THURSDAY, Oct. 1 2009 — Toymaking center / Place name popular in 1990s / Le Havre honey

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Constructors: Patrick Blindauer & Rebecca Young

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: COMPASS / ROSE (!?) (18A: With 55-Across, direction indicator (and what to draw in the center of this puzzle) — four theme answers point in the directions they contain:

  • NORTH POLE runs north (as ELOPHTRON — 6D: Toymaking center?)
  • WEST POINT runs west (as TNIOPTSEW — 27A: Its motto is "Duty, Honor, Country")
  • SOUTH PARK runs south (as itself — 33D: Long-running TV series set in Colorado)
  • EAST ENDER runs east (as itself — 45A: Cockney, e.g.)

Bland square in middle of grid is where you draw your COMPASS ROSE ("ROSE" comes from 55A, which is not an Across answer at all, but the second part of MELROSE — 54A: Place name popular in the 1990s — from numbered square "55" onward) — never heard of a "COMPASS ROSE" before today, so ...

Word of the Day: COMPASS ROSE — A compass rose is a figure on a map or nautical chart used to display the orientation of the cardinal directions, — north, south, east, and west. It is also the term for the graduated markings found on the traditional magnetic compass. Today, the idea of a compass rose is found on, or featured in, almost all navigation systems, including nautical charts, non-directional beacons (NDB), VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) systems, global-positioning systems (GPS), and similar equipment and devices. (wikipedia)

[note: my computer and the NYT website are not getting on this morning, so I've stolen the grid from Amy Reynaldo at "Diary of a Crossword Fiend"]
-----

Well I don't like being asked to draw on my grid when I'm done, and I really don't like fake Across answers that aren't actually there (i.e. being asked to see a 55-Across that technically doesn't exist), but other than that I enjoyed solving this one. A new twist on the idea of pointing your answers in unexpected directions. I like how the diagonal black squares in the grid kinda look like a compass hand (hand?) pointing NE. Or SW, I can't decide.

SKEETER TEETERS! (63A: Picnic pest, informally + 40D: Could fall either way)

Gotta be quick today, so ... the interesting stuff:

  • 1A: Paper carrier (satchel) — this took a weirdly long time to get. Needed almost every cross. If I'd trusted SIC right off the bat at 1D: Attack signal, I might have seen SATCHEL sooner.
  • 19A: Women who get high? (sopranos) — even just now I typed [Women who like to get high], which shows you that I was happily led in the (mis)direction the clue was taking me. Contemplated SOARERS at some point, but it's not female-specific. And it's too short.
  • 56A: "Mr. Pim Passes By" playwright (A.A. Milne) — not only was this guy prolific, but he was prolific across genres. You got the Pooh stuff, and this play, and "The Red House Mystery" (famously torn apart by my hero Raymond Chandler in "The Simple Art of Murder"). Apparently A.A. MILNE could (or would) do anything.
  • 3D: Bit of art on a chest, in slang (tat) — Pecs or boobs, not cedar chest or storage chest or hope chest.
  • 9D: Sing like Andy Williams or Russ Columbo (croon) — I had no idea Columbo crooned
[eeeerie ...]

  • 23D: Remote ancestor? (knob) — I caught on right away. I wanted DIAL. :(
  • 28D: Pat of "Knute Rockne All American" (O'Brien) — I misread, and continue to misread this clue as [PART of "Knute Rockne All American"].
  • 38D: One of eight English kings, to a 45-Across ('Enry) — nice bonus use of a theme answer here.
  • 52D: Le Havre honey (amie) — not MIEL, for you French-speaking literalists out there.
Congratulations on the NYT debut, Rebecca.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

82 comments:

joho 8:04 AM  

I predict this is going to be a love it or hate it puzzle. One of my thoughts while solving wasn't where's Waldo, it was where's 55 Across? Sorry, but the second half of MELROSE doesn't cut it for me. Just too contrived for (cross)words.

That's all I'm going say today.

PurpleGuy 8:07 AM  

Nice shout-out to me at 8a. Wanted MOM&DAD.
That's my last name. Took all kinds of teasing in school. Even from teachers. "Take this to the office and Hurry, Cain!"

Rather an easy puzzle for a Thursday. Another clever clue for DIAPER. Some genuinely good fill.

Good writeup,Rex. You always makeme smile.

Thank you Patrick & Rebecca for a great puzzle.
Hopethis is the start of a great friendship.

