SUNDAY, Oct. 26, 2008 - Daniel C. Bryant (Old Indian V.I.P. / Internet initialism / African nation founder Jomo / Milo's title partner in a 1989 film)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "All Saints' Day" - "ST" is added to familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued (with "?")

I have one word written across my test-solving copy of this puzzle: "painful." Resolving the puzzle last night, I realized that I had to give credit to the theme answers, many of which were bright and funny - I particularly like HOLY STROLLERS, ULTRAVIOLET STRAYS, and WHERE THE BOYS STARE. But the non-theme fill made me wince over and over and over. Most of my responses to Will re: the puzzles are very terse - little corrections or suggestions, and sometimes nothing but "this looks good." But on this day - here is the transcript of my feedback (some of which he listened to). Wait, first, the theme answers:

  • 23A: Switch in an orchestra section? (exchange of STrings)
  • 40A: Pilgrim? (holy STroller)
  • 57A: Neolithic outlaws? (STone-armed bandits)
  • 77A: Invisible lost dogs? (ultraviolet STrays)
  • 96A: Gets fat? (goes all STout)
  • 115A: Go-go club? ("Where the Boys STare")
  • 16D: Add new connections between floors? (put on STairs)
  • 70D: Dieter? (STarch enemy)
OK, now here's my test-solver's response:

Theme answers are just fine - very good in places - but the non-theme fill felt forced throughout. Lots of (to me) obscure or at best marginal proper nouns, odd y-adjectives, and other assorted weirdness. The entire SW feels like it needs a complete rewrite. NAWAB (100D: Old Indian V.I.P.) hasn't appeared in a puzzle in almost a decade - for good reason. I know Bach's Mass in B Minor (125A: Key of Bach's best-known Mass) is super famous (as Masses go), but not giving the solver a reasonable chance at the "B" is harsh. Maybe "B" is the only reasonable guess, but I was leaning "A" for a bit. The letter in a music clue like that should have a reasonable cross.

Other never-heard-ofs:

  • KENYATTA (though I like it) - 104A: African nation founder Jomo _____
  • LACS (Leman is a French lake?) - 79D: Leman and others
  • LEHAR - 4D: Franz who composed "You Are My Heart's Delight"
  • DONATI - 49D: Costume designer Danilo _____
Other comments:
  • SATINY is OK (21A: Smooth and shiny), but then there's LARDY (43D: Loaded with fat)
  • DESERET = Utah? (51D: Another name for 28-Across)
  • EXE is real but feels like lazy fill (114A: Devon river)
  • Don't understand ARR. clue [note: this clue got changed to one I do understand, namely 83A: Sheet music abbr.]
  • How is a TVAD "inside"? (108A: Inside pitch?)
'OME (53A: Kipling's "Follow Me _____") and APLAY (64A: Beckett's "Endgame: _____ in One Act") are just more examples of an overall feel of forcedness. No one of the above answers would be terrible on its own (I don't think). But the cumulative effect is kind of punishing.

Not all BRALESS people "need a lift" (though it's a clever clue - 71D: Needing a lift?) - the idea that women "need" bras might get you some flack.

DERIV = ouch (60D: Word origin: Abbr.)

I thought ALDO RAY was AL DORAY (HA ha) - isn't he more famous for something else? Maybe not. (33D: "The Naked and the Dead" star, 1958) [note: I should add that I had him confused in my head with Mamie Van Doren's erstwhile husband, band leader Ray Anthony]

Don't like clue for NEPALI [clue was changed from 68D: Viewer of the Himalayas to the current, better 68D: Certain Himalayan] - much of the country is *in* the Himalaya range, and "viewer" doesn't seem specific enough (or interesting enough)

Lastly, is STONE-ARMED supposed to mean "armed with stones" or "having arms made of stones?" Either way, it's pretty rough, esp. since most of the other theme answers are so smoooth.

I would post Will's patient and gracious reply, but there are probably copyright issues and plus he always sounds so much more Reasonable than I do, and I really don't want to suffer the comparison this morning. I have to give credit to him as an editor - he genuinely listens to criticism, even if he mostly - and appropriately - sticks to his guns.


