SUNDAY, Apr. 20, 2008 - John Farmer (2006 NEOLOGISM MEANING "TO DEMOTE")

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "SPACED OUT" - eight theme answers contain (in circles) the names of each of the eight planets in the SOLAR SYSTEM, from nearest to farthest from the SUN (9D: Center of many revolutions).

This puzzle came with a Notepad note (in Across Lite format):

When the puzzle is done, the letters in the following squares spell a bonus phrase: 7A - 3rd letter, 31A - 5th, 65A - 4th, 104A - 6th, 136A - 3rd, 151A - 1st, 149A - 4th, 133A - 4th, 100A - 1st, 62A - 1st, 29A - 6th

The phrase you get when after you go through all of that rigmarole?: SOLAR SYSTEM. Cute. I'm not much for gimmicks that have nothing to do with the completion of the puzzle - when I'm done with a puzzle, I'm done - but this gimmick is cleverish. Overall, the theme was overly easy - I got the MERCURY answer, saw how many circles were in the next theme answers, and filled all the circles in the puzzle in immediately. This made even rough theme clues like 82A: 1972 Harry Nilsson hit ("Jump into the Fire") easy to get. I liked that the planets are situated reasonably accurately relative to the SUN in this puzzle - SUN's at the top, MERCURY is the closest planet, while NEPTUNE's way the hell down at the bottom, with exiled PLUTO nicely nearby and perpendicular. I have never ever heard PLUTO used as a 131D: 2006 neologism meaning "to demote". I like it, though, and will try to work into my everyday vocabulary.

Theme answers:

  • 24A: 1941 Henry Luce article that coined a name for an era ("The American Century") - weirdly, my wife had just uttered this phrase no more than a few hours before we did the puzzle. Context - discussing the role of China in the world today, i.e. the 21st century will not be "The American Century."
  • 34A: Closeout come-on ("Everything Must Go!")
  • 52A: Novel that ends "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody" (The Catcher in the Rye) - my life is clich√© in at least this respect: The Catcher in the Rye was the first real "grown-up" book I read as a kid (aged 13 or so) and it Blew My Mind. It was like I was reading a book that saw the world the way that *I* did, not in some idealized or made up or (to take a word from Holden Caulfield) "phony" way. Such a typical boy moment. My mom gave it to me, of course. I feel as if I read it on a plane, possibly during the trip with my mom to NY and Boston in 1983, when Billy Joel's "An Innocent Man" album was massively popular (don't ask me where that association came from - who knows how my brain works?).
  • 75A: Artful deception (smoke and mirrors)
  • 107A: Prime eatery (five-star restaurant) - while in NY in 1983, I ate at the famed Russian Tea Room. It's featured in my favorite movie, "Manhattan." Also, my dad once barfed in the decorative bushes just outside the Russian Tea Room. I was either very young or yet to be born. Fun factoid.
  • 125A: Stanley Cup finalists of 1982 and 1994 (Vancouver Canucks) - and the puzzlers of the Pacific Northwest rejoice, as the puzzle finally recognizes their existence.
  • 138A: Head of a special government inquiry (Independent Counsel) - I had INDEPENDENT COUN-E- and I told my wife "I'm about to be very annoyed at 138A." At that point, I thought I was looking at INDEPENDENT COUNTER (!?).

Found the non-theme fill a little dull ... when it wasn't completely arcane. Three answers stand out for their weirdness, against a sea of decent but forgettable answers. Let's start with:

  • FRUSTA (45A: Truncated cones, in math) - completely unknown to me. Sounds like a refreshing summer drink. Or a skin disease.
  • ECHT (106A: Geniune: Ger.) - it's bad enough when the puzzle goes to German (my nemesis language). But ECHT? That's more exclamation of disgust than it is valid word. I know 20th century American writer Ben HECHT. I know playwright Bertolt BRECHT. I do not know ECHT. The first three letters of ECHT were the very last squares my wife filled in (all correctly!).
  • NMI (27D: Application letters) - this is about the worst three-letter answer I Have Ever Seen. My wife and I were making each other laugh trying to imagine what the letters stood for: Not My Interest? New Mexico Institute? No More Indians!? Then we guessed that the "application" in question must be a mortgage or credit card application, and NMI must stand for Net Monthly Income. Now I'm going to see if we were right ... Oh we were very wrong. Here is the first definition I found, from Wikipedia:

A non-maskable interrupt (NMI) is a computer processor interrupt that can not be ignored by standard interrupt masking techniques in the system. It is typically used to signal attention for non-recoverable hardware errors. (Some NMIs may be masked, but only by using proprietary methods specific to the particular NMI.)

I hope the part about how some NON-MASKABLE interrupts "may be masked" did not make your head explode. But, it turns out, that's not the NMI of which the puzzle speaks. Apparently NMI simply means No Middle Initial. Huh. Wow. Weird. I have a middle initial. My wife ... has two (seriously - this causes no end of address-label-related hilarity). Never heard of such an abbreviation. Here's an interesting tidbit. I claimed (in my head, just now) that I have never seen NMI in a puzzle. When I checked's database, I saw that NMI has in fact been in the NYT puzzle. Last time: Sept 24, 2006, the day before I started writing this blog.

