WEDNESDAY, Apr. 23, 2008 - Stephen Edward Anderson (LISTING IN HOYLE'S)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "RIDE 'EM / COWBOY" (30D: With 27-Down, western cry) - four theme answers features phrases whose final words are also the names of famous horses

The horses and their riders:

  • SILVER - Lone Ranger
  • TOPPER - Hopalong Cassidy
  • TRIGGER - Roy Rogers
  • SCOUT - Tonto

I have only one problem with this puzzle. Tonto is not a "COWBOY." Other than that, genius. This is an exemplary Wednesday puzzle - themed like a Monday or Tuesday, but executed with originality and panache in ways you don't often see on early-week puzzles. The phrase RIDE 'EM / COWBOY, as well as its placement in the grid, takes this puzzle from good to great. The non-theme fill is fine - occasionally brilliant - but that doesn't matter, because today is all about the theme (which, frankly, I didn't get til after I was done with the puzzle - "QUICK, CHART, HAIR, TALENT ... what do they have in common?").

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Mercury (quickSILVER)
  • 11D: #1 on the Hot 100 (chart TOPPER)
  • 25D: Discoverer of stars? (talent SCOUT)
  • 60A: Easily set off, as a temper (hair TRIGGER)

Started off badly in the NW, as I had no idea what 1A: Low pitch symbol (F clef) could be, and 1D: Help page rubric was equally mystifying ... despite the fact that this blog has one: FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). The easy-to-get QUICKSILVER, however, gave me that precious "Q" and took care of all of my NW problems. Tried to go straight down the West coast but was thwarted when I could not think of a three-letter OIL for 23A: What French fries are fried in. Never would have considered the rare and exotic HOT OIL. Why does the capital "F" in "French" feel wrong to me when it's applied to fries? Anyway, moving on - IN A STIR (29A: All riled up). Ick. This and BOARDS (54A: SATs) were the most irksome answers of the day, the former because I don't know who would say it (certainly not a cowboy) and the latter because I've never ever ever heard the word "BOARDS" applied to that stupid high school test. Medical BOARDS, yes ... are SATs "College BOARDS?" So many much better non-SAT clues available for BOARDS. Be creative!!! Also didn't like the clue for TOADY (57A: Courtier). Way too harsh an answer for a simple descriptive clue like [Courtier], which means simply "an attendant to a monarch or other powerful person". I see that a secondary definition of "Courtier" involves obsequious behavior and insincere flattery. OK. Still don't like it. Boring clue for such a deliciously ugly word.

Where was I? Oh yeah, [All riled up] = IN A STIR. I should say that the first answer I entered there was SPASTIC (shares four consecutive letters with IN A STIR). Answer felt wrong (morally wrong), but it fit and seemed at least ballparkish, meaning-wise. The had me wondering why the word I wanted to be ONUS (24D: Big burden) could only be OPUS, which thus kept me on the fence about whether 33A: Listing in Hoyle's should be RULE (which it is) or GAME (which it isn't). From there, I ventured into the middle of the puzzle, uncovered the fabulous RIDE 'EM / COWBOY with just the RI- in place (couldn't believe my great fortune when my first guess was right - I had my fingers crossed). From there, I just radiated out in all directions, in what particular order I can't remember. Possibly down the tried-and-true ISOBAR (39D: Weather map line) past the fantastically colloquial pair of NO DICE (50D: "I ain't buyin' it!") and OKAY GUY (46D: Nice enough fellow) into yet an another BOARD exam - GRE (62D: M.A. hopeful's test), and then ... it's all fuzzy from there.


  • 21A: Where to spend time with moguls? (ski run) - this is a perfectly good phrase, but it seems somehow to hover on the margins of legitimacy, as does HAD A BIT (38A: Ate, but not much), which makes me desperately want to add an "E" to its end.
  • 47D: Soap alternative (sitcom) - Nobody makes this choice: "Let's see ... 'As the World Turns'? ... or 'My Two Dads'?" True, with cable, SITCOMs are likely on opposite soaps all the time, but these two genres technically belong to two completely different parts of the TV schedule.
  • 28A: Other, in Zaragoza (otro) - here's a case of trying (too hard) to Seuss up the clue for a very ordinary answer. Pet peeve about this word (as far as its puzzleness goes): stupid gender! OTRO or OTRA? Dunno. Gotta wait.
  • 34A: Tower-top attraction (view) - weird. Good, but weird. I was trying to imagine part of a tower. TURRET? SPIRE? ARROW LOOPS?
  • 36A: Bear, in Bilbao (oso) - Why not [Bear, in Zaragoza]? "Donde esta el OTRO OSO?!" (exclaimed the Spanish zookeeper).
  • 40A: "Bill Moyers Journal" airer (PBS) - I should add "airer" to my list of "Only In Crossword Clues" words.
  • 45A: Archer who aims for the heart (Eros) - wanted ANNE, as I used to have a minor crush on her. I remember seeing "Fatal Attraction" and thinking "Why would anyone cheat on such a hot wife with such a scary, scary lady?"
  • 47A: Part of the Kazakhstan landscape (steppe) - one of my favorite geographical words. I learned it from Mrs. Mc... Mc... dang, what was my 7th grade Geography teacher's name. I had a crush on her daughter when I was in grade school ... Ugh. Memory ... fading. I remember I did a massive project on Tanzania. Mrs. STEVENS! Woo hoo, Memory, back. I thought her name was McSomething because the boy that her daughter liked when I liked her daughter was named McConnell. Freudian!
  • 52A: Type measures (ems) - learned this and its counterpart, ENS, from xwords.
  • 59A: Barracks boss, for short (NCO) - another common, important xword word.
  • 65A: Bygone French coin (sou) - had the "U," but that didn't help, as the answer could just as easily have been ÉCU.
  • 2D: Premier _____ (wine designation) (cru) - helped a lot that this was an answer in a recent late-week themeless puzzle.
  • 7D: Pinball stoppers (tilts) - like the word, but not in the plural.
  • 12D: Prognostication (augury) - so so proud of how quickly I got this - off just the "R," I think.
  • 35D: Wave catcher? (ear) - yeah, OK. It catches sound waves.
  • 56D: Sister and wife of Hyperion (Thea) - no idea. None. What myth is this from? Ah, I see, they are both Titans, the son and daughter of Gaia and Uranus.
  • 58D: Former newspaper publisher _____ Chandler (Otis) - no idea. None. As I have likely said before, there is only one Chandler I care to know:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 8:49 AM  

