Accompanier of a harrow in harrow - SUNDAY, May 3, 2009 - C Madison (Bar since 1879 / Relatives of balalaikas / Revelations choreographer)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: "A Stately Garden" - theme answers feature circled squares that spell out the state flowers of the states mentioned (in brackets) at the end of the clues

Word of the Day: SAMI - n., pl. Sami or -mis or Saami or -mis. In both senses also called Lapp.

  1. A member of a people of nomadic herding tradition inhabiting Lapland.
  2. Any of the Finnic languages of the Sami.
An ambitious, challenging puzzle that smacked me around good. Took me something like 18 minutes, which at this point in my career is a @#$#ing eternity. Oh, and I had a mistake. It's one I'm guessing I'm not alone in making, and when I brought the crossing up to Caleb, he knew exactly what I was talking about. I speak of the place where BRNO (42A: Chief city of Moravia) meets BLIXEN (42D: Karen _____, real name of author Isak Dinesen). The problem (as Caleb pointed out) - BLIXEN intersects three theme answers, and while there are a handful of other -L-X-N words in the world, the others just wouldn't work. And for me, that would have been fine had it not been for BRNO.

Now, there are likely 8th graders who know BRNO, and I'm sure I've seen it before, somewhere, but ... for some reason, I couldn't even picture "Moravia" on a map. It sounds fictional, like some the kingdom of some character on the 80s primetime soap opera "Dynasty." Anyhow, the point is, I shoulda known. But even so, I have to suggest that BRNO / BLIXEN violates the Natick Principle (uncommon proper nouns crossing at a letter that is not inferrable). I was looking only for a vowel at the crossing, so I was a dead dead dead man. Also had never heard of the SAMI people (52D: Northern Scandinavian) or NOSE IN parking (67A: Like some parking), though the latter was easy to infer - thus, no disaster. I have never parked in any way other than NOSE IN. Other kinds of parking is news to me. I guess you can back in. Or park alongside a curb. There are names for these things?

The theme added a certain amount of ease to the puzzle (circled squares gotta be flowers, so they could often be filled in advance of knowing the whole answer), but that ease was completely taken away, and then some, by a challenging, wide-open grid with a lot of less-than-ordinary fill. The result was that there were very few parts of the puzzle that I sailed through. I was working the whole time, even when I was making steady progress. Didn't know a bunch of stuff, like STOLA (16D: Classical wrap) and GRAEME (80A: _____ Park, colonial Pennsylvania site near Philadelphia) and IHRE (63D: Their, in Munich). Didn't know GATOR as clued (94D: Nickname for Ron Guidry) - he was a lethal pitcher in the late 70s - and got OCARINA (103A: Harmonica-like instrument) only because of a near-death experience I had at the 2008 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ended up with the word, which I'd never heard of, and stuck with it ... thank god). I forget what I had at first for 87D: _____ group , in organic chemistry (acetyl), but I know it didn't involve a "Y." So, yes, much floundering. But (with the exception of BRNO/BLIXEN) all of it felt tough but fair. An above average Sunday workout. In honor of Young Caleb's gigantic achievement, I give you a very special (and very disturbing) version of "Young Americans":

[... segue to Neil Diamond? Genius]

Theme answers:

  • 23A: Five works of Mozart [Rhode Island] - VIOLIN CONCERTOS [VIOLET]
  • 29A: Not completely settle an argument [New York]- AGREE TO DISAGREE [ROSE]
  • 48A: "Revelations" choreographer [Utah] - ALVIN AILEY [LILY]
  • 58A: Trial hearing? [Indiana] - EXPERT TESTIMONY [PEONY]
  • 68A: It's never made with plastic [Ohio] - CASH TRANSACTION [CARNATION]
  • 82A: Country singer with the #1 album and single "Killin' Time" [New Hampshire] - CLINT BLACK [LILAC]
  • 95A: He played a Nazi in "Marathon Man" and a Nazi hunter in "The Boys from Brazil" [Connecticut] - LAURENCE OLIVIER [LAUREL]
  • 108A: "Bye Bye Birdie" tune [California] - "PUT ON A HAPPY FACE" [POPPY]


  • 1A: Source of some bangs (scalp) - True enough, but oddly anatomical
  • 18A: Big name in wrapping (Alcoa) - so wanted SARAN
  • 21A: Mario Puzo sequel ("Omerta") - such a crossword word
  • 22A: Relatives of balalaikas (lutes) - eeks, balawhatnow?
  • 28A: Like kibbutzim (Israeli) - seriously, the puzzle was testing the outer limits of my foreign language knowledge today
  • 54A: Chinese dynasty before the Shang (Hsia) - Ha, this one I knew ... and by "knew" I mean "got because I had the "HS" already in place when I read the clue." The Shang sounds like a horrible space creature. Or a cool 60s dance.
  • 35A: Noted 1960s flower child (Ono) - I've never associated her with the phrase "flower child." Makes me picture girls going to San Francisco and wearing flowers in their hair and putting flowers in the barrels of soldiers' guns.
  • 112A: Accompanier of a harrow, in Harrow (plough) - a "harrow" is "A farm implement consisting of a heavy frame with sharp teeth or upright disks, used to break up and even off plowed ground" (
  • 44A: Subject of the biography "The Man Who Invented the Twentieth Century" (Tesla) - like NIELS Bohr (24D: Physicist Bohr), TESLA is a science guy who shows up a lot in puzzles.
  • 66A: Duodecim (XII) - here, Latin didn't fail me ... unlike at 99D: Car with a name that's Latin for "I roll" (Volvo). Ugh. I've taken Latin. And I drive a VOLVO. So sad. I honestly considered TURBO (?)
  • 88A: WrestleMania locales (arenas) - never understood this phenomenon. Also never understood NASCAR. In my mind, they occupy the same "sports" universe.
  • 41A: _____ Lemon, Tina Fey's "30 Rock" character (Liz) - love love love this show. This answer was a total gimme. Not so lucky with OMAR (79A: _____ Little, "The Wire" gangster). I had "The Wire" queued up, but we're still working through "Rescue Me," so it'll have to wait.

