Thursday, April 3, 2008

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: it's a COW rebus, signaled very cleverly by the puzzle's central answer, WHERE'S THE BEEF? (38A: 1980s catchphrase)

I have to rush this today, which is sad because this puzzle merits more commentary (some negative, but mostly positive) than most puzzles in recent memory. You should see my completed puzzle (on paper). I always mark it up before I start my commentary - making notes to myself about which answers I want to discuss, what I want to say, how I want to group them, etc. Today's puzzle is covered in pencil jottings. It's a mess. There are words and phrases like "aargh," "ick," "cool," "very cute," and "F#@K YOU" written in the margins. I think I made many of these in the middle of solving (that's when the profanity tends to come out). OK, too much preamble. In short, a very challenging and mostly pleasing Thursday.

Theme answers:

  • 5A: Freaked out (had a COW) and 9D: One tied for first place (CO-Winner)
  • 10A: Looks unhappy (sCOWls) and 11D: Place for grazing (COW pasture)
  • 10D: Barges (sCOWs) and 16A: Soup or salad ingredient (COW pea)
  • 1D: It makes livestock go crazy (loCOWeed) and 17A: Beloved film character with a tail (COWardly Lion) - a word for LOCOWEED: genius. I love this answer so so so much. I own a song that features "LOCOWEED" in the lyrics. It's called "COW COW Boogie" (by Ella Mae Morse): "He was raised on LOCOWEED / He's what you call a swing half-breed ..." - the only time I've ever ever heard the word. Love it. See a performance right here.
  • 41A: Baseball cover (COW hide) and 41D: Surfer's exclamation (COWabunga!)
  • 31D: Its coat of arms features a horseman spearing a dragon (MosCOW) and 42A: Pens together (COWrites)
  • 61A: Cry just before someone gets some big bucks? ("Ride 'em COWboy) and 63D: Shrink (COWer)
  • 44D: It may be milked for all it's worth (dairy COW) and 68A: Battle site in "Animal Farm" (COW shed)

There are 8 rebus squares involving 16 answers, plus WHERE'S THE BEEF?, which anchors the whole thing. I had worked nearly 1/3 of the puzzle before I ever discovered the theme, and I discovered it almost accidentally. I took one look at 38A: 1980s catchphrase and immediately tested WHERE'S THE BEEF. I believe that makes it the #1 80s catchphrase of all time. If it's the first thing that comes to mind in a (probably) giant category, it wins. Even then, I didn't know (but sensed) it was a rebus. Usually, when I'm seriously struggling with a pre-Friday puzzle (i.e. W or Th), it's a rebus I haven't smoked out yet. Normally I'd like my rebus word / phrase / image not to signify what it actually is so much, i.e. if it's DOG, I don't want a lot of DOG HOUSE and WORK LIKE A DOG - I want the word split up to hide its DOG-ness. So there are a few too many COW-like COWs today, but ... it's COW for god's sake. That's a high level of rebusing difficulty. So I withdraw any complaint I might have made in my head at some point.

So much other stuff:

  • 1A: Benjamin Harrison's vice president, _____ P. Morton (Levi) - Cruel. Took me so long to get this, as two of the (great) Down crosses remained invisible for a long time.
  • 14A: Big pullers (oxen) - wanted RIGS
  • 19A: Car with an acronymic name (Saab) - how did I not know this? "Born from Jets," yes. Acronym? No.
  • 20A: Cousin of the bald eagle (ern) - Caw!
  • 22A: "The White Horse _____" (operetta) ("Inn") - WTF!?!?! That's your clue for INN? That's Saturday stuff.
  • 24A: Holy man's title (Sri) - more cruelty. FRA and DON work here too.
  • 25A: One of the so-called Southern Ivies (Emory) - one of the few answers longer than 4 letters long I was able to piece together pre-rebus-discovery. I think DUKE is in this category too. Don't know what others there are.
  • 27A: Victor Nunez title hero (Ulee) - what and what and who and what? Who is Victor Nuñez and what is ULEE besides a Peter Fonda character??? Oh, FUUUUUUUUU[beeeeeeeeeeeep], he's the [beep]ing director of "ULEE's gold." In my mind, Victor Nuñez was this guy:
  • 28A: Spike TV, once (TNN) - this is a very important equation to learn, because it gets clued in both directions.
  • 30A: Speaker's adjunct (amp) - good example of the difficulty level of cluing today. Looking at that clue, I had no idea what to expect as an answer.
  • 34A: Drinks with a spoon, maybe (cocoas) - "Drinks" = not a verb, but a noun. Again, tricky.
  • 37A: Mexican silver dollars (duros) - here is where I exclaimed (on paper) "F--- Y---!" This is because a. DUROS? and b. I had D-ROS and the missing vowel was provided only by a crossing that ... was also Spanish!!!!!!!!! (CUESTA - 33D: Hill, in Spain). No no no, you cannot do that. Crossing words from the same foreign language, and at a vowel no less!? I guessed "U," which is really all it could be, but still ... foul, I cry.
  • 43A: Whence the line, "Whatever it is, I fear Greeks even when they bring gifts" (Aeneid) - HA ha, I've read Aeneid a million times (roughly) and never noticed the Greeks-bearing-gifts line.
  • 45A: "Die Meistersinger" soprano (Eva) - no way. Crosses, all crosses.
  • 54A: Diminutive suffix (-ule) - entertained -OLE and -ILE for a bit.
  • 58A: Old Turkish title (bey) - had AGA, of course, then got the "A" and had AGY, which I felt I had also seen as a [Turkish title] before. I guess not. What was I thinking of?
  • 66A: Catherine Deneuve was on its first U.S. cover (Elle) - could think only of Time and Life, which seemed far too old for Ms. Deneuve to have graced their first covers.
  • 69A: Range in lipsticks (reds) - Weird, weird clue, but REDS was the first thing I guessed, so I guess it's a good clue.
  • 5D: Robert of "Airplane!" (Hays) - right in my wheelhouse, and yet ... I had HAAS. :(
  • 6D: _____ prima (painting technique) (alla) - no way. Crosses, all crosses. Had ALTA at one point.
  • 13D: Group assimilated by the Romans (Sabines) - this is odd. The verb normally used in this situation is RAPE. "Assimilated" - that's a new one on me. That sounds like the language the Roman government would have used to spin the story to the networks.
  • 18D: Be productive, as chickens (lay) - thank god for this answer, which gave me at least a little traction in my sad, early minutes of solving.
  • 35D: Food brand whose name is a portmanteau of two state names (Oreida) - If I never see the word "portmanteau" again it'll be too soon.
  • 36D: Knife, slangily (shiv) - goes great with 53D: Prison break, e.g. (lam)
  • 47D: Eye in the heavens (Hubble) - you do know it's not actually an "eye," right? Seems like the clue should have a "?" attached. PS Batman once launched his own surveillance satellite called Brother Eye.
  • 56D: Pond, in Liverpool (mere) - I feel like I haven't seen this word since I took the SATs.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jls 8:57 AM  

