SATURDAY, Dec. 5 2009 — Squawk on street airer / Vaya con dios hitmaker 1953 / Model featured in Little Miss Sunshine / It drops to 0 after sundown

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Constructor: Brad Wilber

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: PEWIT (28A: Plover named for its call) — The Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), also known as the Peewit, Green Plover or (in the British Isles) just Lapwing, is a bird in the plover family. It is common through temperate Eurasia. It is highly migratory over most of its extensive range, wintering further south as far as north Africa, northern India and China. It migrates mainly by day, often in large flocks. Lowland breeders in westernmost areas of Europe are resident. It occasionally is a vagrant to North America, especially after storms, as in the Canadian sightings after storms in December 1927 and in January 1966. // It is a wader which breeds on cultivated land and other short vegetation habitats. 3–4 eggs are laid in a ground scrape. The nest and young are defended noisily and aggressively against all intruders, up to and including horses and cattle. (wikipedia)

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Stacks shmacks. You can take your stacks of 15 and your super-low word-count puzzles and other stunt grids. I'll take a Saturday puzzle like this every time. Reasonably challenging, with original, provocative answers, and a whistle-clean grid. Just lovely. Brad Wilber's puzzles are often beasts (WILBERBEESTS!), so I was braced for the worst, but actually had very few problems with this one. As is typical for late-week themeless puzzles, my biggest problem was just getting started, and even that didn't take too long. Never watch CNBC, but "Squawk on the Street" sounds exactly like the kind of show I imagine they'd air, so it went in first as an educated guess (5D: "Squawk on the Street"). Couldn't do anything off that second "C" and so tentative tried A TAD at 24A: Not much and then confirmed it off of DSL (25D: Upgrade from dial-up). Then I took one look at the adjacent 30A: 2000 Supreme Court case hinging on the 14th Amendment, dropped in the only possible answer, BUSH V. GORE, and the whole puzzle opened right up from there. Started with 32D: Model featured in "Little Miss Sunshine" (VW bus) and drove clear across the grid with only a few awkward pit stops. Ended up in CA (last letter = "E" in DEANS) where I got to witness a performance by a POP DUO (62A: The Carpenters, e.g.). It was a fun trip.

Roughest thing in the grid, by far, was PEWIT (28A: Plover named for its call), which appears to be at least a somewhat variant spelling. No matter. All the crosses were very gettable, very fair. That NW went down fast after BUSH V. GORE. "LET IT BE" (7D: 1970 hit documentary) and LES PAUL (8D: "Vaya Con Dios" hitmaker, 1953) went shooting straight up, which made the YANKEE part of EX-YANKEE easy to see (I went with NY YANKEE at first ...) (15A: One who used to get Bronx cheers?). Having the -CALL in place made ROBO-CALL a snap (1A: Modern campaign element), and I was done up there. NE was done so fast I don't even remember it, and the SW, where I finished, was pretty much the same. Never even saw the clues for EYRE (52A: "Notes on a Scandal" director Richard) or DEANS (56A: They work to maintain their faculties). A faculty member at my University was murdered on campus yesterday (stabbed six times by a grad student), so this clue, this morning, has unfortunate coincidental associations.



Hardest part of the puzzle for me was the SE. I dropped in AGIO (!?!?!) at 40D: Environment for multiplication, of sorts. I figured it was some economic thing I didn't understand. Once I fixed that (changed it to the correct AGAR), I had ROIL for ROLL (55A: Undulate), then tore that out when I figured 50D: Hold must be ASSERT (nope, it's ALLEGE). Tried GO DEAF where GO GRAY belonged (49D: Start developing achromotrichia). Thankfully, for whatever reason, I knew GLI (61A: Los : Spanish :: _____ : Italian), so once I locked that in, GO GRAY, ALLEGE, and even SLIDES (51D: Begins to fail) dropped right down. Earlier, I had had trouble in the lower middle, specifically with the back end of SECRETIVE (46A: Not open) and the front end of (the beautifully clued) UV INDEX (44D: It drops to 0 after sundown). The "V" was the key. To both answers. So SE took as long as NE and SW combined, probably, and brought the puzzle back to near-typical Saturday level (just over 10 for me).

Bullets:

  • 26A: Port annexed by Britain in 1839 (Aden) — had a little of my typical ADEN / OMAN confusion, but went in the right direction.
  • 36A: Maserati headquarters city (Modena) — I know about this place from Tone-Loc



  • 66A: 6 or 7, but not 60 or 70 (early age) — unless you're talking about when you first walked. Or talked. Then 6 or 7 — not EARLY.
  • 42A: Corporate retreat closer, perhaps (group hug) — so, so good. A fresh, very much in-the-language answer. The concept itself is repellent (to me), but as an answer: sweet.
  • 68A: Producer of a piercing look (X-ray Eyes) — I guess since these EYES are a (single) pair of specs, the singular "Producer" is OK. Kind of cruel.
  • 12D: It may be used to avoid paparazzi (side door) — had BACK DOOR at first, but that was quickly remedied (letters in BACK quickly revealed as frauds).
  • 23D: Where Aida sings "O patria mia" (Nile) — literally standing in the river? Weird.
  • 34D: TV character who says "I didn't think it was physically possible, but this both sucks and blows" (Bart) — a gimme for me, not surprisingly. Love it.
  • 64D: Kind of vodka (rye) — why did I think RYE was a word for "Whisk(e)y?" Oh, because it is. Well alright ...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

PS Caleb Madison's new "Bard Bulletin" puzzle is really imaginative, timely, and fantastic. Do it online here, or get it in .puz (AcrossLite) format here.

