TUESDAY, Mar. 25, 2008 - Steve Salmon (ARSENIC OR ANTIMONY)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy*

THEME: Homonyms ... yep, that's pretty much it

*I tore through this puzzle like it wasn't there at all, except (hence the asterisk) in the West, where I came to a dead stop lasting god-knows-how-long. Total free fall. Complete confusion. Here is what that part of the puzzle looked like as I was trying to solve it:

Yes, I went for DOZE over the more appropriate LAZE (40A: Spend an afternoon in a hammock, e.g.). This ... hurt. But even after I took DOZE out, I still had some trouble figuring out what the heck was supposed to go in all of those squares. In addition to LAZE, I was missing FOUR OTHER ANSWERS. On a Tuesday? Well, yes, of course, Tuesday being the hateful imp that it usually is, I should perhaps not be surprised. I have never heard of the word SEMIMETAL (2D: Arsenic or antimony), and I could not have told you what "antimony" was before today (I even just misspelled it as "antinomy," so foreign does it look to me). I thought the clue had something to do with the words themselves, like maybe, I don't, know, they were both some species of noun or a compound of some sort, or shared a derivation ... I don't know; all I know is that "arsenic" and "antimony" did not feel as if they were from the same universe. Then there was the problem of 28A: Tourmaline, e.g. (gem). Never having heard of "tourmaline," my failure here is unsurprising. This is the kind of thing I would normally get from crosses without much trouble. Not today. Then there was the cluing on 28D: Waters south of the South, e.g. (gulf), which is semi-clever, but feels somewhat forced in its cleverness. I could think only of CARIBBEAN, which was not going to fit. Lastly, there's FLEA (43A: It can get under your skin). Had the -EA and could think of no word that could go there. IDEA? Does an IDEA get under your skin? (Answer: no) This is all ironic in that I just taught "The FLEA," by John Donne, which is one of my favorite poems (and famous enough to be used in a puzzle ... though maybe not on a Tuesday). Eventually I put in LAZE and stared a bit and then everything fell into place. Not often I fall completely on my face on a Tuesday. Well played ... Tuesday.

Theme answers:

  • 18A: Blasé group of directors? (bored board)
  • 62A: Lovely hotel accommodations? (sweet suite)
  • 3D: Farm-grown labyrinth? (maize maze)
  • 7D: Wake at dawn? (morning mourning)
  • 10D: Pit in its entirety? (whole hole)
  • 33D: Mooing group of cattle? (heard herd) - weakest of the lot
  • 37D: Key passage? (isle aisle)

Not much else to speak of in this puzzle. I would normally gripe about multiple obscure- to- semi- obscure actors in a puzzle, but today's are so artfully arranged, in symmetrical positions, that I can't really complain: AYRES (12D: Lew who played Dr. Kildare) is before my time by a long shot, and ELWES (52D: Actor Cary of "Twister") is simply forgettable (though his name is kind of cool, like some mutation of crossword staple "EWES"). He is perhaps best remembered for his role in "The Princess Bride." Trivia: he has played both Pope John Paul II and Ted bundy. Range!

Assorted observations:

  • 5A: Fiesta Bowl site (Tempe) - wife botched this as TAMPA. Wonder if anyone else (especially non-sports types) did same.
  • 10A: Tortilla sandwich (wrap) - "Tortilla" keeps with the "Fiesta" theme, but WRAP ... sort of de-Mexicanizes the whole thing. I had TACO here at first.
  • 16A: Breezy greeting ("Hiya!") - surprised how easily, instinctively this came to me, given that it's not a "greeting" I'd ever use.
  • 45A: "Lohengrin" lass (Elsa) - this has been clued as [Wagner heroine] before, resulting in untold Google hits to my site. I'm guessing that Google action will be relatively light today, given that this name is easy to get from crosses.
  • 70A: It may go off on you (pager) - the very idea of the PAGER seems very 20th-century to me. I had POWER here for a bit.
  • 5D: "Running" amount (tab) - good clue, goes nicely with BARS (19D: Where spirits run freely?)
  • 25D: Film material (acetate) - ACETATE gets a surprising amount of play for a seven-letter word. Lots of 1-pt Scrabble letters probably makes it very useful to constructors at times.
  • 30D: Hebrew leader? (alef) - gimme. ALIF is [Arabic leader?]. ALPHA is [Greek leader?]. If you already knew that, good for you. You probably do a lot of crosswords.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


wendy 8:10 AM  

Let's see - my alma mater has been to the Fiesta Bowl five times, three of those in the last three years. What city did I put into the grid? TAMPA!

(The mind is a terrible thing to waste , and all that rot. This has been a public service announcement.)

Graeme 8:25 AM  

Like rex, never heard of antimony or tourmaline, so "gum" and "semimutal" seemed just as likely as "gem" and "semimetal". Tough crossing for a Tues. Other than that no problems.

arb 8:28 AM  

Hiya, Rex!

(Figure maybe it'll grow on you... like a fungus.)

Graeme 8:28 AM  

And rex...is that a real maze in the picture (meaning that one could visit)? If so, where is it?

Anonymous 8:32 AM  

Seemed hard to me for a Tuesday or at least medium. Had Tampa - didn't know what touramaine is either - had g-m and came up with gum which made arsenic or atimony become semimutual. I figured it was some financial offering I never heard of & that sure didn't help.
I liked "afoot." Nice Sherlock Holmes feeling to it.
HarrietLou in Philly

Pete M 8:59 AM  

Antimony and arsenic are the first two elements mentioned in "The Element Song" by the brilliant Tom Lehrer. Of course, it doesn't happen to mention that they are semimetals... :)


Check it out; it's 1:23 well spent.

