MONDAY, Dec. 1, 2008 - Eric J. Platt (Connected on only one side, as a town house / Chemistry Nobelist Otto / Order at the Pig and Whistle)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: TURN ON A DIME (57A: Change abruptly, or what the insides of 17-, 27- and 43-Across do?) - letter string "DIME" appears backward ("EMID") in each of the three theme answers

Cute idea, but turning a DIME is not the same as turning ON a DIME, so the concept feels a bit forced. The buried and backward word is kind of mid-to-late week trick, but it's welcome here, as the answers were odd enough to slow me down considerably (For A Monday). IDEATES is up there among my least favorite words (41D: Has thoughts), but most of the rest of the fill seems just fine. Nothing scintillating, but entirely adequate.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: The Divine Miss M (Bett EMID ler)
  • 27A: Birth mother's helper (nurs EMID wife)
  • 43A: Connected on only one side, as a town house (s EMID etached)

DIME breaks across two words in every case. All the theme answers are unusual and lively and interesting. All in all, not bad work. You RARELY (22A: Hardly ever) see HAHN (46D: Chemistry Nobelist Otto) this early in the week. As wife said, "I know he's crossworde(a)se, but isn't it a little early in the week for HAHN?" Yes, but that's OK.

Do people use CLERGIES in the plural very often? (9D: Religious groups)

The NW is teeming with actresses, with AGNES Moorehead and MELANIE Griffith (both horribly boringly clued) joining Ms. Midler for a rather odd triad. Wait, I guess we can add ADELE Astaire to the mix too (15A: One of the dancing Astaires), as she appears to have developed her vaudeville act with her brother into a successful Broadway career. Speaking of Broadway, KERN (39A: Jerome who composed "The Last Time I Saw Paris") is one of a gaggle of Broadway composer whose names I've had to learn (though I remain largely to completely ignorant of their work).


  • 20A: John Cougar Mellencamp's "R.O.C.K. in the _____" ("U.S.A.") - long, semi-cheesy way to go for that answer.

  • 55A: Order at the Pig and Whistle (ale) - is this place famous? Um ... it seems that yes, if you are Canadian, it is:

The Pig and Whistle was a Canadian musical television series aired on the CTV television network from 1967 to 1977. Filmed in Toronto, Ontario but set in a fictional English pub, the show featured an assortment of Canadian, British and Irish performers

  • 1D: The Beatles' "Revolver" or "Help!" (album) - I very stupidly and rashly wrote in A SIDE (neglecting the fact that "Revolver" is no such thing)

  • 11D: Not reduced, as some illustrations (life-sized) - I like this answer.

  • 28D: "Maria _____," 1941 #1 hit ("Elena") - the only song I know with this title is by The Smithereens. Can't find a youtube version, so here's "A Girl Like You" (from the same album, "11"):

  • 31D: _____ Club (discount store) (Sam's) - Normally I don't share the anti-corporate sentiments of many solvers, but on this one, SAM'S could have so easily been changed that I kind of resent having to look at it.
  • 58D: Mouse's big cousin (rat) - Watched "Venus" last night (recent movie starring Peter O'Toole) and one of the previews playing in the background while I solved this puzzle was "RATatouille." Great movie.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Ulrich 10:57 PM  

A welcome relief from Sunday's slog. I actually didn't notice any increased difficulty level compared to other Mondays, but then again, I don't time myself.

I didn't know EMERY, my last word to complete (via crosses). When I looked it up, I found "A fine-grained impure corundum", which didn't mean anything either to me b/c I didn't know "corundum". Looking that one up produced a chemical formula, which also didn't mean much. Having reached that point, I decided to go to bed rather than continue the wild goose chase--g'night!

Aric 11:18 PM  

I am facing a December with unexpected free time, and decided to attempt the NYTimes crossword puzzle each day. (Also, I used to work at a firm with a cousin of the guy who made wordplay.) I did today's with one letter off. (So far as I could tell ACNE was a symptom of rheumatism, and the Nobelist was HANN.) Is there a point at which one gets past this kind of stupid error? Or does it strike even the more experienced players?

jae 11:29 PM  

I thought this was a little tougher than usual for a Mon. I also liked it. Cute theme and pretty interesting fill for a Mon.

