(GULF OF TARANTO'S LOCALE) FRIDAY, Jan. 18, 2008 - Trip Payne

Friday, January 18, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

This was a very solid and enjoyable themeless puzzle. Next-to-no crap fill, and a lively mixture of new and old, pop culture and high culture, SCIENCE (8D: Journal with an annual "Breakthrough of the Year" award) and art. As you know, I'm quite partial to new-fangled fill - idiomatic expressions or people of recent fame whom we're not terribly used to seeing in the grid. When you do a Lot of puzzles, the new stuff is what keeps it fresh. Of course, there's a universe of long-standing names, places, terms, etc., that end up being "new" to me every day, so skewing your puzzle toward the contemporary is not the only way of keeping things fresh. I like the old mixed in with the new, and I like that the puzzle has become more catholic in its frame of reference in the past 15 years. If you are one of those folks for whom all forms of popular entertainment post-1960 are part of a dreaded and derided "pop culture," I don't know what to tell you: get with the times (or at least give up the condescending sneer), or get used to resenting the hell out of your puzzle for the rest of your life. Despite my grumbling when I don't know something, I actually love learning new things - this whole enterprise is largely dedicated to showcasing my Ignorance. I don't know why "pop culture"-haters can't see their ignorance as a challenge. Perhaps you feel as if your life will not be improved one shred by knowing the first name of the guy (Kiwi!) who hosts "The Amazing Race." And you are probably right. But I don't know how my life is improved at all by knowing who HAMAN (17A: Villain in the Book of Esther) is, or what NARD (29A: Ancient fragrance) is, but I'm grateful crosswords have taught me. I suppose one could argue that HAMAN and NARD have stood some test of time, whereas PHIL Keoghan (15D: "The Amazing Race" host Keoghan) is going to be No One in another decade or so. OK. Perhaps. But I want a puzzle that has some respect for the world as it is (which is to say, respect for people from all walks of life, all ages, all races, etc.) - a puzzle that is willing to take some risks on names and ideas that may not have much history, but have cachet now, and may have staying power in the future. This is all to say that I don't do puzzles in order to hide out from the World That's Gone To Hell. I have a certain fondness for that Hell. And I think a blanket condemnation of everything pop is as bad as Any kind of blanket condemnation. When are blanket condemnations ever good?

90+% of pop culture is crap, but so is 90+% of everything. The great thing about crosswords - the thing that makes them much the superior form of puzzle - is that every one is in essence a statement about what counts as knowledge. Every one posits a different idea of who "we" are, and what we should (and shouldn't) know. And so even the most conservative, dictionary-definition-oriented puzzles are making a statement about What Matters. This is inevitably a thorny, if not outright controversial, issue - hence this blog. You couldn't write a sudoku blog. Why? Because there's no Humanity to a sudoku puzzle. It's a diversion, but it doesn't address what defines us as a culture - thus, there's nothing to say. Crosswords are inherently partial, and while the symmetrical, gridded form suggests a certain rigidity, an objectively Right answer waiting to be uncovered, the truth is that at their cores, crossword puzzles are fundamentally subjective statements about what is important and what defines our shared humanity. This blog is a way of turning those statements into conversations. And God Bless the messiness that ensues.