Matt 8:21 AM  

Really good puzzle, but I just can't get over the fact that there is no 55-across. Sorry. It just doesn't fit any sort of crossword logic I've ever seen. It's not even symmetrical. I did this last night and just assumed there was some sort of typo.

Elaine 8:39 AM  

Except for the NW, very easy puzzle. I KNEW 27A was WESTPOINT, but it took me a long time to see the reversal. I actually removed CPAS and HILO...tried to put in THE CORPS... Finally, getting SOPRANOS cleared my eyes. (It was 4 a.m., after all.)

Nice puzzle fill, but on the whole the puzzle did feel a bit "meh," plus the NYT subscription site did not print out the instructions or the blank. (Is this gimmick week?)

Quilters think "Mariner's compass" rather than "compass rose." Is there a difference in these?

nanpilla 8:48 AM  

Can't believe Toms River is in there. Is this well known to other people? My husband works there, and I still had trouble putting it in, figuring it had to be something more common.
I can only think of Impossible Missions Force whenever I see IMF. I loved that show as a kid.
The puzzle was good enough, but had they been able to have ROSE be a four letter fill somewhere, it would have been more elegant. Maybe they liked the fact that they used MISdirection to give you the direction indicator?

Anonymous 8:53 AM  

Dead tree edition actually has the COMPASS ROSE in a central white square, so the 18A clue feels off.

@elaine, similar thought re:27A - USMARINES would even fit, but it did not seem to work with any crosses, so I waited, wondering what word could possible start with TNIO.

There are going to be lots of complaints whenever something like this is done, but even crossword rules are made to be broken, sometimes.

RT

Brendan Emmett Quigley 8:56 AM  

So, when I couldn't find a 55-Across, I thought one of two things: 1) Typo 2) we could be in for something good. When the theme presented itself and I ended up finishing the grid, I went: huh? Still didn't get the 55-Across joke until I went to Amy's blog. Having said all that, I actually enjoyed that I got the whole puzzle but couldn't figure out what the deal was with the 55-Across. So, this one gets a hesitant: "approved."

(Throwing it out there: after I finished the puzzle, I called up Pat to explain where I thought the 55-Across was heading ... and we're going to try and make puzzle on that misunderstanding.)

Denise 9:07 AM  

@BEQ -- I love your puzzles!

This stymied me for a long time. Honestly, having just two (?) fills was the sticking point. I just wasn't looking for them. I filled and re-filled, and finally got it. A nice challenge.

I learned compass rose in geography as a kid. And, I love maps.

retired_chemist 9:15 AM  

A nice puzzle. I should NOT have needed all the time I did, considering IN A PILE, BROMINE, ABC NEWS, ELEANOR, PETER PAN, and TSTRAPS were all gimmes. ELOPHTRON and TNIOPTSEW threw me. I was prepared for a rebus but not that. I also turned ??RI?? @ 28D into MORITA, another actor Pat, but not this time. It was "confirmed" by SPATE @ 42A and threw COLBERT way off for what seemed like hours (but wasn't really).

Thanks, Patrick and Rebecca. I'll do better by you next time.

Anna 9:17 AM  

My paper had the compass rose all nicely printed in the center of the grid. Kind of took all the challenge out of the day!

Stan 9:17 AM  

Ahh, good puzzles continue. Clever fun, and definitely harder than a Wednesday, easier than a Friday, as it should be.

Thanks to Patrick and Rebecca, and I look forward to a PB/BEQ rule-bending collaboration.

fhp 9:29 AM  

I thought 42D SLIMES for "Slanders really badly" was weird. I guess I would understand that in a sentence, but I've never heard it. It really begs for a Ghostbusters clue!

dk 9:33 AM  

Man, I have a COMPASS ROSE sitting in our mud room (salvaged from an old sailing ship where it resided in its wooden box by the ships wheel) and I still did not get the theme.

Like BEQ (no please don't make me like BEQ :)) I thought 55a was some kind of error or trick far cuter than it was. As a child/teen/adult I have always over thought tests.

Irked at filling SBARRO for the five millionth time (as an older adult it is my wont, nay desire, to exaggerate those times when I am not pompous).

Thou I would have preferred 63a clued as 60's pop singer with a cool last name, SKEETER, SATCHEL and OUTATE made great fill: Fine puzzle

Not to poach on Acme but P&R Puzzles has a nice ring to it.

dk aka Skeeter

Note: My paper was soaked this AM so it was an Across Lite day, paper days are better, although it is fun to change the ink color at will.

