun man but this one was not as out there as some Reagle ones. I don't have a problem with crosswordese fill, in fact I sometimes actually like it, as in this puzzle. The difference is when its not all over the place and is filling gaps to keep the larger theme going, as in this puzzle.

As far as difficulty, the themes actually made what could've of been a much more difficult puzzle, moderate.

Carol said...

@Sfingi - an assault may be an attack; however, the legal definition of assault is an unlawful threat to harm another physically. Battery is the harming of another person physically. That's why the charge would be "assault & battery" if there is a threat of harm and then the carrying out of the harm.

Anyway, another fun Friday puzzle with some teeth!


*David* said...

FYI on some of the questions regarding cluing.

The DC-10 was made by McDonnel-Douglas and was in direct "competition" with the Boeing 747. The main rivalry cirrenly is Airbus and Boeing.

In legal terminology for criminal charges brought it is called assault and battery. Assault is the threat of bodily harm and battery is the actual harm incurred.

Tinbeni said...

Dan Naddor's theme 'pun' puzzles usually make me laugh a bit, and once I EKEd out the first one the others fell in place.

But there were a whole lot of UGHs (with my eyes wide open) in this grid.

Knew Chaplin directed/acted in the First Dictator, got OAKIE from the crosses. N-TEST, never heard it called that. NAS/DIDDY hate rap/don't care. SMOCKS, just a weak cluing.

@Sfingi - Assualt is the threat, Battery is the contact.

Not a favorite DN offering.

RP - nice write-up, I'll pass on the clip.

Tinbeni said...

oops.I meant The Great Dictator, Chaplain's first real talk picture. Got distracting ph.call.

mac said...

Decent puzzle, but no sparkle. I agree with Sfingi, the "assault" clue was wrong.

I liked sic, firmed up and applets, not too common.

mac said...

I stand corrected on the "assault".

Anonymous said...

Rex, any plans for a puzzle to bring attention to prostate cancer? It kills almost as many people as breast cancer, yet receives far less research funding, solely because it lacks the public relations effort that has benefited breast cancer research.

chefbea said...

Toughest latimes puzzle in a long time. Had to google a few things. I thought it was ILU making chunnel ok.

as an aside - never got to do yesterday's nytimes. Didnt get delivered to my inbox and all stores that were open near me were out of the paper :-(

PurpleGuy said...

@John- I,too, had CHUNNELSERF. Didn't catch it until I came here.
Rather a thorny puzzle for me, althougha decent friday offering.

Boy did the SEE IT NOW clip bring back memories of that unfortunate time.
Thanks Rex for another great write-up.

sean z said...

First off, love the site! I'm just coming across it as I'm a bit hot and cold w/ crosswords. I'm not super fast at them and during the week work keeps me busy...but this site is gonna keep me hooked!

I also hate resorting to Google. I'd rather thumb through the dictionary and a few crossword books rather than firing up the computer. Crosswords are a great break from the computer.

Now to my problem with the puzzle: I usually associate 59A KER with plop, not flop....

shrub5 said...

I had SUERS for 1A Like litigants and with the R from that, I put ROOKIE for 4D Amateur. Not a good start. Moved elsewhere and did a little better. I liked the challenge of this puzzle and thought it was at a suitable level for a Friday. The theme answers each got a little chuckle and my admiration for the constructor in coming up with these "medieval" puns. There were several things I didn't know (OAKIE, SOMA, STOA, EIGER, MASSA, ONEL, SERT) but I was able to get everything through crosses and some lucky guesses.

Agree with "*" above about KER plop vs. flop. I did find kerflop in the dictionary, however. And thanks to @Carol, @*David* and @Tinbeni for their explanations of assault.

florida grandma said...

I really liked channel serf and got it pretty easily. The last two were harder for me, mainly because of a few of the crosses. Got 47D through cross. I surprised myself at how quickly I got much of the puzzle--guess I am showing my age and possibly getting a bit better at this. Still struggle with the RAP singers, though.
@Rex--thanks for the write up and your insights.

