** Violinist Mischa **: SUNDAY, Feb. 17, 2008 - Henry Hook

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: "Political Leaders" - 10 starred answers all begin with SCRAMBLED / PRESIDENT (19A: With 105-Across, what the answer to each starred clue starts with)

You know a puzzle is tough when you feel like you tanked it, your time is a good 30%-50% higher than your recent Sunday averages, and you still end up with a time that would have you on the Top Ten leader board for much of the night. In the end, I enjoyed this puzzle, because it was wicked and entertaining, but while I was doing it, there were times when I felt like a drowning man gasping for air and reaching out desperately for anything, any three-letter answer, that might keep me afloat. The theme is ingenious and took me way too long to get. I had SCRAMBLED within the first minute, but by the time I got into the SE, where PRESIDENT lies, I had run out of steam. I was in flailing mode. It was only when frustration forced me to read the theme clue and really look hard at the starred answers I had that the theme leaped out at me: the SAYHE at the beginning of SAY HEY KID (a great, great theme answer, btw) just anagrammed itself right into HAYES, I wrote in PRESIDENT at 105A, and the tide begin to turn. But even so, I still had to fight my way to the finish line (which, by the way, was somewhere near ARUBA - 39D: Tourist mecca near Venezuela).

Theme answers:

21A: *Again (ONE MORe time) => MONROE
23A: *Baseball's Willie Mays, with "the" (SAY HEy Kid) => HAYES
24A: *Fiancé (HUSBand-to-be) => BUSH (not sure which one)
53A: *Metal used for swords (DAMAScus steel) => ADAMS - the first theme answer to give me real trouble. Main problem: never heard of DAMASCUS STEEL before. Luckily, I had heard of DAMASCUS. Note: my beloved Laura Linney stars as Abigail Adams in the HBO biopic of John ADAMS. Linney's co-star, while not as hot to me, is a very fine actor: Paul Giamatti. I know him from such comic-book-inspired movies as "American Splendor."
58A: *Symbol of rejoicing for someone's long-awaited return (FATTed calf) => TAFT - I had no idea this is what a FATTED CALF meant, so I'm just as surprised as you are that I got this almost immediately, with just a few crosses in place.
61A: *Brownish-orange (TERRA Cotta) => CARTER - this was hard to get for me, as TERRA COTTA is more a material than a color, in my mind.
68A: *Kind of ratio (PRICE-Earnings) => PIERCE - familiar only from chatter on various investment-oriented ads I've heard on TV.
100A: *Decelerating (SLOWINg down) => WILSON
102A: *Composer's due (ROYALTies) => TAYLOR - this answer was so hard to get, in part because my brain would not register "due" as anything but Italian for "two"
104A: *Whatever happens (RAIN OR SHine) => HARRISON - it just took me way too long to figure out which president was buried in there.

The toughest parts:

Let's start in the NE, where I first stumbled badly, even after having the long theme answers in place. There were three consecutive Downs that I found baffling:

  • 13D: Ball handler? (Arnaz) - handler! What is she, a ferret? [from reader M.S. - Lucille Ball's "Vitameatavegamin" bit ... it's So Good]
  • 14D: "Not I!" hearer (red hen) - is this from "Chicken Little"? "Hearer," ugh.
  • 15D: Titular Verdi role (Attila) - I had No idea and refused to enter it for a little while even though it was the Only name that could possibly go there. The Hun?

Then there was the fact that those Downs all crossed TAHITI, which was clued bizarrely (28A: Home of Faa'a International Airport) and BEZEL, which thank god I've seen in puzzles before (31A: Watch-crystal holder).

Then there was the entire mountain west, south of DAMASCUS and north of UPC CODE (75A: Supermarket lines?). I idiotically put an "S" at the end of 85A: With 20-Down airshow activities in anticipation of a plural that never came - or came, rather, at 20D, not 85A - FLY / BYS. Thus DELANCEY (53D: Manhattan street) remained hidden for a long time. Also hidden, for reasons of my never having heard of it ever, was HAIR CELL (56D: Sensory receptor in the ear). Even after I had H--- CELL, I was lost. Took me an embarrassingly long time to retrieve the name of EMILIA (65A: Lady-in-waiting in "Othello"), about whom I wrote a paper in college, but once I got her, and FATTED CALF, I finally had what I needed to finish the puzzle.

Lastly, as far as major rough spots go, is the SE, where I was Locked Out for a long time due to the fact that I didn't know either of the gateway answers:

  • 80D: Muse of music (Euterpe) - perhaps the ugliest name in all mythology - also something you might say to a student at the University of Maryland (although technically I think you pronounce that final "e")
  • 76D: "Death in the Afternoon" figures (matadors) - no idea. None. Just none. Took So Long to get.

Without these two answers, I couldn't get the two long Acrosses down there, and the shortish Downs were being very recalcitrant, so, disaster. I somehow suspected that 94D: Capital of East Flanders ended in -ENT, so that helped (it's GHENT). I have never ever heard of COIGN (91A: _____ of vantage (good position for viewing)), but recognize it as the French word for "corner." Still puzzling over what (the hell) FORTS means as the answer to 109A: Magazine holders. Is this "magazine" in the sense of ammo? Must be.