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

Rex, I believe the term is COMPASS NEEDLE, for future reference - this knowledge could spur you on to 43rd best.

Hats off to Rebecca Young on her debut! Nice job picking up the slack for this Blindauer character.

My only upset today was that I'd have been solving this for the third time - first, in an early test version (which doesn't really count) and second, at the Westchester tourney (no, I didn't compete with advance knowledge of the puzzle, you conspiracy theorists! It might have helped me get a notch above the middle of the pack, though). So, for the second day in a row my dead tree version is empty (PB & RY: I have a fresh copy for your archives!). Looking forward to a fresh Friday (brain-)fry fest - and, to whoever can come up with a good F word to properly complete the first part of this sentence!

Congrats!
Tony O.

XMAN 9:34 AM  

I didn't get it until I came to the blog. I feel cheated. Don't know if I cheated myself, but I, literally, have a bad taste in my mouth.

Michele 9:44 AM  

MIEL and French-speaking literalists. That describes me and my initial fill "TOAT".

Yeah, totally thought 55-A was a typo. Not sure how I felt about this one.

MikeM 9:45 AM  

@XMAN - same here. I whizzed through it. Put in COMPASS at 18A and kind the gist and never even noticed 55A was missing. (I did the hard copy, the "compass rose" was already filled in. Loved 38D. I never heard of the play and I had AA_ _ _ _ _ filled in and felt something was wrong. But my Dad always told me (when I started doing crosswords with him back in the 70s) to trust yourself; it may not be as it seems. Great advice.

bookmark 9:53 AM  

I liked this puzzle, after I figured it out. It's always nice to experience something different.

I came up with TOMS RIVER, though I couldn't remember how I knew it. Went to Wiki to discover it was the setting of a book I read almost 20 years ago...
Blind Faith, a true crime by Joe McGinnis. Now if I could just remember what I read last week.

pednsg 9:54 AM  

I really thought Rex was going to go OFF on the typo / editing error that resulted in an clue for which there was no corresponding box. Cute, but in the sort of way that a REALLY ugly dog is cute. Otherwise, easy puzzle, nice fill, and, again, I learned something!

bookmark 9:56 AM  

Sorry about the paragraph break. BTW, does the NYT crossword occasionally have typos? I don't remember seeing any.

PlantieBea 10:08 AM  

While most of this puzzle was not problem, I stared for a long time at TNIOP_SEW and EDOPH_RON and never did catch on to the trick until I came here. Hmmm...I like it overall and I'm kicking myself for not catching onto the theme.

More hmph...I see that I was really sloppy and have an error with PAGER, which I figured was an Apple electronic device, instead of a parer.

This seems like a solid Thursday puzzle, decent answers and theme, but I was the slacker. Thanks PB and RY. I will TUNE IN next time.

ArtLvr 10:09 AM  

Aha! 'ENRY, and a theme with echoes of Henry Hudson's historic voyage. I ROSE to the occasion, happy with an artistic part of the nautical theme! A ship's captain or lover of the sea would often have a wooden box or even a whole floor with beautiful inlay of the COMPASS symbol. And of course WEST POINT guards access to the Hudson River too...

Getting SOUTH crossing EAST early on, I was TUNED IN to completing all four directions somehow. ISN'T and SBARRO put the NO of NORTH at the bottom of 6D and the rest unwound NICEly. TOM'S River, along with a ship's BERTH plus une AMIE in the port of Le Havre, ADDS lovely extra touches too.

I loved the quirkiness of the "clue at 55A" as well. Kudos to Rebecca and Pat, neatly done and much fun!

∑;)

mac 10:16 AM  

Congratulations Patrick and Rebecca!

I liked this puzzle, with its good clues and fresh words. I also had to work at getting "satchels" and the sopranos took their time, it seemed odd to have an -os ending for females. Did the dead tree version, so the 55A direction was an afterthought, sort of cute.

I had to laugh out loud when "outate" appeared! There seems to be a tv sub-theme: Eastenders, Melrose Place, Dallas, South Park, Colbert, Sopranos and ABC News.

I was sure Rex was going to complain about Etcs., but not today.

@Tony O: now my brains will be churning all day trying to find that f-word.....

