MONDAY, May 12, 2008 - Randall J. Hartman (ENTREE CARVED BY A CHEF)

Monday, May 12, 2008


Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: FOUR H CLUBS (58A: Youth groups ... with a hint to 17-, 28- and 44-Across) - four H's can be found in each of three theme answers

Second-fastest Monday (thus, second-fastest NYT puzzle of all time) for me. The only thing that even slightly slowed my progress was the TOUPEE region of the puzzle (a testament to the greatness of that word / clue - 48A: Top secret?). I had to work hard to get TOUPEE to come into view, and in that same region I had HURRAH for 45D: Fanfare (hoopla). Other than that - non-stop typing to a 2:58 finish. I feel as if I have seen this theme before, or some version of it, but frankly I'm astonished that kind of thing doesn't happen much more often. My main problem with this puzzle is that the non-theme fill - almost everything five letters and under - is tepid to boring. It's all the kind of thing that an expert constructor (which Mr. Hartman is) can fill in in a few minutes. I like Monday and Tuesday puzzles where attention has been given to All parts of the puzzle. You will inevitably have ordinary words and crosswordese in your early-week puzzle, but some effort should be given to livening things up somewhere. INGOT (3D: Gold brick) and CARNE (63A: Chili con _____) are nice-ish, but all around the perimeter of this puzzle I see yawn-inducing fill that likely could have been freshened up at least a little. To its credit, this puzzle has a deliciously creamy center - a lop-sided column of CHAISE (29D: _____ longue), SHEATHE (25D: Put away, as a sword), and PINATA (26D: Something beaten at a party in Mexico) - and the long Downs in the NE and SW are no slouches either. SAPPHIRES (11D: September birth stones) is (fittingly) beautiful, and ROAST BEEF (34D: Entree carved by a chef) has that surprising, solid -STB- center that makes it a real winner. No surprise that that's where most of the action (and most of my trouble) was in this puzzle.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Anglican body (High Church)
  • 28A: Question when you can't tell two things apart (Which is which?)
  • 44A: Jewish high holy day (Rosh Hashanah)

Assorted other stuff:

  • 18D: Sign of prestige (cachet) - one of those words I have trouble spelling. Somehow it's mixed up with SACHET and SASHAY and CACHE and the French CACHÉ ("hidden") etc. CACHET goes nicely today with NICHES (47D: Specialized markets)
  • 38A: Duracell size (AAA) - OK. Stuff like this should always be a last resort - and considering that it's anchoring that lovely middle of the puzzle, I give this a pass.
  • 39A: Like a score of 10 of a possible 10 (ideal) - I have blogged about this very clue / answer pair before. I don't like it. You score a PERFECT 10, not an IDEAL 10.
  • 49A: The "I" of Canada's P.E.I. (Island) - Prince Edward Island. My first draft of the puzzle I'm working on had a lot of great Canadian stuff, but ... it just didn't work out. Sorry, Canada. I'll let you see that puzzle, someday.
  • 5D: South Seas getaway (Tahiti) - yay. Gorgeous. And we get a "South Seas" clue that doesn't result in OMOO. Huzzah.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

57 comments:

Barb in Chicago 9:06 AM  

Easy for me, too. Wish I'd timed myself. I can never remember whether it's Rosh HAshannah or Rosh HOshanah, but it was easy enough to get from the crosses.

Peter Sattler 9:15 AM  

I also liked the clue for TOUPEE. Since I'm pretty new to puzzles, though, I assumed it was an old joke. It was nice to see that you enjoyed it too.

I didn't like the clue for "HIGH CHURCH" as much. I wouldn't say that it names a "body" of the Anglican Church. (I initially typed "presbytery," then quickly backspaced.) Isn't "High Church" more like a sect or subset of Anglicanism? How about a clue like "Some Anglicans" or "A form of Anglicanism"?

Clearly, religion isn't my strong suit. This grid also taught me that I cannot spell "Rosh Hashanah" out of my head. "HO" or "HA"? One "N" or two?

Congrats on your second-best time. Makes mine look anemic.

PhillySolver 9:17 AM  

No a single misstep to write about and nothing obscure to comment upon. I have even sen the same toupee clue. What I can tell you is that it still took almost eight minutes, so I now know that is how long it takes me to fill out a puzzle at my top speed. I feel like a K-car or a Geo.

