THURSDAY, Feb. 12, 2009- G & S Kennedy ("Slumdog Millionaire" locale /Old-time gossip queen Maxwell / Bluesman Rush / R&B singer Hilson)

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: 200th birthday of ABRAHAM LINCOLN and CHARLES R. (!?) DARWIN - these two are theme answers, and then there are two other theme answers based on stuff those guys are famous for

Word of the Day: TOLE - A lacquered or enameled metalware, usually gilded and elaborately painted (answers.com)

I am not going to be a terribly reliable judge of the puzzle today, as I'm not well. Tried to solve the puzzle last night and it took me over 11 minutes (long for me), and I woke up to find I had the most hilarious, gigantic, crash-and-burn error right in the middle of my grid. I mean - the mistake is so colossal that it's hard to believe it happened. So many things had to go right (i.e. wrong). OK, so here it is - I had KRAFT where SNACK is supposed to go (38A: Cheese and crackers, maybe). That's four, count 'em, four wrong squares. In one answer. An answer that my brain somehow not only computed as plausible, but never ever questioned. Let's start with KRAFT - I printed the puzzle out from AcrossLite, and the clues are laid out in such a way that I (repeatedly) read the SNACK clue as [Brand of Cheese ...] because "brand" is in the preceding clue, 36A: Sony brand (Aiwa). Then there's ALAK, which seemed wrong spelling-wise, but "ALAK the day!" sounded perfectly plausible as a Shakespearean exclamation. "Alas, ALAK (sic!) and Weylaway" is a phrase of despair I've heard/seen before, though I know not where. KERR for KERN (25D: "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" composer)? Please. I could make that error any day of the week. FOIL for COIL (39D: Stamp purchase)? Well, first, though I have a COIL of stamps on my desk in front of me right now, I would never have called it that, so it's not as if COIL was leaping out at me. I figured FOIL was some technical term I hadn't heard of. And then there's TEN-O for KENO (40D: Numbers game). This made me want to punch someone, because I figured TEN-O was one of these "games" from god knows when, like "ONE-O Cat" (which is in puzzles, sadly, from time to time). And yet I never questioned its correctness. Wow. Solving when you are tired and your head is in a vise - not advisable (unless you like spectacular crashes).

As for the merits of the puzzle. I won't say much, as illness may be throwing me off, but I really didn't like it. The "R" in CHARLES R. DARWIN, basically ruined the puzzle for me. Second day in a row in which a theme answer is corrupt and horrible. Usage matters! He's not known as Charles R. Darwin or Charles Robert Darwin. Now, if ABRAHAM LINCOLN had had a middle initial ... well, then his name would have been too long to be paired with CHARLES R. DARWIN. I had no idea what that middle initial was. Tried many things. And the cross was the horrid, ugly, nobody-says-it BESTIR (8D: Rouse), so that was no help. Also, what is up with the other theme answers? I don't know how they are parallel. Darwin wrote one, Lincoln helped create the other. I suppose that they are parallel in that they are both major contributions to culture (in Lincoln's case, American culture), but that doesn't feel like enough to me.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Influential work by 28-Across, familiarly ("Origin of Species")
  • 28A: Notable born 2/12/1809 (Charles R. Darwin)
  • 47A: Notable born 2/12/1809 (Abraham Lincoln)
  • 61A: 47-Across led it (Republican Party)

Making long story shorter: Far north killed me. Nearly every answer up there but ALFA (7D: European sports car, informally) was masked with some tough cluing. In fact, this puzzle was noticeably, deliberately clued in very tough ways throughout. I also went into free fall in the SW. The BRONC clue, ugh (65A: What almost always goes for a buck?) - had the -NC and thought "???" Do Not Like the clue. "Almost always?" That's made up. My Christmas ornaments are rarely ORBS (53D: Christmas ornaments, typically) - and what is it with the damned qualifying adverbs in this puzzle? Informally, familiarly, typically. Bah. No idea who KERI Hilson is (54D: R&B singer Hilson). See her here.

Head hurts, so I will go straight to bullets now ... dang, there are a lot of them.

  • 1A: "Slumdog Millionaire" locale (Agra) - I remember thinking "What's that really common crossword answer ... located in India ... Taj Mahal ..."
  • 13D: Old-time gossip queen Maxwell (Elsa) - More toughish cluing. Where's my "Born Free" lioness!?
  • 15A: Scene of classic flooding (Nile) - this killed me. Use of "classic" here is puzzling? It's being used to mean "epic" or "major," or maybe "famous," I think. The NILE floods all the time, doesn't it? Is there a single flooding that is particularly "classic"? "Scene" (as opposed to "site," which should have been used, but was taken by an answer already) and "classic" had me thinking "movie."
  • 9A: Old auto control (choke) - had REM instead of HOC at first at 10D: Ad _____, so CHOKE resisted me at first.
  • 11D: Bluesman Rush (Otis) - another mystery for me, but one I got (guessed) without much trouble


  • 20A: Bygone leader with a goatee (Lenin) - he seems to get clued via his goatee not infrequently. Well, he's been clued that way at least once before, I'm sure of it. Sadly, I have no pictures of his penis for you today (if you didn't read Monday/Tuesday's write-up, I apologize for that apparent anatomical non sequitur)