And the rest!

  • 1A: Words "beautifully marked in currants" in "Alice in Wonderland" ("Eat me") - deceptively easy way to start the puzzle...
  • 13A: Destination in Genesis 8 (Ararat) - I believe I wrote in GILEAD, which means I was exactly 23 chapters off.
  • 26A: Football Hall-of-famer Ernie (Nevers) - that is one weird last name.
  • 30A: Jury pool (venire) - first evidence that this puzzle was going to try to take my scalp.
  • 44A: Brawl motivator (ire) - such an anticlimactic answer for such a promising clue.
  • 45A: Crunch's title (Cap'n) - not CAPT. as some of you will have guessed - causing you to wonder, perhaps aloud, what (the hell) REINED IT mean - it's REINED IN (7D: Exercised power over).
  • 46A: Rod holders (retinae) - gotta look out for that Latin plural.
  • 67A: West coast wine city (Ukiah) - blow to the stomach. UKIAH should be the name of some kind of sucker punch. I lived in CALIF (91D: Home of 67-Across: Abbr.) and never heard of this place.
  • 74A: New York's _____-Fontanne Theater (Lunt) - no clue. Had both LUND and LUNE for a bit.
  • 76A: "We Need a Little Christmas" singer (Mame) - no clue. Just ... none.
  • 78A: Alma mater for Neil Armstrong and Pat Nixon: Abbr. (USC) - insert random university here.
  • 80A: Gutter locale (eaves) - I wrote in ALLEY. So that was a problem ...
  • 81A: Thomas Mann's "Der _____ in Venedig" ("Tod") - got this only because I own many recordings of Strauss's "TOD und Verklärung")
  • 86A: Jim who wrote "Ball Four" (Bouton) - kept writing it in and erasing it, writing it in and erasing it; recall that this is the EUTERPE / MATADORS section of the puzzle, where all hell had broken loose. Or not broken loose, to be precise.
  • 1D: Mississippi quartet (esses) - two weird things. First, I finished this puzzle, and then later in the day, just before bed, solved another puzzle with this exact clue / answer pairing. Second, 1D is precisely the place where I wanted QUARTET yesterday (for that clue about "The View" that ended up being GABFEST).
  • 4D: "Real Time" moderator (Maher) - used to hate "Politically Incorrect" because if I really wanted to hear uninformed jackasses go on and on about politics, I'd watch cable news. But after the demise of that show, Maher began to grow on me, and I now kinda like him.
  • 6D: Variety of leather (elk) - poor majestic ELK, reduced to clothing.
  • 8D: All the parts of a column except the bottom (addends) - had ADDENDA for a bit (?).
  • 22D: Author of the Oprah's Book Club selection "We Were the Mulvaneys" (Oates) - as in Joyce Carol. We read her "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" in my Honors class last term. It's a confusing, freaky, and oddly (unintentionally) funny story. Some of the things the main BADDIE (32A: Villain) says made my prisoner students laugh til they cried. Not that the story isn't also chilling.
  • 41D: Passing remark? ('scuse me) - is that how you write that? This one hurt. It's clever, but it hurt, almost as bad as 'TISN'T (62D: Denier's reply).
  • 46D: Schumacher of auto racing (Ralf) - !?!?! Willie? Is it Willie? Because I know exactly one Schumacher, and his name is Willie. What's that? Willie is a jockey, not an auto racer? OK. And he spells his name "Shoemaker?" Ah. I see.
  • 48A: Violinist Mischa (Auer) - oh my. Do you see what I'm saying about this puzzle trying to take my scalp?! [I'm told this is an error - Mischa AUER is an actor; his grandfather, Leopold, was the famous violinist]
  • 61D: Dog of old comics (Tige) - Buster Brown's dog. Didn't realize this until I'd gotten the entire answer from crosses.
  • 83D: Creator of "Hagar the Horrible" (Browne) - now this comic dog I know: SNERT. Sadly, this comic creator, I forgot.
  • 69D: Impair through inactivity (rust) - this one took a while to puzzle out. "Impair" is a transitive verb, but RUST ... is not.
  • 89D: _____ Fleming, central character in "The Red Badge of Courage" (Henry) - haven't read it in 25 years. No dice.
  • 99D: Braggadocio (gas) - I had EGO. Yet another reason why the SE was the 9th ring hell.

Good day to you all.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

88 comments:

Doris 8:08 AM  

Re: 48 D: MISCHA AUER, although he was trained as a musician and played several instruments, was never well known as a violinist. He was the grandson of the historically great violinist LEOPOLD AUER, whose last name he took. (Mischa was born Ounskowsky.) Mischa was a well-known comic character actor, playing “the mad Russian” successfully in movies and on radio. You could stretch a point and call him a violinist, but the clue should have read LEOPOLD, since not that many people today know of him, either. I once called Mr. Shortz out on misspelling the name of Rome’s Teatro Costanzi (NOT “Constanzi”), where “Tosca” had its premiere. I received a kind e-mail of apology; Will had used an inaccurate reference book. Maybe he was thinking of Mischa Elman (a pupil of Leopold Auer) or one of the other numerous violinists named Mischa.

