THURSDAY, Sep. 11, 2008 - Caleb Madison (Ancient Semitic fertility goddess / Request at a laundry / Headline-making illness of 2002-03)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "WALK OF FAME" (4D: Theme of this puzzle) - puzzle also features HOLLYWOOD / BOULEVARD, LOS ANGELES, circled squares you can connect alphabetically into the shape of a star, and a "STAR" rebus that creates an honest-to-god WALK OF FAME down the middle of the puzzle

This puzzle is stunning. A theme that runs three elements deep!? - theme answers, rebus, circled squares. All of it in perfect symmetry (OK, the big star is a little wonky, but it's as unwonky as it could possibly get, and the placement of the circles that form the corners maintains rotational symmetry). Because the theme answers and the circled squares are so immediately evident, that rebus really comes out of nowhere - a truly fantastic and unexpected surprise. This has to be one of the most impressive Thursday puzzles of the year.

Theme answers:

  • 4D: Theme of this puzzle (Walk of Fame)
  • 32D: With 12-Down, locale of the 4-Down (Hollywood / Boulevard)
  • 30D: City where 32- and 12-Down is found (Los Angeles)
Rebus answers:
  • 15A: Request at a laundry ("No STAR ch")
  • 7D: Ancient Semitic fertility goddess (A STAR te)
  • 39A: Illumination of manuscripts, and others (lo STAR ts)
  • 27D: Place for picnicking and dog-walking (re STAR ea) - this intersection is fabulous, with STAR breaking across two words in each answer
  • 64A: Options during computer woes (re STAR ts)
  • 57D: Yellow squirt? (mu STAR d)
With the exception of the rebusy patches, which may have thrown people for many loops, the hardest part of the puzzle seemed to me to be the SW corner, particularly TWEE (53A: _____ pop, music genre since the 1980s) over "TOMA" (60A: Tony Musante TV series). Holy moses, that's really turning the hoses on the anti-popcult people (although I assume said people have at least heard of ELAINE MAY - 33D: "Ishtar" director - which should have made all the TWEE / TOMA crossings very gettable). Proper noun haters will also be severely dismayed by this puzzle, which is drowning in names. Check it!
  • LIV (30A: Actress Tyler)
  • ALDA (43A: Tony nominee for "Glengarry Glen Ross")
  • LARA (14A: _____ Flynn Boyle of "Twin Peaks")
  • ERICH (3D: Filmmaker Von Stroheim)
  • VERA (55D: Lynn who sang "We'll Meet Again") - who?

  • ETTA (65A: James of jazz)
  • ANAIS (5A: First name in erotica)
  • AYN (48A: Rand who created Dagny Taggart) - ANAIS and AYN both prominent names on my mother's bookshelves when I was growing up
  • IRENE (34A: Adler who outwitted Sherlock Holmes)
  • ESTEE (18A: Popular women's fragrance)
  • ASTARTE you've met
  • ETHAN Allen's from "American history," which has to be one of the lamest clues ever (52D: Allen in American history)
  • "TOMA" (later recast and changed to "BARETTA")
That's a lot of names. I didn't mind.

What remains?
  • 25A: Relatives, slangily (fam) - a horrid abbreviation. If I heard it in conversation I would certainly ask whoever said it to repeat him/herself. "What was that ... something about a fan?"
  • 1D: Ruiner of many a photo (glare) - "Ruiner" is ugly, but the general idea for the clue is a good one.
  • 40A: Headline-making illness of 2002-03 (SARS) - 774 dead, which is a lot, but doesn't even come close to the number of people influenza takes every year.
  • 11D: Like some six-packs (abdominal) - sweet, sweet misdirection.
  • 44A: Interrogator's discovery (lie) - he/she wishes. I'll never break, copper!
  • 61A: Extracted chemical (educt) - up there among the Ugliest Words in the Universe.
  • 47D: "That mad game the world so loves to play," to Jonathan Swift (war) - [...]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS if you stand back a little bit and look at the grid, it actually looks like a street intersection. Another amazing touch.


joho 9:09 AM  

This is an amazing puzzle. It just kept getting better and better as I went along the walk of fame. I can't say enough about Caleb Madison's efforts here where he has definitely take a star turn.

imsdave1 9:10 AM  

Wow - I am just stunned by this puzzle.

Ulrich 9:16 AM  

I was also really impressed, so much so that I thought the somewhat non-symmetrical star formed by the circles could have been omitted--without it, the puzle would have been really perfect--in the "less is more" sense.