  • 34A: Part of a knave's loot, in a rhyme (tart) - no clue. Ugh. More hard cluing.
  • 35A: 1970s Big Apple mayor (Beame) - seems like I learned this very recently. Still feels slightly hard. I have no Big Apple mayor memory pre-Koch.
  • 51A: Role played by 52-Across in "The Story of Mankind" (Nero) - oh boy, more "go look at another part of the grid, sucker" cluing. And further, "Story of What?"
  • 52A: See 51-Across (Lorre) - at least it's a name I recognize.
  • 56A: Lake Thun's river (Aare) - this one came easily, possibly because few things start "AA..."
  • 68A: Tour stops (sites) - you see the SIGHTS, right? On a tour? I mean, I see that SITES can work too, but "Tours" make me thing of SIGHTS, not SITES.
  • 69A: End of a phonetic alphabet (Zulu) - does "phonetic alphabet" mean "Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.?" More indirect cluing. Wanted ZETA, despite its non-phoneticness and its not ending any alphabet that I know of.
  • 2D: "Runaway Bride" co-star, 1999 (Gere) - a gimme, though I never saw it. Sadly, though I saw "TROY" (66A: 2004 Brad Pitt film), it was not a gimme - that far south section was oddly rough for me, as AOL (63D: Comcast alternative) and NYU (64D: Home of the Stern School of Business: Abbr.) could have been ATT and NEB for all I knew.
  • 29D: "60 Minutes" correspondent starting in 1991 (Stahl) - I like her. One of the few news media stars who doesn't seem like a whore to me. Figuratively speaking. And literally speaking, I guess.
  • 55D: Descry (spot) - in that black hole in the SW. So vague. Vagueness can kill. SPOT x/w SITES = black hole of banality.
  • 57D: Literally, "raw" (ecru) - more tough cluing, though this clue is very interesting. I can't believe I'm ending this write-up with praise for an ECRU clue, but there it is.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Greetings from the future. If you want to compete against me in the ESPN College Basketball NCAA Tournament Challenge, you have approximately 45 minutes from now (11:15am, Thurs, Mar. 19) to sign up. The group name is "Crossword Cagers." ~RP


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101 comments:

Frank 8:30 AM  

Your analysis is right on the mark. "Charles R. Darwin"? Ruined it for me too.

dk 8:32 AM  

The knave of hearts he stole some TARTs....

All the DARWIN and LINCOLN news made the "theme" clues easy. My only complaints is Peter LORRE spells his name incorrectly it should be as I always fill it Lorie that way I would get faster solve times.

BESTIR seems forced to me but it works.

Warning childhood story: We had a cottage on Lake Ontario that we rented every summer for 2 weeks during the time the smelt (aka Mooneyes) would die and wash ashore by the thousands. We would build large fires with our neighbors and burn them and that resulted in a less than flowery scent. You might even say they..... SMELT.

Megan P 8:34 AM  

Whoa, those poor Kennedy brothers. I actually liked the puzzle a lot and was amused to find Darwin's middle initial - just to learn he had one. I like anything about Darwin.

Whipped through the entire upper 97% and crashed at the bottom. Quel shock. But a more entertaining Thursday than most, I thought.

HudsonHawk 8:38 AM  

I had a much easier time than Rex, but I didn't care for the middle initial in 28A, either. I actually started conventionally in the NW for a change, so had ORIGIN____ and CHARLES_____ and immediately thought DARWIN, but it didn't fit. I had to come back around the grid counterclockwise until I got to WAFFLE IRON (like that long fill) and I realized the middle initial was going to be there.

I kinda like the TART and the HOES, but then my mind is frequently in the gutter.

VaBeach puzzler 8:39 AM  

I found the puzzle pretty easy but still wonder about the two long vertical answers. Is a waffleiron the product of Darwinian evolution? Was there a rainshower when Linoln gave the Gettysburg Address?

JannieB 8:52 AM  

I agree with Megan P - didn't think it was that bad. It was certainly timely. I had no problems in the NW, the Dakotas took awhile (bestir didn't come easily), last fill for me was "Bronc". Very deceptive clue. I was bothered more by trying to cram "the" into Origin of Species than I was by Darwin's middle initial. That's my own lack of knowledge. Since his name isn't a brand, trademark or phrase that has to be "in the language", I say any form of it is valid.

smev 9:02 AM  

The Nile no longer floods as it did in classical times, due to dams such as the Aswan.

Michael Leddy 9:04 AM  

This puzzle seemed easy until I got to the bottom.

Phonetic alphabet: I was surprised to find out that "Alpha, Bravo, Charlie," et c. is indeed called a phonetic alphabet (see Wikipedia article).

AARE, ARAL: NATICK!

Anne 9:06 AM  

I was done in by ecru/zulu - I have no memory of ever hearing that ecru meant raw. But other than that I thought it was straight forward - not a lot of clever answers where it could be any number of things. Bestir is one of those words I never hear but see in print so I got the R in Darwin. I agree it's unfair.

Thanks, @DK, for the line - I remember it now.

Rex Parker 9:08 AM  

Aha, "ClassicAL times." That's different from "classic."

I'm trying to reply to emails and write comments and I am only half coherent, so I'm going to lie down and watch "Daily Show" now.

rp

Alex 9:10 AM  

On the negative side I didn't much care for the puzzle's cluing and the R was bad.

On the positive side it was an extremely (for me anyway) easy Thursday puzzle.

Kurt 9:11 AM  

I moved through this one pretty easily. I agree with Captain Rex on lots of the poor cluing. But while I wasn't as offended as Rex by use of Darwin's middle initial, it did cause me some pain. BESTIR was a little too obscure for me to see. So I kept trying for BEST IN. I thought that maybe "rout" was some form of the word "rouse"? Anybody else walk down that road or did I walk alone?

Enjoy Darwin's birthday...

joho 9:15 AM  

The first thing I noticed was that two related men did the puzzle together. Upon solving I discovered that it seems each took a name and one did the top of the puzzle, the other the bottom. Odd.

I didn't like the "R" in DARWIN because I had to write over four squares to fix where I started the "D" too soon.

The very best thing about this puzzle is the John Lennon clip that appeared in Rex's writeup. Although it makes me sad as I wish he were still here with us.

deerfencer 9:16 AM  

Too much of a chore for too little reward. Lame "theme", ploddish, imprecise cluing. Like Rex I got through it--barely--but nothing struck me as particularly crafty or well done. C-


P.S. Rex, you made my morning with your Lenin's missing penis joke--LOL! Hope you feel better, man.

Stephen 9:29 AM  

@Megan P.-

Actually, father and son.