*loved* this puzzle -- tho cracking the code nearly did me in. and then, once i'd figgered it out, *still* had to work at it.

now that's fun!



Anonymous 9:18 AM  

after suffering the beginning and landing cowardly lion, it was a piece of cake...Great write up, Rex. Love it when you get grrrrrd to death!!! kondikekid

ArtLvr 9:23 AM  

Funny, in my last comment here yesterday I spoke of the rebus -- and how to handle multiple letters in one space! An omen... hope you all were ready?

"Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes" -- My Latin teacher stressed that "et" in this case means "even" (or "and even", not just "and"), so the correct translation was "I fear the Greeks even when they are bearing gifts". Shakespeare's Hamlet said it too: "That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain" -- with the implied "and yet"...

Terrific fun, even though it took ages.


Pete M 9:27 AM  

Like Rex, I suspected rebus after the first pass yielded only very spotty results. Didn't help (or maybe subconsciously it did) that I confidently put in MADCOW at 1D instead of LOcowEED. Lot's of false starts on this one (e.g., STLO/SOS instead of GUAM/EMS; IROC for SAAB; etc.). Nice puzzle.

Jon 9:28 AM  

I should have figured out that this was a rebus puzzle sooner considering the odd pattern of entries I had completed ten minutes in, but I think the asymmetry of the cows further helped hide it. Finally, at cowhide/cowabunga it dawned on me. Still, lots of nasty fill for a Thursday.

I refused to put in BET for quite a while thinking that the French word for bet was probably three letters. Red and black are bets, rouge and noir are probably more appropriate in Monte Carlo.

"Always bet on noir." Nah, just doesn't work for Wesley Snipes.

And isn't cuesta a conjugated form of the verb "to cost"? As in, cuanta cuesta?

Joon 9:32 AM  

wonderful puzzle overall, but i feel the same way as rex about the DUROS/CUESTA crossing. in retrospect, U would have been a better guess than what i tried (O), but it's still unnecessarily cruel.

i also had strong rebus suspicions when i failed to get any serious traction in the first five minutes of solving, and noticed that there didn't seem to be obvious theme entries (unusual for a thursday). i actually wanted it to be a HORSE rebus from maybe the first minute of the puzzle, since 41A (baseball cover) is, or i thought it was, HORSEHIDE rather than COWHIDE. but i eventually realized that if it was indeed a rebus, it was going to be COW, because 41D was obviously COWABUNGA.

Pete M 9:34 AM  

Btw, I HIGHLY recommend that anyone who has been to ACPT and/or knows Francis Heaney and/or loves crosswords and/or has a soul, do this week's Onion puzzle by Francis Heaney.

Trust me. Just do it. If it doesn't make you smile I'll email you 10 bucks. :)

Bill D 9:35 AM  

So, what was I saying about an easy week? And who was it that didn't like rebus puzzles? Will gave it to us in the Shortz today! What a great puzzle!

Went thru the grid one time and had only RECUSE and ORE-IDA. Wanted DYNE, SHIV, REDS, ATTS the first time thru, but since I generally solve on the newsprint in ink I wasn't ready to commit to them without crossing confirmation. Also wanted ANEID (notice lack of first "E") and I was desperate for LOCO WEED at 1D and CO-WRITES at 42A but couldn't figure out how to put them in. Also 10A & D seemed suspiciously short for their clues. These problems did make me suspect a rebus early. I got it playing with 41A: Baseball cover, where I worked through horse- and raw- hides until I hit on COW.

I loved the use of COW in non-COW combinations like SCOWLS, COWRITES, and LOCOWEED. Needed the COW for MOSCOW, as even though I was there recently the St George imagery is more often associated with England or a hundred other places. I know some Spanish and I was upset with the crossing of DUROS y CUESTA. Didn't know BEY, can't decide if I like having ULEE & ULE, BEY & BET, ETA & EVA, and S[COW]LS & S[COW]S in the same puzzle, especially with the last two pairs crossing.