- Pete M

Anonymous 9:04 AM  

I'm embarassed: I thought it was hard for tuesday. But thoroughly delightful once it got going - sort of Sunday like Tuesday. Stuck in the lower left and ended with 'as tho' which didn't seem right....and wasn't.

Bill from NJ 9:05 AM  

Seen TOURMALINE as a clue somewhere this week but I'm not sure where but I know this from doing crosswords but nowhere else.

Had DOZE same as Rex and had no idea what GUD_ could be. Once LAZE popped into my head the puzzle fell in short order.

Five minutes, good for a Tuesday.

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

If you periodically hunt for earrings online, you'll run across more tourmaline than you know what to do with, and instantly recognize it forever after as a gem.

And Rex's blind spot for Mr. Elwes is right up there with his problems spelling Liam Neeson. I'll bet few of us other-oriented types had difficulty. Gorgeous guys with ravishing British-Isles accents! It all started with Sean Connery.

Easy even for Tuesday.

treedweller 9:23 AM  

I've owned dogs for many years, so I've been bitten by many fleas, but, thankfully, none has ever gotten under my skin. Sounds quite unpleasant.

Count me among those who reflexively filled the spaces in T_MP_ with A's.

I plodded through this steadily, but in the end I was still slower than most Tuesdays. Maybe it should count as average since I had distractions in the house while I was working it. Anyway, I enjoyed the theme--got MAIZEMAZE with just a couple of crosses and it was academic from there.

PhillySolver 9:26 AM  

Hiya, indeed. I first entered Hula for its breezyness then realized they say aloha. I also tried to stuff taco where WRAP belonged. The GULF stream waters remind me of Woody Guthrie. I have to encourage you to follow Pete M's link. A combination of Gilbert and Sullivan (I am a Major General) and all of the elements with a clever keyboard of the Chart of Periodic Elements. Let Geekdom reign.

This is our second foray into homophones recently so let me write about its close relative, oronyms.
They represent phrases which sound alike. The classic is 'stuff he knows' and 'stuffy nose.' Here is one on current affairs. Hillary's chances now lay in a delicate balance/ delegate balance. The British even had a Teley show featuring this stuff, but they lost me when they started using German and French phrases to keep the show going. There are many, many others, but I am sure you know many of them.

Bye buy.

arb 9:37 AM  

Graeme 8:28a:


Orange 9:38 AM  

Tourmaline is beautiful. Sometimes a crystal is multicolored, as seen here. They come in many colors, too—red, pink, blue, green, yellow, brown, and black. Go to any jewelry store—any bright pink gemstone is likely to be pink tourmaline.

Also, you know how the OPAL is clued so often as [Fall birthstone] or [October birthstone]? The other birthstone assigned to October is tourmaline. Wouldn't that be a great thing to include in a Saturday crossword with a [Fall birthstone] clue? I'll bet a lot of people would slot OPAL in the last four squares.

Orange 9:39 AM  

(Can you tell that I had a book about minerals and gems when I was a kid and found it fascinating reading?)

ArtLvr 9:42 AM  

Oh wow -- oronyms? or auronyms? The latter looks prettier, I'd opine. I was wasting time late last night trying my hand at constructing a puzzle something like this one! Getting nowhere, but discovered some fun words....

Yes,I tried Tampa, Taco, and also Femoral before hitting on CAROTID... So Slow! But I had GEM immediately -- the best ia a unique long crystal shading from bright green at one end to deep rose on the other if found whole. Other colors abound as well. Maine is a primary location for caves which contain these, as cousins of old so luckily discovered and made into a family business! Ah, I see Orange is ahead of me on the subject....


Ladel 9:47 AM  

Never heard of semi metals, but had a nasty chem teacher in high school who we called "old antimony," because the symbol for that element is Sb. As for alef, not a problem if you went to Hebrew school as a kid and learned the alef-bais (the Hebrew alphabet). Now if Rex would only agree to try a cold tongue sandwich his xword skills would improve.

John 9:54 AM  

The Fiesta Bowl is actually held in Glendale, AZ now, not Tempe anymore


Ulrich 10:03 AM  

Since I knew what tourmaline was, the west (and the rest, more or less) presented no problem. BTW I had called the theme "identical twins", but "homonyms" does sound classier.

For those who know their Lohengrin, Elsa is sooo not what one would call a "lass" that the clue/answer in question startled me—and then caused a chuckle. I'm not complaining, though, liked the puzzle OK.

Addie Loggins 10:08 AM  

I wrote "taco" without a second thought, but knew it was wrong when "padre" became obvious. I did, however, catch the laze/doze trap and held off until I was sure.

Princess Bride: great movie, or greatest movie ever?

Anybody want a peanut?

Wade 10:24 AM  

I dispute that a wrap is a sandwich. Sandwich implies two separate items (bread or whatever) "sandwiching" some kind of filling. A wrap is one item surrounding that filling. If a wrap is a sandwich, then so is an eggroll and a spring roll and a hot dog.

That's a wrap.

Doris 10:29 AM  


Hillary's chances now LIE, not lay, in a delicate balance. If it had happened in the past, then they lay (or might have lain) in a delicate balance. See my blog to understand how deeply this affects me. (However, if this were a history, written some time after the fact, all would be forgiven.)

Graeme 10:31 AM  

arb... thanks for the link. that's quite amaz(e)ing... sorry very poor.