  • 101D: Elmer the Bull's mate (Elsie) - I had never thought of them mating. Thanks for the image.
  • 109D: Album with the 1978 hit "Deacon Blues" ("Aja") - I've been reveling in 1978 music for reasons I'll explain some day. "AJA" is the biggest album in all of CrossWorld.
  • 85A: "Carnaval sur la plage" artist (James Ensor) - he's not French. Why is his painting title French?
  • 75A: Public squares in ancient Greece (agorae) - why does a Greek word have a Latin plural?
  • 100D: Bygone Apple product (iBook) - my current computer will soon be a bygone Apple product. It's 6 years old. I yearn for the new.
  • 38D: 9-3 and 9-5 car manufacturer (Saab) - Could have just called them the 6 and the 4 (speaking of subtraction - this week's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle by Merle Reagle is a lot of fun)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Crosscan 8:28 AM  
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Crosscan 8:30 AM  

First commenter and nothing to say that Rex hasn't covered. BRNO/BLIXEN error, yada, yada, yada.

I got OCARINA wrong at that ACPT and had to get Merl (it was his puzzle) to explain it to me afterwards. Will never miss it again.

Decent puzzle, the theme doesn't thrill me.

chefbea 8:42 AM  

Fun easy sunday puzzle. Worked in a flower shop way back when so got the flowers pretty quickly.

Loved the bar clue

Why is stola a classical wrap?

HudsonHawk 8:43 AM  

Well, I was going to comment on the puzzle, but I'm too distraught over the Bowie/Cher video. Who thought that would be a good idea? I really don't miss the 70's era variety shows that tortured us with medleys of other artists' music. Nice hairdo for Cher, though. At first, I thought it might be Toni Tennille.

OK, better now. I've been to the Czech Republic, am familiar with BRNO, and still had two writeovers before I figured it out. I also managed to get the GRAEME/IHRE crossing, but I can't claim it was with any confidence. All in all, a good puzzle that was a pretty challenging workout.

Leon 9:14 AM  

Excellent puzzle Mr. Madison.

If you didn't enjoy the puzzle, remember It's all in the Game and “you better not think about it.”(Last line of The Killers)

Wasn't BRNO the sibling of a James Bond villain ?

JannieB 9:18 AM  

I'm with Chef Bea - I thought it was easy. The flowers are common enough - the states were no help. I knew Blixen, but the INHE/GRAEME crossing was a total guess.

I thought, given all the music clues that BEQ had a hand in this -

Loved the clue for ivory, thought the theme answers were fresh and fun.

Well done.

JC66 9:34 AM  

I was NATICKED twice: BRNO/BLIXEN and GRAEME/IHRE. Other than that, a fine puzzle where the theme did help me out.

@rex - I think parallel parking (car parallel to curb) is the most common type, at least in large cities.

Clark 9:35 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle, but I ended up with a pretty large section that looked ok to me though it was wrong.

AGORAI instead of AGORAE (it is a Greek first declension noun after all)
PRIMPS instead of PREENS
GRAEMM instead of GRAEME
EPHOR instead of ENSOR
HELAH instead of SELAH

It's like I was doing a puzzle from another planet. Oh well.

Ruth 9:58 AM  

Ensor was Belgian, despite the English sounding name. I agree that adding the states' names really didn't help (except I live in New York and was pretty sure the state flower was the rose, so it helped confirm that "hidden flowers" was the theme).

Anonymous 10:03 AM  

@ chefbea:

In ancient Rome, a man wore a toga and a woman wore a stola.

Orange 10:04 AM  

Why wouldn't ENSOR's title be French? Aren't the Belgians more or less half French, half Dutch? Mac would know.

With how often ISAK (and less often, DINESEN) is in the puzzle, I thought BLIXEN would be a gimme. But apparently the clues rarely mention her real name. Everyone who felt Naticked here should now Netflix Out of Africa as penance and experience Meryl Streep as Danish Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke. (Did her cats eat only Nine Lives, like Morris the cat?)

I know OCARINA mainly from crosswords, but there's also one in the classic video game, "The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time." Not that I've ever played it, but it's out there.

Overall, not a super-easy puzzle, but not into the challenging range either.

Megan P 10:07 AM  

BRNO and BLIXEN were among the first answers I entered - gimmes, both of them. OK, I'm bragging, but I foundered so miserably on Friday, I feel entitled.

I'm a fan of ENSOR on Facebook, so whenever he appears in a puzzle, I hope some crossworder will get curious about him.

Found the puzzle easy and am amazed anew at the variety of responses among experienced solvers to the same puzzle.

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

Not sure clueing Omar as a "gangster" is accurate. Omar wasn't really a gangster. He's a force of nature, a law unto himself.

sillygoose 10:15 AM  

I liked the eclectic nature of this puzzle.

