WEDNESDAY, Apr. 2, 2008 - Patrick Merrell (NERVE APPENDAGE)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Turn the completed grid into a greeting card!" - see below

I don't understand this puzzle. I mean, I completed it, the grid is correct, but I don't get it. I can circle letters to spell out ... anyone's name? Can't I do that in most puzzles? I mean, OK, this puzzle is a pangram (has every letter in the alphabet in it), but I've seen pangrams before, many times. Big deal. That's your theme? If I got this "greeting card" for my birthday, I would be gravely disappointed. "You shouldn't have ... seriously."

The only trouble I had in this puzzle was in the far SW, where I had never heard of CRAY (61A: Big name in supercomputers), and thought the cluing on DOCK (50D: Where to tie one on?) was oddly clued - enough to make me worry that DOCK wasn't right. Do not like the "one" in this clue. Sometimes the play on words is too tempting, I guess. Anyway, I guessed correctly. My wife had real trouble in the west, with ARRIVE staying well out of view for a long time because of a couple of initially wrong answers: ILL for ILA (21A: Wharf workers org.) and, most aggravatingly for her, GUY for GUV (40A: Fellow, in British slang). Now, when I got GUV, I laughed out loud, mainly because GUV'nah is a Britishism that Bart Simpson occasionally uses when he affects his 19th-century Cockney bootblack persona. I'm pretty sure John Oliver has used it in some kind of British parody on "The Daily Show." Wife, however, was unamused, as GUV implies to her not a "fellow," but specifically a social superior. I can't speak to the nuances of meaning in this word, as I am still laughing. "Shine your shoes, GUV'nuh!?"

Theme answers (such as they are):

  • 16A: Step 1: Highlight this answer (Happy Birthday to)
  • 27A: Step 2: With 43- and 55-Across, do this in the grid (scrambled or not) ... it works for almost anyone [unless your name is ZYZZYVA] (Circle letters to)
  • 43A: See 27-Across (spell out the name)
  • 55A: See 27-Across (of your recipient)
Wife also had trouble in the NW, where a bevy of semi-common crossword words had her flummoxed. By now, you all should know AJA like the back of your hands. See "Steely Dan" in the clue, think AJA first. To my knowledge, Steely Dan never recorded a RAGA, but Ravi Shankar did - you often see RAVI in puzzles, FYI. Lastly, as far as trouble for wife goes, there is ARPS - ARP being the Dadaist most frequently found in the puzzle (though usually not in the plural). I am an ARP fan, and think he has one of the best names in all of art. It sounds like ART, but also sounds like a dog bark, or a sound a space alien would make.

Assorted flavors:

  • 5A: 12-time Pro Bowl pick Junior _____ (Seau) - I'll have all you non-sports fans know that as soon as I wrote this in (a gimme for me) I felt a pang of sympathy for you all. He is very famous if you follow football, not so much if you don't. That's what happens when you are a defensive player without a major shoe deal or related ad campaign.
  • 15A: Europe/Asia boundary river (Ural) - Europe and Asia have always seems like the most ill-defined continents. Using the URAL as a boundary puts far western Kazakhstan in Europe and the rest of it in Asia.
  • 36A: Diamond of note (Neil) - Oh I love him the way people love comfort food. Everything about his music makes me happy, like a little kid with no worries, even the depressing "Solitary Man." I cut my teeth on the 70s stuff: "Sweet Caroline," "Cracklin' Rose," "Kentucky Woman," etc. I don't care that his hair is insane and his clothes sometimes look like Elvis cast-offs and his lyrics are often sappy and loopy - "I am, I said / To no one there / And no one heard at all not / Even the chair." Genius. (OMG, here you can watch him getting it on with Shirley Bassey - hot / funny)
  • 53A: The heart in "I Love New York" signs, e.g. (rebus) - weird that you have to clue this using the word "Love," which is simply not a part of that sign. There should be a heart symbol in this clue.
  • 64A: Prime coffee-growing in Hawaii (Kona) - I miss Hawaii. That's the only place I want to be right now. Yesterday was a beautiful, crazy-warm day. Today - snow on the ground. :(
  • 66A: North Sea feeder (Elbe) - this is usually YSER. Nobody ever expects ... ELBE!
  • 3D: Feature of Alfred E. Neuman's smile (gap) - Alfred E. Neuman, like Neil Diamond, was a major part of my 70s childhood.
  • 5D: Feature of many an office chair (swivel) - this will sound weird, but I wasn't aware that a SWIVEL was a thing. I thought it was just a verb. Is there a part of the chair that's the SWIVEL, or the motion itself the thing?
  • 9D: Eighth note (quaver) - no idea about this one. Wikipedia says this is "British or 'classical' terminology," where "eighth note" is "American of 'German' terminology" - You'd think you musical types could just get together and decide on a proper name for the thing, for god's sake.
  • 17D: End-of-ramp directive (yield) - I like this clue. It's ... precise.
  • 31D: Louise's cinematic partner (Thelma) - For reasons I cannot fathom, the first thing "Louise" made me think of was Estelle Parsons in "Bonnie and Clyde" (she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Blanche Barrow). How did I get from Louise to Estelle? Louise ... Estelle ... maybe the old-fashionedness of the names. No idea.
  • 37D: Nerve appendage (axon) - had the "X," otherwise would have been lost. Had no idea "appendage" was a word one could use in relation to a nerve.
  • 41D: Root who won the 1912 Nobel Peace Prize (Elihu) - one of those names that made me freak out the first time I saw it - it seemed obscure / ridiculous - and now is a total gimme. Other ELIHUs of note include ELIHU Yale, first benefactor of Yale University, and ... nope, that's all my ELIHUs.
  • 45D: 1977 James Brolin thriller with the tagline "What EVIL drives ..." ("The Car") - by far the best, most entertaining clue of the day. I have never heard of this movie. Seems to be part of the murderous moving vehicle genre, which includes "Duel" and "Christine" and Stephen King's one and only foray into movie-directing, "Maximum Overdrive."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Here's an added bonus for the "... and that AIN'T HAY" haters / lovers. From my vintage paperback collection (actually, this image is stolen from the internets, but I do own this book):