  • 10A: Like Arnold Schoenberg's music (atonal) - hmm, let's see. Yes, this sounds like kids noodling with their instruments in the living room ... at least at first:

  • 16A: 1990 Literature Nobelist Octavio _____ (Paz) - never read him, but know the name
  • 38A: Negative north of England (nae!) - exceedingly common; should be a gimme
  • 65A: Crazy Legs Hirsch of the early N.F.L. (Elroy) - Didn't realize a first name was missing, so didn't know what the clue was going for.
  • 68A: How dastards speak (nastily) - I would have said SNIDELY:

  • 72A: Major-league manager Tony (La Russa) - won the World Series recently with the Cards
  • 73A: Be Circe-like (entice) - weird but cool clue
  • 74A: Alfred E. Neuman visages (grins) - I highly recommend Art Spiegelman's "Breakdowns / Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@/*!" - a brilliant comics memoir. I mention this here because there is a big section about the importance of "MAD" magazine to Spiegelman's artistic development.
  • 85A: First Shia imam (Ali) - good, unusual clue for this common answer
  • 95A: Internet initialism (IMHO) - oughta be common to you all by now
  • 111A: Traditional symbol of friendship (topaz) - I had no idea. Also a Hitchcock film.
  • 12D: Milo's title partner in a 1989 film (Otis) - the year "1989" always scares me - what horrid piece of pop culture offal could it be? It's just "Milo and OTIS," which I confuse with "Turner & Hooch" all the time. Difference - dog dies in the latter.
  • 17D: Whitaker played him in a 2006 film (Amin) - he was great / movie was mediocre
  • 24D: Menotti role for a boy soprano (Amahl) - becoming as common as NAE
  • 32D: Curly conker (Moe) - really great clue
  • 36D: Longtime D.C. delegate to Congress _____ Holmes Norton (Eleanor) - hard to clue ELEANOR in a way that is not instantly obvious (i.e. Roosevelt and Rigby are gonna be gimmes no matter how you clue them, probably). So this is an interesting choice of clue.
  • 59D: Gene variant (allele) - managed to hold on to this one from a month or so back when it looked completely alien to me.
  • 69D: Anatomical cavity (antrum) - new, or newish, to me; feels like it might have been in a puzzle recently. Anyway, I pieced it together.
  • 80D: American suffragist honored with a 1995 stamp (Alice Paul) - even with a Women's History specialist in the house, I am terrible at remember names of suffragist and other early women's rights types beyond, let's say, Susan B. Anthony.
  • 88D: Cowboy actor Calhoun (Rory) - watching "The Simpsons" is a huge advantage for crossword solvers, I find. Yesterday, JACKANAPES was completely familiar to me from the episode entitled "Day of the JACKANAPES." Today, I got RORY instantly because of the episode where Mr. Burns decides to buy greyhound puppies from the Simpson family in order to (gasp) make a greyhound fur tuxedo. He decides he will spare one little greyhound, and he names it ... RORY Calhoun.

  • 113D: Sleep indicators (zees) - comics!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Shamik 9:13 AM  

OMG! I solved this correctly! Was truly surprised that it fell into place. Figured on a couple of those obscure things having a bad letter or two. Sheesh. Since I've been recording my times...this took the longest of correctly solved Sunday puzzles at 39:36. Well, Sundays should take a long time...or else you have to look for another puzzle.


Hardly seems like I got any good starts! Grabbed at the ELEE and AMIN type fill with relief. Of course, am always happy to see me at 25D, even if shared with Ms. Belafonte or Ms. Lewis.

ArtLvr 10:45 AM  

It was amusing to see Lac LĂ©man again today, since we discussed it yesterday. I found this one a bit more gettable as to the names, anyway -- NAWAB excepted.

Most striking and timely among the names is 80D, ALICE PAUL (1885-1977), because she was the leader of the NWA (National Woman's Party) demanding a Consitutional Amendment providing women the vote. Her picketing of the White House with others in 1917 led to their arrest and imprisonment -- with torture including rat-infested quarters, beatings and force-feeding during their hunger strikes. Global outcry changed Woodrow Wilson's mind about support of the 19th Amendment, which was passed and then certified as ratified by the required number of states on August 26, 1920.

