SUNDAY, Sep. 21, 2008 - Brendan Emmett Quigley (Card game played to 61 / Biological dividing wall / Opposite of guerra)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "It's a Mystery" - eight theme answers all begin with the names of fictional detectives (clued in non-detective fashion): 109A: Ones in charge of a case ... or a literal hint to the eight other longest answers in this puzzle (lead detectives)


I am teaching Crime Fiction right now, so you'd think I'd have liked this puzzle. . . and I did. Psych! The only problems I had were with some detectives I barely knew, e.g. the way out-of-popular-consciousness Gideon FELL (a John Dickson Carr detective). FISH is the real odd-man-out here, as he was a detective on "Barney Miller" (played by Abe Vigoda) and was a featured player in his own right only in the very short-lived "Barney Miller" spin-off, aptly titled "FISH." "FISH" ran for 35 episodes from '77 to '78 and featured, among others, Todd Bridges (of "Diff'rent Strokes" fame)! Ellery QUEEN is a character / pen name with a history so long and complex I can do little but refer you to outside sources. I just finished teaching "The Maltese Falcon," so SPADE was on my mind, and we'll be reading Mickey Spillane in a few more weeks - I think Spillane (recently deceased) was a totally misunderstood and under-rated crime fiction writer, and his detective, Mike HAMMER, is a seething poet of populist rage. He has no restraint. He's a great American Monster. But I digress. There's a girl here too. Did I mention that? Nancy DREW is hiding out in the NW corner, as if she can't quite bring herself to associate with all the old(er) men. It's OK. MAGNUM will protect her.

Theme answers:

  • 23A: School in Madison, N. J. (DREW University)
  • 33A: Don't believe it (FISH story)
  • 46A: "The Divine Comedy," for Dante (MAGNUM opus)
  • 66A: Track-and-field event (HAMMER throw)
  • 84A: Dropped off (FELL asleep)
  • 98A: Pantry array (MASON jars)
  • 17D: Beloved figure in England (QUEEN Mother)
  • 65D: Card game played to 61 (SPADE Casino) - the one answer in the bunch that seems to come from outer space. Is this a game I would know if I only frequented casinos more often?
Running late today, so here are a few kwik komments:

I love when the puzzle decides to give me a little trivia with my answers, so I was especially grateful today when I got the following set of three:
  • 26A: Poet whose last words were "Of course [God] will forgive me; that's his business" (Heine) - unlike detective Philip Marlowe, whose business is Trouble.
  • 72A: Record producer who published the diary "A Year With Swollen Appendices" (Eno)
  • 4D: City with the world's first telephone directory (1878) (New Haven) - Was there an Old Haven? Just ... Haven? I'm guessing yes. This is one weird claim to fame.
  • 106A: Only U.S. vice president born in Maryland (Agnew) - have I told you about my AGNEW watch? Oh, that's right, I have. I really gotta take that thing to a watch ... fixer ... guy.
If you give a RIAL TO the Yemeni movie theater attendant, will he let you into the RIALTO?