Saab is an acronym of Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget - AB (Aktiebolaget) is the Scandinavian equivalent of Inc, Ltd, and AG. It was established in 1939 to manufacter aircraft for the Swedish military. They started manufacturing cars around 1947 at the main plant in Tröllhattan, which is still the primary factory. Current Saab vehicles may be claimed to be "Born from Jets" (that's a Saab J 35 Draken fighter you see on the fly-by in those ads) but the original Saab auto logo, seen on the mudflaps and hoods of old Saabs, was a head-on representation of a Saab 18 twin-engined bomber with both props spinning.

arb 9:37 AM  

It may have been a COW rebus, but I thought the puzzle was a BEAR!

Loved it, though. :-}

SAAB = acronym of Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget ("Born from Jets," indeed!)

"Ride 'em COWboy" = Another Abbott and Costello film

Black COW - Steely Dan tune I kept expecting to show up in the grid, once I got the gimmick. Of course, as Stephen Sondheim told us, You Gotta Have A Gimmick.

wade 10:01 AM  

I got the theme on the first couple of answers because I knew LOCOWEED had to go in there (also knew Levi Morton, our second-longest-lived vice president, behind only John Nance Garner, who was from Uvalde, Texas, and famously said that the vice-presidency isn't worth a bucket of warm piss), and guessing right on WHERESTHEBEEF confirmed it and blew the puzzle open for me . . . until a handful of clues in the Carolinas and over into Tennessee. I know the phrase "on the lam" but never thought of a prison break as "a lam." Had the last three letters of HUBBLE, AGEOLD and WHYYES and couldn't crack the first three of each (because of my insistence on ABA and because "That's a ____" doesn't bring LAUGH to mind for me. Also, it didn't dawn on me that the Hubble is in the sky floating around.) I have never heard MERE as a British synonym for pond (and I'm married to a Brit.)

jmbrow29 10:07 AM  

@jon yeah, cuesta is a conjugated form of the verb "costar" (to cost). But cuesta meaning hill? Thats brand new to me. I have always used the word "el cerro" to refer to a hill and defines cuesta as "slope." Or it can be used to say upill or downhill [cuesta abajo (Lit. down slope), cuesta arriba (Lit. Up slope)]. All in all, it's a terrible crossing even for someone who usually enjoys the Spanish words like me.
Still a decent puzzle in my opinion even though it greatly increased my average for thursday solving times :(

PhillySolver 10:19 AM  

Steak Frites anyone? My real beef with this puzzle was the cluing prevented the traction needed in the corners with tricks and obscurity every where. I wonder if the black squares form a cattle pen. I was on to the likely rebus very early with LOCOWEED, but wasn't sure what it was and considered WE, WEE and WEED. COW was the last think I parsed out. Speaking of parsing, how hard is WHYYES and AGEOLD when you have a few odd letters. I guessed exnavy and aroil to slow me down early.

The Southern Ivy League was promoted early by Vanderbuilt and included Tulane I think. However, since it was never formed and remains a rumor, I think the clue was Saturday worthy. All in all, I am not offended by how hard it was because I got to think of all of the cow puns I use on the grandbabies. It mooed me because I didn't have to know any Cowlifornia geography, but no one likes a cattle tail.

CVB 10:22 AM  

I want to put in a word for portmanteau. This meaning of the word was invented by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass: "Well, ‘slithy’ means ‘lithe and slimy’... You see it's like a portmanteau...there are two meanings packed up into one word." And, of course, in French portmanteau is a portmanteau word (carry the mantle).

Scott 10:40 AM  

Very tough puzzle for a Thursday, I thought, even after discovering the rebus. Several very misleading or vague cluings which were good discoveries (out for ALIBI; Drinks w/ a spoon for COCOAS). Several obscure cluings of more common words that seemed very hard for a Thursday (coat of arms for MOScow; Catherine Deneuve for ELLE). And a few things I have never heard of (SABINES, DYNE, cowPEA, LOcowEED).

Could someone explain why DAH is Morse T and not DASH?

Anonymous 10:43 AM  

Lovely rebus, and see, I'm getting to use this word I just learned the other day. It was "COW pasture" that opened my eyes, along with "have a COW."

Like others here, I have no idea what is meant by the "pond"-"mere" equivalence, and I sure wasn't familiar with a "cuesta," though since I couldn't think of any Spanish word for "hill," it was a plausible enough spelling that it seemed to work.

I didn't get why "ACE" was the right answer until after I'd already started posting. Duh.

Loved "WHEEL OUT."

I tried "JEU" for "BET." Mesdames et messieurs, les jeux sont faits, or something like that.

I'm with Rex: "assimilation" is a term with a lot of chutzpah.

All in all, I just loved this puzzle.

wade 10:43 AM  

Southern Ivy or "Magnolia" League would have included Duke, Vanderbilt, Rice, Emory, Wake Forest, UNC Chapel Hill, UVA,and William and Mary. I'd have guessed Auburn in place of Rice (Texas isn't southern enough culturally) and maybe also Washington and Lee.

Ulrich 10:49 AM  

I was groaning about the seemingly randomly distributed cows until I found, half-way through, the crucial phrase a 38A and then decided to like the puzzle. Would have loved it if some clues hadn't been deliberately misleading: How can "out" for "alibi" possibly pass the substitution test? and what about lam? Was seriously bogged down in the SE (even though I had "bey" right away) and in Montana (the cursed alibi).