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

In 8a why was Cain capitialized? I kept looking for an Adam or Eve answer. Down loaded the puzzle so no rose in the center of my grid. Didnot like the 55a misdirection. Meh. Golfballman

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

In 8a why was Cain capitialized? I kept looking for an Adam or Eve answer. Down loaded the puzzle so no rose in the center of my grid. Didnot like the 55a misdirection. Meh. Golfballman

Jim in Chicago 10:27 AM  

I really wish the Times would get its act together. As pointed out by others the dead tree edition had the blasted rose printed in direct conflict from the instructions to fill it in - thereby giving away the entire theme of the puzzle. Sheesh.

PuzzleGirl 10:36 AM  

I loved it. Exactly what a Thursday should be. Some kind of gimmick, something unexpected, hard but not too hard. Perfect!

I did the same things Rex did, wanting DIAL for KNOB and reading "Pat" as "Part."

I just knew 6D had to be NORTH POLE and couldn't imagine how 27A could start with TNI. Then I thought, "Oh that's funny — there's EAST ENDERS and SOUTH PARK .... Aha!" Finally put it together.

Congratulations, Rebecca! (And well done, as always, Patrick!)

Glitch 10:44 AM  

@Golfballman

Raising Cain IS biblical in that:

"Because Cain was the first murderer in the Bible, having killed his brother Abel, people use the expression "raising Cain" to describe acts of violence, criminal activity, or any other mischievous acts." [Urban Dictionary]

Also can't seem to find an definion for lower case cain.

-----

I find the 55A ploy no worse than cramming more than one letter in a square ;)

.../Glitch

william e emba 10:46 AM  

I was perfectly happy with the 55A=ROSE cluing. In fact, when I had COMPASS and got to (---)R---, I knew it was ROSE, then MELROSE, which I figured out solely because MELROSE PARK is being advertized on busses everywhere I look. My only complaint is that the paper version already had the COMPASS ROSE drawn in. Ever since that second Sunday puzzle years ago that was a diagramless with no black squares, and the hint that it was a rebus with two different fills in each rebus box, plus one clue for the post-solving instructions, well, that puzzle just blew me away forever and I've decided I will always love post-solving instructions if they are the least bit interesting.

As for misprints, well the other week the clue said Abbey Theater when it should have been Abbey Theatre. But they are rare. So rare, in fact, you should assume that, if of the sort that actively interfere with your solving (like Theater did not), they are deliberate. The most extreme way way back was the puzzle that had "6" where the numbering should have been "61", and the clue was missing. Of course the answer was MISNUMBER.

This was a case where not knowing French helped. In trying to guess between AMIE and MIEL for French honey, it was no contest, since I couldn't remember MIEL for the life of me.

I'm surprised there's not any criticism of TIE A or OUTATE.

Crosscan 10:54 AM  

Loved it. I followed the instructions and drew a COMPASS ROSE in the middle. how do I get it off my screen?

Thank you, thank you. I'm here every day.

Susan 10:56 AM  

I had a South Park rerun on as I was working the puzzle last night, so that one was sort of obvious.

@nanpilla: I'm not sure why Toms River was familiar to me, but it was.

However, I really disliked the 55A clue. My sister, mother of five, hates it when her kids complain that something's "not fair." She tells them, "Don't you use the f-word in this house." But I've just got to whine it out today: Referring to clue that's not there is just not faaaaiiiir!

retired_chemist 11:04 AM  

@nanpilla -

I just had to figure out why TOMS RIVER was familiar to me. It was, sadly, chemistry in the news years ago. Thus, from Wikipedia:

"In the mid-1990s, state and federal health and environmental agencies identified an increased incidence of childhood cancers in Toms River from the 1970-1995 period. Multiple investigations by state and federal environmental and health agencies indicated that the likely source of the increased cancer risk was contamination from Toms River Chemical Plant (then operated by Ciba-Geigy), which had been in operation since 1952. The area was designated a United States Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site in 1983 after an underground plume of toxic chemicals was identified. The following year, a discharge pipe was shut down after sinkhole at the corner of Bay Avenue and Vaughn Avenue revealed that it had been leaking. The plant ceased operation in 1996."

It also has the distinction of being the first city I have ever looked up in Wikipedia for which the "notable residents" list did not contain even one name I knew.