OCARINA, crossing at SELAH (??) AND TOPPS (?) was my undoing, although IHRE/GRAEME was a close one. Karen Blixen was a gimme for me.

Otherwise, this puzzle was filled with things I know (Torah in the Arks), things I don't know (Hsia, Sami), and lots of stuff that I don't really know but am somehow able to put into the grid (Ensor, Elsie).


ArtLvr 10:56 AM  

I loved this and found it all relatively easy too, though at the end I was buffaloed until I took out Corleone and put in AL CAPONE! Thanks, Caleb...

@ Orange -- As I recall, Belgium has two main language areas, French and Flemish (Flamande.)


alanrichard 11:02 AM  

When I was a little kid my mom taught the following things to me by rote: The Presidents & Vice-Presidents and their time of administration, The States, State Capitals, State Birds, State Trees and State Flowers, as well as the alphabet backwards and forwards.
This puzzle was one of the few times that I've actually been able to put this information to use. Although this was challenging in some ways, I had every answer with the circles letters immediately. And as they used to say that and 20cents will get you a cup of coffee. Of course, I dont drink coffee!

Denise 11:04 AM  

How can you pronounce "ihre"?

Newbie 11:13 AM  

Can't empathize w/Rex's complaint about this puzzle taking him 18 minutes, as it took me 2 days (started yesterday)!

For me, Blixen was a gimme, but the Ensor/Selah crossing was a Natick, though as S seemed most likely, I was ok. Knew ocarina, as my son bought one online several years ago.

Strangely, I screwed up in the Northeast corner, as I had Abase for Abash, and couldn't seem to figure out my mistake.

Loved the theme and the challenge.

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

@ Denise: IHRE = ear-eh with a little tongue roll on the r.

ArtLvr 11:15 AM  

p.s. languages of Belgium ("The Cockpit of Europe" include German too -- from Wikipedia:

"Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium is home for two main linguistic groups, the Flemings and the French-speakers, mostly Walloons, plus a small group of German-speakers.
Belgium's two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north, with 59% of the population, and the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia, inhabited by 31%. The Brussels-Capital Region, officially bilingual, is a mostly French-speaking enclave within the Flemish Region, and has 10% of the population.[4] A small German-speaking Community exists in eastern Wallonia."

fmcgmccllc 11:22 AM  

"Nose in" parking is generally to check plates or to prevent "pull thru" parking, especially in "angle only" lots where pulling out in the wrong lane causes congestion. Drove a Saab for years, wanted a Volvo, but I put on a happy face and got a Ford Edge. It is hard to park.

dk 11:24 AM  

@alanrichard, for a few summers I worked on a construction crew. We had a series of contests one of which was naming the state birds, trees, flowers, mottos, capitals, etc. 30+ years latter those facts still have a place in my little gray cells.

I think it was Keene New Hampshire that had NOSEIN parking signs.

Lastly, I was a flower child & while Yoko Ono was a conceptual artist in the 60's I do not think of her as a member of the tribe(s). Drat, now I am remembering the 1967 fourth of July in Golden Gate Park and the song "Are you going to San Francisco" will be stuck in my head all day.

Z.J. Mugildny 11:37 AM  

I didn't enjoy this one that much. The theme answers are very good in the sense that they are all familiar phrases and some of them contain relatively long words, but there was no payoff for me in solving them. No a-ha, no chuckle, just a random (to me) flower that I barely paid attention to. It was on the boring-side in my opinion.

pednsg 11:44 AM  

For me, Ensor / Selah was my Natick. According to the most trusted name in news (Wikipedia), "Selah (Hebrew: סלה‎) may be the most difficult word in the Hebrew Bible to translate concisely ; maybe that's why I've NEVER heard of it! I suspect that it must be common to crossword veterans, or those that interject, Biblically. Overall, quite enjoyable.

mccoll 11:47 AM  

Not that tough really. I needed a couple (well three) googles, but BRNO was a gimme. It was important during WWII because of the arms factories there. They still make fine firearms. I had a mistake though, by putting A TON for the "whole shebang" instead of A TO Z. I suppose I should drag myself into the new Millemium and watch shows like 30 Rock. Sigh.
I think building a puzzle like this is quite wonderful! Thanks Cal Mad.

mccoll 11:49 AM  

OOPS! The new millennium. I can spell but I can't type.

archaeoprof 11:49 AM  

Enjoyed this tough Sunday workout.

But AGORAE is simply incorrect.

When xwords use foreign languages, the spelling should be correct, shouldn't it??

jeff in chicago 11:51 AM  

Not my favorite type of theme, but an enjoyable puzzle nonetheless. Not too easy; not too hard. Did it while watching the Sunday morning news shows, so my time was longer than usual.

Loved the clue for IVORYSOAP. YIPPEE and GEE were cute. And I think I've seen the first clue for Roman numerals that I actually liked. But I wish Caleb had PASSED ON SPARER and UNPEN? Ugh.

Chorister 12:00 PM  

I found this one harder than a usual Sunday, but enjoyed it overall. I was afraid that I had BHNO wrong, and I did. I knew Blixen, so I thought H made it sound more like a word than R, though HEAP didn't seem right either.

I have said before in this space, but I have to say it again, my iBook takes offense at being called bygone. The old girl has lots of life left in her yet!

jeff in chicago 12:04 PM  

Oh...and I was really hoping for a clip of CCR's "Bad Moon Rising" from Rex. Instead we get Cher and Bowie? (Bowie has done duets with Cher, Bing Crosby, Queen, Pat Metheny, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger and Alicia Keys.)