This puzzle was pretty easy overall, as I say. The one part I had some trouble was the far far SE corner, the upper part of which was oddly hard to get into. If I'd had any clue that PLUTO meant "demote" (which I still doubt), the corner would have been much easier. But as it was, 131A: Couple (pair up) was too vague for me to get a clear idea of the answer, and even with the Y in place I struggled to come up with LYRICS for 136A: Lorenz Hart specialty. Throw in the mysterious 121D: "Into the Wild" actor Emile (Hirsch), and the almost equally mysterious 122D: Home of Gannon Univ. (Erie, PA), and the whole area becomes a bit of a mess. Also didn't know what CPI was (147A: Inflation meas.). I thought it was some kind of pound per inch measure of pressure, like in an "inflated" tire. Wife said no, that's PSI. PSYCHS! (120D: Charges (up)).

All puzzle long, and after I was done, I kept asking my wife "Did you get 100A yet?" She would say, 'no.' Then I would giggle. I love that you can have words like TITS (100A: Chickadees' kin) in the puzzle if you clue them correctly. Then my wife and I started listing all the, uh, suggestive words you could cram into your puzzle with the right, perfectly decent, breakfast-table worthy clues: TITS, COCK, BALLS, BOOBIES, ASS, BUTT, PRICK ... yes, I am eight years old. In my soul. Some days that's a plus. Others ...


  • 1A: Thing in a case (res) - Latin! In "Kiss Me Deadly," the thing in the case is nuclear, I think. The beach house explodes in a mushroom-like cloud, so I'm assuming the case was nuclear.
  • 29A: Tevye creator _____ Aleichem (Sholom) - no idea. Wife, during puzzle: "Can someone actually be named SHALOM!?" [this answer isn't "wrong," as many of you are writing to tell me - SHOLOM is an accepted variant of SHOLEM ALEICHEM's name. See this site, among many others.]
  • 33A: Celine Dion's "I'm Your Angel" duet partner (R. Kelly) - I wonder if R. KELLY ever made any of his underage sex partners sing this with him. R KELLY was best immortalized, I think, on "South Park," in the justly infamous Scientology episode. You have to watch at least some small part of R KELLY's mammoth, multi-part, narrative "song" "Trapped in the Closet" to understand why the "South Park" parody is so good.
  • 42A: Work of Seigneur de Montaigne (Essai) - yes, that "y" is an "i" in French. 7 years of French occasionally come in handy.
  • 43A: "Your Moment of _____" ("The Daily Show" feature) ("Zen") - great new clue for this word.
  • 64A: 1990s-2000s English tennis star Tim (Henman) - would have spelled his name HINMAN, possibly because of crossword tournament champion Tyler, possibly because of the fact that a HINMAN is a building at the school where I work.
  • 72A: "Tancredi" composer (Rossini) - isn't there a Senator or Governor named TANCREDI? Oh, no, it's TANCREDO I'm thinking of - a Congressman from Colorado.
  • 81A: Suffix with billion (-aire) - I spent many seconds wondering what in the word AIREBILLION could possibly mean. "Oh ... SUFfix ..."
  • 90A: Windsor, e.g. (neck tie) - my wife rightly grumbled here. "Windsor" is a knot.
  • 101A: Laughing gas and water, chemically (oxides) - Thought the clue was asking what the combination of the two would make. I sure didn't know.
  • 134A: He played Krupa in "The Gene Krupa Story" (Mineo) - an actor whose name was built for crosswords. You see his first name a lot, too: SAL.
  • 1D: "Number 10" Abstract Expressionist (Rothko) - here is the painting by ROTHKO:
And here is a poem by Theodore Roethke (no relation):

"The Geranium"

When I put her out, once, by the garbage pail,
She looked so limp and bedraggled,
So foolish and trusting, like a sick poodle,
Or a wizened aster in late September,
I brought her back in again
For a new routine--
Vitamins, water, and whatever
Sustenance seemed sensible
At the time: she'd lived
So long on gin, bobbie pins, half-smoked cigars, dead beer,
Her shriveled petals falling
On the faded carpet, the stale
Steak grease stuck to her fuzzy leaves.
(Dried-out, she creaked like a tulip.)

The things she endured!--
The dumb dames shrieking half the night
Or the two of us, alone, both seedy,
Me breathing booze at her,
She leaning out of her pot toward the window.

Near the end, she seemed almost to hear me--
And that was scary--
So when that snuffling cretin of a maid
Threw her, pot and all, into the trash-can,
I said nothing.

But I sacked the presumptuous hag the next week,
I was that lonely.

