WEDNESDAY, Mar. 12, 2008 - Larry Shearer (COWLEY AND KEATS)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "C" - That's the clue for four theme answers. There are also a "C" and an inverted "C" built into the grid in black squares - style points! [Oh, and by the way, every clue starts with "C," a fact I somehow overlooked when I first posted this write-up]

I've moved into the disgusting phase of my current illness. I think I'll just leave it at that. If my typo rate is higher than normal or the things I say nuttier, please forgive; I've been up since before 4 am.

I nearly rated this puzzle "Medium-Challenging," both because there seemed a fair number of odd names that might not be familiar to many people, and because I actually froze in the south of the puzzle. The entire section sat blank for I don't know how long - probably not very long, but long enough for me to feel it. Couldn't get HONCHO (47D: Chief) or EUCLID (48D: City near Cleveland) off the HO- or EU-, respectively. Actually wrote in ERIE, PA where EUCLID was supposed to go. Then there were the Acrosses, which are highly weird at best. I don't think I understand the way the verb "hire" is being used in HIRE ON (66A: Come aboard, in a way). If I "come aboard," don't you hire ME on. Do people really say "I just HIRED ON at blahbitty blah Financial?" They very well might say that - I just find it odd that this same verb can be used transitively and intransitively. Love the potential for misdirection at 61D: Cardinals, on scoreboards (ARI). Everyone's first thought (if they have one) is probably going to be STL - I sniffed this one out quickly, though, which may be the main reason the South finally fell, as ARI gave me the "I" I "wanted" in ODISTS (69A: Cowley and Keats). I say "wanted" because I didn't really want it. ODIST is a pretty horrid word. Then there's the fact that I couldn't remember Aldrich AMES's name (55D: C.I.A. betrayer Aldrich - I could think only of ROONE, but his last name's "Arledge"), I didn't really understand the gist of 57D: Credit application figs. (SSNs) until very late, and could not even find the basic SPOT (56D: Catch sight of), even with the "S" in place - my brain wanted only ESPY. Other than that, this puzzle was no sweat.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: C (car starter)
  • 11D: C (average mark)
  • 26D: C (Epcot center)
  • 60A: C (clamp shape)

I like the different ways the puzzle uses "C" here - two of these clues are worthy of cryptic crosswords, referring to the words in the clues themselves (car, Epcot), while the other two go outside the clue into workaday meanings of "C."

There were a couple of clues I found really odd. First there's 18D: Concentrates on a specific achievement (sets a goal). Got it easily enough, but it feels oddly forced and workmanlike to me. Maybe it's the third person singularness of it all. The whole thing just feels slightly jerry-rigged. Then there's WOE (31D: Cry of grief). First, you left off the "is me," and secondly, nobody has actually said WOE (or WOE IS ME) in grief since ... I'm gonna say Job.

Robot roll call:

  • 20A: Celebrity biographer Hawes (Esme) - [Salinger dedicatee - LA Times solver? Go here] being apparently a bit too downmarket for a Times Wednesday. I have never heard of this person, and I can't be the only one.
  • 27A: Curved motorcycle part (mud guard) - SPLASH GUARD on Saturday, MUD GUARD today. So ... masculine. I can only infer, from the many TV ads I have seen, that the puzzle has begun taking Cialis. Soon it will be bathing in separate tubs on a mesa with its lady friend.
  • 33A: Coal scuttle (hod) - one of my very favorite little words. It belongs in some kind of cute little word museum.
  • 38A: Columnist Hopper (Hedda) - always want to call her HEDY, but that's HEDY LAMARR - an entirely different entity.
  • 42A: Con _____ (animatedly, in music) (moto) - Ah, so (he said, facetiously). MOTO is best known as Motorola's latest attempt to sound hip.
  • 53A: Comic strip prince's son (Arn) - What's the point of leaving "Prince Valiant" out of this clue? People who do crosswords a lot are going to know it either way, those who read "Prince Valiant" (both of you) are going to know it either way. And everyone else will need crosses. Net gain - zero.
  • 54A: Civil rights org. that became a governing party (ANC) - African National Congress. Had NO idea, imagining that "civil rights" was a phrase that applied only to the U.S.
  • 55A: Clerk, to a bus. owner (asst.) - put it in, took it out, put it in, took it out ... that sounds way dirtier now that I've typed it out.
  • 7D: Coloratura's home, with "the" (Met) - absolutely no idea what this means as of right now, though I can only imagine the MET is the METropolitan Opera House. Hang on ... aha, coloratura is a type of operatic soprano.
  • 8D: Consequence of a solo homer (one run) - thought it might be ONE RBI, so left last two letters blank at first.
  • 19A: Cosmos legend (Pele) - he was legendary when I was a kid - perhaps the only soccer player most Americans knew by name. He went on to star in the 1981 movie "Victory" with Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine (!?), about prisoners in a German P.O.W. camp ... playing soccer, somehow. I don't know. Never saw it. Do people under 30 have any idea who PELE is? Or who the "Cosmos" were, for that matter (short-lived NY professional soccer team, 1971-1984).
  • 9D: Cremona collectibles, for short (Strads) - do people "collect" these in the way they collect, say baseball cards or beanie babies? Seems an expensive hobby.
  • 24D: Cassandra's father (Priam) - I'll take Trojan History for a billion, Alex. Cassandra was cursed to be a prophet whom no one would believe. She is taken as a war prize by Agamemnon (for whom things do not end well, in part because he doesn't listen to ... Cassandra).
  • 25D: "Capitalism" rock group _____ Boingo (Oingo) - weird for so many reasons. First, "Capitalism" is not nearly their best known song, though I do admire the clue for avoiding the more obvious "Dead Man's Party" and "Weird Science." But then there's the fact that you've got the Entire Answer embedded in your clue. I'm not sure how you get around that in OINGO Boingo's case, but still, something about it feels not quite kosher. OINGO Boingo was fronted by Danny Elfman, composer of many themes and scores for movies and television, including the theme from "The Simpsons."
  • 35D: Capua friends (amici) - what is this, the third Italian answer I've blogged so far? Funny, Shearer doesn't sound Italian.
  • 36D: "Chimes of Freedom" songwriter (Dylan) - Bob? I know appallingly little about Bob DYLAN's career, largely because of self-righteous educated white liberal types (like myself, I guess) insisting that he's the great American poet of the 20th century, man. I actually like the DYLAN that I know. But he's no T.S. Eliot. Although ... any Dylan song is far, far more closely related to a poem than John Donne's Meditation XVII (see the as-yet-unacknowledged error in the puzzle two days ago). There are very few areas of knowledge where I will throw down with great vengeance and furious anger - John Donne is one of those areas. (I was more quoting "Pulp Fiction" than being serious there, I hope you realize)