I would have never gotten this theme without your blog!

PhillySolver 8:55 AM  

I believe HADABIT could also be part of the theme sitting in the middle of RIDEEM COWBOY.

Now to three of my favorite entries that did not make it into today's horse race. Bucephalus carried Alexander The Great to victory after victory and was there at his untimely death. Marengo carried Napoleon across the Alps and is in the famous David painting. Buraq (reminding me of a horse I backed) was Mohammed's ride to Heaven. This is all stuff you need to know to win Trivia contests and where I am headed tonight.

I liked this puzzle, but like Rex (a horse of a different color) didn't see the theme immediately. I beleive we arre just getting to know Mr. Anderson (is he from the Matrix/), but I like what I see.

Ulrich 9:07 AM  

I, too, didn't get the theme until I came here (all references are beyond my cultural horizon), but now that I know it, I'm impressed. Also liked the almost complete absence of you-either-know-it-or-you-don't clues, and the couple that were there were easily resolved through crosses.

Have to confess that I made a complete fool of myself for a while by believing that a Mercury belonged to the Buick Silver class of automobiles (and "Quecksilber" is the German word for mercury, no less!), until the only too familar faq came to the rescue.

Quibbles: Didn't like "eyers" and "ices in"--does anyone in the real world say these things?

Michael 9:15 AM  

Re: BOARDS. Those of us who are Ancient (i.e., on the other side of 50) remember that the SAT was administered by the College Entrance Examination Board (now just the College Board), so we called the tests "boards". The SATs were "boards" (as in
Hey, I got 1400 boards! How'd you do?" "Never )(*(*^*&^ing mind"...). The Law School Admission Test was the "law boards" and the Medical College Admission Test was the "med boards". The GRE and the GMAT were the GRE and the GMAT--no "master board"s. Nowadays, people just call them the SAT and the LSAT.
Re: Otis Chandler. The Chandler family has published the Los Angeles Times probably since it was started. They are probably up to Otis Chandler VI or something like that.
There's always a gimme for somebody in the Wednesday puzzle.
Dr Anal Fussbudget :)

JC66 9:24 AM  

Those of us old enough to remember the College Boards would have less of a problem getting today's theme, as well.
It'll be interesting to see how the comments stack up.

Orange 9:27 AM  

Actually, Michael, the Chandlers ceded control of the paper in recent years. From what I hear, the staffers sorely miss the days of Otis's stewardship—the Tribune company made a lot of painful cuts and missteps.

I like [Soap alternative] because without any crossings, many solvers are likely to suspect some sort of "moisturizing bar" or body wash rather than a TV genre.

Last I heard, F Clef was one of Wyclef Jean's side projects involving wheelchair baseball, and hence the clue [Low pitch symbol].

ArtLvr 9:31 AM  

Thanks to Rex for finding the theme! I was seeing movement words all over but not in the necessary pattern: SPIN, STIR, STRIP, STRUT, SCOUT, SKI RUN, QUICKSILVER, RIDE EM, REV, even STEP(pe) -- but NO DICE...

The cluing BETE (44-D) using a French "Beauty and the Beast" struck me as a bit odd, "bête noir" being nearly as familiar to English-speakers as ENNUI (66-A). Have to say I like a complete "sans" more than Rex; am not fond of a shortened SESS (42-D), but liked seeing YONKERS in that area!

BOARDS was fine with me, but I agree that TOADY is too derogatory for clue "Courtier", even if many were seen to be obsequious. Otherwise, a very good Wednesday workout --


The Asian Badger 9:40 AM  

I never knew the name of H.Cassidy's horse was "Topper". Liked the puzzle, thought the theme was good, but weakly done, if you know what I mean.

Completely agree with you on the clue for 57A.

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

Count me in with the old folks -- we always called the SATs the "College Boards." Also count me in with the clueless masses, because I didn't even notice the theme. This seems a common failing of mine.

Rex's mind and mine must work on directly opposite principles. I would never have called this "MEDIUM" even on a Monday. Not being a speed-solver, my minimum time for the least challenging kind of puzzle is just over six minutes, meaning a puzzle that presents no noticeable obstacles, and that's what this was for me. Still, a very enjoyable puzzle.

Anna 9:46 AM  

1. Thank you for the great blog.
2. I'm sorry to bother you all, but how is "English" "spin"? I didn't sleep last night. Therefore, I'm sure the answer will be obvious, but I'll appreciate your help.