  • 10A: Soigné (chic) - my French fails me almost half the times that I need it. Why do I want "soigné" to mean "cared for?"
  • 16A: Steely Dan hit of 1972 ("Do It Again") - one of several answers that took me, pleasantly, back to my 70's childhood. I remember listening to Steely Dan on the radio (though Bread or America or Carly Simon were more likely to be on the PHONOgraph - 15A: Stereo receiver button). The 70's also provided my introduction to the Divine MISS M (44A: "Divine" showbiz nickname - Bette Midler, from back in her bathhouse days ... not that I knew what a bathhouse was in the 70's). And I was a huge L.A. Dodgers fan in the 70's (it's how I learned to hate the Yankees), so I was delighted to see Ron "The Penguin" CEY in the puzzle today (28A: Six-time All-Star third baseman of the 1970s Dodgers). Ooh, I also played a little D&D in the late 70s, so ARMOR (23D: Hard-to-break plates) is oddly nostalgic for me as well.
  • 18A: T formation participant (end) - a little blandness and vagueness there, though honestly, I'm not sure how you spice up END (and still pass the "breakfast table" test)
  • 25A: Perishable fashion accessory (lei) - if you've got to have the boring LEI in your puzzle, "perishable" is an interesting, unexpected way to refer to it.
  • 24A: Georgia _____ of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (Engel) - EL? LE? EL? Wanted BAXTER here at first, until I realized the clue wanted the actress's name, not the character's...
  • 33A: Canadian equivalent of the Oscar (Genie) - no offense, but that's a Horrible name for an award. Tell me that it's at least pronounced as a French word, and not as a homonym of the name "JEANIE" (as in "I Dream of...").
  • 34A: Filled treat (pierogi) - wrote in CANNOLI at first, mainly because I'd just had that word in a previous puzzle. One of the few places I went wrong today - I also wrote in SUGAR for SWEET at 48D: Honeybun.
  • 37A: "Cooking with Astrology" author (Omarr) - I'm trying to find my Sydney OMARR paperback - it's Amazing. Its title is "My Bed Has Echoes" (!?) - here we go!
  • 38A: "Moon Over Parador" star, 1988 (Dreyfuss) - first thing in the grid, though my first thoughts were RAUL JULIA and SONIA BRAGA (not sure how I could confuse "Moon Over Parador" with "Kiss of the Spider Woman," but there it is).
  • 41A: You wouldn't sit for a spell in this (bee) - yep, those kids stand when they spell. Just like solvers stand when they solve the puzzles in the final round of the ACPT (those few who are good enough to make it to the stage).
  • 49A: Classic mystical book by Khalil Gibran ("The Prophet") - gimme, as was the other definite-article-containing title, "THE MISER" (30A: Molière comedy).
  • 52A: Brood : chicken :: parliament : _____ (owl) - new to me. Wanted FUNKADELIC.
  • 55A: Gulf of Taranto's locale (Ionian Sea) - I got the IONIAN part of this simply by looking at the holes in the world and filling them with letters that resulted in a geographical term I'd heard of before. Such logic is half the battle in solving crosswords.
  • 58A: Echo, e.g., in Greek myth (oread) - the return! We just saw this term, and here it is again, asserting its worthiness to be held in the same public esteem as your NAIADS and DRYADS.
  • 60A: _____ Atomic Dustbin (English rock band) - I feel almost embarrassed to say that this was a gimme for me. Why do I know this??? I couldn't tell you a single song they ever recorded. I did Not learn this from crosswords. One of many useless bits of trivia clogging up my brain. Well, useless until today, that is.
  • 5D: _____ Carinae (hypergian star) (Eta) - When in doubt, go with Greek letter. That's actually not a joke.
  • 10D: Detective in "The Shanghai Cobra" (Chan) - it was MOTO or CHAN. Guessed wrong, then fixed it.
  • 29D: "Ode to Broken Things" poet (Neruda) - I am familiar with the work of Pablo Neruda. My girlfriend (in the 90s) once bought me a book of his poems. She also once bought me Dante's Inferno. That should give you an idea of the emotional gamut of our relationship.
  • 34D: Beta decay emission, sometimes (positron) - "Science!"
  • 44D: TV star who said "Stop gabbin' and get me some oats!" (Mr. Ed) - Was MR. ED the "star," or the character's name, or both?
  • 47D: Egypt's Mubarak (Hosni) - as I've likely said before, this was a longtime pet name I had for my cat. I would also call him ZUBIN MEHTA. Now it's more often "Wiley Wilerson," or just "My Boy." Bush was just in Egypt with HOSNI, so you should have known this even if you don't have a freaky relationship with your cat.
  • 56D: With 57-Down, commercial entreaty (Act / Now!) - very very nice little pairing. Always appreciate when a constructor can do amusing things with the small entries.
See you tomorrow,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Today's other puzzles:
  • LAT 7:24 (C) - Dan Naddor
  • CS 3:50 (C) - Raymond Hamel
  • NYS untimed (P) - Karen M. Tracey - RECOMMENDED (but Very pop culture-heavy, so, you know, be warned)
  • Jonesin' 7:32 (P) - Matt Jones, "Cornering Ability"
  • CHE 7:36 (C) - Jim Leeds, "Band Master" - RECOMMENDED
  • WSJ untimed (C) - Norman Wizer, "Making Ends Meet"

