WEDNESDAY, Nov. 19, 2008 - Peter A. Collins (Where to find a vaquero / Eisner successor at Disney / Ancient Dead Sea sect / Classic batting game)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Mixed-up athletes - five theme answers are anagrams of college sports team names; wacky clues end in "?"' and contain the phrase "mixed-up [college name] athlete"

Good day to know your major college sports teams. I did. Otherwise, I'm not sure how good a day it was. A very inventive theme is marred by some hard-to-overlook nonsense in the non-theme fill. And the theme itself covers only 33 squares - normally I'm not a square-counter, but the theme depth here feels particularly shallow. This means there's a lot of non-theme ground to cover, and there are fewer excuses for why non-theme answers could or should go so horribly wrong. I'll start with HEDONICS (21D: Study of pleasure) - undoubtedly a word, but yikes, what the hell? Is this a scientific study? Anthropological study? If you mean "study" in terms of "practice," then surely the correct / better / non-insane word is HEDONISM. That's the word actual people actually know and might actually use, anyway. Then there are the partials, ON A (33A: _____ high) and AN O (48A: What makes God good?). Anagrammatic partials? I don't know whether to groan or applaud. If there were no more odd partials, I would tilt toward applause, but then A CAB comes careening along and it's partial bloodshed. ACAB (61A: Hail _____)! For an answer that absurd, why not get a clue to match, like [End of a 1981 Genesis album]? [1981 Genesis finale?]?. A CAB hurts, especially after the ONA ANO twins. Oh god, they're palindromes too. [Oh god, I temporarily forgot what "palindrome" means! If you squoosh them together, they're a palindrome] Now they just seem evil.

GOO is bad enough in the singular - GOOS seems a joke (19A: Nursery sounds). "What's the noise coming from the baby's room, honey?" "Those are just GOOS - go back to sleep." It's a hard word to use in a sentence (with a straight face). My biggest issues with this puzzle, however, are back in ACABIA, which is what I have renamed the SW corner (for today only). Aside from the aforementioned ACAB, I get the variant spelling of a "batting game" that is already super-dated and unknown to most people born after 1960. I "know" this "batting game" as ONE *O* CAT. A quick look at the cruciverb database shows that this is how the puzzle generally knows the game as well. Today's ONE *A* CAT (41D: Classic batting game) is an outlier. The NYT, for the past decade, has something like one instance of using the "A"-spelling, and then only in a partial (ONEA). I kept the "O" there for a long time, thinking "well, I know SOLUT is not a word ... but I know ONEOCAT is right ..." SOLUT was of course SALUT (58A: "Cheers!" abroad). So memo to self - ONEA and ONEO both count even though No One Plays This Game Anymore.

But the killer answer in the puzzle, the one that really murdered me (and my unborn son), was LACI (66A: Peterson of 2003 news). "News?" I don't know what to say here. The best thing I can say is that it's in poor taste. Not mentioning *why* she was in the "news" seems really disingenuous - and yet it's clear that you couldn't very well clue it [2003 murder victim Peterson], could you? Which means you probably should have just left it alone. No other LACIs, you say. Hmmm. Not sure that's a good enough excuse for not rewriting the quadrant. "Gee, we'd like to respect your memory and your privacy, but your name is just too damned convenient to pass up ... sorry, LACI." Using the name while (vainly) sanitizing it of its origin seems very, very wrong.

Theme answers:

  • 23A: Jacket material for a mixed-up North Carolina athlete? (leather) - TARHEEL
  • 37A: Oenophile, as a mixed-up Michigan athlete? (wine lover) - WOLVERINE
  • 56A: Flew by, as a mixed-up Michigan state athlete? (ran past) - SPARTAN
  • 10D: Jargon from a mixed-up Florida athlete? (argot) - GATOR
  • 55D: Apply to the skin, as on a mixed-up U.C.L.A. athlete? (rub in) - BRUIN
Other parts of this puzzle are much less objectionable ... it's super-Scrabbly for a Wednesday, with the 4-Z PIZZAZZ (3D: Flash) really helping things along (super weird that this answer showed up the day after I wondered aloud about the number of "Z"s in PIZ(Z)AZZ). NAZARENE (6D: Jesus, notably) and LAS VEGAS (26D: Strip site) make for fantastic symmetrical pillars in this puzzle. GOOS aside, the NE corner is gorgeous, with LOONIES (11D: Nuts) and ESSENES (13D: Ancient Dead Sea sect) making unlikely bedfellows, and TWO TONE (12D: Colored like some cars) seeming to describe the ironic proximity of the words that flank it. ELATION (25A: Joy) runs through the whole section, fittingly.