Never heard of:
  • WOOD LOT (7A: Lumber supplier) - clearly lumber is not my thing. I remember being stumped by the concept of BOARD FOOT, also in a Sunday puzzle, almost in this exact location, a few months ago.
  • LEIGH (11D: "The Da Vinci Code" scholar Sir _____ Teabing) - I still prefer LEIGH Brackett. Hey, shouldn't it be "The Leonardo Code"? I mean, really.
  • LACTASE (102A: Enzyme in some yeasts) - I nearly missed this because I got sloppy and wrote in LACTOSE. Thankfully I noticed the bizarre MEDIO staring at me (79D: Broadcasters, e.g. - MEDIA).
  • OBIE (42A: Officer in "Alice's Restaurant") - ODIE I know. OBIE ... only as a theater award.
  • STEAMER (40A: Raw bar offering) - again, as with lumber, my lack of appropriate regional location hurts me here. There are no raw bars where I live, so after SASHIMI and, uh, SLIDERS, I was stuck.
  • CASERTA (14D: Italy's Reggia di _____ (royal palace)) - I thought for sure this was wrong. It looks wrong. It sounds wrong. It's not.
Sweet spot:
  • 20A: City and county in central California (Madera) - I'd like to give a shout-out to all my homies in the SJV! (that is to say, I grew up in Fresno, not far from MADERA).
  • 83D: "Malcolm in the Middle" boy (Reese) - this is "Malcolm"'s second appearance in as many weeks. I used to watch it in its early years.
Other stuff:
  • 49A: 1950s-'70s TV host (Paar) - before my time, but a common xword answer.
  • 83A: _____ avis (rara) - bonus theme answer, as the Maltese Falcon is referred to in the novel as the "rara avis." Here's Gutman at the very end of Chapter 19 (penultimate chapter):
"Well, sir, the shortest farewells are the best. Adieu." He made a portly bow. "And to you, Miss O'Shaughnessy, adieu. I leave you the rara avis on the table as a little memento."
  • 89A: Work site? ("In" tray) - very clever.
  • 92A: Trig angle (arcsine) - after COSINE, I drew a blank ... then 1986 kicked back in.
  • 95A: "On Language" columnist (Safire) - I like his writing, generally, and I love that he intersects LEFT WING (86D: Liberal). (Not) Apt! Oh, and I can only hope the proximity of LEFT WING to MEDIA (79D) is not some kind of political commentary.
  • 6D: Nuts (zanies)
  • 59D: Scoundrels (meanies) - the ZANIES ... and the MEANIES ... and the epic war for control of planet Snaktron.
  • 12D: Novelist who wrote "The Gravedigger's Daughter" (Oates) - also, musical partner of Hall.
  • 13D: No-tell motel visit (tryst) - the new show "Fringe" opens with one of these. Yes, I'm kind of watching "Fringe."
  • 19D: Eve _____, "The Vagina Monologues" monologist (Ensler) - next to "vagina," "monologues" starts looking awfully sexual. I think Ms. ENSLER writes for Huffingtonpost now.
  • 28D: Quaint letter opener ("To sir") - preferably "with Love."
  • 33D: Extremely pleasing, in slang (fabu) - oh, please, never say that.
  • 39D: Biological dividing wall (septum) - goes on the DECOCT list (of ugly words).
  • 58D: Southern legume (cow pea) - more legumes (see yesterday's DEHISCES).
  • 68D: Loose overcoat (raglan) - I knew the term RAGLAN sleeve (a sleeve I cannot wear as it highlights my relative lack of shoulders), but I never thought about what RAGLAN might mean.
  • 100D: Certain flower girl (niece) - er ... ok.
  • 96D: Winning hand in blackjack (ace ten) - true enough. Wait, would Ace King beat it? Or Ace Jack? Or ace ... Black Jack!? I don't gamble, clearly.
  • 108D: Opposite of guerra (paz) - there is a comics artist named PIA GUERRA, and so all I wanted to put in here was PIA.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS I'm happy to announce the arrival of a new Forum for the Discussion of All Things Puzzles - my fellow crossword blogger "Orange" (Amy Reynaldo, author of "How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle"), has created "The Crossword Fiend Forum." It has discussion threads related to all the day's major crosswords, larger issues in crossword construction and publishing, and even a section for the discussion of this country's various Cryptic Crosswords. I encourage you to give it a look. I mean, come here first, of course, for your NYT commentary, but if you've got time ... :)

56 comments:

korova 8:59 AM  

This was the first Sunday puzzle in memory whose theme remained completely hidden to me, even after I finished. I use "finished" somewhat expansively--still unsure about the NATICK-ish crossing of OBISPO (107A) & ESTO (104D) (at least I hope that S is right). Anyway, to me, that means the theme was not well executed. I suppose I have vaguely heard of most of those folks, but.... Oh well. I'm just glad that 39D (Biological dividing wall) didn't end up being what I feared when I had _E_TUM.

PhillySolver 9:04 AM  

Good morning solvers. For some sticky areas this one was a bit harder than most Sundays for me...well, at least reflected in solving time. SPADECASINO??? I wanted Hammer time, but you can't touch this. I don't remember Perry Mason being a detective, but he did investigate on his own, so maybe it works. Alice's Restaurant plays in my head when mentioned and officer OBIE came forward. "Yes, sir, Officer Obie, I cannot tell a lie, I put that envelope under that garbage."