Two Ponies 11:15 AM  

I have to give this one points for being original.
I am a pen-and-paper solver with a pretty little "star" in the middle of my puzzle so IF I had known what a compass rose was it might have been a spoiler.
The north and west clues just seemed backwards to me at first and I was thrown by what seemed to be a lack of symmetry opposed to the east and south clues. Then I got compass and it started to make some sense.
I guess this will be memorable and I learned something new so thumbs up.

william e emba 11:19 AM  

I looked at Wikipedia's list of "notable residents", and I am shocked that anyone would say there was a name they did not know. I'm sure most readers here will recognize one or more of the minor TV/sports figures, although I did not. But not having heard of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg or their sons? I'm flabbergasted.

Stan 11:26 AM  

Something I dimly recalled and looked up:

A team from Tom's River, NJ, won the 1998 Little League World Series, held in Japan. There was a lot of press on this at the time.

edith b 11:28 AM  

TOMS River NJ seems to be one of those cities that the Times seems to use from time to time, sort of like DES Plaines IL or SELMA AL that one is supposed to recognize for no apparent reason. I also read the Joe McGinniss book.

I agree with Mike M and Glitch about the nature of crossword puzzles. I had TNIO***** in place and free-associated to the correct answer which, in turn, allowed me to see ELOPHTRON. It is also the reason I had no problem with the concept of "55 Across". That, and because Compass Rose was at the heart of a puzzle last year, I believe on a Sunday.

I enjoyed this puzzle even though the NW put up more of a struggle than I was used to on a Thursday.

Again with SBARRO? As a transplanted New Yorker, I find the idea of ersatz Mall food offensive but it was clued correctly.

Wade 11:34 AM  

I was ready to slam this puzzle right up to the end when the gimmick revealed itself (I was forever trying to make the toy-making center something to do with ELF____.)

Here's a plea to the masses: A few years ago on "Weekend Edition" the contest puzzle had something to do with a compass. I can't remember what the precise question was, but it started out with Shortz noting that a compass's four points are delineated NEWS (and I don't think the word "news" had anything to do with it.) The challenge was something like, "What other common household item [is like a compass in some way I can't remember.]" I didn't catch the next week's episode and never could find it in the NPR archives. If this jogs anybody's memory, please let me know. (You can get to my email through the blueness of my name.)

Oh, and one more thing . . . if you ever want to get thoroughly bummed out, but in a good way, check out Columbo and Gena Rowlands in John Cassavetes's "A Woman Under the Influence." It's dreariness raised to great heights.

Blackhawk 11:45 AM  

Compass rose figured very prominently in the book DaVinci Code, which is why it was familiar to me.

Awesome puzzle -- I always love the innovative rule-breakers. They make you think.

Btw the new Dan Brown book is terrible. Weirdly amateurish, as if it were a juvenile parody of DaVinci code.

Babs 12:16 PM  

This is one of those puzzles that I finished before I really figured out the theme. Very clever. Here in Austin, Texas we don't have Sbarro's. I don't think this is the first time I've come across this clue, so I guess I'll have to remember it.

Babs

Clark 12:48 PM  

I liked this puzzle a lot. Thursday bumpy smooth. I see that the dead tree version has a clue for 55A. The Across Lite version doesn't, and that had me thinking typo, typo? But no matter. Better to have slightly flawed weirdness than perfect same old same old. IMHO.

Hobbyist 12:53 PM  

Russ Columbo bears no relationship to Peter Falk, the TV tec or in that Cassavettes movie. Different man, different era.

jae 12:57 PM  

Fun but a little on the easy side for a Thurs. What made it more interesting for me is that I'd not heard of COMPASS ROSE. After staring at MELROSE for a while I decided to google COMPASS ROSE and there it was. I didn't see any instructions for drawing, am I missing something?

Karen from the Cape 12:59 PM  

I liked the misdirection (heh) of the 55A clue. I was expecting to see COMPASS NEEDLE which wasn't fitting any way. I remembered to check it after I solved the puzzle and had an aha moment. That being said, it should be a rarely used gimmick.

The NORTHPOLE/WESTPOINT was the last bit I filled in, generating another aha moment.

There is also a quilt pattern for COMPASS ROSE which looks, surprisingly, just like a compass rose.

The red/brown ALE was a guess on my part, can someone explain?

I really liked this puzzle. Nice surprises.

SethG 1:00 PM  

M, finally installing software now...

I solved using the applet, and so missed the indication that we were supposed to draw in the center. So the 55A was just meaningless to me. Once I finished I did feel a bit cheated that the grid wasn't symmetrical, but it didn't bother me while I was solving.