HudsonHawk 12:07 PM  

@alanrichard, knowing the alphabet backwards must help with those pesky field sobriety tests...

treedweller 12:09 PM  

As someone who drives a big ol' tree truck that is difficult to maneuver, I tend to opt for ass-in parking, though I doubt that's an official term and it probably fails the breakfast test.

ONO usually jumps out at me no matter how she's clued, but I never thought of her as a flower child. My googles were BLIXEN and GRAEME. My mistake was at the cross of ITSAT/STOLA ("Where it set? well, it makes more sense that STOLA."). I identified strongly with Orange's comment inre IVORYSOAP (at her blog): "They make a mean Old Fashioned there."

Brad 12:18 PM  

Anyone who knows anything about 20th century architecture and design knows Brno -- it's not that obscure. Mies van der Rohe -- one of the most famous architects and designers -- has the classic Brno chair.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 12:22 PM  

Technically, Omar is a stickup artist, but who's complaining? More "Wire" in my crosswords please!

retired_chemist 12:22 PM  

I'd rate this medium. A fine puzzle: the theme was a big help. Except for the Naticks, that is. There were potentially a lot.

BLIXEN/BRNO, the double Natick OLE/PACA/OMAR, ENSOR/SELAH, IHRE/GRAEME, possibly ENOKIS/OKIE. The other double Natick, per Clark, is interestingly incorrect as AGORAI/GRAEMM/PRIMPS. Did I succumb to them? NO!

I may be the only one among us that got the prosaic and straightforwardly clued 43D, REAP, entirely from crosses incl. BRNO, ALVIN AILEY, and HSIA.

My error was different: the quasi-Natick 53A ATOZ/41D LIZ, which I had as ATON/LIN. ATON is sort of "the whole shebang," but ATOZ is a better answer. Didn't know LIZ - never watched 30 Rock, so it passed the recheck. I deserve and expect no sympathy....

Had SARAN sequentially in 18A and 16D and fixed it both times.

Anonymous 12:23 PM  

Re: Plural of agora

My Merriam-Webster lists both agoras and agorae as acceptable plurals. An internet search also suggests that agorae is acceptable. Not sure why.

Dough 12:29 PM  

I loved the entry "YER OUT." Never saw it before. Nice, tidy puzzle. I am the webmaster for Graeme Park, so I put a notice on the homepage boasting our appearance in today's puzzle.

Brad 12:30 PM  

The OED has agorai (the proper Greek ending), agorae and agoras. I had AGORAI crossed with PRIMPS for a while.

treedweller 12:34 PM  

I forgot my main sticking point with this puzzle: I immediately entered YIP (well, right after I ruled out arf), then changed it to yap as soon as I got YIPPEE. I flip-flopped several times on that one while looking for my mistake, until I finally found where it set. I admit AGRa wasn't very plausible, but affix clues often surprise me with new combinations I never saw or considered.

And my mark of progress: HSIA was no gimme, but I confidently wrote it in off a couple of crosses. A year ago, I'd have still been staring at it, wondering if I had a mistake.

edith b 12:34 PM  

I dislike puzzle with lots of circles involved because it makes the grid dificult to see and adds an extra layer of dificulty to the whole enterprise.

I think there is probably the same number of people who found the BRNO/BLIXEN crossing a neon as invoked the Natick Principle. I think both words were old crosswordese IMOO.

I really had to use all my crossword skills to solve this one. I think only crossword veterans had a shot at finishing this one.

Yoko ONO a flower child? I think not.

Lili 12:41 PM  

This one took me a while, but I did manage to complete it. The only answer I wasn't familiar with was "Graeme Park" -- ironically, since I lived in Philly for several years, and my husband, who'd also never heard of it, is a Philly native. No school field trips to the place, it seems. I had to fill in that clue by getting the surrounding answers.

"Stola" is always easy for me -- as an art historian, I see these garments on classical statues. "Ocarina" is one of my favorite words. Oh, I guessed that state flowers would be the theme, but I found my way into the puzzle via Alvin Ailey. It helped to be a dance fan.

jae 12:41 PM  

A good Sun. challenge. I knew BLIXEN because, after encountering ISAK DINESEN numerous times in puzzles, I read the Wiki article on her. My potential Natick was IHRE/GRAEME but I guessed right. I like puzzles where getting the theme early helps.

PhillySolver 1:09 PM  

Graeme (Gram) Park is outside of Philly and was owned by a colonial administrator and British Loyalist. The last remodeling was done about 1750. The colonists were tiny people. When they start serving Philly Cheesesteaks I'll go back.

Had three crosses I had to guess...two out of three ain't bad.

PlantieBea 1:12 PM  

The usual suspects got me in this puzzle, a challenge. Had BGNO, GO UP, HSIU in the natick area.

I'm a plant lover, but these chosen flowers were just so so...I would loved to have seen my own state's COREOPSIS (tickseed :-)over LILY or ROSE.

My favorite answers of the day were CASH TRANSACTION and IVORY SOAP--clever cluing.

What a ride this weekend's puzzle solving has been--like that on a bucking bronco. I'm ready for a new week.

