TUESDAY, Sep. 30, 2008 - Allan E. Parrish ("Sic semper tyrannis!" crier / Abbott and Costello movie based on a Ziegfeld musical / Part of PRNDL)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

Theme: Where one might sit in a restaurant - three theme answers end with COUNTER, BOOTH, and TABLE, respectively

Simple theme with colorful theme answers. I really like it. Took me a few seconds, once I was done, to figure out what, in fact, the theme was. GEIGER COUNTER + JOHN WILKES BOOTH = ???? In the middle of the puzzle, I had a feeling of being sucked into a very depressing vortex. First, there's JOHN WILKES BOOTH straight down the middle of your puzzle, which conjures up the not-so-nice image of a president getting shot in the head. Then there's the fact that BOOTH cuts through not one, but two hurricanes. These answers conjure up images of ... well, look out your window, Houstonians. The devastation is still all around you. There's this guy I know, kinda cranky ... he only just got his power back two days ago. So IKE was ... well, it was timely, I'll give it that (34D: Hurricane of 2008). But, RITA? ... that's just piling on. (21D: Abbott and Costello movie based on a Zeigfeld musical - "RIO RITA"). This constellation of depressing answers had me looking around for DESPAIR, DEVASTATION, and APOCALYPSE. Got a little freaked out at 29D: Creator of a branch division? (saw) because my mind saw "Branch Davidian," but ... false alarm. Thankfully, most of the rest of the puzzle was as soothing as sipping AMARETTO (11D: Almond-flavored liqueur) in HYDE PARK (38D: Franklin D. Roosevelt's birthplace), whatever that means.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Particle-detecting device (Geiger counter)
  • 36A: "Sic semper tyrannis!" crier (John Wilkes Booth)
  • 54A: Chemistry class poster, perhaps (periodic table)
I liked this Tuesday puzzle in large part because it managed to be both full of interesting clues and answers and eeeeasy (appropriate Tuesday level of difficulty). I had to look up PRNDL (39D: Part of PRNDL = LOW), which I now pronounce to rhyme with "dirndl." I don't understand why anyone would use that acronym? "What kind of transmission she got?" "Oh, the PRNDL comes standard." "RIO RITA" was the other real mystery to me. That must be pretty far down the list of famous Abbott and Costello movies, right? I must confess that the few times I've watched A&C, I've been bored. The Three Stooges, I sort of get, Laurel and Hardy I like, Chaplin and Keaton are geniuses, but Abbott and Costello? Leave me cold. Just saw a long PBS doc on FDR, so HYDE PARK was a gimme, but it's a welcome, colorful answer nonetheless. Bunch of entertaining, gettable names like
  • MEDEA (14A: Jason jlited her) - not someone you want to cross.
  • OMAR Minaya (16A: Baseball exec Minaya) - apparently he will still be "baseball exec," despite having just presided over Collapse, The Sequel.
  • Michael IRVIN (17A: Wide receiver Michael, nicknamed "The Playmaker") - part of the '90s Cowboys team (the one that could win big games). Now he is a commentator.
  • Sholem ASCH (23A: "The Nazarene" novelist Sholem) - never read him; I just love his last name. You can spell his first name with or without a "c."
And in more evidence of the puzzle's liberal bias: 67A: Home of Barack Obama's father (Kenya). Surely McCain can get into a clue for "ADM." or something small like that. "ARI.?" Come on!

Other areas of interest:
  • 6D: Atlanta gridder (Falcon) - yesterday MALTESE, today, FALCON. Cool.
  • 8D: Caesarean rebuke ("Et tu?") - here I was imagining an exclamation made in an operating room.
  • 26D: "There'll be _____ time..." ("a hot") - whoa. Did not see that coming. Hard to know when to sing your clue. The HOT time was in "the old town," which, in a parody version of this song, referred to CHI (58D: A.L. or N.L. city, in brief), set afire by Mrs. O'Leary's cow.
  • 30D: Bard's "before" (ere) - Starting tomorrow, I'll be teaching the "Bard" to students who are also prisoners.
  • 31: Like Knights Templars (Masonic) - don't like the "s" on the end of "Templars" here. Plus, the Knights I know are not MASONIC, but MALTESE - Crusading creators of the FALCON.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


joho 8:20 AM  

I liked this puzzle, too. It seemed a little bit harder than a ususal Tuesday, but that's a good thing.

I always spell AMAHL "AMHAL" on the first pass but that was easily fixed. However since I had never heard of "the Playmaker" IRVIN or early Commodore computers, AMIGAS, the "I" was a guess.