I have to say, though, that the circles must have influenced me subconsciously: When I started to draw stars for the rebus squares, I did not draw my usual three crossing strokes, but a continuous polyline as set up by the circles; in other words, I must have recognized the implied star pattern right away.

joho 9:21 AM  

Whoops, "taken" a star turn.

poc 9:34 AM  

@ulrich: I agree about the star. Trying slightly too hard and not quite making it.

Good otherwise though, except I that don't really like EBON in this context. In my book, piano keys are Ebony (and Ivory).

joho 9:42 AM  

@ulrich & @poc: Couldn't disagree with you more about the star. It may not be perfect in shape, but is the perfect final touch to this gold star puzzle.

Noam D. Elkies 9:50 AM  

Yeah, a great Thursday idea, though all the [obscenity] names and other signs of grid strain suggest that it might have been better to just omit the off-kilter star and use the resulting freedom to improve the fill... The 60A/33D crossing is particularly Natique: no, I haven't "at least heard of ELAINE MAY" that I can remember, so guessed Ray/toRa, which feels equally plausible if not more so.

At least two entries skirt the breakfast-table test: 36A:ONAN, however innocuously clued (as in the Maleska-era "the _____ mightier..."), and the clue "Yellow squirt?" for the (apparently) four-letter 57D, which suggests not MU*D but a rather different substance.

Thanks for the (sauce) in the 29D clue, which otherwise looks like PASTA matching 3/5 of the correct answer.


P.S. I liked the clue for 51D:TASTE.

John in NC 9:54 AM  

Fantastic puzzle. The only place I got tripped up was in the center. Someone help me out: how is "Illumination of manuscripts" a lost art? I don't even know what the phrase means...

Yay for 15 yr olds who dig Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura. Ok, we don't know if he actually likes Twee Pop... but I was happy for the reference to this somewhat obscure sub-genre.

Orange 9:56 AM  

But Noam, you should have at least heard of Elaine May! We'll cut you some slack as you probably weren't living in the U.S. during her peak.

I liked FAM just fine. Queen Latifah sold it to me on Living Single, in which her character, Khadijah, hired her cousin Synclaire to work at her magazine's office. They weathered assorted conflicts because they were "fam." (I miss that show.)

Orange 9:58 AM  

John, you can learn about illuminated manuscripts here. Man, I learned about them in high school. What are they teaching kids these days? :-)

PhillySolver 9:59 AM  

The theme came to me pretty early and helped me with the names I did not know. I guessed most of the them except I tried Erica for Erich at first. I discovered the rebus trying to restart my PC and got the other two. However, I was stuck in the NE with BOULEVARD and nothing else, so I tried lots of stars there. My biggest stumble was sixpack and was way into beer thoughts. ABDOMINAL broke it open after a workout. I wanted to say the puzzle was "still a pig", but really it was a fabulous experience. I think the circles actually prevented me from thinking rebus because there was so much else going on. Great job Caleb.

Joon 10:01 AM  

nope, didn't know ELAINEMAY. TWEE wasn't so bad (it's at least a word, albeit a slangy british word), and the E in ELAINE was very guessable. the M was not. BAY, DAY, FAY, GAY, HAY, LAY, MAY, RAY, and TAY are all surnames i've heard of. i didn't really stand a chance, but i guessed G because TOGA is at least a word, so it seemed like it might have stood a better chance of being a TV show name. (against that, there's the conditional probability argument i brought up last time--if it were TOGA, the clue would likely have been different.) afterwords i looked up TOMA and discovered that it ran for exactly one season, 35 years ago. wow.

so that crossing grumped me out. (i'm not going to call it a NATICK, though, because i bet everybody else knows who ELAINEMAY is.) and the huge number of black squares was a bit distracting. (yes, acme, i count them. i care!) and the fill was, in places, quite mediocre--i counted four (!!) partial phrases (ON AN, A NET, AT THE, IT SO), and i'm not entirely sold on AND SO either. the cluing also struck me as a bit odd. there were a large number of clues that required a pronoun to refer to the answer:

They might be chocolate
You might end up with a bum one
It may be wrinkled
You might give a speech by this
It's often unaccounted for

now, i like clues of this type, but this seemed like too many. (two too many, in particular, because RAP and ROTE were not really very interesting clues.)

but despite all my griping, i actually thought the puzzle overall was quite ingenious. as jimH said, this puzzle had a little bit of everything. i'm willing to forgive a little bit of compromise in the fill if the theme is sufficiently demanding, and this one was. so kudos to caleb on an impressive construction.

Joon 10:05 AM  

see, the problem with writing a three-page diatribe is that other people beat you to the punch while you're composing it. :)

at least noam and i both know where NATICK is.

dk 10:06 AM  

you da man Caleb.

Had thumb for the photo ruiner and so the NW was a... problem. Got the star rebus asap as I request NOSTARCH at the laundry.