By 1923 Paul was calling for an Equal Rights Amendment, finally added to both major parties' platforms in the 1940's. Passed by Congress in 1972, it fell short of ratification by the 1982 deadline. However, if Congress repeals the time limit, it could still pass with the approval of just three more states. High time!


Anonymous 10:52 AM  

AIRACE -- Hero Pilot -- drives me crazy. Had WARACE for a long time. Liked GOESALLSTOUT --like trading in lite beer for stout -- another way to get fat.

poc 11:29 AM  

Managed to get it all after some struggle (had heard of KENYATTA and LEHAR, but not of LARUSSA and ALICE PAUL so I guess it evened out), but I don't understand ICES as an answer for 1d) Clinches. I understand "to ice" as a) to add ice to, b) to add icing (frosting) to a cake, and c) to bump off, none of which jibe with meanings for clinch.

Ulrich 11:36 AM  

On the upside: Lacs was clued correctly, and since some of the answers that gave some people fits were gimmies for me (like Kenyatta--I'm old enough to remember the Mau Mau rebellion led by him in the British colony of Kenya from newspaper articles--this was about as difficult as a Thursday, i.e. doable w/o googling, but only after a struggle. I also found it neither more nor less enjoyable than a typical Sunday--in other words, I've already forgotten most of it--off to more important things, like putting a political bumper sticker on my car.

Alan 12:19 PM  

Once you get the theme this puzzle was very easy. Unlike yesterday's puzzle , no pop culture trivia. Too bad Rex. Took me about 20 minutes (The old fashioned way-pen and paper).All in all my kind of puzzle.

Norm 12:27 PM  

Too many names for me, but most were guess-able. Knew NAWAB from history of Britain (the raj and all that) but I can appreciate Rex's gripe. TVAD is an "inside pitch" since it's a "pitch" or come-on than most of us view "inside" our houses. I thought that was cute, although it took me a while. LEHAR is old time crossword for me (pretty common in the LA Times puzzle), as is EXE (one of the many three-letter rivers).

Anonymous 12:39 PM  

Deseret was the original name for the Territory of Utah. It was called the State of Deseret and included all of present day Utah, most of Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming and Arizona. The name comes from a word in the Book of Mormon meaning honeybee. It connoted an idea of industriousness and hard work.

Doug 12:50 PM  

I got my B.A. from THE University of Wisconsin, where ELROY 'Crazy Legs' Hirsch was the much-loved athletic director. He was an NCAA star running back with UW then spent several decades raising glasses with students while running the sports department.

Way too many names in this for me to make it really enjoyable. Was looking for PETER, PAUL, LUKE etc. inside the theme answers, so the ST theme threw me.

fikink 1:00 PM  

Like the idea that Deseret was a name for Utah, though I pronounced the word like the French name, Desiree, in my mind.
NAWAB was my last fill, and, as you say, Rex, for good reason.
Just sent a buddy of mine an essay on Duchamp by PAZ, so that was my "music-of-the-spheres" looper today. As an aging Hippie, BRALESS left me flat. (You warned Will, Rex.)
@ulrich, glad you are sticking it to your bumper! In less than 10 days this will all be over, grid-willing, and we might get a good night's sleep.

Anonymous 1:03 PM  

except for a couples of holes
(Leman for one) thought this was pretty as I finally got the theme
on go-go club clue..admit I jump around until I get it.
Re Rex query on Inside pitch.
I thought it meant an ad which is
technically inside the telly. Guess
that is why there is a question mark.

Ulrich 1:06 PM  

@doug: I was also looking for real saints in the theme answers after the "st" insertion--it would have made this theme really memorable. But when I tried to come up with an example, independently of the puzzle, I could not think of a single one that worked: it's probably not possible--too bad!

aunthattie 1:28 PM  

Helot? Reoil? Nawab? Elon U.? This was an awful puzzle and the theme was not much either--just leaving out ST does not seem likely for All Saints Day. Got Kenyatta (it pays to be old) but I always miss the computer lingo. I am going back to the archive for a better Sunday work-out!
@Katherine K--I am crushed about Pele--no problem with Rock Hudson but Pele? I mourn.

spinsker 1:44 PM  

I had Lone Stranger instead of Holy Stroller, which also seemed to fit the clue. I found this harder than most Sundays. Trying to hold onto these obscure answers for the future!

chris 2:13 PM  

Allele popped up in a Friday puzzle a month or more ago, as Rex noted, when it was clued terribly as a "Mutated gene" (or something to that effect). Props to Shortz for correcting it this time around.

