WEDNESDAY, Oct. 25, 2006 - Adam G. Perl

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Solving time: 12: 05

THEME: "Quip from a returning vacationer" - quotation, running through four puzzle-traversing, 15-letter lines: "THE TOWELS IN THAT / HOTEL WERE SO BIG I / COULD JUST BARELY / CLOSE MY SUITCASE"

Not a long entry today. Much to do. Sometimes Rex has to tease you with a short entry (!), leaving you wanting more, making sure you come back tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow ... So today, just a taste to whet your appetite (FACT: until Rex was in his mid-20s, he believed that the phrase was "Wet Your Appetite" - which, if it is hilariously wrong, has the virtue of being infinitely sexier than its "right" counterpart)

Rex is not a big fan of the quip-theme puzzles. Not really a big fan of the word "quip," either, actually. Too quaint. Quips usually make me think "oh ... I get it ... that's cute ... in a Family Circus kind of way" (actually, I would love to see a Family Circus where they steal towels. Breakin' the Law, Breakin' the Law!). Seriously, this "quip" is something Beetle would say to Sarge or Garfield would say to Odie or For Better would say to Or Worse (that last one's not really true, it just sounded so good to me that I had to use it). More to the point, quips slow you down ... until you get the quip, that is, and then you get to fill in all kinds of squares, woo hoo! This quip did not gel quickly today. Still, I admire this puzzle for non-theme reasons. Before we get to that:

Speaking of towels! Here is a bookmark (those seven words have never before in the history of the universe been written in succession like that) from Holiday Inn, promoting a book they have produced about the history of their fine lodging establishment, called About the Towels, We Forgive You: Absorbing Tales of Borrowed Towels. The idea was that Holiday Inn was acknowledging that many people had stolen towels over the years ... they even declared a towel-theft amnesty day, apparently. Anyway, here's the bookmark: And my wife's response - or the gist of it: "Ew, those are not stories I'd want to hear!" If these towels could talk, I'm guessing they wouldn't reminisce about the wonderful people they've encountered; rather, they would horrify you with a litany of the unimaginable variety of fluids they'd been forced to absorb over the years. Said one old towel to another: "You think blood is bad, you should try bile! In 1963 ..." Etc. (ugh, this entry was supposed to be Short)

Quip me!

Rumble, e.g. (set-to)

Rex likes to put hyphens in words that don't warrant them, apparently, and since my Google of "set-to" just got me a bunch of sites where people were "set to do something or other" - and a Google of "set-to rumble" got me many sites about volcanoes, I'm just going to keep the hyphen here, and leave it here even if I'm proven wrong. Such is the way of Rex. "Set-to" always seems very antiquated, like a "donnybrook" - "melee" is good. "Set-to" sounds horribly improvised, so I'm not sure why it stuck. Would you go see Jackie Chan in Set-To in the Bronx? I thought not.

I screwed up the dead center (or "Omaha") of this puzzle something awful. For example:

37A: Norwegian saint (Olav)

Looking this up right now, as the whole "F vs. V" thing is Bugging me. Now please imagine Rex's head nearly exploding as he realizes from a Google search of "Saint Olav" that Nobody Seems to Care which Way You Spell It. Totally Interchangeable. Rex feels better about having had an F at the end for several minutes. Speaking of that final letter, which turned out to be a V: I am none too fond of the cross at that point (32D: Turn inside out (evert)). Its solid Latinity cannot be denied, but o my god you would never say this. I should start saying this to Sahra in the mornings, as - since she largely dresses herself now - her shirts are in constant need of everting.