Womama 8:27 AM  

This puzzle did NOT make me laugh. However, your write-up of it did. Thank you for that. 9th ring of hell, indeed.

rick 8:34 AM  

Trouble in the E and SE also.

I knew EUTERPE because I've always wanted CALLIOPE to be the muse of music (she refused and took epic poetry, brawling with the ired Erato maybe) but I couldn't make her fit with ALLEY.

I was about 50% over on time and was wondering if yesterday made me gunshy. I did a lot of second guessing on this puzzle.

Since the NW sent me to the SE I had "We Need a Little Christmas" going through my head during the entire puzzle.

Thought it was COMO singing in my brain but it turned out to be Andy Williams.

Thourghly enjoyable puzzle and not a letdown from yesterday. I've had a hard time getting into Sunday's lately after tough Saturday's.

Parshutr 8:50 AM  

Major Nitpick reporting for duty: Hemingway would have punched Shortz's lights out over MATADORS; they're TOREROS!

xinem 9:08 AM  

scuse me, this puzzle tisnt simply "challenging." i couldn't have done it without you. whew!

Squash's Mom 9:19 AM  

Whew, this puzzle seemed like a themeless giant to me. Even after I got SCRAMBLED and PRESIDENT it still didn't help in figuring out the answers. I needed to come here when I finished to see what it was all about.

I, too had COMO singing the Christmas song, and ALLEY being the place for gutters.

The FATTED CALF refers to the biblical story of the prodigal son. When he returned home, the father said to kill the fatted calf and have a feast of rejoicing.

While I felt almost exhausted after finishing this puzzle, I really enjoyed your write up of it, Rex. I laughed out loud at your EUTERPE comment.

ArtLvr 9:21 AM  

Okay puzzle for me, no problems except that one letter A in the cross of UKIAH/TAEBO, even though I now think the latter was in another crossword recently.

Wanted Elman for "Mischa __" but it was too long, and was not thrilled with ARARAT as a "destination" unless modified by "unintended"?

Hope "Parshutr" will elaborate on the difference between MATADORS and toreros... and I wanted to thank "Doc John" for yesterday's helpful summary of carbon compounds' rising sequence meth-eth-prop-but prefixes (if we're given formulae again, heaven forfend)!

∑;)

PhillySolver 9:43 AM  

Indeed, a few stars for the write up today which eased the pain of the puzzle. I do like that video clip.

I worked on this so long, I look at like raising a child. Infancy had a little colic, teen years were frightful, a few happy moments when it was off to college and then boomerang, back home and all kinds of issues.

I am glad the CALIF town isn't familiar to others as I have a nice wine cellar, and not a single bottle form Chateau Ukiah. From my COIGN place this was still a worthwhile adventure. About ten first time usage for the fill in the puzzle including KEISTERS and VENIRE (I was sure it was two words including Dire, WHy?), but the error I made leaving remit for DEMIT turns out to have been used on a number of occasions. AS to MAME, it was the big Broadway hit of my youth and what made me a fan of the theater. A pretty good movie followed, but I am not sure if it kept the original name. Check it out, but remember, it was the 50's.

six weeks behind in saratoga 10:10 AM  

I agree, Rex. This puzzle was brutal. I finally finished consecutive Friday and Saturday puzzles unaided; then this!

Enjoying the blog, keep up the good work.

slim 10:23 AM  

Damascus swords are legendary for their sharpness, strength, flexibility and characteristic damask pattern. The forging technique was lost some time in the 18th century, so for a few centuries no one really understood what made the steel so remarkable. Recently a group of materials scientists analyzed a sample by electron microscopy and found that the steel actually contains nanotubes and nanowires, which explains the unique mechanical properties and banding pattern. Pretty neat.

Ulrich 10:25 AM  

I'm so glad reading about people who also found this puzzle hard. The Mann clue is a 200% gimme for a German, and I started there, but got stuck in the neighborhood immediately because I held t'aint instead of t'isn't for too long. In generally, worked in a north-westerly direction because I had given up on the NW corner right away, not knowing any baseball lore and inspite of having guessed the esses right away. Therefore, this corner was the last to fall (also had problems in the SE), with the result that I got the theme basically after I was done. But then I had fun at least unscrambling the names--surprise: Harrison also gave me the biggest problems. Nevertheless, I felt really stupid, but no longer--thanks!

Loved the Arnaz clue: anything even remotely racy in the normally staid NYT is most welcome.

Ulrich 10:31 AM  

A note on Ralf Schumacher: Despite the fact that the guy was born near my home town of Cologne, I agree this clue/answer pair is somewhat arcane, even mean because Ralf is the brother of the world-wide known Michael Schumacher, one of the most successful Formula 1 drivers of all time and during his active days the highest paid professional athlete in the world.

johnson 10:34 AM  

I couldn't see WILSON, finally had to ask for hubbie's assistance.

Thought I nailed this puzzle, only to come here and find that "S" is incorrect in the BoSton/ESterpe crossing.

Had so many question marks about COIGN, but couldn't change any other answers so I just left it.

Enjoy the day!

miriam b 10:38 AM  

A small quibble, Rex. The French for corner is coin. I suspect that coign is Old French. Just in case it comes up at some point: The French word for one of my favorite things, the quince, is coing. Atalanta's golden apple is thought by some to have been a quince.

