Rookie superstition - WEDNESDAY, May 20 2009 - A Vengsarkar (Half-salute / Tijuana tanner / Ennemi's opposite)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: COLLEGE STATION (36A: Texas city ... and a hint to the starts of 21-, 27-, 45- and 56-Across) - each of the theme answers starts with a "COLLEGE STATION," i.e. a status level in college, i.e. FRESHMAN, SOPHOMORE, JUNIOR, SENIOR

Word of the Day: LUX (20A: Meter-candle) - n., pl. lux·es or lu·ces ('sēz). (Abbr. lx)

The International System unit of illumination, equal to one lumen per square meter.

[Latin lūx, light.]

Does your grid look a little wonky today? A little ... post-Thanksgiving dinner? Fat, I guess, is what I'm saying. It's 16x15 today, one square wider than standard, so that it can accommodate the even-numbered (i.e. 14 letters long) COLLEGE STATION at its center. COLLEGE STATION breaks nicely in half, so not sure why you could have had 7 + space + 7 across a 15x15 grid, but that puzzle exists in some alternate reality that probably even Walter Bishop couldn't find (... no "Fringe" fans here? ... really? ... oh well), so we'll deal with what we have. Love the concept - took me a little bit to figure out that "STATION" was part of the theme too. At first I was thinking it could have been COLLEGE anything (e.g. COLLEGE PARK, go TERPs) or HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL or whatever, but of course "STATION" is a key word here. I love the 12-over-14s at the top and bottom. They feel crazily adventurous. I was unfamiliar with the concept of THE IMMORTALS (63A: French Academy's 40 members) - sounds like a new superhero franchise - but the phrase is interesting and new (to me), so good.

But there was a lot I did Not love. This puzzle has a very high theme density and those 12-letter Acrosses open things up quite a bit ... and when you have theme density and open grid together, compromises will almost inevitably have to be made in terms of fill quality. Two sections of the puzzle were, to my ears, particularly grating. First, up top. I never like seeing BREE (9D: "Desperate Housewives" role), as I don't care about that show, but I can tolerate her just fine ... unless she is embarred by insane "words" like EMBAR (7A: Imprison) and - the new champion of made-up RE-words (taking the crown from former title holder RECARVE) - RETAME (11D: Bring back to domestication). Holy crap that is the lamest word I've laid eyes on in a long time. What's next? REBLINK? RESIT? Can you RE- anything? Argh. So ... the North is terrible. Head due south and things don't look much better. I'll see your BREE and raise you one BAI (52A: Actress _____ Ling of "The Crow") - marginal pop cultural "B" names galore. Everything BAI touches (perhaps not surprsingly) is iffy-to-icky. NICOLA I could infer (50D: San _____, Christmas figure in Italy). TASM sounds cool when you say it out loud (rhyming with, say, ORGASM CHASM), but as an abbrev., it's not so lovely (49D: Australian island: Abbr.). And then there's RBI MEN (48D: Ones who drive people home?) ... all I can say is, it's better than the answer I thought was going to go there (and actually entered at first) - RBIERS. That's about its only virtue. Throw in all the crosswordesey *plurals* in the SE - PSSTS? Really? (55D: Attention getters) - and there's just a bit too much forced fill overall for my tastes.

Theme answers:

  • 21A: Barack Obama, 2005-08, e.g. (FRESHMAN senator)
  • 27A: Rookie superstition (SOPHOMORE jinx)
  • 45A: Subsidiary member of a firm (JUNIOR partner)
  • 56A: Some restaurant and pharmacy lures (SENIOR discount)

Bullets:

  • 12A: Mil. rank (PFC) - Private First Class. I had PVT here at first. "MIL" was an answer in yesterday's puzzle.
  • 15A: Oregonian (beaver) - a great word in every way. But fans of U. Oregon (go Ducks) probably don't call themselves BEAVERs (that's Oregon SU's mascot).
  • 51A: Blockage remover (stent) - any story I have ever heard involving STENTS has been a scary medical disaster story.
  • 64A: Classic British two-seaters (MGs) - I'd almost completely forgotten these cars existed. Feel like I haven't heard of them in decades. Maybe that's where the "classic" part comes in.
  • 4D: Company with the stock symbol CAR (Avis) - I boldly wrote in AVON and justified it by thinking "The AVON ladies must have special CARs ... maybe they're pink ..."
  • 12D: Gold-colored horses (palominos) - There is a band called "Golden PALOMINOS" - I know nothing about them except that Syd Straw and Michael Stipe (of R.E.M.) both sang with them at some point. Here are Syd Straw and Michael Stipe together alone:


  • 13D: Multipurpose, somehow (four-in-one) - "somehow" being universal code for "four-ways"
  • 22D: Persian for "crown" (Taj) - threw me. In my head, Persian => Iran and TAJ => India
  • 27D: Tijuana tanner (sol) - first thought for "tanner" was "one who tans hides"
  • 29D: High school dept. (mus.) - on my Least Favorite Abbreviations list (with SCH. and some others)
  • 38D: Clothing retailer since 1969 (Gap) - "Since 1969" - just like me.
  • 62D: Ennemi's opposite (ami) - that second "n" in "Ennemi" looks freaky.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Wednesday LAT puzzle write-up is here.