  • 8D: Botanist Gray (Asa) - Zane Grey spells his name differently, but I'm still going to use this occasion to direct you to my vintage paperbacks blog, where the last two entries have featured Zane Gray.
  • 15D: Spanish sherry (Amontillado) - never would have got this if I hadn't read the Poe story "The Cask of AMONTILLADO," which is the only way I know that word.
  • 26D: Kupcinet and Cross (Irvs) - no idea. IRV Cross sounds familiar. Is he a sportscaster? Yes! For once, I guess correctly.
  • 29D: Some namesakes: Abbr. (Srs.) - it was SRS or JRS, and I figured the Aleichem guy's first name was probably not JHOLOM.
  • 35D: Change of a mortgage, slangily (refi) - easy, though it threw my wife, who had, I believe, RE-UP. Plus, I have to write about any clue that features the word "slangily," as that word can be found virtually nowhere but in crossword puzzle clues.
  • 46D: Biblical queendom (Sheba) - "queendom" is a word you don't see often.
  • 51D: Hills of Yorkshire (wolds) - here's one where my wife was Way ahead of me. I've never heard of this word and it looks completely insane / wrong to me. Like someone with a cold, or depression ... possibly Eeyore ... trying to say WOODS.
  • 53D: Monster hurricane of 1989 (Hugo) - thought the hurricane was going to have a "monster's" name, like, I don't know, WOLFMAN or SASQUATCH or something. Instead, it has a French author's name.
  • 59D: Bleeth of "Baywatch" (Yasmine) - again, strangely, wife was ahead of me on this. I knew it was YASMINE, but did not know the spelling. -EEN? IJN? Wife knew. I doubt she has ever watched an episode of "Baywatch," but she knew.
  • 67D: Executive's charter, maybe (air taxi) - took me a bit to figure out what was meant by "charter."
  • 69D: Flat-bottomed boat (skiff) - great nautical word that you rarely see in xwords, for obvious reasons - that letter pattern.
  • 83D: "Vega$" star Robert (Urich) - You gotta love a title with a symbol in its name. Robert Urich was Spenser, for Hire, which my mom watched and enjoyed in the 80s.
  • 84D: Nick Nolte movie based on a Kurt Vonnegut novel ("Mother Night") - one of many Vonnegut books we had floating around my (mom's) house in my youth.
  • 91D: Jean who wrote "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" (Kerr) - who? Where is Deborah when you need her!?
  • 94D: Virginie ou Pennsylvanie (√©tat) - more handy Frenchness.
  • 98D: Subject of the book "Many Unhappy Returns": Abbr. (I.R.S.) - timely.
  • 102D: _____ Zagora, Bulgaria (Stara) - whoa. No idea. All from crosses. That's one of the awesomer sounding place names I've ever heard of. "The bomb is hidden .... in STARA Zagora! You have 24 hours to find it! Godspeed!"
  • 117D: "Hannah Montana" star Miley Cyrus, for one (TV idol) - this clue / answer sucks in about a billion ways, but I'll just stick to the made-up answer. American Idol and "matinee idol" are phrases. TV IDOL?! Frowny face.
  • 123D: Author of the "Elements," ca. 300 B.C. (Euclid) - helped me out a ton in that pesky SE.
  • 125D: Singh on the links (Vijay) - named after America's Victory over Japan ... not really.
  • 126D: Demean (abase) - as I told my wife last night, I thought this clue was an adjective - as if DEMOS was a place, and people from there were DEMEAN. E.g. "Hercules slayed the NEMEAN lion, but the DEMEAN lion tore him to shreds."

Later today: READER MAIL and COMMENTS OF THE WEEK! [Addendum - I just realized that I can't do these segments on Sunday, because by making reference to puzzles from the past week, I will spoil those puzzles for solvers who do the puzzles in syndication - they're 6 weeks behind, except on Sunday, when they're only one week behind - thus, if I made reference to this past weekend's fiasco of a puzzle, I'd be giving away answers to puzzles they haven't seen yet. So look for READER MAIL, COMMENT(S) OF THE WEEK, and WORD OF THE WEEK ("Pluto?") tomorrow -RP]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS, OK, this isn't "Reader Mail" exactly, but it's mail I just got from my best friend (CA), and I needed to share it. It reads:

OMG, you, personally, have to watch at least until the 3-minute mark. This is pretty good, actually. Plus the guy looks like your and my lovechild.
So, if you want to know what that hypothetical love child looks like, or you just want to laugh at one nerd's obsessive attempt to visit every Manhattan Starbucks store in a single day, click the link. -RP


Orange 10:20 PM  

Actually, the Pacific Northwest puzzlers plot an uprising against the puzzle and against you, because the Canucks are a Canadian team from Vancouver, British Columbia, which must be, like, the Southwest from a Canadian standpoint. The Canadians would plot an uprising too, but they're too mild-mannered and they know it.

PhillySolver 11:29 PM  

All Canadians are Canucks or at least in an historical context. Their version of Uncle Sam is Johnny Canuck and he wants to know if you want a piece of this. Despite dropping their old 'Stick in a Rink' logo, the Vancouver Canucks missed the hockey playoff again this year and are now planning a new logo with a 'Stick in Uranus.'

An example of FRUSTA (frustum singular) appears on the back of a "George'. It is the lopped off pyramid, or so I learned in GEOM.

I enjoyed the puzzle and admired the construction in every detail. I do agree it was easy though.

jae 11:40 PM  

Thank you John Farmer for a clever and very doable puzzle after the last couple of days. Didn't look at the circled letters until after I finished but it would have helped with solving if I had. That said, I had no real problems with this one, I just worked steadily through it. (Needed to guess the "I" in the ESSAI/AMONTILLADO crossing).An interesting mix of long answers.

The Catcher in the Rye was one of the few exposures to teen angst we had in early 60s. We had to read it on the sly because it was considered risque (dirty?) at the time. Apparently, now its assigned reading in some schools. I reread it a couple of years ago and it didn't stand the test of time for me. I didn't think it was particularly well written and Holden came off as whiny from my adult viewpoint. My 16 year old self, however, thought it was amazing and, like Holden, my life was pretty drifty in my late teens.

LoneStar 12:51 AM  

Hooray! I am no longer "Six Weeks Later Cathy" since I treated myself to an online subscription for my birthday. Delighted to join you all in the present tense.

I had some odd things wrong with this puzzle - I knew Shalom Aleichem as a greeting, not an author, but that A and the COLA (instead of SODA) made me come to Rex's blog to find out what ECHAEL was for 2 down.

I also had FOURSTAR instead of FIVE, and had MORGUE for the mystery element, but nothing else would fit.