Greene 9:43 AM  

I have a small quibble with the clue for ANGINA. While I will accede that common parlance uses the terms chestpain and angina interchangeably, the correct medical usage is really ANGINA pectoris. The word ANGINA by itself, actually refers to a choking sensation or a sense of constriction, thus when referring to ischemic chest discomfort the term becomes ANGINA pectoris.

This may seem like parsing lint, but there are other forms of ANGINA which have nothing to do with chestpain. For instance Ludwig's angina and Vincent's angina are severe infections of the oral cavity. Intestinal angina causes abdominal pain. There are many other examples.

I would really like to see Jerome KERN clued with a song outside the Showboat score. It seems that he is only clued for "Ol' Man River" and "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" these days. How about "All the Things You Are" or "Look For the Silver Lining" or "A Fine Romance" or "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" or, well you get the idea. The guy practically invented American popular song. There's a lot more to him than just Showboat. OK, rant over.

jubjub 9:53 AM  

I liked the somewhat tough cluing. Darwin's middle initial was hard for me to get, but gettable once I had BESTI_ (didn't know the word BESTIR, but I'm under the impression that you can add BE- to almost any verb and make another, fancy-sounding word).

My only mistake was COIn for COIL. Coil makes sense now, but I've never heard the term coil of stamps, and I never know the old-timey actors' names.

Re: DARWIN, I thought there was nothing worse than historical reenactments, but I did not consider singing historical reenactments. Here is the NYT video from Monday, "Darwin in Song". Cringe-inducing...

Can't get enough John Lennon videos? I was using YouTube as a jukebox a while back and made this playlist.

Xavier 9:54 AM  

The top was a breeze for me too. I worked my way around the middle and churned out the bottom with a little more effort. Came back to the middle and was left with TA-- for TART and --ES for HOES. Took some guesses and got those right, only to find that I had put in TORRE for LORRE. Sigh. The end game on Thursdays is always hard for me.

Xavs

Norm 9:55 AM  

Takes a lot more to ruin a puzzle for me than a little-known initial and some clunky cluing, so I thought this was a fine Thursday puzzle. Actually pretty easy all told. I had confidently entered ABRAHAMLINCOLN at 28A but EMANCIPATIONPROCLAMATION wouldn't fit at 17A and it wouldn't fit with INERT at 18D (a gimme by now) so I had to backtrack but then saw the clue for 47A and had my ah-ha moment.

Gary 9:55 AM  

WS did a lot of editing of this, our neophyte puzzle. We first submitted it in 2007, with the bottom theme entry being SECONDINAUGURAL. In the present version, the theme entries, the two longest downward entries, and most of the NW to SE diagonal are due to Stephen and me. Will or his elves figured out how to squeeze out 6 more black squares by rewriting the SW and NE.

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

I drove into work listening to Bob Edwards (on XMPR) interviewing one of the authors (James Moore) of Darwin's Sacred Cause - part of the discussion was on the influence Darwin and Lincoln may have had on one another (and that they were born on the same day!)

What a bonus when I opened the puzzle to see this exact concept being exploited. So, one of my fastest Thursdays since I got the theme answers immediately (despite the incongruous "R").

Agree on all the complaints re: the fill and the non-parallelism between the work and the party, but what you gonna do? Make a puzzle only on Darwin with

ORIGINOFSPECIES (15)
CHARLESDARWIN (13)
THEDESCENTOFMAN (15) ?

May not be good enough for NYT.

Or, if you could squeeze two letters in one square, NATURALSELECTION and GALAPAGOSISLANDS could help?

Or, just use the "R", add LINCOLN, BESTIR and be done with it!

JohnG

john in NC 10:09 AM  

@Kurt -- I had a similar misstep, except that I thought to rouse some one you might BUST IN on them, which led to NILU as a flooding scene. Was too annoyed to figure out the problem so I just came here.

Shamik 10:09 AM  

Easy medium for me today.

Rex...feel better soon.

Crosscan 10:14 AM  

A middle initial would only ruin a puzzle for me if it were wrong. My middle initial is an exclamation point.

6:18. TOLE new to me but crossings took care of that.

The real story here is a Lincoln puzzle by Kennedys. A new addition to the urban legend.

Nice beagle reference.

Cross!can

Leon 10:21 AM  

Great tribute puzzle GK & SK.

Thanks RP for your insights,even while ill. I thought this write-up was a CLASSIC.

The bearded leader clue made me enter this guy first.

toothdoc 10:25 AM  

Nice to see a picture of Lennon back in the puzzle, please don't flag it. Also, can't see 4down without thinking of Tina Fey's SNL line "boys don't have an angina." Finally, if 17 across is clued "familiarly", shouldn't 28 across be clued "formally".

Get to feeling better Rex and thanks for posting your times, I can live vicariously through your speed.

treedweller 10:39 AM  

Rex,
Sorry to hear you're not well. I hope you're better soon. Still, I can't help feeling a tiny thrill that, just this once, I was faster than the King. I have to take 'em as they come.

I was also surprised to see a middle initial in DARWIN's name. At least it didn't cross a 17th century opera by someone I never heard of. OK, I'll let that one go now.

My main enjoyment of today's puzzle was in learning that Abe and Chuck were born on the same day. Well, that, and Besting the King. Just this once. (Sorry. I'll let that one go now, too.)

Two Ponies 10:44 AM  

I'm going to the post office just so I can ask for a coil of stamps and see what the reaction is.
Rex mirrored my feelings about the puzzle. Hope you feel better soon.
I must admit that seeing Gary comment on the editing process has made me shy about being a CRAB.
Re: angina, even though there are other kinds of angina I think this clue was fair and very much "in the language" to most people.

ArtLvr 10:48 AM  

Rex, commiseration on the stuffed head -- lots of that here too with changes in barometric pressure.

I didn't have any trouble with today's puzzle, and my last fill was changing the film Tron to TROY, to get NYU. Crosses gave me KERI (who)? I liked AWOL as the Object of a hunt, maybe, CLIMB as the answer for the clue Scale, FAT for Excess... and I'm old enough to remember the old car's CHOKE.