Hydromann 10:36 AM  

I thought the puzzle was fairly easy. Didn't have the same problem in the west, because I got "Gulf" right away. It wasn't until I went on a vacation a number of years ago to the crosswordese isle of Aruba, that I learned there is a clear distinction between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Namely, the former is north of Cuba and the latter south of it! Duh!

Even though I was educated in the hard sciences as a geologist, I never heard of the term, semimetal, either. But, knowing that both antimony and arsenic have some of the properties of metals, and with a few crosses, I just shrugged and penned it in. So everything else in the west came clear.

Like Rex, I thought the "wrap" answer was not good cluing, having about as much to do with Mexico as it does with any culture that makes a flatbread, which is to say, just about any culture you can name!

Rex Parker 10:47 AM  

Red Sox / Yankees corn maze

FYI: as of a couple hours ago, the Red Sox official record for the 2008 season: 1-0.

Manny Ramirez is officially my favorite living baseball player. Pitch around Ortiz to get to Manny? Yeah, good idea. Try that. Please.


PS for the record, my favorite dead baseball player is a tossup between Ted Williams and Christy Mathewson

PhillySolver 10:48 AM  

@ doris

Thanks...it seems it is in the past, but we will see. Didn't know you had a blog, so I am headed there.

@ artlvr
I can see the attraction, but I can only find oronyms as the spelling online.

Once you go to YouTube for the Element Song (sited above), you can see several clever versions of the song. Tom Lehrer songs were very popular in the early days of Dr. Demento's broadcasts and it was fun to see such a repository.

Rex Parker 10:51 AM  


You are, of course, correct about the lay/lie distinction, but nobody likes being taken to task for their (excuse me - his/her) grammatical mistakes (especially in a very public forum). I give you free reign to kick my ass, grammatically, any time you want - I surely deserve it, and can handle it. But cut the commenters a little slack.


Rex Parker 10:53 AM  

Or free REIN, whichever ...


Anonymous 10:59 AM  

I'm glad to know I'm in good company -- I couldn't figure out the west for the longest time either. I thought about "FLEA" at 43A, but fleas don't get under people's skin... they just get on your skin and bite it. Ticks get under skin. Also had "DOZE" at 40A and was confident about it, so I penciled in "IDEA" at 43A (same logic: I guess ideas get under my skin in some kind of metaphorical way) and was hopelessly stuck. This alone made it one of my slowest Tuesdays I can remember.

Anonymous 11:17 AM  

Semimetals are often referred to as metalloids - perhaps more familiar to some. Tourmaline is a rather pretty gemstone, a silicate (contains silicon) which is, guess what, a metalloid. Nice puzzle.

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

Thanks so much for the link to the Lehrer YouTube video. I just spent a pleasant hour listening to many of his tunes, especially "Werner (sp.?) von Braun": "'Once the rockets go up, who cares where they come down? It's not my department,' says Werner von Braun."

I guess since the flea bite penetrates the skin, we could accept "under the skin" in a jokey sense? Jokes shouldn't be held to quite the stringent logical standards as ordinary clues, surely.

jae 11:23 AM  

I thought this was pretty good for a Tuesday. I knew about SEMIMETALs so the west was not a problem. Add me to the TACO group. I also tried HEES for HEMS, FLOSS for BRUSH, and spelled AYERS wrong. My keyboard skills re Acrosslite suck, so I'm always in the 6-12 min. range on the Mon/Tue puzzles. I need to practice getting my fingers back on the right keys after using the mouse or maybe there's an easier way?

Pete M 11:25 AM  


Problem with dead baseball players is they tend to be slow to first base. :)

Red Sox Magic #: 162

- Pete M

emjo 11:31 AM  

cary elwes also starred in alicia silverstone's first movie, the crush . for those of you who haven't had the pleasure,
silverstone plays an obsessed 14 y/o nymphet who exacts jealous revenge on elwes' girlfriend by funneling a nest of hornets in to the vent leading to the unfortunate lady's locked darkroom. the whole terrible plot is foreshadowed by a conversation that was indelibly imprinted on my pre-pubescent brain, the gist of which is:
silverstone: "you know, wasps are incredibly social insects"
girlfriend: "what, like they want to make friends?"
silverstone: "no, like they attack in swarms"

i cant believe the academy overlooked this one.

sorry this is only vaguely puzzle related, at best.

Ulrich 11:49 AM  

Speaking of Tom Lehrer: How many of you know that he taught at one time applied math courses at MIT, of all places? I took his Discrete Math course, which he taught straight—you wouldn't have known that he was the same guy whose records I listened to in the evening.

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

Since January 1, 2007, the "Fiesta Bowl site" (5A) has been the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Prior to that, the Fiesta Bowl site was Tempe.

miriam b 12:16 PM  

I'm with you, Ulrich. That clue took me aback somewhat. I don't think there's a "lass" in any of Wagner's operas.

What time is the next swan?

Ulrich 12:29 PM  

@miriam b: Eva in Die Meistersinger maybe?

Noam D. Elkies 12:36 PM  

No asterisk for me regarding 2D:SEMIMETAL (given the first three or four letters), though I did wonder what the [profanity deleted] this was doing in a Tuesday puzzle. Didn't even notice that the crossings with 28A:GEM and 40A:LAZE could make today's semimetal journey even trickier.

Yes, "antimony" (not to be confused with "antinomy") is a strange word, and Wikipedia reports that the etymology is unclear. The chemical symbol is Sb, from an entirely different-looking Latin word "stibium".

Count me among those who first went with Tampa for 5A:TEMPE; I had the T and P, and the apparent confirmation of the marquee entry 7D didn't help. Finally fixed after wondering what ACON could possibly be at 6D. Nice in this context to choose a football-related clue for the crossing 9D:END. Still, football usually leaves me 18A:BORED. Fortunately I've been to Tempe once or twice for other reasons.