[drawing by Emily Cureton]


jls 9:08 AM  

"...I don't know how my life is improved at all by knowing who HAMAN (17A: Villain in the Book of Esther) is."

why, with "hamantaschen," dear rex -- hamantaschen:

purim treat



p.s. pantheon alert: purim is celebrted on the 14th day of *adar*!

p.p.s. love the word "soigne," and/but always seem to confuse it with the lovely sounding "louche."

Pinky 9:11 AM  

THANK YOU for being here Rex...I totally spaced out PHONO and had PHONE (as in headphones) so I was stuck at the CENSI_ER/NAR_ intersection.

...doh....what was I thinking

paul in mn 9:22 AM  

I also enjoyed the appearance today by Ron ("The Penguin") CEY, although I remember him not from the Dodgers of the 70's but from the Cubs of the 80's.

One comment on your oration re: pop culture today: I do absolutely agree that pop culture can definitely make puzzles fresh and contemporary, and I do enjoy that despite finding my pop culture knowledge severely lacking in points. One drawback of this is that puzzles of this nature have a shorter shelf life than others as I've discovered occasionally as I work through books of older (early Will Shortz era) NYT puzzles on plane rides and such. What may be fresh and contemporary today may simply be arcane tomorrow. But as the puzzle is first and foremost for today, this may not even be an important consideration.

rick 9:39 AM  

Thinking pop culturishly I figured a perishable fashion accessory would be a DOG.

What is ACT NOW?

jls 9:44 AM  

"two sets of ginzu knives only $19.95. ACT NOW!"



marcie 9:45 AM  

well this was more difficult for me than Fri "easy-medium". nard? Nard?? NARD??? sounds like a rude reference to male body part.

I'm also not up on Steely Dan songs, so a long answer with their hit stayed unfilled a long time.

I messed myself up by filling in "nota" for "geta" on the clue clue. And I decided, given pop culture and reading too many celebrity mags, that a Pet was a perishible fashion accessory (was willing to go with "dog" if pet didn't pan out.)

I agree 100% with your blog rant, I love learning new stuff in fields where I am lacking. And today's pop culture just might turn in to tomorrow's classicism.

marcie 9:47 AM  

@rick... what can I say about great minds and fashion accessories? (I was typing mine while yours posted, I was sure I'd be the only one with that stumble.)

deion 9:47 AM  

thanks for the fun ride Trip -- the puzzle bookended my NJT Maplewood to Penn commute perefectly. Finished the grid just as I walked the last few steps into the saltmine of selling handbags.

Rex, nice pop vs. the classics soliloquy. i'm with you. i remember wrestling with Eugene T's puzzles as a youth thinking there is no way I'll ever no this much about opera, ballet, and the like. however, paul does make an intersting point about a puzzle being able to stand the test of time.

as far as solving today's puzzle, the NE fell last for me as well. HAMAN and NARD were stumpers, and it did not help that i had SEAKINGLY instead of SNEAKINESS until the end.

Rex Parker 9:50 AM  

Well, technically, *I* made the point about a puzzle's being able to stand the test of time (my phrase, even), but yes, it's a valid point.


Peter 9:51 AM  

Laughter is the language of the soul.

For whatever reason, I had MARUDA at first.

Hobbyist 10:04 AM  

I thought this would be hard, given the name of Trip Payne but found it amazingly cinchy and not very interesting. Thought a Roman was the biblical villain and have never heard of Pril/Phil Keoghan!

Squash's Mom 10:11 AM  

Thanks, Rex for giving me some words to explain how crosswords are so different than puzzles like sudoku. You put it beautifully.

I try to explain to friends what I get out of doing the NYT crossword puzzle every day. It's not just a feeling of accomplishment, or something to do, but it's so much more. Now I know - it's the humanity of it!

Ellen 10:22 AM  

My mother introduced me to crosswords and used to be pretty good at them. Now she has trouble seeing, and also complains repeatedly that she doesn't know computer terms and these new entertainers. I suggest that she learn them, but I think she'd rather just complain.