  • 6A: Shots for sots (nips) - "sots" is one of my favorite xword words
  • 43A: 1962 #1 country hit "_____ Been Everywhere" ("I've") - a song that has been virtually destroyed by the Choice Hotels commercial:

Here, use this to get the taste out of that last version out of your mouth:

This one's even better:

  • 44A: "Ma! He's Making Eyes _____" (1940 hit) ("at me") - !?
  • 53A: King of the Roman Empire (Rex) - yay! Hey, why is REX preceded by EGO ...? (51A: Sartre's "The Transcendence of the _____")
  • 62A: Actress Raines on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Ella) - odd clue. She's famous for being on the Walk of Fame?
  • 69A: Egyptian sun god (Aten) - sounds like a highway or a bingo square ... you know, if BINGO contained an "A"
  • 1D: Flanders of Springfield (Ned) - awesome that this puzzle's Downs go from one three-letter animated extreme (NED) to another (REN - 65D: Stimpy's TV pal)
  • 5D: Where to find a vaquero (rancho) - [_____ Cucamonga] would have made me happy in a way that few fill-in-the-blanks ever could
  • 7D: Eisner successor at Disney (Iger) - ILER? IVER? IGOR? This guy's name is hard for me to remember.
  • 8D: Grace, for one (prayer) - for some reason, I didn't understand this at first. Then I remembered that one can "Say Grace" before dinner and what not ... I think of "grace" as a concept, not a prayer. But this is a fine clue.
  • 22D: Tony winner Patrick (Magee) - unknown to me. Did a lot of Beckett. Was in "A Clockwork Orange."
  • 24D: Shogun capital (Edo) - took me a while to sort out ETO and EDO when I first started solving crosswords. I associate both with war.
  • 32D: Actress Aulin of "Candy" (Ewa) - Ewwwwwww. Who? What is "Candy?" - whoa: "The erotic journey of a naive schoolgirl!?" Sounds like something I should know. Apparently EWA did something with Ringo Starr, because how else do you explain this?:
  • 46D: Mayo, for one (mes) - Spanish. Very nice misdirection.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Happy birthday to longtime reader and frequent commenter "imsdave" (Facebook "friends" tend to get birthday shout-outs, as Facebook remembers birthdays better than I ever could)


Anonymous 9:13 AM  

Not being a sports person, I was, at first, aprehensive that I would have some problems today, but soon realized that I could easily complete by just ignoring that part of the clues.

This was on of those puzzles where the *gimmick* (anagrams) justifies kudos to the constructor, but added nothing for me, the solver.

It was a pretty good puzzle tho.


Rob 9:16 AM  

Just a quick comment on that Candy film - incredible stuff! Wikipedia says "Candy is a 1968 film directed by Christian Marquand. Based on the 1958 novel by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg, it starred Ringo Starr, Ewa Aulin, Charles Aznavour, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, James Coburn, John Huston, Walter Matthau, and Sugar Ray Robinson." Can there really be a movie that starred Ringo Starr, Marlon Brando and SUGAR RAY ROBINSON!! I know they did a lot of drugs in '68, but wow - how do you come up with that cast?!?! Another nice tidbit from Wikipedia (and in support of the 'filmmakers were on drugs' theory) - "The opening sequence shows Candy (Ewa Aulin) descending to Earth from outer space. In the next scene, she is in school, where her father (John Astin) is also her teacher."

Awesome. Not a great puzzle, overall, but if it opens me up to tyhis kind of awesome, arcane, psychedlic trivia - I love it.

PhillySolver 9:32 AM  

The book "Candy" was disguised and past among my fellow high school friends. There was no sex education and "The Tropic of Cancer" and "Lady Chatterley's Lover" were too literate for emerging adolescents. I had no idea it was made into a movie. I guess because by then I was writing papers on Henry Miller.

I wonder if Wade remembers the Hank Snow version of "I've Been Everywhere" as I do.

I add trying oxen for ROWS as a misdirection. Julio is hotter than Mayo.

nanpilla 9:34 AM  

I agree that the theme did not help or hinder solving the puzzle, and that's always a little disappointing for me.
Apu on Mon, Lisa on Tues, and Ned on Wed. Let's hope we can keep the Simpsons mini-theme going all week, even if they aren't always clued that way.

PuzzleGirl 9:34 AM  

I was breezing along, completely in love with this puzzle -- ya got yer college sports, ya got yer Simpsons reference, ya got yer PIZZAZZ with the correct number of Zs, ya got REX, and then ... BAM! Hedonics? Seriously? And a variant spelling of ONE-O-CAT? No soup for you!

@Crosscan: Sorry there was no love for you and your countrymen at 11D. :-(

Anonymous 10:07 AM  

You have a typo in the posted solution, although it is clear you answered the clue correctly. 42D and 48A "ANO" vice "AND".

Orange 10:07 AM  

"Cucamonga sits in the old gum tree..."

I would say that I agree almost 100% with Rex on this puzzle, except that I blogged about it last night so technically, I think Rex agrees with me almost 100%. (And no, none of us bloggers read other people's takes on a puzzle before we write our own.)

mac 10:12 AM  

For a puzzle with quite a few unknowns for me I did it without help in pretty good time. Maybe it actually helps that I often just go with the crosses and think, for instance: oneacat? guess so.

It was also helpful that the clues were straightforward when you just ignored the sports clue, no letters twisted or changed.

I enjoyed this one. Of course I thought of Rex's comment when pizzazz showed up. Had a few road blocks: Richard instead of Zachary, hedonism as discussed, and I think, @Phillysolver, you are right, the oxen are in front of the plow, the rows behind.