Norm 9:55 AM  

@Anna, putting ENGLISH on a ball means to make it backspin, e.g., in pool. Why it's called that I have no idea.

miriam b 9:56 AM  

Was sure that ETCETC had to be wrong, as I initially parsed it as ETCET C.

Mary 9:59 AM  

Count me in with the folks lacking horse sense. I liked the puzzle last night and liked it even more this morning after Rex explained the theme.

Rex, how do you fill in the answers when your fingers are crossed?

Anna, I believe that in games involving balls, like pool, if you put a little spin on the ball as you strike it, it's referred to as putting English on the ball. Someone more knowledgeable will explain this better, I'm sure.

And I love the paperback cover illustration. Hot!

Margaret 10:02 AM  

@ Anna, to put English on a ball (in pool) = to put spin on it.

Like others, I didn't get the theme until the blog. Fun and clever. And PhillySolver obviously emerged from the PA primary marathon with all his brain cells intact if he could see that the "bit" clue tied in.

All toadies may be courtiers but not all courtiers are toadies. And like Ulrich, I thought of a Buick Mercury which backed me into Quick. It would never have occurred to me that those 2 words are only one letter off!

Phanatic 10:03 AM  

You wouldn't be going to New Deck Quizo tonight would you? Are you a regular? Are you part of Sofa Kingdom? If so then your thorough knowledge of famous horses is just one reason why you constantly win.

About the Puzzle: I had a hard time around Wyoming and Idaho which is unfortunate given the theme. I was also stuck with OAR for 35D instead of the correct EAR which gave me some trouble. All in all, a satisfying puzzle.

Bill D 10:06 AM  

Liked this one, and was more impressed by the theme after I finished and sussed what it was! I, too, did not know TOPPER was Hopalong's horse - I had visions of an old soap alternative with Neal Kirby playing pick-a-back with Cosmo! Back in MY childhood, the morning sitcoms were opposite the soap operas.

Spanish proliferation in NE was offset by French in SW - what would those constructors do if confined to a single language? Is F CLEF a Reverse Quarfoot? If so, second in a row in the 1A position. Was queasy about LEANT; liked HUH only because it crosses AUGURY. Nicely done Wednesday!

@Anna: English = SPIN is a sports clue. When hitting a tennis ball, eg, the player can give it "English", or make it curve, by putting a spin on it. I believe the term is applicable to billiards, golf & bowling and probably some other sports.

@philly: Don't forget Comanche, the only US Army survivor of The Battle of Little Big Horn! Good luck at Trivia!

SethG 10:10 AM  

Couldn't remember if 'My Two Dads' actually ran opposite a didn't. But in '88 Dynasty ran opposite Cheers, and Dallas opposite Mr. Belvedere. By the way, while trying to look that up I accidentally typed 'My Two Dadas' three times in a that how constructors get their weird theme ideas? (Sorry in advance, Ulrich!)

ICES IN didn't sound that off to my now Minnesotan ears, though it would usually be a, well, ice storm--a blizzard would snow you in.

Thought I remembered the college boards, though maybe that was just the 'College Board'--the test was changed 30 years before my time. (Note: there are still periodic references to the tests themselves as the 'college boards'...)

I got the theme when I thought about it, though it didn't help me solve at all. I am not of an age.

Maybe could have been close to a personal best today, but it took me a while to get STEPPE even though I wrote about it here recently ('cause my crush was on the daughter of my second grade teacher?), had miriam b's trouble figuring out that 55A was just ETC doubled, and it must have been someone else who wrote LOST IN ALGIERS.

Alex 10:16 AM  

I was always taught that the "french" in french fries should not be capitalized in the same way that vienna sausage, brussel sprouts, and pasteurization have been generalized to the point where the capitalization is lost.

But it appears that "French fries" is NY Times style but "french fries" is AP style.

Teresa 10:18 AM  

Great puzzle. I was surprised at how quickly I solved it, since it looked bad at first blush. Loved the fill and the theme. Kept thinking the theme centered on quickness ... very clever.

mike 10:24 AM  

another pool term used recently is




(billiards) A stroke made with the cue held vertically that puts tremendous spin on the cue ball.

Check out this video.

Joon 10:25 AM  

sweet puzzle today! loved the theme. it didn't help me solve the puzzle, but i mentally tucked it away after noticing SILVER and TRIGGER (i didn't know SCOUT and TOPPER were names of horses, so... yeah, didn't help). i was going to say that the non-theme fill RIDEEM/COWBOY was utterly fantastic, but after the puzzle was over it actually occurred to me, "hey, that was part of the theme... in fact, that was the theme." anyway, this was a great puzzle. and i'll still give the fantastic non-theme thumbs-up to NODICE.

i agree with anon 9:43, because this was my fastest wednesday ever (and also fastest time this week, due to the crazy-hard monday). maybe i was just on mr anderson's wavelength, but this puzzle basically held no mystery for me, not even the tricky FCLEF--i didn't write it in immediately, but after putting in FAQ, CRU, and LEI, i realized what was going on. then QUICKSILVER and i was off to the races.

for the non-musically inclined, "F clef" is another name for the bass clef, because the dot in the clef symbol sits on the line corresponding to the F below middle C. the F clef is what the left-hand part of piano music is typically written in, as well as low brass and cello parts in an orchestral score.

speaking of FCLEF, i'm about to neologize, but i think i promised i would perpetrate my next neologism over on crosswordfiend. so there i go.

mike 10:27 AM  

What's a quarfoot? I thought He was a constructor.

Anonymous 10:31 AM  

@Joon - no reason to apologize when about to neologize.