Your comments today were priceless. Thank you.

Leon 10:48 AM  

Nice President's day weekend theme.

Mr. Hook - Thanks for the spelling lesson on Bouton and Delancey.

parshutr 10:55 AM  

Dear artlvr--
From Wikipedia:
"A torero (roughly "bull handler") is the main performer in bullfighting events in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. He or she is the person who performs with and kills the bull. The role is also called toreador in English (and in Bizet's opera Carmen), but this term (older than torero) is actually never used in Spain or in Latin America. The term torero encompases bullfighters who fight the bull in the ring. (picadores and rejoneadores)."
And "matador" just refers you to torero as 'disambiguation'.
If you use the word 'matador' to an aficionado of the corrida, you mark yourself as a dilletante.
But hey, this is just a challenging crossword puzzle, not a bar in Madrid.

Kathy 11:05 AM  

Did anyone else discover that, even if you tried to google to get answers, you had to hit "next" quite a few times to find the answer. For example, violinist Mischa, schumacher of auto racing....Thanks, Rex, for unscrambling--I had no energy left for it.

Rough weekend in puzzledom for me!

Kathy

ArtLvr 11:15 AM  

Thanks to Ulrich too for his info -- not that I knew of either Schumacher, but it's only right that brother Michael be given his due!

I now think it was a "Peabo" I saw before, not a TAEBO, but never mind.

As for COIGN, I think it's used often in speaking of certain retro architectural styles and denotes a faux stone inserted where two stucco walls join at right angles, giving a pseudo-medieval air. Some of the neighborhoods near me have fancy crenellated garages as well.

∑;)

wendy 11:25 AM  

kathy, noticed the same thing with Mischa and Schumacher! Every now and then that happens; it's very disorienting.

As an indication of how off base I was in certain areas today, I had Mastodons instead of MATADORS!

I like my answer better ;)

JC 11:26 AM  

Re.14D... REDHEN comes from the story The Little Red Hen. If you knew it as a child, you would have gotten this fairly quickly! Read on! It will all make sense!
The Little Red Hen
Sara Cone Bryant (Retold from Joseph Jacobs)

One day as the Little Red Hen was scratching in a field, she found a grain of wheat.
"This wheat should be planted," she said. "Who will plant this grain of wheat?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
Soon the wheat grew to be tall and yellow.
"The wheat is ripe," said the Little Red Hen. "Who will cut the wheat?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
When the wheat was cut, the Little Red Hen said, "Who will thresh the wheat?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
When the wheat was threshed, the Little Red Hen said, "Who will take this wheat to the mill?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
She took the wheat to the mill and had it ground into flour. Then she said, "Who will make this flour into bread?"
"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen. And she did.
She made and baked the bread. Then she said, "Who will eat this bread?"
"Oh! I will," said the Duck.
"And I will," said the Cat.
"And I will," said the Dog.
"No, No!" said the Little Red Hen. "I will do that." And she did.
From The Gingerbread Guide: Using Folktales with Young Children. Copyright 1987 Scott, Foresman and Company.

Ulrich 11:33 AM  

@artlvr: You're most welcome. BTW Michael drove for Ferrari, which should ring a bell with some.

As to coign: You are right--the more common name for the same thing is quoin, perhaps. Fake quoins are also popular on the MacMansions in my neighborhood, where they are (totally mis-)applied at the corners of walls with wood(!) siding, which mixes stone and wood detailing in a way that makes a (retired) architect like me squirm.

joaneee 11:55 AM  

Well, I wrote in UNSER for 88A (race car driver named Bobby - never heard of RAHAL) and that caused a lot of trouble for me.
Now as for Ukiah, I know it too well, having involuntarily spent a weekend there as a guest of the city in the 60's (it was all a mistake). Then, it was a long strip of fast-food places and auto dealers...and not a vineyard in sight. Maybe different now...it is the county seat of Mendocino county, of Napa-Sonoma-Mendocino wine country fame.

Rex Parker 11:56 AM  

You'd think you people would have learned to just add [rex] to the tail end of your Googles [violinist mischa rex] puts the answer right in front of you (although earlier [violinist mischa] alone was doing the trick). I find often find Google's ways inscroogleable. It's like a loving/vengeful God.

rp

ArtLvr 11:59 AM  

Vielen danke, Ulrich -- But do you have moats near you too? The grouping of battlements I found so amusing is fronting a disused quarry, and with the rains we've been having I'm rather expecting an unforeseen pond, with some new rivulets through the grounds if it overflows!

∑;)

Anonymous 12:16 PM  

Doris is right about violinists. There is only one Auer, and that is Leopold Auer; there is only one Mischa, and that is Mischa Elman. Listen to the music!

Ulrich 12:28 PM  

@artlvr: Moats we don't have--too bad: I can appreciate kitsch only when it is really, really over the top.

BTW Do they need to lower a draw bridge to get into/out of their garage? This would really add authenticity :-)

Bill from NJ 12:29 PM  

With the help of Lewis Carroll and Willie Mays, the NW fell rather quickly. The theme, POLITICAL LEADERS, led me from SCRAMBLED into the SE, where I was able to get PRESIDENT from just one cross and the SE fell.