Bill D 9:25 AM  

Quick solve even for this pen-pusher.

I often can't tell if the cluing in puzzles like this is lame or just Monday. Looking at the grid without the clues we find a little crosswordese (ESS and IN A SEC, and the talented ARNE, ENO & URI trio), and some regulars & old favorites - ADOS, ASH, ASPS, EWES, OAR, PLIE, REPO, the ampersnack pair T-BAR & A TEE, and an apparently new favorite NTH. Quite a bit of the fill is unusual or at least interesting. MIR, NICHES, OPEL, PINATA and a few others are downright rare. With cleverer cluing the puzzle could have been a real joy, but would it have been a real Monday?

I liked 48A - Top secret: TOUPEE but my favorite was 56A - Whisper sweet nothings: COO.

Wendy Laubach 9:45 AM  

I knocked about a quarter off of my best previous time, which made me think Rex probably finished before he even started.

Lots of standard stuff: AMIN, ASPS, ENO, OAR, ARNE, URI, PLIE, EWES, ADOS, REPO, ACE, NTH. Still, the Four-H theme was amusing. I agree that "HIGH CHURCH" is more of a style than a body, but you can't deny it has four H's.

dk 10:01 AM  

If only FOURHCLUBS could have been HHHHCLUBS similar to CCLAMPS from a day or so ago.

This puzzle was a confection as my mom would say. That said a doughnut on Monday is not so bad.

My time was jaw dropping for me as well. I only stumbled on the spelling of the "holy" clues. My rather unique birthmark (666) acts up and I lose track as my heads spins.

Joon 10:03 AM  

like rex, i had my second-fastest monday time. very smooth puzzle from my perspective, and i actually felt that there was a lot of long, relatively fresh fill for a monday (TAHITI, SHEATHE, PINATA, ASSUCH, TOUPEE, CACHET, NICHES, ROASTBEEF, HOOPLA). the only real clunker, in my opinion, was ADOS (hate that plural).

i would have liked to see a different clue for ROSHHASHANAH, given that both HIGH and HOLY were in the grid elsewhere. [Jewish New Year] or [It's nine days before Yom Kippur] are monday-level clues that avoid duplication. i'm not normally a super-stickler for this (i didn't particularly mind the [John ___] clue for DOE in saturday's puzzle that also included JOHNKNOX), but a double-repeat seems like something worth getting rid of.

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

Working on 33D, the clue was "Tramp" and I had "HO__" and was thinking to myself, can't I just stop there? But anyway...

Ulrich 10:23 AM  

I've got nothing to add to the observations made. So, here's an aside: The greatest bumper sticker I ever saw that contains "aim" read

I still miss my ex, but my aim is getting better.

As far as could tell from the rear, the driver was of the female persuasion.

Eli Barrieau 10:27 AM  

The 4H theme was done earlier, but with the theme words containing HEAD, HEART, HANDS, and what ever the other one is, HERPES?

My 2nd time under the 4 minute mark!

Addie Loggins 10:29 AM  

@phillysolver: thank you, thank you, thank you. So good to know I'm not alone in this world.

I didn't have any mistakes, didn't pause, felt very much like I was just writing in the answers in a steady movement of pen on paper. And yet: 7 minutes, 33 seconds. True, about my fastest time, but honestly: how do people break 5 minutes? or 4? or 3???

You people write freakisly fast. Is there a trick to that?

PuzzleGirl 10:32 AM  

My second fastest time ever (3:39) but I didn't realize I had misspelled ROSH HASHANAH until after I stopped the timer. I was going to try for an error-free week, but I guess the pressure is off now. Whew!

SethG 10:57 AM  

Alas, only third fastest for me. I'll beat Bannister some day.

Ironically, my biggest hangup too was figuring out how to spell ROSH HASHANAH.

@ulrich, my favorite bumper sticker was similar: "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will accidentally shoot their children". On my car: "I [heart] WARTHOGS".

miriam b 11:28 AM  

I began to wonder early on what the deal was with all the H's. Fun theme for a Monday puzzle.

jordanboston 11:30 AM  

@ peter sattler:
I agree with your qualm about the cluing of HIGH CHURCH. As someone who considers himself a high-church Episcopalian, I don't think of myself as belonging to a particular body, PER SE. Maybe "An Anglican congregation that doesn't mind incense"...