Anna 10:33 AM  

Thank you all so much for your help!!

jubjub 10:35 AM  

I also did not notice the theme. I haven't seen many Westerns...

My favorite clue+answer was Spit+SALIVA. This was the last meaning of spit I thought of. I also liked CHARTTOPPER cuz it reminds me of:
"I'd like to play me latest chart topper. It's called, 'Me Fans Are Stupid Pigs'." -- Bart Simpson.

NO DICE was the first thing I thought of when I read the clue "'I ain't buyin' it!'", pleased to see my instincts are so good :)

Mistakes I made during solving:
FIRE instead of HIRE and FATOIL instead of HOTOIL: I don't know what FATOIL means, but it seemed reasonable. This meant "Big Burden" was either "ANUS" or "ANUN" (depending on whether Chicago was north or south of Pittsburgh), which just didn't seem right...
SAMPLED instead of HADABIT for a while, for no good reason. It did not fit with anything else.
For some reason, I wanted "GIDEUP COWBOY" instead of "RIDEEM COWBOY", since in my brain GIDEUP kind of sounded like Giddy Up.

bobdively 10:54 AM  

The theme went completely over my head. Going for TALENTAGENT right out of the gate instead of TALENTSCOUT didn't help either. Much floundering in the SW ensued.

Jim in NYC 11:03 AM  

Is this a common tic, or should I head for a neurologist?--

Instead of following the dictates of my brain and writing "O" at the crossing of PHONO and OTRO, my hand copied the first N in PHONO, giving me PHONN and OTRN.

Is this what Phillysolver was referring to in his report on ACPT judging as (paraphrased) "double letters that just couldn't have been intentional"?

dk 11:05 AM  

The only one missing is Sky King. In the TV show it was Song Bird (the plane), for radio the plane was the Flying Arrow and his horse was Yellow Fury. I do not remember if his horse had a name on the TV show.

I know all this because... my uncle had a great collection of old radio premiums (he would never let us touch them, but I am over that now) and I used to watch the old westerns on TV (black and white and we only got one channel).

Another nostalgia day.

I thought AUGURY was the act of putting a hole in ice, a common practice here in the mighty mid-west.

I hope the Continental Op figures out that the red head (Finger Man cover) is blonde.

Joon 11:13 AM  

@jubjub: yes! i had the exact same problem with [Spit]. it took me until SALI_A to realize what was going on. part of it was the idiomatic meanings of spit, and part was the fact that i was thinking of the non-idiomatic spit as a verb. also, i just re-watched that "me fans are stupid pigs" episode the other day. otto man is the best.

@mike: yes, quarfoot is a constructor. but as of a few weeks ago, "quarfoot" is also a word meaning a clue that refers to the word(s) of the clue itself rather than the meaning. yesterday's HARDG clue is a good example (indeed, the only example in the NYT since "quarfoot" was coined). i don't really know what a "reverse quarfoot" might refer to; you'll have to ask bill d.

jae 11:23 AM  

Clever puzzle and a smooth solve for me. Minor bumps included SKIING for SKIRUN and MAX for CAP. I also didn't know about TOPPER and needed Jan from Orange's blog to clue me to the theme. I'm in the BOARDS age group which was before you could get extra time for being dyslexic. Well done Wed.!

Chrees 12:01 PM  

Totally off-topic regarding the Raymond Chandler reference. I was listening to an episode of "The Adventures of Philip Marlowe" radio show last week when the private eye approaches the manager in a hotel lobby who is engrossed in a book.

"Oh, sorry. Didn't hear you. Was caught up in my book."

PM: "That's OK, is it any good?"

"Can't put it down. It's the latest from Raymond Chandler."

PM: "Raymond Chandler. Raymond Chandler. Huh...never heard of 'em."

PhillySolver 12:19 PM  

@ jim in nyc
Yes, that is what we saw in some puzzles at the ACPT, so you are in good company.

@ margaret
My puzzle synapses are firing fine, but I still can't figure out what the Primary decided.

@ phanatic
I play Quizzo in Center City at a different location. Feel free to write me.

@ Bill D
I remember the song about Comanche the Brave Horse by Johnny Horton (on the album with The Battle of New Orleans, which I wore out playing). The Trivia question though is, who rode him? (Captain Keogh)

@ Orange
BTW, the signal for a high inside pitch is ASHARP.

wade 12:39 PM  

Ditto on not catching the theme. I didn't know Hopalong Cassidy's horse's name. I know nothing about Hopalong Cassidy at all except the name--was he radio? TV? Movie? Was he the one who had a sidekick played by Robert "Baretta" Blake? (I'll never forget Roy Rogers's real name, though: Leonard Slye. Leonard made a good move in the name change department.)

I've never heard of THEA, either. There's also a goddess called Rhea, isn't there? That's what I first put in that answer, which slowed me down on ETCETC. Also put in SLOPES instead of SKIRUN, causing another slowdown.

What's Dudley Doright's horse's name?

rafaelthatmf 12:49 PM  

I love the word Toady. I wish I had one.

fergus 12:55 PM  

Had the same thoughts as Rex on TOADY, but other than that the puzzle raised no eyebrows. If I had been on to the theme I wouldn't have marred the grid by going for the TALENT AGENT too.

There was an interesting story about the Chandler family, and when one of the heirs decided to turn The LA Times into high-quality journalism, moving far away from the predictable, arch-conservative rants that would have made the WSJ's editorial page seem tame by comparison.

foodie 1:00 PM  


You complained: "Ugh. Memory ... fading."