The second race car driver RAHAL opened up the SE and on to Georgia where TAEBO and AHEAD helped me crack the East.

I finished in roughly the same place you did, Rex, in what for me
was near record time of 38 minutes.

Orange 12:47 PM  

Years ago, my husband and I saw an old animated short of "The Little Red Hen." I believe it was this 1934 version, played by the King of Cartoons on Pee Wee's Playhouse, featuring sing-songy lines like "Not her—she's much too fat. Not her—I'll ask the cat." It was retro-hilarious! I think it's included on this DVD, which I'm ordering right this second.

Jim in NYC 12:58 PM  

My favorite in this puzzle was 13D, ARNAZ, who was (at least as portrayed on TV) the "Ball handler."

Phillysolver, you're thinking of VOIR DIRE (roughly "to see what they say"), the question period when members of the jury pool are asked about their backgrounds and prejudices.

Time was lost on 62D, 'tain't, didn't, and finally 'TISN'T.

More time down the drain at 69D, "impair through inactivity," where I entered UNC at 78A as the random university giving me "runt" instead of RUST, which was wrong, not even a verb, but distractingly plausible in the sense of "stunt" or "atrophy."

Additional time was lost on the so-called theme, which may have been a fun after-puzzle for anagram fans, but was useless for solving the crossword.

Enjoy the day.

Anonymous 1:11 PM  

Fun, tough puzzle. My only teeny tiny complaint would be UPCCODE, for the CODECODE parsing.

miriam b 1:15 PM  

Jim - I believe voir dire is old French for "tell the truth." Voir = truth, no connection etymologically with modern French, "to see."

As for T'ISNT, an opinionated aunt of mine used this contruction - often. It always sounded a bit archaic to me.

Kathy 1:16 PM  

But, Rex, if I put your name in my google search, that would be Really cheating. My levels of cheating:

1.) doing a define: in google, since I still have to figure it out on my own.

2.) googling unashamedly to get the answer. (sometimes there's a bit of shame, such as with Emilia today--couldn't get past Desdemona in the cast of characters.)

3.) giving up completely and just coming to your blog. Sometimes I handicap myself by trying to read the thumbnail of the puzzle--punishment, you know, for being a cheater.

Including your name in the google search would add another level of cheating, and I'm just not ready for that.

Kathy

bill from fl 1:21 PM  

After "scrambled," I only got "presidents" from the title of the puzzle. From there, I eventually filled the SE, but only by the hardest. I wanted "sloven" (instead of "gauche") to pair with "cloven." When I was kid, my father used both words to comment on my table manners, so I knew them only too well.

Leon 1:37 PM  

Violinist Mischa

It is now # 6 in Google trends.

KWells 1:38 PM  

DAMASCUS STEEL was my stumbling block - wasn't that the detective on TV?! Ack...also, was born and raised in Northern CALIF and know a fair bit about wines - UKIAH? Uh, no. Great puzzle!

Noam D. Elkies 1:38 PM  

Yes, unexpectedly hard after the quick fall of the first few entries in the NW (NOT including 23A -- baseball nicknames are terra incognita to this solver). Apropos 48D:AUER, I got as far as RETIN_E in 46A and entered ... RETINUE, figuring that there might be some ceremony where HRH's retinue hold his/her rod and sceptre. Eventually realized what the resulting UUER should have been. Puzzled by 69D:RUNT too; now I see why.

The full clue for 53D:DELANCEY was "Manhattan street leading to the Williamsburg Bridge", making this a gimme for one who lived a few blocks from that bridge, but probably quite obscure to most out-of-towners.

Eu Terpy? Ha ha. I had always thought Terp = Terpsichorean, from another muse; but no, it's a diamondback terrapin. A turtle for a sports mascot? Doesn't make sense to me.

NDE

Michael 1:50 PM  

I started off quickly in the NW, but then slowed down and it took forever for me to get the theme. Still, only one mistake --euterpe/eaves. I kept wanting to write lanes as the answer for gutter, but the v was obviously wrong and I eventually just gave up on the first letter of _aves.

All in all, a fair, clever, enjoyable puzzle on a snowy Sunday.

Michael 1:51 PM  

oops -- I meant "the v was obviously right"

karmasartre 2:07 PM  

Rex, I agree on Euterpe...seems to be second person singular form.

AUER -- wish I knew of this one during Orange's Senryu contest.

COIGN -- No thanks, I already did the Jumble today.

I agreee with jiminnyc about the theme's usefulness in solving the grid. But I do think it was incredibly creative and innovative.

Rex Parker 2:10 PM  

Thanks to Noam for writing about UUER - I'm getting several Google hits now just from people searching that very mistake.

RP

joe 2:11 PM  

Wasn't Ukiah that guy in David Copperfield who was always so umble?

Martin 2:14 PM  

Mischa Auer was cloned rather blatantly by Pixar for the villain Skinner in Ratatouille.

Anonymous 2:20 PM  

It may fit, but Coxn's don't call "stroke".

Jim in NYC 2:29 PM  

Speaking of Ratatouille and mock-French, Miriam b is right. I've been flogging a false etymology for "voir dire" for too many years. Phillysolver, listen to her, not me.

Tom 2:34 PM  

Arnaz fell into place as soon as my wife suggested bezel.