Ulrich 1:13 PM  

To continue with Mies at Brno (from Brad), the Brno Chair exists b/c Mies designed it for the Tugendhat House there, one of the masterpieces he designed before emigrating to the US and one of the true icons of early modernism in architecture. With Brno and Blixen gimmies for me (I'm in league with megan), I should have had an easier time with this puzzle, but didn't. Knowing hardly any state flowers, and seeing my own state, CT, misrepresented (it's the MOUNTAIN laurel!), was one reason. Still, I enjoyed the workout.

I won't get into the details about "ihre" (it involves gender) since the most important one, its pronunciation, has been explained--I would describe it as "ee-reh", though, sticking with the German syllabisation (is that a word?)

retired_chemist 1:24 PM  

Had ACETAL (also acceptable per the clue) at 87D and was ABASHed when I realized the answer was the much more common ACETYL. I don't put ANY esoterica past Cal-Mad's fertile mind despite his youth.

andrea carla michaels 1:27 PM  

congrats, Caleb!!!!!!

@dk, edith

O no! Yoko was the farthest thing from a flower child, not to mention she was already a serious artist and an adult by the '60s...
My guess is whoever wrote the clue (whether Caleb or Will) was trying to tie it into the theme of flowers...

Open invitation:
Young Caleb, et al...Feel free to come to SF and (re)enact...I've got a bouquet here waiting for you.

Doc John 1:39 PM  

The only crosswordy -RNO word I knew was Arno so in it went! I also did the A TON thing and again (when will I learn) thought that Lin was a strange name but what the heck. When will I learn that if it sounds wrong it probably is? (IHRE notwithstanding.)

David Bowie and Roseanne Rosannadanna! What are ya tryin' to do, make me sick? I had to turn it off when they went into the Neil Diamond song.

Ulrich 1:40 PM  

Just to add a comment about Moravia: Together with Bohemia (capital Prague), it forms the modern Czech Republic. Both provinces are shockful with historical references due to their, often violent, history. They're located in the center of Europe (a battle ground for the rest of Europe through the centuries) and belonged to the Austrian/Hungarian Empire before WWI. Napoleons's most famous battle, at Austerlitz, was fought near Brno. The Nazis invaded the provinces in WWII and made them a protectorate under their German names, Böhmen und Mähren.

And the Tugendhat House has recently been restored to its former glory, I'm told.

PIX 1:45 PM  

@55A: symbol of thickness: i the only one who expected a link from Rex to Jethro Tull playing "Thick as a Brick?"

PIX 1:50 PM  

@22A: Balalaikas: Know the word from the movie Dr.Zhivago where a balalaika manages to survive the entire movie (as a sort of symbol of defiance and endurance, if I remember the movie which I don't). Also, always used for playing the lovely Lara's theme from the movie.

rpl 1:55 PM  

I have to mildly object to the posters objecting to ihre as part of a Natick. It was a gimme to me from high school German class in 1962. Now, all these french, latin, and greek words can be tricky for me to get without crosses.

fikink 1:57 PM  

@Pix, Re: DrZee right you are!
And while we're at it, get a load of Cher's old nose!

archaeoprof 2:14 PM  

@anon 1223 and Brad: okay, so be it. There's Greek, and then there's what is accepted today. I can live with that.

But in honor of Mrs Wentzel and Mr Harris -- God rest their souls -- who taught me Latin and Greek all those years ago, I will continue to regard AGORAE as incorrect.

mac 2:20 PM  

That was a good Sunday workout! I picked up on the theme quickly and it actually helped, especially with "peony" and the expert testimony.
Blixen was a gimme (can't wait to see Meryl Streep's new movie as Julia Child!), but I had a personal Natick at 12D: I didn't know the "prefix with noir" answer (still don't know what it means) and I figured a "dig" and a "din" can be produced at a construction site.
I also was surprised at the Yip and yippee so close together, and hadn't we decided it was "thick as a plank" a couple of days ago?

Ensor was Flemish, with an English father and a Flemish mother, and he lived his entire life in Ostend in Flanders, with the exeption of some time in Brussels. I think most Flemish people are bi-lingual, but that cannot be said about the Walloons.

Glitch 2:24 PM  
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Anonymous 2:26 PM  

Seems to me that when judging these circle themes, the important thing is whether the answers have a bunch of circles at the beginning. I mean, if you are looking for something to contain "violet", how much imagination does it take to dig up "violin".

In fact, maybe I should say the same thing about consecutive circles, not just circles at the beginning. I'm thinking of how predictable it is to use "happy" when searching for something to contain "poppy"

By that standard, the coolest ones in this puzzle were "rose" inside of "agreetodisagree" and "lily" inside "Alvin Ailey" (but even that one I'm not so sure about because the final syllable of "lily" is an exact match for the last syllable of the word that contains it.)

Glitch 2:29 PM  

Graeme Park, clued almost the same, was in the June 1, 2008 Sunday puzzle.

Rex blogged that he didn't know it then either.

As it's also a friend's name, so it stuck with me more than usual .


PuzzleGirl 2:33 PM  

Met a friend for dinner in Baltimore last night and was listening to country radio on my way home. I was singing along to CLINT BLACK's "Killin' Time" as a pulled into my driveway. Love it when that stuff happens.

I guessed wrong at the BRNO/BLIXEN cross but otherwise enjoyed the ride. Loved PTA MEETINGS (but hate actual PTA meetings).

retired_chemist 2:37 PM  

@ mac: googling neo-noir => Crime dramas and thrillers that imitate or bear similarities to the 'Film Noir' movies of the 1940s and 1950s.

geo-noir (your alternative): nothing of significance on google.