83 comments:

Parshutr 9:07 AM  

I had to get to UKE for the gimme starter, but the rest was amusing/ reminiscent (LESPAUL) and thoroughly enjoyable. Only major sticking point was TIPMONEY for LIBELLAW, but crosses got me off that.

Meg 9:32 AM  

Well, not my favorite puzzle of the week. I had MILANO for way too long. Apparently you can stand AKIMBO, but I always thought it described your arms. How can "To be or not to be" be ONE option? Could someone explain how one sweeps with an OAR? I must be missing something.

Really wanted MUD for OIL.

I just died in the SE, figuring maybe "achromotrichia" was that Michael Jackson thing. New to me: OKEYDOKE is the main entry. OKEYDOKEY is a variant.

So, Rex's provocative and original was my blech. I'm okeydoke with that.

Parshutr 9:40 AM  

@meg...in competitive rowing, an oar is sometimes referred to as a sweep. And I share your uneasiness with AKIMBO, but it fit and couldn't have been otherwise.

HudsonHawk 9:44 AM  

I barely slowed down in filling the grid, which is highly unusual for my Saturday experience, so expected the Easy rating. But agree with Rex on the freshness.

On to Patrick Berry's Sunday puzzle...

Leslie 10:03 AM  

What, no one's going to whine about the clue "los" not starting with a hyphen so we'll know it's a suffix? I guess all's fair in love and Saturday crosswords.

From the "g" in AGAR, I wanted 42A to be something ending in "song." I like GROUP HUG much, much better!

Echoing Rex's love for UV INDEX.

I didn't know an OAR was actually referred to as a "sweep," but I figured it's got three letters and it sweeps through the water, so that worked out okay. Or OKEY DOKE.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:10 AM  

Amen and OKEYDOKE, good puzzle, except that I had OKEYDOKY at first. Also had three letters wrong, which I didn't know about until I came to the blog: Had VWBUG instead of VWBUS (never actually pictured the clips I had seen of the movie), couldn't imagine what GAGAS were, but, hey, it is Saturday; and had RESTOW at 1 D, didn't sound right, but I had mistakenly committed to ODON noodles where it should have been UDON, and WEWIT didn't sound so bad for a bird call!

And after I dissed Verizon DSL yesterday, as one reason I stick to getting the puzzle in the physical NY Times, this morning my newspaper only came after 9 AM, i.e., two or three hours late!

Ben 10:15 AM  

@Rex, yesterday you mentioned you use Black Ink to solve puzzles online. For those of us who use Across Lite, what are the pros/cons of these two apparently competing apps? Should we consider switching?

Decent Saturday test. I should have done it bright and chipper this morning instead of falling asleep late Friday night with my brain in second gear, but it was a fun solve.

As is so often the case on Saturdays, I had a similar experience to Rex's. Also figured the 4-letter "Squawk on the Street" network had to be CNBC. Got ROBOCALL off the C, then long-ago Cub Scout training gave me AKELA. With the NK in place the Bronx answer was obviously Yankee-related, but I didn't like the two-letter prefix at first.

Speaking of CNBC, technically, I don't like "airer" in reference to a cable network. Broadcast networks literally air their shows by sending signals through the air, whereas cable networks send signals along cable. Thus the term "cablecast" rather than "broadcast." Yes, there is now satellite television sending cable network signals through the air where there was once either broadcast or cable, but I'm old school. To me, NBC airs and CNBC doesn't.

GLI is as UGLI as GHI.

Knew AIDA was Egyptian, so cast my preferred AGRA aside and went with NILE. Her boyfriend RADAMES deserves more puzzle props. Kind of like SASHA and MALIA, there's an imbalance. AIDA will always win that battle because she's 4 letters long and begins/ends with a vowel, so joins OBI, OREO, ARIA, AGUE, ETUI, ESNE, ASTRA, ADAMSALE, etc. in the pantheon of constructor helpers.

For achromotrichia, I thought of color blindness and briefly tried SEERED. Also because I am growing cynical and starting to think about common letters in potential answers. E.g., I also had ____DOOR for the anti-paparazzi entrance. @Rex mentioned BACKDOOR. I fleetingly thought of that but I am jaded enough that my next thought was, "It's probably SIDE not BACK, easier to make a grid with that."

This is how I sometimes infer words like ASSESSED and REITERATE, esp. on the E or S edge of a grid. E is by far the most common vowel at the end of a word. S is usually hanging around there too and clues will confirm it, except in rare cases like today's confounded singular X-Ray Eyes. E.g., look at the E and S edges of today's grid: RETEST, XRAYEYES, ENE, NERO. See what I mean? Maybe that's why east and south are known as E and S.