Karen's Mom 10:25 AM  

I think that Trip Payne is one of the most gifted constructors, especially when he's executing a theme.

That said, I'm glad that he's a contestent instead of a constructor at the ACPT. His tendency towards lots of current "pop culture" makes the puzzles more difficult for a senior like me. It's quite humiliating when my solving time is more than double Karen's.

Orange 10:27 AM  

Well said, Rex.

MR. ED was the character. He was played by the horse Bamboo Harvester (a name I've seen in crossword clues). But if Bamboo Harvester was famous as Mr. Ed, does that make Mr. Ed the star, or Bamboo H.?

Re: your POSITRON comment: That's the Thomas Dolby "Science!", isn't it?

I think Raul Julia played the South American leader or dictator in Moon Over Parador. He was the actor who came to my mind first.

Georgia Engel played Georgette on MTM. I also liked her as Robert's mother-in-law on Everybody Loves Raymond—she and Fred Willard were a couple, and their layabout son was played by Chris Elliott. Such a lovely family of judgmental loons!

Rex Parker 10:32 AM  

So then isn't Bamboo Harvester the "star," not MR. ED? I need a ruling.

And thank you for hearing Thomas Dolby in my voice. I wondered if that would come across.


artlvr 10:46 AM  

What I liked about today's puzzle was that the clues were fair, even if a bit veiled. You knew what you knew and skipped the unknown until the cross could reveal it or bring it up from the back of the brain. I got "nosecones" first, with "act now" and "Hosni" and went up slowly from there. Words overall not as amusing as yesterday's "The Blob", "Tequila Sunrise", "Animal Crackers" and so on, but satisying -- like the little "lei" as perishable fashionable accessory and a lovely parliament of "owl"s.

Orange 10:56 AM  

For those who don't remember Dolby's '80s New Wave hit, "She Blinded Me With Science," here's the spazzy video. (If it doesn't play smoothly, press pause and let the video buffer for a minute or two.)

jls 11:06 AM  

loooooooooove today's emily!

bye --


Mary 11:21 AM  

Hi Rex,

Thanks for the comments on sudoko vs crossword. I've been mulling that over for a while. Why do I get that feeling of satisfaction from the crossword and nothing much from the sudoko? I think you nailed it.

Thanks for the interesting comments and for another teriffic picture!

jae 11:22 AM  

Deja vu from last Fri.'s MN. Take a little science (MAGENTISM, POSITRON), mix in some pop culture (PHIL, MISSM) and some cleverly clued crosswordese (LEI, BEE) and you have a fine Friday puzzle. I found this fun, if a bit easy. My only problems were spelling (e.g. PIEROGI, NERUDA, MENAGERIE) which is one reason why I have the "its OK to ask the light of my life" rule.

Rats Orange, I was all set to expound on Ms. Engel's Raymond connection. Either I need to get up earlier or move further east.

Excellent write up today Rex, I couldn't agree more.

JimHorne 11:35 AM  

The Genie is the new name for The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television award. You might not like it but it's a step up from it's original name: the Etrog.

Anonymous 12:29 PM  

I like your blog better when you make the same frustrating mistakes I do, like put in TARTUFFE off the T in TIMESHARE. Or at least don't make it sound so obvious. Please work on this in the future.

Dick Swart 12:31 PM  

Rex - great distinction between cross words and the 's' words: humanity! Can this be related to the discussion of the Humamities in today's education discussed in the NYT?

And speaking of today, do crossword constructors clue toward an assumed older age of the heavy user ie good marketing?

Otherwise why would Chan, Asta, Nita, Lupe and the 'it' girl, the pop culture of their day, still be with us as though Dish Night was happening at the Bijeau?

I suggest these totally passe references' ability to stand the test of time is not because they are any more immemorial than Steely Dan, but because the constructors have kept them alive to keep their assumed heavy user group happy!

They are pantheonic enough to be recognized by those whose pop culture is considerably newer is only because of their constant use by constructors of crosswords!

profphil 12:40 PM  

For Perishable fashion item, had BOA before I corrected it to lei. I groaned at first, thought there should be a question mark as one who wears a boa does not wear a boa constrictor around one's neck and if one did, the wearer would be more perishable than the fashion item.