I'm sure there's an explanation for the Body cluing, but it was lost on me.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

Seen here in South Jersey:
Time is the best teacher; unfortunately it kills all of its students.
There are three kinds of people: those who can count and those who can't.
I got a gun for my husband...great trade.
I'd become a pessimist, but it wouldn't work anyway
The older I get, the better I was.

ArtLvr 12:10 PM  

I've seen the 4-H theme before ( head, heart, hands, and health), so it was mildly amusing to see number-of-times-in-a-word motif instead of reference to the future farmers club.

It's not very inspired, though -- I think I'd have preferred more down-to-earth aggie stuff! The blossoming of jokes here from fellow-solvers does make up for the initial let-down..... (pun). Thanks to Ulrich for initiating the run of favorite bumper stickers!

∑;)

mac 12:32 PM  

I'm with artlvr, enjoyed the blog and the comments much more today than the puzzle.... I'll be checking in later to read more bumper stickers, hopefully!

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

For computer geeks:

"There are ten kinds of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don't".

I was proud of myself for solving this puzzle in five minutes-I guess this makes me a Toyota Corolla!

Doug 12:50 PM  

Just seeing if the pic from my account comes through...

Doug 12:54 PM  

Ahhh, yes, and very nice. That's part of Whistler mountain that my oldest son took in Jan. If you've been, that's the Saddle in the middle.

I've just a new laptop and the company I work for doesn't allow any non-authorized s/w like AcrossLite so I've been going online lately to solve. Bummer--Between the NY Times Reader and AcrossLite, I'm pretty well a very happy guy. Now, I guess I need two laptops on the road (not) or just grin and bear it.

andrea carla michaels 1:36 PM  

I liked that you had both HIGHCHURCH and ROSHHASHANAH...
very ecumenical... (I mean even- handed)
Maybe the slow down for some on the latter is that there are, like, 20 ways to spell CHANUKAH.

I also liked CACHET/NICHES (tho I initially misspelled it CACHEE) and SAPPHIRES was beautiful, esp since there was an H in it that didn't even cross the theme ones!

I'm also loving watching how Rex's foray into constructing is subtly influencing his take on all aspects of the puzzle.

Barb in Chicago 1:48 PM  

phillysolver & addie loggins: My brain is a lot faster than my fingers, too. Instead of thinking of ourselves as Geos or K-cars, why not Smart Cars? We're intelligently designed, but not for speed.

PhillySolver 1:55 PM  

These are not bumper stickers, but actual statements (IDEAL SPEECH) made by one of the greatest American wits, Dorothy Parker:
If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be a bit surprised.
If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.
This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.
The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.
She is perhaps best known for this rhyme:
Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses.

Wendy Laubach 2:22 PM  

"186,000 miles per second: It's not just a good idea, it's the law."

"Honk if you've never seen an Uzi fired from a car window."

SethG 2:24 PM  

andrea carla michaels, a few ways for Rosh H. too. This page, for example, has Hashanna in the title bar, Hashana in the url and page heading, and Hashanah in the first sentence.

But yeah, (C)han(n)uk(k)a(h) has even more.

Anonymous 2:28 PM  

Barb in chicago:

As to a mneumonic for Rosh Hashanah, as to A or O, remember that Rosh Hashanah is the first day of the Jewish New Year and therefore use an A (the first letter of the alphabet) rather than an O.

PROFPHIL

Ulrich 2:44 PM  

To continue the series of somewaht misandronic stickers, here's my favorite:

The way to a man's heart is between the second and third rib.

andrea carla michaels 2:46 PM  

@prof phil
You need a better mnemonic than that! They are liable to spell it "Rash Hashanah"!
PS there are at least seven different acceptable ways to spell "ganef" in Scrabble!

Kathy 3:01 PM  

Thanks for the Dorothy Parker, phillysolver. To add to the start you made:

Razors pain you, Rivers are damp,
Acids stain you, And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful, Nooses give,
Gas smells awful. You might as well live.