@Leslie @Rex, also loved UVINDEX. For the corporate retreat ender, I had G_______ and wanted GIFTBAGS.

@Parshtur, wasn't "Gimme Starter" a Stones song? My high school band covered it. We were called Plover Named For Its Call and our best song was "Pewit's Big Adventure."

Rex Parker 10:19 AM  

"Los" and "GLI" are not suffixes.

And since "GLI" is in fact a word (albeit in Italian), it beats "GHI" pretty badly, in my book.

rp

Leslie 10:23 AM  

@Parshtur, wasn't "Gimme Starter" a Stones song? My high school band covered it. We were called Plover Named For Its Call and our best song was "Pewit's Big Adventure."

. . . groan . . . ;-)

Rex Parker 10:25 AM  

@Ben, Black Ink has some improvement it needs to make before I'd recommend that people pony up the (little bit of) money for it. I like the look of the interface much better than that of AcrossLite (AL). Best feature is the Web Puzzle Chooser, where you can get most recent puzzles available on the Web from just a simple menu click. I'm told there are some new features in the works — when they fix a few of the things I've complained about, I might recommend it. For now, I'd say it would be mostly a lateral move for people (w/ big exception being the awesome Puzzle Chooser feature).

rp

Leslie 10:26 AM  

They're not suffixes?? Whoa, then I got the right answer for the wrong reasons. I thought they were both just plural endings.

BTW, Rex, I'm so sorry about the tragedy at your school yesterday. What a sad and awful thing for his family. (And for the family of the grad student, too.)

Three and out.

ArtLvr 10:36 AM  

A bit tricky in the SW for me until I gave up AT EASE for AKIMBO and also MILANO for MODENA at the top of that stack. POP DUO recalled URBAN POP of the other day, guessable in the end. Glad Rex like BART, mutter mutter.

The NW had a smaller problem for me too, though CNBC was my first gimme: I tune in most of the day, favorite segment is "Fast Money". I was sure the spelling of PEWIT needed two Es and therefore must be something else. UDON didn't look right at that point, the NILE clue was a bit nutty, and I don't keep cigarettes in a TIN!

I found the whole middle and east sides of the puzzle much much smoother than the west, no trouble with GLI or AGAR. Liked LES PAUL, STALAG, BUSH V GORE, LIBEL LAW, GROUP HUG and GO GRAY, even UV INDEX. Compare with OKEY DOKE and BYE NOW -- those are not so inspired.

Condolences, Rex, on the killing of the Prof Emeritus at your school -- what a downer. After the young woman scientist in the Yale lab slain by a zombie janitor, supposedly through "roid rage", one despairs.

∑;)

Martin 10:39 AM  

Meg,

"To be" or "not to be" are two options. If you parse the clue like any other with an "or" in it, it makes sense.

joho 10:57 AM  

Well, I passed Thursday and Friday but failed Saturday. Got most of it but not all. The Wilberbeest has struck me down.

Lots to like this in this puzzle regarding clues and answers. Just not on my wavelength.

I demand a RETEST!

Alex 11:01 AM  

Slow and steady without being a slog. Biggest mistake was putting in WAR as "Acceptable shooting" instead of PAR.

Actually had me starting to wonder if the Carpenters were Italian (WOP DUO) before it kicked in (0.3 seconds later) that slurs probably wouldn't make it into the puzzle.

Also had BACK DOOR and confirmed the back with HUBBUB where TUSSLE was supposed to go. Fortunately ROADIE and OPTION were clear enough that I quickly abandoned it.

Ben 11:03 AM  

@Rex, thanks for the advice.

@Parshutr, sorry for calling you Parshtur. In my mind you were neighboring the Pashtun province rather than a Par Shooter (nice work on that, BTW).

@Meg @Parshutr, I didn't google AKIMBO but to me it means "with hands on hips." So it is possible to stand akimbo. What rankles me (along with cable "airers" and people who rant at length in the comment section of other people's blogs) is the use of the term "legs akimbo" for legs splayed. Maybe that's a secondary meaning of the word but I would rather get on my high-horse-cum-soapbox than look it up.

And in discussing the crossword truism that E and S are common letters on the E and S edges, I failed to mention today's SLIDES and overlooked the best example, yesterday's SLEETIER. You will only see that word in a crossword puzzle, and then almost certainly on a back edge of the grid.

The Corgi of Mystery 11:11 AM  

Really liked the achromotrichia clue (i.e. a word i've never seen, but which whose meaning can be worked out). My one huge snag was putting in BACK DOOR for SIDE DOOR and holding on to it, which turned this from a fast Saturday into an average one.

V cool puzzle though.

OldCarFudd 11:22 AM  

I found this hard! I had to leave and come back three times before I could do anything but the NE corner, which was easy. Hand up for VWBUG; I'd forgotten about the bus. (Most of the Western world has forgotten the VW bus; Chrysler always gets the credit for inventing the minivan, but the Microbus beat it by at least 20 years.) I also got hung up for a while looking for something VS. Gore, having forgotten that just the v is often used in referring to a court case. Good, tough, fair Saturday workout.