And my musically inclined family assured me that Sting doesn't have a last name, so I shouldn't even try to fill in that part of the puzzle.

miriam b 7:15 AM  

I was worried about PLUTO until it showed up as a neologism I've never heard. How ingenious to have arranged the planet names according to their proximity to the sun, from Mercury at the top to Neptune at the bottom

Coop 7:21 AM  

The easiest Sunday puzzle in some time, or maybe it just seemed that way by contrast to yesterday's torture. It's cool that the eight solar system planets are circled but that the recently demoted Pluto is included in the puzzle as well. I even looked for the two other dwarf planets, Ceres and Eris, but came up empty.

Anonymous 7:40 AM  

The Russian Tea Room closed?!? I was just there last week.

miriam b 7:48 AM  

Emily, your latest drawing is my current favorite. Amazing!

Rex Parker 7:54 AM  

@anon, I was sure the Russian Tea House had gone under. Weird. I'll correct that. And Miriam, you can leave comments directly on Emily's blog, you know?


miriam b 8:04 AM  

Yes, Rex, the RTR has closed - big article in NYT today. I sometimes dined there in the earlier days when the food was really Russian.

Thanks, Rex, I'll go see Emily.

Doris 8:35 AM  

Re the Russian Tea Room: It reopened in 2006 under new management and is considered a very pricey tourist trap nowadays, with none of the old artsy atmosphere. I saw nothing in today's NYT about its closing again. (It had closed twice; was reopened and redecorated by the late Werner Leroy, but then closed and reopened.) Miriam, where did you see a big article about a third closing?

ArtLvr 8:38 AM  

For me, "Tootsie" always leaps to mind with mention of the Russian Tearoom... One of the funniest scenes in the movie.

I mostly enjoyed the clever puzzle, especially demoted PLUTO, and got it sans google as my unknowns emerged from crosses -- FLUTIE? sounds like a flaky glass with Fiasco potential. And it's sad to see AMONTILLADO without a nod to Poe's "The Cask of __" , though we did get MOTIVE as mystery element.

The ROSSINI clue, "Tancredi" composer, was probably obscure to many also... Aha! -- SMOKE AND MIRRORS very apt in puzzledom!


miriam b 9:11 AM  

Doris, I should never leave a comment before breakfast. I had Googled and indeed found the article I cited, but on closer inspection discovered that it was actually published in 2002. Sorry! I'm a bit unclear, BTW, as to how this discussion began in the first place..

Ulrich 9:15 AM  

@rex: I totally agree that "echt" should not be presumed to be known by non-speakers of German--where will this lead w.r.t. other languages? Do we need to keep sundry dictionaries on our desk? As to the word itself, it doesn't sound so bad if you pronounce the "ch" properly, i.e. really soft, as in the "ich" in "Ich bin eine Berliner."

With this out of my system, on to weightier isues. Agreed, the puzzle was clever, the theme super-easy to get and then helped greatly in solving the rest of the puzzle--I even used the bonus feature in doing the last row. But once I got the theme answers, I got bored filling in the rest. This is now the second time where a 23x23 puzzle just seemed too big, with too many eddies not touched by the theme and indifferent fill/clues. With that many words at play, the constructor is bound to resort to questionable abbreviations somewhere. I would have stopped at some point if it weren't for what my wife calls my "completion complex".

puzzlegirl 9:19 AM  

just found this blog - did I die and wake up in xword heaven? anyway - found all the three- and four-word answers *boring*! tho as an upstate NYer, love seeing RPI get a shout-out. as an english teacher, happy that orwell and salinger got some love! learned "frusta" - sounds like the effects of pinkeye. gross! onward toward to a week of puzzles... :-)

imsdave1 9:20 AM  

Thank you Mr. Shortz (and Farmer). My sanity has been restored after yesterdays 'fiasco'. Pleasant and clever puzzle.

The Asian Badger 9:40 AM  

Some clever construction, I thought but the short 3-letter fills were kind of a grind IMHO. Still, a bit of fun with words, especially after the last two days.

Only sticker for me was ESSAI. I had it but it looked funny. Double checked to see if there was an alternate spelling for AMANTILLADO. AFLOW (49A) also looked funny but I wrote it off to crosswordese.

ECHT was a puzzler until I vaguely remembered something from my grandmother who used to speak German at home with her friends from the old country.

A pleasant way to grind away, especially after yesterday and of course, NABES which I'm afraid will be with me for awhile.

jls 10:08 AM  

>Kerr -- who?

oh, rex, rex, rex... ;-) check 'er out here:

not just "please, don't eat the daisies"

ms. kerr was the wife of theatre critic (and playwright) walter kerr (whose own credits are linked on the same page).

the title in the clue (the story of a theatre critic and his wife [a writer...]), btw, probably earned her a tidy sum, as it was adapted for the silver screen and had a title song sung by doris day (who starrred in the film with david niven).

The Uproarious Movie from the Big Best Seller!

cheers, all --


Margaret 10:15 AM  

I'm actually posting BEFORE tackling the puzzle but I had to report that yesterday's string of coincidences continues... Just now NPR interviewed none other than Robert Greenberg / Monteverdi. It was a wonderful piece about the Sistine Chapel Choir.

Had to share that with you all. Now I'm off to work the puzzle before going to sing in my own church (Unitarian) choir.

(If "Sistine" is an answer in today's puzzle, would that indicate that God not only has a sense of humor but also is a puzzle fan?)

Hobbyist 10:21 AM  

Question: How is "in the cellar" come out as "last?'

imsdave1 10:25 AM  

@hobbyist - the last place team in any league especially baseball, is considered to be in the cellar, or in the basement. Lowest floor, lowest position in the standings.

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

Obviously you guys didn't grow up with an LP of "Fiddler on the Roof" more or less constantly on the turntable, as I did, or "Sholom" would have been a gimme. As I understand it, his name is a pun.