@Aric -- re: stupid errors -- my rule of thumb is that "if your answer seems a bit off it most likely is." However, this rule backfired yesterday with RUT vs. RUN.

SethG 11:43 PM  

Pig and Whistle feels generic enough to me--the wikipedia page goes on to say that "Pig and Whistle is a stereotypical name of a traditional English public house." I know there are Pig & Whistles in New York and LA and Seattle, and I went to one in Rotorua.

My sister just watched Clue again; sadly, it apparently doesn't survive the test of time. I'm sure we'll hear about Kern today, but my favorite musical was always Rochelle, Rochelle. Bette!

kevin der 11:57 PM  

this was crazily hard for a monday; primarily due to EMERY and a lot of names (MELANIE, AGNES, BAINES, HAHN, ADELE, etc).

SCOTUS Addict 12:26 AM  

Greetings fellow Rex-a-crucians,

Sigh. It's an emery board. Not emery. Why does that kind of thing bother me? Another round of Prozac, please.

Here's my Billy Collins inspired free-association to "Mouse's Big Cousin." Raise an ale to the little brown druids.

The Country
by Billy Collins

I wondered about you
when you told me never to leave
a box of wooden, strike-anywhere matches
lying around the house because the mice

might get into them and start a fire.
But your face was absolutely straight
when you twisted the lid down on the round tin
where the matches, you said, are always stowed.

Who could sleep that night?
Who could whisk away the thought
of the one unlikely mouse
padding along a cold water pipe

behind the floral wallpaper
gripping a single wooden match
between the needles of his teeth?
Who could not see him rounding a corner,

the blue tip scratching against a rough-hewn beam,
the sudden flare, and the creature
for one bright, shining moment
suddenly thrust ahead of his time -

now a fire-starter, now a torchbearer
in a forgotten ritual, little brown druid
illuminating some ancient night.
Who could fail to notice,

lit up in the blazing insulation,
the tiny looks of wonderment on the faces
of his fellow mice, onetime inhabitants
of what once was your house in the country?

Orange 12:27 AM  

An EMERY board is that non-metal nail file that looks like a stick of sandpaper.

I'm with Seth—"Rochelle, Rochelle" is my favorite musical too. My longing for a musical version of "Prognosis: Negative" remains unrequited.

Crosscan 12:39 AM  

Not sure if I remember the Pig and Whistle - did that star the Irish Rovers? They sang The Unicorn and Wasn't That a Party. Scary what I am remembering. Ask me sometime about the Tommy Hunter Show, Headline Hunters and FrontPage Challenge.

Tougher than usual Monday but nice to be back to normal puzzles after yesterday.

jae 3:43 AM  

Hmm -- I too am a big fan of Rochelle, Rochelle as both Milan and Minsk occasionally show up in puzzles but isn't this kinda baiting Rex on two fronts?

andrea carla michaels 3:59 AM  

I thought it was just about a perfect puzzle...for a Tuesday!

Had it been a Tuesday, no one would've balked at HAHN, ELENA, etc.
All the gals names were easy for the over 40 crowd I imagine, less so for young Der...

I loved the DIME turned, on...ya gotta cut some slack there, I think, as you said, the theme entries were lively.

DIME "turned" is a big notch up from a puzzle where just the word MID was MID-word, which is what I thought after the first two theme answers.

I thought RIGMAROLE would have an extra A, I think I've always said RIG-A-MAROLE (even tho come to think of it, I've probably NEVER said it!)

Anyway, really liked it, Eric J Platt! (Did you play "Chief" on "Get Smart"???!!!)

Welcome, welcome! but if you are going to be one letter off, go for ACME.

Yoga Life 7:37 AM  

I guess hardness has a lot to do with age sometimes. This puzzle was a breeze for me since as a youth and teen and 20 something, LBJ, Bette Midler and Agnes Moorehead were all staples. This was a puzzle that just "made sense" since I lived through and was paying attention to just the right pop culture...

Bill from NJ 7:46 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
joho 7:47 AM  

@andrea carla michaels: I, too, have always thought it to be RIG-A-MAROLE. I looked it up and the version with the "A" is a variant.