There were quite a few good old crossword terms: Alte, stere, Aten, adz and Edo, but plenty of fresh ones to make up for that.

I think I've become a convert, I enjoyed the Simpsons so much last Sunday, I'll watch it regularly from now on.

Queen Bun-Bun 10:12 AM  

Thank you for honoring Laci Peterson's memory. You are right. That clue crossed the line.

Rex Parker 10:16 AM  


Do yourself a favor and rent "Simpsons" DVDs. I'd say start with Season One, but it looks really clunky by comparison even with Season Two. Seasons 3-6 are widely considered the strongest. Nearly every episode in that stretch is a masterpiece.


mac 10:21 AM  

@rex: Thanks. I'm on it.
I'll listen to your clips later. Husband is lurking around the kitchen and it always startles him when music or sounds emanates from my laptop....

Lynn 10:31 AM  

Clearly someone was not paying attention in science class. A gene is carried on a chromosome - it got clued backwards.

And "goos"? Give me a break.

Otherwise a fun puzzle.

dk 10:39 AM  

I still don't get the theme, spelled LACI Lacy and know less about sports than I do TV (except for NED) . So harmmph.

@mac, follow the HEDONISTIC REX advice on the Simpsons. And, Google the phrases he writes on the blackboard. My advice buy the DVD set for some preteens and then decide it is not age appropriate and keep it for yourself. Next call @rob and ask if you can borrow some of his 60's stuff.

Dr. John does a great version of Candy on his Sentimental Mood Album/CD.

Anonymous 10:51 AM  

Hated this puzzle.

Sots don't have NIPS. Little old ladies have NIPS. Sots guzzle. Trust me, I know.

Everyone was right about 16A being oxen, not ROWS

Lynn was right about GENEs / Chromozones.

OUTSTEP is not a phrase.

Veal Picata is better than Veal MARSALA

Everyone was right about GOOS


william e emba 11:01 AM  

I did not like this puzzle. It took about twice my usual time, mostly stuck in the SW corner, with no help from having HEDONISM instead of HEDONICS at first.

The baseball like games for very few players were originally called "old cat", and became known as "one old cat", "two old cat" etc, based on how many bases or players on the batters' side there were. "One old cat", of course, eventually became "one o' cat" or "one-o-cat". The "one-a-cat" spelling is just plain illiterate, like "miniscule" or "supercede" or "millenium". (For some reason, I never ever remember this game's name until after I get the clue, at which point memory floods.)

ATENRA was in a recent Sunday, so ATEN should have been easy. I kept getting the RA part, and was blanking on the rest.

I instantly knew which Peterson was in the 2003 news, and was appalled Shortz was allowing it. Meanwhile, my memory was slow at dredging her name up. I think the only thing that got it for me was the fact that this week, LACEY Davenport of Doonesbury fame is getting a bit of a retrospective.

The GENE clue is flat out wrong. Genes are parts of chromosomes.

Rex Parker 11:02 AM  

That may be the best comment an anonymouse has ever left on this site (10:51 am). Esp. the NIPS part. Too true. I should have noticed the slight against sots. I apologize.


Anonymous 11:03 AM  

Not familiar with AGRO (15A) as a prefix for industry. I get it, but I've never heard this a common usage? somewhere?

joho 11:08 AM  

@rex: your write up today was astute and hilarious!

I didn't find this very difficult, even unscrambling the team's names, which surprised me. It was sort of fun but for all the ugly reasons already mentioned by Rex and everybody else, it fell flat.

I think it's also because I expect a lot from Michigan Pete Sinatra. Whenever I see his name at the top now I start anticipating a good time. This time just wasn't his best.

Ulrich 11:08 AM  

I found the theme via the Wolverines and then it actually helped me in the case of the Bruins and Gators. So, I was fine, themewise.

As to the non-theme fill, I pretty much agree with everybody else. I had particular trouble with ONE ACAT, not knowing it in either variant: For the last letter, a T or an M seemed possible as each results in some Egyptian deity, but then I remembered that Echnaton worshipped the sun and guessed right. Am I supposed to know this Iger person?

Hello again, Alter! I remember him giving an address during the centennial of the grammar school he and I went to (not at the same time, though!).

john in NC 11:10 AM  

I agree with all y'all, and I will also put my vote in for "Shame!" on using (I mean that in the most derogatory way) Ms. Peterson's name in the puzzle. That goes for the editor of the puzzle as well. The Laci Peterson "news" was a horror show lapped up by the american media and, in turn, voraciously consumed by the american public. It was a tragedy for Ms. Peterson's loved ones and it was a tragic and emblematic culmination of the tabloid press's need for blood. Ugh.

SethG 11:22 AM  

While I wasn't a fan of the puzzle (for all reasons mentioned and more), I loathe Genesis.


Peter 11:33 AM  

Anyone else want TYPO for 4-Across?

Anonymous 11:35 AM  


I know the line, Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree... from a camp song. I know Rancho Cucamonga from the Frank Zappa studios in California Where does your line come from?