You know what neuroscientists say? The brain is the second thing to go...

andrea carla michaels 1:24 PM  

As I suspected, Otis Chandler is indeed related to Dorothy Chandler (he was her son) whose name/Pavilion you always hear at Oscar time.
That led me to his obituary which is really quite interesting.
I too thought HADABIT was awkward and missing an E till I convinced myself it must be a nod to the theme.

And, of course, how can you not trot out the obligatory Tonto joke:
(It's long but I'll get to the heart of it)
The Lone Ranger and Tonto are completely surrounded by Apaches and the Lone Ranger asks "NOW what do we do?"
Tonto thinks hard for a moment, his face lights up and says, "What do you mean "WE", White Man?

(insert "but kemosabe is racist..." blah blah blah thread here) ;)

korova 1:34 PM  

Rex, between Anne Archer (Fatal Attraction) today and Kelly McGillis (Witness) yesterday, you hit on (in a sense) my own two big '80s movie crushes. Harrison Ford should have stayed; Michael Douglas shouldn't have strayed. If only I'd had the chance to meet Mrs. Stevens's daughter!

PhillySolver 1:53 PM  

@ wade

you actually answered the Bullwinkle trivia question within your question.

Bill from NJ 2:30 PM  

Add me to the BOARDS tribe on 54A.

Didn't we have DAMOCLES in the Saturday Klahn puzzle which was clued "flattering courtier" which to my way of thinking is in the toady sense?

Had VANE instead of VIEW in the Midlands for far too long which prevented me from getting the clue to the theme and, also, from solving the puzzle.

Finally had an aha! moment at the 10 minute mark and finally got REDEEM/COWBOY.

Spent far too long on a Wednesday puzzle

Bill D 2:31 PM  

I didn't understand what a "Quarfoot" was - from yesterday's discussion I thought it was a word + a letter (HARD G), so I thought F CLEF, a letter + a word, might be a reverse Quarfoot. Now I see I'm wrong on both counts. Sorry!

Maybe we need a bit of jargon for those word/letter combos, like "ampersandwich" for an answer like A AND E.

I think I remember Doright's horse is named Horse, which would answer Philly's riddle.

imsdave 2:38 PM  

Good puzzle, didn't get the theme (TOPPER meant nothing to me). I agreed with all Rex's quibbles. Don't think I have ever seen HAP as a word before, only as part of MAYHAPS. Can any one use it in a sentence?

Ladel 2:41 PM  

Got Scout and Silver too quickly and spent sometime thinking it was all about the Lone Ranger before getting it together for a satisfying solve. Back from two weeks on the Left Coast, introduced to Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven...anybody?

Bill D 2:44 PM  

Imsdave - good call on HAP; I've heard of HAP Arnold (USAAC General) and I love MAYHAP, but I've never seen the stand alone HAP.

Was I the only one who tried the more literal answer NO SALE to 50D: "I ain't buying it"? I should have noticed the slanginess of the clue...

Bill D 2:50 PM  

Ladel - My wife is a huge LeGuin fan and I have read a number of her books, including Lathe of Heaven, which may be her most famous but is not, in my opinion, her best. PBS (I think) made a TV drama out of Lathe a number of years ago - it was terrible. I'm interested in your take on the story - my wife and I have had a twenty-year disagreement on it!

Anonymous 3:01 PM  

Grouping Tonto (a Native American) played by Jay Silverheels (a Mohawk Indian) in with the other ride 'em cowboys flaws an otherwise original and delightful theme.
The puzzle should have been returned to its author to have that SCOUT entry replaced with the name of an actual cowboy's horse.

Larry 3:06 PM  

On 17 A (the first themed answer) I had _ UICK______, and with the clue "Mercury" I made it: BUICKSRIVAL. I thought this was a great clue/answer and only when I couldn't possibly get car names to fit the other themes did I give it up. The worst of it was that I thought initially that I was so clever to get the answer.

Anonymous 3:44 PM  

This is probably a dumb question, but what are you all using as the definition of a cowboy? If it's "one who rides a horse around the old west", tonto qualifies. If it's "an occupation involving herding cows", the lone ranger (who was a ranger if I'm not mistaken) does not qualify either.

miriam b 4:04 PM  

I think that to qualify as a cowboy you have to take care of livestock, usually cattle. And I suppose that you have to be male, unless you're a cowgirl.

George of th Jungle came to mind when I did this puzzle: "Away he'll shlep on his elephant Shep."

Anonymous 4:16 PM  

So you're saying when kids play Cowboys and Indians the one dressed up like Tonto is really a Cowboy. Okay, that makes sense.

chefbea1 4:16 PM  

I remember college boards from way back when. I figured that the theme was names of horses of cowboys. Didnt realize that ride em cowboy was part of the theme til I read the blog.

And as for hot oil - that's a no no.I make oven baked fries. Much healthier

fergus 4:41 PM  

HAP was the title of a Thomas Hardy poem, in which he's being pretty agnostic, concluding that the world is ruled by Chance, rather than any benevolent force.

dk 4:51 PM  

Bill d and ladel Lathe of Heaven (great book and premise although as a psychologist I would think so) was made into two bbc series. The first was a 3 part series that I think aired in the 70s and it was very good. The more recent version was not so hot.

Last but not least Lequin or Ursala sometimes appear in the puzzle.

mac 4:52 PM  

Except for the F in 1 I got the puzzle done in decent time without help, but I did have some of the same momentary mistakes as mentioned above: vane, sampled. I'm not crazy about eyers, etcetc, toady and had a bit, although that was acceptable after I figured the theme a little. I vaguely remember my husband yelling "Hi Ho Silver", and then saw scout. Never heard of Topper. I would say this was exactly the right grade of difficulty for a Wednesday!