PS whoa, can't believe I forgot to mention SCOUT SIGN (32D: Half-salute), which I'd never heard of but believe to be a good entry anyway (I'm winking at someone right ... now)

97 comments:

Greene 8:15 AM  

Loved this puzzle and caught the theme very quickly. The theme answers all went in very quickly and then I flailed around with the fill for a long time -- about 30 minutes, which is pretty dreadful for a Wednesday puzzle.

I knew at once that the constructor probably wanted STENT for "blockage remover" although that's not really what stents do. A stent opens an artery by squishing placque against the vessel wall, thereby creating a larger lumen. To remove the blockage you would have to perform an endarterectomy or an atherectomy. Oh hell, who wants to see those words in a puzzle?

On the plus side, I remembered Kierkegard's first name this time around!

retired_chemist 8:19 AM  

Good Wednesday fare. Liked the theme - it helped that 2 daughters and one son-in-law spent their college years in 36A. Also helped that several of my first guesses remained throughout.

Most notable was STENT (51A), which I thought was something of a stretch because it doesn’t actually remove the blockage. The surgeon does that, and the stent (hopefully) prevents its recurrence. Perhaps this is just semantics - but then, what is our enterprise here about? Whatever - our resident MDs can straighten me out if necessary.

LEER AT (66A), SNOW (32A), and INANE (65A) all looked so obvious that I was sure one or more would be wrong, but not so. SGT @ 12A and POEMS @ 16A of course were wrong. As was POT (34A), which I didn’t check the crosses on and left until I go here. Confidently wrote in IN? @ 67A, sure that the 33D cross would tell me which of the 7 possibilities was correct for the ?, and sure enough it did.

Looked for a pet @25A – a First Lady (MAMIE) seems more than a resident somehow, although the clue is certainly correct. BTW SNOW POT NOT would have been a really cool LINE derived from another First Lady’s “Just say no!”

Thanks, Ashish!

ArtLvr 8:30 AM  

Okay, I see the weaknesses in the top middle area, but the 16A clue Frost lines for VERSE rather tickled me and made the rest gettable.

Wanted SOPHOMORE Slump for JINX, but it didn't fit -- TAJ and MAMIE brought all that into view. I do love seeing the PALOMINOS prancing in the Rose Bowl parade each year!

The theme appeared early on, opening large chunks, even if RBIMEN was pure desperation. And SCOUTSIGN was new, crossing three theme entries, so that was clever. In sum, not such a bad Wednesday, for me!

∑;)

retired_chemist 8:32 AM  

@ Greene - thanks for the correct description of the STENT problem. I was right to question it, but not so right on the details.

ileen 8:45 AM  

Despite watching Glee while doing this puzzle, the answer that stumped me was MUS for high school dept. I got there eventually, but it took me way too much time. By the way, Glee was so much fun - check it out at fox.com if you missed it.

dk 8:55 AM  

@greene and retired_chemist, I had the same STENT issues and even thou SOREN was the name of one of Hamline U's dining halls I always want him to be Renee.

@rex, agree with the BREE/EMBAR cross. The VERSE/METS cross made me smile as i thought of Casey at Bat and the oft used phrase no joy in Muddville in reference to the old Mets.

RBIMEN is right and odd. And, is IMMORTAL what you are when you are in grad school.

FYI: According to NPR the BEAVER TEE is a big money maker for the school.

Lastly, Somewhere on the road to Park Rapids MN is an abandoned service station named JINX... go figure.

PuzzleGirl 9:04 AM  

I definitely noticed the forced fill, but still managed to like this puzzle quite a bit. Maybe it's because Ashish is such a great guy and I was happy not to see any clues about wine! I first read 62D as "Eminem's opposite." Um ... Pat Boone?

8D: Subway Series participant threw me off because I thought the answer should be an individual player (i.e., MET or YANKEE).

@ileen: TiVo'd Glee last night and can't wait to get to it.

toothdoc 9:10 AM  

I also wrote RBIERS for 48D and as I did I thought - Rex is going to go off on this word. I soon got it corrected but RBIMEN is only better because of how bad it could have been. Where does that abbreviation+noun combo end: "Ones who gross you out at dinner." TMIMEN? Clunky puzzle.

Anonymous 9:12 AM  

I liked this one, but how does a ROOKIE (first year, right?) have a SOPHOMORE jinx? --

Cash

SoWal Beach Bum 9:23 AM  

Just for the record, there are plenty of happy stent stories, including my own. Let's not get jinxy here . . .

treedweller 9:23 AM  

As a UT graduate and longtime resident of Austin, I must oppose this puzzle on principle.

Hook 'em.