Today is BETTE MIDLER's birthday. Is this something Eric. J. Platt and Will Shortz know or is this a fluke? It seems to me they must know.

I really liked this puzzle as it's much more interesting than most Mondays. I hope this HERALDS a great crossword week.

Karen 8:05 AM  

I'll agree with medium-challenging for a Monday. Several answers that I couldn't get in first pass, like CLERGIES and HERALDS; I tried to put in FULL SIZED, and wanted andrea's spelling for RIGAMAROLE.

Stupid answers? Yes, I still make a few...

mac 8:39 AM  

@Aric, Karen, etc.: what do you mean, stupid answers? Very often my answers are much smarter!

Yes, I also think this was a very good Tuesday, so I'm certainly not complaining.

I think the meaning of "ideates" is different from the clue, isn't it, Andrea? I imagine you do some of it with your clients, I have with new product development.
I also thought 33D needed an extra A, and Help and Revolver were A- or B sides.

I often make the mistake of filling in an s when the clue asks for a plural, or an A at the end of a woman's name. Eric J. Platt got me with Agnes and oarsmen, but just for a few seconds!

Filled in birds at 2D at first; I love the term "snow birds" for Northerners fleeing South in winter.

ArtLvr 8:42 AM  

Easy for me too, since the Divine Miss M was a gimme and SEMIDETACHED was too - I think of the latter as a Brit usage, but maybe not? The EMERY has been used this way before in xwords, probably because of the handy letter sequence...

And yes, I've been held up before when there's not a second A in RIGMAROLE! "Thingamajig" comes to mind as an analogy.


Travis 9:19 AM  

Isn't clergy itself plural?[ie a collective noun like hair]

Orange 9:34 AM  

@Bill from NJ, thanks for the lead on the Billy Collins poem. I like it!

@Travis, my dictionary says the plural is clergies. "The clergies of the Catholic and Lutheran churches" would be two separate types of clergy, no?

mac 9:49 AM  

@Orange: did you read Michael Elkin's comment right under the poem?

joho 9:57 AM  

@Bill from NJ: thanks for the heads up on the poem ... I love it! Also great to see you here today.

Frances 10:23 AM  

@ Bill from NJ--

Loved your reference to the Collins poem "Why I don't keep a gun in the house." From the title, I thought the poem would parallel the weekend's news story about the NY Giant player who accidentally shot himself with his own gun. But no, Collins' words are infinitely more subtle and thought-provoking. Thanks for the shout-out.

Joaneee 10:44 AM  

@ulrich re corundum/emery: I used to have a coffee mug inscribed "illegitimati non corundum", which was meant to be Latin for "don't let the bastards wear you down".

Dick 11:28 AM  

Dear Rex,

Maria Elena can be found on YouTube under Los Indios Tabajares-Maria Elena.

Jerome Kern, I believe, has separated himself from the "gaggle" of Broadway songwriters. He wrote 700 songs, was nominated for 8 academy awards and won 2. His melodies include Ol' Man River, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, The Last Time I Saw Paris, Make Believe, and Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man.

I love your work and use it as a resource almost daily.


Anonymous 11:41 AM  

Ideates? I have seen it only in crosswords. Who ideates? Mac? Is it group-think?

HudsonHawk 11:50 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
HudsonHawk 11:53 AM  

Ah, Rochelle, Rochelle, a young girl's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk. I started in the NW, noticed a lot of M's in the puzzle, and wondered if the theme was related to the Divine Miss M. Didn't know it was her birthday, though.

I've enjoyed an ale at three different Pig and Whistle locations here in NYC, so that was a gimme.

As for the Smithereens "A Girl Like You", it was originally written as a theme song for Say Anything, but Cameron Crowe decided the lyrics gave too much away about the plot of the movie (Which didn't hit me at first, as I thought of "London...Washington..." as a reference to D.C., not State).

mac 12:02 PM  

@Anonymouse 11.41: An ideation session is sometimes called when a company/marketeer wants to think up new products (and I assume new names). People from different departments and with different skills get together and throw out ideas, some of which may be developed. It can be a lot of fun, of course depending on the product.

Doug 12:02 PM  

I IDEATE therefore I am!