∑;)

allan 10:51 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
allan 10:54 AM  

Rex' write up, although done while being ill, made me feel a lot better. I had an undiscovered misstep at 15a/8d. I wrote in nilu and bustin. Nilu made sense, because like Rex, I am still not sure what was classic about the Nile flooding. Unless, of course, it is some sort of a reference to biblical times and one of the 10 (or is it 200?) plagues. I'm pretty sure that floods was one of them (I've only heard the story about 100 times). What would of a couple of Irish boys know about those plagues anyway? :)

Darwin's middle initial is extremely forced. It's there to equalize the length of the answers at 28 and 47.

BTW, as per yesterday's discussion of Kemal Ataturk, and Rex' statement that "they may as well have been speaking Klingon" I've uncovered that there is more to this story than meets the eye. Check it out .

Feel better Rex!

Ulrich 10:55 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ulrich 10:57 AM  

To me, Darwin's middle initial was more than compensated for by the Origin of Species floating on top of the Republican Party, a really delicious coincidence as running for office in the latter now requires confirming that you do not believe in the former. In that sense, @Gary, I find WS's editing VERY apt.

BTW This was the playoff puzzle at Westport on Saturday and the winner, Joon, did it in 8+min (if I remember correctly) in full public view.

Jim in Chicago 11:02 AM  

I don't use many stamps any longer, but my mother always bought "rolls" of stamps, I've never heard the term "coil".

I can sort of forgive the charlesRdarwin since it was the only real way to make the puzzle work, and I sort of enjoyed the theme. Of course, since this has been all over the news it made for a very easy Thursday for me.

For some reason I always though that Darwin wrote "origin of THE species" so I learned something today.

I too tanked in the south and in the SW in particular.

william e emba 11:10 AM  

I looked at 28A, knew it was AL or CD, counted the squares, and confidently wrote in ABRAHAMLINCOLN. After I fixed that, I confidently dropped SAFER off the S for the 60 Minutes fellow.

ARAL and AARE are nowhere close to a Natick. The Aral Sea is rather famous, especially with the grim news of its shrinking over the decades. (That's why it's so salty.) The Aare is not so famous, but it is standard crosswordese.

I actually filled in the puzzle rather slowly, feeling it was rather difficult, but it turned out I had a quick time in the end. One bizarre speedbump was mindlessly putting INCA for the Hollywood studios location instead of the obvious INLA. So I was trying to think of a CAB with a beaker, not a LAB.

Beaker site in the cluing, and SITES in the grid? Hmmm. As it is, you see both the SIGHTS and SITES.

TOLE is crosswordese also. I recall getting burned on it a few years ago.

I don't believe FOIL is a technical term in philately, but amusingly enough Rex is correct that FOIL is a perfectly acceptable answer to "Stamp purchase". A "FOIL stamp" is a kind of press for embossing that embeds gold foil and the like into a book cover.

My last box was the cross of movie TRO- with school N-U. I kept wanting to put in N.

Objectionable content warning: People who were offended by the earlier picture of John Lennon should probably not see Will Ferrell as GWB on Broadway (limited engagement, one more month), as I learned last week solving the puzzle in the paper.

poc 11:15 AM  

Stamps in the UK are sold in books, not coils (or rolls) so that gave me a moment's pause, and I was stumped by the NYU/ZULU crossing (had NYC). Otherwise it was far too easy for a Thursday. Not even a rebus, dammit.

I also hated the CHARLESRDARWIN answer. It was so obvious that Darwin would be in the puzzle today that I just filled it in and had a space left over, so I left CHARLES and waited for the cross.

DONALD 11:19 AM  

Lost in the shuffle is another bi-centennial birthday, that of Edgar Allan Poe, January 19, 1809. Incidentally, for a neat “coincidence” of death, go HERE. One more? I’ve got the same birthday as Obama!

fikink 11:23 AM  

@Jim in Chicago, yes that is why I found this "Thursday" fairly easy, although I could never do it in 8 minutes! Much has been made recently of Abraham Lincoln heading the Republican Party, in light of Obama's attempt to emulate him and Darwin and Lincoln sharing a birthday. It seemed to me, once the four themed clues were had, the rest fell into place. Once again, I guess it all depends what you are paying attention to - a very timely puzzle apropos a newspaper.

edith b 11:24 AM  

I came up during the time when we had two separate holidays in February for both Lincoln and Washington and actually had the actual days themselves off.

Unfortunatly, I plugged in LINCOLN in the DARWIN slot and had a heck of a time straigthening out the mess.

Fortunately, I got restarted in the far South East and I got REPUBLICANPARTY right away which solved the ORBS problem for me.

Unfortunatly, I blanked in the NW but finally Richard GERE turned out to be the keystone to this particular arch and I got ORIGINOFSPECIES to provide me with the other guy, which I finally switched out.

Fortunately, I was using Across Lite and the switch-out was easily solved.

This one had an old-fashioned feel to it and BESTIR seemed to be a shoutout to Dr Maleska and I remembered what a CHOKE was and who the knave of hearts was.

The four long theme entries provideed a lot of meat to work with.

And yeah,Abe BEAME.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

Please everyone. Stop nitpicking. Instead try to enjoy this timely puzzle honoring two remarkable people born 200 years ago today.

evil doug 11:28 AM  

I was surprised to learn that Abraham Incoln's middle initial was L.

God created evolution. But He decided it was okay if Darwin took some of the credit.

Evil

jubjub 11:30 AM  

@poc, we americans also buy stamps in books. i think coils are if you really want a lot of stamps: "A large percentage of modern stamps are sold in coil form, since they are more amenable to mechanized handling in large quantities than either sheet stamps or booklet stamps." [Wikipedia].

joho 11:40 AM  

@Gary & Stephen ... so nice of you both to comment. It made me feel bad that I didn't say the nicest of things about your effort. It makes me ashamed because I couldn't construct a puzzle to save my life. Yet it's so easy for me to nitpick as anon.11:27 said. And to think you started this process in 2007! So I say, congratulations to you both for your two year production which happens to be the perfect puzzle for this very day.