Such a hot cover... everything about it is amazing, from Charon rowing a fat joint across the Acheron in his coffin-ship, to the come-hither look of the sexy smoke spectre. Fabulous.


arb 9:01 AM  

Rex wrote:
# 66A: North Sea feeder (Elbe) - this is usually YSER. Nobody ever expects ... ELBE!

Able was I, ere I saw... ELBE!

Hmm, needs work.

- - -

To me, CRAY is a gimme, though I couldn't tell you any *other* supercomputers, and agree that 50D was oddly clued. Anyone think NECK?

treedweller 9:28 AM  

Not only did I struggle with CRAY, but I also made an early guess that the last theme answer would start with IF, making a decidedly non-breakfast-worthy 50D.

But, as predicted, it was a third Wed. when I beat my time on Tues.

Frances 9:30 AM  

Not having much familiarity with everything "Star Wars", I thought Darth was Mister Vader's first name, not a title...??

I have no legitimate British connections, other than reading a lot of British detective stories, but I agree with your wife about the social connotations of "guv." A constable could address his/her sergeant as "guv," or an inspector his/her superintendent. It wouldn't be used for one of his/her fellow constables or inspectors.

John in NC 9:33 AM  

before I filled in the rest, I thought 55A started with "if" not "of", leading to a very perplexing 50D until I realized the error.

W gave me most trouble. Had HOPE for 36A: Diamond of note, and while I knew it was wrong, the downs were just not forthcoming...

Am I the only one who's never heard the phrase, "... and that AINT HAY!"?

Anonymous 9:36 AM  

"CRAY" is one of those age things, no doubt -- a gimme for anyone old enough to remember when the really powerful analysis had to be done by fantastically expensive machines that only a few organizations could buy.

So THAT's what a "REBUS" is. I never knew.

"HAY" and "KEY UP" hung me up for a while. Couldn't think of the expression "and that ain't hay."

Definitely had to get "SEAU" from the crosses.

Otherwise, a nice balance between easy and enjoyable.

PhillySolver 9:41 AM  

Feeling older today...

CRAY may come back, so I would like to tell you some crossword worthy info about Mr. Cray and his company. He is a computer genius of legendary status (like our Harvard prof). He built one of the first computers in 1960 and still makes specialty machines. CRAY supercomputer have never found a large niche and the minisupers are eroding their appeal (remember supermini cars as an entry in the NYT?). Apple Computers bought one of the his machines to help design the Imac. When told about it Mr. Cray said something like, that's funny, I am using an Apple PC to design my next supercomputer.

No real problems and I gave my self a card last night after I found out you can circle letters in Accross Lite by hitting the * (asterisk) key.

Norm 9:45 AM  

May I please nominate this one for the lamest puzzle of the year award? I mean, really ...

Ulrich 9:47 AM  

For the reasons Rex stated, there is something unconvincing about the theme. To me, it's basically a verse puzzle where the lines do not rhyme. Instead, they add up to an instruction that is goofy at best. Since I'm not particulalrly fond of verse puzzles (for reasons unknown to me), I didn't warm to this one either--solved it w/o major problems, though.