OK, I've clearly begun drifting into loopy, uncontrolled train-of-thought land, so I'll stop now.

See you tomorrow,
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

99 comments:

Anonymous 7:43 AM  

Isn't the fact that every clue starts with the letter "C" part of the theme as well?

Rex Parker 7:45 AM  

Further evidence that I'm not to be trusted with these write-ups while my head is clogged - I did not notice that every clue started with a "C" until you said so. HA ha. Whoa. Off to rest.

RP

Anonymous 7:49 AM  

I'm sure you didn't mean this, but saying "self-righteous educated white liberal types" can be deemed a bit offensive.

What exactly does "white" have to do with anything?

I'm not one to be overly- sensitive to this type of stuff, but your statement jumped out at me.

I hope you will address this concern and not either simply change your blog or delete my comment.

Thank you.

Rex Parker 7:56 AM  

It's a descriptive phrase, anonymous. And you'll notice, it included me.

You can be offended all you want. To repeat a phrase from yesterday's puzzle, I COULDN'T CARE LESS.

rp

Anonymous 8:08 AM  

I'm still pretty new to these discussions, but I think the error of the Donne clue was acknowledged at the NYT crossword forum. I may have misunderstood. Does the puzzle's author post there as "Zulema"?

Anonymous 8:11 AM  

The fact that it includes you make it no worse. You are spouting a stereotype without thinking.

As a college professor I would expect that you'd be willing to discuss this in a more refined manner and with a more open mind than simply saying, "I couldn't care less."

I am very disappointed.

I do not expect you to post this. That is equally disappointing.

Bill from NJ 8:33 AM  

I don't understand. To imply that Bob Dylan is more a white phenomenon than a black one is a legitimate observation. And to imply that that observation is somehow racist is beyond me.

Are we at the point in this culture where no white/black point is allowed?

Dan 8:41 AM  

Two things slowed me down. The "C"-crazy clues threw me off so much at first that I was subconsciously trying to make all the answers start with C. Then I couldn't get past STL for the "Cardinals" clue even though the crosses made no sense... decided to ignore that entry, and duh, ARI showed up.

By the way, the greatest achievement in alphabet-based cluing has to be 10/05/06 by Joe DiPietro (Rex writeup). 78 clues, 3 starting with each letter, and all in alphabetical order!

Dan 8:42 AM  

Let's try that link again...
10/5/06

Ulrich 8:47 AM  

I'm new at Wednesday puzzles, but if this one is any indication, they can be awesome--I actually showed it to my wife. She saw that the clues begin with c's right away; I then showed her the C's in the grid and the theme answers, and she agreed: impressive. I'm therefore willing to forgive some strange cluing--b.t.w. I guessed "Met" right away w.o. crosses because I go there occasionally to listen to coloraturas.

SethG 8:50 AM  

Rex,

I'm sure you didn't mean to say that the OINGO Boingo clue "feels not quite kosher".

While in one sense kosher can refer to anything that is proper or acceptable, it obviously has its roots in the sense of being sanctioned by Jewish law, or fit for Jewish ritual use.

You do realize Danny Elfman is Jewish, right? Would you refer to an Omar Khayyam clues as "not quite halal"?

Disappointing again,
sg

Ulrich 8:53 AM  

The one clue that flummoxed me (no idea how to spell this) was "choose" for "tap"--as in tapping someone on the shoulder to dance with the partner? Must have been forced on Larry b.c. of the need to start with a c.

ArtLvr 9:24 AM  

@ Ulrich: TAP is a synonym for "choose" in other contexts besides a dance -- for membership in a undergarduate fraternity, for example: George W Bush was tapped for Skull and Bones at Yale (he was a "legacy" in that his father was a member.)

I didn't like the pop name OINGO crossing RIPS at 29A -- could equally well have been "raps" and one has to guess which is most likely (rhyme helps, but still...)

Not hard, otherwise, and kudos to Rex for doing the blog while ill -- one should not be so hard on him today! Did anyone see Lewis Black's "Red, White and Screwed" last night? Talk about black humor! Wow.