I agree with Rex about the non-theme fill. Some weird names in Arne and Erno and words like 'ome (which I read as O Me...) and Deseret and Nawab and seemingly a billion others made this one not too fun to solve. I didn't like Stone Armed Bandits since I thought of bandits with arms of stone. No one would say gun armed bandit or knife armed bandit to describe a bandit carrying a gun or knife.

PhillySolver 2:21 PM  

I may be missing some irony, but I thought STONE ARM BANDITS was a theme answer referring to Las Vegas slot machines. One armed bandits. Right?

PhillySolver 2:24 PM  

...or, maybe you just don't think it is as clever as the other themes. Maybe not.

Kim 2:25 PM  

Ugh - too many proper names! Twenty-eight by my quick count.

Does anyone know: How was UMA clued before the actress got an agent and her first screen credit?

Orange 2:42 PM  

Phill(ie)Solver: Yes, that them entry is ST + one-armed bandit, but what the heck is a STONE-ARMED BANDIT? I read it as a bandit with arms made of stone; one of my commenters said the bandits were armed with stones, but as Chris says here, we don't say "gun-armed" or "knife-armed." Either way, that theme entry fell flat for me.

Mike the Wino 2:44 PM  

The Neolithic period was the Stone Age, wasn't it? So I was trying STONEage**BANDITS, but this was before I got the theme....

PhillySolver 2:57 PM  


Orange, I see...I thought the Neolithic (new stone age) clue implied the bandit had stones for ammunition. It certainly isn't in the language is it? A Bronze Age Outlaw wouldn't be a Tanned Armed Bandit or an Ice Age Outlaw a snowball thrower, I guess.

Anonymous 3:44 PM  


I also had LONE STRANGER instead of HOLY STROLLER at first. Though I could see it as the answer to "the only unfamiliar person in town."

I enjoyed the theme answers but thought this puzzle was quite challenging due to the complaints already listed by Rex and the fact mentioned by Kim who mentioned the high number of obscure proper nouns.

joho 4:07 PM  

This was a weird Sunday puzzle to me or IMHO. I just couldn't finish it because unlike @fikink I never filled in the "B" on NAWAB. It could have been B,C,D,E,F or G as A didn't seem plausible. So, I was stumped. Man, I hate when that happens.

Does this constitute a Natick? Rex?

Good news: I finally spelled AMAHL right the first time and ALLELE was a gimme after learning it here.

joho 4:08 PM  

This was a weird Sunday puzzle to me or IMHO. I just couldn't finish it because unlike @fikink I never filled in the "B" on NAWAB. It could have been B,C,D,E,F or G as A didn't seem plausible. So, I was stumped. Man, I hate when that happens.

Does this constitute a Natick? Rex?

Good news: I finally spelled AMAHL right the first time and ALLELE was a gimme after learning it here.

Anonymous 4:09 PM  


One man's B minor (a gimme) is another man's N. C. Wyeth (an unfair clue).


joho 4:09 PM  

Forgive me for being redundant.

Anonymous 4:38 PM  

Rex, ARR (in sheet music) stands for "Arrangement" (as in "Arr.[by] Ira Gershwin").


Two Ponies 4:41 PM  

No joy in this one for me. However I did have a smile on my face this morning while on an early morning walk with the dogs. As I looked to the sky just before dawn what did I see? A beautiful earthshine lighting the dark side of the moon! Thanks to yesterday's puzzle I knew it's name.
Someone commented that it looked like a golf ball on a tee and it did.

chefbea1 5:03 PM  

Didn't really like the puzzle today. Took a while to get the theme and even then...still had to google.
@shamick glad to see your name in the puzzle

Not even any food to talk about.

Boo 5:03 PM  

To "clinch" is to put a game on ice - a sure win.