@rex ... I also hope you feel better.

hazel 11:44 AM  

@anonymous 11:27 - you clearly haven't been to this site every often. its always something... BUT, usually the something is pretty entertaining....

I loved this puzzle - except for the r. which by now everyone should be sick of hearing about. So they needed the initial to make it work, big deal. Many other clues were interesting - kind of evoking a 19th century feel - maybe just because they were people or words I'd never heard of before (e.g. BEAME - feels like an old name, though its not)

I've got a masters in Geology, and love all things Darwin so was glad to see him honored in a puzzle. In Georgia, there seems to be a hoo-ha every year about how evolution will be taught in schools. In many circles here, creationism is the preferred origin of species. kind of sad.

Anonymous 11:53 AM  

THE QUEEN OF HEARTS

The Queen of Hearts
She made some tarts,
All on a summer's day;
The Knave of Hearts
He stole those tarts,
And took them clean away.

The King of Hearts
Called for the tarts,
And beat the knave full sore;
The Knave of Hearts
Brought back the tarts,
And vowed he'd steal no more.

foodie 12:03 PM  

I really like this puzzle for a bunch of reasons. Mostly, I had no idea that Darwin and Lincoln were born on the same day. That blew my mind. These are two of the most amazing people in the history of humankind, at least in my book. How cool is that! And how clever to commemorate this coincidence in a puzzle and to learn that the constructors thought of it well ahead of time. I also like the other original fill and cluing. RAINSHOWER and WAFFLEIRON, the long answers unrelated to the theme, are real 2-word phrases, not squint-inducing in any way. And I learned some new things, including TOLE. The buck-BRONC combo was unexpected. And while I had an error (Coin-Coil), it felt smooth and fun.

@Rex, sorry you're feeling ill. Hope you get better soon. A vitamin K-rich SNACK of KRAFT and AKMAK might do the trick (AKMAK should find its way in the puzzle-- Armenian Cracker)

Doug 12:06 PM  

@Leon: In that clip of Mitch Miller, you can see Sesame Street's Bob McGrath at 1:07. In the comments I see that MM is alive and kicking at 97? Must be all that smooth and easy living, as well as the benefit of a comfy sweater.

Don't we normally buy a "ROLL" of stamps? No problems with COIL though as google returns hits and there's even a Wikipedia entry for "Coil Stamp".

Also no problem with "R" as BESTIR easily gives you the missing initial. Okay, so it's not commonly used, but come on, how many of you put in PAN yesterday and got burned with PAX? [Cue hand going up.] Those who cannot forget the "PAC" travesty of days gone by or drive the "R" brouhaha from their minds should recall Lincoln's words "With malice toward none, with charity for all" and reach out to their opponents for a day of bipartisan cruciverballing. [Cue: Tongue into cheek.]

The only clue I really disliked was for the abbreviated BRONC, because it really should have had a corresponding abbr.

Overall, I thought it was an excellent Thursday, with the bonus that I had no idea it was Lincoln/Darwin's 200th b-day and would otherwise have not known what all the fuss was on the news today.

Anonymous 12:10 PM  

As some have already commented, confidently put LINCOLN for the top 'notable born 2/12/1809', not having yet seen that there was a duplicate clue. Then had another writeover because of the middle initial. Messy!

After all that was straightened out, got through the rest of the puzzle without too much difficulty. ___NC took a bit of time to resolve, but i was pretty sure it was not going to be FRANC.

@Leon Mitch Miller would have been at least Friday- or even Saturday-level cluing for 'leader with a goatee' - IMO.

Old enough to remember Abe BEAME, who presided over NYC almost going into default during the 70's. Very similar situation going on today with all the financial firms failing or laying off so many workers that depressed tax revenues are sure to affect many services before things turn up again.

Ulrich makes a very good point vis-a-vis the Republican Party and it's hardline wing taking issue with Darwin's theories. Nice puzzle juxtaposition.

Feel better Rex.

RT

Timothy 12:14 PM  

I am never close to finishing a Thursday, but got lucky today.
Probably because I got the theme answers pretty quick.
Pretty much solved bottom up.
I got REPUBLICANPARTY first and the rest fell into place.

Re: points Rex made in his blog.
Maybe I am misinterpreting but:
-SITES makes sense to me, as in musician concert tour stops. I first had shows.
-NILE was what flooded in Biblical/Moses times, right? Seems like a legit clue to me

What I still don't get is BRONC?
What is that, short for bronco?

jae 12:16 PM  

I was initially looking for a rebus thinking 1a was either INDIA or MUMBI.

Even though the theme answers were gimmies (except for that R) much of the rest of the puzzle was fairly tough for me for the reasons Rex covered.

Last fill for me was the ALAS/TART/KERN area. Couldn't remember the rhyme, Shakespeare, or the Showboat tune.

I did like this one, timely theme with some challenging fill.

Oh, and there was a recent article in Newsweek on the Darwin-Lincoln connection.

Anonymous 12:35 PM  

Norm and Edith... Fell into the same trap by penning in Abes name where Charles R should go 28A... Nothing crossed and I knew something was seriously askew. Had NO IDEA the 2 of them shared the exact same birthdate. Once I figured that out, the puzzle was easy and filled itself. Although I too tried SAFER where STAHL should go and I always thought "Can't Help Lovin Dat Man" was written by Gershwin

Doug 12:37 PM  

@Timothy, yes a BRONC is BRONCO. I didn't much like it either mainly because I couldn't figure out that SW corner. SITES makes complete sense now in the sense of stopping at famous SITES on a tour. I simply didn't know what "descry" means" and KExx could have been anything nowadays in the R&B world.

zoltania 12:39 PM  

This was the playoff puzzle last weekend in Morgan Hill, CA, at Silicon Valley Puzzle Day. The winner, Eric Maddy, finished it in about 7:27 (I don't remember exactly, but it was under 7:30), also in full public view.

If you go to usps.com and try to buy a roll of stamps, you'll see that they are identified as "coils."