I never would have gotten the theme before I started coming here. Now I'm looking and it makes the solving all that more fun.

Great Tuesday puzzle, thanks Allan Parrish!

joho 8:28 AM  

@rex: I forgot to mention -- I think it is absolutely wonderful that you teach Shakespeare to inmates.

ArtLvr 8:57 AM  

Hello, all -- I was glad to have the puzzle to relax with around midnight, after feeling about Zero TOLERANCE for the day's LOW politically and financially that we had to UNDERGO. The diner AREAS theme along with GALLERY as shipboard kitchen reminded me to have a snack and hit the sack... no AMARETTO on hand.

GEIGERCOUNTER made me think of fallout, metaphorically. I slept soundly, awoke ready to TRY to pick up the pieces, though not exactly REBORN! What did I find on checking the solution? Small error in the SW -- I unaccountably had tsar rather than CZAR, having missed hometown CHI and the meditative ZEN. I should havy been more WARY. Oh well... ADVICE to self, all is not ASCH and "dum spiro, spero".


JeanSp 8:57 AM  

I'm not going to work today because it is Rosh Hashonah, so this morning feels like a Saturday to me. Therefore I was just tremendously impressed with myself as I did the first third of the puzzle, before I realized that it's just a Tuesday.

JoefromMtVernon 9:16 AM  

Lots of annoying erasures...I too originally had amhal until I saw 3 down...went with diet (for lo-cal) until 6 down, and tsar (it seems like they never use czar).

After Sunday, I was displeased to see any reference to Omar Minaya, but I'll leave that to sports-radio to debate.

Thanks for explaining this theme; went right by me!

Norm 9:53 AM  

The Catholic Encyclopedia refers to them as the KNIGHTS TEMPLARS so I guess the NY Times can too, although I have to agree that Knights Templar is far more common and sounds better.

Wade 9:55 AM  

"But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?"

I missed the theme on this one, too. I'm the worst at seeing themes. But I think it's a, whaddaya call it, pangram.

Both Austin and Houston have Hyde Parks. I lived all over Hyde Park in Austin, which is just north of the UT campus. The last place I lived there was an old apartment complex on one of the higher elevations in the area. A few days before I moved to Houston I got on the roof and I could see, in a single vista, the roofs of about eight or ten places I'd lived over the past 14 years. It seemed like there should have been music playing, but none did, and I climbed down.

Yeah, we were in the last 11% of Houston folk to get power (5:00 p.m. Sunday.) Our neighbors across the street are in the last 114,000 people without power. In Rita we were out four days; in Ike, 16 days. Luckily electricity was restored in time for me to catch television coverage of the end of civilization.

gypsy 9:58 AM  

No idea what A HOT time is and I'm not sure I want to find out.

This seemed harder than the average Tuesday, but maybe I'm just having an off week. I tried to use "CRACK pipe" yesterday and it's been downhill from there.

Larry 10:07 AM  

As I sat up during the hurricane watching trees blow over in my Houston yard, and worrying about my Galveston property, the thought did cross my mind, "At least the crossworld will get a new clue for its favorite president!"

I think this is the first I've seen.

"Bain of Bolivar" can be the Friday version.

mexicangirl 10:17 AM  

I have no idea what the clue for AHOT time is, though it is clear now to me that it belongs to a song. All I care is that I laughed out loud with that Muppet's Show clip with the fabulous Marty Feldman and the rest of the crew.
Thanks again Rex for brightening the day!

archaeoprof 10:31 AM  

What a delightful Tuesday puzzle, with an elusive theme and clever clues.

but what, please, is a PRNDL?

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

PRNDL refers to the gears on a standard automatic -



jeff in chicago 10:40 AM  

Liked the theme a lot. Especially the science-y GEIGERCOUNTER and PERIODICTABLE. We had FILETYPES on Sunday and JPEG today. CHI also has a HYDEPARK, but one rarely sees a STETSON there.

@arch - PRNDL = Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive and Low, the gears on a old manual transmission car.

And more thanks to Rex for the Marty Feldman clip. Loved it.

jeff in chicago 10:43 AM  

doh! not manual...automatic! (every car i've ever owned was a stick)

Orange 10:46 AM  

Totally off-topic, I know—but there's news in the crossword business. The New York Sun is folding today, so the crossword edited by Peter Gordon is currently homeless. Peter will soon be making the puzzles available online for a nominal fee (about a dime a puzzle). Check my blog or Cruciverb.com for updates in the future if you're interested in the puzzle.

Rex, I did rebuke the OB during my C-section. "Et tu, Dr. Peaceman?" I said.