Spelling Obispo with Joe in my head was a problem as was HUEVOS. ACDELCO was so long ago and I had a new RAE REA to learn. Enjoyed it and now I am off to enjoy the beautiful weather again.

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

40A

I disagree with *steamers* as a raw bar offering as they are generally served cooked (steamed).

Clam bake offering would be better.

On second thought, something generally served cooked/steamed - like mased potatoes - COULD be served raw, on ice, but I don't think that would be widely accepted ;).

.../Glitch

HudsonHawk 9:19 AM  

Agree with phillysolver, my first thought of Perry Mason is as a defense attorney.

@korova, rectum? Nearly killed 'em!

ArtLvr 9:19 AM  

Wow -- I love mystery stories but there were several stumpers for me in this puzzle, even though I had 109A theme early -- LEADDETECTIVES. Had to ENDIT (not "split") before getting the NW straightened out...

I feel this was the hardest of all the past week! In some cases it was the answer itself, but in many it was the fatally obscure clue, like the ones for HEINE and NEWHAVEN. Congrats to Brendan for a worthy challenge, but even more congrats to those who got it all right!

∑;)

Crosscan 9:27 AM  

ok theme but the NW corner was a mystery to me.

Don't know CHINTZ, MADERA, HEINE, HUELOS, thought it was CHAN UNIVERSITY...let's add it all up.

9 wrong words and 11 wrong squares!!

I would rather forget this puzzle.

see you tomorrow.

miriam b 9:28 AM  

I did get it all right, after a mighty struggle with the SE. i didn't see the WING part of LEFTWING at first. SANCTA saved the day.

Loved the diagramless in the DEADTREE version of the NYT.

jannieb 9:38 AM  

Today's puzzle was much easier/faster than yesterday (yes, I understand the relative ratings) but it was also easier than many a Sunday. Started in the NW and just marched around in clockwise fashion until I was done.

Lots of nice fresh fill, no clunky puns or odd jobs to contend with. Just one mystery year and a smattering of Latin to cope with. Missed a couple of the theme clues, but then the theme was not really helpful to solving the puzzle for me.

Can't wait to check out Orange's new venture, and to hear what's next for Emily. Happy Sunday, all!

Orange 9:49 AM  

Miriam, thanks for the reminder about the diagramless—I know it's by Byron Walden, but I forgot to print it out.

Good write-up, Rex (especially the plug for my site—thanks for that!). I lost track of Y: The Last Man after the fourth book, I think, but it's a great story and Pia Guerra's artwork suits it to a tee.

Why does Magnum P.I.'s phone look like a Princess phone but lack a cord?

Hydromann 9:52 AM  

Casino (sometimes spelled "Cassino"), has nothing at all to do with casino gambling. A great game for two persons--I've been playing it with my dad for more than 50 years. In what we call regular casino, each spade does not count a point. Rather, getting the most spades counts as a single point. And regular casino is played to 21, not 61. But "Spade Casino" is a known variant.

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

Clever theme.
I don't care for the WOOD LOT clue though, A wood lot is not a supplier...it's a source. A saw mill is a supplier.

imsdave1 9:57 AM  

Solid offering, though the theme really didn't help any. Paul Drake was the detective, Perry MASON, the lawyer. Quibble.

Ulrich 10:10 AM  

As as far as solving goes, average for a Sunday--caught on to the theme halfway through, which didn't always help--never made the connection between Fish and the Abe Vigoda role--my bad! I did not completely warm to the theme b/c the detectives in question are so uneven i.t. of fame. Sure, if you need to clue them through non-name words, MARLOW and POIROT are out--but what about Miss MAPLES?

I think it's time to talk Heine. He's one of the best known German poets--so, bear with me if you're interested. Here are two Heine poems in a prose translation by me that may give you an idea of his range. [Background: When the Erlking made his appearance in puzzles some months ago, I explored the web and realized how dreadful many of the translations out there are. This motivated me to try my hand at translating German poems, among them these two by Heine].

His best-known poem is Die Loreley, of wich I'm of two minds.
Here’s the standard musical setting, still played, as I’m told, on tourist ships when they pass the cliff of the same name on the Rhine. Then listen to what a master like Liszt can do with the same material. This is in IMHO better than the poem because it creates precisely the mounting sense of dread and doom that Heine’s poem lacks, but that other Loreley poems have--the allusions to Schubert’s Erlking at the end are unmistakable. And boy, does Liszt ever hammer home, at the end, that she did it (i.e. lured sailors to their death)!

gypsy 10:23 AM  

Glad to see Brian ENO make an appearance. I think "A Year With Swollen Appendices" is the best title ever.