I worked in the AGRIBUSINESS (low end) and never heard it called agro. In other languages and cultures, the term agrobusiness exists, but I really don't think it is a common American term.


Anonymous 11:37 AM  

Can't help but think of that Aggro business in Clockwork Orange.
- Tom in Pittsburgh

Tony from Charm City 11:37 AM  

Agree with the LACI Petersen clue. Shame on you, Mr. Collins! I can't begin to imagine what would happen if a friend or family member is doing the puzzle and comes across the clue. Not only is it in very poor taste to do it at all, but we are also little more than a month away from the anniversary of the story itself!

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

This puzzle annoyed me so much that I decided to come out of lurker status to comment. I have not had this much trouble with a Wed. puzzle in a long time. Agree 100% with Rex's comments.

I cannot believe that LACI passes either the breakfast test or any other test on acceptable fill. When I think of her, all kinds of unpleasant and horrifying things regarding the specifics of her death run through my head. Not what I want to think of when I work a puzzle. Brutal murder victims shouldn't be in the puzzle- who's next? Nicole Brown Simpson?

Also, seemed like lots of fill was a bit tough for a Wed. (ATEN, NOPAR, ELLA, ONEACAT, EWA, MES, MAGEE, etc). Others who have been doing these longer or have a different knowledge base may disagree, but the puzzle seemed be a bit heavy on more obscure fill.

I have three kids and have never heard any GOOS coming from their rooms or mouths ever---

Thought DOZE as an answer was off or maybe the clue was too vague- to me doze involves sleeping/napping. Of course I am not paying attention when I am dozing, but I'm also not paying attention if I'm reading or typing.
Thought a couple of the other clues were off as well, but won't get into those as this is getting too long.

WTF on ACAB (had Mary forever) and HEDONICS (had hedonism).

On the positive side, I like the idea for the theme and some of the tricky cluing is excellent. Had BIBLE, OXEN, SONOFGOD, and KENNEDY (a girl in my daughter's class is named Kennedy) briefly.


Chip Hilton 11:41 AM  

The college scrambles felt like a birthday gift (my 60th today...yikes!) and the rest was going smoothly until....that hideous SW corner. HEDONICS?! Totally messed me up down there, and, although I got it right away, I, too, thought the LACI clue was surprisingly inappropriate for the NYT.

Embarrassed to say I've never heard of ONEACAT or ONEOCAT. We played Three Flights Up or Pepper when I was a Little Leaguer. Sharpest memory of those times was during one lunch break (a full hour and a quarter at home! No cafeterias in my old school and moms were home, of course.) when my friend Kenny threw me a really slow curve with a Wiffle Ball and it broke a garage window. Shocking!

If it wasn't for the inclusion of Michigan in the scrambled clues, I would almost think this was a Final Four prediction by Peter A. Collins. All the rest are powerhouse basketball schools. I'll be happy if they all end up chasing the UConn Huskies.

Z.J. Mugildny 11:59 AM  

I feel the same way about this puzzle as many others. Close, but not quite.

All this talk about "The Simpsons" and the appearance of RANCHO in the puzzle reminds me that Marge once went to a resort called "Rancho Relaxo". Hilarious.

humorlesstwit 12:03 PM  

Is it presumptuous of me to note an increased erudition about OXEN here in puzzleworld since my rant of some months ago? Probably.

BTW – I agree with all reservations about this puzzle.

twangster 12:05 PM  

dk -- In case you're serious about not getting the theme ... Rex's explanation is clear but here's another try: You take a college sports team name, like BRUIN (for UCLA) and then rearrange the letters to get the clued answer, in this case RUB IN.

ArtLvr 12:16 PM  

I agreed with the sentiments above, and am glad Rex explained the Mayo/MES -- though I was too ready for bed to lose any sleep over it.

I'd found the animals in the theme answers after the fact, but missed the Spartan and the Tarheel. Might have tumbled to the latter but who knows?

Yes, there were good points otherwise, like PIZZAZZ and NAZARENE with ZACHARY crossing both, but then lots of ungainly fill... AGRO and HEDONICS for two weren't so hot. I guess I can say I learned a couple of new ones, like EWA and IGER. LOONIES would have been more fun with Canadian clue, now that I've picked up the connection here! Ah well.

@ chip -- Happy B'day! You can stop counting now...


Peter 12:26 PM  

@ everyone: My apologies on the LACI inclusion. That was all me. My word. My clue. Definitely not well thought out.

I think I'm also guilty for the chromosome/gene mix up. Yikes!

Pete Collins

Anonymous 12:29 PM  

Thanks for stopping by. This community respects your work and we are always willing to give an opinion. Keep 'em coming.


Anonymous 12:30 PM  

@ Peter - as punishment you get downgraded to Saginaw Pete for a period of 1 week.

Doug 12:45 PM  

Was shut out in the SW. ERIC and not LACI was stuck in my head, and I just couldn't get a good enough toe hold. ALAS and this is WEDNESDAY for NAZARENEsakes.

Watched college ball with my rubgy-playing son and he was asking about the goofy team names. Apologies if you are a Nittany Lion, Sooner, Red Tide, or Tar Heel. Had a nice time Wiki'ing all these and learned a lot. Glad to be a plain old Badger!