Enjoyed the puzzle and was glad to finish it without Googling which is great for me for a Friday.

Mike 12:55 PM  

I liked the write-up as well but it left me wondering where the pop culture was in this puzzle. That is unless Mary Tyler Moore, 70s baseball, Steely Dan, Bette Midler and Richard Dreyfuss are still considered pop culture.

jae 12:58 PM  

I meant to add that pop culture can help in unexpected ways. HAMAN was a gimme for me because of the the movie "For Your Consideration" where Purim was featured. Those were the same folks that brought you "Best In Show," "Mighty Wind," and "Waiting for Guffman." If you go back far enough they were also involved in "This is Spinal Tap."

OK, now I'm over not being able to disuss Ms. Engel's career.

Anonymous 1:03 PM  

Pierogi and visions of Sonia Braga. Tasty!

Mile Hi Muddy

Dan 1:04 PM  

Awesome essay!

Dick Swart: One reason ASTA never goes away, I'm guessing, is that constructors often need those letters in that order, and there's no other way to clue them. Same applies to several other pantheonic fills...

I also was wondering why I've heard of Ned's Atomic Dustbin, but there it was.

Loved seeing PHIL (Keoghan) in the fill! Best host in reality TV, and super-nice to boot, often appearing at the season-finale party sponsored by the Amazing Race fans at TWoP.

Today was my fastest Friday ever, by far - just wish I'd solved in the applet so I could prove it!

miriam b 1:04 PM  

I loved this puzzle, though I'm not strong on pop culture. I'd say that my knowledge of weird stuff got me through in short order. BTW, soigné does mean CHIC in the sense of presenting a well-cared-for appearance, but (pedantry alert) if we're discussing a woman, we should say soignée.

I had a nitpick with PIEROGI at first. "Filled treat" led me to think that I should be looking for a singular noun. Thinking it over, though, one serving
of pierogi IS one treat. So that's OK.

Pierogi does in fact have a rarely used singular: pierog. Current American usage seems to consider pierogi as singular and pierogies plural.

To compound the issue, there's a Polish dish called Russian pierog, which is in fact a baked yeast pastry filled with (usually) meat. Having been raised on Russian food, I'm familiar with this. The big gorgeous free-form pie is called a pirog in Russian(properly transliterated from the Cyrillic without the "e"). Small individual versions are called pirozhki. The Russian equivalent to pierogi is vareniki ("var" denoting something boiled), and there are other filled and boiled dumplings, such as pelmeni and chebureki.

Anyway, the root "pir" is an ancient Slavic one meaning feast. It shows up in the names of various toothsome morsels in numerous East European cuisines.

I could go on and on, but I'm hungry.

Phineas 1:14 PM  


Since it's not been mentioned yet, hopefully you will pin up today's post in the notable post section - you cut a wide swath of puzzle philosophy today.

Sadly, INDIAN SEA (which clearly must be wrong since there's an ocean) slowed things down before IONIAN appeared.

rick 1:15 PM  


I had read the clue as "eatery" and not "entreaty" (multiple times I might add) and was erroneously looking for a restaurant name.

Thanks for the answer back.

Fergus 1:40 PM  

Excellent editorial, Rex. Don't fully agree with you, but that's not the point. Or maybe, that is the point you were getting at about the subjective elements of puzzle relevance? Whatever ..., shading opinion about quality is what makes a blog worth reading after all. That said, I've shared your general assessment of the puzzle for quite a number of days running now. This was a nice, tight puzzle that made one work a number of angles, with everything ultimately gettable, often in pleasant revelation.

I guess I must have been thinking in volume, like Homer Simpson, when I had PIE RACK instead of PIEROGI. Back when I learned about Beta decay I don't think the positron had been discovered, or at least not found its way into my seventh-grade textbook. A little complaint, however, about the T formation: unless the END drops back into the the backfield (which maybe he does in some schemes?), he's not an integral part of the T. Might as well have had anyone else on the offense ... but that's just a stylistic quibble, without asserting any error.