Thought 4d may be MannsChinese but it did not fit and messed up the crosses. And, I wanted Moxi for yellow squirt. I have a mac so RESTARTS and reboots are seldom an issue so that section was a little slow as well.

Child:CHEF is great (I've cut the dickens out of my thumb).

VAMPIREBAT is inspired.

In sum, outside of the horses head you will find between your sheets for making me late for work, great job Caleb.


Vito C.

Twangster 10:11 AM  

I figured out the gimmick but then wasn't sure how to fill it in online. Using an asterisk (*) seemed like the best bet, since people say "star-69" a lot when they use the asterisk on the phone, but then the gods wouldn't accept the puzzle as correct. But I thought that might be because I had an answer wrong somewhere, so I doublechecked all the clues. Then I experimented with various options, such as using an X and leaving the stars blank. As a last resort I tried S and it worked. So it took me about 10 minutes to solve the puzzle and 20 more to submit it correctly. Am I the only one who had trouble with that aspect?

Rex Parker 10:15 AM  


Since when is requiring a pronoun in your clue a bad thing? There are limits? When did that happen? That criticism sounds completely invented.

Elaine May is famous. Had you known her, I'm guessing, diatribe averted.

Black squares, shmack squares. The unusual grid shape was hot. Counting black squares and the number of answers and all that crap is incredibly boring. IMOO.


Crosscan 10:24 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crosscan 10:24 AM  

Well I guess the "what's so special about teen week?" comments will go away now, won't they.

This is a dayenu* puzzle.

If it just had the four long theme answers, dayenu.

If it just had the circled letters, dayenu.

If it just had the 3 rebus stars, dayenu.

Together, it is a tour-de-force and deserves a place on the Crossword Block of Fame.

[* dayenu = it would have sufficed. It is a song sung at the Passover SEDER about all of God's gifts and has the catchiest tune of the whole seder. Dayenu is repeated as the chorus after each verse.]

PhillySolver 10:25 AM Across LIte, you combine SHIFT + INSERT and you can pick a star from the patters that pop up. Alternatively, you can hit INSERT and type in the word STAR. The grid will show part of the rebus fill.

Bill from NJ 10:34 AM  

There was so much more going on, I wasn't looking for the rebus and that element of the puzzle was the last to fall.

Strangely enough, the clue Illuminations brought up the idea of a LOSTART but, since I wasn't looking for the rebus, I rejected it.

So when the rebus finally reared its head, there was the Walk of Fame right down the middle of the puzzle. I inserted the star symbol because it looked so pretty

Two Ponies 10:38 AM  

If only one of construction elements had been used then some gripes would be justified but three? Give the kid a break. I cannot imagine trying to put this puzzle together. All of those long answers and a vampire bat as well!
I would rate this an easy for the solvers but it must have been a challenge to construct.
Bravo Caleb!
P.S. If I was a cowboy I'd be really embarrassed to have that "mocktail" named after me.

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

The editors at YouTube say that the home videos of seder including Dayenu are among the most common. Most are iffy and this one starts out a little quirky, but for your crosscan culture lesson, check it


jannieb 10:44 AM  

Finally - the WOW factor for teen week. Great job, Caleb.

Elaine May first became famous as a comedienne, teaming with Mike Nichols (yes, the one married to Diane Sawyer) for some truly memorable comedy routines (I remember one where she's a 411 operator and he's trying to get a phone number.) They both went on to careers in films and theatre, both as actors and directors. Recognizing her for Ishtar is a real blight on an otherwise solid body of work.

Back to the puzzle - some really inspired cluing and fill, with very little spoor! Nice, nice, nice.

Crosscan 10:46 AM  

Thanks Miguel. It didn't occur to me to post a YouTube link.

DOH! How long have been reading this blog?

Patchen 10:51 AM  

The thing that humbled me with this puzzle is that for a surprisingly long time, I was working with another theme entirely - I had found the big star, and the star rebi squares, and had the "A" and "K" of "walk of fame." Naturally, I assumed that the "theme of this puzzle" was ... DARK MATTER. It fit so nicely

Could it be that I was influenced by the flipping of the big switch at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva yesterday? Oh, I think so. I think so very much.

evil doug 10:55 AM  

Well, well, well. No more "penalty box" association with 8-d, eh, Will? Back to the same, tired bakery worker clue.

I would prefer sticking with the hockey connection, but thusly:

"A pucking violator".

You're welcome; no charge.

But beyond that minor complaint, it was fun to crank through the puzzle. Almost got hung up with Hall of Fame, which promptly got me nowhere with 1-a. Nice early surprise that required I be a little more vigilant throughout. Well done, young man.