Ben 11:24 AM  

@ArtLvr @Rex, for the person who said "sucks and blows," I had B___ and my first thought was Chandler BING from "Friends." If he didn't actually crack that same joke (which I seem to recall), it sounds like something he'd say.

Norm 11:37 AM  

@Ben. Good one. That would be so Chandler.

Stan 11:51 AM  

UVINDEX and XRAYEYES came to me simultaneously -- fun moment. GROUPHUG, VWBUS and BUSHVGORE clicked nicely too.

Confess that I couldn't untangle PEWIT/NILE/MODENA without wife's help.

retired_chemist 11:59 AM  

I am proud I got UDON and GLI. I should only have done so well on the non-foreign clues. My worst performance of the year by far. Gave up halfway through and googled unabashedly. Probably a fine puzzle but I wouldn't know.

On to Sunday.

Two Ponies 12:16 PM  

High side of medium for me because of the NE but it finally came together.
Did not like okey doke. I think they should be spelled alike as in itsy bitsy.
Sherbets doesn't seem right. I prefer sorbets.
Oil took some crosses to get. Mud would have been fun. I briefly wondered if it was something a Sumo wore.
I hate remembering Bush v Gore and wonder where our country might be right now if Dubya's brother in FL hadn't helped him steal the election.
I guess I'm a little crabby today.

archaeoprof 12:19 PM  

@Rex: sorry to hear about the incident on your campus.

Isn't GLI the definite article, nominative masculine plural?

Wade 12:20 PM  

I saw "Little Miss Sunshine." I remember it as being forgettable. I also remembered a Volvo that wasn't actually in the movie apparently.

This was a hard one for me. I finished in not quite 45 minutes and still had two wrong squares: BILGE for TINGE. "Soupcon"? I'll never remember what that word means and never learn how to pronounce it. Neither PEWIT nor MODENA were helpful crosses to me on that one.

I liked this puzzle a lot. There were several compound words in which I got the last part and found it little help in getting the first part. For SIDE DOOR I wanted "rear" or "back." For LIBEL LAW I wanted "motel log" and then "motel law." Okay, that's two. Two can feel like several.

GROUP HUG is the ickiest thing I've seen in a non-BEQ puzzle. Great clue and great answer. Just icky.

Parshutr 12:31 PM  

@Ben...I don't mind getting on my high horse...Wiki sez "Akimbo is a human body position in which the hands are on the hips and the elbows are bowed outward, or bent/bowed in a more general sense"

Radames 12:47 PM  

"O patria mia"

O patria mia, non ti vedrò mai più.

O my country, I will see you never more.

O patria mia, mai più ti rivedrò!

O my country, never more will I see you!

hazel 12:47 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
hazel 12:52 PM  

3 days in a row constitutes a trend. I am still a smarty pants! probably first time ever I rocked a TH-FR-SA.

Liked this puzzle a lot. Just 3 names (4 if you count BART) and only one of whom was an obscurity to me (Sorry, Richard EYRE - but I did LOVE your movie - Dame Judy was one creepy character).

@ Clark - another high five I hope?

lit.doc 1:17 PM  

I sucked and blew too badly on this one to add much to the earlier posts except to whine about "Where Aida sings..." not having room for ACT III ("Aha! A rebus!" he thought for about 10 seconds). Never seen a river scene in a performance, but that's a self-inflicted wound, not clue weakness.

@ all, esp. RP, re yesterday's thread on How We Solve. I use the mouse in Across Lite (on left, though right handed, so it's close to the keys), can touch type fast, and have no problem moving L hand quickly back and forth. But needing that double-R click to move between A and D is vexing--anyone know any way to set the interface to change direction on a double-L click?

Lurker0 1:34 PM  

Considering what the underlying physical reference is, I'm surprised that "sucks and blows" passed the breakfast test. With BART and Homer presented as role models, The Simpsons may well be the most subversive "family" program on broadcast TV.

GO BEARS -- chomp on the U-Dub Dogs (for the Pac-10 non-cognoscenti, the University of Washington Huskies)!!!

Larry, the lurking Bear, from my lair

chefbea 1:36 PM  

Fairly difficut but googling helped.Then went food shopping (bought some red tubers) came back to the puzzle and was able to finish.

My favorite clue by far "film about a furnace"!!!

Anonymous 1:39 PM  

Hey are you a professional journalist? This article is very well written, as compared to most other blogs i saw today….
anyhow thanks for the good read!

PlantieBea 1:52 PM  

Nice Saturday puzzle. I got caught up in the NW bird territory--ended with errors of BYE POP, cigarette TIP, and PEPIT plover. I'm with Wade; GROUP HUG after a corporate retreat? Ick. Had SIB DUO for a while, as well as NY YANKEE before EX. Love the achromotrichia clue.

We spent the morning picking assorted citrus (including some hefty pomelos) and pecans. Back to the shelling.