Theme was nice, challenging fill and an enjoyable experience.

Karen 12:50 PM  

I'm not good at college teams; this one was my hardest Weds in quite a while, twice the solving time as normal. I could figure out the Gators which helped ARGOT; LEATHER and WINE LOVER were straightforward. Then I hit the SW. I remembered some California team named the Titans in a Fleetwood Mac video, so I tried TAT IN, which is a bit of a stretch (or a Hail Mary); today I remember that team is the Trojans. Now give me a puzzle with soccer team names and I'll be smoking...

fikink 12:51 PM  

Rex, your earlier comment on PIZZAZZ led me right to it in today's fill, which convinces me that your test solving is unconsciously informing your blogging. (The digital palimpsest I spoke of earlier.) I agree with you on the use of LACI: bad form...and I liked your lovely use of the word "outlier."
@z.j. - Rancho Relaxo reminds me of Rancho Malario which I think I remember from Firesign, but I'm not sure.
Pete, you are a gentleman and a scholar!

evil doug 1:05 PM  

Too bad that Lacy Underall didn't spell her name with an "i"....

On the other hand: Why is the use of a historical or newsworthy fact taboo? The author isn't celebrating the event, but rather simply referring to it. We see "Nazi" now and again, and other terms with denotations or at least connotations some may find sad, horrific or otherwise difficult.

Not everything is The Simpsons. (And God help whoever injects the memory of Maude Flanders into a puzzle given her unfortunate demise....)

Peter: You don't have to apologize to me. I'd rather see some fresh clues in the puzzle than limit you and your ilk with an unnecessarily restrictive and random "rule". Apparently Will was okay with it, too....


Two Ponies 1:07 PM  

I'll hold off on my rant since Mr. Collins stepped in.
Misdirections I did like were
Clay, after a while & Hide seeker.
Is hedonics a word in Ebonics?
After Sunday's wonderful puzzle and Simpson's tie-in all of this week's puzzles have a tough act to follow.
@ fikink You might be right about Rancho Malario.

Lostacat 1:14 PM  

Terry Southern based "Candy" on Voltaire's "Candide".

rafaelthatmf 1:56 PM  

Liked the kitsch of the anagrams and still left unsatisfied somehow. Sorta like déjà vu: I know it happened but at the same time not quite sure what happened.
I also had the initial revulsion on the 66A then thought about Caesar, Lincoln, MLK, JFK, RFK Jesus… Alas maybe just a little too soon so kudos to Saginaw Pete for Mea Culpa.
@sethg – I loathe post Peter Gabriel Genesis – with ABACAB setting a new high in low! It refers to notes in the melody ((?) Don’t know music) and covers a gap in song writing creativity. Save it for the next record! Ain’t no fun bein’ an illegal alien? Ain’t no fun listening to the tripe you call ‘music’. Don’t get me going on Phil Collins!

Anonymous 2:06 PM  

Perhaps Mr Collins has stumbled upon a way to make sports more interesting: Have the teams run an anagram contest to rename their teams every year. I'd rather try explain why "Key Cubes" (as lame as it is) can be so tough instead of explaining why Buckeyes should instill fear into Wolverines everywhere (Well, at least, those foraging near a Buckeye grove.) Brutus Rubik, what a mascot that would be!

tOSU Key Cubes!

Anonymous 2:16 PM  


My point exactly, but in reverse. You had a problem recalling the team nicknames (where you aparently went first)thus the puzzle became more difficult.

On the other hand, I went with the part of the clue that was the answer to the anagramed team name, and it was relatively easy.

After finishing, I could have spent the time to *anagram the other way* but the grid was filled so I was done.

Since my earlier post (I'm #1 today- Yay!) I've been thinking about how I might clue the theme items to better appreciate the anagrams.

If I were good at constructing, I might have clued the following as:

10D: Florida athelete's [mixed up] team talk?

23A: North Carolina athlete's [mixed up] club wear?

37A: Michigan athlete's [mixed up] vice

I acknowledge this would have been a lot harder than a Wednesday deserves, but it may have been a lot more satisfing for the *sports folks* yet a lot less for me.


PS: Coming soon, a real registered, identity!

fikink 2:23 PM  

Fred, a farmer down the road, died when his meth-high son pushed him into a grain bin - a horrific death. I do not anticipate seeing him on a NYT crossword puzzle anytime soon, no matter the media coverage or resulting court case. I don't think the problem lies in the dark memories of Laci's death which the clue recalls, but the elevation of that story to crossword fill.
NAZI, RFK, JFK, JESUS, MLK, Lincoln, Caesar and Laci: Which one doesn't belong?

rafaelthatmf 2:26 PM  

@/Glitch - You had me 'til you made loving wine a vice! A hobby. A passion. A pursuit. Not a vice.

andrea carla michaels 2:40 PM  

It's interesting you chimed in and bravo for being willing to just say you're sorry (so few people can!)
But you shouldn't have to shoulder the whole blame, bec where was Will on that one??!! or even, dare I ask, the test-solvers?!!!