Anonymous 11:04 AM  

Rex says he saw a street grid in the empty crossword grid, but on this 9/11 morning I saw falling towers!

Every teen constructor this week has used notably old cultural references. This morning I was struck by the appearance of Vera Lynn (55D) (thanks for the video, Rex), and "We'll Meet Again" ran through my head as I finished the puzzle.

My only objection was to the 53A/54D crossing. Perhaps 54D should have been clued "All ___ (On the qui vive)".

Noam D. Elkies 11:15 AM  

Well Elaine May's Wikipage suggests that she was famous -- decades ago, with her ``greatest fame'' being two generations back. Ishtar seems to be the only fame-worthy (or in this case infamy-worthy) thing she did since 1976. No wonder she's one of those people who is so famous that I have never heard of her (or at least never heard anything memorable about her).

Just noticed: 25A:FAM is not just bad but unnecessarily bad, since 26D:MILAN could have been SILAS (as in Marner), giving the crossings
"fas" (subdominants, or "___ in flames") for 25A, and the real word "sea" instead of the initialese 45A:NEA.


jae 11:24 AM  

Amazing puzzle and just right for a Thurs. I briefly had CLUE for 10d and SIDS for 40a but other than that a smooth solve (I do know who ELAINE MAY is but needed a few crosses to remember she was responsible for Ishtar). I also really wanted TWEEN (as in the Jonas Brothers) for the pop music category but there was no way the "N" was going to fit.

I think I may have seen an episode or two of TOMA.

Doc John 11:28 AM  

Great puzzle today! The grid looks more like a pound sign to me, though. The fact that all the sections were relatively isolated added to the challenge.
Did anyone else think the clue for RACKETEERS was a little strange?
Got stuck and had to google-check 33D because I had "Alain O'May". That Julia Child was a CHEF didn't dawn on me and "two E" pop seemed perfectly OK but at least I knew TOMA. I was having trouble with the middle section until NO *CH popped out and then the puzzle was finished.
@ crosscan- great dayenu reference. I think I'll go have some haroset. Oy!

jae 11:29 AM  

Oh, and I thought I remembered "We'll Meet Again" from Dr. Strangelove. I just checked and it was featured in the movie.

Anonymous 11:30 AM  

What fun today! I'm a relatively new visitor to the blog comments and critiques but I was totally impressed with this puzzle......I'm not sure I had even solved a crossword puzzle when I was 15 and, lo these many years later, at times still have "end of the week" solving angst and would never even attempt a puzzle construction. Caleb, you're awesome!!!

Joon 11:49 AM  

rex, i didn't say that pronoun clues were a bad thing. (in fact, i did say, "i like these kinds of clues.") i just thought there were too many of them today--three good ones (LABS, NOSE, TASTE), and two bad ones (RAP, ROTE). and i thought the presence of the two bad ones made the good ones seem less good. of course there's no actual limit, but while i was solving, i remember thinking to myself, "another one of these clues? really?" a few times. [Bum ___] and [By ___] would have been perfectly fine thursday clues; the wordier versions were not cleverer or more interesting, just awkward. so by "too many" i'm really just trying to say that the puzzle would have been better (IMO) with fewer.

the same thing is true of the black squares--the big walls of black were visually distracting and made the solving experience very disjointed. there are two sections with one one way in, and the middle is quite isolated as well. now, the usual limits on black squares are not hard-and-fast rules (at least not to some editors), but this puzzle went way over (46, with the "usual" limit being 38) and i thought it was worse because of that. i don't see the "street" pattern that rex hints at, no matter how hard i squint, so for me, it wasn't "hot." just different, and a little worse.

as for ELAINEMAY... um, yes? i know she's famous. that's why i said, "i'm sure everybody else knows her." (everybody except NDE, apparently.) and yes, had i known her, my lasting impression of this puzzle would have been completely different. i'm not sure what your point is. doesn't it rankle you when you can't finish a puzzle, even (especially) if it's because of something everybody else seems to know? i didn't say it was the puzzle's fault (although i really do dislike that TOMA crossing--would have much preferred AWES/NOME/DOAS instead of TWEE/TOMA/HOAR). but it did make me grumpy. and that's a bummer, because i can also see that this is perhaps the most interesting puzzle of the year theme-wise. i would love to have nothing but happy thoughts about it.

crosscan, i think you're only two-thirds right about the dayenu. certainly the circled letters by themselves would not have been enough. but either of the other two theme elements would have been enough, and certainly any two of the three would have been enough. but all three! wow.

Peter 12:00 PM  

I know I'll be in a major minority (oxymoron?) here, but TWEE was one of the first answers I put in the grid, having wanted it clued that way for some time now. I still don't know who Elaine May is, but most people do so I can live with that entry.