I watched the Pig & Whistle on Saturday nights when I was a kid in Toronto, but that was for about 10 seconds before I could grab the manual dial with my little fingers and switch to Love Boat or James Clavell's "Sho-gun" starring Richard Chamberlain. To put it in an American frame of refernce, it was "British Hee Haw."

I still listen to Revolver and it's still an A+ to this day.

Liked seeing Gordie HOWE and am reminded of the "Gordie Howe hat trick:" A goal, an assist ... and a fight.

JoefromMtVernon 12:14 PM  

I started going back on puzzles I missed this past year over the Thanksgiving weekend. The last missed puzzles for me were May 30 and 31.

I can hear the yawns already. Well, I was going to ask why no one pounced on Rigmarole, until I realized that it was 1A on May 30, not yesterday. And, yes, I throw an extra 'A' in there when I pronounce it.

I continue to try to go sub 5, so I misread 6D, and a poorly written J kept 13D from being finished. At least sub-6.

Do you all solve from 1A thru to 65A, then 1D to 59D, or is this some "Felix Unger" curse of mine (and, no, I don't play Yahtzee like him). Or do you start in a corner and build out?

Gimme of the day: Bette Midler. I remember her first TV special, coming out of a giant clam shell, scantily dressed as a mermaid, and singing Oklahoma. Ironic that the outrageous Miss M is crossed in the end with Clergies and Heralds. I bet she would agree.


edith b 12:16 PM  

I had heard the expression "stop on a dime" and assumed that "turn on a dime" was just a corrupted version of that idiom, sort of like people saying "of the same token" when they mean "by the same token" and I was surprised to learn that as an idiomatic expression, it is very much in the language.

Does anyone have a problem with the reversal aspect of that expression? I think the connection seems a little weak.

I mean the puzzle was easy enough to allow you to see the connection but, if the puzzle were a little more difficult, I'm not sure you could get the connection from the cluing.

I may be wrong and making more out of this than is actualy there, but I found the whole theme to be unsatisfying and requiring more effort than I am used to putting into a Monday puzzle.

Did anyone notice the quirk at 59Down? If you make a right turn or left turn you get the same thing: DIME. I wonder if it was intentional.


I read Mr Elkin's comment under the poem and I'm not sure what he was trying to get at. How do you read what he was trying to say?

JoefromMtVernon 12:30 PM  

I hope it's not bad etiquette to respond to yesterday's blog today, but I just went back to it now:

@fikink: Hans Morovic is a major AI player, both in Robotics and Transhumanism. While we can debate who's who under the AI umbrella, I think all roads lead back to Turing (IMHO).

@Ulrich: Yes, I should have mentioned the Turing Machine, the precursor to digital computers (by about 10 years), and his role in the enigma. What helped him was the fact that the Germans always started their communiques the same way, which helped him and his "bombe" (which he used to break the code).

Thanks, I thought everyone ignored my blathering!

Shamik 12:36 PM found this one very easy and delightful. Anything is wonderful with the Divine Miss M. At one time I aspired to be a NURSEMIDWIFE, but did work as a neoNATAL nurse for many years. Am an avid hiker and can't wait to hike in the MUIR woods. Lately am NEEDY so need to SCRAM and look for a job, though not at the ZOO. And perhaps skip all this RIGMAROLE of doing the crossword the first thing when I get up in the morning.

@JoefromMtVernon: I start with 1A. If I don't get it, I go to the next across. At the first word I solve, I then start with the down that intersects the last letter. If I don't get that, I go back one letter. Once I get it, I go to the next down crossing, etc., etc., etc. It's just what I do.

Liked the theme. No mis-starts.

Greene 12:53 PM  

I agree with @Shamik, today's puzzle was a delightful breeze. Nothing too out of the ordinary and no misteps. Seems like a solid Monday to me.

Jerome Kern and Adele Astair in the same puzzle? My God, I'm salivating.

dk 1:18 PM  

Today's puzzle was brought to you by the letter B.

My BAINES included trying to add an A to OVERTURE much like the early RIGMAROLE discussion.

Still in a turkey torpor.

I liked the puzzle fine, thus I am in the ACME, SHAMIK and GREENE camp.