Rex, why do you say the position of the planets is "reasonably" accurate? Has a controversy emerged, other than Pluto's demotion?

Rex Parker 10:33 AM  


I meant simply to indicate that the placement of the planets is not to scale.


jls 10:35 AM  


yes, someone can actually be named..."

tho clearly, in the u.s., the ever-popular "susan"s and "stephen"s have nuthin' to fear!

mr. aleichem, btw, is in good company with mr. asch.




DONALD 10:58 AM  

The verb "to pluto" (preterite and past participle: "plutoed") is a neologism coined in the aftermath of the decision to demote the planet Pluto to the status of "dwarf planet". In January 2007, the American Dialect Society chose "plutoed" as its 2006 Word of the Year, defining "to pluto" as "to demote or devalue someone or something", "as happened to the former planet Pluto when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto no longer met its definition of a planet."

ArtLvr 11:02 AM  

Would that we all could be as talented and accomplished as the late Jean Kerr, writing successful books, plays, and musicals over many years! Thanks to jls for the timely reminder and the link to her bio...


Orange 11:14 AM  

puzzlegirl from 9:19, welcome to the party. We do already have a "puzzlegirl" who comments here regularly—hope we can keep the two of you straight!

Rex, I often skip the poems you share with us, but I loved Roethke's "The Geranium." And are you sure you're 8? I think you may be 14 instead. My almost-8-year-old doesn't know cock and prick yet! (I, too, am a 14-year-old boy. I thought Superbad was hilarious.)

jls 11:31 AM  

artlvr -- you're more than welcome; and art-lover, rex, thank you for the rothko image!!



miriam b 11:45 AM  

@jls: Sholom Aleichem is actually a Hebrew greeting: "Peace be with you." Compare the Arabic "As-salaamu Alaikum".

PuzzleGirl 11:53 AM  

When I clicked on Rex's blog last night to read his post for yesterday's puzzle, the first thing I saw was the relative difficulty designation of Easy-Medium and I about started crying since yesterday's puzzle completely beat me up. Then I realized that he had already posted about today's puzzle. Whew!

Super easy puzzle -- theme helped a lot. Harry Nilsson had a song besides "Everybody's Talkin'"? Huh.

For most of my life, I went by my middle name, so had a first initial instead of a middle initial. Many computers have no idea how to deal with that. When I got married, I decided to drop the first initial and use my maiden name as my middle name. My dad thought I should keep the first initial and hyphenate my last name with my husband's -- both of which, by the way, are commonly misspelled. Yeah, that would have been a lot of fun.

I believe the WINDSOR clue is okay, as it is a knot that is tied at the neck, therefore, neck tie.

And again with the golfers I don't like! (Actually, Faldo and Singh pretty much make up the entire list of golfers I don't like, but my husband assures me that's only because I don't know the rest of them well enough.)

The Daily Show clue was my favorite today. Jon Stewart should get more love in the puzzle.

@puzzlegirl 9:19: Welcome to Rex's blog. I would like to ask you in the nicest, most courteous way possible to please use a different name. Thank you.

wendy 11:54 AM  

Orange, 14-year-olds aside, Superbad was a great movie. Judd Apatow just nails everything he does ... he makes the experiences he depicts universal ... he knows how to cast ... I cannot say enough about the flick. If anyone was contemplating not seeing it because it was being marketed to the juvenile boy demographic, ignore it and enjoy. The friendship that Michael Cera and Jonah Hill portray is one I will always treasure and Seth Rogen - well, this is a man whose career highs have only just begun to accumulate. End of movie review.

Bill from NJ 12:09 PM  

Re: Pluto

What if someone created a neologism and nobody used it?

I agree with Ulrich. This puzzle was just too large and it lacked staying power - at least for me - and I found myself drifting away periodically and snapping back. Kinda like driving late at night.

Like Rex I figured out the theme right away and filled in the appropriate circles and, again like Rex, got the Nillson song at 82A as a result.

Nice change of pace from yesterday, though.

imsdave1 12:10 PM  

@puzzlegirl(prime) - As an avid golfer I understand your dislike of Faldo and Singh. They are/were among the best at their craft. Everything I've read about them says that they are fun guys (off camera), who have just amassed a bad pulic personna. Do we really need to expect that people in the limelight need to present perfect images of themselves to us? There are several actor's out there that I personally can't stand due to their opinions, but I still enjoy their immense talents. BTW, love your blogging. Puzzlegirl(2), why not try puzzlergirl? You get to keep the basics that way, and we can differentiate. Best to both.

imsdave1 12:16 PM  

Thanks God I dropped the B in public and not the L. Dave is a clean blogger.

chefbea1 12:35 PM  

Rex- loved the starbucks vidio, I'm still laughing. Watched the whole thing. Now I'll go read the comments

Jonathan 1:15 PM  

I couldn't let pass that the book referenced in 98D was written by Groucho Marx

Mike 1:19 PM  

Rex, you might be thinking of Senator Tancredi from Prison Break.

Kimbopolo 1:20 PM  

This puzzle outshown the Milky Way! Brilliant! As an unsolicited Nominating Committe of one, I submit this one for consideration for the 2008 ACCA Awards.