Your post prompted me to look up the regional language usages in Belgium. It is fascinating how much one can learn when prompted to do so on this blog. Thank you.

jae 2:41 PM  

Balalaikas were also mentioned somewhere in the lyrics of "Back in the USSR."

Anonymous 2:52 PM  

I'm new to this forum - what is a "natick"

Megan P 3:01 PM  

And now I can't resist bragging about my house: it was designed by Mies.

It's a townhouse in downtown Detroit, in a neighborhood (Lafayette Park) which contains the largest collection of residential architecture designed by him in the world. And Mies is how I knew BRNO, of course.

PIX 3:04 PM  

turns out you are correct:(last verse)
Oh, show me round your snow peaked
mountain way down south
Take me to you daddy's farm
Let me hear you balalaika's ringing out
Come and keep your comrade warm
I'm back in the USSR
Hey, You don't know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the USSR
Oh, let me tell you honey

HudsonHawk 3:14 PM  

@jae and PIX, I found out in my adult years about "balalaikas" in Back in the USSR (a takeoff/homage to California Girls). But when I was a kid, I just thought it was bella-lankas or something else nonsensical. Probably shouldn't get started on misheard lyrics, as that's a slippery slope...

JannieB 3:44 PM  

@Anon 2:52 - there is a definition of Natick in Rex's write-up today and also a link to one in the sidebar to the right

Vega 3:52 PM  

It's amazing to me how many words in this puzzle I didn't know, and still I managed to complete it successfully. Except for Blixen/Brno, where like others I had an a instead of a b. I guessed right at ENSOR/SELAH, OCARANA/SELAH. Knew balalaikas because of the Beatles. And add me to the list of those who have yet to join television's 21st century with the likes of Simpsons, 30 Rock, and The Wire. The cluing of "Stay!" for DONTGO seemed awfully... literal to me, especially compared to all the other very clever cluing.

"Zany" = NUT? Are they really the same part of speech?

I really enjoyed this one.


joho 3:54 PM  

Thanks Caleb, C-Mad. Or maybe you're the Mad-C ... the Mad Constuctor of crosswords that are crazy good.

Sometimes Sundays are like busy work to me as they're just filling in the squares with easy answers. This was not easy to me and I really enjoyed the challenge.

I do agree with all before me who said that Yoko Ono is no flower child. I think she'd be mortified! Oddly, though, I just thought of her album with John: "Double Fantasy." Definitely a flower. So maybe .....

Ellen 4:10 PM  

I knew BRNO because I remember hearing about World Puzzle Championships held there.

Two Ponies 4:12 PM  

@ PIX, I was hoping for a little Tull as well.
Pretty good Sunday puzzle if a bit on the easy side but that's OK.
Puzzlemate helped me with carnation.

Anonymous 4:12 PM  

Good challenge although in a strange way ... I thought the theme was weak and the fill was strong. Hardly ever see that.

Took me longer than usual but got through it without having to leave and come back to it. So all in all, a solid B+ puzzle which is just great. Nice work, Caleb.

Clark 4:25 PM  

@Denise, @Anon1114, @Ulrich --

On the pronunciation of IHRE, I would just say (and Ulrich please correct me if I’m wrong) that the ‘r’ should be flipped in your throat rather than rolled on the tongue. The latter pronunciation gets you an Italian ‘r’ not a German one.

@archaeoprof --

I’m with you on the Greek and Latin plurals. And I do it in honor of Mrs. Haka, my 9th grade Latin teacher, who looked just like Mrs. Olsen from the comic strip Frazz -- but we loved her anyway.

chefbea 4:35 PM  

Our best friends are Belgian - from Antwerp. They speak Flemmish, of course English and also some German. They Have a parrot and he speaks fluent Flemmish. I had to bird sit several years ago and the only thing I ever said to him was "good morning Barbara" for two weeks. He never learned it.

michael 4:36 PM  

I knew both brno and blixen and it took me a lot longer than 18 minutes to finish. Just another example of how solvers differ in what they know. However ensor/selah was a natick for me.

George NYC 4:59 PM  

Don't get the Saab clue. 9-3 9-5?

fergus 5:50 PM  

So what lyrics did I have, now that I know about the balalaikas? I can't remember, but a number of us must have supplied some interesting alternatives, and carried them with us till this day.

Seeing CARNATION and PEONY gave me the POPPY and a good hint for the others, but this puzzle felt like playing that Battleship game, when you're just randomly fishing around to explode something.

SELAH was completely new to me, and I go to Bible study regularly enough.

Anonymous 5:59 PM  

Yoko was born to mother Isoko Ono, the granddaughter of Zenjiro Yasuda of the Yasuda banking family, and to father Eisuke Ono, who worked for the Yokohama Specie Bank and was a descendant of an Emperor of Japan.

Orange 6:12 PM  

@George NYC, the 9-3 and 9-5 are Saab models. Yes, those are dorky names for cars.

George NYC 6:26 PM  

Thanks @Orange. Rex's subtraction quip threw me off the scent.

Noam D. Elkies 6:51 PM  

This puzzle seemed to me about average for a NYTimes Sunday puzzle, both in enjoyment (NB average ≠ mediocre! -- this is "average" relative to a high standard) and in difficulty. Started very quickly guessing 23A:violINCONCeRtOS and 29A:AGrEEToDIsAGReE without crosses and confirming with the circles, and was then slowed down but only to normal speed. When the theme entries can contain the bonus words not as a substring of consecutive letters but an arbitrarily spaced one (requiring those letters to be circled) it's much easier to find good examples for the grid but the extra information still helps the solver.