Baseball mini-theme with SATCHEL, TOMS River and Pat O'BRIEN.

emba, the Rosenbergs didn't live in Toms River. I have no idea why I'm supposed to recognize the adopted name of the Rosenberg kids, who lived there for a year in the early '50s, but I never have a clue what you're talking about so no surprise there.

Tom Mc 1:05 PM  

Like @glitch, a defense of the 55a clue: imagine the outrage of the poor solvers who encountered the very first rebus puzzle. "That's not fair, that's totally against everything that is sacred in puzzle-dom!" But eventually it got accepted as part of the canon.

I took 55a as a clever new way to push out the envelope of possibilities a bit, and I liked it. Of course, my appreciation of it may be aided by the fact that it actually helped me finish the puzzle: I originally had NATTER for PESTER at 14D and so COMCAST for COMPASS at 18a, but I correctly had MELROSE at 54A, and then I realized that COMCAST ROSE didn't make any sense and all was well.

retired_chemist 1:24 PM  

@ Wm E EMBA - what list did you see? The Rosenbergs are of course recognizable but not on the Wikipedia list of notables for Toms River.

Shamik 1:30 PM  

While I wouldn't want a run of partial answers being considered whole clues (a la 55-across), having this one was quirky and ok with me. Just don't make a habit of it!

This one ended up being hard for me at 15:02. Yeesh. Wasn't until TNIOPTSEW that I got the compass theme. But interesting clues and nice to see PARER instead of some kind of IBOOK for 30-A.

Good puzzle.

PhillySolver 2:17 PM  

I am not sure if it is a typo, a play on words or an opinion, but Rex's write up says "Bland square in middle of grid is where you draw your COMPASS ROSE" I am not sure what make the square bland but it is blank. I likes the puzzle even though it violates the normal Thursday puzzle which is loaded with Misdirection as this one is literal in ts direction.

Wade, good luck on getting an answer.It may start a trend in puzzle therapy.

Greene 2:18 PM  

AWESOME PUZZLE today, but an odd solving experience for me, especially the NW. I just threw NORTH POLE in and thought I was clever. Of course, nothing else would work so I took it out. Then I threw down WEST POINT...same problem. So naturally I thought there must be a rebus...couldn't find one. Went ahead and filled in the east part of the puzzle without a problem, then the SW. It was then I saw the COMPASS ROSE, had my AHA moment, and happily filled in 6D and 27A. I think this was a spot-on Thursday puzzle, just the right degree of trickery and difficulty. What a terrific week of puzzles this has been.

OK...enough praise. Now, here's a very regal Katharine Hepburn sparring with Peter O'Toole while playing Eleanor of Aquataine in The Lion in Winter; quite possibly their finest film roles ever (and Oscar win number 3 for Kate).

Too bad the puzzle didn't 'ave the 'iggins, to go with 'enry. Here's definitive 'enry 'iggins Leslie Howard (sorry Rex Harrison) opposite the lovely Wendy Hiller as Eliza in the original film adaption of Pygmalian. Alas, Shaw declined to write this adaption himself, but did contribute some new scenes and dialog.

Kumar 2:24 PM  

Not pecs or boobs, Rex, in your comment on "Tat". Women have pecs and boobs, men only have pecs.

Technically, you may be right. Boobs lie on top of pecs, so a tat would be on a pec (man) or a boob (woman).

Had West Point and North Pole early on, but of course, none of the across/down fit, until after a long struggle to get to the correct orientation.

sanfranman59 2:24 PM  

@Karen ... ales are often referred to by color, among which are red and brown. I think of Bass Ale as a red ale, but it's really a pale ale (I don't know if there's technically a difference). A popular brown ale is Newcastle.

submariner_ss 2:37 PM  

I would have been shamed in front of my compatriots if I didn't know compass rose.

Like most I found the disoriented answers confusing. Got them anyway by brute force. Until I read the blog had no idea that there was a theme,

Suggest you consider Toms River to be the equivalent of Natick. I had no trouble with either place, but I can understand most people drawing a blank on Natick. However, when it comes to obscurity in any category, litotes takes the cake for me.

Ulrich 2:57 PM  

I'm late, in bed with a bad cold, laptop on lap: Solved the hard copy printed from AcrossLite, sans rose and instructions, and really, really liked it, including, and especially, the 55A clue.