(Coincidentally, DH and I watched a Science Channel documentary just last night about the downsizing of Pluto. My first order of business after getting Mercury was to count the number of planet entries and find that there were only 8).

kate 1:31 PM  

Not having a middle name, both NMI and NMN (no middle name) are extremely familiar acronyms to me. But I didn't get it in the context of the puzzle, actually.

tom in iowa 1:32 PM  

ECHT seemed to me like it was going to end up the answer. I wanted something like rein (you know from something like "reinheit" as in beer). I studied german indifferently in high school and had never heard of it. However I had travelled in scandinavia. There is a peculiar cheese in Norway made from goats milk - called gjetost (YUMMY?). Since there seems to be a trend to adulterate its production with cheaper cows milk, there is a product sold as "ekte gjetost" which is supposed to be 100% goat. I guess echt and ekte are from the same roots.

Leon 1:44 PM  
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(NFN) Myron Poindexter 1:53 PM  

Speaking of NMI, my parents decided not to give me a first name. Just a middle and a last. So I always enter NFN (no first name) on forms, and squeeze "Myron" into the little box for middle initial. This has resulted in no end of explanatory phone calls, a draft deferment, countless IRS audits, six divorces, and years of worthless therapy. I am hoping to meet a woman whose first name is Underscore.

Leon 1:59 PM  

Groucho's book was: Many Happy Returns. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1942.

The unhappy one was written by a former IRS Commissioner.

Really liked this puzzle - made me listen to Holst's "The Planets" again and to reread the Cask of Amontillado. Love that Family coat of arms and motto.

Also listened to Jump into the Fire , I had forgotten it was played in Goodfellas.

Thanks to all for explaining NMI.

bill from fl 1:59 PM  

Maybe NMI is a reference to URICH, who (as Rex notes) played Spenser, who had NMI, as far as I know.

I've seen ECHT enough in pretentious English usage to justify it's appearance in a crossword. Just don't use it in conversation, if you don't want to sound like a tool.

Overall a fun puzzle with a fair amount of current references.

Joon 2:10 PM  

@kate, i don't have a middle name either, and i've filled out my share of forms... never seen a checkbox for "no middle name/initial," let alone the abbreviation NMI. so it was pretty mysterious to me.

having said that, i liked just about everything else about the puzzle. i forgot to actually look at the circled letters until i had finished the puzzle. i'm not big on "do this after you finish the puzzle" either, but it was very elegant that the letters to SOLAR SYSTEM were arranged symmetrically in a circle around the edge of the puzzle. add that to PLUTO crossing the theme clue containing NEPTUNE, which is great because their orbits actually cross, and it was a pretty sweet construction all around. all it needed was an asteroid belt.

FRUSTA was a word i'd never seen before, but the singular frustum is a pretty common word meaning a truncated cone or pyramid, so i intuited that one with no crosses.

74D: isn't this a six-letter partial? i mean, there's no other way to interpret it, right?

i, too, wish that AMONTILLADO had been clued via poe, and had the same reaction to NECKTIE clued as [Windsor, e.g.]. [Place for a Windsor] would have been better on several fronts.

what was IT doing in EATIT, [Absorb a loss]? that seems kind of un-crossword to me.

i wonder if tyler felt that today's puzzle was aimed at him. HENMAN and RPI--that's kind of eerie. how soon until he's famous enough for HINMAN to be an answer?

@bill from nj: i wouldn't know. i coined "jl4hned" yesterday and somebody else had used it within a couple hours! lo, the power of rex's blog. a few weeks ago i contributed to a neologism on jimH's blog, and nobody has used that one yet (to my knowledge)... admittedly, i don't remember a quarfoot coming up since then. orange, i guess you're next. i'll be looking for a coining opportunity over there, and we can see how much play it gets.

foodie 2:59 PM  

Rex et al,

After finishing today, I felt a) pleased for having completed the puzzle with no help; b) impressed by the construction and c) yet annoyed by all the small words and extra fill. It made me stop and think about why I was not happier.

Reading this blog for the last year or so, and especially over the last few days, has made me realize how much emotion puzzle-solving triggers in all of us. After yesterday's edifying fiasco, I went back and read what you wrote, Rex, in your "Wrath of Kahn" blog. Then I read the responses to that blog and I was laughing out loud at how people described their personal agony and their relationship to the puzzle: “Infernal” "Evil", "Saturday is the New Hell", etc.

I also reread and greatly enjoyed you write-up about what makes a themeless puzzle great. You and Orange,-- founding members and Fellows of the American Crossword Critics Association- have raised our consciousness about the art of puzzle construction and the unique styles of each of the constructors. You spoke of a “kind of alchemical magic that happens when you juxtapose words or clues in a certain way”. To me, that magic is part of the dynamic that emerges between the constructor and the solver. In a perfect puzzle, there is a rhythm of confusion followed by resolution that makes the puzzle simultaneously challenging and satisfying. It is about getting our “brain to be supple enough to tease out an answers” But it is also about watching ourselves think, in response to a challenge from another thinker, rating ourselves in the process, and deriving either pleasure or pain from that rating. I wonder if this feature of great puzzles – that they sit at the interface of thought and emotions- is something they study the field of enigmatology that Will Shortz invented.

So, for me today, I could do it, I could admire its cleverness and elegance, but the rhythm was wrong around the edges, so there was no magic…

Anonymous 3:27 PM  

At this very moment a hand is apearing under the 6-foot fence surrounding my yard, and some sort of yummy treats are being slipped to my chocolate lab by my odd next door neighbor. It makes me feel sort of Adams-family-ish uncomfortable, but the dog is deleriously happy.

Loved the youtube bit and watched the whole thing (who could stop before finding out whether he succeeded or failed)?