The Elbe formed part of the boundary between the former East and West Germanies. Rumor has it that when der Alte crossed it on a train headed for West Berlin, he told his aide to draw the curtains b/c he didn't want to see the "Asian steppe."

Mary 9:49 AM  

Never heard of "That ain't HAY" but I might start saying it. Let's see, I also had HOPE diamond and I was thrilled to remember LANDO Calrissian of Star Wars, too bad it was the wrong guy. It all came out OK, but then I stayed up late looking at the theme and trying to turn the puzzle into a greeting card. First I tried it on BILL, circling the first B,I,L and then L again. I was perplexed. Is that it? Maybe I am supposed to circle all the B's, all the I's, all the L's and then some cool image will appear. Finally, I just went to bed somewhat consoled knowing that Rex would explain it all to me in the morning. And he did. Thanks.
There was nothing really wrong with the theme, I think that the words of the clue, "it works for almost anyone" suggested something a little more exciting...will it work for me?
Otherwise, it was fine. I enjoyed the puzzle. I may even save it and use it for a birthday card. And that ain't hay!

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

Re British note-naming terminology. After the quarter note/quaver, they divide the note in half to get the next smallest note. So the 16th is the semiquaver, the 32nd note is the hemi demi quaver, and the 64th is the hemi demi semi quaver. Worth noting as three prefixes that can, more or less, mean half.

I don't guarantee that I have the prefixes in the right order.

Orange 9:56 AM  

"I'll take Famous Elihus for $600, Alex."

"Ooh, I'm sorry, Janet. We've run out of Elihu clues after the $200 and $400 ones."

Frances: There's also a Darth Maul, and a Darth Sidious. That George Lucas is pretty junior-high-clever when it comes to naming his characters. "Maul...that sounds like 'maul'! That's a scary word! And Sidious is 'insidious' without the 'in,' just like Vader is 'invader' without the first letters. I am a genius!"

PhillySolver 10:00 AM  

@ anon 9:52

Thanks...I never heard of it, but here is the dictionary entry...

hemi-demi-semiquaver - Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 :

n. [Hemi- +
demi-semiquaver.] (Mus.)
A short note, equal to one fourth of a semiquaver, or the
sixty-fourth part of a whole note.
[1913 Webster]

PhillySolver 10:01 AM  

...and thanks to DARTH ORANGE for the insight

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

I had rama instead of raga. They use that word a lot in Indian music if not ragas. I was convinced that one of Alfred E. Neuman's teeth therefore had a map on it. Oh well missed it by one.


Bill D 10:08 AM  

Hello all - I'm back from my Dubai/Egypt sojourn where I saw sights at, among others, the gridworthy Giza and Edfu. Did Sunday's puzzle in the Sat/Sun "New York Herald", a foreign edition put out by the NY Times. I was disappointed that the weekend issue omitted Saturday's puzzle, which I much prefer to Sunday's. I find the Saturday puzzles to be the real fun and challenge, while the Sunday ones strike me as routine and merely time-consuming.

Have done all three puzzles this week, and I can't remember an easier 3-day start. Like all of you, I must have set a personal best on Monday. But I'm still a little jet-lead (opposite of jet-lagged - popping up at 4 AM and then dropping from sight at noon!) so I haven't posted until now. Belated Happy Birthday to philly, and thanks for reminding me that yesterday was my brother's birthday as well. I won't send either of you today's "birthday card".

Pretty much breezed through this one with a slight slowdown at AXON (didn't want to commit to EXEC too early) and KEYUP. I agree with Arb that Supercomputer = CRAY. Knew QUAVER from summer music school vocal class from my childhood - other notes were semi-quavers, demi-quavers, even the near-ridiculous semi-demi-hemi-quaver! Why they taught us that stuff I'll never know - we had a hard enough time finding the key. While I needed plenty of crosses to get it, "That Ain't Hay" is an old favorite of mine. I suspect it is a very old phrase for a wad of money. I latched onto it at a young age, when the play money I used to win at the skeeball parlor had printed on it (roughly where "In God We Trust" would be on a real bill) "That Ain't Hay" over a picture of a laden haywagon. Those were the days!