Rex Parker 9:31 AM  

@SoWal, I'm sure you're right.

Thankfully, jinxes are about as real as ESP.

rp

PIX 9:31 AM  

"If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe." Soren Kierkegaard

Even though a deep believer in Christianity, Soren K. is frequently considered an early existentialist because of his emphasis on man's inability to really know the truth, but the need to live one's life anyway.

@Greene: You, of course, are absolutely correct about Stent being used incorrectly. There seems to be a pattern of science/medical terms being used incorrectly. Oh well, i will listen to Sweet Thursday sing Gilbert Street and forget my problems.

treedweller 9:35 AM  

@Rex

I knew you were going to say that.

Denise 9:53 AM  

Please explain how "station" is key to this puzzle. Station as in status?

I know it is "just" puzzle fill, but it is always "man" or "men." My husband, by the way, is a baseball fanatic, and I never heard him say, "That guy is a great RBIman."

Denise 9:54 AM  

By the way, does anyone else play Wordscraper on facebook.com? It's fun.

retired_chemist 10:05 AM  

@ treedweller the teasipper's* opposition - LOL!

*What Aggies call UT folk.

Ulrich 10:06 AM  

Yes, some of the fill is objectionable. Plus, the puzzle follows yesterday's winner. So, Ashish has been put into a tough spot. What saves his day, for me, is the consistent theme and the really unusual look of the grid, which is dominated by horizontal elements (this impression would be even stronger w/o the cheater squares on the W and E border).

@NDE and Greene from late last night: I added a comment to your remarks about a certain opera.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 10:08 AM  

Maybe I'm too much of a indie rock nerd, but I thought COLLEGE STATION should have been clued something like: {Format where you can hear Animal Collective or Wavves, e.g.}

Photo Dave 10:15 AM  

Re the extra "n" in "ennemi": the French find the extra "d" in "address" freaky as well. They (and Germans) spell it with one "d", albeit with an extra "e" at the end...

Anne 10:28 AM  

I don't time myself, but it seemed to take more time than usual to finish this one and agree it's a medium. I thought RBImen was really pushing it, but other than that it was okay, certainly nothing to get excited about. I don't think I have ever heard the phrase, make a clanger, and did not know what that meant.

PlantieBea 10:36 AM  

The good slightly outweighs the bad and the ugly in this puzzle, especially with the interesting grid. The BAI/TASM cross was filled with a guess that TASM could coexist with Tasmania.

My husband had a stent to help remove kidney stones last summer. Best to say no more about that miserable experience other than drink plenty of water each day.

XMAN 10:39 AM  

Everything Rex said and Anon. 9:12, but take into account SCOUTSIGN. I was a Boy Scout and we called it the "Boy Scout salute." Never heard of scout sign, unless it's detritus left at a scout camp site.

I thought the cluing of verse was great, but ORT(!?) is so yesterday.

@Rex: That's what the members of the Legion d'Honneur are called--The Immortals. And, oh yeah, what does STATION have to do with the theme? (Anyone? I'm truly flummoxed.)

Susan 10:39 AM  

RBIMEN is just inexcusable. C'mon! I already hate baseball and all associated clues and words about it that are actually clues and words. There's no need to make 'em up!

In RE: extra consonants in French or English, we have an extra R in marriage and they have an extra P in apartment. These get my students into trouble constantly.

Susan 10:42 AM  

XMan, I could be wrong, but I don't believe the Légion d'Honneur people are called immortals. It is (as clued) the members of the Académie Française.

Crosscan 10:42 AM  

AMERICAN SENATOR fit very nicely in 21A and is a fine phrase you'd read in a Canadian newspaper. Sure slowed down the NW.

Excellent puzzle. Why do so many (including me) focus on weak areas instead of praising the good stuff?

mac 10:47 AM  

I had a slow start with this puzzle, but when I got going it was fast. My Natick was the B at 52A since I wasn't able to remember the actress's name, and with "people" I envisioned old ones. Never heard RBI-men mentioned, but I will check with my in-house authority when he gets back from London.

I liked this puzzle a lot. When I saw Ashish's name I also expected some wine related clues! Nice to see two shout-outs to Holland: Neth. and Tasmania, named after Abel Tasman. I like how several answers look odd when looking over the grid: nooneelse and fourinone.

I wonder if the word Taj travelled to India with the Farsi, who originated in Perzia?

XMAN 10:48 AM  

Oops! Gaffe #187: I meant L'Acadamie Francaise. The Legion is the award given by the Academie. For a fuller account, see Jim Horne's blog (Wordplay Blog).

chefbea 10:53 AM  

I have no quibbles. Thought it was a good puzzle.
@rex thanks for the word of the day. Had no idea what meter-candle was. Lux use to be a bar of soap.