Apropos 7D: Only two of the theme clues has a misleading clue (the other is 37D, with "Key"); 7D's is particularly clever, but like 2D both of these clues feel out of place for a Tuesday puzzle.

A weird wrong turn: well into the puzzle I happened to have exactly the letters ???ET?UITE for 62A that also match QUIETQUITE, and
wrote that in before checking the clue -- never mind that it's not quiet [er, not quite] thematic... Quickly fixed, though.

Back to Bach's sweet suites,


parshutr 12:37 PM  

Miriam b,
The anecdote is worth retelling in its entirety. At the Metropolitan Opera in NY, Leo Slezak was the heldentenor singing in Lohengrin. He missed his cue to jump on a mechanical swan, and deadpanned to the audience, "What time does the next swan leave?"
By the bye, my 93-year old mother-in-law is also a miriam b.
The only thing I had to erase was TAMPA, but since GUARD didn't fit with player next to the tackle, it had to be END, then I was able to correct.
Seemed very easy; got MAIZEMAZE immediately (Michigan resident, graduate, former faculty member now working at Michigan State).
Fastest Tuesday for me, ever.
And Rex...Ted Williams is not dead!

Joon 12:40 PM  

am i the only one who pronounces it maïze (my-EEZ)? it was the first theme clue i put in, and i figured out where it was going anyway, but it bugged me.

Jim in Chicago 12:43 PM  

I thought this was a perfect Tuesday puzzle, so I'd go with "medium". Just enough places where there wasn't a single obvious answer so I had to go back and forth a bit, but finished with no real problem.

The theme was a bit old-hat but sort of fun anyway.

Jim in Chicago 12:43 PM  

I thought this was a perfect Tuesday puzzle, so I'd go with "medium". Just enough places where there wasn't a single obvious answer so I had to go back and forth a bit, but finished with no real problem.

The theme was a bit old-hat but sort of fun anyway.

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

Don't forget 'Robin Hood : Men in Tights' for Mr Elwes, in which Mel Brooks also gave a small part (Royal Announcer) to a Franckenstein, perhaps in fond remembrance of his much better movie.


Tom Lehrer was playing the Cape summers in the early 50's and we brought him up to Williams for a winter houseparty gig in 1955. He was terrific on TWTWTW!

Melchoir punch line variant as I heard it: "Ven comes der next schvann?".

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

am i the only one who had 'skim' instead of 'scan'? it was beaten into my head in journalism school that to scan something was to read it thoroughly. i must have changed 'scan' to 'skim' a hundred times over the years while editing copy. i guess i'm one of the few fighting a rear guard action on scan/skim, much as i think i'm losing out on insisting that 'presently' be used to mean 'soon,' and not 'now.'

don't get me started.

PhillySolver 1:11 PM  

@ parshutr

The world is such as small space, so I have to ask something. My son-in-law is a Professor in the Microbiology Department and my daughter runs a research lab in East Lansing. He is an avid golfer who no longer shoots par, but is still competitive in the amateur ranks. I go to Lansing several times a year to play a few rounds, but always stop at Zingemann's. Would you like to join us for an early mornig NYT crossword and a round of golf from the black tees?

chefbea 1:21 PM  

phillysolver - isnt it zingermans"s. I get their catalogue the best bread in the world. Actually my daughter is a friend of Ari's

Jon 1:29 PM  

I'm ashamed to admit that even though I am a chemist and have a periodic table pinned to my desk, it still took me a few moments to come up with SEMIMETAL.

If anyone is interested, and in case any of these ever appear in a future crossword, some of the groupings from the periodic table are: alkali metals, alkaline earth metals, transition metals, metalloids (semi-metals), halogens, noble gases, lanthanides, and actinides. Also, the person credited with developing the periodic table is named Dmitri Mendeleev, which seems like a name destined for a puzzle one day with its four e's.

Patrick Merrell's annual Scientific American puzzle this year featured a periodic table theme. Hope that's not too off-topic.

miriam b 1:33 PM  

@ulrich: Yes, I'd forgotten about Eva, and I agree.

PhillySolver 1:39 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
PhillySolver 1:41 PM  

@ chefbea

Of course you are right and I need a proof reader. In East Lansing you can go to Goodrich's for the bread, but the cheese and meats seem stranded in Ann Arbor. We will add your daughter to the invitees and end the day with a catered feast.

For Ulrich, here's what Leo really said...
"Wann fährt der nächste Schwan?"

1:39 PM

Matthew 1:44 PM  

My god! This puzzle wasn't too hard, but it was devious as hell.

First answer I put in 3D: CORNFIELD. Ugh!

Then TACO for WRAP, SOLO for STAG, HEES for HEMS, ELEMENTAL for SEMIMETAL, SOUSA for ELGAR (oops, wrong country), SKIM for SCAN, and TAMPA for TEMPE. And I threw in BRUSH without thinking about FLOSS, but I at least won that coin toss

I should really stop doing these in pen :D

miriam b 1:45 PM  

@jon: I'm a chemist too, albeit retired. "Metalloids" is the term to which I'm accustomed, so "semimetals" took me by surprise.

Visiting the then USSR about 20 years ago, I saw the building where Mendeleev worked. There's an inlaid mosaic of the periodic table on the wall of the structure. I was on a fast-moving bus at the time, and tried and failed to get a photo. I didn't even get a good look, unfortunately. I'm going to Google now in hopes of finding that image.