It was questionable, but so is NAZI, IDI, etc. that we get everyday.
In Scrabble tourneys we have to ignore actual meanings when players (I include myself) play YID, JEW, (etc. I won't fill in a million dirty words here, all of which are acceptable)

(I just reworked an entire puzzle bec I couldn't see a way around URINE...but again, I think you should not be shouldering the whole blame here!)

@tony from charm city
I don't think one has to worry that Laci's friends or family will do the puzzle
(who knows? they may even feel honored that her name is being remembered)
(the same way you happen to know it's the anniversary of the story)

Holocaust survivors have to cringe at this or that on a daily basis.

Deep down tho, it's terrific there has been an outcry bec maybe the message will get back to Will (who apparently was ok with it, but this is why these blogs are so important, bec maybe next time he won't be. You know at least Pete won't do it again!)
Live and learn.

On a positive note, I care not for sports, yet it's way cool to have found SO many anagrams that work!!!


Here's where you and I are SO different and why I think in part you are as beloved as you are by so many men and boys...
(I, of course, love you bec of your wit and sweetness):

Starting with NED and ending with REN plus having the whole theme be sports teams (that as glitch pointed out one didn't even need to know one way or the other) just makes me feel like an old(er) woman desperately wanting to opt out of the ubiquitous discussions about cartoons and sports!

Thanks for rescuing my day!

Edith B 2:57 PM  

Yeah, loosely based on Candide.

Like Phillysolver, I remember Candy being passed around and giggled over. It was semi-literate porn that was accepted by the general public in much the same way that Deep Throat was several years later. It is scraping the bottom of the pop culture barrel to have Candy and Laci Peterson in the same puzzle.

Obviously Laci being handled in this way is much more egrigous than referencing Candy, but still.

Didn't care much for the 3 letter FTIB either.

This puzzle ran the gamut - some very excellent fill, some very poor. I agree with Rex on the schizophrenic nature of this one.

Chip Hilton 2:59 PM  

On-line agent for a mixed-up Purdue athlete?

Rex Parker 3:13 PM  


My initial comment on LACI: "LACI seems to violate the breakfast test in Serious ways." Perhaps I could have been more persuasive.


fikink 3:22 PM  


email broker?

Chip Hilton 3:24 PM  


archaeoprof 3:30 PM  

@Pete: thanks for letting us hear from you.

I too was knocked off stride in the SW. Had "skoal" for SALUT.

I really liked this theme, and spent most of my solving time looking for more of it.

How about a puzzle during bowl season, or the final four, with college team names?

Anonymous 3:48 PM  

Fikink, your point is well-taken and I agree with some of it, but I do think part of the problem with the LACI clue is in the recall of the memories/specifics of her death because her death/the story is so recent. This story was endlessly and unnecessarily played out in the media (as John in nc stated so well) and I still vividly remember the horrific details. I agree that your examples (Nazi, RFK etc) are of great historical significance to most people and Laci's tragic death does not rise to that level. But 911 is on par with JFK, RFK, etc. and I can't imagine the events/victims of 911 being clued in the puzzle for quite some time because the memories are so raw (I'm assuming it hasn't been). Over time these events become less vivid though not less horrible.

Also, have JFK, RFK, Lincoln and others been clued by referring to their deaths or rather as to their status as leaders? The only way LACI Peterson can be clued in a NYT puzzle is because of her murder. One can't help but remember the details; they aren't pretty and do not pass the breakfast test. Unfortunately, that is the only reason why any of us even know who she was.

I am so impressed that Pete Collins apologized. It must be difficult to decide what should not be included in a puzzle considering the many different people these puzzles reach. Each time I read this blog I gain a better appreciation of how these puzzles are constructed and edited!


Noam D. Elkies 3:55 PM  

Misdirection is also an anagram of "Crimson Tide", but that wouldn't quite fit the parameters of the theme; nor would the Earthworms and War Mothers (Swarthmore's men's and women's frisbee teams). Too bad, because most of the anagrams here are fair at best. Is the Amherst mascot a hamster?

"1940 hit" and "1962 #1 country hit" (43A,44A) feel equally "!?"-worthy to me... Too bad 61A:ACAB can't be clued as a rhyme scheme.


P.S. Oh, and of course Go(o)d is not an anagram, because the letters don't need to be rearranged; and ANO and ONA aren't palindromes, but you knew that already. I've read somewhere that reversals such as ANO/ONA and DESSERTS/STRESSED are the original meaning of "anagram" but I can't find strong enough confirmation now.

Noam D. Elkies 3:59 PM  

Oops, I misremembered (and should have checked my arithmetic): the anagram of Crimson Tide is "modernistic", not "misdirection" which has one I too many. The rare "monstricide" (courtesy of the NPL solving site) works too.


chefbea1 4:00 PM  

Did the puzzle without unscrambling team names bec I don't know any of the teams.