Orange 5:35 PM  

Apparently people who follow classical music know that of course it's Bach's "B Minor Mass," but I don't know what percentage of NYT solvers would know it. I guessed the B, but only because NAWAB sounded more likely to me than NAWAA, NAWAC, NAWAD, NAWAE, NAWAF, or NAWAG (thanks to the related "nabob"). B Minor Mass? Don't know it.

If I were ruler of the crossword world, I'd demand solidly gettable crossings for all the *MAJOR and *MINOR answers (and also *STAR).

Newbie 5:58 PM  

Found this challenging because of all the names, many of which I did not know (LaRussa crossing Deseret, Nawab crossing Kenyatta) and for Alice Paul I filled in Alice Ball, as I had the "a" - should have known it, but live in the town where Philip Johnson's Glass House is, and where his "Alice Ball House" is. Oops. Funny that Rex mentioned Art Spiegelman, as I heard him speak at Hampshire College on Friday night. He was great.

Anonymous 6:04 PM  

I was getting all kinds of cocky because Rex thought Friday's puzzle was a challenge and I breezed through it (relatively speaking). Then yesterday's puzzle killed me and today's was the hardest Sunday puzzle in a long time. I guess there's something about blessed are the meek that I should re-read.

fergus 6:05 PM  

Yeah, the LACS this time did feel a bit like a confession -- like when the referee blows a call and has to find a way to make up for it.

The River EXE runs through some awfully pretty country in Devon and lends its name to Exeter. Exmoor in north Devon (Lorna Doone country) and Dartmoor in the southern part make for some pretty glorious hiking territory; plus you get to stop into many an inviting pub along the way. With the English derivations abounding, I was stuck with Conkers being related to Chestnuts, rather than the Three Stooges.

BRIER still looks wrong, in this seemingly somewhat forced puzzle. LOOT and LUCRE for Spoils and Swag were virtually interchangeable, though LUCRE and Spoils are not necessarily ill-gotten, so maybe these pairings should have been swapped?

Groaning pun, Ms. Fikink. Irresistible, I assume?

Karen 6:23 PM  

I couldn't solve it either, and even after googling for KENYATTA, NAWAB, and ERNO I had invisibly wrong answers for CECE and ALDORAY and I gave up. I guess none of these qualify as 'pop' culture. What category would they fall into, historical culture? I did like the theme, though.

steve l 6:27 PM  

I once read that only 2% of CD's (or was it LP's or was it cassettes?) bought were classical/opera. If we are trying to do a Natick test on B MINOR, you might consider that. I had NO idea what key it was, and like Orange said above, B sounded best, and I did think of NABOB (in fact, considered it for the entry before the W became obvious.)

Also, Rex, you should realize, before it appears in a puzzle, that you catch FLAK, not FLACK, for saying something controversial. Unless you're a pop singer and your name is ROBERTA.

fikink 6:35 PM  

"Solidly gettable" is relative, as Charles mentioned at 4:09, as Bill from NJ mentioned weeks ago.
Soon, the world will change and we may take a step toward truly recognizing we are all in this together. The older generation will learn the advantages of knowing pop culture and stop dismissing it as shallow, gratuitous junk and the younger will start to appreciate the wisdom of experience and perspective.
It all reminds me of the old-man fish swimming by two young'uns in the ocean and he asked, "How's the water, boys?"
And the two young fish looked at one another and said, "What's water?"
(I got that from the three-named author who just committed suicide. All I can come up with is John Foster Dulles, and I know that's an airport, but he was a Secretary of State first.)

@fergus, YOU the man!

foodie 7:22 PM  

Like Ulrich, I found KENYATTA easy, and it was the first answer I entered with any certainty (although I was not sure about the double T). But in general, I am so with Rex on this one. It was a real struggle, even though I got the theme early (which helped) and enjoyed some of the theme answers, especially HOLY STROLLER. To me this one exemplifies a perfect theme answer, because it can be perfectly clued with one word.

I saw "Where the Boys Are" when I was a kid in the Middle East and thought this was what America looked like. Imagine my confusion when upon arrival, I landed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on my way to Iowa City.

ArtLvr 7:22 PM  

@ steve I, who said "I once read that only 2% of CD's (or was it LP's or was it cassettes?) bought were classical/opera." Just want to mention, with fingers crossed, that we have a publicly-supported FM station in the Albany/Hudson River NY area which plays all classical music of all types 24/7. Wonderful boon to those of us frequently up at all hours!