SethG 1:51 PM  

It really is a small world. A friend of mine used to be the Zingerman's CFO, and apparently Tom Lehrer invented the JELLO SHOT.

TEMPE was my first answer.

Some confusion about what I read as Terbutaline, e.g., wondering how to fit "labor-delaying drug" into three letters, but I never saw the clue again and got GEM from the crosses.

Don't remember much of my chemistry, but with SEMIMxTxx I assumed that SEMIMETALs must exist.

Overall, felt like I spent lots of time meandering about, but I got what I think is my fastest Tuesday time anyway. (Though still slower than last week's Wednesday...) Next goal: the 4 minute Monday.

Jon 1:52 PM  

@miriam b

If you find that picture let me know. I'd be geekily interested in taking a look.

doc John 1:54 PM  

A medium day for me. I just picked my way through the puzzle until finally done. I didn't fall into either tampa or doze trap but I just couldn't WRAP my head around some of the clues. Having houseguests hovering around didn't help much, either!

As for the theme, the first whole answer I got was SWEET SUITE, which was enough to clue me in to what was going on. The thought then occurred to me, "there should be a WHOLE HOLE" and voila, there it was! (Also glad I didn't write in "hedge maze" right away.)

@ Doris: I always use "let sleeping dogs LIE" to help me remember passive from active.

Anonymous 2:04 PM  

"Metalloids" -- now there's a word I hope we'll see again!

John: Spanish speakers say mah-EES, but I think the standard American pronunciation is mayze, isn't it? But speaking of pronunciation puzzles, who can tell me how to pronounce "Elwes"? Is it ell-wess? yules?

Anon.: Re "presently": yes! yes! I'm with you on the barricades.

Finally: Zingerman's -- wonderful catalog, printed and online, and that reminds me that it's time for me to mail-order bread again. They sell a 5-lb "mountain bread" loaf that's about the size of a watermelon. Wonderful stuff. Where I live, no good bread is produced, and I'm no good at it myself.

Rex Parker 2:05 PM  

I went to grad school in Ann Arbor and so ate many a sandwich at Zingermann's ... Mmmm, $9 sandwich.


Ulrich 2:09 PM  

@phillysolver: Thanks. That's how the story is told in Germany, but it could have been that it was translated from English.

kate 2:10 PM  

I know what tourmaline is, and I had L in square 40 right away assuming either LOLL or LAZE, so no problems there for me. In fact I had no problems anywhere, except for when I was finished and was quite perplexed by the word at 8D, PREWN. Odd word. How could I have never come across it before?

Oh. Des Moines is east of Dallas. Right.

Anonymous 2:12 PM  

Nice to hear princess bride reverence - great movie. To Rex, Cy Young and Grover Cleveland Alexander work for me. Tome Lehrer citations are aways great, favorites include 'National Brotherhood Week', and 'Who's Next', "wel'll all try to remain serene and calm, whn Alabama, bet's the bomb". Did the hees, hems for a second, a reasonable Tuesday if you ask me.

imsdave, the inept blogger

p.s. hope we can meet this summer on my annual trek to Quaker Lake to visit my Dad Rex - wife and I would love to take you out to dinner

doc John 2:16 PM  

Oh, I forgot to mention that in SD there is an area of town where several street names are gemstones, one of which is tourmaline, so that made that clue a gimme for me!

@ anonymous 2:04- I believe you are spot on about how to pronounce ELWES. At least, that's how I say it! I wouldn't exactly call him semi-obscure, though. He's been in a lot of well-known stuff including Twister and The Princess Bride.

His IMDB page

And speaking of IMDB- you know your site has hit the big time when Jon Stewart mentions it during the Oscar broadcast!

miriam b 2:17 PM  


There it is, from the blog of two indefatigable chroniclers of their lives and times. I'm supposed to be putting laundry away, but my own essential geekiness took over and I had to ferret out that image, which is just slightly different from my recollection.

While I was poking around in Alan and Nancy's blog, the long arm of coincidence once again reached out and touched me. It seems that Alan once worked at Brookhaven National Lab. My late husband and I worked there too at different times.

PhillySolver 2:20 PM  

Perhaps this is the monument you seek ...


Ulrich 2:23 PM  

@phillysolver: .. and I admire your Umlaute. I'm so used seeing them handled in German quotes in English texts like a pinch of salt is handled in cooking: Sprinkle a little bit here and there to liven up the dish according to taste, and it's better to have too many than too few.

Rex Parker 2:25 PM  

@imsdave, and all future cross-country trekkers who might for some strange reason find themselves near where I live: dinner invitations are unlikely to be rejected. Eating and not paying for it is sort of a hobby of mine.


miriam b 2:33 PM  

@phillysolver: That's not it. I wonder where that monument is located - probably at some modern technological institute, and maybe not even in St. Petersburg.

See my most recent post for an image of the periodic table I described.

miriam b 2:33 PM  

@phillysolver: That's not it. I wonder where that monument is located - probably at some modern technological institute, and maybe not even in St. Petersburg.

See my most recent post for an image of the periodic table I described.

Jon 2:35 PM  

@miriam b and phillysolver

Thanks both for the links. I currently have a short-term gig working at a university so can take free classes. I'm taking Russian in preparation for a trip hopefully this summer, so translating some of the Russian text is good practice.

-The Dread Pirate Roberts

dk 2:39 PM  

Tourmaline is often (at least in Maine) referred to as the Gem of Maine. The rainbow is nice but I prefer the blue.

My son went to ASU so Tempe was a gimme.