∑;)

Doug 9:29 AM  

Just nitpicking here about language because, well, isn't this blog about language. The C in the grid is "reversed" not "inverted." An inverted C is the same as a non-inverted (sorry if that's not a word, but it's clear at least) C. Let's excuse this due to blogger illness. I didn't notice this style thing at all, even though I spotted the c-starting clues right away.

Orange 9:33 AM  

Seth G., you're funny! Unless you're really disgruntled, in which case, hmm, not so funny.

Anonymous 8:08, Zulema is merely an erudite solver and a polyglot, and not a spokesperson for the Times.

Other Anonymous who thinks Rex is casting about harmful stereotypes, have I got a blog for you! Stuff White People Like skewers the exact group Rex referred to, and it's written by a member of that same class.

TCBuell 9:34 AM  

Hello Mrs. C!

Anonymous 9:47 AM  

Orange, I didn't mean to suggest official NYT apology, but I thought it might have been an author's acknowledgment--I guess I was wrong.

Mary 9:51 AM  

Today's puzzle reminded me of picking the polish off my fingernails one speck at a time. Eventually all the polish was gone but it was grim joyless work.
The comments today, however, are great!
I hope you feel better soon, Rex.

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

Had the same problem as Dan with STL finally shaking out as ARI, but minus the epiphany --- what does ARI mean / stand for?

.../Glitch

Norm 9:58 AM  

ARI = Arizona -- the Cardinals football team

Bill D 10:15 AM  

Ingenious little Wednesday puzzle, but the arrangement left too many 3x3-ish boxes, I felt. It took me a while to get traction, and the NNW didn't come together until last. Can't decide if having RAE and ROE next to each other is clever or uninspired. HONCHO was an answer on Jeopardy! yesterday, so that dropped right in for me. Ashamed, as a "SREWLT" myself, that I didn't get DYLAN until the crosses made it inevitable - I was hearing Richie Havens in my mind's ear for some reason, but I didn't come up with his name until just now. Liked SWANSONG (I was originally going to try LAST SHOW), UNDER OATH, and CASHES IN.

Interesting to see AVERAGE MARK appear - in my school system we always called grades "marks", but I had the feeling it was not that common.

@Mary - nice metaphor - does a good day remind you of flowing on bright polish in long, broad strokes?

Joon 10:16 AM  

cute puzzle, and i, like rex, didn't notice that all the clues started with C. probably because i used across lite, and never actually looked at the clue list. surely it would be striking on paper.

i do think, however, that some of the very awkward clues (HIREON, ARN not mentioning prince valiant, etc.) were forced upon the constructor by the C-clue conceit. so i can forgive him for that.

and rex, people under 30 have heard of pele. he's the greatest player of all time in the most popular sport in world history; that's a pretty reasonable claim to fame, i'd say. the fact that he starred on the cosmos toward the end of his career is somewhat less well-known to the world at large but not quite as (relatively) obscure in this country and in NYC in particular.

Zach M. 10:22 AM  

As someone under 30, I did know who Pele was, but did not know who the Cosmos were, and to be honest, at first thought that "Cosmos Legend" was referring to Carl Sagan. Which was very obviously wrong, so wrong.

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

I get it - Epcot Center and Car Starter are like crossword clues ("C" is center of "Epcot Center", and "C" is start of "Car Starter"). I looked at those for a few mins before seeing it.

Jon 10:26 AM  

I just started reading your column a week ago and enjoy it's daily intrusion into my morning. This is my first comment, and I hope I am not breaking a blog rule by asking a question about language as opposed to the puzzle.

Has jerry-rigged become an acceptable variant of jury-rigged? I ask because I remember being criticized for using it in a HS English assignment, and if it is now kosher I would love to track down Mr. Dlouhy and tell him I was a language evolution visionary just a bit ahead of my time.

Hope you feel better soon.

PhillySolver 10:30 AM  

I noticed the C clues right away (in Across Lite), but that only slowed me down. I immediately entered CBS for the network, comeon where PROMOS went and CTV (turns out the term is CCTV) for ATM. I wanted C answers with the big C made from the black spaces. I also fell for the stl/ARI fill and left sod/ssh for HOD/SHH until a final check.

Forget PELE, how does a young person know HEDDA? Ok, have to run...
C U L8er

dk 10:34 AM  

I loved seeing Mrs. C.

Rex get well.

I, myself, prefer nattering nabob to self righteous, etc.
but, then I have 2 PhDs. ;)

Bill D 10:40 AM  

@ jon - Googling jerry-rigged provides some clarification. The consensus is that two traditional terms, jury-rigged (a temporary and often ingenious lash-up) and jerry-built (using shoddy workmanship), have recently been mingled or garbled into the phrase jerry-rigged. I might not write my English teacher just yet!

Mike 10:48 AM  

@ philly solver...

I don't think young people know HEDDA, I sure didn't. I went back and forth between HELGA and HILDA. PELE was no problem.

@anonymous
Man, if we can't make remarks about ourselves who can we poke fun at?

Richard 10:48 AM  

IMHO, the clue for HIRE ON was great, the key being ABOARD. One can HIRE ON, as a deckhand for instance.

One of my early teen age fantasies was to hire on to tramp freighter, see the world and wirte a book or two.