To me, a little less obfuscation in the clueing would have made this a truly admirable puzzle.

Orange 10:56 AM  

Ulrich, "Does he have a plausible out?" = "Does he have a plausible alibi?" See noun def. 2, "Informal. A means of escape."

I like how the COWs grazed all over the puzzle, as is their wont, rather than being arrayed in symmetrical entries. Symmetry? That's not how cows roll.

Coop 11:00 AM  

The usual phonetic equivalents for Morse code are 'dah' and 'dit' although I've seen it infrequently as 'dash' and 'dot'. So there's a case for 'dah' and 'dash' both being acceptable answers...however, 'dah' seems more acceptable.

Bill D 11:01 AM  

Scott - Morse operators use the terminology DIT for dot and DAH for dash. My dad was a radio operator in WW II and I remember him teaching me some of the popular mnemonics: DAH-DI'-DI'-DAH ("Slide, Kelly, slide") for "X", eg.) He told me an experienced operator would still be writing for minutes after a transmission had ended, transcribing the letters still in his or her head.

Bill from NJ 11:04 AM  

Used your associated downs method, Rex, and immediately got 3,4,5D to produce OXEN at 14A and EXARMY ( a guess) at 2D which produced a flash of insight at 1D and 17A and allowed to me get the theme and the rebus all at once.

In about 5 minutes I had most of the North in place and got 38A with no letters at all for many of the same reasons as you, Rex, and figured I was on my way.

No such luck.

I was facing so much white space in both the SE and SW for the longest time. I could not, for the life of me, parse out 61A and was married to USSR at 31D in the Midlands which held me up there also.

It took me about an hour to grind this out after such a good start.

I broke my arm patting myself on the back.

Patrick 11:06 AM  

I had COLINA for hill until quite late in the game, then CUESTA came up on crosses. Definitely an iffy clue: 'cuesta' means a slope. You could translate "They went up the hill" as "Subieron la cuesta" but it's a stretch.

Also had FIAT instead of SAAB for a while.

PuzzleGirl 11:07 AM  

When I saw Kevin Der's name I frowned (no offense, Kevin -- your other puzzles were just Too Hard for me!). It took me waaaaay too long to figure out this was a rebus.

Me: "Well it must be some kind of WEED, but it needs more letters!"

Me (five minutes later): "Oviously, it has something to do with a PASTURE -- could it just be A PASTURE?"

Me (another five minutes later): "HANG TEN fits but doesn't work with crosses. Too bad there aren't enough letters for COWABUNGA."

Me (another five minutes later): AAAARRRGGGHHHH!!

Loved it once I got it though. Thanks, Kevin. :-)

Belvoir 11:11 AM  

I had COLINA for hill. CUESTA is correct too, but closer in English to "Crest", from what I gather.

ACE can never come back. Thick today, still don't get it.

I knew they were talking of steer for "bucks", but is "getting" the same as "riding"?

jae 11:12 AM  

Very tough Thursday. I needed help from my bride with the CUESTA/DUROS crossing and she initially wanted COLINA. I also needed to spell check COWABUNGA (was the Howdy Doody spelling COWABONGA?). COWHIDE gave me the rebus and after that I worked through this at a pretty steady pace except for Michigan's UP where AROIL slowed me down. Excellent puzzle and a very clever rebus theme!

@pete m -- I also tried SOS/STLO

jae 11:18 AM  

@belvoir -- Think tennis serve for ACE -- It can't be returned.

Anonymous 11:24 AM  

Got the rebus from COWardly lion but still struggled with this. Killer Thursday and needed to check Rex's blog to finish...ugh

Frances 11:27 AM  

Finally managed to fill every square but, it turns out, not all of them correctly. I thought a Spanish hill could legitimately be CRESTA, which left the Mexican dollars with an extremely odd nickname, but why not?! In the far NW, I crested Mount HERMON, which christened the vice president LEHI; not as 19th century as LEVI, but for some reason Mount VERNON never crossed my mind. As for the resulting three-letter bird, I'm willing to put up with almost any combination these days!

Ashish 11:35 AM  

Very very cool rebus - great puzzle Kevin!

The puzzle unfolded exactly the way a rebus should - blank stares, darn-its, the glimpse of a rebus, the central theme, then aha!

I agree some of the clues could have been easier to get better toeholds.

Excellent puzzle nonetheless!


Jim in NYC 11:37 AM  

No one's mentioned 40D, ETA KAPPA NU, the electrical engineering honor society. I wondered how this obscure clue for "eta" could have gotten into the puzzle, where Rex would surely deride it as "Insert Random Greek Letter Here." But Kevin Der (of "brass rat" fame) gets this kind of leeway.

Agree with y'all on the unfortunate cross between DUROS and CUESTA. I ended up with DOROS, which would have seemed plausible for a gold coin, not a silver one as actually clued.

PuzzleGirl 11:38 AM  

@patrick: I had SAAB first, then changed it to FIAT, and then back to SAAB.

@belvoir: I think the clue is referring to the act of bucking, not the animal. The animal is going to "buck" the rider, so the rider will receive some "bucks."

Forgot to say that I didn't finish the puzzle completely correctly and I feel like I'm not being honest when I don't declare that publicly (because I know how much you all care about my personal crossword solving experience -- it's all about me, right?). I had TNT for TNN.