(Also, he and David Byrne just put out a new album that I highly recommend.)

I guess NEW HAVEN does have a claim to fame other than Yale, but really...phone directories?

I didn't really get the theme - think most of those detectives were before my time. The only one I knew was Nancy DREW.

A STEAMER might not be raw, but they definitely serve them at raw bars. Mmm, steamers.

joho 10:29 AM  

Getting the theme did nothing to help me along with this puzzle. Never heard of FELL or FISH so even getting them right meant nothing to me. Which is disappointing in a Sunday puzzle.

I agree with @anon at 9:11 that STEAMERS are not raw and cold like oysters. They are cooked and hot.

My downfall was I had ERN for EEL and because I haven't looked at a brandy bottle in a long time I couldn't get VSO. So this Sunday I did not prevail.

I think we should bring all the teens back!

Bill from NJ 10:35 AM  

Geez, I hadn't thought of Gideon Fell for 30 years. I devoured the Carr novels when I was in high school and a quirkier detective you will never see! Maybe I will re-read some of the Dr Fell novels (if I can find them.)

I didn't even see the theme until I was almost done as I ended up in the Deep South last as I struggled, typically, with this Quigley puzzle.

I always have trouble with BEQ and this week was no different. Obviously, the theme was of no help to me in solving this and I ground it out in just over an hour.

I struggled in Southern California as SPADECASINO meant nothing to me and the answers surrounding it I didn't know. It was the last section to fall. I also struggled in the Florida Keys as I didn't know the diamond producer and I had ODER as the river until near the end and that didn't help.

But I finally went on "clean-up patrol" and corrected all my mistakes but it was a struggle!

miriam b 10:55 AM  

Yes, Ulrich, I see what you mean about the hommage to Schubert. That's a marvelous setting for the poem, and one which is new to me. It's even creepier than the Mephisto Waltz, and I mean that n a GOOD way.

JC66 11:06 AM  

Unlike some others, the NW posed no problem for me, so between "IT'S A MYSTERY" and DREW UNIVERSITY, the puzzle's theme became immediately apparent.

But this didn't provide any help in solving the rest of the puzzle.

And the SW took me forever. I didn't know arcSINE, couldn't see ARMORS for safeguards and never heard of SPADEcasINO.

Seeing MUSE broke it open for me.

All in al, a fun puzzle.

jannieb 11:10 AM  

@Ulrich - If you're referring to Agatha Christie's sleuth, that would be Miss Marple, no?

Ulrich 11:45 AM  

@janieb: My bad, again. I must make it a habit now to google everything I think I remember from 50 years back--it's that long that I read my last Cristie.

bill from fl 11:46 AM  

This was fun although a bit less hip than the norm for BEQ. The theme became apparent fairly soon, but was no help at all in solving the puzzle. I'd never heard of a couple of these detectives. I think MASON is ok for the theme. According to Wikipedia, "In The Case of the Caretaker's Cat (1935), his principal antagonist, District Attorney Hamilton Burger, says: 'You're a better detective than you are a lawyer. When you turn your mind to the solution of a crime, you ferret out the truth.'"

The Perry Mason TV show was also about the investigations. The courtroom scenes almost always were just an excuse for the villain to confess when confronted with the truth--which, of course, never happens in a real courtroom.

jae 11:55 AM  

I also liked this one but the theme was no help for me either. It was more medium-challenging for me mostly because of the SW. I had COSSINE and PAX for way too long. Other missteps were DONNE, SOP (thinking VSOP), JOADS spelled JODES, and ZANNEY which prevented the obvious HUEVOS for a while. Seemed like a typical BEQ, i.e. a good Sunday test.

Anonymous 12:08 PM  

I think raglan is named after Lord Raglan; not sure why

foodie 12:27 PM  

I love reading mysteries, I caught on to the theme halfway through, and I even finished the whole puzzle, albeit slowly. And still, I am not happy. Somehow, it managed to feel like a slog, slow, laborious, and for me, no fun...