Crosscan 10:56 AM  

Curses! I noticed the C clues early on but like phillysolver it just led me to try and find a lot more answers starting with C.

Caught in the STL trap and couldn't get out for the longest time.

Cooked by the PRIAM MOTO crossing.

Can't say enough about how I liked the puzzle.

Crosscan

Bill from NJ 11:32 AM  

@philly solver - I, too, fell into the SSH/SOD trap until final check.

What I find most interesting in the subset of people who comment on this blog is the sheer number of holes in everybodys' body of knowledge. We all seem to know alot about a lot and a little about a little. It always amazes me to realize how much I know and how little I know.

I vaguely remember a definition of an expert as someone who knows more and more about less and less until he knows absolutely everything about nothing.

I probably screwed up the quote but I think the point is there

Jon 11:37 AM  

@ bill d - thanks for the heads-up. I guess I can't gloat just yet, but humility isn't such a bad thing. While on the topic, if anyone knows, what about jibe/jive (as in: something about that statement just doesn't jibe/jive)? The former (as far as I know) has always been grammatically correct, but the latter is used far more commonly. Has it become accepted due to its popularity (as in: something about that statement just doesn't jive).

Again, thanks.

karmasartre 11:59 AM  

@zach m. -- I'm well over thirty and went down the same Cosmos path. I can still hear Carl: "There are millions and millions and millions and..."

Eric 12:02 PM  

Feel better, Rex! We need you here.

Nebraska Doug 12:02 PM  

Rex, I think you should have went with your first instinct, "Medium-Challenging" - This one took me much longer than normal for a Wednesday. It surprised me - in a good way.

conglo 12:24 PM  

Jon, 11:37: Jive/jibe is like hone/home to me. As in hone in on. Totally wrong!
I guess these are sorta mondegreens.
Rex, Capitalism had to be the clue for Oingo Boingo because it starts with a C.

bflo 12:30 PM  

Just goes to show, as my father said, any question is easy if you know the answer. I thought this puzzle was pretty simple--it only took me a couple of more minutes than yesterday. Priam and Esme were the only 2 I didn't know at all. And I agree that "hire on" is perfectly fine. You hire on to all sorts of crews: construction, cattle drive etc.

And the Mrs. C photo is brilliant, Rex.

Ulrich 12:32 PM  

@bill from nj: And that makes participating in this blog so much fun. Yes, most questions can be answered by googling these days, but I prefer being enlightened by someone who speaks from personal experience, as happened e.g. with the "frag" discussion a few days ago.

Joshua 12:41 PM  

Somehow I thought that most competitive CWing happens in Vegas, and that better souls than mine would start the charge against "cashes in". I struggled against this, wanting "cashes out" until I was cashed in, and my fight was washed out. Is it not true, oh people who know, that "cashing in" is trading money for chips, and out the opposite? Now clued into the fact that all clues started with "c", I am ready to be tolerant.. but still!

Shuka

Ulrich 12:42 PM  

... The other consequence is that we should be very hesitant to call a piece of knowledge obscure or arcane only because we don't know it (as happens occasionally with comments here).

Jon 12:45 PM  

@conglo - I suspected as much. An early boss drilled that one into my head long ago, but I still would say the majority of people I hear use the expression go with jive (incorrectly). Just thought that maybe at some point an incorrect usage becomes so commonplace that it evolves into an accepted term.

Or I just hang out with very dense people. :)

Dick Swart 12:51 PM  

Re your write up: " That's Hedley!"

John Reid 1:05 PM  

Struck me as a tough puzzle today. Took me over 9 minutes, which I think would be over my Wednesday average - and then I found that I got a letter wrong also! I have SLo/oNC instead of SLA/ANC. Every single time I see the Patty Hearst clue (which seems embarrassingly often, considering that I *still* can't ever remember the answer,) I immediately want to go with PLO. In fact, that's what I put in at first, and that's why I ended up with the O still there at the end. Crossing obscurish (?) acronyms seems a bit cruel to me! Although as was mentioned above, things always seem easy when we know them, and hard when we don't... Sometimes I think that if we really want to excel at crosswords we should just get a list of acronyms and start memorizing. NIMBY anyone?

I also had a lot of trouble in the South. Had STL and ESPY, and also wanted EUGENE for 48D (well it sounded right at the time! and we just had EUCLID recently, didn't we?) I had wanted HONCHO from the HO-, but couldn't think of how to get 66A to work. SIGNON? JOINUP??? It finally fell out after a long time. Also had DIED at 34A for a long time. Now, what ends with -AGIMARK? D'oh! Caught by the tenses again.

The last letter I entered was the P in TAP/PELE. I only got it from having heard of Pele, certainly never heard of the Cosmos team. 'Tap' for 'choose' was completely foreign to me.

Clever puzzle, though! I had noticed the big black Cs in the grid, but not all the leading Cs in the clue list. Solving in Across Lite makes that less obvious. I also like the slightly cryptic clues for some of the theme answers. It's nice to see those clued without the '?' notation that is usually present when deviousness or wordplay is involved. Although a clue of 'C?' would have looked pretty funny!

Jim in Chicago 1:06 PM  

A devilish little Wednesday puzzle. A bit of work, but I got it finished in the end - in a couple of cases square by square.

EPCOTCENTER really threw me, and was the last think I filled in, since I was convinced that the answer would begin with a C.

Also fell into the STL/ARI trap and resisted HIREON for a long time since it just doesn't feel quite right.