PlantieBea 12:45 PM  

I'm another that confidently penciled in Abraham Lincoln for 28 across. I confess to looking up Charles Darwin's middle initial after muddling through the upper central zone. My only final error was BRINC and SPIT, neither of which made sense. Then again, BRONC doesn't make sense either. Can anybody explain?

We used to catch smelt in nets during night fishing expeditions in the spring in streams off Lake Michigan. Fun to catch, but not to clean. They get battered and fried, although I don't remember if they tasted good or not.

Loved the Lennon video, REX, although it made me sad.

Bill Butler 12:53 PM  

Let me add my voice to the chorus whining about the "R" in Charles R. Darwin. A tad inelegant, I thought.

But still, a good puzzle.

Greene 1:02 PM  

@Anon 12:35

I believe the Gershwin song you're thinking of is "The Man I Love." Great old song.

Not certain why there is such a stir over the middle initial for Darwin. When the usual CHARLES DARWIN left a single blank space in the grid, it seemed pretty obvious the middle initial would be included. I just left the middle space blank until I got BESTIR. Now that was difficult!

I just chalk the middle initial up to one of those construction dilemmas that requires a slight compromise for a pretty cool outcome. I think in this case, the ends justifies the means.

Now about that KERN clue...

the redanman 1:17 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
archaeoprof 1:17 PM  

Along with country music lovers everywhere, I celebrate 37D.

It's 5 o'clock somewhere...

steve l 1:23 PM  

@Archaeoprof--The last "Country singer Jackson" answer was WANDA. (Of course, if you wanted singers who sport a bush not often seen these days, go with MICHAEL, TITO, MARLON, JERMAINE, etc.)

Unfortunately, it's not 5 o'clock here...

George NYC 1:25 PM  

Google has a nice, and subtle, tribute to Darwin on its home page.

mac 1:27 PM  

@steve l: I think you just committed a serious no-no.

I didn't do the puzzle last Saturday, but some of the answers did stick because of watching the final in Westport, so it is hard to be sure about the level for me.

Since I had no problem with "bestir", the middle initial came automatically. It IS his middle initial. I do not like this "bronc" answer a lot. Does this mean that "buck" was short for buckaroo? I also like the rainshower and the waffle iron, bestir and Stahl (as opposed to Safer!).

@Gary and Stephen: It must have been some travail to work on this puzzle for 2 years! I guess the clue for 1A was a very recent addition? In the film the main location was Mumbai, only part of it played in Agra.

Steam with eucalyptus, Rex, and drink plenty of hot toddies. Hope you feel well soon.

Megan P 1:34 PM  

So we all learned that Charles Darwin had a middle initial! How terrible is that? We're lucky he didn't have 4 of them, like a lot of upper class twits.

Here's to you, Kennedy Family. Don't be put off by all the whining.

Anonymous 2:00 PM  

@Rex - As my dear old Pappy used to say,

Of all the things that won't cure a cold,
I like whiskey the best.

Anonymous 2:42 PM  

I got Lincoln and then had Charles and the IES at the end of 17A, which led me to Charles Dickens (which fit) and A TALE OF TWO CITIES (which did not fit and which probably could not really be described as "influential.") Dickens was also born in February, but on the 7th, and three years later (1812).

green mantis 2:54 PM  

I'm offended by the people who are offended by the people that are offended by the problems with this puzzle. And, Eleanor Clift: also not a whore.

Ruth 2:58 PM  

Dear Donald @ 11:20 or so: certainly interesting to share your birthday with Obama. Not to rain on your parade, but if the population of the US stands at about 300 million, and there are (most years) 365 days a year that all those people can have birthdays on, and births are assumed to be distributed about evenly over those days, then around 822,000 people in the US alone share Obama's birthday. This is NOT in any sense meant to say that you're not special! :)

steve l 2:59 PM  

OK, I'll bite. What was the great offense I committed? I see the post I wrote that mentioned the Sun puzzle was deleted. Was it because I mentioned the Sun puzzle to begin with? If the story is that the blog is not about the Sun puzzle, my answer is that I was mentioning it in contrast to the Times puzzle, and the point was germane to the discussion. If the problem was that I talked about the CONTENT of the Sun puzzle, I did put a capital-letter SPOILER ALERT and enough space that you wouldn't read the rest if you didn't want to. I didn't go back to discussing the clue "The ____ mightier than the sword," after all. Sorry, I don't get it.

thebubbreport 3:01 PM  

Like Rex, I'm sick, didn't like the "R" and thus didn't solve BESTIR. I've never heard of TOLE, and I did not care for BRONC. BRONCO would have been fine with me. Other than that, the theme answers made it easy in spite of the initial R. I will say I live in Atlanta and it took me awhile to get CNN as my mind went to corporate arenas and sports teams.

becky

Doug Beach 3:09 PM  

@Steve - spare us your whining and just ask Rex privately why your comment was deleted.

Count me among those not bothered by the "R" initial even tho I had "bust in" instead of "bestir" for a while.

db

Orange 3:52 PM  

@Donald, Edgar Allen Poe's centennial wasn't overlooked at all—check out the Chronicle of Higher Education crossword from Jan. 23. (To prevent deletion of non-NYT crossword reference, let me point newer blog readers to the "Rex Parker in the 'News'" listing in the sidebar, complete with an interview in the Chronicle.)

Anonymous 3:57 PM  

Speaking of centennials, quadrennials, etc., Milton got little love last year, according to the (for my money) most understatedly hilarious first sentence ever of a New York Review of Books article (that's not saying much, I know.) The article is in the current issue; the author is Frank Kermode; the sentence is: "Celebrations of the four hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Milton in December 1608 have been modest and largely academic."

Speak for yourself, Frank. I had a real nice Milton party.

Anonymous 3:59 PM  

@Ruth brought this up re: sharing birthdays and triggered this OT thought:

One needs the distribution of birthdays among the population to calculate (approximately) how many people share a certain birthday. i.e., if more kids are born in October than in February, there will be more than 300/12 million birthdays in October.