Last but not least while touring grad schools I ate at what I think was Zingermanns, although I could be confusing it with my early 70's NYC haunt Zabars (famous for how long you gonna stand there we got other customers tryin to come in - said as one word)

doc john, Whenever I am in South Dakota I visit the Corn Palace


miriam b 2:56 PM  

@jon: Good luck with the Russian. My knowledge of the language is generally sketchy, but I can read it pretty well.

The grammar is a KILLER. I once asked my father, who was a native Russian speaker, how one knew whether one was using the right case ending. My father, who was usually precise in his thinking, called on his right brain for the answer: "If it sounds right, you know it's right." I've mulled this over and concluded that, since he emigrated and started to learn English at age 9, he probably had escaped being drilled in grammar, and so had an intuitive grasp of the structure of Russian.

Dad told me that in Czarist days children were entitled to free education starting at age 7, but only if they had already been taught to read at home. His father was a journalist, so that was no problem for him; but I shudder to think of the vast numbers of youngsters who in effect inhrited their parents' illiteracy.

I suppose this is off-topic because I'm not discussing English. If so, my apologies, and thanks to all for bearing with me.

miriam b 2:56 PM  

@jon: Good luck with the Russian. My knowledge of the language is generally sketchy, but I can read it pretty well.

The grammar is a KILLER. I once asked my father, who was a native Russian speaker, how one knew whether one was using the right case ending. My father, who was usually precise in his thinking, called on his right brain for the answer: "If it sounds right, you know it's right." I've mulled this over and concluded that, since he emigrated and started to learn English at age 9, he probably had escaped being drilled in grammar, and so had an intuitive grasp of the structure of Russian.

Dad told me that in Czarist days children were entitled to free education starting at age 7, but only if they had already been taught to read at home. His father was a journalist, so that was no problem for him; but I shudder to think of the vast numbers of youngsters who in effect inhrited their parents' illiteracy.

I suppose this is off-topic because I'm not discussing English. If so, my apologies, and thanks to all for bearing with me.

doc John 2:58 PM  

Oops! Actually the SD is for San Diego...

PhillySolver 2:59 PM  

I am really goofing off today and ask for your indulgence for one more tale. I lived in London for a number of years and the cultural experience was phenomenal. Through a friend I was able to experience the annual Proms event at Albert Hall. Well, I have heard Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance numerous times from my years in academia. Imagine my surprise when I observed the initial gyrations of the crowd when the music started, but then they started singing! It was so moving and I felt isolated by not knowing what was expected. I quickly learned the most important words to this homage to England as the Land of Hope and Glory... "God who made they mighty, make thee mightier yet."

To experience this moment click Pomp
or use:

You can invest the full eight minutes or fast forward to the 2:30 mark and listen for a bit.

Anonymous 3:16 PM  

tried your listed e-mail and got a non-deliverable message. A tad leery, but am posting my e-mail address david.eckert@sbcglobal.net, have great faith in the bloggers here that it will be respected. Drop me an e-mail and can't wait to treat you to dinner, your choice, with my preferences being Lampy's (Endicott) Number 5 (Binghmaton), or Oak Inn (Endicott)


Anonymous 3:33 PM  

Someone's probably already commented on this here, but the Fiesta Bowl hasn't been in Tempe for a while, it's in Glendale. They could have gone with [Sun Devil Stadium site] or [Former Fiesta Bowl Site], but it's simply factually inaccurate as it is currently clued.

Doug 3:35 PM  

I started with Tampa and skim. Tricky this puzzle constructor. But I also got Ayres right away. Once you get morning mourning, the other theme clues were easy. Semimetal wasn't that hard if you were a good high school chem student.

jannieb 3:54 PM  

@anonymous 2:04 - I've always heard it pronounced ELL WAYS

Jon 4:06 PM  

@miriam b

Tell me about it. Six cases, three genders, plural and singular... thirty-six possible forms (although several are repeated) for nouns, adjectives, pronouns, etc. And two forms for each verb (perfective and imperfective). Makes for some complicated grammar. Keeping track of vocab is hard enough without worrying about the trillion ways in which a word can be declined.

Does doing a crossword puzzle take the dative case or the accusative? Or maybe instrumental? Is it considered a sport?

Wade 4:11 PM  

I always get Lew Ayres mixed up with Lew Wallace, the guy who wrote Ben Hur. Lew Ayres stole Jane Wyman from Ronald Reagan, according to Wikipedia.

As long as dinner invitations are being extended, if anybody gets to Houston I'll treat you to a tripa taco at my favorite taco truck on Durham and I-10. Bring your own Pepto-Bismol.

Wade 4:11 PM  

I always get Lew Ayres mixed up with Lew Wallace, the guy who wrote Ben Hur. Lew Ayres stole Jane Wyman from Ronald Reagan, according to Wikipedia.

As long as dinner invitations are being extended, if anybody gets to Houston I'll treat you to a tripa taco at my favorite taco truck on Durham and I-10. Bring your own Pepto-Bismol.

ArtLvr 4:46 PM  

@ miriam b. -- Thoroughly enjoyed that link to the Mendeleev Museum in St. Petersburg, thank you! The city was then Leningrad, the two times I was there, and brings back great memories of derring-do as we schemed to help a pair of Russian scientists emigrate from the USSR to the US, with eventual success. The friends and relations who were able to follow them and settle here number in the hundreds now with all the offsping, including many more scientists -- even MIT, Johns Hopkins and Case Western grads.


emjo 4:53 PM  

god bless russian grammar. it wields me like the cocky sprout that i am. how many languages can boast reducing foreigners to tears simply by making them count things correctly?

ronathan 4:58 PM  

Yet another schmuck who put TAMPA for TEMPE (5A). Had a little bit of a problem in the NW because I also put down METALLOID for 2D, and I instantly put UPPER for 4D (SPEED). Thankfully I quickly realized my mistakes on both counts.