I still don't get Mayo=Mes

@Peter thanks for chiming in. As a reward I will make a large plate of veal marsala for you.

rafaelthatmf 4:04 PM  

Sorry Rex – what truly disturbs about the Peterson case (and others like it: i.e. the ‘story’ Nancy Grace has brewing currently) is the obsessive focus. It has the odd effect of imprinting on the public a false sense that these cases occur more frequently than they actually do and at the same time somehow numb us to the fact that they happen all too often to those outside the target market of mass media news outlets. How many pregnant women were murdered on the same day as Laci Peterson? More than one I’ll bet and because they don’t look like a Disney version of America they get no air time and about as much investigative resources. My spirit sags for the Petersons for their loss as much as for the hyper media attention rained down upon their family. It makes these tragedies as impersonal as an anonymous car chase and creates blind spots for listeners/viewers to the home grown versions that should invoke their interest and intervention.
A small regional population should know about the Peterson tragedy –about the same number who probably know of poor Fred’s (and his pitiful son’s) mournful fate.

Crosscan 4:05 PM  

Is it wrong to read a crossword blog on your blackberry during an incredibly boring conference presentation?

Peter 4:09 PM  

@ chefbea: Thanks. I'll take the veal marsala. And I think I could use about a DOZEN (17-Across) NIPS (6-Across) after today.

Speaking of WINELOVERs, my Wolverines are 20 point underdogs to Ohio State this weekend. Keep the kids away from the TV on Saturday. I'm afraid it won't be pretty.

"Michigan Pete"

MarkTrevorSmith 4:11 PM  

(1) Enjoyed the sports theme, even though I know almost nothing about sports.
(2) A baby's sound is often written as "goo-goo." Therefore, I stand in defense of 19A GOOS. Count them. Goo-goo contains two goos.
(3) Nice to see the Essenes lining up with the Nazarene.
(4) Always, when I see "clay" in a xword, I think first of Ali. And that's usually the right direction.

Anonymous 4:14 PM  


You: "How about a puzzle during bowl season, or the final four, with college team names?"

Me: Hope not, see my previous posts today.

To me, would be as rewarding as NASCAR trivia, arguably the #1 spectator sport, but where my knowledge stops at STP and Unser.

On the other hand, maybe someday we'll have a puzzle on a semi-popular pnenom as *The Simpsons*.

Until then, we'll have to put up with puzzles that are, well, just puzzles.

3 and out


qv 4:27 PM  

Rex, deeply shocked you don't know and love Candy, one of the most shamelessly self indulgent pieces of late sixties high culture trash ever. Richard Burton astonishes as a camp Dylan Thomas figure, Brando appalls as a mendacious mobile-home Maharishi, Aznavour amazes as the hunchback of Notre Dame's libidinous younger brother - and sailing through the central narrative, Candide's alter-ego, the guileless, gorgeous EWA. This movie hit the screens in Sydney shortly after I turned 15, and boy was I ever the demographic! Waited for an eternity to revisit it on DVD aged 50+, hey turns out I'm still a key member of the target audience.

Edith B 4:39 PM  

I am not a Simpsons fan but I did watch the show this past weekend out of what one might call Solidarity.

But to describe them as a semi-popular phenomenon strikes me as a gross understatement.


I'm so glad that someone reads my blog and I left you a message there because 1. I didn't know your email address and 2. I didn't want to clutter this Comments section with personal stuff.

foodie 4:47 PM  

I always love doing the NY Times puzzle in NY (where I currently am). Feels right, somehow...So, it was weird/interesting to see a couple of clues from my home state, Michigan, and even the U. of M block M on Rex's blog.

To my amazement, the theme helped me. I actually remembered the names of the teams-- being at Michigan and a graduate of UCLA did not hurt. So, it made the puzzle easy and fun for me.

And don't shoot me-- but I did not see the LACI inclusion as offensive. I actually thought that her family might think it was good that her memory was still in people's mind. I've always thought her mother was extremely courageous and that she wanted to make sure that this tragedy would not fade away. In fact, there is a Laci Peterson foundation and if you go to their web site there is an announcement called "laughing for Laci, An evening of Comedy to Benefit the Laci & Conner Search and Rescue Fund". But I do agree with Rex that the clue was too neutral-sounding. May be it would have helped if it said something like "Tragic 2003 news, --- Petersen"?

I was seriously slowed down by the clue for GENE. I understand that the constructor need not be a scientist, but like Andrea, I ask: is no one checking?

Anyhow, Petosky Pete, thanks for a good puzzle.

PS. Thanks edith b. I'll take a look!

green mantis 4:51 PM  

Outliers and wife killers and hedonics,

So what IS the deal with homicidal husbands? So creepy. I had to watch Lost Highway for class this week, and noticed heir to the creepy throne Robert Blake (and poor man's O.J. Simpson) as the oozingly psychotic Mystery Man. Then wikipedia-ed the movie to try to put my brain back together, and saw that Lynch was inspired in his storyline by none other than the O.J. Simpson trial.

Ah, circle of life, er, misogynistic murderous rage. Salut!

Rex Parker 4:58 PM  

I say we call him "Ypsilanti Pete."

That'll teach him!


jae 5:08 PM  

Pretty much what everyone else has said. This one struck me a somewhat odd because knowing the anagrams really wasn't necessary given the way the clues were worded. I kinda like Glitch's idea.