I have been preaching flexibility of mind now for weeks to those who want to get the most out of a NYT puzzle, and this clue is a very good illustration: The head-scratching it produces initially is worth it b/c the aha-experience you have when you get it is thrilling (to the degree that anything in an xword puzzle can be thrilling...)--it wouldn't be if the issue had been obvious from the beginning. That's what I, too, am looking for in a Thu puzzle

Anonymous 3:01 PM  

@Hobbyist, no shit?

Paul 3:07 PM  

hated it. Much of the fill was good, even clever at times, but the stupid 55 across non-clue, the asymmetry and the directional theme answers just made me cranky. meh

dk 3:25 PM  

@anon aka TonyO: Finally in the fullness of time I...

@ulrich, get well, Watching old Perry Mason episodes works for me. You can also see Highway Patrol on youtube... another cure all... and I am a doctor after all.

@kumar, on Sienfeld we learned men's are moobs and fill a mansiere.

One more day of vacation woo woo!

Watched Donnie Darko yesterday and if you want to know what it is like working with a paranoid schizophrenic and wish to gain some understand of how they may think at times. Big clue that the movie is a psychotics fantasy is early on sister tells us that Donnie is no longer taking his meds.

That's all folks!

Ale Man 3:32 PM  

Bass is a Pale Ale. Ale Styles vary and colors are just part of it.

sanfranman59 3:59 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Thu 19:29, 18:54, 1.03, 64%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 9:39, 9:14, 1.05, 70%, Medium-Challenging

Kramer 4:04 PM  

@DK - It's the Bro, not the mansiere

Ulrich 4:17 PM  

@dk: Thanks--I may try this later. Right now, I'm enjoying Euro League soccer--it's a full day of playing--saw already Bremen beat Bilbao and now we're in the second half of Hamburg vs Tel Aviv...

fergus 4:38 PM  

Tough, tough, tough. Even though I filled it all in correctly, I was still mystified by 6D and 27A, until the penny dropped. Way fun puzzle that was worth the $2.19 I had to spend to get it.

fergus 4:50 PM  

MIEL for French honey was obvious until it was wrong. Same with MALAISE instead of the Melancholy SADNESS. I really like it when a puzzle confuses me this way. Plus, as a guilty "Dallas" enthusiast and a follow on "Melrose Place" watcher, I felt a decade or two younger when I was entrained in the solution.

Ruth 4:54 PM  

@Blackhawk: don't look now, but DaVinci Code was a terrible book too. Writing was very potboiler-ish. Somehow the subject matter was compelling enough to turn it into a hit. (and many people don't care about bad writing) He got lucky once (maybe twice) but I'm not surprised if he can't do it forever. Why should he even try? He's got to have enough money by now!!!

David from CA 5:07 PM  

"Also can't seem to find an definion for lower case cain."
@Glitch

I too was thrown by the capitalized Cain, and my Webster's does have "raise cain" uncapitalized, under the "raise" entry. However a qhick googling seems to indicate both are used, so I guess it was a valid clue.

Afraid I was among the ones stumped by the 6D/27A theme crossing. I had no idea there was a theme since I thought the 55-A reference was just a wonderful new twist on clueing. Would have been nice if there had been something to clue off the non-dead-tree version doers that a theme was present :( .

J Mellon 6:25 PM  

this puzzle is too busy, confusing. And then, the print edition goofed by printing the drawing!! Not a pleasant exercise, sorry.

fergus 6:26 PM  

I am so messed-up with my recollection of Greek tragedy that MEDEA came up before HELEN. Some ancient schoolmaster should point a finger at me.

Incidentally, with my more advanced French students this week, the nuances between the future and conditional tenses, and those between the past tense and imperfect, are causing some problems with my logical mind. (Especially the latter pair -- Susan and Foodie ??? , J'allais par example, means I was going, I went or I used to go?)

Martin 6:31 PM  

"Raise Cain" is actually a euphemism, for "raise hell." The sense is that you are making such a disturbance of a generally improper sort that the netherworld comes up to join the fun. Since proper folk wouldn't say "hell" they substitute a biblical character whom, as the first murderer, we can assume is among that group crashing the party.

fergus 7:08 PM  

.. the wisdom of Solomon is often found through Martin.

Sfingi 7:40 PM  

Russ Columbo 1908-34, murdered. Possibly Sicilian. The original crooner, "The Prisoner of Love." A few things are still available, but he didn't sing in Italian.