I also got kind of thrown in the center of the puzzle, because even though I guessed that 30D was going to be the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet (ALEF), I have always seen it written ALEPH, and I can actually read and speak Hebrew. My parents are Israeli for God's sake! ALEF still feel wrong to me.

Once I figured the theme, I made a couple of errors in putting the wrong homophone first (e.g. putting HOLE WHOLE instead of WHOLE HOLE), which, again thankfully, I was able to fix quickly with crosses.

I really thought t hat 58A "Messenger material" (RNA) was really clever, but then again I'm a molecular biologist and I work with RNA on an almost daily basis.

Overall, some groan-worthy theme answers but not to bad for a Tuesday.

Ronathan :-)

miriam b 5:10 PM  

@emjo: Yeah, that numeration thing is a bear (or should I say medved?). I remember the phrase "pyat' dollarov" being uttered at home occasionally when I was a kid. Lots of things apparently cost 5 dollars back then. Little did I know at the time that in order to take the genitive plural the items in question had to number five through twenty. Just thinking about this is giving me the collywobbles.

Jon 5:20 PM  

@emjo, miriam b

And one takes the nominative (adin, adna, ando depending on gender) but two through four take the genitive singular? Go figure. Correctly saying dates in class is a nightmare. And don't get me started on telling time...

Victor in Rochester 5:33 PM  

Rex: It's 5:30 PM eastern time and there are 83 comments. I'm to be #84. Your wonderful blog is now attracting wonderful commentators, and taking up more and more of my time to enjoy the widespread knowledge and erudition of this group. I also assume that you read all the comments, and thus I offer congratulations and sympathy at the same time.

SethG 5:35 PM  

That's why you should learn Hebrew instead of Russian. Much simpler, what with only two different transliterations of the first letter of the alephbet and simple three letter verbs.

Of course, most of them are irregular, and even regular verbs have (NDE or Ronathan can correct my memory) two hundred and ten different conjugations.

I studied it for 11 years, then placed into the second term when I took it again in college. And today I can barely remember how to say "Hi, how are you", ALTHO I had no problem speaking Spanish with some travelers I met last year after taking four years in high school and not speaking it since.


Megan P 5:35 PM  

My internet access disappeared this morning, so here I am in a WIFI cafe in Hamtramck MI reading through all the postings: I love miriam b's anecdotes about her father and am totally awed by ulrich's connection to that great man, Tom Lehrer.

Oh, and the puzzle: pretty fun!

Rex Parker 5:51 PM  

I love the chatty little community that you all have going here, but I'm just gonna ask that people try to keep the conversation, generally, on the puzzle. I appreciate that this is not always possible, and I accept that. I actually like the asides and the meanderings (it's what this blog is made of, after all). But lately there have been a lot of short back-and-forths that are more appropriate for chat rooms or personal emails than for the comments section. I no longer visit the NYT Forum because at one point it got to be the same voices, over and over and over, and it felt tiresome and at least vaguely exclusionary. Don't want that to happen here. So ... just keep that in mind. Not trying to censor anyone, and I do like that you all seem to like each other so much. I'm just trying to keep the Comments section interesting for as many people as possible.

Maybe a 3 comment/day/person limit would be good. I won't enforce this. Just consider it...

I am saying all this without any feelings of annoyance or ill will. This blog wouldn't be half as entertaining without you all. Just, you know, know when to say when.


andrea carla michaels 5:52 PM  

Grew up listening to the fabulous Tom Lehrer (As a Minneapolis Jew it's how I learned the word genuflect! And I was totally scandalized by the lyric "And everybody hates the Jews")
Years later we met at a dinner party (He also taught math at Harvard and Santa Cruz) I was a stand-up at the time and asked why he had given up performing...he said he didn't like the anonymous affection! Take note, Rex!

Rex Parker 6:00 PM  

@andrea (and everyone else): I have not yet tired of "anonymous affection." Not by a long shot.


PS honey, if you're reading this, "anonymous affection" is not what it sounds like, I swear.

Anonymous 6:21 PM  

actually, "hiya" was easy for me.....it's sort of a family joke...when my kids went to camp, my mom would send them postcards saying hiya...so we now all use it to say hello in our emails....very funny.

NYTAnonimo 7:13 PM  

Puzzle went fairly fast today as I got one of the homonyms shortly after I started. You periodic table lovers would enjoy reading Uncle Tungsten by Oliver Sacks.

Anonymous 7:14 PM  

When you've reached your 3-comment limit, there are other blogs to dump in!

leon 7:17 PM  

Lots of potential homophones in the other clues: wrap/rap, err/air,flea/flee,altar/alter,tear/tier,and laze/lays.

Rex Parker 7:28 PM  

BTW I agree that HOMOPHONES is the correct word to describe today's theme. Orange is rarely wrong, damn her. . .


green mantis 7:42 PM  

Poor Cary Elwes. He's one of a breed of young hunks that mysteriously morphs into a not-hunk with age. Very rare phenomenon in male hotness. But I have every line of Princess Bride memorized, so he will forever live in my heart as that ageless, paralytic wit.

Agree with the scan/skim thing. Had it drilled into me long ago that scan, although it seems like a quick once-over, is actually an in-depth read.

And finally, tourmaline. I wasn't sure how my years as a clerk in a metaphysical bookstore would serve me, but now I know. This stone is excellent for circulatory problems and for general psychic protection, not as good as hematite but a total contender. Om.

kratsman 7:42 PM  

Are morning and mourning homophones? I don't pronounce them that way, but maybe it's just me.