Impressive puzzle!

Karen 12:01 PM  

Put me down as another forty-something who didn't know either ELAINE MAY or TOMA (I tried both the R and the D before looking it up.) Good heavens, Elaine was an (uncredited) co-writer for Labyrinth? Excellent movie.

Twangster, in the applet you can hit the + key for every extra letter before typing (ie +++star) to put the whole word in. Or the first initial works fine, if you can remember where the rebus is.

Twangster 12:08 PM  

Complaining about the degree and timing of Elaine May's fame is weird. She got good reviews for her role in Woody Allen's Small Time Crooks all the way back in ... 2000. And Ishtar is one the most well known flops in movie history (and underrated in my view). So you should have heard of her, and now you have.

Anonymous 12:13 PM  

Racketeers....Why a singular verb (makes) and a plural answer. I thought that was a no-no. Any thoughts or answers on the problem?

Ulrich 12:16 PM  

Please, please give us more grate videos!

Bill from NJ 12:19 PM  


I first saw Dr Strangelove in 1965 and Vera-lynn's rendition of "We'll meet again" was played over a series of nuclear explosions at the very end of the movie that left me with an eerie feeling.

I was part of a military family and the base where we were stationed wouldn't show the movie at the base theater for political reasons so, the times and the movie had a real effect on me.

fikink 12:35 PM  

Once again, unwittingly played this one without seeing the note, and I think I enjoyed it all the more. It was challenging and spoke directly to me. LOVED the clue for LAB, probably because we are looking for a chocolate lab to adopt. And the LOST ART of ms. illumination.
You're right, Rx, got TWEE and TOMA via ELAINEMAY.
@patchen - nice DARK MATTER observation
@docjohn - theme for RACKETEERS plays in Chicago
@jae - yes, was it played when they were refueling or when Slim Pickins rode the bomb? For all his work, I mainly remember George C. Scott in that movie slapping his stomach.
A killer puzzle! Loved it!

Z.J. Mugildny 12:36 PM  

Man, this puzzle really outwitted me. The same way somebody named Irene Adler apparently outwitted Sherlock Holmes. I clunked through the entire thing, all the trivia clues were outside my realm of knowledge, and worst of all, I never got the rebus. I left large pieces of it unsolved (rare for any puzzle, especially a Thursday) and cried "uncle".

I didn't like this puzzle, but that's only because I couldn't solve it. After coming here I see what a nicely constructed puzzle it is and what I missed out on. Kudos to Caleb Madison.

mac 1:07 PM  

That was an impressive puzzle! I have to admit I didn't cotton on to the rebus until late, because the circled letter were going on and the long theme answers, even though I had actually said out loud "no starch". Restarts finally did it for me. Loved the clues for chef, labs, and taste.

I had my biggest problems in the SW, not remembering Elaine May, and not knowing Toma and twee, in addition to misspelling hoar. Now I think about it, wasn't there a biographical documentary about Mike Nichols in which she had a big role?

I disagree with people complaining about the imperfect star, I think the off-kilter shape makes it much more interesting. Last Saturday I saw a beautiful, colorful quilt that would have been ordinary and dull if the stars in the center of each block hadn't been just like these!

Congratulations, Caleb, fantastic job.

Mike the Wino 1:08 PM  

Well, after occasionally commenting here 5 weeks later, I have finally arrived in the present by subscribing to the puzzle online. This will be much nicer, yes I think so.

I must say, along with everyone else, how impressive this puzzle was. By far one of my favorites this year. Great job, Caleb! My 16 YO daughter is intrigued! ;>}

I knew there had to be a rebus, but it took me until the end to parse it out. Then, WHAM, it hit me like a blinding flash from the sun! Oh my stars.......

On another note, I've noticed over the many months I've been reading this blog that several people use the term "clue" interchangeably with where I would put "answer". Not having a clue about terminology among the puzzle gods, is there a particular reason for this?

Thanks for the enlightenment!

Mike the Wino

Eric 1:11 PM  

I thought the theme was brilliant but that the clues were a little on the easy side for Thursday. However there are a lot of adult puzzle constructers (ors?) (ionists?) who coulod learn a thing or two from this young genius. Well done.

archaeoprof 1:13 PM  

My favorite clue was 31A, "Child, for one" for CHEF.

Sitting in an airport waiting for a flight. Flying on Sep 11 is strange. Feels irreverent somehow.

mac 1:15 PM  

@mike the wino: welcome and enjoy! Like your avatar.

I think we all know there is a distinct difference between clue and answer, we must sometimes be too anxious to get our comment in.