So, my real question: Does anybody know where I can find this distribution of birthdates in the US?

(I am curious to find this because of the latest Malcolm Gladwell book - Outliers - which mentions how certain birthdays/months are advantageous in certain sports; his examples: large percentages of the Czech soccer team and the Canadian hockey leagues are born in January - fascinating read).

TiA.

- AV

chefbea 4:11 PM  

I'm really late today!! Very busy. Did the puzzle this morning but never had time to get to the computer

Waffle iron is one of my least favorite kitchen appliances, I guess cuz I never make waffles. You can go to IHOP for them.

Needed some help with the puzzle even tho I watched the 3 finalists solving this on Saturday.

Feel better Rex. Have a double scotch..neat

andrea carla michaels 4:15 PM  

@rex
I wish you well, but I have to admit, I find you even more hilarious when you're down and out and struggling!
I will be laughing all day long...

Have to admit I've never thought this much about Lennon's penis in my life (but feel guilty that I did sort of think it would be bigger...)
;)

@Cross!can
You did it again! Kennedy/Lincoln, wow!!!

@Frank, et al
The initial R. was troublesome and most would be sent back to rework, but the other stuff clearly outweighed it for Will, I guess.

********************************
NAMEDROPPING ANECDOTE ALERT!!!!
********************************
My grandpa (who would have been 100 this April but died 7 years ago) was friends with Abe Beame back in the day in Brooklyn.

So when I was about 14? circa 1973 he was mayor which my grandfather was extremely proud of...nice Jewish boy makes good.
I was visiting from Minnesota and Abe Beame's wife Mary invited me and my grandmother (Maidie, who is still with us at 96 and a half!) to come over to Gracie Mansion for tea.

It was one of those situations where you can take the girl out of Brooklyn, but...
I mean, down to earth wasn't the half of it...she was like this totally schleppy Brooklyn housewife giving a tour saying (this is the gist, not the actual quotes), "here is where we meet ambassadors, oy, such a headache it's so much work..." "In this room I met the President, you can imagine the mud he tracked in, what with all those secret service people?" and on and on. In my memory, it was as though she was wearing hosueslippers and the furniture was covered in plastic.
But she was a doll.

chefbea 4:37 PM  

@andrea - that was priceless lol

andrea carla michaels 4:40 PM  

Sorry! Make that circa '74 (he was mayor 74-77)
I just fact-checked with Maidie,
(Always an experience bec her memory is starting to go, for example, she still thinks I'm 18!)

Anyway, our collected recovered memories reveal Mary was indeed wearing house slippers!
And Maidie said to point out he was indeed the first Jewish mayor of NYC (that's kind of hard to believe!) but when he ran for reelection he came in third to Koch and Cuomo.
Maidie who is all of 4'10 (and shrinking as I write this), also remembered Abe was only 5'2". She had no comment about his penis size.

JannieB 4:56 PM  

@Andrea - welcome back to daytime - I've missed you. And if I ever get reincarnated, I want to come back as you!

Rex - hope by now you're feeling much better.

@Crosscan- how did I miss that connection? Positively spooky.

SethG 5:21 PM  

(Skip this paragraph, most of you.) AV, you can get recent~ish info from the CDC. Births indeed vary by month, but more significant by far is the daily variance--weekdays dominate. So looking at April births in '06, for example, where there were 5 Sat/Sun and 4 of everything else, will give a different picture than
April births in '08, when there were 5 Tues/Wed. And the heaviest individual days tend to be 9 months after holidays, and these patterns were all surely different 200 years ago.

Basically, assuming uniform birth patterns won't be 100% accurate, but will be close enough to get close enough. Also, keep in mind that it's a near certainty that something highly improbable will happen.

Er, what? The puzzle? It was fine. Don't like the R., actually had "WAKE UP" at first, but Darwin's book cleared that up. I wonder if IN LA means we can start getting "Brown-like" instead of the cross initials I never remember. I once served frozen yogurt to the first Jewish mayor of Pittsburgh, who is still alive and probably looks a lot like Maidie.

poc 6:00 PM  

@SethG: As Poincaré said "It is impossible for the improbable never to happen".

Anonymous 6:22 PM  

@SethG: Thanks much! Will pore through the data.

AV

Glitch 6:33 PM  

wow, so much kvetching about a midddle initial --- so C.R.D. has one, and A.L. doesn't.

(BTW, NMI is the official government entry for Abe to use on applications calling for a middle initial).

Two factoids to file away for future solving.

Plus, the future clue of "Darwin's middle name" can never again be considered WTF as a non google / wiki source (RP's write up) has made it common knowledge!

So, finishing hand washing my tole tray, I'm of to find a coil of stamps --- neither action foreign to me.

.../Glitch

JoefromMtVernon 6:36 PM  

Rex:

Abe Beame immediately prceeded Ed Koch. He came after John Lindsey who lost favor with NYC residents (especially those in Queesn) in 1969 after a bizzard that left the city (especially Queens) a mess. There was a news story about it last week, since it was the 40th aniversary. Beame came along just as NYC's economy plunged to near bankrupsy. Koch went up against him in the primary, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Lots of leaps of faith, no errors...and a decent Thursday Time. What more can you ask for.

Joe

Anonymous 6:37 PM  

I was POSITIVE that I was so clever - using NOLA (New Orleans LA) as the flood scene!! Would NOT give it up. Newbies make the funniest errors!

JoefromMtVernon 6:39 PM  

Ok, one error now...bankruptcy; Good Grief!

Joe

mac 6:40 PM  

@chefbea: I don't make waffles very often, but I have to when the inlaws are with us, because I have the ancient "family waffle iron"...
The product is much better than IHOP's, and my pure maple syrup is the best!

@Andrea: great anecdote, love your description of Mrs. Beame. I bet you your friend dk will tell you that it's no wonder Maidie thinks you are still 18!