So, in an attempt to be constructive rather than snarky, I thought about why. And I think it's the nature of this grid. There were not enough really long answers. Two of the "longest answers" are ninemers or nonamers in science speak (FISHSTORY and MASONJARS). Which means several things: a) the long ones are not so easy to identify, unless you search and count; b) there are too many short answers, and you wind up with a lot of crosswordese and c) most importantly, you miss the rush of pleasure that you get from a long answer that not only reveals itself but opens up a whole area.

Sometimes I feel that there is a sweet spot of white to black that makes it more likely to have both beautiful grid design and pleasurable solving experience.

I said the above and then went back to read the end of yesterday's commentary. I remembered that there was a late night comment from a constructor, and found a response from Rex this am. It's an interesting exchange, may be of the kind that Orange's site will have?

PS.@ChefBea, you may wish to check out my last comment yesterday re "dehiscer".

Anonymous 12:39 PM  

FYI - Enzymes always end in"ase", while sugars end in "ose".

blues2u 1:47 PM  

Second ARLO Guthrie clue since Friday. END IT insisted on being "split". Worked in NEW HAVEN once and had actually heard this trivia. First clue I wrote was MAGNUMOPUS and still didn't make the theme connection.
The GEED answer still is unfamiliar to me but RAGLAN was so I knew it must be right.

Overall a slow starter built up speed with each clue.

archaeoprof 2:21 PM  

In my teens I never missed Perry MASON. Wanted to be Paul Drake, and marry Della Street. Maybe that's why these days I like Law & Order: it's Perry Mason, updated for today.

poc 2:39 PM  

I'd file this one as tough but unrewarding. I managed to complete it without Google's help but with a sense of struggling uphill on my hands and knees. De gustibus etc.

Anyway, a couple of specific points:

1) Perry MASON a detective? I don't think so. Dubious.

2) An ARCSINE is not an angle, it's a trigonometric function of an angle. I resisted this until there was clearly no alternative. Sloppy.

BTW @anonymous is right. RAGLAN is for Lord Raglan, one of those involved in the Charge of the Light Brigade fiasco, along with Lord Cardigan who is also remembered in clothing (look it up if you don't believe me :-).

jeff in chicago 2:53 PM  

This one wasn't a breeze, and it took slightly longer than my usual Sunday time, but overall, I enjoyed it. Crime fiction isn't a forte for me, so it took some working to get of few of the previously unknown detectives. 109A was one of the first things I filled in, so I knew what was coming.

Record producer + 3 letters = ENO.

I used to say "FABU" with some regularity during my addiction to the "Animaniacs" cartoons. But according to various sources, it was "FABOO" for them. They did some very clever songs on the show, and one CD they released (and which I own) was titled "The Animaniacs Faboo! Collection." I suppose we can consider one or the other to be an alternative spelling.

Others have covered any and all kudos/concerns I had so I wish you all a grand Sunday.

Orange 2:53 PM  

Did you know that cities had phone books before there were phones? They called them city directories, but they were set up the same—people in alphabetical order, with their addresses. They're a handy genealogical tool—I've looked at Chicago directories from the 1860s or 1870s.

We need a mnemonic for -ASE and -OSE. Sugars could be "O sweet elixir," but I have no clue what to do with enzymes/-ASE.

chefbea1 2:54 PM  

I understood the theme and knew most of the detectives -not Fish never heard of him.

And my first thought when I saw cow pea...

@foodie I did see your comment from late last night..So now I'm famous?? I might be more famous next week..After the results of a chili contest. I'll keep you posted

I have never seen steamer on a menu - raw or steamed. It's always steamers. You cant order just one!!

miriam b 3:03 PM  

For enzymes how about "acts on substrates"?

fikink 3:26 PM  

I was so giddy with the idea that SPILT and SPLIT was cleverly buried in the same puzzle, I refused to let go of it.
Alas, my wonderfully resonant inner world defeats me all the time.

Ulrich 3:42 PM  

@poc: Since none of our math mavens has spoken yet, let me take the lead in respectfully disagreeing with you. arcsin is not a function of an angle: Its domain is the interval from -1 to 1, i.e. the range of the sin function, which is in essence the ratio between two sides of a right triangle forming an angle. arcsin takes such a ratio and gives you back the corresponding angle, measured in radians, which are easily converted into degrees. So, the clue is correct for all practical purposes.