Bill D 5:00 PM  

@dk - What's your take on the plot of Lathe of Heaven? Don't think I saw the 3-part series.

Rex Parker 5:09 PM  

Please take extended non-puzzle-related conversations into the realm of private email. Thank you.

Thank you,

Bill D 5:10 PM  

Sorry, fearless leader...

Bill D

kate 5:50 PM  

I also didn't see the theme, and so, like bobdively, had TALENTAGENT sitting there for a long time vexing me in the SW. Finally got the puzzle, but still didn't catch the theme until I came here.

Jane Doh 5:52 PM  

A lovely Wednesday piece. Subtle theme with lots of fun answers to work out (HOT OIL, IN A STIR, SKI RUN, ON DUTY, ETC ETC, FAKE IT, etc.) while discovering the theme.

Toady/courtier/sycophant -- seems fine.

Was HAD A BIT secretly a bonus part of the horse theme?

Three very nice puzzles this week.

green mantis 5:53 PM  

As I approached "etcetc" through the backdoor and still only had the final "etc," I had a brief moment of panic when I thought the answer might be "And etc.," which sounds to me like something Ms. South Carolina might say. And such as.

Wyclef Jean, Orange. You make my day.

In other news, doing crosswords gives me knowledge of arcane things (arcane to me) like Premier Cru, but the knowledge is wispy and insubstantial, thin on top like a a combover, a stand-in for a thick lustrous head of knowledge. You know what I mean? I feel like I go around with all these floating bits that don't have connections and context, depth.

Like, if I were a wine guy (girl), then Premier Cru would be a part of a larger understanding of regions, and I would know why it matters, what it Means. If I were a typesetter, I would be able to explain the purpose or origin of the em width, and etc.

This is not a complaint, and nobody is preventing me from researching each of the floating bits further to fill out the picture, but it's a just an odd state of semi-awareness. Maybe I could think of these bits as bookmarks to later investigation. That's a good plan. Ramble complete.

PuzzleGirl 5:56 PM  

I didn't see the theme, but looks like I was in good company. (That sounds better than didn't Understand the theme, don't you think?)

I have to admit I was a little disappointed not to see NABE in the puzzle today. ;-)

I found today's (yesterday's?) AV/Onion puzzle by Byron Walden really enjoyable. The theme is on the cheeky side. Consider yourself warned. (And if you solve it, please remember not to spoil it in these comments.)

Rex Parker 6:05 PM  

@green mantis,

This blog exists, in part, to give depth to the wispiness. I think Total Knowledge Depth is quixotic - which is to say, it's a noble and worthy quest that is doomed to fail (yet still worth undertaking - no reason to let impossibility stop you).


Orange 6:17 PM  

green mantis likened wispy knowledge to a combover. I love the image of "combover knowledge"—although having wispy bits of knowledge on a great many topics is surely not a ridiculous thing, and a baldness of knowledge is not more sophisticated than combover knowledge, it's an apt description. My knowledge of hockey, for example, is strictly at a combover level.

Bill from NJ 6:42 PM  

We are a community of souls who know a little bit about a great number of things and, as a community, enjoy sharing this knowlege with each other.

I enjoy coming here for that very reason: to share and be shared with.

I enjoy sharing those little bits of knowledge that I happen to have rattling around in my head and being shared with in return.

I'm sure that I am not alone in having my father tell me as a kid I had a large amount of useless information that did me no good.

No good? I beg to differ.

wade 7:35 PM  

Crossword puzzles are poems for mathematicians and math problems for poets. That's the beauty of the damn things. It's a place where right brain and left brain can sit at the bar together and peacefully argue about who would win a fight between Don Henley and Tonto. I think this is a weigh-in to the Greenmantis/Orange/Rex/Bill fromNJ thread, but it just may be the Maker's Mark talking. Somebody put Maker's Mark in a puzzle--there's been no greater influence on my life.

fergus 7:47 PM  

Let's hear it for superficial knowledge! As long as the lack of depth is understood, the more flotsam and jetsam, the better. More chances to make connections means a greater likelihood of insight. Pope's warning of "A little learning is a dangerous thing ..." be damned. (Except that he was mostly warning against sophomoric bluster.)

Michael 7:56 PM  

Aside from the old horses, this puzzle had an overall ancient (relatively speaking feel). Otis Chandler, the Boards, phono, sou, Lost in Yonkers, etc. Ok with me, but I wonder what younger solvers thought. Also, this made me speculate about the age of the constructor.

Joon 7:58 PM  

bill d wrote:

Maybe we need a bit of jargon for those word/letter combos, like "ampersandwich" for an answer like A AND E.

i was thinking the same thing.

foodie 8:09 PM  

Green Mantis

Lovely imagery. Somehow the "wispy knowledge" eventually, magically connects into something more substantial. Not so much depth (I will not really know more about hockey because of "deke" or billiards because of "english") but a sense of knowing more about the corners of the language and the culture. May be I particularly appreciate it because of coming from a different cultural background. This blog gives all the obscure clues such a rich context--where would I learn about deep-six and 86? I had heard about Silver and Scout, vaguely about Trigger (which I probably conflated with Tigger) but never about Topper. The pop culture images that Rex posts, the information and free associations from fellow bloggers, the little forays I make into deeper research when something is particularly intriguing-- I can feel the fuzz thickening : )

green mantis 8:13 PM  

Word. I like the bar analogy, although thanks to the miracle of the interwebs, our bar is reeeally long and serves both beer nuts and tekka maki.