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

Hi all -

I'm still stuck on APTITUDETEST/REPRO, which I agree fit. I had/have: ATTITUDETEST/RETRO, which I think also fit. What to do in this case?
Thanks,
Shuka

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

a 16x15 grid? Isn't that something like the crows leaving the Tower of London? Will the NYTimes now trade in the crossword to publish the 'Cathy' comicstrip?

retired_chemist 10:55 AM  

ArtLvr has sent me a VERY cool photo to illuminate 20A.

retired_chemist 11:01 AM  

oops = ArtLvr's photo is in English units while the clue is metric - but it's still a classic!

Primeval Doug 11:04 AM  

I had a premonition Rex would make that comment about ESP.

allan 11:05 AM  

Been really busy with the nice weather finally upon us, so haven't been posting lately. Miss the blog, so I wanted to say hi.

Just wondering though, if actress Bai Ling married actor Rodrigo Gual, would she be Bai Ling Gual?

Back to work. See you when the sun don't shine.

bookmark 11:14 AM  

Like Rex, I had forgotten about MGs but was happy to relive this memory. In the 70's when our two sons were young, I went on a weekend retreat with some girlfriends. My husband took this opportunity to buy a used MG for him and the boys to tool around in. Of course, I acted dismayed and shocked and angry. But the image of my three boys having a grand time was irresistible. We kept this car for two years before its charm finally wore off. Thanks to the constructor for making me smile today.

jae 11:19 AM  

Seemed awfully easy for a Wed. with all the theme answers pretty obvious.

Ditto the comments on STENT.

I agree that RBIMEN and PSSTS push the limits.

Not as good as some of Ashish's previous efforts IMOO.

Z.J. Mugildny 11:26 AM  

In re to Rex's question: "can you re-anything?" I generally go with the Official Scrabble Dictionary when deciding re-validity. This would eliminate "retame" and "recarve", but it would include some gems like repacify, reerect, and my personal favorite reremind.

ArtLvr 11:30 AM  

Many thanks to Retired_Chemist for the Word of the Day -- LUX -- sculpture above, done as a Foot-Candle, by a researcher at GE after hours! I'm sorry to report I don't know the artist's name...

∑;)

Two Ponies 11:30 AM  

Puzzle? Was there a puzzle today? I guess I've forgotten it already.

Noam D. Elkies 11:32 AM  

Yes, some unfortunate compromises (when even Rex complains about a p*p-cult or b*seball clue, you know it's beyond the pale) but overall the fun outweighed the meh. Thx to Rex for noting the 16x15 size (@anon 10:55 -- this grid size is rare but has been seen before several times).

Since Rex didn't explain it: the illustration under "lux" is a version of the Yale crest; the Hebrew writing above the Latin motto lux et veritas is "Urim v-Thummim", somehow associated with the High Priest's breastplate.

9D:BREE could also have been clued via Lord of the Rings, 29D:MUS via Greek ("MM, in Macedonia?"), and 50D:NICOLA via Tesla.

Yesterday "cock ring", today 15A:BEAVER. At least 37D:ERR was not clued using "boner", though I don't know that "clanger" is an improvement. "Evince humanity?", perhaps?

My initial wrong turn for 21A was not AMERICAN but ILLINOIS senator. I too expected "sophomore slump" for 27A, and (before seeing the clue) "senior moment(s)" for 56A, but neither of those was the right length.

@Ulrich -- yes, I saw; thanks for the explanation, which also accounts for Zauberflöte's plot being an even bigger mess than is normal for opera...

NDE

HudsonHawk 11:34 AM  

I liked this puzzle, but I cannot be objective, since Ashish generously shares very good wine. Like ArtLvr, I am more familiar with SOPHOMORE SLUMP, but JINX is always good to see in the grid.

Loved the Syd Straw video.

Spencer 11:45 AM  

AllMusic.com says, about the Golden PALOMINOs,

The Golden Palominos were not a group per se, but rather the revolving-door project of drummer, programmer, and bandleader Anton Fier.

In consequence, there's a less-than-consistent sound between their various albums. Not necessarily a bad thing, but you can't say "Oh, I loved that" and expect the rest to be the same.

George NYC 11:56 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
George NYC 11:57 AM  

MG: See right (though this one is not a 2-seater)

william e emba 11:58 AM  

I too thought RBI MEN was a desperate made up reach, but Google reveals that the phrase is apparently standard, with various blogs discussing topics of the "top 100 RBI men" ilk.

So you'll all have to just RETAME your instincts here.

Ashish 12:00 PM  

First, I agree with Rex, nice theme :-), but too many clunkers caused by the long fill.

And I did not try spacing COLLEGE and STATION with a center square, but its a good idea which I may use next time around (I am routinely making 16x15s or 15x16s if the theme justifies it).

Some background notes on the puzzle:

I had sent a second grid to Will which lacked the long APTITUDETEST and THEIMMORTALS (would have made this a 79-worder instead of the 77-worder); the upside was it got rid of the EMBAR-BREE-RETAME corner, and also eliminated NICOLA-TASM-PSSTS section (as well as the RBIMEN - BAI crossing). This was a really clean grid (if I may so myself). Will decided that APTITUDETEST and THEIMMORTALS justified some of the "clunkers".