Dick Nixon was a Southern Californian quaker (go figure). Therefore USC was about the only possible set of letters for Pat's alma mater. This conection got me into right frame of mind for nabob at 34A as well.

I have decided to never use google for crosswords. If I need to cheat, wikipedia usually is helpful and I think I end up actually learning something in the process most times.

PhillySolver 2:45 PM  

@jim @ Miriam

I find it is always useful to have two explanations for any subject. :-)

@ joe

So, are you referring to Ukiah Heep?

I hadn't commented but the Schumacher clue was a trouble spot as I had to watch racing in the UK during the height of Michael's fame and can only say it was miles more exciting than cricket which is slightly more boring than watching snooker, but far less dangerous that watching soccer. Anyway, RALPH was not top of my guesses. I am also convinced that doris is right in her protest of the clue Mischa. Those worked out, but guess everyone else was familiar with DEMIT. I am now obliged to tell my creditors that my demit is in the mail.

chefbea 2:47 PM  

rex : thanks for the tip about googling with your name .

foodie 3:07 PM  

Rex

Your write-up made me feel better about my performance today. Still, the first clue I got was Hair Cells, and it helped immensely. Of course I was lucky for a change, since I am a neuroscientist, and this made up for all the baseball clues that I routinely miss.

These are very cool cells that have little cilia (hence the name) that detect and transmit sound, just as rods and cones (in the retina) detect visual stimuli. So, today has a micro-mini-theme related to sensory perception. But hair cells work very differently. They really are quite remarkable, and not only to a scientist. We have relatively few of them and we damage them routinely and go deaf... I thought I'd provide a link for interested readers. Sorry I am not sure how to do this right, so you may have to copy and paste...

http://www.hhmi.org/senses/c120.html

JenCT 3:08 PM  

Joaneee - I also had UNSER for the longest time, which left me stuck in that corner. I also, inexplicably (for a native NYer) had FDR DRIVE for the street leading to the Williamsburg bridge.

Is it my imagination, or are the puzzles getting much harder as we near the Crossword Puzzle Tournament?

Love the blog, Rex.

Anonymous 3:37 PM  

On my trip through the California Coast Range last weekend I spent the night in Ukiah. It still didn't occur to me in today's puzzle. A wine city? Really? I must have missed that part of town.

Anonymous 4:06 PM  

Isn't the Ball handler Dezi ArnEz?

mac 4:12 PM  

This was a tough one, but I loved it! I was lucky and figured out the theme early, but then, after getting DAM at 53A from crosses I was convinced Madison belonged in that spot. Of course I know nothing of steels.
I don't get (actually I did through crosses) the "roi" St. Louis. Louis, yes, but Saint?
Thank you everyone for the fun and informative blog and comments, I enjoy them every day.

Ulrich 4:21 PM  

@mac: As far as I know, one of the French kings named Louis was sainted by the church (I believe the one who participated in a crusade).

Jim H in NYC 5:13 PM  

Nobody seems to have mentioned the confluence between SAY HEY KID and Willie Mays Hayes getting to President Hayes... Am I the only one who remembers baseball movies from 20 years ago?

Liz 5:27 PM  

The Dickens' villain in "David Copperfield" was Uriah Heep.

Unlike you younger puzzlers I don't even keep track of the time spent but I usually finish the puzzle eventually. Today's was tough and I puzzled over the theme because I never looked at the title nor did I think about tomorrow being President's Day. I've never had a knack for anagrams but I did manage to ferret out all of the presidents and rain or shine was the hardest for me.

ehicks77 5:48 PM  

a great but heart breaking puzzle....but a big stretch on the Mischa and Schumacher clues

PhillySolver 5:59 PM  

@liz welcome

Joe and I were joking about Ukiah Heep. Our humor may be a little sick, but it comes from all of the word play tricks the constructors pull on us.

So, you love birds?

rick 6:02 PM  

anon 2:20,

What do they say?

wendy 6:04 PM  

Because Bobby RAHAL appears often in the puzzle, let me tell you a little sumthin' about him.

He's from Medina, Ohio, a few miles down the street from me, and was one of the premier open-wheel racers during the 80s. I have seen him race many times. Today he is the owner of Rahal-Letterman Racing (yes, that Letterman) and it was his team that Danica Patrick raced for a few years back when she landed the 4th starting position at the Indy 500, the highest position ever for a female driver.

Like the Unsers and Andrettis, the racing urge seems to run in families and Bobby's son Graham is following in his footsteps.

I'm sure many won't give a flying fig, but thought I'd share for those who do.

william e emba 7:04 PM  

DAMASCUS STEEL should probably have been clued in the past tense. The secrets of how it was made have been lost. A common conjecture is that the ores used contained traces of vanadium and tungsten, and when depleted, alternate sources just weren't as good.

The nanotube claim has been disputed.

Liz 8:40 PM  

Well, you fooled me with Ukiah Heep! And I am for the birds!

Frances 9:34 PM  

I love how varied people's fields of expertise (and areas of ignorance) are. Obviously, one man's (person's!!) gimme is another man's gap.