In the world of IP we IDEATES and have ideation session as a part of invention review meetings, but we RARELY use EMERY.

fikink 1:28 PM  

yes, greene, don't be annoying. Btw, I learned today that "Prognosis Negative" was taken from that dated Bette Davis film, Dark Victory - imagine that!

@joe, Hans Moravec was described to me as a "true modern-day Platonist" by Herbert Dreyfus (Berkeley, Heidegger scholar) who recommended Mind Children (which I have not yet read). I found the juxtaposition intriguing.

Overall, a quick Monday puzzle, which recalled BETTE MIDLER's beginnings in the bath houses, what with MUG, OGLES, NEEDY and OVERTUREs.

fergus 1:50 PM  

Hey Fikink, I had Dreyfus for a class on Existentialism in the novel and drama. I used to see him up at the swimming pool in Strawberry Canyon continuing his ideations on Kierkegaard and artificial intelligence, and sometimes the class's focus on Melville, Dostoevsky and Kafka.

The last RIGMAROLE brouhaha must have been about a year ago, so I calmly submitted to this spelling.

A plug for S. Lewis and "Elmer Gantry." Read it during the ascendancy of the Moral Majority, and was sort of stunned how such similar hoodwinking could happen again so similarly. Then realized, that it was nowhere near the first instance of repeated pious madness. What made the novel so good, was that the characters were all fairly sympathetic and believable, just like in "Babbitt," so that the expose was much more biting than if they were presented as caricatures in a broad satire.

Very impressive puzzle, though the theme seemed of little consequence. As often happens, I missed it completely, and it didn't add much when it was pointed out.

Janie 2:19 PM  

my just under 6-minute time told me this was definitely a monday. but with MID(ler), MID(wife) and SEMI, i'd wrongly thought the theme would relate to something having to do with halves.

in this case, it turned out to be the halves not...


chefbea 2:44 PM  

I thought today's puzzle was very easy. Also wanted another a in rigmarole.

Have been to the Pig and Whistle on 48th st in new york.

Almost time to start making all those batches of cookies.

fikink 3:18 PM  

Ha! Fergus, HUBERT (I said herbert above) Dreyfus often tells the story of having Patty Hearst and Steven WEED (which also has been in recent puzzles a lot) in his class in 1974 when she was still living in the COCOON of her father's money and was kidnapped and when the Symbionese Liberation Army sent WEED back to class with a SEMIDETATCHED retina. Her allegiance to her dad's wealth TURNED ON A DIME under THREAT of being MUGged, helped along by one militant's OVERTUREs and she ended up giving away food to the NEEDY on her dad's DIME.

I think I have discovered the real theme of today's puzzle!

JoefromMtVernon 3:26 PM  

@shamik - Thanks for that idea...

@fikink - Hans Moravec is a strong AI scientist. If I have the theory correct, he thinks that if you took a human brain and replaced each neuron with computer wiring, that there would be no loss of "conscious experience". John Searle of Berkeley would argue that there would be.

@ all puzzle constructors - let's see Hans Moravec on a Saturday!

Doc John 3:28 PM  

Any puzzle with BETTE MIDLER in it is OK by me! Add to that the great AGNES Moorehead and I could have just stopped in the NW. Too bad Ms. Griffith doesn't play the diva or that would have completed the triumvirate.

What, no mention of Shirley Jones' Oscar turn in ELMER Gantry?

fergus 3:38 PM  

A little more name-dropping: Steven Weed was the TA for that Dreyfus class, though that was in the Spring of 1977, and Patty was not to be mentioned. Had a class with John Searle, too, on Philosophy of Language. Not long after, started doing the NY Times puzzle, but I doubt the cause and effect.

Anonymous 4:16 PM  

Big Steve says:
from poem
"lit up in the blazing insulation,
the tiny looks of wonderment on the faces
of his fellow mice, onetime inhabitants
of what once was your house in the country?"

Just like in Seinfeld, when Kramer's cigars starts the fire in Susan's father country house.

As they are watching the historic cottage burn, George turns to Susan.

"You know, you never gave me the change from the toll."
And "Prognosis: Negative" is Larry David's screenplay. There was a great article about him and it in the NYer.

BTW, there was no THREAT to the ACHE in my STERNUM after eating Thanksgiving meal (at LEAST. 3K cal.)