I had clued THEIMMORTALS as "What graduating students feel like?" to continue the Entrance to Graduation subtheme, but I do like Will's clue.

Speaking of clues, surprisingly few changes (< 25%) - "Frost lines" is an original Manny Nosowsky clue (I loved it so much I HAD to use it) and "Ones who drive people home?" has appeared in a slightly different form. Am happy to report that the CAR clue was an original! :-)

Ashish

fikink 12:02 PM  

Agree that RETAME was pressing it and I am not sure I have discerned the line beyond which pop culture becomes "marginal" in Rex's assessment, .e.g., BREE and BAI.
@dk, why does the popularity of that T-shirt not surprise me?
@PIX, I think Existentialism was "birthed" in the context of theological inquiry.

edith b 12:03 PM  

When I was at college, I would return home during the summer to work and I remember my Father's regular Wednesday night Poker Games he would host and, invariably, the conversation would move to baseball and I recall the long arguments they would have about who the greatest RBIMAN was, Johnny Bench or Tony Perez. It was at these parties I learned the definition of "clutch" as it referred to baseball players as neither man was known to hit for average or hit a lot of home runs but they did drive in runs!

So, RBIMAN in the puzzle made me smile as it brought back memories of my Father, reason 295 Why I Love Crossword Puzzle So Much.

Crosscan 12:08 PM  

@edith - Actually, both Johny Bench (389) and Tony Perez (379) rank in the top 60 all-time home run hitters, and they did it when it meant something. Agree about the average.

Rex Parker 12:12 PM  

You know what a very good day is?

It's when one of the foremost mathematicians in the country makes a BEAVER joke on your blog.

Gratefully,

rp

joho 12:22 PM  

@Ashish, thanks for the background information regarding your puzzle, it's always interesting to know what when on.

I had the AP at 18A and wanted to write in APARTMENTKEY. APTITUTETEST is better, for sure, but I wouldn't have missed it if it would have meant we got your "cleaner," original version.

Still, an enjoyable Wednesday for me.

Mike 12:24 PM  

Weird puzzle. Dug the theme and quite a bit of the fill, and then heavily disliked/had major trouble with sections of it.

I still solved it at my normal Wednesday time (just over six minutes), despite getting stuck in the STENT area (hey, at least a new word for me today!), and with RBIMEN, which I've never heard used by anyone around sports, and my father runs one of the biggest fantasy baseball drafts in Los Angeles! I guess I made up time by instantly knowing everything relating to the theme.

Also, I don't know why, but I really like the abbreviation TASM. Looks cool in the grid.

Blue Stater 12:28 PM  

What Rex said. My candidate for Worst Clue-Answer Pair of All -- in a fiercely competitive field -- was 32D, 'Half-salute," SCOUT SIGN. As XMAN (I think) pointed out: there's a Scout salute; there's a scout sign. Half has nothing to do with it. What were the constructor and editor thinking here?

Parshutr 12:45 PM  

@George NYC: yes, it's not a 2-seater, and it's not a classic either (MG=Morris Garage, by-the-by.
@Noam...I'm told there's a lot of Masonic theme in The Magic Flute, though I'm not a Mason. And at least the beaver wasn't split.

Parshutr 12:46 PM  

My worst guess was SNAKE for blockage remover...

Anonymous 12:58 PM  

Enjoyed it very much, RBIMEN is OK in my book.. But RETAME? Bit of a stretch. Great Wednesday and completely doable

Ed 1:08 PM  

As an Aggie, I got this theme pretty quickly. (Sorry, @treedweller, but LOL!)

Although I take issue with "TASM" as an abbreviation for Tasmania. It's TAS. I lived in Australia and never once saw "TASM." So that tripped me up, because I was expecting an actual, real abbreviation.

I was also expecting a French-language answer for 63 Across, so didn't get THE IMMORTALS straight away.

And like @ArtLvr, I wanted "slump" instead of "jinx" in 27A.

Bob Kerfuffle 1:23 PM  

@XMAN and Blue Stater - In case anyone doesn't know, this is what the Scout Sign looks like. The Scout Salute is made with the same finger position with the hand brought to the right eyebrow, like any other salute. I never heard of the Scout Sign being called a half-salute, but I can see what is meant.

Anonymous 1:27 PM  

NDE - I suppose the details you offer about Urim and Thummim come from your knowledge of Hebrew History rather than a betrayal of your University. The most interesting analysis I read about the stones on the breastplates argued the stones were the equivalent of dice. The two stones were cast to answer difficult questions and to see into the future. The numbering systems of the day were base 12, and the two dice could deliver a numerical equivalent for the 12 signs of the Zodiac and the common meaning assigned to the first twelve numbers (assuming snake eyes represented ONE). Other ancient stories outside of the Old Testament give some credence to the argument.