45A: Lifesaver, maybe (hero)

Well I had VEST for a good long time, and let me tell you why. First, I had the E for sure. Second, I was Way way off on my answer to 30D: Root of diplomacy (Elihu). Can anyone guess what I had there instead? It had the V from VEST in the fourth position ... That's right, I had OLIVE. But an olive is not a root. But an olive tree has roots, doesn't it? And of course it was easy to convince myself of OLIVE because, well, diplomacy ... the proverbial OLIVE branch ... I persisted with OLIVE until the cross at the final letter turned out to be a rock-solid U (from COULD JUST BARELY in the quip). And then I recalled, from somewhere deep in the recesses of my considerable brain, that there was somebody named ELIHU Root who did something important before my time. And then "Omaha" fell before my ragged onslaught. Elihu Root was a Republican US Senator and Secretary of War in the early 20c. (TR administration) and won the 1912 Nobel Peace Prize, largely, it seems, for his important role in helping to arbitrate various international disputes. Here we see that in addition to being one of America's greatest administrators, he was also a zany, zany, fun-loving man:
8D: Libertine's feeling (lust)

Why did it take me forever to get this? I was thinking in the realm of "happiness" or "satisfaction" or "pleasure" ... so I was on the wrong (which is to say, post-coital) end of the libertine equation. And it's such a simple word to trip on. Ugh.

27D: Croc's head or tail? (hard C)

My very favorite clue / answer of the day because it is exactly right but Very hard to see when you only have a couple of middle letters. I knew the answer was about the C's, but CEE (even CEES) wouldn't stretch that far. So I was thinking ... dangerous? SCALY, maybe? No. Hard C. Fabulous.

12D: Kenneth Grahame's ____ Hall (Toad)

None of this made any sense to me. If I'd only recalled that Grahame wrote The Wind in the Willows ... nope, that wouldn't have helped either. Until I looked this up, I thought the answer was some kind of historic London theater (that is, theatre).

46D: Gambols (prances)

I don't believe I knew what the hell "gambol" meant before this very moment. I had the -ANCES part, and initially wrote in CHANCES - you know, a GAMB(O)LER takes his CHANCES... Uh huh. So I Googled GAMBOLS and discovered that in addition to its prancing meaning, it is also the name of a long-running comic strip book that I have Never heard of. Seems to be a cross of Honeymooners and Blondie. It was (is?) published from the early 50s through 1999! Here is a sample cover (Rex LOVES covers). See the rest for yourself, here.

Would write about WADE Boggs now, who was a hero of mine growing up - but he finished his career with the Yankees, so screw him. [late addendum: I was wrong. He won a World Series with the Yankees, but he finished his career with the Lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays. So, screw him, but less so, out of pity.]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orange 11:02 AM  

ELIHU and the SET-TO are both Pantheon candidates. You'll be seeing them fairly often if you keep doing crosswords. The founder of Yale was Elihu Yale, so keep him in mind, too.

Howard B 11:43 AM  

I love the bizarre, seemingly random mix of trivia, factoids (is that redundant?), people, history, music and vocabulary that you can learn in just one puzzle some days.
That's part of the draw of these things for many people, I would suppose.

Anonymous 8:59 PM  

Screw the puzzle. I just read this column and have a few laughs, something I NEVER got from the puzzle, I have to say. Talk about aggravation!

Just READ REX. Let HIM do the work. That's MY motto.

Jane 2:01 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 2:02 PM  

I learn much more from reading Rex than I do from doing the puzzle. Thanks Rex and please keep blogging.

murfens 4:32 PM  

I just discovered this awesome site.
I LOVE all the details about the words you provide. I used to look stuff up but now I can just come here!
Your occasional expression of frustration and humor are hugely appreciated too.
Thanks for doing this - hope you never stop!

Anonymous 12:08 AM  

If theys LUST(8d) for towels:

There be a SET-TO (21a).
The HOTEL be the SUER (58d).
They SNIVELS (40a),
they RAVES (31d),
they tries to cop a PLEA (46a).
The judge bangs his GAVEL (34d).
Theys wind up in JAILS (5a).
Hey, no RENT! (62d)
If they steals TVS (42a),
I'D SAY (35d) theys go to ELBA (53d).
SO SAD? (38a) NO LOSS! (19d)

Captcha: "Cop 'em", Dano. (Hawaii 5-0) Well before your TIME, Rex!

The Time Traveler

Uh-oh, captcha failed. Did they get away with the towels?

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