Re ECHT: When I was growing up, my grandparents spoke German (especially when they wanted to keep the children in the dark). My parents always said they were speaking "platt Deutsch" (forgive possible misspelling). And the opposite was referred to as ECHT. I always thought ECHT meant "high" since "platt" meant low. Even after studying German in college....Anyway, I usualy love the German references in the puzzles (but not the French).

Barb in Chicago

Anonymous 3:52 PM  

Good thing: once we figured out the theme, my 10 year old went through and filled in all the planets for me. I like to let him participate, hoping he will become a crossword lover like me.
Weird thing: in two other puzzles (Boston Globe and Premier Crossword) I already had seen 3 of the NYT clues - zen, idi amin and tits. I have noticed this several times. Do all the crossword creators have a pool of clue to delve into each week? The zen clue especially was the exact wording, at least with Idi Amin, once I got the first name, once the last. Does anyone know why this happens so often?

russalka 4:02 PM  

Rex, Stara means Old in Bulgarien
and Nova (if it comes in a crossword) - New.

Ulrich 4:04 PM  

@Barb in Chicago (everyone who's sick of references to German should just skip this post): The "platt" in Plattdeutsch (one word) does not mean "low" as opposed to "high", but "flat" as opposed to "hilly": it's the vernacular (that used to be) spoken in the lowlands or plains of NW Germany, spilling into the Netherlands. "Platt" (a noun) by itself can mean any local dialect as opposed to the official high German--again, it's not necessarily a derogative term. The adjective "platt" can mean anything from "flat", to "floored" (i.e. surprised) and "exhausted" (a soccer player after playing for 75 min.).

Anonymous 4:23 PM  

Ulrich -- I enjoy all your German tutoring. Keep it coming!

(NFN) Myron -- very nice.

Now I guess I'll go watch the Starbucks clip.

imsdave1 4:26 PM  

@Ulrich - just have to ask - my wife knows an Ulrich from her days at a museum, say's he was erudite and knowledgable, sounds a bit like you.

Little Lj 4:27 PM  

i have the exact same experience of catcher in the rye.. and its still my favorite book of all time. i think you have to read it at exactly the right age... too young, and you don't quite get it. too old and you think you've figured life all out anyway, so don't see what all the fuss is about..

ArtLvr 4:30 PM  

@ Barb in Chicago -- I thought it was Hoch Deutsch, something like that, for the "high" stage or more educated German -- but we need Ulrich's input! In Switzerland, there was also Switzer-deutch (w pronounced as v, of course), an even odder dialect for non-natives, and definiitely held to be lower class by the French-speaking Swiss. (I was from Chicago too!)

All my family were NMI; I think they figured what was good enough for the Founders was good enough for posterity. It worked for me, with an antique first name, not so much for siblings with more familiar names...


Ben Hassenger 4:32 PM  

As somebody who is finally on the verge of completing Sunday crosswords (let's not start on Fridays and Saturdays quite yet), I enjoyed this puzzle a lot and penciled in all but three squares at a little over an hour's length. Once I caught the circled letters of "earth" in "THE CATCHER IN THE RYE", I quickly filled in all of the planets and, after writing out what I had at the top of the paper, "SOLAR SYSTEM".

It was a bit of a hassle with so many three letter answers, but I did particularly enjoy "Exceeded the speed limit?" and, of course, the answer of "TITS". (at the age of 24, my inner eight year old is not far away at all) I was disappointed in myself, however, at how long it took me to fill in "R. KELLY"... I swear I was singing that chorus word for word (don't ask) but couldn't identify the mail voice. Arghh.

imsdave1 4:46 PM  

@rex and other number nine lovers:

Pick a number - multiply it by 3, add 6, multiply by 3 again, add the numbers of the result and it will equal 9. If the result is greater than 9, add them again.

Silly math that rex probably gets, but it's just magic to me.

Barb in Chicago 4:54 PM  

@ Ulrich -- Thanks. Wish I knew where my German forebears came from. They came to southern Ohio in the late 1800s and I think included draft dodgers & folks who just wanted to cut the ties to the old country. Although we have the German bible, we really don't know where we hail from. All of my known forebears were German, by the way.

Jim in NYC 6:21 PM  

Dude! Leave Mark Malkoff alone. He's a nerd, sure, but a fun, nice nerd, and a modern media nerd who can get you in the audience of the Colbert Show if you treat him right. He's also a rabid Frank Sinatra fan for what it's worth. Seriously, Mark is a good friend of my son and ex-wife. (Check out his other videos on YouTube.)

Now for the puzzle. Never heard of Mary Ure (19A) nor do I hope to again. I agree with the cavil at Windsor being a NECKTIE (90A)--it's a knot.

I know IRV Kupcinet from living in Chicago 3000 years ago and seeing his TV show. Surprised to learn from Rex that he has/had a national sports reputation.

Favorite clue: "Bikini blast" at 87D.

Least favorite word: PAP. No idea why. Somehow reminds me of diapers.

My Error: STS (saints) for "namesakes" at 29D. I wouldn't know "R." Kelly if he sat on me.

Jim in NYC 6:52 PM  

I believe the WINDSOR clue is okay, as it is a knot that is tied at the neck, therefore, neck tie.

I bow to superior cleverness.

Great puzzle, Mr. Farmer.

SethG 7:36 PM  

@imsdaves and other nine lovers: You might need a calculator, but it also works if you add 84, Flutie's Heisman year, instead of 6!

And it's the same trick that makes this work...

Ulrich 8:00 PM  

@imsdave1 at 4:26 (just noticed your post). If the museum is in Pittsburgh and if your wife ever took a design studio with me in a different town, I may be the same. In any case, you're just 2 mouse clicks away from knowing more about me than you ever want to know.