/mee

nanpilla 1:28 PM  

@Rex : Fringe fan here. Walter is my favorite character by far.

After reading the Peter Gordon interview yesterday, it was great to see a 15x16 in the NYT today.
The interview is long, but really interesting.

Of course, I loved PALOMINOS.

XMAN 1:48 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle:

That is as may be (and I now recall it is), but my take was funnier.
And, as you point out, that doesn't make it a half-salute--which is what a passing officer gives an enlisted person. Acknowledging or dismissive?

Tom 1:53 PM  

Nice puzzle today, and very timely for our Maine college town.

. . but I have to give a D-minus to the NYT editor for not admitting to yesterday's maxi/midi gaffe. On the Wordplay blog he wrote: "In retrospect, I wish I’d rephrased the clue, because a lot of solvers seem bothered by it. But I don’t think the clue is an error."

How humorless! People aren't "bothered" by the clue, they pointed to his mistake, citing solid sources. Small wonder that we see paddle/row-type inaccuracies more than ever these days.

fikink 2:09 PM  

@Tom, in a similar vein, I can relate to @Ed's wish for an "actual, real" abbreviation of Tasmania.
But, as was noted the other day, there seems to be little that is not allowed in crossword construction anymore if the end justifies the means. It seems to invert the form-follows-function aesthetic.

Coming Soon: gargoyles!

edith b 2:19 PM  

@crosscan-

I guess the point the poker guys were trying to make was that neither man was renowned as a home run hitter - except when it really mattered i.e. in the clutch.

Newbie 2:34 PM  

I'm with those who did not understand REPRO, or the significance of STATION.

However, I believe the "half salute" being "scout sign" may be that scouts "salute" with two fingers, not four, if memory serves.

Noam D. Elkies 2:52 PM  

@anonymous/mee 1:27 -- my University is not Yale (motto "lux et veritas") but Harvard ("veritas"), also represented in Rex's selection of images for today. I gave few details about Urim v'Thummim because I was not certain about any further information. A brief look online suggests that I was right to be reticent, because Urim v'Thummim are (is?) the subject of much speculation and uncertainty -- yes, probably used for divination, but the details are unknown. In any case, 12 is an important number for rituals such as divination but it's probably overreaching to say that base 12 was "the numbering system of the day", since large numbers in the Bible are overwhelmingly reported in base 10, not 12. Not even base 20 or 60 -- e.g. in Psalm 90 "threescore years and ten" corresponds to the single Hebrew word SHIV'IM which is simply "seventy", and likewise "fourscore" = SHMONIM = eighty.

And from the sublime... @Rex 12:12 -- You're welcome, though I still have a ways to go before I count myself among the "foremost mathematicians in the country".

NDE

motorhead 3:05 PM  

half salutei wonder if they rent mgs or dodge palominos at avis??!!!

Charles Bogle 3:07 PM  

What is up w "ennemi"? Bona fide word?

"Scout sign" is a pledge, not a "half salute

Loved the theme but not the Latin. Even when I fill it in w crosses I never know if it's right

Liked "aptitude test" clued by "entrance requirement" as a set-up for the whole college years theme

"Frost lines"/VERSE brought big smile, esp as I was trying to figure out how to squeeze heaves in there

While some clunkers as duly noted, the good definitely out-weighed the bad--the worst was "NOT"--at least for me. URN was nice finishing touch

Bob Kerfuffle 3:09 PM  

I live and I learn. I simply wanted to note to Newbie that the Scout salute is made with three fingers, but I was also intrigued by XMAN's note that a half-salute is given in passing by an officer to an enlisted person. When I Googled "Half-salute", the first thing that came up was a Wikipedia item citing Scouting in England. So all I can say is that in fifty years in the Boy Scouts of America, and never having been in the military, I never heard the term.

Another fine example of education through crosswords.

Crosscan 3:22 PM  

@edith - Gotcha. Sorry, didn't mean to step on your nice story. I'd pick Johnny Bench.

George NYC 3:35 PM  

@parshutr
This MG may not be a classic, but it was my first car so a classic in my mind (I later had an MGB GT). You can read all about it in the NEWSWEEK archives here

imsdave 3:43 PM  

I enjoyed this one. The occasional clunker was far outweighed by the interesting grid and great double stacks.

I do wish THEIMMORTALS had been clued by a reference to the Battle of Thermopylae , or "The 300 Spartans", or even "The 300". Gives it a combo history buff/pop culture feel.

dk 3:51 PM  

@NDE, How about fivemost??? Thank you for picking up the BEAVER/yesterday puzzle link. I tried to show some restraint. It hurts us.

Back to LUX. The electrician working on my house is very bright (bad pun intended). We had a great conversation on the origin of terms of measurement with the step-twins referencing lumens, foot candles and LUX in addition to rule of thumb, stones etc. Now when I tell them mathematicians also comment on BEAVERs, COCKRINGs and boners they are sure to pay attention in school. In short LOL @NDE.