[I know it's off-topic, but I also liked the Cox-Rathvon cryptic crossword on the same page of the NYTimes Magazine. It has an unusual theme, or at least an unusual construction task. I'm almost sure it's intentional because -- how to say this obliquely enough to avoid spoilage? -- no two of the affected entries cross each other. Now back to your regularly scheduled bloggage.]

Like ArtLvr, I guessed Corleone for 19A, working back from the -ONE; turns out that this was indeed a De Niro role, and even in the puzzle (34A:DON), but not the one that fit here...

Funny that the Greek "agora" gets the Latin æ plural but the Latin "arena" does not. I suppose they were called "arenae" when they featured pankration contests rather than Wrestlemania "contests".

Didn't know 16D:STOLA -- had four letters and guessed "stole", but 33A forced "stola" which I figured must be the corresponding "ancient" wrap, and indeed the two nouns are direct etymological kin. For 7D I got as far as ILI?D and was sure the missing letter would be an A. Not.

I've heard of 42A:BRNO, which I couldn't place on a map but is known for hosting many high-powered chess tournaments. Didn't know of this 80A:GRAEME, though with all the crosses except the 5th letter it could hardly be anything else -- which then led me to see how 64D could be an unfamiliar PT- word. Likewise I of course never heard of this 94D:GATOR -- evidently it's the obligatory:-( b*seball obscurity (and too obscure even for b*seball fan Rex) -- nor 73D:PACA or 79A:OMAR, forming a Naticross.

I did know 86D:SELAH, though I couldn't tell you what it means either. [The Wikipage for this word is rather argumentative, and perhaps unreliably so; for starters it seems "calah" is to be read with a soft C. I've also seen the suggestion that "selah" was an indication to repeat the preceding verse or section.] Between that, 30D:TORAH/74D:ARKS, and 28A:ISRAELI, we seem to have a Jewish subtheme going here.

Does anybody say "yahoo!" anymore to mean 62A:YIPPEE, or 97D:CRANE to mean "crane one's neck"?

Finally, thanks for the nice clue/answer pair for 17D:HASIT, and informative clue for 99D:VOLVO (so that's what it means!).

--NDE (back in the USA)

Ulrich 7:08 PM  

@Clark: You're right about the German "r"--it's like the French one, if a little less harsh (for my ear at least).

As I'm waiting for grout to dry, I have the time to give you the skinny on "ihre" b/c it may motivate all of you to get serious about learning German. Now, "ihre" is a tricky possessive pronoun--so, let me do this by means of an example:

ihre Kinder can mean:

(a) "her children"-- as in Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (Mother Courage and her children); i.e. the referent (the noun indicating who's doing the possessing) is a feminine singular noun.

(b) "your children"--as in Ihre Kinder gehen mir auf den Nerv (your children get on my nerve), where the referent is a person the speaker addresses formally.

(c) "their children"--as in Eltern und ihre Kinder (parents and their children), i.e. the referent is a plural noun.

Isn't it fun?

fikink 7:17 PM  

@NDE, Yes, "craning to see" is still very much in the language of my world. I don't know if it is because I come from a family of long-necked people and was raised to the notion that craning my neck was unsightly and untoward which "ladies" did not do, or because cranes are routinely observed in these parts. I guess I never thought about it.
I am curious to know why you think it is either rarely used or dated? It isn't a regional expression, is it?

Karen 7:24 PM  

I knew the BLIXEN, and the SELAH, and escaped any trouble at those spots. However, I had PRIMPS instead of PREENS at 65D. None of the crosses looked off enough to me to worry about. Checking the dictionary definition, they seem interchangeable, except you can't primp with a beak.

I've also seen the monument to Mr. TESLA at the Niagara Falls. Go Nikola!

A very nice puzzle.

Noam D. Elkies 8:02 PM  

@fikink: I didn't recall "crane" used in this sense, so went to, which confirmed that usage but supported it with a quote "I craned out of the window of my compartment — Webb Waldron", suggesting to me that (a) the usage is unfamiliar enough that a citation was felt necessary, and (b) even then it was so rare and old that Marriam-Webster had to resort to an obscure author born in the 19th century (Wikipedia has no page for him, and reports "born 1882" but lists only three or four works and no year of death). But Google does report several thousand hits for "craned to see", about the same count as for "craned his neck to see" [amusingly the latter count comes with the suggested spelling correction "caned his neck to see", which gets only one hit, and indeed that Googlewhack is an evident typo for "craned"...]. So I guess the usage must be legitimate.

While I'm at it, I forgot a couple of musical notes: I know "balalaika" (22A clue) mainly from the famous song "tum balalaika"; and 102D:REEDS surprised me since I expected WINDS or BRASS ("strings" and "percussion" being too long) — perhaps a jazz orchestra was meant.

Oh, and "agora" was also for many years the Israeli equivalent of a cent; the coin, though now practically worthless as currency, is apparently valued by some collectors for its unusual shape (first hit for "one agora"). The accent falls on the final syllable, same as for the plural "agorot", which follows the nearly universal pattern for feminine Hebrew plurals. But it might sound like "agoras" (with penultimate-syllable accent) in the Ashkenaz pronunciation of Eastern European Jewry.


Glitch 8:04 PM  

RE Volvo models:

The first number 9 is the series, the second the number of doors (counting the rear hatchback or wagon type).


fikink 8:42 PM  

@NDE: Well, hush my mouth!
Thanks for the response and all your work.