Though I got the backward stuff, I had to Google 8 factual items! Mostly geography and TV. Did Wed in short order, no Google. Huge difference yet for me between Wed. and Thurs. Ugh. Did get Tom's River, probably from Rev. War. I'll continue hanging out with you smarties 'til I catch on!

@Ruth - I find it particularly hard to deal with people who actually fall for conspiracy theories, and Mr. Brown adds to the stupidity with his novels.

Glitch 8:12 PM  

Several have commented that the “asymmetry” of today’s puzzle was bothersome.

Since the grid and the four theme answers are all symmetrical (x & y, both diagonals), I’m assuming the problem is in COMPASS ROSE placement.

Since this was a “bonus”, like yesterday’s circles, was this enough to give a pretty good puzzle (IMO) a failing mark?

Just wondering if I missed something.

…/Glitch

Two Ponies 8:45 PM  

@ Glitch, The asymmetry for me was discovering North Pole and West Point first (thinking they were merely spelled backwards) so when the other theme answers appeared (being spelled forwardly) it seemed very lopsided until I saw the big picture.

alvin 8:55 PM  

I think the 18 across combined with 55 across is totally stupid. I got it all but what does the MEL in MELROSE mean??? Does that just make a "fit"? Get real , solvers, it makes no sense

SethG 8:56 PM  

I was specifically talking about the grid. A standard compass (note: the rose too, but remember I missed that while solving) is symmetric about at least the horizontal and vertical axes. In other words, if you were to rotate a compass one-quarter turn, the overall shape would be the same.

That's not true of the grid. Given that the theme was compass related, a grid like that found here or here would have seemed much cleaner to me.

Susan 9:44 PM  

@fergus, I'm teaching passé composé and imparfait this week. Do you want my power point? it has relatively simple explanations and exercises. My email is manerville@yahoo.com Email me and I'll send it to you if you want.

about.com also has some very good exercises and explanations.

sanfranman59 9:58 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:18, 6:58, 0.90, 28%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:43, 8:26, 1.03, 64%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 9:14, 12:00, 0.77, 9%, Easy
Thu 19:44, 18:55, 1.04, 69%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:42, 0.95, 38%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:33, 4:22, 1.04, 68%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 4:54, 5:53, 0.83, 14%, Easy
Thu 8:52, 9:11, 0.97, 44%, Medium

The late solvers really improved the numbers for the top 100 today.

ArtLvr 10:44 PM  

@ Greene -- I'm so glad you noted ELEANOR of Aquitaine, played by the incomparable Hepburn in "The Lion in Winter"! I always tune in when it's re-aired on TV... Just got back from seeing the film "Julie and Julia" (Child) and hope Streep gets an award for that role. Wonderfully realized...

∑;)

XMAN 12:03 AM  

Alvin! Don't you remember MEL? He was the guy who couldn't play stickball worth shit. He married Rose when they graduated high school in 1962. With their wedding presents, they opened the MELROSE diner, which was quite a success.

fergus 12:07 AM  

Merci bien, Susan. The fascinating thing about knowing another language is realizing how arbitrary are our designations and supposed meanings. Even though grammar has its logical place, sometimes words and their connections just exist without any rhyme or reason.

XMAN 12:08 AM  

ArtLvr: Hear! Hear! By the end of the film the image of the iconic Julia had evaporated, and in its place was the visage of Streep's Julia. This was some kind of acting!

dk 12:11 AM  

@Kramer, you have to be right.

@ulrich, for you one mans meat becomes one mans medicine (apologies to E.B. White) get well.

Lurker0 3:37 AM  

I am baffled by the numerous complaints about the lack of symmetry in this grid. It is in fact symmetric, of the kind called point symmetry. "It looks the same Upside Down! (... or from any two opposite directions*)"

Implicit apologies to the inventive constructors are in order.

Grrr! GO BEARS -- better than last week (it couldnm't possibly be worse :-()!!!

Larry, the Lurking Bear

Waxy in Montreal 5:15 PM  

As a kid, TOMS RIVER for this Canuck was one of my fav destinations for it was there we exited from the Garden State Parkway on the way to summer vacations on the coast at Seaside Park, NJ. Also, in the other direction lay Lakehurst Naval air Station, infamous as the location of the Hindenburg disaster of 1937 (Oh, the Humanity).

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