Brendan 4:36 PM  

No problem. Mis-steps were SLIM (34A), KITS (39D), EMORY (65A), SAILORS (48A). Accidentally put 34A in 24A, resulting in BOOTCUT; I like my answer far better than LEES. I also wanted to use RIGAMAROLE at first, but had no problem omitting that A. Everything else was either a gimme or came quickly to me after I got one or two crosses.

I have never heard of a NURSEMIDWIFE (in that form, at least), but the clue and the crosses made it easy enough to figure out.

SAMS, in 31D, could easily be changed to SALS (Eatery in "Do The Right Thing"), making 40A LUG (Carry).

Orange 4:42 PM  

Or SAPS and PUG.

SethG 5:20 PM  


Glitch 6:00 PM  

@Brendan & Orange

Then again, maybe *Sam's* Club is intentional --- it could it be another cross promotion ;-)

fergus 7:01 PM  

Here's a note of encouragement to hypothetically competitive solvers: if you can do a puzzle like today's, with no errors -- and that's important -- in less than ten minutes, you can place rather respectably. Or at least that is what I learned from my experience at the Alameda affair. Naturally the affair near NYC is way more complex, with ramifications I've only heard about. Since I understand that there are multiple levels, where would one who can nail the easy ones like that, and can generally finish the Friday and Saturday type in half an hour, want to enter. Not the Tyler and Orange level obviously, but second or third tier?

Crosscan 7:10 PM  

@fergus - Rookies are placed in the C division but also compete in A [Tyler -ville], B [top 20% or better in previous years], your region you are from and age range. You don't have to pick a division. It is all assigned. Everyone does the puzzles together, but the A's leave the room a lot quicker!

In future years, you may be lowered to D or E if you haven't finished in the top 40%. I think you would finish very respectably, as you say. Don't worry- last place is for people who go shopping and miss half the puzzles.

mac 7:54 PM  

@fikink: thanks for the info on Bette's beginnings, and your next post was brilliant!

@Fergus: I thought you had been to the tournament. I certainly hope you are coming! I may do a dry run in Westport, CT, early Feb., but this will be my first time in NY and I'm a little nervous about it.
Most of all, I'm looking forward to meeting all of the Rex Solvers. Let's really try to get organized and meet; it can't be too hard....

mac 7:58 PM  

Hi Bill, glad you could make it.

What's this, Seth?

chefbea 7:58 PM  

@mac I'm nervous as well. I just want to meet everyone. I dont care if I'm the 1,000,000th greatest crossword puzzler.

I will do the dry run also in Westport

Michael 8:50 PM  

This is a bit silly to say, but this seemed (as others have said) more like a Tuesday than a Monday.

fergus 9:25 PM  

Getting it right, with no question about the odd crossing is a mark of good construction.

jeff in chicago 11:29 PM  

My mother worked as a waitress when I was young, and she once waited on Agnes Moorehead. Mom's report was that Agnes was a - wait for it - (rhymes with) "witch"!

They Might Be Giants are playing in Chicago On Friday. I Might Be Going.

A good day for birthdays: Mary Martin, Lou Rawls, Woody Allen, Richard Pryor.

andrea carla michaels 12:32 AM  

Did someone say Woody Allen????

Bill from NJ 1:49 AM  

@SCOTUS addict-

Ah, Billy Collins.

He makes you feel that, you too, can write poetry.

I love Another Reason Why I Don't Keep A Gun In The House

SCOTUS Addict 2:50 AM  

:::::::::::::drumming fingers::::::::::::::

:::::::::waiting for Rex to post about Tuesday's puzzle:::::::::::

:::::::::wondering if other left-coasters are drumming as well::::::::::

SCOTUS Addict 2:52 AM  

PS @ Bill from NJ,

I love that one. Had just e-mailed it to a friend with a howly bloodhound a few days ago.

acme 2:53 AM  

yes! me too!
I may actually give up and go to bed and accept the fact I'll be posting way after everyone else has weighed in, feels like the election all over again!

SCOTUS Addict 2:56 AM  


I feel your pain.

In honor of Bill from NJ I have changed my avatar.

See you tomorrow.


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