Loved OINGO, since it just made me smile.

Didn't we just have EUCLID Ohio a few days ago? I still didn't get it and had to pull it out letter by letter.

jae 1:10 PM  

Clever and fun. I didn't notice the all C thing either and will also blame it on Acrosslite. The challenging part of this for me was middle CA where I didn't know PRIAM (science major not english), MOTO, or the book title (clever way to clue INCA). I finnaly, put a C in the third square down and EPCOT mercifully appeared.

@philly -- add me to the SSH/SOD group.

Also include me in the white...Dylan fans.

I'm old enough to know both PELE and HEDDA. Rex's HEDY digression reminded me of the HEDLY LAMARR character from Blazing Saddles.

parshutr 1:10 PM  

So many good answers, so many errors...
PASSING MARK
con BRIO
GUARDRAIL instead of MUDGUARD (Had TWILL instead of TWEED)
but that's what makes it fun, even for an overeducated white moderate Taoist /Jewish / Catholic / Quaker golfer.
Is that enough to get me "deemed a bit offensive?"
Not that I'm overly insensitive... but at least I'm nonymous! And highly gruntled!

miriam b 1:13 PM  

Anyone notice that the "C"s in the grid look sorta like C-clamps? Or am I sensitized because I've just fixed something which required their use?

@karmasartre: Wasn't it "billions and billions," etc.? I'm about 9 years older than God, so I was an adult when Cosmos was on TV.

Damon G. 1:14 PM  

I also didn't notice the c-cluing until after the fact. It adds to the puzzle, but only a little. The construction is creative, but I really didn't find this puzzle very fun. (I like the nail polish analogy posted above. I'm trying to think of what the manly equivalence would be. Shaving an nappy overgrown beard, maybe.)

For one there is a lack of consistency in the long answers. Two of them are play-on-words (CARSTARTER, EPCOTCENTER, both of which are very nice) and two aren't. Also, there are too many not-so-well-known answers for a Wednesday: PRIAM, MOTO (which cross), ESME, AMES, HEDDA, STRADS, and AMICI, for some. And even when the answer is well-known often the clue is on the obscure-side: Coloratura's home, with "the", or Clive Cussler's "___ Gold", for example.

Overall, I found it plodding and not flowing like a good Wednesday should be.

jae 1:19 PM  

Ok that should be finally with no comma and HEDLEY. (I need an editor for this stuff.)

I also went with STL and ESPY initially.

humorlesstwit 1:20 PM  

@Rex - Thanks for the correct, i.e. my, synopsis of Cassandra's dilema - she was always right, but no one would ever believe her. Most people seem to focus in on the doom aspect of her predictions.

At its inception, my business was forecasting demand for new products, and since my forecasts never agreed with my clients perceptions, they always disagreed. When I had to incorporate, I chose to name by business after Cassandra.

Now, if I could just clear the web of all references to another company with virtually the same name life would be great. Seems you don't get many clients when a Google search on your company brings up hundreds of federal indictments for fraud, larceny, etc, for a different company with the same name.

Rex Parker 1:23 PM  

Yes, I pretty much have to retract any complaining I did about the clues, since, as you all know, I had No Idea that starting them all with "C" was part of the puzzle's plan.

rp

Matthew 1:39 PM  

I finished the puzzle having no idea what CARSTARTER and EPCOTCENTER might have to do with "C." Good thing I read the comments here. I think this puzzle was pretty fabulous.

@Joshua: Regarding CASHES IN...

5. cash in,
a. to turn in and get cash for (one's chips), as in a gambling casino.

Dictionary.com never lies :D

fergus 1:43 PM  

The whole C thing was a good idea, but the execution turned out to be pretty dull, I found. Barely an AVERAGE MARK for the two sorts of theme answers. Somehow, I would have liked it better if there weren't two of each.

Completely agree with Rex on his curt dismissal of the whiny political correctness complaint. To try to illuminate how a speaker (who in this case clearly knows about the subtleties of language) could be giving offense is a sad illustration of the victim-grief that's a bit too pervasive in our society. It's benightedly humorless, as well. I suppose there might be the odd occasion where one should SPELL OUT an instance of careless, vicious language but the one that was cited surely wasn't one.

Greg 2:03 PM  

I don't think anyone has mentioned what was my favorite clue, "Concluding appearance" - Swan Song!
Not only is the clue wonderful, but I don't recall ever having seen Swan Song in a puzzle before! That was the clue to the center for me, which was the final bit to fall (I guessed at Hedda and hod, correctly it seems).
I also got hung up with Pele/Tap, as while I was 99.99% sure it HAD to be Pele, I really wanted OPT instead, but then I knew that Confess Openly would have to be avow or aver - so that was a stumble.
Still, Swan Song made it all worthwhile! :-)
Happy Puzzling!
Greg

puzzlemensch 2:09 PM  

Pele was a Brazilian soccer star who is considered by some to be the greatest soccer player that ever lived. He played for Santos and came to the States to play for the Cosmos only at the end of his career. I saw him play in Santos when I lived in Sao Paulo (designed the new road from SP to Santos). He was phenomenal and dominated the field like noone ever since.

Greg 2:13 PM  

@puzzlemensch - wasn't Pele's most famous goal the legendary bicycle kick off a corner kick? I was a little after Pele, but love soccer and I believe that is considered one of the greatest goals of all time, no?