@ulrich: Can one say, "auf meinem letzen Nerv" or is that fractured German?

I love this blog! :)

Orange 9:14 PM  

@NDE: You can always try my blog as a place to talk about the cryptic without vexing Rex.

dk 9:27 PM  

@pix and 2 ponies, A Tull moment: I had Stand-up as a 8 track tape in my 1955 VW bug... And, I saw them at Newport. Loved albums 1 and 2 the rest not so much.

Anne 9:55 PM  

I've been away for the weekend and didn't get started until really late. I came here to finish up the Graeme/Ihre area but I managed to get through the rest of it. The flowers seemed incidental to the whole thing. It was a good puzzle however.

fergus 10:02 PM  

I'll also plug Orangeworld, and her clear resolution of today's Cryptic. I've seen some other explanations that leave the adjective in tact.

Noam D. Elkies 10:15 PM  

@Orange: ta for the pointer to your cryptic blog!

(which confirms my hunch, and also explains why I used the Britticism "ta" here :-)


Calmad 10:31 PM  

Thanks for all the feedback! I'm glad you enjoyed the puzzle. I knew when I was cluing it that it would be a toughie…

Anyway, thanks for all the comments. It's very flattering.

--Caleb M.

Calmad 10:41 PM  

PS. I'm surprised no one mentioned my overly-teen clue for TEXT.

mac 11:47 PM  

Overly-teen? Not a problem to us!

retired_chemist 11:53 PM  

@Calmad - LOL! We geezers text too!

PuzzleGirl 12:11 AM  

PuzzleHusband and I text each other from different rooms of the house. BTW, it's been a long time since we were teens!

Elaine 12:23 AM  

hi -- I was sure someone else would have commented about this by now -- there is NOTHING about an Ocarina that is like a harmonica! A harmonica has multiple "mouth-holes", each of allows you to blow air out through or suck air back through a reed-chamber; the reed makes the sound. An ocarina has one place you put your mouth, and sound is produced as in a recorder or tonette. It has finger holes, which is how you change the pitch.

I got ocarina, but was really unhappy when it turned out to be right. Bad clue!

Otherwise, ok but tough puzzle.

Stan 10:23 PM  

Found this definitely challenging; made the ATON/LIN mistake and left a blank square at _ELAH. No cluing complaints, but agree about Yoko.

Enjoyed Scandinavian sub-theme with SAAB and VOLVO in (nearly) opposite corners, plus OLE, SAMI, and Karen BLIXEN.

"Killin' Time" is one of the few country albums I own.

Anonymous 5:57 PM  

I don't fault Caleb at all for the Ono clue (I'm in the same camp as all of you) because he's 16 years old. Fantastic puzzle, Caleb!

You had to be there, then (as I was) to know that Ono was no flower child.

Anonymous 5:47 PM  

just realied it's not 'a TOZ' , it's 'A to Z' no wonder I couldn't understand. I had ATON / LIN

Citizen Mundane 3:41 PM  

yeah, that Brno intersection was a !@#$%^&!, especially when I had "leap" instead of "reap" for the clue "gain"... Aja is one of the all-time great records, by Steely Dan(and a host of uber-talented studio musicians), I highly recommend it... I live in SW Ohio, a short drive from Indiana, and no clue what either state's flower was... apparently Ohio picked the red carnation in 1904 to honor former prez Mckinley(assassinated in 1901), who liked to wear them... lastly, I remember Ron Guidry as "Louisiana Lightning", vaguely recall Gator... peace

SeniorStan 3:46 PM  

A week back
Mr. Cal - excellent cross. Salut!
18 minutes! wow. I spent about 18 minutes just trying to fit 'saran' in (twice!). Other than sarangate, I enjoyed this crossword and found it quite reasonable. American pie, Clint Black and Laurence Olivier went in first and showed me state 'flowers', which meant .. not much, not being from the states. But, it certainly helped in narrowing the letter selection.
What flower starts with 'CA'? CARNATION?
No clue items, IHRE?, BRNO?, OMAR?, LUTES? My crosses were right, so I was ok.
The guess - no clue on the O_ULO/O_ARINA - guessed 'C'. Whew!
Things I know - Karen Blixen, forever attached in my brain with that reindeer.
SELAH - pause, akin to amen, in a University environment, you'll hear it.
Statement I retract - every 4 letter weapon is, in fact, EPEE.
Manitoba provincial flower = Prairie Crocus (fyi).
@ Stan - thank you for the generous Stan-sharing.

Anonymous 5:10 AM  

Unlike several posters above, I think yoko CAN be described as a flower child -- idealistic, espoused peace, love, etc., pedigree notwithstanding.
Anonymous poster, age 62.
PS: Anyone want to sell me swampland in Florida?

neeners 12:43 PM  

Painter Alphonse Mucha grew up near BRNO, Moravia (Czech Republic) Although he is famous for his Art Nouveau-style posters, he created a series of large paintings called the Slav Epic, which can be found in a town just outside BRNO.

Anyone who is a fan of They Might Be Giants will know who James ENSOR is, because they wrote a song about him called Meet James ENSOR. "Belgium's famous painter" "He lived with his mother and the torments of Christ"

I love when I answer a clue on my own, not because I learned it from a crossword.

RGMcGrath 2:59 PM  

We get the puzzle late here in El Paso, so I only got to it last night. My question is, how did you find that disturbing clip of "Young Americans"?

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