Lisa in Kingston 4:25 PM  

Enjoyed the puzzle, agree with Rex's medium rating. Something about the clueing felt Thursday-ish, to me.
The conversations about MG's and RBIMEN take me back to 1969 and 1971:
@George NYC, my eldest sister had a green MGB-GT that I loved to ride in. It was an unreliable car, tho, major electrical problems.
@edith b and @Crosscan, my best friend in jr. high was from Cincinnati and she introduced me to baseball and the Big Red Machine. I developed a big crush on Johnny Bench...

dls 4:28 PM  

I'm with Shuka on RETRO/ATTITUDETEST. The intended solution is better, but the alternative seems to work.

CalAlum 4:43 PM  

I hear you about retame, Rex. I can't re-anything, but I should leave my personal problems out of this.

Anonymous 4:53 PM  

Great puzzle, Ashish!

Went for ILLINOISSENATOR, too, but once that got fixed the rest fell without much of a struggle. Seemed on the easy side for a Wednesday to me.

Don't care for the extra long Acrosses, though. They look like theme answers and force too much icky fill. Make them Downs next time, pls.

--Ort

Ashish 5:12 PM  

@Lisa in Kingston: I usually clue for a Thursday/Sunday, and I was surprised to see many of my clues sail through untouched, so your Thursday-ish gut-feel is quite good.

@Ort: Next one - a Thursday with some long non-theme-Downs crossing the theme entries.

@all: It is rewarding to see the comments (both +ve and -ve) and especially the alternative fill like AMERICANSENATOR, ILLINOISSENATOR, APARTMENTKEY, ATTITUDETEST, etc.!

2-and-out

Judith 5:37 PM  

So thrilled that you included a video of Syd Straw with the Golden Palominos. Haven't thought about her, or them, in years.

retired_chemist 6:31 PM  

@ Ashish - thanks for hanging in there much of the day on this blog and giving us insight into the construction process.

humorlesstwit 6:45 PM  

@Rex - I was once (30+years ago) one of the foremost (graduate student) mathematicians in (my third-rate) American (college) & I made a fart joke on your other (coauthored) blog, and that didn't make your day? Bah!

andrea tasm michaels 7:30 PM  

Yay Ashish! And I don't even drink wine!!!!!
Loved this theme and that there were five and even those super extra long ones which normally bug the hell out of me seemed apropos to the theme!!!!
Esp bec it involved a test...and an academy...
I say bravo bravo bravo...
(except for of course things like TASM, a fill I would have fought Ashish to the death over were we co-constructing...)
as a matter of fact, we currently are partnering on a puzzle and I keep screaming about the fill and miraculously, he just comes back each time with a brand new grid and hasn't even stopped talking to me...yet!!!!!!

Biggest thing of interest for me was ENNEMI I realized for the first time there was a relationship between AMI a friend and an EN-EMY anti-friend... had never thought about that till seeing them in French...

In English you don't make as clear of a connection between the word Friend, which is clearly from German (Freund) and Enemy which must be from the French/Latin.

Live and learn, but what a swell theme!!!!!!!!!

@TOM
As for even expressing a little regret over the way the clue MIDI/MAXI "bothered" some folks, that sort of counts for an apology in Willland.
(I was surprised Damon also wrote in to justify it. The definition of Midi is calf-length and Maxi ankle-length and the boys
(who were both blushingly naive about cockrings)should trust that from we women how had to suffer thru that "fashion" era!

@Rex
I think your AVON reps driving pink cars (unless it was tongue in cheek) is not far off, bec Mary Kay
(sp?) cosmetics DO award pink Cadillacs to their top saleswomen.

The National Scrabble tournament was once held in a Dallas (Marriott?)and the 700 of us had to share close quarters in the hotel with 10,000 Mary Kay cosmetic women who were holding their annual convention at the same hotel!!!!
10,000 bright perky makeup sales women. TEN THOUSAND.
It was so funny to see women practically dressed as Miss America contestants just to ride the elevator down to the ice machine or wherever share it with the Scrabble players who are at least 3 notches down from Crossword competitors sartorially, if you can imagine!!!

The Mary Kay ladies/cult followers weren't allowed to sell during their convention and you could see the look of Texas heartbreak in their eyes (esp the ones wearing tiaras)as they stared at my totally unmade up punim.

(Problem solved later with stents)

tekchic 7:33 PM  

I'm fairly new to the NYT puzzles and have been working the M-W easily and then struggling through the rest of the week.

I got stuck in the NE on PVT instead of PFC which held me up at the very end, but I enjoyed this puzzle. The theme came together easily for me which helped me work the rest of the fill.

Love reading Rex and everyone else's take on the daily xword, it's one of the fun parts of finishing it for the day :)

retired_chemist 7:37 PM  

@Ms tasm - punim! Didn't know it, googled it, LOVED it!

I'm your kind of goy!

fikink 8:08 PM  

Andrea, I must agree with r_c. Your post today was delightful on so many levels and had me going to my Yinglish dictionary.