Zach M. 8:23 PM  

Not sure if this was mentioned yet or not, but SEMIMETALS is the wrong word here. As a student currently spending most of my waking life damning such things, antimony and aresenic are in a class of elements known as "metalloids". "Semimetals" occasionally pops up in the science text book, but usually as a "Don't refer to these as semimetals" kind of way.

mac 8:34 PM  

Easy and fun today. I have to say, reading the blog and especially the comments takes a lot more time than doing the puzzle!
I agree with a lot of the comments. I could never think of a tortilla sandwich as a wrap, those doughy things I knife and fork the fillings out of. Tourmaline/gem was a gimme since I'm a jewelry designer/maker. B.t.w. Orange, pink tourmaline is often sort of muddy, pink topaz is a brighter semi-precious gem. Artlvr, I think you may be speaking of the watermelon tourmaline. I had to laugh about my mistake at the Dentist's advice: I had floss first, since there is a little framed cartoon in my dentist's office that says: "You don't like to floss? Just do the teeth you would like to keep".

Orange 8:43 PM  

If you're wondering why Rex is giving me credit for knowledge you didn't see here, it's because I was temporarily unable to post comments, so instead I e-mailed him what I would have said here, including a Wikipedia link (homonyms article) that's a good read. Homophones = pronounced the same (today's theme). Homonyms = spelled the same (but can be pronounced differently, e.g., lead and lead, or pronounced the same but with different meanings and etymologies behind them, e.g., pole and pole).

Karen 9:20 PM  

I've been to the Fiesta Bowl parade (in my shorts, in December) so it's easy for me to remember some-Phoenix-suburb. I also had TACO at first for WRAP. And someday I will remember ELGAR's name.

Addie: 'Princess Bride' not a great movie (the editing bugs me in places) but yes, the greatest movie ever made. And no more rhymes, I mean it! If you've never read it, check out MaryAnn Johanson's Totally Geeky Guide to the Princess Bride, from a film critic who totally Gets It.

Overall a fun Tuesday puzzle.

Anonymous 9:54 PM  

The area in San Diego that has the gem street names is Pacific Beach. I lived on Feldspar during my undergraduate years at UC San Diego.

The West was fine for me because I teach Phys. Sci and Earth Sci. But I have to object to WRAP for tortilla sandwich. The Northeast was a bear for me and I had a longer than normal time for a Tuesday.

Boy this is the week for semi-known actors. Yesterday it was Martin Balsam and today it is Cary Elwes. Its nice to know that careers can live on in the NYT crossword puzzle forums.

By the way was Rex's blog mentioned at the Oscars? I missed it can someone fill me in? How exciting!

John Reid 9:55 PM  

I loved all the comments today. The links for Tom Lehrer and Dmitri Mendeleev were fascinating - thanks to those who posted them. I remember reading through my dad's copy of 'The Tom Lehrer Songbook' in the mid '70s when I was just a child. I had no idea that Lehrer was a mathematician though! My degree is in mathematics and I'm currently enrolled in a general chemistry course in the community college where I work, so all of this commentary suited me to a tee - thanks again!

As far as today's puzzle, no serious problems. I did have Tampa originally, but the crosses ended up making me change it to TEMPE which was fine for me (having more or less zero sports knowledge.) A fun enough puzzle but I thought that the theme seemed a little timeworn. Looking back on it, some of the clues were fairly clever, though.

Almost time for Wednesday!

jae 11:35 PM  

@kim -- I believe docjohn was referring to the IMDB website which Jon Stewart mentioned in a joke during the Oscar ceremony.

Anonymous 12:28 AM  

I always thought the words to "Pomp and Circumstance" were:

My reindeer are happy
Your reindeer are sad
My reindeer are good deer
Your reindeer are bad

Anonymous 7:34 AM  

Hello All:

Didn't like SEMIMETAL.

Also didn't like that some fill answers same length as theme answers.

Theme also a bit flat -- but ok for a Tuesday.

With Rex as to keeping conversation 'mostly' to puzzles.

It is true that the NYT forum is sometimes dominated by a few boors who treat same like a personal fiefdom, and this can be insufferable.

Luckily that doesn't happen much here...and where it does I am sure it is unintended.

Still, it never hurts to remember that not everybody speaks seven languages and holds a PHD in genetic engineering...hence discussion that wanders too far from the main can become tedious.

Like this.

scriberpat 7:08 PM  

Our local Mall has a Tourmaline shop.

chalkdusted 12:37 PM  

I (perversely) enjoyed SEMIMETAL, for the simple reason that when this grad school thing goes up in smoke, I will at least have the benefit of having learned something useful for crosswords.

Waxy in Montreal 9:25 PM  

6 weeks ago Phillysolver reflected on the BBC proms in England with reference to Elgar (a Worcestershire lad like myself). The enthusiatic audience participation (Pomp & Circumstance, etc.) takes place during the Last Night of the Proms (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Proms) for a good description as to what goes on...

Anonymous 10:03 PM  

We live in six weeks later land. This was an enjoyable puzzle however--- we don't YET get the clue/solution for 53 Down. The clue is: Bothered a lot--At eat? A teat?

Anonymous 10:04 PM  

aha! Ate at.

Jet City Gambler 12:47 AM  

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park...

This one was easy for me, the theme answers seemed quickly inferrable. Seven theme answers, very impressive, although I wonder why the constructor chose to "flip" the puzzle along the diagonal, as most of the theme answers ended up as downs. Wouldn't the customary orientation be the other way around?

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