Rikki 10:17 AM  

Though the theme was a bit of a letdown, I liked the puzzle. Always great to see Steely Dan, but Neil Diamond was a treat and had me singing Crackling Rosie. I did think hope at first, so Neil was a nice surprise. A neuron has a nucleus, then an axon coming off it with dendrites at the end, O----X, so appendage seemed okay to me, kind of like an arm being an appendage of the torso. And I think guv is used mainly as a slang sign of respect, so a cabbie might call a male passenger guv or a policeman might call his captain guv.

It Ain't Hay was an Abbot and Costello movie based on a Damon Runyon story. They give a lady's horse some candy and it dies and they replace it with a racehorse lookalike. The term also refers to money. As is, it's worth ten thousand dollars, and that ain't hay.

Now I'm going to download some Neil Diamond for my iPod.

PuzzleGirl 10:24 AM  

I first had NECK for DOCK and then decided the "E" needed to be an "I," so, yeah ... tie WHAT on exactly??

I'm going to start saying "That Ain't Hay" as much as possible. I don't know what it means, but I assume that eventually I'll use it in the proper context.

Joon 10:28 AM  

like others, i was underwhelmed by this puzzle's theme. i thought, "oh, is this a double pangram or something?" nope, just one Q and one X. your name doesn't even have to be zyzzyva for it not to work--you could just be named JJ Jones or something.

the Y crossing in HAY/KEYUP defeated me. even after going through the alphabet, i couldn't figure it out. other than that, this wasn't a tough puzzle, although according to my records it's my slowest wednesday in quite a while. not really sure what went wrong, really--SEAU and CRAY and AXON and whatnot were all pretty much gimmes. it's just that things didn't go smoothly overall.

lot of crosswordese in this one: RAGA, AJA, EIRE, ESE, RIA, EEL, CREE, TSE... even ELIHU, i guess. didn't really notice while i was doing it, but that strikes me as a

i have a feeling REMI would have given people a heck of a lot more trouble if we hadn't had it only a week ago with much the same clue. as it is, nobody has even commented on it.

Jim in NYC but wishing he was in Hawaii 10:31 AM  

I'm with Treedweller on 50Down!
That was a quizzical moment there until the correct theme answer appeared.

humorlesstwit 10:55 AM  

Ok, so besides forcing me to look it up, as I had never heard of it, why Acheron instead of Styx?

Still waiting for the Indy 500 venue FLAW explaination.

BT 10:56 AM  

I'm putting in a random plug for "puzzleprint" . It's a utility that runs on your computer and will automatically print out the NY Times puzzle each morning, assuming you have across lite and a subscription to the puzzle.

It is FREE. I thought some here might like it.

James 10:59 AM  

"Guv" is normally used in terms of a superior: usually to someone who is the owner of a small business by one of his workers.

From a Brit

Bill from NJ 11:00 AM  

@Rex Re: Neil Diamond

I feel the same way about Gino Vanelli (don't laugh)

Didn't have much trouble but found ICINGS to be a little clunky and didn't anyone think 50D had something to do with drinking?

william e emba 11:01 AM  

CRAY was definitely a personalized gimme.

My first summer job after college nearly 30 years ago was for a beyond top secret intelligence group, doing mathematics and programming. The first day tour involves them showing off their CRAY-1 supercomputer, with its mod roundish architecture and what looked like love seats, down in a sealed and controlled access room with some previous generation CDC 6600 supercomputers all around the wall. They bragged how theirs was CRAY-1 #5 or so, and it cost X many millions of dollars, and oooh and aaah this and that.

All I could ask was where the memory was. Hahaha, they go, that's the CPU, the memory, the I/O, the everything, and no, there is no tape drive. Too slow. Ohhhhh, I go, now I get it.

Yes, some of my happiest programming memories are due to Seymour CRAY. At one point, I learned CRAY assembly language overnight, and wow, I made that machine sing. And fly. For those not in the know, 99% of all assembly languages are dull. They get the job done, and that's it. But CAL? You didn't write CAL, you composed CAL. True geek poetry.

Why, the only thing missing from this puzzle is TRON. The animation was done on a CRAY-1, and there was even a cameo appearance of the machine they used.

Matthew 11:05 AM  

Yeah, the theme was a bit underwhelming, but I still think Patrick Merrell's puzzles are a lot of fun. He's really good at balancing cleverness with accessibility. "THE CAR" being a shining example.

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

When I was a kid going with my dad to work, there was a computer that used up a whole floor in one of the university buildings. It had a paper tape drive. Not only could you take the old spools of paper tape and throw them down the stairwell (holding on to the tail end), but the little chads that were punched out of the paper tape made wonderful confetti to throw around. They kept the confetti in 55-gallon drums.