This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Being faily new to crosswords, this seemed like it was getting to difficulty for a Friday like it was 2 - 3 months ago. And I like it. When I have to Google, A LOT, and this blog pops up, it means the difficulty is up there. I feel like I am learning more this way.
JB in VA


Whew! Just got in from my Black Friday foray and I'm exhausted. Then I did this puzzle and got even more exhausted. It was hard for me because usually I get the tough themes solved from the crappy crosswordese fill. Usually those easy crosses "break the code", but Dan used some difficult words even for the fill. Words like: SOLELY, MASSA, SAMOA, SCALP, BASIE, DIDDY, PERES, SEEITNOW, APPLET, SMOCKS, and DONUT. Again, whew!

There were some UGH words though and I don't think I ever close my eyes when I say "UGH". Crappy words like: ONEL (what's that mean?), NOT for "As if!" (I've never heard that used), and I know NTEST stands for nuclear (but it should be atomic).

But the worst clue was "Geezer" for COOT. Hey, I'm a geezer, but I sure am not an old COOT. Excuse me, Mr. Naddor, there's a huge difference... get with it, KID !

Well, I'm not really offended.
Besides, only us geezers know what a razor STROP is.

Rex thought SSS was a bad entry, but it stood for the Selective Service System, which instituted a lottery procedure for the military draft... perfectly legit clue.

Some words I didn't know: NAS (till I saw Rex's clip), MASSA, SOMA, ONEL, SERT, and EIGER. Wasn't there a Clint Eastwood movie called the EIGER Sanction?

Some fun clues: "Coffee mate" for DONUT, and "Nice one" for UNE.

I had forgotten about Jack OAKIE, till I watched the Chaplin "Great Dictator" clip. Jack OAKIE played Benzini Napaloni (Benito Mussolini).

Y'all have a super "turkey sandwich" weekend!

Bohica said...

Not a bad puzzle. SOMA came rushing back from high school english and Huxley's Brave New World, it was required reading.

Agree that KERFLOP is not the word that KERplop is. Also thought I had a problem with ASSAULT until I came here and had it explained to me, now I'm fine with it.

Did Rex's puzzle and liked it enough to donate (a little). Also did the "King of the Blog" puzzle. Not reading his NYT blog I thought it would be hard to get some of the references, but they were all getable through crosses.


Sfingi said...

@John - love your statement "Geezers know what a razor strop is."

Re: Assault. Anywhere but NYS, y'all are apparently right. But in the Empire State of mind, if I say I was assaulted, it means I was actually physically hit. According to hubster (of Codger, Coot & Geezer, ESQ PC) the great Iheartny got rid of the word "battery." It is now "attempted assault" and "assault."

Meanwhile, my day was lightened up by the USA Today puzzle which was a 4-line quote, to whit: "My pacemaker has a / lifetime / warranty / is that redundant. The 4th line is redundant, or at least unnecessary. My husband has a cugine who had a 10-year warranty and died in its 12th year. Great guy. Worked at Lowe's into his 80s.

This week, my Iowa sister found her 50-yr-old brother-in-law dead. She didn't look, just saw the flies, and as Shaks. said, sniffed him out. Very sad. He never had a car or girlfriend, but chose rather to devote himself to Bacchus.

At that happy Thanksgiving note, I'm bailing out.

Quentinc said...

I think I liked this puzzle more than most. For one thing, it's the first LAT in longer than I can remember that was actually challenging. Second, a lot of the short answers weren't really all that obscure. ONEL should be familiar to anyone who's seen "Paper Chase." SOMA is nice and literary.

Finally, a plea to constructors: Ignore the naysayers and keep the rap clues! They are the only pop culture items in puzzles that I have any familiarity with. And I'm a 50 year old white guy. :)

livingston2 said...

Great blog just stumbled on this
wow I am not alone!
Anyway i had suers instead of suing so 4 down was rookie
Thanks for the help