Orange 2:17 PM  

Damon G., the "tightest" themes are those in which every theme entry takes a consistent approach.

Next best is when they're split 50/50, as with this theme. Not the most elegant approach, true, but often it gets a pass.

Having three of one and one of another—that's where the true clunkiness comes in. You will rarely see an NYT crossword in which one theme entry is jarring because it doesn't mesh with the other theme entries.

Orange 2:19 PM  

P.S. Will Shortz posted to the NYT "Today's Puzzle" forum that indeed, Rex was right about Monday's THEE clue and the Donne poem-vs.-prose issue. He's submitted a correction to the folks who print the corrections.

PhillySolver 2:41 PM  

Thanks Orange. I found it a little difficult to navigate the NYT Forum, so to avoid the hassle here is the post...

wshortz 12:09 PM ET March 12, 2008

John Donne
Just a quick note to acknowledge the error in Monday's crossword. The line "And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee" is from Donne's Meditation XVII ... which is prose, not a poem...

foodie 2:52 PM  

To JohnReid:

Imagine the news: Heiress Patty Hearst, abducted by The Symbionese Liberation Army! You scratch your head: Did I miss a country called Symbion? Does that not mean something about a symbiotic relationship? They have an army? And why is that army on Benvenue Ave in Berkeley, kidnapping a heiress? I was a young newly arrived immigrant to the US, and those were my thoughts.. I therefore never make a mistake with SLA!

Bill D 2:58 PM  

My wife and I were big Cosmos fans (Carl Sagan was the speaker at my college graduation, but that's another story...) We lived in NJ but even went to see them when they played a Yankee Stadium. At one of our first games there, Pele scored off a bicycle kick - we weren't exactly sure what had happened, but we knew we'd seen something special and rose from our seats in applause with the rest of the crowd. When the fallen goalkeeper rose after the shot went past him, HE was applauding - the only time I've ever seen that acknowledgement. The next day in the paper, Pele was typically self-effacing, but he did say that of his more than 1200 goals, maybe 1/2-a-dozen were off bicycle kicks.

See you all in two weeks - vacationing in Dubai and Egypt!

foodie 3:01 PM  

And while I am in my immigrant vein-- regarding the "political correctness" discussion today, here's an observation (from someone who loves food): Our melting pot is still lumpy! We simultaneously want to be completely blind to all ethnic, cultural, racial and religious differences, and yet we talk about them all the time-- we are each "Something" American (Italian, Irish, Arab, Jewish, etc) even, those who have been in this country for generations. But somehow, we never want these or other classifications to be associated with any differences in style or culture because that is politically incorrect. If so, why do we spend so much time tracking all of this? May be we need to rethink these contradictions?

karmasartre 3:11 PM  

@miriam u b right!

Anonymous 3:59 PM  

Anonymouse 7:49 AM -

Note that Rex works in academia, specifically in the humanities. In those departments, it's all the rage to use "white" as a pejorative. Just don't try doing the same with any other ethnicity (by the way, white isn't an ethnicity and whites have no culture, apparently).

HTH

chefbea 4:03 PM  

of course I had STL -I'm originally from St. Louis.
Saw Pele and the cosmos play back in the 70's (the only soccer game I have ever attended.As for Hedda - my friends have nicknamed me Hedda because I seem to know all the gossip in town
Barbara

Catherine K 4:10 PM  

Ah, Dora the Explorer... I have a three-year-old granddaughter whose room is filled with Dora stuff. There's a Dora bed, Dora comforter, Dora desk, and Dora toy box. There is a life-size Dora doll sitting at the Dora desk. The dresser is covered in Dora stickers, and a Dora purse hangs on the doorknob. And yet, and yet, I didn't get 68A "Cartoon explorer" until I had two crossing letters. Geez.

humorlesstwit 4:23 PM  

@Rex - In case you had any doubt, any excuse to include photos of Hedy Lamarr is a good one, and not to be ignored. Even if she is just standing there looking stupid.

Noam D. Elkies 5:17 PM  

@Crosscan 10:56 -- cute counterpoint to the capital-C-constrained clue construction...

Noticed the unusual grid first, then all the C's in the definitions, and then figured that the central black squares were forming C's as well. What this brought to my mind was a puzzle some years ago (by William I Johnston?) where each clue began with L, all the long answers were two-word phrases with initials LL, and the black squares in the grid formed 12(?) identical L shapes! I wonder how much leeway Will Shortz had in re-writing clues for those puzzles where the theme involves some feature of the clues.

As for today's puzzle, I too found it quite challenging for a Wednesday, though for a different reason: for 17A("C") I got to CAR??????? and figured it must be CARBON something, but that was going nowhere. Eventually got it on the way back after parsing 25D:EPCOTCENTER. It would have been nice to also have a wordplay answer that gets C from the *end* of a word, and a fourth answer that somehow comments on the other three (that's a reasonably common structure that avoids the problem Orange noted with 3+1 themes); but that's asking a lot of a theme that's already so constrained.

NDE

green mantis 5:52 PM  

White people say the darndest things.

Anyway, yeah, the biggest issue in this puzzle for me was the relative clunkiness resulting from the all-c cluing structure. Constraint makes for confusion. I think that alone accounts for a large part of the difficulty of this puzzle. Maybe we can all get into a Caucasian time machine to a point when we notice that element and then start the comments anew. There will be bologna sandwiches and John Tesh involved.