That lobby-sized machine ran on vacuum tubes and was considerably less powerful than the average HP calculator of 20 years ago.

john 11:15 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
john 11:17 AM  

For the record, the name Darth Vader is a play on "dark father." His birth name was Anakin Skywalker.

Ulrich 11:19 AM  

@rex: Arp is also one of my favorite modernists. Last year, a museum dedicated to him and designed by the great American architect Richard Meier opened near my home town on the Rhine river. I'll be spending most of June in Cologne--to watch every match of the European Soccer Championship Tournament live--and will definitely take time out between games to visit the place.

Wade 12:12 PM  

I read a review of a book or a movie a year or so ago (can't remember the name of it but I think it was in the Dilberty genre of how wacky it is to work in an office of a big company) in which one of the characters decides to use only quotes from the Godfather movies in his conversations in the office (e.g., "How's the project coming, Ted?" "Just this one time, I'll let you ask me about my affairs. Just this once . . . I'll let you ask me about my affairs.") I think I'll try the same idea but with crossword puzzle clues/answers. "That ain't hay" is a good place to start.

Jim still in NYC 12:39 PM  

OK, I'll ask. Who's the guy with the guitar in front of Red's Java House? Random photos must be Rex's trick for achieving 100 comments a day.

The clue for GUV is definitely wrong.

BT, thanks for the link.

arb 12:46 PM  

12:39 PM Jim still in NYC said...

OK, I'll ask. Who's the guy with the guitar in front of Red's Java House? Random photos must be Rex's trick for achieving 100 comments a day.

Rex always knows what he's doing. That's the very talented blues artist Robert Cray.

Anonymous 12:50 PM  

please explain 38D: answer "neut"; and 50D, yes, I began with "abar".

Anonymous 1:01 PM  

Anonymous 12:50
NEUT: Masculine vs Femine vs Neuter
50D: You tie a boat to a dock

Joon 1:02 PM  

rex: would that smoky "come-hither look" be properly described as BEDROOMEYES?

PhillySolver 1:06 PM  

@ anon
Neut is neuter as opposed to masc. or fem. as the gender is an important article in most European Languages.

@ arb
Just sitting on the dock of the bay wasting time... ring a bell?

Doris 1:12 PM  

The NY Times used to have a column entitled "Hemidemisemiquavers," a roundup of short items from the classical music scene. As a kid I had no idea what that meant, and by the time I learned they had discontinued the column. Great word, though.

Coop 1:14 PM  

It really is a lame theme, but I guess we can allow Will Shortz to have a bad day now and then.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

I'm with Norm on "lamest puzzle award." After all of that hassle, this is the clue?!?!

I definitely had "neck" for tie one on, but I've always used that phrase to mean "have a few drinks."

Spent some time with a few Brits in my day and never heard the term "Guv." Simpsons reference is funny though.

Very disappointed in myself for not getting one of my favorite 70's singers - Neil Diamond!

ArtLvr 1:24 PM  

Many thanks to Philly for the nugget of knowlege -- "you can circle letters in Accross Lite by hitting the * (asterisk) key"! Wish I could hit the tilde to transpose a couple of letters as well.. My laptop is sometimes slower than my typing and gets things in the wrong square -- or else it's my technique?

Will someone please remind me how to type more than one letter in a square? You could fix up your card to J J Jones that way... Have to admit to 34-D taking a while, as I was thinking Latter Day Saints or something for Saturday worshippers!

Also thanks to BT for the link to the free puzzle print-out! I haven't tried it yet; hope it works on Mac. Love these helpful tips! (Dustin Hoffman: "That's tips.Tips.")

The stories about the first computers rang a bell, and nobody mentioned the ice-cold room with graduate students garbed in winter wraps working away in the wee hours, because the faculty got dibs on the daylight times.

Also, there was the preliminary of the key-punch involved for a time. At one midwest university I won't name, the key-punch people were nearly all noticeably overweight young women. When I asked the svelte head of that department about it, out of their hearing, she smiled and said "that's deliberate on my part -- they are less likely to up and marry right after I've trained them!" Left me speechless...


Anonymous 1:26 PM  

Stupid literal (and overly analytical) moment in a long time. I'm happily solving the puzzle, top left to right, middle left to right, etc. and read CIRCLELETTERSTO. So I stop, and circle every occurence of TO. This works out to TOTO, so now I am sure it's L. Frank Baums birthday. I'm going to assume I was the only one stupid enough to do that.

Forgettable puzzle, didn't like the REBUS clue, but a tad easier then yesterday.