Anonymous 10:35 PM  

BFF, the pairing of sloven with cloven would have been, indeed, exceptionally fun! RR

Guedy 10:47 PM  

Rex, I went through exactly the process you described for yourself! My breaks came from a different direction (I'm light on American early culture, stronger on European) so Attila was easy, as was Matadors (Bull fights usually take place aound 5pm, the Matador is the Killer-finisher).
The President that fooled me most was SW, I was looking to make Eisenhower fit rather than Harrison!!

Grumpy Gnome 10:48 PM  

Just a reply to PhillySolver (finished it w/ only a couple googles, Mischa, Mulvaneys, Jennifer, Verdi and vantage/coign (had coigr) though it appears I can't spell "keister" and "retinae")
but there were at least two Mame movies; the best "Auntie Mame" (w/ R.Russell) close to the book and the awful (IMHO) musical w/ L. Ball.

guedy 11:22 PM  

A fe words on French and Spanish:
Someone early commented on Coin and Quince. As a native speaker, I had never seen the word coign, which proves that assumed knowledge can be as much of a waste of time as ignorance.

Voir-Dire (To See-To Say)was improperly used in the puzzle. It is NOT a Jury pool, but a procedure in which prospective jurors are questionned, amont others (also used during trials for verification of evidence.)
Louis the IX was in fact beatified.

And finally, I disagree with Hemingway's afficionados: Torero or Toreador is the generic term for bull fighters, but Matador is very specific to the "closer", from the Spanish verb Matar, to kill, as opposed to torear (yes, it is a verb) which is to bull-fight.

guedy 11:22 PM  

A fe words on French and Spanish:
Someone early commented on Coin and Quince. As a native speaker, I had never seen the word coign, which proves that assumed knowledge can be as much of a waste of time as ignorance.

Voir-Dire (To See-To Say)was improperly used in the puzzle. It is NOT a Jury pool, but a procedure in which prospective jurors are questionned, amont others (also used during trials for verification of evidence.)
Louis the IX was in fact beatified.

And finally, I disagree with Hemingway's afficionados: Torero or Toreador is the generic term for bull fighters, but Matador is very specific to the "closer", from the Spanish verb Matar, to kill, as opposed to torear (yes, it is a verb) which is to bull-fight.

ArtLvr 11:50 PM  

@guedy -- "voir dire" was not improprely used in the puzzle because the answer was VENIRE, and this is correct for the clue "jury pool" :
Main Entry: ve·ni·re
Pronunciation: v&-'nI-rE
Function: noun
Etymology: venire facias
Date: 1665
: an entire panel from which a jury is drawn

pomegranate 12:15 AM  

Right Hook, left Hook, and many jabs later...I am thoroughly bruised and beaten by this puzzle. HAIRCELLS was my first opening. Despite figured out the theme relatively early, I still struggled with the theme fill. I eventually resorted to all three levels of cheating to sort out UKI?H (67A), and RUNT/RUST.

Kathy, I laughed aloud at your post about the levels of cheating. I love it! I would add further distinction to your taxonomy:

2a) googling for something you know there's no chance you'd ever get on your own because it is way outside your range of knowledge.

2b) googling for something you once knew/heard/should know but just can't dredge up, no matter how many times you run through the alphabet.

leon, loved your note about google trends. I often wonder what percentage of NYTimes Friday and Saturday crossword puzzle fill google employees can figured out just by reviewing search term trends!

guedy 12:16 AM  

I sit corrected.
I responded to earlier comments on Voir-Dire before I went back to my two blank spots.
I guess back then, people stepped forward to be part of a jury pool, whereas today the pool is the community at large, and it usually takes a subpoena!

guedy 12:34 AM  

And Rex, about the Forts:
Could it be Magazines, from the French Magasins, referring to Stores? After all, Forts were heavily "fortified" to protect the Army's stores from pillage?

guedy 12:34 AM  

And Rex, about the Forts:
Could it be Magazines, from the French Magasins, referring to Stores? After all, Forts were heavily "fortified" to protect the Army's stores from pillage?

miriam b 12:49 AM  

Coing, not coign = quince. Many people, in my experience, don't know what a quince is, and thus dnn't know what they're missing.

guedy 12:52 AM  

To miriam b,
"J'adore la confiture de coings", they are delicious.
but the answer in the puzzle is in fact coign, which must be an archaic version of coin (corner) used in architecture according to one blogger above, though I had never heard of it.

miriam b 1:17 AM  

Sorry about the confusion,guedy.

I hope my cognassier does well this year.

I think an architect posted a message to the effect that the more common spelling of the architectural element is "quoin". That looks like a good crossword candidate. Both these words sound archaic.

Anonymous 3:26 AM  

13D Ball handler
76A "We Need a Little Christmas Singer" (Mame)

Lucille Ball starred as Mame in the 1974 film of the musical Mame.

Anonymous 8:35 AM  

i know you have mentioned in the past a way to email you directly, but i can't find it right now -- too lazy and needing to get to work...

i am working the puzzles a couple days behind...so I apologize for refering back to Friday and Saturday...

As far as friday's "Flowers for ALGERNON" is considered...just want to mention that I read it in eighth grade I believe...and found it super stirring - i cried...i even re-read it a couple times in subsequent years....i am not sure how it would stand the test of time, and i forget how old your daughter is, but i think it is a book she might really enjoy at some point...i certainly will try to get my girls to read it at some point.