Anonymous 6:12 PM  

decent puzzle - I agree with the medium rating - had opt for tap, and stl for ari briefly. Least favorite clue was CROSSEST, just sounds wrong. Old enough to remember the Pele's and Hopper's unfortunately. Rex, get better and continue to ignore and dismiss the bigotry comments - they don't belong here for so many reasons.

IMSDAVE the inept blogger

doc John 6:15 PM  

I always find it amazing that the ones who are so highly critical of Rex don't have the guts to leave any sort of name. Especially when it comes to this PC crap. There's a time and place for that and this wasn't it- anyone can tell that Rex was just being self-effacing. And the one who had a problem with "kosher"? Get an effing life!
(For the record, I'm Jewish and had no problem with it- the word "kosher" does have other meanings, you know. And, even though I'm a huge Oingo Boingo fan (and really wish they'd come together for a tour) I'm in total agreement with Rex on this one.)

Now that I'm done with my rant, I found this one pretty challenging for a Wednesday. For a while there, I didn't even think I would finish, but I did, even though I'd never heard of PRIAM or ESME.

Fortunately, I didn't fall into the PHX or STL trap (although I did consider it) but I did have "died" for a while.

I also misspelled HEDDA with Ts but got that corrected pretty quickly. I'd heard of Ms. Hopper via the "I Love Lucy" episodes where they went to Hollywood.

Another thing to point out about the theme answers- 2 apply to the positioning of letters in words and 2 apply to other uses of the letter C. In each of these categories, one answer starts with C and the other doesn't.

If this is an indication of how the week is going to be, I don't want to see Saturday! I'm still working on LAST Saturday's! (The NW is killing me.)

Bill from NJ 6:19 PM  

Just realized what the photo of Marion Ross (Mrs C) was all about.

Doh!

miriam b 6:24 PM  

Please. Enoough of these thrusts and ripostes resulting from Rex's IMHO harmlessly intended comment. I'm in a bad enough mood already without this sniping, having taken almost as a personal affront the activities of our soon-to-be-ex NY governor. If I were his wife, who selflessly sidelined her successful legal career to support his ambitions, I'd advise him not to let the door hit his butt on the way out - both of his career and his marriage. Sorry - had to vent.

(Signed): Self-righteous educated white liberal type. And feminist. If you care.

markus 6:28 PM  

CARSTARTER and EPCOTCENTER are on the NW section and AVERAGEGRADE and CLAMPSHAPE are on the SE section so, my thinking is, "That works symetrically." Then again, what do I know being a white, ignorant hilljack from Kentucky...

Just got the Mrs. C photo Rex! I was sitting here thinking Marion was on "Happy Days" not "Facts of Life"...
P.S. What about "Just a Lad" by Oingo Boingo?

doc John 6:35 PM  

Rex's posting of Mrs. C reminds me of an earlier edition of this blog where he posted the same pic. I guess that puzzle had some kind of a C theme, too, but I'm pretty sure it was different from this one.

sandy 6:53 PM  

The academia comment is funny. First people say Rex is stereotyping, then they make blanket assumptions based on his occupation. He teaches the works of dead white men and writes for a "popular" (yes, that's what I'm calling you all - no offense!) audience. Not exactly the politically correct ivory-towered English professor. But most of you are being very sweet and when Rex wakes up from nap, he'll be grateful to you all.

rick 7:15 PM  

This is not the place for this but it keeps happening, take the test on what someone says:

1. I am truely offended
2. I am somewhat offended
3. I am not offended but I think someone else might be
4. I just like to appear offened because I get a little attention which makes me feel important.

ronathan 7:19 PM  

@NDE

Thank you!! I thought I was the only one who had CAR- for 17A and desperately wanted "C" to be carbon. . . something. I wanted to put in CARBON SIGN originally but got ONE RUN and MET pretty quickly, so that deep-sixed that idea.

But because of my science background, when I kept seeing "C" in the clues, I instantly thought of the speed of light (as in E=mc^2), the element carbon, and of course, the programming language C++.

Further proof that I am just a really big dork.

-ronathan

s0ckm0nk3y 7:21 PM  

So was the MST3K reference fever induced? Or did I miss some sort of Tom and Crow reference?

SethG 7:41 PM  

And I object to the humorless twit above who said that Hedy Lamarr is "just standing there looking stupid".

Maybe you didn't know that Hedy (nee Hedwig Eva Marie Kiesler) co-invented an early form of spread-spectrum broadcasting, the technology that keeps our communications secure and satellites in the air? And that she co-held a US patent on that invention and was honored by the EFF and others?

Glamorous maybe, but not stupid.
Bah,
sg

ps. I also tried to submit SSH/SOD, and I even know what a HOD is. I got CLAMP SHAPE before I saw the ARI clue so no trap there, though I'd probably think football first anyway.

pss. Go Steelers!

psss. It was Hedy herself who said "Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid."

pssss. I am an educated white Jewish liberal type myself, hopefully not too self-righteous, who took no actual offense at anything Rex said.

psssss. I hope the Parkers weren't offended by what I wrote. I couldn't care less if the original Anonymous was.

pssssss. At least Orange thought it was funny.

Michael 7:51 PM  

This is the first Wednesday in a long time in which I've had to resort to Google (for California). And I didn't notice that all the clues began with c until I came to this blog. Not my sharpest (pardon the pun) day, I guess.