Rex's Place of Whiskey and Spotty Erudition. Em em 'ooray!

Choose an Identity 8:16 PM  

What an interesting concept - type it on a blog and there you have it - an identity - free for the choosing.

Rex Parker 8:20 PM  

Oh man, the next dog I own is Definitely going to be named "Spotty Erudition."


jae 8:30 PM  

@green mantis, et. al. Exactly! My head has always been full of "useless crap" according to some who know me. It's great to have a place (bar) to come to where I can expand and enrich the pile. Like the combover analogy.

Doc John 8:46 PM  

An enjoyable puzzle overall, with a minimum of crosswordese (the biggest offender being OPIE). Like sethg and others, I got the theme but it didn't help me any.

It wasn't until I clicked the link that I realized Rex wasn't throwing me a rollercoaster bone (although I know it's egotistical to think that I would ever enter Rex's consciousness). Hey these Arrow Loops are at the tops of towers, too! (I'm referring to these ultra-tight babies made by a now-defunct coaster manufacturer named Arrow. Actually, Arrow Dynamics, but everyone just called them Arrow.)

@ phillysolver- Ah, Bucephalus, also from one of my favorite movies, "The Black Stallion" (and its sequels).

miriam b 8:47 PM  
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miriam b 8:47 PM  

@jae: I like your image too. These factual oddments comprise a huge pile which undergoes a composting process and becomes - well, as it's the Bard's birthday -"something rich and strange."

The brilliant, multitalented and surpassingly hypochondriacal Oscar Levant wrote a book entitled "A Smattering of Ignorance." I just love that.

green mantis 9:20 PM  

Oh Rex, I literally just spit coffee down my shirt. Good thing you posted the snail mail address so I know where to send the dry cleaning bill.

I jest! I don't have any clothes nice enough for dry cleaning.

mac 9:36 PM  

@wade: you wax poetic...
@foodie: amen.
We may be a community of souls who know a little bit about a great number of things, we are also a community of souls who know a little bit more every day!

ArtLvr 9:41 PM  

Rex, joon et al -- I understand that a"Quarfoot" refers to an answer which takes in the literal form of a clue, rather than the meaning e.g. HARD G, SILENT T, EMS (clued as Mammoth having three), calling for a tricky shift in thinking... And you've somewhat embraced "ampersandwich" for an answer containing a conjuction between two initials, the conjuction most often being "and", e.g. RANDR = R AND R, XORO = X OR O.

But you also wanted a term for an answer with one letter dangling, like the FCLEF = F CLEF? -- May I suggest "Quartoe" -- not the whole trick Quarfoot but a similar parsing-break indicating a digit awry? It may look a bit queer/quare, but can be explained more easily than odd letter/number combinations popping up now and again...


Bill D 9:48 PM  

Quartoe! I like it - very insider. Thanks artlvr.

Joon 10:08 PM  

i'm not sure yet how i feel about "quartoe," but it can only be a good thing to have more suggestions. i was just reading the original ampersandwich thread (thanks for the link, orange) and have only now realized that ampersandwich was actually the best of several excellent suggestions. so, i welcome quartoe to the fold and perhaps i'll try it out.

it's mildly disturbing that quartoe is a back-formation from a word ("quarfoot") that almost nobody has ever used, but i guess this is what bill d meant by "very insider." (i also want to clarify that it's not particularly related to a quarfoot, since quarfoot refers to a type of tricky clue and we are talking about a kind of hard-to-parse answer. some quarfeet are quartoes, but some, like EMS, are not, and some quartoes have nothing to do with quarfeet.) at any rate, quartoe has one more yea vote than my own attempt from elsewhere and elsewhen today ("halfcronym," which was deemed ugly and unpronounceable).

any other suggestions? i don't want to commit to using any of these words until we get a larger field of candidates.

fergus 10:15 PM  

Re: Wade 7:35

Comment about poems and math could be a tag-line, blurb, or more finely an epigram for crossword commerce. As one who indulges a lot in poetry and spends a fair amount of time with triangles, circles and all their equations, I couldn't agree more.

green mantis 10:21 PM  

Most of me loves the idea of a growing lexicon, like languages that we made up as kids, but if there is to be an expanding vocabulary, maybe there should be a legend on the sidebar or something just so people who are newer or not as regular don't feel that chilly out-of-the-loop sensation. Brr.

I know I'm nudging, or exceeding, my post limit. I was applying some saved up credits from days I didn't post.

Rex Parker 10:28 PM  

The only neologism I've heard that I can get behind is "ampersandwich." To call clue-referential clues "quarfoots" seems narrow and off - statistically, I doubt DQ's puzzles contain such clues more than others, and nothing in the name "quarfoot" is descriptive of the answers in question. I thus can't go with "quartoe" either (though all these naming efforts are indeed valiant).


For answers that refer to letters within the clues themselves (SILENT G, HARD C, etc.) ... I'm willing to entertain ideas. First suggestion: clue + loops = CLOOPS. Or C-LOOPS. Or they could be letter loops and thus LLOOPS (like ... LLAMAS). L HOOKS? Ooh, I like L-HOOK, in that a hook kind of turns back on itself, which gets at the self-reflexiveness of the cluing ... plus, hooks catch you, often painfully ...