@fikink: Sometimes, we expect too much from the world, be it xword puzzles or politics.

Anonymous 4:41 PM  

I love this site and it has vastly improved my solving, particularly getting through Fridays and Saturdays now whereas that used to be almost impossible for me. On the down side the difficulty ratings reflect the host's skills (extraordinary) rather than a more typical visitor's abilities.

foodie 5:02 PM  

@Orange, since enzymes break things down and change them forever, how about using "A Sad End" to remember the ASE ending?

I did not know about the existence of directories before telephones. What is remarkable is that cities in the Middle East (e.g. Beirut, Damascus, Amman) still don't have good directories. If you ask for an address, you get something like "near the Mecca Mall" (and YES, there is a Mecca Mall in Amman!).

Anonymous 5:05 PM  

@blues2u

Verbal cues to farm teams (usually oxen, usually when plowing)=

Gee = go right
Haw = go left

They come up fairly often.

Geed is the past tense, I presume. If there can be such a thing, it exists only in crosswordese.

@poc

I think I follow Ulrich on arcsine, (not to be confused with cosine), my trig now starts to fade around SOHCAHTOA, but remember being taught to read arcsine as *the ANGLE whos sine is ...*

.../Glitch

C zar 6:12 PM  

I was introduced to the concept of a WOOD LOT by my in-laws in Wisconsin. In a farm community, the "wood lot" is a section of land reserved for cutting wood for lumber or fuel. Often the wood lot is not connected to the farm property, but in a remote location that has never been cleared and drained for farming.

alanrichard 6:42 PM  

I took this puzzle to the beach at Bayville, where after Labor Day - you do not have to be a resident. I got in a mile swim from Steirs beach to Steve's Pier,(Which is no longer in business), and then hung out on a beach chair and did the puzzle. I did the diagramless too. But even after I finished, didn't realize the theme until I read Rex's blog - duh!!!!!
Now I can check out Orange's commentary too - along with Jimh, and Donald's Gothic.

joho 6:49 PM  

@ulrich: thank you for your translations of Heine's poems. You make me want to dust off some old books from college. I studied Rainer Maria Rilke under Erich Heller there.

@orange: this may sound really stupid, but if you already have your mnemonic for sugars to remember OSE as "O sweet elixir" why do need another for ASE?

towerofdabble 7:57 PM  

@poc -- thank you!

That drove me crazy. An arcsine is NOT an angle, it's a function. This really bothered me.

towerofdabble 8:01 PM  

@ulrich -- arcsine may give you a solution that's an angle, but saying arcsine is an angle is like saying modulo is an integer.

Orange 8:05 PM  

Well, Joho, if the clue's looking for an enzyme, it would be handy to have an A.S.E. phrase that comes readily to mind and not be thinking, "Let's see, O sweet elixir is for sugars, so it's not that..." Not like I can't remember that, but still.

mac 8:26 PM  

This was the first Sunday puzzle I really enjoyed in a long time. No googles, and a lot of fun with the fill. I have loved mysteries for many years, but I seem to like the female, and often British, authors the best. There were only two or three names I recognized in this puzzle, but it wasn't hard to get them through crosses.

I did have some funny initial mistakes: "Donne" instead of "Heine", the first needed a lot of forgiveness, as per his words; twimc (to whom it may concern) for 28d; and when I asked my husband, the resident New England Yankee and raw bar afficionado, "would you have steamers at a raw bar?", he said "I would have steamers anywhere.

@glitch: last night we were at a fundraiser and the caterers managed to serve mashed potatoes made out of undercooked/basically half raw potatoes.....

mac 8:53 PM  

@foodie: I just went back once again to yesterday's comments and I have to thank you for what is, I think, what many of us Rex commenters would want to express. You are just wonderful, and not just in this instance, but on an almost daily basis!

Michael 9:09 PM  

Seeing a BEQ puzzle always makes me think that I'm in for a hard solving experience. But this one was not hard for me -- perhaps because I like crime fiction (another similarity to commenter archaeoprof in addition to our profession [there is a subdisciplinary difference} and our like of crossword puzzles).