@Rex: stick with those toddies (of course the ones with whiskey). You may not be better, but you'll feel like you are.

dk 6:47 PM  

Went to the PO to buy some stamps and was asked: Sheet or COIL? I tried to get the postmaster to weigh-in on the blog commentary but it seems they do not have the ability to blog and work at the USPO.

@andrea, be my valentine.

@Rex, I have found watching old B&W Perry Mason episodes to help with flu-like symptoms.

Kennedy bros, nice job!

Anonymous 6:52 PM  

It looks like you removed the photo of Lennon. I must say I find it quite disapointing that you buckled under pressure from some pathological prude who objected to a photograph containing a penis. Do you really want to allow such people to run your life? Score one for the bad guys, with an assist from Rex.

Abe no middle name Lincoln 7:06 PM  

Jeopardy just featured Darwin/ Lincoln clues.

Orange 7:36 PM  

Anonymous 6:52, I just have to chime in and say "up yours." Really. When Blogger's system allows random, anonymous people to get a website falsely labeled as "objectionable," it's not caving in to remove the picture. It's a survival mechanism. If Rex were letting the Victorians run the show, would he keep blogging about penises and John Lennon? ("Up yours" = "up your nose with a rubber hose," of course. Nothing too objectionable!)

Waffle/pancake batter is now available in a spray can. "Sounds like that godawful chemical spray cheese," you say? Au contraire, mes ami(e)s! Batter Blaster is organic. I kid not. Organic! I gotta try that stuff.

fergus 8:17 PM  

That was a good Newsweek cover story even if they were forcing a bit of an apple/orange comparison of their lasting influence.

Everything below Lincoln was pretty mediocre, except for St. Moritz, which reminded me a girl from there with whom I traveled on a journey from London to Geneva back when I was sixteen. There is always some merit to the puzzle.

michael 8:24 PM  

I liked the puzzle and found it easy for a Thursday, perhaps because I've been hearing about the Darwin/Lincoln thing for weeks now. And I went to a talk today by E.O. Wilson in celebration of Darwin Day (a new holiday for me though I hear it is several years old).

But one mistake -- NYC/zulc. I knew zulc was wrong, but couldn't come upe with nyu/zulu for some reason.

PlantieBea 8:31 PM  

@michael: I also heard E.O. Wilson speak this week--Monday night. Pretty depressing stuff from a brilliant man.

jeff in chicago 9:00 PM  

I have no problem with the initial. I have no problem anytime Darwin's name can get mentioned. It needs to get mentioned more. I recall during the election I saw a poll that said that only 40% (or thereabouts) of people in the US believed in evolution. That statistic scares the crap out of me. I can remember the first time I learned that Darwin and Lincoln we born in the same year. I was surprised. Darwin just seemed so much more "modern" to me.

Like the puzzle outside that issue as well. SNEAK/SNACK, ZULU, WAFFLEIRON. Though there's something about the SMELT/HOES/FAT row that's a little disturbing!


@Crosscan: We only get to add to the urban legend when some Lincoln brothers write a Kennedy crossword.


@Greene: AMEN to the Kern cluing crisis!

Chip Hilton 9:01 PM  

1809 was a heckuva year for notable births. Add Braille, Mendelssohn, Haydn, Tennyson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Kit Carson among others to Abe, Darwin, and Poe. Quite a haul.

chefbea 9:15 PM  

@orange gosh does that sound yucky!!!

mac 9:51 PM  

@orange: There are only 4 or 5 ingredients in waffles and pancakes, and that includes salt. Save your pennies and make your own. It takes no time at all to make them fresh, and then they don't taste like aerosol. Nice little retro ad, though.

treedweller 10:52 PM  

real waffles require beaten egg whites. It's not a lot of ingredients, but you need an extra bowl and either an electric mixer or a lot of whisking. Simple, but time consuming and a little messy. And well worth it, IMO.

Jane Doh 11:09 PM  

All y'all with the sniffles, take COLD-fX every day forever and you will never have another cold. Buy it in bulk on-line at Amazon and save $$.

Cute puzzle. Ditto someone above re loving ORIGIN OF SPECIES as the symmetrical counterpart to REPUBLICAN PARTY. Thanks Kennedy father and son for the extra work to make that happen!

--JD

liquid el lay 4:26 AM  

No problem with the R. As Darwin is refereced by his birth, it seems OK to enter the initial even though we've never heard it.

ORIGINOFSPECIES is sloppy, but so clued.

But the cluing of the I-10 theme answer threw me. Lincoln led the country, he led the army.. but I wouldn't think of him as leading the Republican Party. He was put up as a dark horse, I think.. and, well, that answer never came to me. I had the A from ORNATE, possibly the R from ..IRON and the Y from EYES. ARMY. Now, how to fit in UNION.. oh REPUBLICAN (as, of the Republic..) So I wrote in REPUBLICANARMY from each side, and with such confidence that I did not realize that I had now REPUBLICANBARMY, the unnoticed B being the bottom of SCRAB (for SCRAP.) Oh well. SM-- for STLO was so impossible I passed the paper on to a friend who discovered the error. Then it took a while to find someone who might know the name of a Brad Pitt movie of four letters starting with T. And that's how this puzzle was solved.

BRONC is cool. Nothing wrong with it- that's the way it's said.

Thought INLA was clunky, though like seeing LA.

bit / ATOM doesn't seem right- atoms are so elemental.

ZULU is evasive, but strong.

Good to see LORRE in the puzzle, though I don't know his NERO.

Had a glass of Absinthe while solving.

Rob Parsons 6:51 PM  

My error came on the location of the Stern School. I put NYC (i.e. New York City) instead of NYU (presumably New York University--who knew? obviously not me!) and wound up with "ZULC" as the last member of the phonetic alphabet. Otherwise, I really enjoyed it.

Rob

Anonymous 7:49 PM  

Bronc/bronco----travel out West sometime---one rides and breaks a bronc not a bronco, that one is a wild bronc not a wild bronco, in a rodeo they are bucking broncs not bucking broncos, one gets bucked off of a bronc not a bronco.

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