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

I hated this one at first, but grew to love it after about 40 minutes - I always love the ones I can finally finish and then Rex refers to them as challenging.

SethG 11:55 AM  

Every surfer I know (note: I do not know any surfers) says "RADICAL", so this must be RAWHIDE. I know this is a rebus, to parse? And Morton...know I've seen this before. That's right, CHAD (he's, uh, a football player). Which must make this DEM...

But the worst was the cry before big bucks? NO WHAMMIES, of course. Very hard to recover from.

This is the third day in a row I got killed. In the end it took me I think several minutes to fill in my last two letters, when I already had WHExxOUT. All I could think was that they bring them out on that cart and maybe hold them up for you to see...

So okay, you got me, any ego I used to have is gone. Forget my quest for a 10-minute Friday--if I just finish tomorrow, I promise you I'll be happy.

Noam D. Elkies 12:26 PM  

Yeah, a fun and clever puzzle, albeit quite hard for a Thursday -- and this even though I guessed the rebus almost at the beginning from 1A:LO[COW]EED. Eventually finished with two wrong crosses: dOros for 37A:DUROS, which I should have guessed (no other choice makes both words look Spanish) even though I knew neither of the words, and 28A/13D where I had TNT (hey, it's some TV channel) and SABITES (which looked plausible though I did later remember the correct SABINES). I expected 38A:WHERESTHEBEEF to be DONTHAVEA[COW]MAN and didn't notice that this would conflict with 5A:HADA[COW]; finally saw it after correcting "needed" to 23D:NEEDBE.

I don't mind the literal uses of COW; it would have been nice if each instance had one literal and one accidental COW, but that's asking a lot, and the only crossing of two literal cows is 44D/68A DAIRY[COW]SHED (also just two cowless crossings).

Apropos Greek gifts: The first Google hit for 'Greek gift wikipedia' came as a pleasant surprise. It does quote the relevant line from Virgil, in Latin as well as English.


[No profanities today; for one thing Rex provided more than enough already...]

GlennCY 1:09 PM  

Tough but fun for a thursday. I didn't know Cuesto either, and when I lived in Spain, a duro was a 5 peseta coin, in fact they typically counted in duros (i.e. viente duros for a 100 peseta note). I guess it's used for a silver dollar in SA somewhere.

Chip Ahoy 1:21 PM  

Moo. As a cow, I got this right off with 1D and 17A, no brag, just fact. *exhales on hoof and buffs on shirt* Moo. And keep your hands off my utter. Moo. Although I admit to not understanding why aces can never come back, but then as a cow I don't play cards nor fly a plane. Tennis? Look, the ball picker upper goes and gets the ball brings it back to you and you hit it again. That's what he's paid for. Simple. Sort of like bowling except not automated. Moo to the puz.

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

Struggled to get traction in this one. Finally got the theme from cowrites and the gates opened. Thought that the DUROS/CUESTA cross was over the top. Very nice puzzle though. Hoping this will be like a couple of weeks ago, when I thought the puzzles actually got easier from Thursday to Saturday (doubtful though).

imsdave - not feeling inept anymore, getting tired of PW failures, reset 3 times over the past few weeks, and typed correctly. Am I missing something? - Just reset it again and rejected.

Anonymous 1:39 PM  

Out here on the left coast several Spanish hills come to mind: loma, colina, sierra, monte, even cresta (which was close enough for a while). Dolar is the only Spanish buck I know about. Agree with Rex, no ^%$@ fair, especially when not the most common translations.

Got much of the northwest corner but didn’t figure out how to squeeze in locoweed until I got down to 68A, which had to be the Battle of Cowshed, and the lightbulb flashed, about 1/2 hour late. Extra tough I thought. JJ

Jane Doh 1:40 PM  

Most enjoyable, if challenging, solve. Payback time for all the "so easy" comments recently?

Lovely construction, with a central theme phrase, eight cows split 50/50 above and below the center line, and at least one cow having migrated into each of the seven subsections of the grid.

johnson 1:42 PM  

I finished in thirty minutes flat...26 minutes to figure out that there was a rebus!!!!!!!

When I finished, I wasn't sure of my guesses DUROS/CUESTA and the never-before-heard-of (by me) BEY.

I get some kind of sick pleasure if I've finished correctly and Rex labels the puzzle challenging. I'm sure I'm not alone in this????

Note to self: beware the Der.

joe 1:45 PM  

I'm with you, joaneee.

John Reid 1:48 PM  

Great puzzle. Took me almost 25 minutes to finally 'steer' my way through it... ok, I apologize, that was a bad one.

Unfortunately I did come away with an incorrect letter here. My slipup was apparently a common one amongst us - namely the CUESTO/DUROS cross. [Thank you Rex for your rant about this! I felt very vindicated reading it.] Like many of you puzzlers, I chose an O at the crossing here - and this with 3 years of high school spanish, and another semester of it at community college only about a year ago! When the applet said 'No good' and I went back looking for my mistake, I decided to try and change that O to a U and bingo, I was golden. Originally I had shied away from CUESTO because to me it was a form of verb, not a hill! Oh well.

I also had big trouble with 56A ('Wall St. hire'). Anyone else stumble there? I had --A for a really long time and couldn't come up with anything. I went through the alphabet several times for 57D ('Crook') and finally decided it had to be either Wend or Bend. When I put the B in, the MBA answer just jumped right out at me! MBA for goodness sake, how many times have I put that into a crossword before? What recess of my mind was it hiding in last night? Mere, however... never heard of it meaning a lake. Another tough clue.