@anon 12.13: could "racketeers" be the verb? Little farfetched, but that way it makes sense.

fikink 1:16 PM  

@mikethewino: In that vein, let me emend my message to docjohn - the CLUE for RACKETEERS plays in Chicago.

jeff in chicago 1:43 PM  

Fantastic puzzle, Caleb! Congrats.

Yes, racketeer is a proper verb.

I, too, thought "no starch," but didn't see the rebus until "restart." The word "star" just popped in that one for some reason. Fantastic.

Orange 1:49 PM  

Noam, FAS would be terrible! But change FAM (which I liked) to FOP, ESA to ESO Beso, MILAN to PILAF, NEA to FAA, and ROTE to ROTA (which is not great, but Nino ROTA has been in Tues. and Wed. NYT puzzles). After-the-fact grid-doctoring is always fun, isn't it?

dk 1:49 PM  

For the one or two of you who may not have seen this:

chefbea1 2:04 PM  

What a great puzzle - so much going on. I wanted no starch from the beginning but it wouldt fit til after I to got restart.

Never heard of twee or toma but do know Elaine May.

Of course I loved the Child clue

Welcome Mike the Wino. When we all get together for our dinner we'll put you in charge of the wine

Cyndee 2:12 PM  

I just noticed that the author positioned the circles symmetrically to the puzzle pattern (as related to black boxes), but not necessarily 'symmetrical' to the eye - unwonky. Interesting decision, because he could have circled the first "E" of TWEE but then.... never mind. It's cool.

chefbea1 2:12 PM  

@dk that video is hilarious!!! I remember seeing it many years ago. Those were the good old days, Dan Akroyd, chevy chase,Jayne curtin etc etc etc

Noam D. Elkies 2:25 PM  

Orange 1:49 writes "FAS would be terrible!". Well, to each his 46A:OWN. But having put in FOP instead, we don't even need to change the clue for ESA to get ESO, and then we can work in the now-familiar PALIN by changing IRENE to ARENA and A-TEST to ID EST (substituting RODE for ROTE -- no need for yet another nominal obscurity with ROTA). That leaves PASTO in 29D, but it's easy to fix; if you don't like PASTA/AWN then make it PASTS/SEN, or RAH/HAS TO or maybe RAW/WAS TO.


Anonymous 2:29 PM  

Nice theme gimmick with the ABCD star drawing. In my opinion, I think this puzzle would have been better without the added STAR rebus squares. Too many gimmicks can detract. Very nice puzzle just the same.

Doc John 2:30 PM  

@ fkink- thanks for the explanation. I had a feeling that was what it was but to use "racketeer" as a verb just seems so, um, hinky to me.

@dk- that Julia Child clip brings back great memories for me. It still has to be one of the funniest things I've ever seen in my life. Save the liver!

Paul in MN 2:40 PM  

I can't add much more to what has been said, but may I add to the kudos for today's puzzle. The tripartite theme was indeed a stunner and really did not feel forced at all. I loved the way the rebus stars were arranged as if you were walking down the Boulevard. Honestly from the moment I printed out the puzzle last night and saw the grid I was looking forward to solving it, and it did not disappoint. So, Bravo Caleb!

I also enjoyed that we have Roy Rogers cocktails and abdominal six packs but no alcohol consumed during teen week.

andrea carla michaels 2:40 PM  

Fabulous puzzle, the kid's a *!
Totally agree on the whole Dayenu thing!

thank you for pointing out there were 46 black squares!!!!!!!!
Now I feel justified that two of the best puzles this year have had the most and the least, so that it cancels out needing to know, sort of.

My guess is that it was This puzzle that inspired Will to do teenweek, but it really is just Caleb week (he even had another in the Sun this week) He seems to be something quite special...

Trying to highlight a "teen (boy)week" (well, in this case, a giant Kleig-lit one) has made Caleb's star shine brighter...

At the same time, I think it inadvertently pointed out that before him there were three Tuesday-esque puzzles in a row, that should have been run on maybe three Tuesdays, instead of being crammed into one artificial category!

And, of course, the Elaine May irony (ie she is most lauded and remembered by everyone teen boy week is NOT about!)

Elaine May is seminal in many comediennes' lives being one of the first women to be half a comedy team who was super smart.

(e.g. I love Gracie Allen more than life itself, actually want to do a one woman show about her, but she represents more of the playing-dumb females)

My favorite clue today:
51D It's often unaccounted for

andrea carla michaels 2:41 PM  

ps Young Caleb, put down those Anais Nin books and go do your homework!