Too long for a bumper sticker, to be sure, but worthy of quotation!

Maybe this:

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

Ulrich, loved yours...

Kathy

Joon 3:14 PM  

getting back to the puzzle for a moment, i just noticed that the clue for ISLAND, [The "I" of Canada's P.E.I.], is quite similar to the common clue [The "I" of I.M. Pei]... it's just that PEI is no longer the abbreviated part. (by the way, the answer is IEOH, for those of you who are constructing a puzzle and find yourselves in desperate need of some assorted vowels.)

of the many ways to spell ROSH HASHANAH, only that one has the right length and contains four Hs. plus, it's the one i've seen the most often, for what that's worth. google agrees with me, though it's somewhat close between that and HASHANA (1.1 million to 0.7 million).

Bill from NJ 3:32 PM  

Hell, I'm a nice Jewish boy and even I don't know how to spell Rosh Hashanah!

Had little problem with the puzzle but the theme gave me trouble for a while. I kept looking back and forth between the two religous long answers wondering how WHICHISWHICH fit in.

Anonymous in Texas 3:36 PM  

With two of the three theme answers being ecumenical, I would have liked to have something besides WHICH IS WHICH for the third - anything from some another great world religion.

As it is I am reminded of the Sesame Street song - "One of these things goes with the other. One of these things just doesn't belong...."

My time today, 11:56

Kevin Der 3:41 PM  

Fastest ever NYT for me, 3:43 on the computer. Loved CHAISE and CACHET.

Noam D. Elkies 4:00 PM  

Yeah, this was so easy that I not only solve it in under 10 minutes using only the Down clues (plus the fact that the Across entries must be Monday-level fill) but even guessed 58A:FOURHCLUBS before writing in any of the crosses :-) The only wrong turn was 10D:ASSUCH where, having already filled in CH, I wrote INSICH thinking it's way out there for Monday. The second S happened to be right, which further delayed matters until I finally realized what the 11D birthstone must be.

I agree that the clue for 17A:HIGHCHURCH doesn't feel quite right. One advantage of using only the Down clues is that I didn't get to wonder about 17A until the grid was all filled in...

18D:CACHET vs. CACHE: these turn out to be etymologically related, apparently via a verb "to press" (either embossing the literal cachet or hiding something by pressing it between two surfaces).

Dorothy Parker witticisms: there's a famous but obscene one which you can find on Google using her name plus "vice versa" (and in the Wikipedia entry for Antimetabole)...

NDE

Arby 4:13 PM  

7:30 - my best time ever, and I wasn't really trying for speed, especially. I may be able to break 7:00 some day, but never 2:38! Doomed to a dreary life of CrossWorld serfdom, I suppose...

jae 4:40 PM  

Easy puzzle, crappy time. I tried going the all down route at first using the enter key to move around. It would have worked fine except for IDLER for INGOT, misspelling SAPPHAIRE (and eventually ROSH...), RIBROAST (which didn't fit), COMING for INASEC, and ATILT for ACUTE. Just fixing all that took twice as long as it took Rex to do the puzzle.

chefbea1 4:49 PM  

easiest crossword ever. I don't time myself but I know I did it in record time. One Year on our drive to st. louis we saw a billboard advertising a 4-H Fair so we stopped. It was more fun looking at all the prize roosters, cows etc.

Ulrich 4:56 PM  

Since no one else did it, I have to pick a nit with myself: By using the term "misandronic", I apparently created a hybrid between "misandric" (Greek "andros" means man) and "misanthropic" (Greek "anthropos" means human being--in this context). Sorry, but I couldn't let this rest :-)

humorlesstwit 5:04 PM  

@Ulrich - I feel you're being way too easy on yourself. I'm sure that the 2 1/2 hours your mistake has been up there without comment is due solely to the fact that thousands of us out here are so angry with this mistake that typing eludes us. I had to take 200mg of Valium before I could even start here.