Ladel 10:53 AM  

Before people like Ralph Nader got the auto industry under some control regarding safety, the sequence of gear selection on automatic transmissions was up to the engineering whim of the individual car manufacturers. Federal safety regulations resulted in the sequence shown in today's puzzle, and is mandatory for cars sold in the U.S. So now even in the dark and too drunk to drive you know how to get yourself in gear.

archaeoprof 10:59 AM  

@anonymous & jeff in chicago: thank you, thank you. I'd have never guessed that.

Been driving automatics for too long. My next car is going to be a stick.

John in CT 11:11 AM  

Good Tuesday puzzle. I enjoyed it alot. I grew up watching Abbott and Costello, so have a soft spot for them. Who's on first is still one of my favorite comedy sketches.

A Stab In The Dark 11:14 AM  

I thought this was a terrific puzzle with a collection of beautifully crafted clues. While clearly easy, the clue wording was economical, tight and extremely straight on. Excellent work!


Cheryl 11:39 AM  

Very enjoyable puzzle. I must confess to mass ignorance in the NW resulting in oMegas, oMAHL, and eRVIN. Now I know better, just hope I remember if/when they show up again.

At first I thought there was no theme, even once I finished. Had to run the long answers over a few times in my head before it became apparent.

Again, lots of fun, good clues.

chefbea1 12:04 PM  

Fun easy puzzle today. I got the theme right away after seeing counter and table. Knew the long one had to be another place to sit. Had no idea what PRNDL was til I came here. Thanks for the explanation. I'll see it when I get into my saturn ion - but I think there id L1 and L2.

Happy New Year to Andrea, Bill and Barbara from NJ and everyone else.

fikink 12:30 PM  

Rex, thanks for the Muppet clip. Good stuff! Growing up in Chicagoland, the only lyrics we knew as kids were those about Mrs. O'Leary's cow.

karmasartre 12:33 PM  

@wade- glad you weren't mistaken for a sniper..

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

I especially enjoyed the Intersect of Nerd and Herd, coming the day after the season premiere of Chuck.

brc 1:33 PM  

NW was hard. AMAHL, MEDEA, ASCH, STETSON... well maybe not stetson.

rafaelthatmf 1:54 PM  

The variety of spellings for Tsar drives me nuts. Just like Qadafi. I must have been potty trained with a sling shot. I like things black or white. Gray sucks – well I have a pretty sharp gray suit but otherwise…

Anonymous 2:05 PM  

First the surge
Now the splurge
We are all doomed

jannieb 2:11 PM  

@Wade - too bad you couldn't see Mexico from your rooftops - you could be Secretary of State or something!

Fun puzzle - totally invisible clue. Nice fill, clever clues. Way way above average for a Tuesday.

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

Didnt like all the proper names in the NW....

Doc John 2:29 PM  

I found it harder than usual for a Tuesday. I'll have to commit AMAHL to memory; that probably would have helped. Having "heat" for LANE didn't help, either. To me anyway, it seemed like there were a lot of later-week words or cluing in the puzzle today. ASCH, STAX (potato chips would more Tuesday-ish). And what's with CTR? It's becoming this week's TIEGS.

I always find it strange to have a theme like this with no other supporting words elsewhere in the puzzle. E.g. "diner", "burger", even "Flo".

I'm remembering Lisa Douglas on "Green Acres" calling the gearshift a "pirndle".

How's this for a clue for 10D: "What Wade has now?"

markus 2:40 PM  

I must be overly medicated on DayQuil because the NW refused to open up for me... Had MENS for LANE. Forgot HEIGHT is exception to "i" "e" rule. Wanted Commodore 64...and on and on, anon...

And yet, a very enjoyable puzzle.

Anonymous 3:33 PM  

@doc j

If 'Swim meet division' was what you first thought, it would be spelled HEET, not HEAT. It would also need to be worded differently, as being too close to part of the clue.


Anonymous 3:33 PM  

@doc j

If 'Swim meet division' was what you first thought, it would be spelled HEET, not HEAT. It would also need to be worded differently, as being too close to part of the clue.


steve l 4:49 PM  

@RT (anon. 3:33)
You're joking about HEET, right? HEET is some kind of liniment that used to be popular. A preliminary race at a swim or track meet is a HEAT.

Greene 5:00 PM  

Afternoon puzzlers. Thought this one was fairly straightforward, but I'll be darned if I couldn't see a theme in it all. Thanks Rex.

It looks like Amahl is going to be a regular visitor to the puzzle so somebody should just introduce him to Cheryl Tiegs and get it over with.