Sorry I missed your birthday Philly, belated best wishes.

imsdave, the sometimes inept blogger

PhillySolver 1:29 PM  

I realize I am exceeding my limit now, but a quick review of the NYT database tells me we need to know

Elihu Root - diplomat
Elihu Yale - an Eli
Elihu Vedder - an editor/painter
Elihu Thompson - invented the electric meter
Elihu - Job's friend in the OT
Elihu Washburne - Lincoln's friend and another Secretary of State

I'll take Elihu's for $1,000, Alex. However, I will call a friend in Chicago for the answer.

PuzzleGirl 1:31 PM  

This seems really fundamental, but because a few people have commented on it, I'll go ahead and explain it. The question mark at the end of the clue for 50D (Where to tie one one?) indicates that the answer will have nothing to do with a bar. If there was no question mark, we could assume that the phrase means what it generally means (i.e., drinking), but because the question mark is there, we know that the words are meant to be read literally and the question becomes "what types of things are tied (and where)?"

arb 1:33 PM  

1:06 PM PhillySolver said...
@ arb
Just sitting on the dock of the bay wasting time... ring a bell?

Several, actually. Cray's cool cover and Otis Redding's brilliant original, which, due to his death three days after recording it (and before Steve Cropper had finished production on it) became the first posthumous #1 record in history.

SethG 1:38 PM  

I watched my ship roll in. And watched...and watched...and watched...

I too love NEIL Diamond, though learning this year that Caroline was an 11-year old makes him seem kinda sketchy. And his remake of UB40's remake of his Red Red Wine is one of the worst things I've ever heard.

In any case, couldn't get NEIL for the longest time even after I had xxIL. Problems at QUAVER, never heard of it. Big problems at ELIHU 'cause I was getting him confused with Enoch Root. Bigger problems completely blanking on the word "dimple", which I finally remembered and realized wouldn't work for GAP (and I used to be a subscriber). Biggest problems at HAY/KEYUP/KNELL/CNN.

I had NECK, ...AINT ALL, APPLE, PEP UP, and more...

I nearly always concur with Rex's ratings, but for some reason this relatively easy puzzle took me four times as long as my fastest Wednesday ever and a full eight minutes longer than this Saturday's did.


Dick Swart 1:40 PM  

Thanks to william e emba for the memories of Seymour Cray and his wondrous machine. What other computer (super or not-so-super) was built like a banquette in a hotel lobby that you could prostate your self in front of!

A visit to Chippewa Falls, WI in those days was a combination of technology and the legendary Leinenkugels beer!

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

Easy? Maybe for someone who has done a zillion crosswords. e.g., "quaver" crosses "avast", two decidedely nonstandard words for normal people. In addition, there's rebus, elbe, cree, raga, guv, ila, elihu, eire, aja, ... Too much crosswordese for my taste.

Doc John 2:15 PM  

I'm nursing a tenacious flu/bronchitis today so I just picked my way through the puzzle. I pretty much agree with what has been said so far.

Assembly language programming is fun! I love not only being able to tell a computer how to do things, but also where exactly to stick them when it does!

@ orange- "Vader" is also an allusion to the German "vater", meaning father. But yes, I do agree that a little more creativity could have been used with the other names.

Bill from NJ 2:25 PM  


I feel really stupid not noticing that question mark at 50D.

jae 2:26 PM  

Much easier for me than yesterday's. CRAY was also a gimme for me but I didn't know anything about the creator so thanks for all the background info/stories. My embarrassing moment was misreading 5A as requiring a bowler's name for an answer. SEAU is practically a deity in San Diego so it should have been an instant gimme.

I am also a NEIL Diamond fan and on of my favoirte songs, "Sweet Caroline," is featured in one of my favorite movies Beautiful Girls, which features a young Natalie Portman who, as you probably know, was in the first set of (chronologically) Star Wars movies.

jae 2:29 PM  

Rats! -- that should be "one of my favorite"

jls 2:35 PM  

from musical comedy land:

From Ohio Mister Thorne
Calls me up from night 'til morn,
Mister Thorne once cornered corn and that ain't hay.
But I'm always true to you, darlin',
In my fashion.
Yes, I'm always true to you, darlin',
In my way.

kiss me, kate, cole porter


janie (who also thinks that book cover is quite fabulous!)

Genevieve 2:36 PM  

Though it works for very few in this way, I *am* going to use this puzzle print-out as a birthday card for my one-and-only by pre-highlighting two clues in the blank grid...a bit clever for this percentage of the population who, as he, has the name Neil.

Extremely Late to the Party Doug 2:44 PM  

I'm looking forward to see what Ms. Cureton does with an already self-referential puzzle.