Rex Parker 8:00 PM  

I tried to use that "neck tie" logic on my wife. She was not buying it, and I concur. If it's grid-worthy, it has to be a phrase one actually uses, and neck tie is such a phrase, but only when it's referring to the whole tie.

Jim in NYC, who is Mark Malkoff? The Starbucks guy? If so, then why would I "leave him alone." I'm basically paying tribute to him. Did you think calling him a "nerd" was an insult. Not where I come from.


mac 9:17 PM  

I didn't get to this puzzle until around 6 p.m. and it seemed a lot of work, not all of it fun. I did get through, but it wasn't very pleasant. Some weird answers got to me for no good reason, like Flutie and several other ones. I would much prefer a Fri/Sat combo over this large mosaic.
I love the different languages allowed in this puzzle, but I must admit I have stacks of dictionaries around (I already told you I love reference books).
Rex, I have 2 middle initials as well, and to make things more complicated the name I am called by is different, sort of a amalgam of the three. You have no idea how many problems I have run into at airports etc......
@imsdave, you are so funny! I do have to agree with our puzzlegirl, though, I don't like these particular golfers for reasons you seem to understand.
And, by the way, if the Ulrich your wife knew sounded erudite and knowledgeable, he sounds very much like out Ulrich!

Julian 9:26 PM  

I just thought I'd weigh in on the WINDSOR debate. WINDSOR is a tie as well as a knot. Definition from Websters

Main Entry:
Windsor tie

: a broad necktie usually tied in a loose bow

Jim in NYC 10:11 PM  

Rex, no vicarious offense taken! Linking to Mark's wacky video was the highest praise! And he is the man to talk to for Colbert tickets.

Crosscan 10:22 PM  

I would be insulted by Orange's comment but I'm Canadian so I'll be exceedingly polite.

Victoria is the extreme southwest of Canada but since nearly all Canadians live within 100 miles of the border (the better to crossborder shop) we just say the West Coast.

Crosscan-uck (who would have answered earlier but I'm in Seattle shopping).

Barb in Chicago 10:26 PM  

Jim in Nyc: I believe Rex was talking about the other Irv, the Cooper Irv. Our Irv here in Chicago was an old school gossip columnist who dropped boldface names.

Jim in NYC 10:44 PM  

Barb, you're right. I missed the word "Cross" in Rex's original post, maybe because it's a pretty common word in this blog!

scriberpat 11:07 PM  

@(NFN)myron 1:53 PM re: your No First Name.

Has got to be the hilariousest Comment on this Comments column yet

PuzzleGirl 12:07 AM  

Okay, I concede the WINDSOR point. But I think it would have been okay the other way around: if "neck tie" had been the clue and WINDSOR had been the answer.

@imsdave: I actually think we agree here. I do not "expect people in the limelight to present perfect images of themselves to us" but if they present an image that I don't like, well, I'm not going to like them. I do enjoy watching them (Faldo and Singh) golf though. (You know who I can't stand watching though? Jim Furyk. I have nothing against him personally but MAN does he have an ugly swing.)

green mantis 1:03 AM  

Im sorry, PAP? Allow me to offer my heartiest WTF. How can I never have heard of this abomination? While as a solver I aim to commit new words to the knowledge stockpile, there are some that must be forcibly ejected from the brain, whatever the consequences. This is one of those words.

Regarding Germanness, I think I come from German stock. My last name is definitely German (probably translates to "pasty whiteness blinding like sun").

The only German thing I know how to say, though, is "I have an eraser."

Finally, I think the new puzzlegirl person should name herself Doug. There's always room for more Dougs, and we have quotas to meet.

Oh, and I wish I woke up earlier than dinnertime so I wasn't always talking to myself in my posts.

Rikki NMI 1:12 AM  

Fun puzzle and comments. I just thought of the Russian Tea Room yesterday while eating in a restaurant that had tuck 'n roll leather booths with tables that had to be pulled out to let you slide in. Reminded me of the Russian Tea Room and those great shirts the waiters wore and, yes, of course, Tootsie, a perfect movie IMHO.

It was also great to see Doug Flutie, from Natick, MA, one of my hometown rivalries, who played for Boston College and threw the most amazing Hail Mary pass ever. I'm link-challenged but here it is.

Rex, I was going to say that I really liked the picture of your tits, but then thought it would sound crude, then obviously decided to say it anyway. Or maybe those are chickadees?

Angst, angst, angst. Catcher in the Rye. Too real. I escaped into Tolkein and Asimov.

Back to the puzzle, we've seen a lot of John Farmer since I've been coming to visit here. He did the days of the weeks in circles last. I like his puzzles. They are challenging enough, but gettable for me.

I haven't done Saturday yet. I'm on my way there now, armed with nothing but my menopausal memory and the sheer determination to finish a Klahn Saturday without a google. It was such a splendid week of puzzles, but that always means I'm in for a thrashing on Saturday.

@Myron, how awful for you. I can just picture you sitting forlornly in front of your birthday cake every year, hearing, "...happy birthday, dear (dead air) happy birthday to you. So traumatic.

I've always felt bad about Pluto's demotion, but I think this is the first venue where I've had the chance to air my feelings. It was such a puny little thing, the runt of the solar system for sure, but I think once a planet, always a planet. Not fair.

Hi Green Mantis!

karmasartre 1:58 AM  

@scriberpat --

Thanks from all of us.

kas 6:46 PM  

the only blank I had was tits, echt and postdocs. Took awhile for it to sink in

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