Thanks for the TASM commiseration.

I had the same reaction to ENNEMI, never once consciously/visually connecting it with "enemy" until today (probably because, in my neurotic world, "enemy" always leads me to "enmity" which leads me to the Bible and "thy seed and her seed and bruised heads and heels" and I am shot for the day :)

Your fashion commentary was spot on (take it from one who has gotten tripped up in many a MAXI skirt)...and I will laugh myself to sleep tonight envisioning the Mary Kay sugar plums!

Lisa in Kingston 8:19 PM  

@andrea phan-tasm: to me, the long downs and stretchy acrosses that are non-theme make the difference between the Weds-Thurs puzzles and the Mon-Tues puzzles.
I still think you are the Queen of Monday who makes great puzzles, and with a tiara taller than any Mary Kay!

jae 8:35 PM  

I retract my comment about RBIMEN after edith b's charming recollection.

Ulrich 8:44 PM  

@andrea: I had to look up "sartorial" in order to determine if I should take it as an insult or not:-) but now that I know, I have to take it as a compliment--only three notches down? Not bad!!

And your hunch about French/Latin is correct: amicus, inimicus. The German pair Freund/Feind is probably less related i.t. of origins, but the alliteration leads easily to catchy phrases.

andrea pfc michaels 9:15 PM  

@Lisa
thank you...but enough of the sweet compliments or my tiara won't fit no more on my keppeleh.

michael 9:42 PM  

I wrote in "retro," but didn't like "attitude test." This had to be obviously "aptitude test." But what was "repro"? I eventually went with "retro" and "attitude test." I now understand "repro" and see it is a word, but still don't much like it.

Is "repro" a word that lots of people use?

foodie 10:40 PM  

Hi all, it's late but I just haven't had a moment to myself in the last couple of days-- a busy day in San Francisco yesterday, then the red eye to NYC and then a wonderful day today in New York watching my son graduate!

On and off, I would sneak a peak at the blog and think about you all. I guess we could say that yesterday was complicated here-- a Garden of Good and Evil. But tonight I just want to think about the good.

And the Good was very, very good: ANDREA!!!!

I finally met her in person! You know what she said yesterday: "Everyone I've met thru the blog is only a shade of who they are in real life..."? I couldn't have said it better when describing her. It was sooo much more that I dared to expect, and she is someone you might think you already know and love, because we've seen her on TV, heard her interview with Ryan and Brian, read her blogs. But the real person is, as Mac told me to expect, larger than life! And in the end, the best part of it was that is it was really, really fun! It had this unusual mix of feelings, like you're getting together with someone you've known forever, and yet meeting someone new. Most definitely memorable! If I ever write my memoirs, "Dinner with Andrea" will be a chapter.

And thank you Andrea for you warm comments about me. Although, now I'm scared to meet anyone else... I couldn't live up to it the image! But we even talked about that! That it's easier to be pessimistic in trying to protect oneself from disappointment than taking chances, and being optimistic. So, I'm optimistic that if I meet any of you great people, it will be somewhere between very good and fantastic! I'm ready.

@mac and Greene, thank you both for the compliments,I'm truly honored!

@Rex, THANK YOU!!- your blog has been an amazing forum for bringing together a disparate group of people who actually go out of their way to meet and become friends. Andrea gave me some perspective, based on her experience as a guest blogger, about how much energy it entails. That you do it every day is phenomenal. But the secret ingredient has to be that you are authentic. You have a voice, and it cannot be mistaken. I may disagree with you, be it about matters of content or style, but I always appreciate the fact that I am hearing your truth, at least in that moment. That very feature, sometimes a double edge sword, is what catalyzes our willingness to express ourselves and talk about many facets of our lives beyond the puzzle. And that, in turn, makes it possible for us, your readers, to become friends. What a remarkable phenomenon! I am forever grateful!

deerfencer 12:13 AM  

Yah, fun puzzle to a point but ultimately some of the fill was hopelessly frustrating and just odd,
i.e. eccentric in not a good way.

B-

ArtLvr 12:50 AM  

@ Michael, if you are still up -- "Repro" is often used for furniture, including lighting: e.g. an item may be old (19th century) but is repro if made in a 17th or 18th century style. It can also apply to a copy of an original in the same time period, as an Eames-style chair (copy) vs. an Eames chair. A copy isn't neccessarily a fake unless steps were taken to make it appear to be an original, as in adding a fake signature or label.

"Retro" is most often a term referring to earlier clothing styles.

mac 12:16 PM  

Welcome back, Foodie!

Anonymous 1:24 PM  

Ah, reading througgh the 're' rant, I have to admit, Rex, I was dissapointed to not have a call in there for the creators to 'Re-sist!'

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

And I thought I was so smart when right away I wrote "Illinoissentator" for 21-A "Barack Obama, 2005-08" and "Vicepresident" for 45-A "Subsidiary member of a firm."

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