Anonymous 2:58 PM  

How do you pronounce SEAU?
Does it rhyme with Sue?

Doc John 3:00 PM  

@ anonymous 2:58- SEAU is pronounced "say-ow", just what his opponents do when he hits them!

Margaret 3:04 PM  

Love how you think, arb. If the cluing had been for Robert Cray and Sittin' on the Dock, it would've been a much more satisfying puzzle. Since I live in Memphis, about 3 miles from Stax Records (now The Soulsville Museum and Stax Music Academy), the whole Otis Redding thing is literally close to my heart.

Pete M 3:30 PM  

Yser, eh? Heresy!

For some reason, I wanted "And that ain't ham!" Wasn't working for me. :)

- Pete M

andreacarlamichaels 3:42 PM  

i didn't know till a few months ago that Dock of the Bay was written about the dock here in SF and now I learn Otis died 3 days later!
I love this blog...
As a namer, tho, I do think that the fact that Vader evokes BOTH father and Invader is great. Sometimes simplicity is genius.
AND the fact that total non-Star Wars fans know most of the names and can spell LEIA again is a tribute to Lucas's naming ability.
That said, I had NECK for long enough that I wondered what a NARTH was, and actually considered it one of those weird sci-fi deals!
As for the theme, might have to agree... SEAU what?
I love that someone tried to circle all the TOs! and then thought it was L Frank Baum's the constructor lots of credit!
Maybe bec of the Alfred E Neumann clue, but as I was solving, I thought you were going to be able to fold up the puzzle in such a way that it would spell out a secret answer, like they used to do on the back page of MAD.
Anyone else?

chefbea1 3:46 PM  

I too love Neil Diamond. Have all his cds and saw him live in concert twice at madison square garden.
And on another subject.. bought 2 cookies at the bakery yesterday . They were in the shape of Homer and Marge.. blue hair and all.

chefbea1 3:49 PM  

@anonymous 9:52. lol loved the explanation of quaver

dk 4:28 PM  

When I saw the card theme and the MAD clue I thought... great a tribute to Al Jaffee and we would get a fold in.

For interesting coffee:

REBUS is great I can't wait to use it in conversation (the whisper in the background is my lovely wife saying: "poser.")

And, Seymour Cray is a homie, it is amazing what came out of Control Data.

miriam b 4:30 PM  

Never heard of SEAU, but it was obvious that there could be no other answer.

Emily, bravissima. Your cartoon gave me the willies. Yum, indeed.

Orange 4:35 PM  

Andrea, did you see the NYT article about Al Jaffee the other day? They even had an interactive visual feature wherein you could fold some of his classic illustrations from the back of Mad magazine. I sent the link to Pat Merrell (who draws cartoons and has done design work for Mad) and said I bet he'd tried his hand at the foldout thingy, and he said he hasn't. So it's funny/apt you thought this puzzle would work that way!

mac 4:36 PM  

Good for you Ulrich, Germany during the E.C! I will be in Italy the middle weeks of June, so we will see some of it.
I had my problems mainly in the NE, but eventually it all fell into place. Since I couldn't fit Bar into 50D I did think of a nautical location. Also think Icings is not very good. I didn't get as far as Baum, but I did, for a little while, expect initials after Happy Birthday and was racking my brain who's birthday it could be other than the friend I just had lunch with.
We were being punished for that fast Monday, I think.....

mac 4:38 PM  

that is "whose birthday". I should preview!

Bill D 4:56 PM  

@humorlesstwit - I think the problem with the Indy 500 = SPEEDWAY clue was that all of the theme answers had 8 letters, and the only one not split 4 and 4 (to combine with AIR) was SPEED WAY.

Would one address the Upper Class Twit of the Year (humorless or not) as "guv"?

Joel 4:56 PM  

I got large chunks of the bottom third of the puzzle fairly quickly, but couldn't get 55A without knowing what the others above it were. Thus, I was left for the longest time with D_CK for "Where to tie one on?". That blank square was followed by the F in AFRO, so there were two vowels that seemed perfectly plausible to me. Given the permutations with D_CK, I was a bit flustered by the whole thing, especially since neither answer made much sense at the time.

Bill D 5:00 PM  

One more comment - could ARPS have been more elegantly clued as "Music synthesizers"?

jannieb 5:06 PM  

@artlvr - to enter multiple letters in a square on a PC use the insert key; on a MAC it's the escape key. Use the return/enter key after you've finished.

Anonymous 5:13 PM  

With apologies to all the Neil fans that appear to inhabit these pages - I'm surprised this puzzle didn't burst into flames with references to both Neil Diamond and Steely Dan - the matter/anti-matter combo of popular music.