Re: EXOCET missile - I too remember it from the Faklands 'War' news coverage...but, could not remember if it was Exocet or Avocet...something tells me both are missiles.

deion
agbarganza@aol.com

Anonymous 2:07 PM  

Deion, something tells me that if there is an Avocet Missile, it is hilariously misnamed, as the only avocet I know is a spindly, if exotic-looking, migratory shorebird. With its comically long and upturned bill it doesn't even look particularly aerodynamic. Thanks for the chuckle. Rockrabbit

Kathy 8:49 PM  

Pomegranate,

You are absolutely right in your additions to my list! The "well how the hell would I ever know that?!" cheat is one I've resorted to, and the "well, I know the damn song word by word," or "I can picture the girl in the sitcom, so why can't I just look it up...." Too right.

Wendy, et. al., why do you think there have been no women racers aside from Danica? Is strength that much of an issue with racing cars? Seems odd to me. Maybe I'll practice on my way to work tomorrow...

Kathy

artpearson 12:42 AM  

The making of Damascus steel is a lost art. Apparently the molten metal was folded and refolded many times to give it its strength and flexibility.
The fatted calf is biblical - killed and butchered for a feast to celebrate the return of the prodigal son.
I couldn't find a citation of terra cotta as a color name. It came to mind immediately, but I didn't fill it in for a long time - thought it was inappropriate.
I had Otello - based on the Shakespeare play filled in on the basis of the 't' and an 'l' - never heard of Verdi's play Atilla.
Yes, Chicken Little was a little red hen.
UPC code is a solecism like ISBN number and PIN number - in both cases the N stands for number, so the word is redundant. In this case, the C stands for code.
'Death in the Afternoon is a Hemingway bullfighting novel.
Before it meant a part of a gun, magazine meant a storeroom for ammunition, especially on ships. Read some C.S. Forester to absorb nautical lingo from the Age of Sail.
Yeah, 'eat me' had me going for a minute. I know my Dodgson, and had this one in a flash. Made me think the puzzle was going to be easy.
There is another hall of famer named ernie rivers. I had him down first.
I have relatives in Ukiah. Didn't realize it was so obscure.
The theatre is named for two theatrical families, the Lunts and the Fontannes. I did have Lynn for Lynn Fontanne filled in.
Addenda is actually the Latin plural of the scholarly word addendum, for something added in to a text.
Rust as a verb doesn't really mean to get rusty, as in to lose a skill. This was a bad definition.

Anonymous 3:54 AM  

another Anonymous said...
Isn't the Ball handler Dezi ArnEz?

No, it IS ArnAz. And DeSi, not Dezi. But it is usually pronounced "arnez".

To add to what artpearson said...

Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt were a married/acting couple. They were known as the greatest husband and wife team in theatrical history and ruled Broadway for over half a century. When they retired, the old Globe Theater was renamed the Lunt-Fontanne Theater. What a marvelous couple they were!

JC 9:52 AM  

artpearson,
Not "Chicken Little"...she was the one who claimed "The sky is falling". The "Little Red Hen" was the one asking for help with the wheat and all her farm friends said "Not I" until the bread was made.

TimeTraveller 2:04 PM  

Deion -- So you're a couple of days behind; I get the puzz in my local paper a week later on Sunday, six weeks later the rest of the week. Please be aware that your comments on YOUR previous week's puzz are spoilers for some of us.

While I'm here, I found this a very easy challenge and was surprised to see it was a Henry Hook. I just flew through the NW and headed on south (entering CAPTain with unearned confidence.) Then I crashed and burned, of course.

My point: it is a gentle kindness to have AHEAD and EMILIA and RUST and LESS to restart on when you trip over TERRACOTTA or get cut up by DAMASCUSSTEEL. Especially since the theme was not of much use to this Canadian.

Rex you're getting better with practice. Love the blog.

Jepson 4:47 PM  

Just to second TimeTraveller's 2:04 comment to Deion. Tough puzzle for me...loved the blog and most of the comments.
Thanks Rex

Jet City Gambler 7:07 PM  

Whenever I see Henry Hook's name on a puzzle, I know it's one to savor. This one kicked my ass for well over an hour before I finally gave up with a half-dozen squares blank. Well done, Mr. Hook.

If you haven't read it, "Ball Four" by Jim Bouton is easily one of the best baseball books ever written. It's an account of his year with the 1969 Seattle Pilots (before that snively weasel Selig stole them and moved them to Milwaukee). Kind of like Major League, except it's a true account. Great book.

Anonymous 11:34 PM  

the area or building within a fort (or within a ship) where ordinance is stored is referred to as the "magazine", thus a fort is a "magazine holder".

Anonymous 8:19 PM  

Many of the words people erroneously commented about are found in Webster's dictionary. These words include coign and magazine, quickly explaining why the answer fits the clue.

Timothy 3:58 PM  

Man did I cheat on this one. Talk about obstruse clues and answers. I have been doing this puzzle for years and COULD not absolutely COULD NOT have gotten anywhere without cheating. I flagrantly admit to level 3 cheating. LEVEL 3!!!!!!! Even then it took me most of the day. WHEW!

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