Paul in MN 2:45 PM  

I forgot to add earlier that I too was tripped up by the ELAINE MAY/TOMA crossing, but I won't cry "Natick!" I just looked up Elaine May on Rotten Tomatoes and realized to my chagrin that she's in "Small Time Crooks," one of my favorite movies. Oy!

becky from hatch 2:47 PM  

Being impulsive, for some reason I had ABBEYROAD where HOLLYWOOD went and of course it threw me way off.

Did anyone else's high school district pay $10K to have TOMA come speak during the Nancy Reagan "Just Say No" era? (Huge billboards all over our Ohio town saying "TOMA IS COMING!") It was so over the top at my high school that it turned into this crazy thing where people started running onstage to tell their drug tales and turned into total mayhem. It's actually one of my favorite memories of Anderson High School; my friends and I still laugh about it 20 years later.

Man, I kept thinking this puzzle wouldn't be quite right because it was written by someone so young. Caleb, I was SO WRONG! Great job!

acme 2:53 PM  

@jannieb, nde, et al

Again, cluing her in ref to Ishstar (whose bombing probably had more to do with Hoffman/Beatty)reminds me of Paula Poundstone's
fabulous routine about Sirhan Sirhan trying to get out of prison...(Try and look it up)
but the gist is "You kill just ONE person...and THAT'S what you're remembered for????!!!!

dk 3:30 PM  

@acme, your PP gist puts me in mind of a very bad joke about how people get named in a small village.

The punch line after telling how people get names for hunting prowess, ability to build, etc. is:

You just **** one goat. (redacted for teen week)

evil doug 3:38 PM  

@becky from hatch:

A Cincinnati Anderson Redskin? Class of what?

Father of two fellow alumni,

Non-PC, OH

jannieb 3:42 PM  

Thanks ACME - loved it!

sillygoose 5:11 PM  

I just wanted to jump in and say how much I enjoyed this puzzle.

My favorite thing about this puzzle was that after I realized (in a flash after getting Alda) that the long answers were Hollywood, Boulevard, Los Angeles, Walk of Fame, I still was no where near completing the grid. It took me a while to find the rebus squares, which I got from reSTARea.

After all of that, I still got stuck in the SW corner, where, like others, I have never heard of Elaine May, nor Toma, nor Twee. I too tried R and G and some other weirder guesses, and finally had to just call out defeat there.

Still, the overall experience was wonderful.

I was a little disappointed that yesterday's lovely puzzle was placed on a Wed., but this more than makes up for that.

green mantis 5:35 PM  

Quite a puzzle, but it made me wonder about the puzzles that are used for the tournaments: would such a tricked-out grid ever be included? Rex, Orange, anyone?

Do they tend to keep it themeless, or can I expect a puzzle within a puzzle? I would be anti...that.

And F, Acme, Mac--how will I find you guys? I'm getting nervous and I need you people to talk me down. I don't want to wander the Alameda High School cafeteria like some kind of dazed nomad. I might accidentally eat a tater tot or give someone a wedgie.

Maybe I could bring a sign like the drivers at the airport. Is our group called Spotty Erudition, or did Rex claim that for a future dog/band/album name?

Please advise.

Philip 5:46 PM  

And to think...the creator of this masterpiece is 15 years old!

Doc John 5:47 PM  

I wish I could be there in Alameda this weekend but I'm in the east visiting family. Good luck at the tournament, everyone. Maybe you could put some sort of symbol on your nametag to denote that you're a Rex-ite.

Crosscan 5:50 PM  

@green mantis - Oh yeah. All the puzzles are themed, even the Saturday hard level puzzle. And rebuses, word ladders and other tricks have been used.

Not all seven puzzles are like that, so don't be discouraged. Anyone thinking of going to the tournament should get a copy of last year's puzzles ( )to get a feel for what to expect.

CalebM 7:38 PM  

Wow- thanks everyone. I'm so glad you liked the puzzle. VERY exciting to get kudos from some of my favorite constructors.

I am a big fan of twee pop (check out the Boy Least Likely To) and as for Elaine May, I prefer the original Heartbreak Kid to Ishtar.

So glad everyone liked it and thanks for all the props!

If you have any other qs, just comment. I am a big fan of the blog, Rex!


mac 7:45 PM  

@green mantis: I'm so sorry, but I will not be there. I do know that Andrea wants to meet you, and I hope Fergus will make it. I hope to meet all our Xword friends in NY. I was thinking about that just a little while ago, and I realize what really scares me is FIVE puzzles on the Saturday. That's a lot of puzzling... I guess I have to step up the training.
I, and I know many of us, really want you to come to NY as well. Email me and we will work it out. February isn't good anywhere, even SF, so you might as well do something brainy and winy and puzzle related. You'll have a great time.