Overall this puzzle crushed me. I agree with the sentiment that this was surprisingly tough going for a Thursday, but man, it sure was a lot of fun!

ps Manny Nosowsky's April Fools puzzle on Tuesday was also great and very enjoyable... Patrick Merrell's puzzle yesterday, not so much. How did that "Use this puzzle as a greeting card" 'theme' ever fly?

dk 1:57 PM  

Thinkin a goin out and punchin some cattle or tipping a few cows.

Got LOCOWEED and the cross COWARDLYLION right away for reasons I shall keep to myself.

Recently reread Orwell so COWSHED was a gimmie.

Then came the fog which clear slightly with OREIDA (thank you all for the portmanteau rants .. err comments).

All was not utterly lost and I managed to bring in the rest of the herd losing only COWPEA.

Great range of clues, great puzzle...

Now about that LOCOWEED....

Anonymous 1:58 PM  


I can't get that file you guaranteed would make me happy.

Am I doing something wrong? Did others manage to get it?

miriam b 1:59 PM  

Yes, challenging, but satisfying.

dk 2:01 PM  

cleared slightly.. to much loco....

rafaelthatmf 2:12 PM  

"That's how cows roll"
(I almost passed milk through my nose when I read that.) Maybe I text too much these days???
Orange is cool.

Jim in NYC 2:13 PM  

Anonymous 1:58 -- He was referring to the Onion puzzle of April 2, which is available via Ephraim's Pointers in Rex's sidebar.

PhillySolver 2:24 PM  

ims dave

I just looked at this and maybe have a clue. When you highlight Google/Blogger to select your identity, it appears to take you to a screen asking for details including a password...don't use that screen. In the upper right there is a phrase "Sign In here" Click on that and it should take you to a screen that accepts your email address and the password you set originally.

Good Luck.

PuzzleGirl 3:05 PM  

@pete m: Thanks for the tip on the Onion puzzle. Gave me goosebumps (and made me smile, so no need to send me 10 bucks).

imsdave 3:09 PM  

testing google blogger hint from Philly

Nebraska Doug 4:11 PM  

Ouch! This puzzle kicked my ass. Like it hasn't been kicked on a Thursday in a long time. I've never been a fan of rebus puzzles, and this one doesn't help. Again, ouch!

imsdave 4:20 PM  

Thanks Philly, think I got it

Doc John 5:09 PM  

A very challenging Thursday puzzle made even worse by my flu-clouded head. I was just happy to finish in what I thought was error-free until I got here and found out it was DAH, not "dat". Hey, "cowsted" sounds kinda right to me! At this point, I'm just happy to have guessed right on both SRI and the (second) E in MERE!

As for the crossing Spanish clues (even though I did guess the U correctly), I'll echo a line from South Park: "Shenanigans! Shenanigans!" Just how fluent in foreign languages does one have to be to do a crossword puzzle these days? If this keeps up we'll soon need to know the Mandarin word for that thing that hangs down in the back of one's throat.

Finally, a quick "Don't have a cow" story. I grew up in Miami and went to college in San Diego. During my first year there was a heavyset girl who lived on my floor. She and I happened to be discussing something amongst a group of people when I said, "Don't have a cow." You could have heard a pin drop! None of those west coast natives had heard that expression and did not believe me when I told them it was a common expression back "where I came from". It took me a while to live that one down. Of course, these were also the same people who, when told I was from Miami, said "Anita Bryant"! (Miami had a severe image problem back then.)

Brian D 5:18 PM  

Bey was an awesome answer for me, since I've always wished that would be the response to "Turkish title" and it is always that confounded aga. I just remember it from the trailer to "Lawrence of Arabia": "And José Ferrer as the Turkish Bey."

Wanted colina for cuesta but I'm ok with the latter.

Elle was a complete guess, but I understand Rex's joy with finding a correctly inserted stab at an answer to be correct.

Very difficult puzzle in the end, but enjoyable now that I'm thinking back on it.

Joon 5:55 PM  

@doc john:

Just how fluent in foreign languages does one have to be to do a crossword puzzle these days? If this keeps up we'll soon need to know the Mandarin word for that thing that hangs down in the back of one's throat.

i agree. here's the guideline i go by, which is patrick berry's rule for submissions to the chronicle of higher education. among the "types of entries to avoid," he lists:

* Foreign words that the average English speaker has no reason to know.

Acceptable foreign entries include common pronouns, low numbers, greetings and farewells, words commonly seen on restaurant menus, and words used in famous quotes and titles.

just because he doesn't explicitly mention them, i'll add that "yes" and "no," articles, common prepositions, and cardinal directions seem to be generally considered fair game, at least for french/spanish/german. for more exotic tongues, the whitelist is obviously shorter. not sure you could ask about a russian word other than NYET or DA, and specialized words like MIR, SOVIET, GLASNOST, and PERESTROIKA.

Ulrich 6:18 PM  

@joon: But then "cuesta" really does not comply with your guidelines. I had the first 4 letters through crosses, but couldn't get the last two b/c the crosses there were tricky. I actually used a dictionary to find the t and a and then resolved those crosses, rather than the other way around.

Joon 6:32 PM  

i know it doesn't comply. that's a big reason why everybody is complaining about it! if there were two spanish words crossing, but they were words like CINCO and SENOR, i wouldn't bat an eyelash. CUESTA got my goat; i probably would have been at least mildly grumpy about it even if it hadn't been crossed by more obscure spanish. which is a shame, because the rest of the puzzle was so much fun.