You guys didn't really think I could pass up saying something about "Rio Rita" did you? It has apparently been filmed twice, although both film versions are unknown to me. It is mostly remembered in the theatre community as the show Ziegfeld used to open his own theatre back in 1927 (after many editions of the Follies at the New Amsterdam Theatre). I'm pretty sure he wanted to lead with "Showboat" but Hammerstein and Kern were heavy into rewrites and not ready to premiere at the time of the theatre opening. Sooo..."Rio Rita" is pretty much famous for opening the Ziegfeld in 1927 and then getting unceremoniously sacked in 1928 to make way when "Showboat" (a property worthy of Ziegfeld's namesake) sailed into New York and changed musical theatre forever.

jeff in chicago 5:08 PM  

@rafaelthatmf: is it GRAY that sucks? or GREY?


Anonymous 5:38 PM  

Hey, when are the ACCA awards?

dk 5:45 PM  

@jeff... you wag.

To all,

I met AndreaCarlaMichaels and sethg yesterday. We spent almost 4 hours talking about you. Yes you.

We all agreed that it would be fine to "know" the blogger as it provides context for for reading the posts. We also talked about frisbees, bunnies, beets (of course) and many things puzzlish.

The amazing thing for me (being of a certain age) is that 3 of us could meet spend and spend 4 hours chattering like magpies all because of Rex. Rex a tip of the tam and thank you.

On to the puzzle:

Fine Tuesday puzzle.

Jason jilting MEDEA is an example of one trial learning for when to say Yes.

I hung a very large PERIODICTABLE (garnered from a razed High School) in my first apartment. We used to get small (see old Steve Martin bits) and challenge our friends with questions from said table. In addition to the usual atomic weight and symbol questions we included Hennig Brand and his 1649 discovery of the first element, Phosphorous (P), in the bonus round. My favorite was nonchalantly pointing to the table and stating "What is life... Life is the making and breaking of chemical bonds!" Always good for a laugh in the late sixties.

Strangely the same people never came over twice...

jeff in chicago 6:02 PM  

@dk: i would have come over all the time!

rafaelthatmf 6:33 PM  

@Jeff in Chi - my point exactly.
@dk I too would join Jeff in Chi in joining you getting small and talkin' atoms - seems appropriate - nay important!

SethG 6:52 PM  

So back in high school the Pennsylvania math team was hanging out in the Penn State dorms the night before the national meet.

Some of us went out and bought toothpicks to play poker, but most of the guys (which I mean UNISEXually, but it _was_ mostly male guys) sat around and compared the periodic table to state postal abbreviations. "Hey, Georgia is Gallium--GA!" They looked for patterns in the geography and chemical properties of the overlap, alphabetic patterns, stuff like that. NERDS.

L'shana tova to Sholem ASCH and others!

Phineas 7:12 PM  

Since my power came on 4 days ago, I'm hoping I'm not the cranky guy. But I was miffed that I LIKE IKE popped up in the puzzle just a couple days after Ike came through. My family of 5 was in a hotel in Austin at the time, thankfully just escaping the inconvenience of no power (and running my company's DR operations).

Like wade, we were out of power 4 days for Rita, so Ike figured to be a much longer outage.

On to puzzles:
I've been in Houston for 8 years and have never heard of Hyde Park. Will have to search. Hyde Park in Chicago brings back fond memories.

Amhal, Amahl....I always slow myself down with Ahmad for a few cycles.

mac 7:14 PM  

I enjoyed this Tuesday puzzle, did it in good time but found a mistake after checking Rex's grid: Amigos/Osch. I looked for a theme for a change and figured it out after table and counter, but I thought John W. was called Boothe.
I had to come here to find out about PRNDL, I'm a stick-shift driver.

I'm in NY, so I went out and bought the last issue of The Sun. The puzzle is very interesting, I don't think I've ever done one like it. I've been finding NYT words in other puzzles, as well, lately (or vise-versa)!

Happy New Year to all CELEBRANTS.

I'll be checking out the Marty Feldman clip later, he was a RIOT.

miriam b 7:15 PM  


Rhetorical question: Why is phosphorus almost always spelled incorrectly, even by people of rare humor, scintillating intellect, and a unique rakish charm (yes, you).

fergus 7:52 PM  

Looked twice at Rex's comment about two hurricanes intersecting the assassin and it made wonder whether AMARETTO was in ingredient in the famous Hurricane beverage you might find at a New Orleans establishment, which is, I think named after a Pat O'Brian. Obviously I hadn't separated the RIO from RITA, which of course became clear the more I read. This incident may point out that many of us do read closely, and want to make sure we understand any association alluded to.