Michael 8:01 PM  

I'd like to know what percentage of the clues are Caleb's and what percent are Will's. I admire greatly the structure of the puzzle, but if a 15-year-old came up with some of these clues, I'd be amazed, awed, astonished, stunned, etc....

even with the ?, I don't much like "racketeers."

nancy 8:30 PM  

I feel as if I know you but I usually don't comment. I am doing the puzzle first time ever on the computer. Today's puzzle has the "star" in one box. How do you enter that into the computer (or for that matter any rebus)? Thanks for your help and thanks for all the entertaining comments.

jannieb 9:53 PM  

@nancy - if you are using a PC and not a MAC, use the insert key after you highlight the square. Type in all that you want and then hit return.

Ulrich 10:10 PM  

I just had time to verify what I had suspected all along: Astarte is Ishtar by another name--which makes the Elaine May reference really stick!

fergus 10:13 PM  

Remember the Kinks' song about the Stars on Hollywood Boulevard.

My star appeared in the Rest Area.



Probably driving up from Santa Cruz on Saturday morning. Could pick up an insect or two in SF on the way, since I much prefer going up 1 to grinding along 17 and 880.

mac 10:21 PM  

@fergus: I envy you and the little critters this Saturday! Good luck and lots of fun! We want a full report Saturday night, including descriptions of the insects in their civilian gear.

Anonymous 10:25 PM  

Irene Adler was the only woman that sherlock holmes ever loved

nancy 11:15 PM  

thank you...i have a pc; i'll give it a whirl.

green mantis 11:48 PM  

F--I think I should drive because I've got some peripheral business to take care of in Oakland. I'll wear a big flower in my hair or something. Let's figure out tomorrow how to meet.

Sorry to hear you won't be there Mac. We'll miss you.

PuzzleGirl 12:06 AM  

Very late to the party, but I just wanted to add my congratulations on this masterful puzzle. Well done, Caleb!

(The M in the ELAINE MAY/TOMA crossing was the last letter I filled in and it was a Total guess.)

Orange 12:29 AM  

Green Mantis, when Will forks over the puzzles for these mini-tournaments, they're typically the Monday through Thursday NYT crosswords for the coming week, so nothing too gnarly.

Noam, I like your second round of rework. I think it's high time you started constructing. You're mathy, so it's a natural fit.

green mantis 1:16 AM  

K thanks O.

acme 1:35 AM  

email me off line?
sadly, only like 25 folks have signed up thus far, I don't think it will be too hard to figure out who is who!

One word of caution tho, I heard next week's puzzles are all by that 86 yr old lady

Still rankled/wrinkled

becky from hatch 3:21 PM  

EVIL DOUG, should have been Class of '90 but moved to Massachusetts in '88. Lived in Anderson from first grade (Ayer Elementary) through the very beginning of 11th grade in Foxtrail Farms!

Sorry this is off topic guys!

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

Wow. Just wow. Four theme words, three rebuses, and a picture. Incredible.

And ELAINE MAY in a WALK OF FAME puzzle is wonderful, especially right next to HOLLYWOOD! I didn't know all the pop culture references. (TOMA? You'd think I'd have heard, given my name.) But if any puzzle cries out for lots of pop culture, this theme demands it.

Thanks, Caleb, for starting my Thursday out great!

-- tom allen

boardbtr 12:35 PM  

Five weeks later. Just couldn't crack the TWEE, TOMA, ATTHE area without Dr. Google. I have never heard the phrase Twee Pop, never heard of Toma and the phrase "at the ready" is not something that really resonates with me. OTH, it was a fun puzzle.

juliebee 2:52 PM  

Five weeks later - you guys crack me up! Of course, I have just spent about an hour reading about your arguments as to whether or not you ought to have heard of Elaine May! I've missed you all - been working for the last couple of weeks and not had time for my "rex fix" every day. Had to pop in today because I was defeated by the rebus - who'd have expected that? Caleb - wonderful puzzle!


syndakate 4:51 PM  

I loved this puzzle even though I couldn't finish it. I would use the excuse that Elaine May is before my time but Caleb "Smarty-pants" Madison ruined that one for me.
How can you not love the racketeering clue? It's directly from The Godfather which is, of course, the greatest movie ever made. I also liked fam because it reminded me of What About Bob(another great movie). Bill Murray is always talking about doing something with The Fam. My fam thought that was so ridiculously hilarious that we still call each other that to this day. Just not in front of other(normal) people.
Thanks for the fantastic puzzle Caleb.

embien 12:40 AM  

5wkslater (syndication):
What an amazing puzzle. I couldn't finish and didn't see the rebus until I came here.

Also, what the heck did we all do before YouTube. Yesterday: cowbells, large hadron rap. Today: Nichols and May.

Wow (both for the puzzle and the links). Caleb is a STAR.

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