Liked the column group where Pilgrims CONSIDER HOMELANDS IN A SERIES. Almost dropped in Steve SAX since I skipped over the third part of the baseman. And was pleased to be reminded of the long list of wonderful collective nouns. A murder of crows, a gaggle of geese, etc.

I missed the swift departure of the film "Moliere" at the little arty cinema here in town. Someone who saw it said it was great.

PhillySolver 1:53 PM  

I am happy for all of you who found this easy. I look back over it and see that it had some clever clues (Drawing power as in charisma was not in my head at all...more like usingelec). I did not find it easy, however.

I reported some time ago that in the early 90's I did the NYT and Monday to Friday and I a was able to complete the puzzle and since their was no Google (and no internet) the only resource was after finishing to go to the Dictionary. I just need a start on the corners and without Google I couldn't get enough letters to get it going today. Once you have two or three letters you can start making guesses and it can solve easily, but if this would have been given to me at the ACPT, I would have a record low score. I did get SW thanks to MRED (I think he was the star and cast my vote that way). Indiansea ruined SE, Sneakyone the NE Using--- the NW while Tartuffo hurt the the midlands. Maybe it was just bad karma today. I don't think this was a bad puzzle, but it does show the difference between the elite and the affectionado.

Oh, Emily brought my first smile of the day after my morning Google Session.

Doug 2:09 PM  

Wow, I sweated over this for over an hour and got most of it, but DRYAD and the DRIAD in instead of OREAD had me permanently painted into the SW corner.

What I like about Crosswords, and in particular the NYT, is that they clearly give you a frame of reference for what is doable and what to expect during the week. It also fits my rhthym and mood, which is great.

Take Mondays: It's a cakewalk, on purpose, because people need to wake up and probably have things to do that don't involved arcania. I like Mondays because I can do the puzzle, feel a sense of accomplishment, and then move on. When Thursday hits, I'm getting into weekend mood and the thought of blowing some "paid time" on a mental challenge for a tired brain is pleasing. Friday: I'm tired, ready for a beer, and thinking about the weekend. An ugly, daunting crossword really makes we look forward to its alternative-- that frosty pale ale. And if I can do most/all of Friday, well I really feel great! Saturday: Well, let's not talk about it. However, Saturday night is my online Sunday morning crossword time, and I love it.

And the icing on the cake, the cream in the coffee, the truffle in the oil, the parsley in the couscous...is that it's legitimately good preventative treatment for your brain. If my wife doesn't already know that, I will remind her that a few glasses of red with the Sunday cross on Saturday night is the couch potato's equivalent of a 10k trot!

Jim in Chicago 2:15 PM  

Well, the very first thing I put in was TWINKIE for "filled treat", which turned out to be very very wrong and it was sort of downhill from there.

This one was hard for me, but only since I'm dismal at popular culture, and there was lots of that today. Atomic Dustbin? Never heard of them, and so it went. I confess that I finished this puzzle by selectively Googling the things that I "should have known, but didn't".

Jim in Chicago 2:15 PM  

Well, the very first thing I put in was TWINKIE for "filled treat", which turned out to be very very wrong and it was sort of downhill from there.

This one was hard for me, but only since I'm dismal at popular culture, and there was lots of that today. Atomic Dustbin? Never heard of them, and so it went. I confess that I finished this puzzle by selectively Googling the things that I "should have known, but didn't".

doc John 3:01 PM  

I agree with Rex's rating for today's puzzle as well as the points he makes in his essay. And yes, I picked up on the Thomas Dolby reference, too. I have an uncle who is a physicist, a sort of mad-scientist type (but don't tell him I said that). My phone ringer for him is either "Blinded Me with Science" or Oingo Boingo's (how about that for a crossword name?) "Weird Science".

Steely Dan is my absolute favorite band (they're all about musicianship) and since "Reelin' in the Years" was a tad long I went with DO IT AGAIN.

Got REALLY lucky and guessed N for NARD/NERUDA. Hadn't heard of either but it just sounded right to me. (Other candidates were M and S.)

Good ol' HAMAN- finally, all those years of Hebrew School paid off!

And Emily, I don't know how you do it- each day's picture is better than the one before.

campesite 4:16 PM  

I suggest you place this essay in your Important Post column.