Daisy 6:47 PM  

Puzzlegirl @ 11:07

I had an almost identical solving experience! It always takes me so long to "see" the rebus, even after I have considered and discarded the correct answers as incorrect.

On this puzzle it happened for me almost exactly the same as it did for you.

I kept thinking 1D had to be "some kind of weed, but loco wont fit! and which film character with a tail could start with wardlyl---." Ugh! That's just embarrasing!

Same here for cowabunga and cowpasture.

I also convinced myself that winner could be the correct answer for a tied first place and the writers could pen together, even though I thought both were a stretch. That really messed me up, too.

But, I finally had the rebus Aha! moment and had fun with it from there on. (Although, sadly, I did have to google to finish.) I never did get the right cross at Spanish hill, and thought it must be cresta.

I wish we had these rebus puzzles more often so that I could get better sussing them out!

I'm off to try the Onion puzzle!

Doc John 7:04 PM  

And speaking of CUESTA, if you are going to have 2 Spanish words intersect, how about cluing at least one of them less obliquely? (Not much one can do with DUROS, I guess, but surely there are other, more obvious and more fun, definitions for cuesta. How about "Cuanto _______?" as a start?) One can only imagine that the constructor was doing his darnedest to trip up the solver. The SRI/SABINES crossing was another example of that. Even though I guessed that right, too, I have no idea what SRI stands for (other than Stanford Research Institute).

archaeoprof 7:16 PM  

If the Southern Ivy League plays basketball, then shouldn't it now include Davidson too??

PuzzleGirl 7:33 PM  

@doc john: Here's some information on "sri." I learned it from crosswords.

jannieb 7:41 PM  

@artlvr - the minute I had my rebus moment (for me it was cowabunga/cowhide) I thought back to your query from yesterday. If I were you, I'd be buying lottery tickets hand over fist.

This was such a fun puzzle that I can even forgive the Spanish crossing (which I did guess correctly). I love to finish a "challenging" puzzle without a google. Made my day.

jae 7:51 PM  

@imsdave -- re: PW -- I checked the box where it said remember all this stuff and I haven't had to login since. Good luck!

ds 7:56 PM  


For those of us who do not know Spanish well, another possible cross could have been DIROS and CIESTAS -- I know they're not the correct words, but they certainly could be.

Similarly, I had a W in the portmanteau, since I didn't know OREIDA (why not OREIWA for Oregon and Iowa) and WADE (well, it could be WADE CITY, right?).

ArtLvr 7:59 PM  

@ hi, jannieb -- Wish it worked on lottery tickets, but no such luck! Thanks again for the how-to instruction for getting more than one letter into a square... It worked fine, and I had to LAUGH.


Rex Parker 8:05 PM  

@ds, thank you for OREIWA, which made me literally LOL, mainly because of the (non-) proximity of Oregon and Iowa. "We took the great taste of Oregon and mixed it with ... Iowa! Unexpected!"


andrea carla michaels 8:11 PM  

i logged in today to see what SAAB stood for and was for FIAT I was always told that was indeed an acronym for "Fix It Again, Tony"
I got WHERESTHEBEEF with no letters at all as my first answer and only later tied it in with the COW theme which I didn't get till COWABUNGA
(What, Rex, no pic of Bart?!)
Even tho they weren't symmetrical (common, 17 themed entries?!!!
HOLY COW! BRAVO Kevin!) I liked that they were like scattered around as if in a pasture!
For beloved character with a tail, I couldn't get Eyore out of my mind till way late...

Ginkgo100 8:14 PM  

So "rebus" is what it's called when there are several letters in a square? In general I especially love these puzzles because they are different and keep you on your toes.

Ulrich 8:16 PM  

@joon, doc john et al.: Where can you find a blog where you can discuss at length the crossing of two relatively advanced Spanish words? That's why I love this one... And I speak of experience: I have tried to contribute to blogs about politics (even religion, God forbid!) and given up. It seems when it comes to issues even more important than crossword puzzles:-), all the nutcases out there chime in, which is no longer funny b/c they will vote.

andrea carla michaels 8:19 PM  

PS Forgot to mention I LOVED "WHYYES"
("As a matter of fact, I do") cool as an entry, something very s(moo)th about the clue.

PuzzleGirl 8:53 PM  

Re: OREIWA. Also, "IOWA is just too damn long! Let's randomly take out one of the letters -- how about the O?"

kate 8:59 PM  

Got COWARDLYLION right off, and knew I was onto something because there were other cowage type things -- pasture, etc.

But MADCOWDISEASE was simply not going to fit in 1D, so I was doubting myself, not to mention, DONTHAVEACOWMAN didn't work with any crosses as the catchphrase.