Clark 1:53 PM  

@hazel -- I had to work at Fri and Sat, but I got them without googling, so I suppose I am just keeping up enough to support you in your rocking on. High five!

fergus 2:30 PM  

I was thinking that maybe a Sumo wrestler wears an OBI? Or that the UDON might be SOBA? Anyway while doing my REPOSE I took an extra long time to finish up the NW ... thinking of all sorts of nicknames for Piniella, and other Cubbies -- and having spent so much time around foodies, thought of SORBETS but not SHERBETS. Am I that hoodwinked by sophistication?

Further compliments to the chef.

hazel 2:40 PM  

@Clark - I DEFINE rocking it as finishing it in one sitting without googling! Its the Stuart Smalley in me, I guess.

Regardless, high five and a fist bump!

darkman 2:47 PM  

I hang my head in sorrow and, yes, shame. Auntie Google's help was, alas, in vain. After valiant, if dubious, battle, I gave up and went to the locker room. Puzzle ∞, darkman 0.

Ben 2:49 PM  

@Lit.Doc, I feel like I have just earned a lit.doc in Across Lite Movement Studies. Trying to answer your question, I went thru the help section and it turns out there are a million and one ways to move around the grid that I never knew about.

First, since you said you like to use the mouse, you can set a right-click to change direction (i.e. toggle between Across and Down). This is nicely customizable: you can make a right click anywhere on the grid (i) change direction, (ii) change direction and bring the cursor to where you clicked, or (iii) call up a popup menu with a number of different choices. Under Preferences go to "Solve preferences" and play with the options under "Right Mouse button use on grid." (I always thought George Will was the Right Mouse.) You shouldn't need the double-right click you referred to if you set this to your preferred option.

(Note, it used to take me two arrow clicks to change direction but now I can't seem to set my Across Lite to do that. I may have upgraded to a newer version where they got rid of it. There is a radio button in "Solve options" called "Pause on switch with arrow keys" that doesn't seem to do anything; maybe it was an actual option in a previous version but no longer and the button is now vestigial?)

Then there are the more esoteric moving-around options that you might try:

1. Just learned that you can jump to any answer by typing its number (nothing visible will occur on your screen) and an arrow button. Type 2 and Up Arrow and boom, you're at 2 Down.

2. You can Tab around the grid one clue at a time or Shift-Tab backward (this I knew).

3. You can Shift-Arrow your way around the board, which allows movement to previous, next, or adjacent answers without changing from your current state of Across- or Down-ness.

4. Home takes you to the top of the current word. Shift-Home to first white cell in top left corner. End to last letter of current word. Shift-End to lower-right of puzzle.

5. Ctrl-Arrow changes direction without moving cursor.

Hope that helps.

p.s. If Andrea Akimbo Michaels were in Chicago today she'd be wearing a Rex Parka. It's freezing!

Elaine 2:51 PM  

I was doing the puzzle at 4 a.m., had to comment on Amy Reynaldo's blog as I was leaving the house before Rex posted. Some nerve, sleeping in!!

Hands UP, UP, UP objecting (as I did on Diary of a Crossword Fiend) to the cluing of AKIMBO. I got it from the K, but it is an ARM POSITION, not how one stands. You may stand with arms akimbo, but you do NOT stand akimbo. Period.

For some truly weird reason, I got PEWIT at once. I promised I know nothing about central Asian birds! I can't figure where it came from. But along with UDON, it gave me a leg up, because the first run through the puzzle, I had only UDON, LIRA and ASTRA besides the plover (and OER in the margin, since I never seem to know any of the songs.) Tried Crosby and Perry Como for "Vaya con Dios," but I guess they were just covering Les Paul and Mary Ford's version.

I gave up and Googled for MODENA and CNBC, since I had to head out the door. Have to take a FAIL...

Sympathies to everyone at SUNY. Tragic.

joho 2:52 PM  

@Wade ... I thought "Little Miss Sunshine" was hilarious. Black humor really, and the VW bus is almost a character in the film ... so I'm wondering it you might have confused this with some other movie that actually had a Volvo in it?

Totally agree with you about GROUP HUG.

Anonymous 2:55 PM  

Could someone explain 9D? Bagels = Tori? I must be missing something.

chefbea 3:01 PM  

Didn't we just have the tori discussion this week?? Tori =donut...=a round shape

Anonymous 3:03 PM  

Thanks. New to this.

Anonymous 3:26 PM  

Torus = bagel shape. Tori = plural.

andrea gli michaels 4:07 PM  

@joho
I agree the VWBUS was it's own character which still didn't stop me from putting in VWBUG...as GAGAS did seem to parallel yesterday's HAHAS, but for once I caught my mistake.
(insert LAdy Gaga video here)

ANd I think I might have told you about being on a plane showing "Little Miss SUnshine" and I had seen it, so I didn't spring for the headphones...
They were charging like $5 so almost no one bought them...
So it was a bizarre experience sitting in the dark and listening to isolated bursts of laughter from seat 23A and 36B and 53F.