This was a strange puzzle, to me. Upon reflection, I've no gripe with the cluing/answers, for even though it took me forever to complete the grid, I see nothing that was patently unfair.

I would have loved to see Ron Cey clued as Baseball Playing "Penguin."

green mantis 5:41 PM  

I don't see how Mr. Ed could have been the star. Do you say, "Rachel Green was the star of Friends"? Or do you say "Jennifer Aniston was the star of Friends"? I only use that example because my brain is stuck, but it will serve.

Unless there are special rules for animals, it's the actor, not the character, who stars. Right?

johnson 5:59 PM  

So many things I didn't know:
PHIL Keoghan
ETA Carinae

Some things I learned on this blog:

And what (who) is a NAT?

Somehow it all just came together...and less than 4xOrange!

Have a great weekend.

Fergus 6:06 PM  

Maybe Mister Ed was the horse's given name? It's fun sometimes to have a little flutter on the ponies, if only for the consideration of those listed on the card. I know that their names are often derivative from sire through mare, but those do seem to occupy a distinct, and yet enigmatic set or range of equine suitability. I wonder if there are are any clear standards?

doc John 6:15 PM  

@ Johnson: NAT is short for Nationals- the Washington Nationals, one of the newer teams in the league.

Anonymous 6:47 PM  

I thought the NERUDA/NARD crossing was unfair. The only blemish on this otherwise fun puzzle.

radioguy 7:08 PM  

Two of Steely Dan's singles off their 1972 debut "Can't Buy A Thrill" are both long enough to fit into today's crossword (without other fill): "Do It Again" and "Dirty Work." Both have the D and T in the same place, which tripped me up for a moment (since I got "Nat" easily).

The Washington Nationals are moving into a new ballpark this spring, so the RFK Stadium reference will soon be obsolete.

jae 8:22 PM  

@fergus -- Orange commented near the top of the stack that Mr. Ed's true name is Bamboo Harvester which on occasion shows up in crosswords.

The Beach Boys also have a song called "Do It Again" which threw me off momentarily. I thought the Steely Dan song had Back Jack somewhere in the title? I guess in '72 I was too busy protesting to read labels and liner notes.

Michael 9:07 PM  

I didn't even notice that this puzzle was heavy on pop culture. And I'm not young. But two astrology clues was two too many for me.

average Friday difficulty for me -- a couple of letters wrong and considerable thinking.

Fergus 9:08 PM  

@jae, I'm sorry to have missed that. I read everything, but sometimes not every thing does register; even an Orange comment, which I would otherwise flag.

Leon 9:10 PM  

Below are commentaries from a Sudoku blog:




rick 9:24 PM  

anon 6:47,

As it has been said before and as it will be said again, NERUDA/NARD was a gimme to me.

We all have our own wheelhouse.

and leon,

You forgot that wonderful 1, 7, 5 crossing in the middle. I thought at first that it was unfair but then I got it.

Richard Mason 10:06 PM  

I think that the rules are different for non-human stars such as Mr. Ed, Lassie, Benji, or even Herbie the Love Bug. I think you could say that, "Herbie the Love Bug starred in such-and-such movies."

Also, if Bamboo Harvester had ever appeared in anything else, I'd guess he'd probably be billed and represented to the media as "Mr. Ed." When Benji starred in Oh Heavenly Dog, he was billed as "Benji," not as "dog that also played Benji in the Benji movies". So if you think of it that way, Mr. Ed is as much a stage name as a character name.

Orange 12:20 AM  

Actually, if you Google sudoku blog, you get over a million and a half hits, about three times the number you get for crossword blog. Of course, they're crap, and some have been abandoned, and when you see 52 comments, they're all spam comments spewing links.

Crossword geeks rock.

Fergus 1:27 AM  

Most irrelevant comment yet.

Aside -- Scruffy Santa Cruz guy boldly talking up to sophisticated Chicago girl. Makes me think of Dreiser's "American Tragedy" and not so much the girl who was left in the lake, but the fabulous aspiring daughter of ....

Rikki 2:36 AM  

Fergus... Sondra Finchley?