Struggled and struggled back and forth with whether or not I was imagining the COW rebus or not, until I finally stumbled onto WHERES THE BEEF, got some real traction, and eventually even let go of MADCOW and figured out LOCOWEED.


mac 9:11 PM  

Wonderful puzzle, enjoyed every minute of it, and there were many! I found out about the rebus part with cowardly lion. Unfortunately I had never heard of locoweed, and cowabunga meant nothing to me, thought a big wave might inspire "Cow aboard!" or "Cow abroad!". Alas. The accident letters inspired me to fill in DOA, alas again. Once I figured out the rebus cow part, I looked for a cow in the 38A space..... Hope tomorrow and Saturday are as much fun. Let's just keep Mr. Der away from the tournament and puzzle nr. 5.

ds 9:48 PM  

well, sure .. but a true portmanteau is a blend of two words, not just the first three letters from each of them. An example, from Lewis Carrol who coined the term portmanteau: "‘slithy’ means ‘lithe and slimy’." Admittedly, nowadays it almost always involves some of the first letters of one word and the ending of the other. For example, contrail (condensation and trail), motel (motor and hotel), or transistor (transconductance and resistor). But not always, e.g., podcast (ipod and broadcast).

ds 9:52 PM  

Glad you enjoyed OREIWA. Having spent four years in Grinnell, IA (many moons ago), and knowing something about Oregon, I have found that the politics and cultural ethos of these two states are suprisingly similar.

Teresa 9:56 PM  

@Philly Thanks for the sign in tip - solved a puzzle.

Michael 10:17 PM  

This is a wonderful puzzle. It took me a long time to get the theme and even after that I took a while to finish. But I ended up getting the whole thing right. Really hard for a Thursday -- this one wouldn't have been out of place on a Friday or even a Saturday.

Or would it break the themeless rule for Fridays and Saturdays?

Michael 10:21 PM  

Could someone explain 30D?

It can never come back -- ace

My apologies if this is in the comments or Rex's blog somewhere.

Kevin Der 10:21 PM  

David Kahn had an amazing Friday themed puzzle on Friday, Feb 2, 2007.

SteveB 10:21 PM  

The Onion puzzle is very cute, although it's been done before (Boston Globe 9/23/07 and NYT 1/7/98). I wonder if 25A did 53D to 16A. What I really liked, though, was the subtly thematic clue at 49A.

jannieb 10:33 PM  

@Michael - think of a serve in tennis - an "ace"is one that can't be returned.

mac 10:44 PM  

Kevin Der, you did a beautiful job. This is a very critical bunch, and the general opinion on your work was very positive! But, as I wrote before, stay away from that 5th puzzle at the tournament, please.

PuzzleGirl 10:52 PM  

@ds: Gotcha on the portmanteau thing. I probably should have added a smiley-face to my post too. Yes, I was teasing you, but did not intend for it to be mean-spirited in any way. It truly struck me as funny!

fergus 11:21 PM  

The rebus squares not being symmetrically placed added to the pleasing difficulty of this puzzle. Usually, it seems, you know where quite a few of those squares are going to be, which mostly makes the rest pretty easy to fill in. Here's a case where a little loss of construction elegance adds to the quality of the puzzle.

The SCOWLS at SCOWS was my Rebus moment. UP A TREE, centrally placed on the vertical, was a nice touch for a Challenging puzzle.

Francis 2:04 AM  

Thanks for all the nice comments about the Onion puzzle, everyone. But Steveb -- saying "it's been done before" is sort of silly when kind of the whole point of the way I approached the theme is that it's been done before.

Rex Parker 6:35 AM  

Yeah, don't rain on Francis's puzzle. It was actually completely original and clever and obviously aware of prior attempts to do what he was doing - that was the joke (right?) (it's really hard to write this comment without giving the puzzle's "theme" away).

Anyway, I was impressed. I'm hoping / assuming the puzzle ... worked?


Anonymous 10:04 AM  

I really wanted MER for "Rouge or noir, e.g.", even though noir was uncapitalized.

Francis 6:25 PM  

The puzzle did indeed work. There's a few more details in the comment thread about the puzzle at my blog (linked from my name above).

CAlady 4:16 PM  

Loved this puzzle-not that I got it straight off. However, once cowabunga opened up the rebus the puzzle flowed, except for the middle! How many different drinks can involve a spoon? Tried to "unite" the pen people, making Moscow the last to fall. Incidently, duros came at once from the d and the s, making cuesta a gimme. Maybe they taught Spanish differently in the 40's?

nanamama 6:16 PM  

Loved this puzzle today. Got the cow reference pretty quick - but that could be because I had grandparents who raised cattle. Couldn't believe you had only heard of locoweed once. I grew up with that word here in Texas!

embien 2:11 AM  

Another late post from Syndicationland.

I got WHERES THE BEEF with no letters, not that it did me much good. Eventually I sussed loCOWeed, and at least then I got the rebus, but the lack of symmetry had me looking for all the COWs in the puzzle (like when I had CO in COCOAS and thought I must be wrong).

I totally bombed in the SE, I had ELLE and AGA (wrong on the latter) and it was down the tubes from there for me. I wouldn't have gotten COWer in a million years.

Wanted to fit CASH COWS in for 44D (It may be milked for all it's worth), but couldn't make it work, (and the problem with singular vs plural) and was looking for COW PIE somewhere, but I guess that was my grid given my bad answers.

41A I thought baseballs were made from horsehide, but evidently cowhide came in in the 1980s, and I was wrong. (I only played back in the 60's so I can be excused.)

Bob 3:57 AM  

Lived in Panama for three years and Puerto Rico for one and never heard the word "cuesta" used for hill (to my knowledge: although I became conversant in Spanish, no one, including myself, would ever confuse me with a native speaker). I also carry a Mexican silver dollar as a good luck charm, and "duro" does not appear on either side. I agree, therefore, that this cross verges on the very unfair, along with other clues which left me feeling as if I were attempting to scale a steeply pitched sheet of ice without a piton.

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