(No one walked out tho) ;)

(Old Leno joke about being in a movie that was so bad it was only shown on planes and folks were walking out at 30,000 feet)

MODENA made me think of Pavarotti which is the only connection I have to MODENA, so loved the "Funky Cold Medina" video...haven't thought about Tone-Loc since about 1987 and I REFUSE to think that's been over 20 years!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mini italiano theme with MODENA, GLI, SBARRO, LIRA and ASTRA (sort of, no?)

@Wade
The whole BACK vs SIDE door thing is interesting. bec it's true, first impression is that it would be BACK bec that is more Scrabbly and more fun as a solver and truer to the answer...but then the constructor "side"(literally) kicks in and you realize that SIDE would be more LIKELY letters...unless it was a Karen Tracy puzzle. Then I would have even guessed EXIT door!

I count POPDUO as a bleedover from URBANPOP. And it feels like first time this week there were no Beatles' clues. (Unless you count the VWBEETLE)
OH WAIT!!!! LETITBE in the same position we found SIR Paul in THurs with his long and winding road! Plus with lesPAUL next door. So he's definitely not dead.

AKELA has also been showing up a lot lately. (IS that a Boy Scout reference? Is it like a webelo?) I started with thinking that maybe the Chicago Cubs had a coach named AVILA and the Bronx thing was a specific player and was going to cry foul for two sports crossings, but then i got it and all is right in the world.

@ben
alright, now you are nicknaming me AND dressing me? And having the most rambling posts on the blog?
Harrumph!
Next thing you know, you'll be name-dropping followed by eighteen exclamation points!!!!!!!

jae 4:35 PM  

Found this one smooth going until I hit SE. I had XRAYEXAM for far too long and was iffy about ROLL, EARLYAGE and SLIDES. EARLYAGE just seemed odd. Took me longer to figure it out than it took for the rest of the puzzle. Fun puzzle!

pednsg 4:36 PM  

Got going quickly, but then slowed down big time, and finally had to Bing (actually, I've never used Bing, but I wanted to type Bing) Maserati HQ - I had FUSS and MULL at various times for 36D, and MUSE wasn't even in the running!

Had KYLE and STAN before figuring out BART.

Wanted KOOMBAYA so badly for 42A.

UV INDEX was awesome!

Squeek 5:01 PM  

Tori seem to popping up a lot lately.
Laggards was an answer Thursday and a clue today.
Pop duo and urban pop from earlier this week.
Sbarro? Again? And isn't it Sbarros? If the Chicago Unos is the one I know it is not to be topped by some fast food joint.
This all felt like watching reruns.
I don't do group hugs.
I only do hugs one-on-one with the opposite sex.
Alan Arkin was a scream in that movie and that little girl singing that raunchy song at the end was a great finale.

Elaine 5:46 PM  

AKELA, so far as I know/knew, was a Kipling "Jungle Book" character- (a bear.)

But BSA may have changed the Cub Scout experience somewhat since my baby brother (who just turns 60 this coming February) was in a Pack. (Everything was Wolves in those days--Den Mothers, Pack Numbers, and the slide for your blue and gold kerchief--which is now plaid...and so forth.)

Anonymous 5:46 PM  

A little off topic, Guys... I have a question. A week ago I saw this site:
[url=http://www.rivalspot.com]Rivalspot.com - Xbox tournaments for money[/url]
They say you can play online NHL game tournaments on any console for cash... had anyone tried that before? Looks like a cool idea...
Are there any other sites where you can play sports games for real moneys? I Googled and found only Bringit.com and Worldgaming.com but it looks these guys don't specialize in sport gamez. Any suggestions?

Akela 5:49 PM  

Say the LAW OF THE PACK. Tell what it means.

"The Cub Scout follows Akela.
The Cub Scout helps the pack go.
The pack helps the Cub Scout Grow.
The Cub Scout gives goodwill."

Meaning of The Law Of The Pack:

The Cub Scout follows Akela (say Ah-KAY-la) means: Akela is a good leader. Your mother or father is Akela. In the Pack, your Cubmaster is Akela. Your Den Leader is Akela. At school, your teacher is Akela. The Cub Scout helps the Pack go means: Come to all the meetings. Do what you can to help. Think of others in the pack. The Pack helps the Cub Scout grow means: You can have fun when you are a part of the pack. Learn things from others. Do things with them. The Cub Scout gives goodwill means: Smile. Be happy. Do things that make others happy. They don't have to be big things. Little Things help, too.

Elaine 5:51 PM  

OH, may as well be Three and OUT. Is NO ONE going to stand with me, arms akimbo, and protest the bad clue?

@Parshutr
I guess I am just not golf-oriented. I thought your name meant you jump out of airplanes. You know--parashuter, but saving time by refusing to type in the extra vowels. Oh, wait.
Come to think of it, it would be ParaCHutIST, wouldn't it? Never mind. I ought to delete this paragrf, but a little humiliation is good for the soul.

edith b 5:52 PM  

I'm never on Brad Wilber's wavelength so when I find his cluing to be, well, amorphous, I'm never sure if it's him or just me. From the comments, I suspect it is me as I had a miserable time with this one.