Great puzzle and commentary today. I vote Bamboo Harvester for the star recognition. These are the kinds of things we learn from puzzling. Steely Dan is my favorite band ever, too, Doc J. How many times do you think I've been told not to lose that number? Leon...too funny.

Rex... loved your reflective comments. God bless the messiness indeed.

Thought the puzzle was fresh and fun in both clueing and fill. Tripped (no pun) up for a moment by filled treat. A treat to me is a sweet, and though pierogi can be fruit-filled, I've only made savory ones filled with meat or vegetables. But either way they are certainly a treat.

And thanks to Trip and Will for 18A because a football clue affords me the opportunity to say GO PATRIOTS!!! *yells & stamps feet* If they win, pierogi for everyone!

Fergus 3:00 AM  


Are we reeling in the years?

(I just recently turned 50.)

And I think the Chargers might prevail on Sunday. That's my hope anyway, as is many of your compatriots in your new domain.


Fergus 3:11 AM  

That probably was the name of the swish girl; can you come up with the dirt-poor, religiously-constricted, striving son's name?

Isabella di Pesto 8:34 AM  

"...90+% of pop culture is crap, but so is 90+% of everything."--Rex

Hmmmm. I'll have to remember that when I listen to Mozart or read Shakespeare. ;-)

"All generalizations are etc., etc..."

I'm late to the party here, since I tried to solve this puzzle late into the night. It was difficult for me and I had to look up some of the answers.

The problem with keeping up with pop culture is that you have to waste your time immersed in it in order to know what's what in that world--and it is a roiling soup of mediocrity.


doc John 5:01 PM  

Probably nobody will read this but...

@ Rikki- I know you are a Steely Dan fan, I think you mentioned it the last time I mentioned that I was! Also, at that time I refrained from telling you not to lose that number, figuring you've heard it a million times already (especially since your name is spelled in the exact same way).

@ Isabella- You wouldn't believe how much pop culture you can get out of just reading any newspaper's headlines! (Especially NYT.)

Eric 3:13 PM  

Thank you for vindicating me, RadioGuy. I put in DirtyWork and moved on. A couple of downs went my way and then...nothing.

Rex, loved the Dolby (a tape deck button) reference.

Eric from Madison

Glenn Willen 8:19 PM  


I'm surprised nobody has mentioned this to you yet, so let me fill you in -- Trip was on the writing team of the MIT Mystery Hunt this year, and wrote this crossword specifically for use as part of a puzzle in the Hunt. Three of the answers ("do it again", "start with", "timeshare") together spell out an instruction in one of the Hunt puzzles.

Our team, and I'm sure many others, used your solution to the crossword in solving the Hunt puzzle, rather than solving it ourselves! :-)

impjb 7:31 PM  

From the future (or past). Tough puzzle for me.

Rex, nice (and very subtle) Simpsons reference in the Neruda explanation by the way :-) NERUDA was one of the few clues that I got, mainly due to the Simpsons.

Kat 9:44 AM  

Another from the future. If any happen to stumble pack in the past can you explain 52A to me. Owl in response to brood, chicken, parliament rings to bells. Just brings to mind little men wearing wigs with chickens roosting on top trying to solve the problems of the day. Thanks.

Gila 1:43 PM  

Probably no one will read this since so much time has passed, but I'll put in my two cents anyway. I stumbled upon this page while searching for something else and absolutely loved the essay linking crossword puzzles to humanity. It just struck a chord in me as one of those truths I can never articulate but recognize when someone else does. It just made me go, "Oh, of COURSE!" Reading through the comments, I'm afraid I'm outclassed here. I get a free copy of the Washington Post Express at the subway station and do the crossword on my way to work in the mornings. On a good day, I can get about half of it. So reading everyone's comments about how the NYT puzzle is "easy" made me laugh. A lot of this material is from before my time, although the pop culture clues are easier (well, I'm 18!) But the HAMAN clue made my day. I'm about to graduate from a Jewish day school, and I would have known that clue in, oh, first grade or so. Haman is a household name in the Orthodox Jewish community (actually, probably the general Jewish community as well.) Anyway, thanks for an intelligent and entertaining webpage.

Charly 12:38 PM  

Probably because "soigné" does literally mean cared-for. "A well cared-for appearance," in this case, I suppose.

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