I also thought the fill was very good.

On the debate between Rex and constructor Craig yesterday -- I'm on Rex's side. (Always dangerous to do this in a blog since he might not agree with what comes next!) As a solver, I really have limited interest in the aesthetics of a grid. I appreciate, for example, a grid with few black spaces, but that sort of thing is of much less importance to me than the quality of clue-answer combos and (if relevant) the cleverness of the theme.

Curt McGirt 9:16 PM  

Agree strongly with foodie. This one was a dud. In the spirit of "constructiveness, not snarkiness," I will say no more.

mac 9:55 PM  

@rex: I don't know if anyone mentioned this, I haven't read off the above comments, but your grid looks so wonderful!

foodie 10:13 PM  

@mac, Thank you! I especially appreciate it coming from you. Actually as I was reading your first post, I was thinking about how I love the same kind of mystery novels as you do-- by British females, witness the list I have on my profile. Great minds...

I just registered at Orange's new site. Very impressive! and it looks like it will get a lot of traffic. I think I will be getting even less sleep...

Joon 12:43 AM  

it's kind of funny that we have these discussions every time ARCSINE comes up. last time it was people not knowing the difference between domain and range. this time it's even simpler, though the confusion is along much the same lines. ARCSINE is definitely a function which returns an angle. therefore, any angle whose sine is relevant is an ARCSINE, albeit not "the" ARCSINE (the function itself). that makes the clue very much correct: an ARCSINE is a [Trig angle].

(i note with bemusement that BEQ was also responsible for the previous ARCSINE appearance. i don't know if it's BEQ or WS who's responsible for these correct-despite-what-everyone-thinks ARCSINE clues, but i applaud them both.)

joho 8:41 AM  

@orange: just asking, didn't mean to offend.

william e emba 9:31 AM  

Am I the only person who thinks the cluing for Eve ENSLER via her monologues is not breakfast appropriate? A few years ago EVE Ensler was clued the same way.

ARCSINE is indeed used to mean both the function and the particular angle returned. The clue and answer as given are correct.

The NYT had an article on New Haven's issuing the first known telephone directory sometime this past summer. I even remembered, while doing the puzzle, that it was some well-known city in Connecticut. For the life of me, I absolutely couldn't recall the name of the city with the Ivy League school in it! Must have been that Princeton education of mine.

Regarding the diagramless--I was astonished to learn a certain bit of spelling trivia about a famous Bela Lugosi character--and even more astonished that I've never seen it in the regular NYT crosswords.

poc 12:45 PM  

@ulrich (and others) I'm chastened to have to acknowledge that you are right in that an arcsine is a function producing an angle. @towerofdabble alsom has a point though (just that it wasn't the point I was making). Pedantically, I would say that ARCSINE is a function, and *an* (or *the*) ARCSINE is an angle, but it's a fine line and not a distinction we would expect in a crossword.

Spencer 5:26 PM  

Because of this quote, I will always remember RAGLAN:

Lord Raglan, the commander of the British forces, previously the Duke of Wellington’s aide-de-camp, lost his arm to a French cannonball at Waterloo. His specially designed sleeve – the Raglan sleeve, along with the cardigan and the balaclava – is how we remember the Crimean War.

(From http://morris.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/04/which-came-first-part-two/.)

With regards to Ms. Ensler's monologues, I recently attended a performance of same. I was not the only man in the audience, but there were just a few of us. (A friend had organized the performance, and both she and my wife encouraged my attendance.) In the common phrase, I laughed, I cried, and I was (at times) embarrassed. But I don't regret going.

Anonymous 5:45 PM  

Dead right on the da Vinci comment. We should refer to him as Leonardo or Leonardo da Vinci. Or are we going to start referring to "Of Nazareth" rather than Jesus? Nice call.

Citizen Mundane 2:56 PM  

I didn't get the theme until after I was finished, mostly due to never having heard of Drew University or madera county... I kept wanting to put in deep university, like a play on deep universe, and i had medina instead of madera, and hee instead of har, so the NW corner was good and screwed up for me... finally got it after googling california counties, so technically I cheated... I would have liked the theme better if the clues were related to the theme instead of just the answers... I got all the theme answers without needing the theme for a hint, not as fun that way... not a bad puzzle all in all...

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