I entered BUSHVGORE with no crosses (I'm still upset about that) and it jogged my memory for VWBUS. When I first went off to college, my parents bought me a '63 VW Beetle so I wasn't fooled by the Little Miss Sunshine clue as I knew you couldn't fit 6 people in a VW Bug but that cross gave me a leg up in the Midlands and I was able to work up and down the East Coast and got several clues in the South from the back-end, particularily XRAYEYES which produced UVINDEX crossing SECRETIVE.

I finished, but just barely, with a nice guess in the NW - EXYANKEE - which broke this one open for me.

I was so confused with several cluesthat eemed hazy to me TIN OPTION and especially AKIMBO for the reasons already discussed here. Today, it was Thank God for the crosses as I never would have finished otherwise.

chefbea 5:54 PM  

I was wondering why rye is a kind of vodka so I looked it up and found this!!!

Vodka can be distilled in a good many ways, from a great many substances, including wheat, rye, beets, corn, potatoes, and sugar cane.

Bring on the beet vodka!!!!!

sanfranman59 6:03 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 7:41, 6:57, 1.11, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 7:43, 8:38, 0.89, 23%, Easy-Medium
Wed 14:43, 11:49, 1.25, 94%, Challenging
Thu 34:05, 18:57, 1.80, 100%, (Super-Duper) Challenging
Fri 26:41, 26:00, 1.03, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 33:34, 29:46, 1.13, 80%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:48, 3:41, 1.03, 66%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:06, 4:26, 0.93, 29%, Easy-Medium
Wed 7:08, 5:49, 1.23, 90%, Challenging
Thu 15:26, 9:07, 1.69, 100%, (Super-Duper) Challenging
Fri 12:56, 12:25, 1.04, 69%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 17:34, 17:10, 1.02, 64%, Medium-Challenging

The end of a pretty tough week of puzzles.

Meg 6:04 PM  

@Elaine:

I was going to scream about AKIMBO, but I have learned to look things up before screaming and the FIRST definition refers to standing. The second refers to arms. Amazingly, the word can mean both, which I think is just WRONG WRONG WRONG.

I've heard of EARBOBS, but never someone standing AKIMBO. Makes me think the person's elbows are sticking out from his knees.

Martin 6:08 PM  

@Elaine,

"Standing all akimbo" is supported by dictionaries. You can't fight M-W Hall.

Ben 6:32 PM  

@Pednsg, to check Chandler, do you Bing Bing?

@Elaine beat me to it. AKELA is a wolf mother in Kipling's The Jungle Book. She helps raise Mowgli, the "man cub."

@Aida Carla, your nicknaming is contagious and I caught the bug!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

mac 6:43 PM  

Squeek, you have arrived!

I'm with Rex again, this is my favorite kind of puzzle. Unfortunately I had to do it during a studio sale that is going to go on tomorrow...

I also had the Aden/Oman problem, back- instead of side door, NY for ex-Yankees, and I always think it is either sherbert or sorbet.
I also had Ike for uke for a bit, thought he was an actor. Les Paul surprised me, is Vaya Con Dios instrumental? Just when I think torus or tori when a donut is involved, they throw in a bagle...

The Who had "oer" in one of their songs??? Had to laugh when I had -a-t for 34D, and realised it had to be Bart. Thought Barney from "How I met your Mother" was a possibility.

It's sleetier in CT than it was this afternoon.

Group hugs? Fantastic clue and answer, but ack.

mac 6:46 PM  

@chefbea: sounds like moonshine. The color should be pretty, though.

Akela 7:15 PM  

In the Jungle Book , I am a male and the Leader of the Pack. Raksha is the Mother Wolf who raised Mowgli as her own cub with Father Wolf.

Bob Kerfuffle 7:16 PM  

@Andrea Akela Michaels - Properly speaking, there is no such thing as "a webelo." The only word is Webelos, derived from "WE'll BE Loyal Scouts", and used only as an adjective, as in "Webelos Scout" or "Webelos Den." Of course, even inside Cub Scouting, not everyone uses the word properly.

Ben 7:21 PM  

I defer to @Akela's superior information, lest I get bitten. (Insert hip reference to the band Wolfmother here.)

I mostly remember Akela from Akela Paula and Akela Cheri, the den mothers in my Cub Scout pack in Glencoe, Illinois.

pednsg 8:22 PM  

@Ben - I do! And in order to research Mr. Crosby's cherries, I have to Bing Bing Bing!

Two Ponies 8:53 PM  

@ mac, Too funny. You found a way to work sleetier into a sentence. That was a bit of iffy fill. Good one!

submariner_ss 8:57 PM  

Like Edith b I think this cluing is from bizarro (not to be confused with Sbarros) world. Worst Saturday in months.

@Rex Just about everything has been written by the earlier commenters, except for this: Modena (Italy) is not the same as Medina (Saudi Arabia).

Elaine 9:06 PM  

Lawless Elaine says
@Meg
I do not care if someone has attempted to legitimize AKIMBO... I have sev hundred years'-worth of supporting usage, and I refuse to yield. Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, but spare your country's flag! (she said.)
Extra points for identifying the speaker and pertinent event.
Defiantly,
FOUR and out

Barbara Frietchie 9:49 PM  

Barbara Frietchie
John Greenleaf Whittier Up from the meadows rich with corn,
Clear in the cool September morn,

The clustered spires of Frederick stand
Green-walled by the hills of Maryland.