And, as evil doug commented, its too bad Ms. Underall is a Y Lacy.

jannieb 5:30 PM  

@chefbea - Mayo is the month (mes) of May in Spanish.

I agree with all that was said above. @Glitch - you should try to construct a puzzle. Your clues were much better. I was able to solve without knowing many of the teams - it added nothing, IMOO.

archaeoprof 5:49 PM  

@glitch: to me, the enduring pleasure of crosswords is what I learn from them, from Yma Sumac to EWA. I think Rex once blogged that a crossword is a daily conversation about what kind of knowledge matters. To me, knowing about the Simpsons isn't really very important. But I understand that in Crossworld I'm going to meet people who value other kinds of knowledge than I do. That's the best part. So bring on that NASCAR puzzle!

andrea carla michaels 6:01 PM  

as a testament to I don't know what, your Ypsilanti comment just accidentally made me laugh out loud and I don't even get it!!!!!

ArtLvr 6:05 PM  

@ acme -- re your lament "I just reworked an entire puzzle bec I couldn't see a way around URINE.." (chuckle) How about [Fig ending] as a clue? I know, you'd still see it as a stand-alone...


J-Dub 6:08 PM  

Am I the only person who doesn't understand 4-Down (really bugged/ATEAT)? Anybody mind filling me in?

Anonymous 6:14 PM  

The LUCI clue really ATE AT some people today. (think erosive anger)

Orange 6:24 PM  

@miguel: That's exactly what my head combined—the kookaburra song and Rancho Cucamonga. How many four-syllable words begin with a "cuca" sound and end with a schwa?

Pete needs to do more penance than that. Pete needs to be exiled to the Upper Peninsula. I vote for Escanaba Pete.

Peter 7:22 PM  

Saginaw? Petosky? Ypsilanti? Escanaba? Apparently Michigan has more circles of Hell than Dante's Inferno. But y'all don't scare me. I lived for THREE YEARS in Bay City.

With the auto industry in shambles and the Lions, Tigers, and Wolverines all tanking, maybe I'll sneak across the border and become ...

Ontario Pete

joho 8:32 PM  

Definitely Black Lake Pete.

foodie 8:34 PM  

Petosky is a nice place, and "Petosky Pete" has a certain Je ne sais quoi to it.

Now Ypsilanti, that's REALLY mean. I laughed out loud when I read it. Rex really knows how to hurt a guy...

Edith B 8:59 PM  

Speaking of sports nicknames, I remember reading an article in the 60s about Scottsdale Community College allowing the student body to select a new nickname and school colors. The results:

The Artichokes
Pink and White

Of course, this was the era when men were voted Homecoming Queen (no pun intended).

Maybe I'll scoot on over to to see if I am promulgating an urban legend.

Orange 9:22 PM  

Wait! Flint Pete.

Petoskey stones are cool.

Look, Blogger/Google finally engineered a way to retain the capital letters that users use in their names. We've been waiting years for our uppercase!

foodie 10:03 PM  

@Orange, yes Petoskey stones are very cool indeed. Kids in Michigan learn about them and we've gone numerous times to the Petoskey/Charlevoix area to collect them. My son, who became a scientist, was always very dismissive of stones and fossils you buy in museum stores and such-- you had to discover your own as he learned to do in Petoskey.

Michigan has some interesting names-- I hope to see them in puzzles in the future... "Saline Pete", here's a way you could redeem yourself.

mac 10:08 PM  

@archeoprof: I used to feel the same about the Simpsons. Then I watched the show last Sunday. Now I have a stack of 16 DVD's of shows past next to my laptop. Go figure.

@OrangE: I don't even remember if I used a capital letter. Let's see:

mac 10:10 PM  

Not. This feels sort of big-brotherish.

PhillySolver 10:17 PM  

Great catch on the restored caps from Blogger...I know see lots of variety in the nom de blog entries.

dorkus malorkus 11:22 PM  

Why the hell does the NYT crossword get the fundamentals of biology incorrect so frequently? To be more precise, Shortz and whoever else checks the puzzles evidently have no background whatsoever in the basic concepts and language of genetics. Confusing genes and chromosomes? Seriously? I can see how the infamous (to me) allele gaffe occurred some months ago, since that's admittedly not a common term, but genes and chromosomes? (Dorky) 8th graders would laugh at that mistake.

dorkus malorkus 11:26 PM  

PS - I realize that my previous comment brought nothing new to the table, and that the constructor has taken the blame for the error, but I just did the puzzle 10 minutes ago and had to register my righteous indignation for posterity.

fergus 11:55 PM  

Got to this puzzle rally late and made a mess of the SW. Guess why. Wasted Anagrams was what I scribbled in the margin. Maybe because Anagrams play such a limited role in this puzzle format, they had to pointed out so starkly?

Rex Parker 7:30 AM  

Scientists are awesome.


J-Dub 2:09 PM  

Yikes, how did I have so much trouble parsing ATE AT? I was thinking of "really bugged" as a condition rather than an action, I guess -- looking for something like IRATE. Thanks, anonymous.

Orange 4:24 PM  

A TEAT always bugs some people...

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