Orange 8:06 PM  

Doc John, last Saturday's NW quadrant was a killer. The crossing Broadway clues did a lot of people in.

I want to be Miriam B when I grow up. Miriam, you are righteous! (In the "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" sense of the word, meaning "awesome, dude" and not in the "self-righteous" sense.)

Anonymous 8:15 PM  

rick said...

blah, blah blah...

5. I am too busy cross-wording to be cross with your wording.

Cea 8:24 PM  

Too much pop culture for me on this one, and when I got a bit of pop culture I thought I knew (STL), I was flat-out wrong. Most distressing. I had a first pass in the doctor's waiting room, and it wasn't til I took another look, under less stressful conditions, that it came together. I vote for medium-challenging.

Oh, and Pele wasn't just considered to be the best football player of all time, he WAS the best football player of all time. The use of the word football is deliberate. It's only Americans who call it soccer.

Am I allowed to add a smiley face here so people don't take me too seriously?

miriam b 8:27 PM  

That's funny, Orange, I decided a while ago that I wanted to be YOU when I grew up. That would be tough, as I'm a whole bunch older than you.

Thanks for the attagirl. I needed it today. All day long I've continued fuming about a certain public servant (?!) who turned out big time to have feet, or something else maybe, of clay. Nothing I've tried to do to distract myself, including painting my foyer, has worked. I'm just SO MAD.

doc John 8:40 PM  

Orange, thanks for the encouragement. When I first started Saturday's puzzle, I thought the NW would fall easily, as AJA (Rikki's, but not my, fave SD album) was the first word I entered. Nothing but guesses from then on. I'm almost ready to resort to Google. I still have hope that [Big flap on the road?] will eventually come to me...
Did the rest in pen but had to resort to pencil for the NW.
And please, no hints from the Peanut Gallery! ;)

mac 9:58 PM  

This was definitely a little harder than the average Wednesday puzzle. I had to google once (Alrich of the CIA-betrayal), then it fell together. Did all the wrong stuff: opt, stl, espy, died etc.
I think I also remembered Euclid from a puzzle not too long ago, and mud guard sounded very much like another puzzle which I guess we cannot mention yet.
Hedda sounds amazing! Bright and beautiful.
Greg, I agree with you, swan song was great, and I also never saw it in a puzzle.
I didn't see that all the clues started with C until Rex mentioned it in the blog, but when I handed the puzzle to my husband, who considers crossword puzzles cruel and unusual punishment, he spotted it right away.
Greg, I'm not 100% sure, but I think it should be p.s., p.p.s, p.p.p.s., etc.

mac 10:08 PM  

Of course I meant Hedy.....

John Reid 10:29 PM  

Wouldn't you know it? In today's CrosSynergy puzzle, the clue for 48A is 'P. Hearst's kidnappers.'

This time, I got it right!!! :D

Ellen 10:40 PM  

The print version of the puzzle indents the second lines of clues one space in so the C on the first line will stand out more. Of course, I didn't notice this or the fact that all the clues started with C until it was pointed out to me.

fergus 11:32 PM  

When you proceed with the full array of Clues in the printed edition, one sees all the Cs. Those working in the applet, with only five or ten Clues available at once, didn't work effectively today.

doc John 12:36 AM  

Yay, I finished Saturday's puzzle! I finally got SPLASH GUARD and that took care of the rest. That gave me LUPONE and so with AGO I went with PONGEE on faith. I did make the Toujours Mai mistake, too, but at this time, I'm just happy to have a filled-in grid! (AGT does make much more sense but with some of this goofy cluing, to my frazzled mind AMT worked just as well.)

The only SSR I was familiar with was the Chevy model so I was glad to review Saturday's blog and see how it related. Thanks, Rex!

Anonymous 8:27 AM  

mac,
Rex didn't notice that all the clues started with C either, until an anonymous poster pointed it out to him.

humourlesstwit 10:25 AM  

@Seth
Among her many accomplishments, she was also famously quoted for saying, and I paraphrase slightly:

Anyone can look glamorous - you just stand there and look stupid.

So, in fact I was honoring her intelligence and wit by quoting her in her dismissal of the 'glamour' aspect of her life.

Orange 1:45 PM  

Make that "reallysubtlehumorlesstwitwhoisevincingneither humorlessnessnortwittedness."

andreacarlamichaels 5:49 PM  

i know i'm always a day late and a dollar short on this blog, but for those interested, there was a charming little documentary on the NY Cosmos one or two years ago called "Once in a Lifetime".

On an unrelated note, once it wasn't STL, which I only learned thru crosswords to begin with, I put in URI, thinking maybe that was Univ of Rhode Island or something...and altho I puzzled why C would be a CLUMP SHAPE, I didn't ralize I had made a mistake till today! But I did think having all the Clues start with C AND have the shape in the puzzle was Crazy Clever!

Anonymous 3:36 PM  

6wl...

Tough one for me today. Seeing that all clues started with C made it even harder, I believe. Si' Si'

- - Robert

Anonymous 2:11 PM  

@Jon and Bill--"jerry-rigged" is not such a recent linguisitic shift. As a child of the 60's, I can say that it was the term used in those days. I never heard the term "jury-rigged" until I was in my late twenties, and then I thought that phrase was one of those incorrect phrases that had become accepted as correct because everyone used it that way. Sort of like using "impact" and other nouns as verbs!

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