Fingers crossed, because hard times are putting a strain on fund-raising for this venerable enterprise along with so many other worthy institutions -- it would be a terrible shame to lose it!

steve l 8:00 PM  

@artlvr--If you have followed my comments recently (i.e. yesterday) you might have seen that I said that "like Wade, I listen to both kinds of music" (that reference meant "country" and "western.") A little while back, when the NYC area lost its only commercial country music station, I began getting very interested in the radio and recording business, and began reading Billboard magazine and started looking at industry websites--some country music specific, some more general. It was in that context that I read somewhere that rock/pop music sold only a few percentage points more than country, which was the second-highest selling genre, and I was surprised that classical/opera only sold about 2% of all recordings. This surprised me greatly, given that I live in the metropolitan area in which you will find Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. I can't tell you specifically where the figure came from, but I'm not making it up. (To resolve my personal problem of not having a country radio station in New York, I went out and got a Sirius radio.) To each his own, and I'm glad that you have a classical station where you live. You also have a great local country station in WGNA. In my area, we have a lot of foreign language stations, including one in Polish, and, I believe, classical, but no country music.

ArtLvr 8:45 PM  

@ Steve I -- I'm sorry about your losing your country music station! When I was very young, I used to hide a little flashlight under the covers at bedtime and listen to Grand Old Opry while reading Sherlock Holmes... I also listened to the Lone Ranger while diligently practicing scales on the piano. If my mother ever caught on, she never said a word.

I did get ratted out by a kindergarten teacher who felt it necessary to report my small adventurous contribution to show-and-tell, in which I bragged about avoiding actual baths by simply running water loudly into the tub but mostly not getting in! Some early interests last, some get left behind, I guess. I was never denied comic books either, but haven't read one since about age ten.

Anyway, my point about the PBS classical station was that many of us contribute to this rather than spend the money on buying our own recordings, so that the sales figures may stay low but our aesthetic pleasure is magnified by the efforts of many others who do the same. Hope your Sirius purchase works out for you! And I hope our rare full-time classical station does survive somehow...


archaeoprof 8:56 PM  

It's a small thing, perhaps, but everyone at the college where I teach was pleased with our football team's 55-20 victory over ELON yesterday...

Justin 2:00 AM  

Bach's B Minor Mass appears often in puzzles because it is part of one's cultural literacy. The B Minor Mass is to Bach what Hamlet is to Shakespeare. (Even those who don't follow Shakespeare know that he wrote Hamlet.) I'm surprised that this is an issue in today's puzzle; my 19-year-old son considers it a "gimme." The NYT solvers are expected to have a broad understanding of classical and pop culture.

Nora 9:34 AM  

Leman is the French name for Lake Geneva

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

IMHO???..what am I missing

poc 11:29 AM  

@justin: totally agree. The B Minor Mass is one of the touchstones of Western culture, up there with the 9th Symphony and the Mona Lisa. You may not like them, but it's reasonable for compilers to expect you to have heard of them.

@anonymous: IMHO = In My Humble Opinion.

Chip Hilton 9:32 PM  

Like Justin and Poc, the B Minor Mass was a gimmee for me, thanks to Dr. Schweitzer (No, not that Dr. S., this one was a professor at Southern Connecticut State College, my alma mater, back in 1969). He made this glorious work come to life. I struggled through much of this puzzle, having never before seen ANTRUM, HELOT, or ALLELE. Tough, as Sundays go.

Anonymous 4:15 PM  

Add me to the masses that had Lone Stranger. Didn't like this puzzle at all. The fill was horrid.

Sharon 5:06 PM  

Rex, I can't believe you thought Jomo Kenyatta was obscure but Graf Snee was OK. Even after googling to read what it was I can't believe it's a real name. Sounds Jabberwocky.

nancy 8:37 PM  

in a prescription it is tid not ter fir thruce and a rabbit lives in a briar patch not a brier in my Brer Rabbit. Also nabob or nawab..very obscure

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

I'm a week behind and was also out of town so am late doing this one. I'm surprised there were no comments about 50A Beau ____. I had Geste at first and don't understand IDEAL. Help!!

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