No Boll among your favorite authors? From your hometown?

fatman 5:09 PM  

good way to start a week. although it's nice to struggle a little bit, it's hard to argue with a puzzle that references both Brian Eno and Prince Edward Island, two awesome entities.

imsdave1 5:13 PM  

@phillysolver - thanks for noticing me being missing from the blog. Not being an online solver (as I truly enjoy the whole paper), I am at the mercy of my local stores to get the paper. There are many days when it is sold out by the time I get there. Home delivery is restricted to people who live 1 mile away from me, and the subscription option I have is Sunday only (for an additional $1.40). Wish I could comment on today's puzzle, but it was one of those no luck days.

p.s. I only solve early on Saturday and Sunday - usually pick up the paper after work on the week days.

SethG 5:23 PM  

Ulrich,

A couple of weeks ago I referred to people who enter comments as "commentators". I misspelt "too" the other day, I think "their" a while ago, my writing is replete with miscommaed subordinate clauses and misgerunding, and I'm still not sure what Philly was talking about.

We still love you,
sg

befuddledbytalkingheads 5:28 PM  

@Seth Maybe you know. When does one graduate from being a commenter to being a commentator? Is it simply an amateur / professional dicotomy?

Ulrich 6:00 PM  

@humorlesstwit and sethg: Thanks for trying to console me in my misery!

Doc John 6:14 PM  

I'm pressed for time today so all I'll say is
Fave clue/answer: Top secret? = TOUPEE

Tried to only do the acrosses today (not successfully) but I still didn't get to see a lot of the down clues. A fun solving experience.

jannieb 6:19 PM  

@ulrich - I decided to give you a pass in honor of your birthday. Many happy returns.

Fergus 6:27 PM  

Then there's Dorothy Parker's take on the martini:

I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I'm under the table,
after four I'm under my host.


Didn't even notice the TOUPEE today. Like Rex I started off with a feeling of deja vu, as if the NY Times were syndicating itself. But then it started to seem a bit more fresh, and ended up being a fairly interesting Monday.

I've always thought of Per Se as pointless verbal fill, but with AS SUCH this observation is now confirmed, as well as searing its actual meaning into my mind -- this time maybe, for more than a few seconds.

Doc John 7:40 PM  

I would like to mention that the person to whom Dorothy Parker was referring in her "A to B" comment was none other than Katherine Hepburn!

mac 8:06 PM  

@Ulrich: Happy Birthday! I'm sure I could do this in German, but if I misspell it I will not hear the end of it with this crowd....

Does the humorless twit mean Heinrich?

I love all the Dorothy Parker quotes; just wished I could remember them.

green mantis 8:16 PM  

Mmmm, Dorothy. Have you guys seen Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle? She gives the suicide toast at some kind of posh garden party and then passes out under some bushes, if I'm remembering correctly. Good stuff.

Nothing much to say about this puzzle; just stopping by to say I just turned in my last paper of the year and I am officially going to be haunting you all a lot more. And drinking martinis. Scary insect non sequitor martini ghost. Happy summer!

Ulrich 8:23 PM  

@mac and humorless twit: I can one-up you b/c I have a classmate named Heinrich Böll (I'm not kidding) who has a very successful arch. office in Essen (ditto). I just consulted with them on a competition for Cologne.

Thanks to all who remembered my birthday!

chefbea1 8:58 PM  

@ulrich - had I known it was your birthday would have baked you a cake - probably chocolate ganache yuuummm

humorlesstwit 9:40 AM  

@Ulrich - I trust you completed all your calculations by 9:30.

Waxy in Montreal 2:15 PM  

Nitpicking from syndicate-land, but...
While Idi Amin used to be an Exiled Ugandan (1A), since 2003 he's been one very dead Ugandan.

Anonymous 11:03 PM  

Didn't anyone notice that 29D was spelled incorrectly or am I not seeing something???

Anonymous 11:54 PM  

"Chaise longue" is French and means "long chair." Americans tend to say "chaise lounge" because it's your basic lounge chair. Chaise lounge is used so often that it's hard to say it's "wrong," it's just not the original name of the object.

I don't understand how to use this "make a comment" section. I'm not a "google blogger." I don't have a URL. Well, I do but why do I want to use a webpage address? I have no idea what "open ID" means. So I picked "anonymous". With luck, this comment will never show up and you won't know how incompetent I am. If it does show up, here's PS to my message: I love Rex Parker's blog.

L. L. Thrasher

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