DK and Sethg, I'm sure you enjoyed getting together with Andrea as much we did in Alameda a couple of weeks ago. Such a lively mind and scintillating presence, or the other way around. I presume she won't mind the flattery either way.

chefbea1 9:01 PM  

checked the gear shift on my saturn ion
the letters are PRNDIL

Doc John 9:24 PM  

My Prius doesn't really have a gear shift but my gear choices also include a B. (Still not exactly sure what it's for, either.)

fergus 10:06 PM  


When I read your comment about the NY Sun going out of business, I realized that the mere provision of a fine crossword puzzle (for free, albeit on line) was not the best business model for a start-up newspaper. While I read a few articles here and there, without much gratification or derision, I still would have bought the paper if I lived in NYC. That the NYTimes still makes us all pay for th puzzle one way or another will keep the publication alive, even though I say this as a longtime devoted reader of the uncluttered national edition, with a subtle aside.

One of the few controversial issues that has arisen is whether loyalty to 'the newspaper of record' stands up to the loss of a competitor. The NY Sun did stage a challenge on that front, but lost.

Those far know more in the know will see how it all plays out in the aftermath, but the foreclosure will have an impact on market conditions, won't it?


Joshua in NH 1:09 AM  

Great theme words, they reminded me of the old Triangle Diner in Springfield . . . thanks for the memories

andrea carla michaels 1:50 AM  

Happy New year all Jews, honorary Jews, and all the folks I assumed were Jewish till we met in person
(Orange, Rex, DK...)

I agree with Rex pretty word for word about most of this (tho I was too lazy to look up PRNDL) tho, as usual, we part company over enthusiasm for so many sports' refs...

For me, this was a very guy guy puzzle with too many "athletic" things not to trip me up (OMAR, IRVIN, CHI, FALCON) "right off the bat" and cars and presidential stuff (but that discussion has been done to death, so I won't start)

As for meeting everyone, DK has already covered that beautifully, tho didn't mention on top of his being so fun and fascinating, he even picked up the check!

What IS with everyone I've met recently (Karmasartre, Green Mantis, Fergus, now DK and the adorable SethG) that everyone IS totally different from what I imagined and to a person as sweet as they are smart, all understatedly sexy, perfect blends of lively and lowkey?

EVERYONE really does need to meet, it totally changes how you read their posts and hear their voices and get their humor...it's fascinating. (Even the off-blog emails seem to be that way).
It is truly remarkable what Rex has created.

um. thank you. (insert blush here)
right back at you!

acme 2:02 AM  

your story totally reminds me of that scene from that Steve Martin movie, "The Lonely Guy", where they are all on the rooftops shouting out their lost loves' names!

Back in SF just for a few hours and already missing my beloved Minneapolis, where they pronounce "roof" rather oddly and I can attest that SethG, originally from Pittsburgh, said "Tor-na-ment" (unprovoked) several times!

fergus 2:14 AM  

It's not even eleven yet on the west coast, so I can still do the Jewish new year, though I celebrated it more as something on the 3/4 variety.

I am partisan to late American Jewish wit, and old testament messages received from my supposed early Christian education. Never did I have any faith in either the older or newer god, but I have always had a preference for the way Jews deal with guilt. Yet there's a distanced part of me that would relish going to Catholic confession as a sympathetic Jew.

Yom Kippur is not too far away.

Norm 10:17 AM  

@docjohn: I believe B on your Prius is like downshifting a manual when going downhill, using the engine to help you brake. Google it. It's highly recommended.

@chefbea1: PRNDL would be an older automatic transmission. Current ones have more gear options. Your PRNDIL includes an intermediate (I'm guessing) between drive and low. Mine is actually PRND4321.

Anonymous 10:46 AM  

RE "A HOT" (in syndication land): the lyrics as I recall from childhood were
One dark night, when we were all in bed
Mrs. O'Leary left a lantern in the shed
Cow kicked it over, winked its eye and said
"There'll be A HOT time in the old town tonight!" (FIRE FIRE FIRE!)
Of legendary significance in Chicago.

Waxy in Montreal 7:40 PM  

Interesting that in syndication land the KENYA entry (Home of Barack Obama's father) appears on November 4th, U.S. Election Day.


Anonymous 10:06 AM  

Hyde Park is a town in New York, where FDR was born.

automatic gearboxes scotland 1:37 AM  

This is actually beyond my reasoning and skills of deduction, not to mention patience.

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