Couldn't get "knell" and thought the only thing that could go with "_nell" was an "s". My wife assured me that the down could NOT be "sexup"!

Anonymous 5:26 PM  

To note, briefly:

Whole note = semi-breve
Half note = minum
Quarter note = crotchet
Eighth note = quaver
Etc... as noted above.

A double whole note looks like a whole note with a verticle line on either side and is called a breve.

I do not know.

Howard B 5:48 PM  

I dunno, the puzzle's theme is sort of a silly "wink, wink" meta-joke to solvers about puzzle themes, kind of reminding me of Steve Martin randomly twisting a balloon and triumphantly crying, "puppy dog!". Can see where it's not everyone's cup of tea.

It made sense when I thought about it, really. I swear.

Other than that, my only complaint was at myself for making a metric ton of typos in this one. One typo in the applet is fixable. Four, on the other hand, is like going on a scavenger hunt blindfolded.

HumorlessTwit 5:54 PM  

Bill D 4:56 Thanks for the explanation, never would have gotten it. Never would have even thought to notice.

'Guv Twit? - no. Mega Twit? maybe. Gotta to with Ne Plus Ultra Twit

ArtLvr 6:07 PM  

@ jannieb -- will try that for the next rebus, many thanks! Too bad the automatic puzzleprint doesn't work on a Mac...

Oddly, I don't really like solving a rebus online or on paper either, but I enjoy constructing them. My favorite had a footprint (with tenderFOOT, FOOTling, etc.), which sounds silly now but it was like "Elihu" -- examples kept turning up!


fergus 7:36 PM  

Happy Birthday, Terrell Owens?

A Dada crossword?

Since no one seems to have come up with an explanation any deeper than befuddlement over the vapidity of the theme, I have to conclude that there is nothing more to it. Sort of thought that there must be another trick, and that something else would be revealed, but evidently not. Therein lies the most puzzling aspect of today's grid, but that still doesn't make it a Dada crossword.

Big Lefty 8:34 PM  

The puzzle came easy for me until I got very stuck in the SW corner. I musta left my brain at work today, as I didn't get much grip at all on the theme.

Not having read yet any other comments, I imagine someone came up with the true theme. Maybe. Medium-enjoyable today.

mac 9:18 PM  

We are just too tough on these constructors. I haven't tried, but I have thought about it, sat down and gave it up. This is really hard! Including any kind of theme, rebus or any other trick makes it even tougher.
Here's to you, constructors

Michael 9:31 PM  

I keep thinking that there is something about this theme that I'm not getting. Ok -- the answers include every letter of the alphabet and there are multiple occurrences of some letters...Is there something about the order in which the letters appear?

Martin 10:42 PM  


Seymour Cray died in 1996. I worked for his first company, Control Data, for many years so this was a gimme for me.

I enjoyed the "Dada" theme. The Mad Magazine homage, too, fit the feel. I just wish my wife's birthday were today, not next week, so I'd be able to claim I'd arranged the card. It reminded me of the famous NYT crossword proposal.

fergus 11:15 PM  

Mac, you're right -- construction is a very complicated art. Though I may smugly offer a critique of any puzzle, I've yet to produce anything better on my own.

Randy 2:45 AM  

Since when did Will start smoking crack?

Anonymous 7:22 AM  

This was a repeat puzzle today and one of my least favorites!

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

I'm glad I didn't try to "solve" the underlying theme riddle. I knew quaver from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Anonymous 2:31 PM  

I'm glad someone else remembers "Close Encounters." That's how I got the answer, but I had previously, for 30 years (!), thought quavers had something to do with organ music specifically.

Cray was easy for me; my brother used to work for them.

Overall a very easy puzzle, but I too couldn't figure out what I was missing in the theme. I know now it wasn't anything important.

Anonymous 5:30 PM  

6wks later--a comment on Rex's comment about Ural and the poor delineation btwn Europe and Asia. I've been studying Italian and a couple of times in our Italian text there's been a reference to "all the five continents" (Tutte le cinque continenti). We asked our Italian teacher, mystified, what the "5" continents were, wondering if they considered Eurasia to be a single continent. But no, far from it: They count Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, AND--America! North and South America, he assures us, are considered a single continent by Europeans! Now c'mon--N and S are SO much more distinct than Europe-Asia!! And they leave Antarctica out altogether. I think Australia should consider itself lucky not to be ignored by THE Continent! I wonder if Ulrich could supply some German perspective on this. Thanks--just a recent rant. Docruth

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