Just some thoughts. I know this has been done (the hunt for This Term) at JimH's blog; I just disagree about the merits of "quarfoot" as a term (much as I love the human being / constructor after whom it is named)

fergus 10:37 PM  

I like this type of quest -- it's like Word Fugitives from The Atlantic

(not in puzzle exile)

PuzzleGirl 10:37 PM  

This whole conversation is giving me that icky, embarrassed feeling I get when a person gives himself a nickname and then tries too hard to get everyone else to use it too.

Rex Parker 10:46 PM  


Thank you. Exactly. Going to sleep now.


wade 11:05 PM  

Puzzlegirl, you rock. Marry me.

FYI, I used to try to make people call me Crawdaddy but have recently been angling for "Gazpacho."

Barb in Chicago 12:03 AM  

Did anyone ever watch the Cisco Kid (whose horse was Diablo)? I have his autograph: "All my love,
Duncan Renaldo," obtained at the Cincinnati airport in 1958 or 9, I think. The only autograph in my possession. My parents must have taken me to get it, though it's not the kind of thing they usualy did.

Orange 12:37 AM  

A good crossword blog is like Rogaine for combover knowledge.

Remember when George Costanza wanted a workplace nickname and tried to get people to call him T-Bone? It didn't take. Instead they called him Koko, after the gorilla.

My college nickname was Zeke. I didn't ask for it. I resisted it, in fact. Man, that should've been my blogular pseudonym.

mike 1:31 AM  

why orange?

andrea carla michaels 1:58 AM  

wow, I'm afraid to jump into the whole quartoe fray...I mean I STILL can't get you to go for a better name than ACCA...and Will wouldn't budge on ACPT.
But I do think Ampersandwich is cute, even tho you are writing the word AND and not actually using an & it's innerlogic isn't perfect.
(I've come to the whole blog thing rather late, and maybe i shouldn't comment more till I come up with a blog name, tho I'm still adamant that folks might as well use their real names. That way they are so much more likely to be held accountable for anything they write, rather than those occasionally snide-hide-behind-anonymous postings, no?)

green mantis 4:13 AM  

Orange I was going to bring up that episode. Durn it, nothing ever goes right for George. Apologies to Rex, who hates Seinfeld. Or was absent that day, whichever.

Joon 1:16 PM  


ouch, harsh. i guess i know what you mean, but i feel like this is different because there isn't currently a word for these things. it's a lexical gap which needs to be filled, because we actually talk about these things all the time and it's awkward that there's no word for it.

with a nickname, well, you've already got a name, and it's kind of annoying to try to make everybody use a different one once they've gotten used to it.

my two cents. but if everybody agrees with you, i guess i'll bow out and we can just keep talking around these things. i still think the problem is just that we haven't hit on the right word yet.

PuzzleGirl 2:00 PM  

I guess my emphasis was more on the "trying too hard" part than the "making up a nickname" part. I have a feeling that there weren't a bunch of people sitting around going,

"Man, we need to think of a word to express when a TV show does something stupid and then it sucks from then on."

"How about if we say it 'Got a New Darin'?"

[lengthy comparison of Dick Sargeant and Dick York]

"No, man, let's just say it 'Married the Genie.'"

[interminable feminist perspective of the premise behind "I Dream of Jeannie"]

"How about if we just say "Chrissy Moved Out'?"

[analysis of sexual identity in America as depicted in the mainstream media]

No, I believe it went more like this.

Person 1: Man, when Cousin Oliver showed up on The Brady Bunch that show really jumped the shark.

Person 2: It did what??

Person 1: Remember how Fonzie jumped that shark tank and then the show sucked after that?

Person 2: Oh man! Jumped the Shark! That's perfect!

Of course, I could be wrong.

TimeTraveller 12:07 PM  

The largest ranch in British Columbia runs a lot of cattle mostly tended by aboriginal inhabitants of the Chilcotin Plateau, whom we now call "First Nations" people.
In our pre-ethnic-sensitive days we sniggered at the idea that all the cowboys were indians.

CAlady 2:05 PM  

About Quarfoot Not a dictionary word! Finally did a Goooglrl search, discovered its someone's name, but no clue as to the meaning here. Thanks to those who took time to explain it. On that note,
while I was around for the ampersandwich origin, I'm sure others weren't. So I second the suggestion for a Site Vocabulary if these things are going to proliferate.
Got my degrees before the existance of a Sat of any description (1950's)-and have learned what very little I know of them from the xworld. That old "little knowledge" can help-I immediately thought of "boards"!

embien 3:42 PM  

Rex, I have to respectfully disagree with your characterization of the theme. For me, since the theme answers all deal with horses (not the riders), HAD A BIT, in the exact center of the puzzle, is the theme. That has the added advantage of avoiding the problem of TONTO being a non-cowboy (we called them "Indians" back in those days, a term that isn't used so much anymore).

I got the theme of horses when (filling from the bottom) I saw TRIGGER and SCOUT, and even so HAD A BIT was my last fill.

Thus RIDE'EM COWBOY is just more theme-related fill and not the theme answer. IMHO, of course.

Too bad there was no CHAMPION in there (Gene Autry's horse, I believe).

Embien (of an age where we called them "BOARDS" and went to Saturday morning serials to watch Hopalong Cassidy--well before TV came to my home town)

embien 3:46 PM  
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juliebee 9:53 PM  

Just a quick comment on "English" - they call it that because the English invented a cue that could put some side spin on a ball, and they showed the Americans how to do it, so it's been called "English" here ever since. Apparently not anywhere else...

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