Round about them orchards sweep,
Apple and peach tree fruited deep,

Fair as the garden of the Lord
To the eyes of the famished rebel horde,

On that pleasant morn of early fall
When Lee marched over the mountain wall;

Over the mountains winding down,
Horse and foot, into Frederick town.

Forty flags with their silver stars
Forty flag with their crimson bars,

Flapped in the morning wind; the sun
Of noon looked down, and saw not one.

Up rose old Barbara Frietchie then,
Bowed with her fourscore years and ten;

Bravest of all in Frederick town,
She took up the flag the men hauled down;

In her attic window the staff she set,
To show that one heart was loyal yet.

Up the street came the rebel tread,
Stonewall Jackson riding ahead.

Under his slouched hat left and right
He glanced; the old flag met his sight.

"Halt!" - the dust-brown ranks stood fast.
"Fire!" - out blazed the rifle-blast.

It shivered the window, pane and sash;
It rent the banner with seam and gash.

Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf.

She leaned far out on the window-sill,
And shook it forth with a royal will.

"Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag," she said.

A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;

The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman's deed and word;

"Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on!" he said.

All day long through Frederick street
Sounded the tread of marching feet;

All day long that free flag tost
Over the heads of the rebel host.

Ever its torn folds rose and fell
On the loyal winds that loved it well;

And through the hill-gaps sunset light
Shone over it with a warm good-night.

Barbara Frietchie's work is o'er,
And the Rebel rides on his raids no more.

Honor to her! and let a tear
Fall, for her sake, on Stonewall's bier.

Over Barbara Frietchie's grave,
Flag of Freedom and Union, wave!

Peace and order and beauty draw
Round thy symbol of light and law;

And ever the stars above look down
On thy stars below in Frederick town!

chefbea 10:20 PM  

nice poem. but why??? did I miss something???

Stanley 10:27 PM  

@Chefbea - See Elaine's post prior to the poem, which is the source of Shoot if you must...

@Martin - I think we've seen the Standing AKIMBO before, but two things. First, if you're going to post a link for a definition, make sure it supports, rather than refutes, your claim. For those of us without a subscription to MW on-line, the definition your post links to only references arm position. Secondly, a Google Search of "Standing all AKIMBO" returns exactly 5 citations, one of which is your post here, so you can't really claim it as being in the language.

Martin 10:49 PM  

Stanley,

Significantly, the "akimbo" definition doesn't mention arm -- it does include hand, hip and elbow. Sounds like a stance to me.

edith b 11:20 PM  

@Martin-

Correct me if I am wrong but Standing all akimbo is defined in the dictionary as standing with HANDS ON HIPS so Standing all akimbo seems to be saying Standing with hands on ones hips. The dictionary also cites with elbows flared so Standing with elbows flared seems to be correct.

Doesnt all this mean that AKIMBO refers to arms and hips, primarily, and not the act of standing?

Stanley 11:20 PM  

@Martin ???????????

Your citation:

Main Entry: akim·bo
Pronunciation: \ə-ˈkim-(ˌ)bō\
Function: adjective or adverb
Etymology: Middle English in kenebowe
Date: 15th century
1 : having the hand on the hip and the elbow turned outward
2 : set in a bent position (a tailor sitting with legs akimbo)

It specifies the position of the arm, either terminus attached at the body, the elbow positioned outward (I'm taking liberties here, assuming the upper arm is attached at the shoulder). It says nothing about standing. I can sit, stand, or lay down with my arm AKIMBO. If I were so inclined, I could float in water or fall through the air with my arms AKIMBO.

edith b 11:22 PM  

Not to beat a dead horse.

foodie 11:34 PM  

It's pretty late, but I was so happy to complete this puzzle correctly on my flight from New York to Florida-- which meant I could not cheat in any way. I thought: I hope there is no "easy" to be found in Rex's rating. But there is was-- easy/medium, bursting my little bubble. Then sanfranman said mere mortals found it challenging, and even the really talented bunch found it medium/challenging. I feel better!

But I totally agree with how Rex felt about the quality of the puzzle-- very elegant, in a classic way. Like a well tailored, understated suit. One of my favorite features is that it did not have a very high concentration of proper nouns which tend to be binary (you either know or you don't). Instead, it had words and cluing that was near the edge of everyday usage, and one could literally "puzzle it out". Very satisfying.

Stan 12:50 AM  

Clue: "One way to stand"

Answer: AKIMBO

Wiktionary (akimbo):

Into, in, or of the position where the arms are akimbo.

The man was standing akimbo....

rough women standing akimbo at street doors....

a woman standing akimbo with her right hand touching her right temple....

How is that not "one way to stand"?

SethG 2:24 AM  

And the American Heritage Dictionary includes the usage example "children standing akimbo by the fence", and Roget includes "stand akimbo" as a synonym for "Defiance", and no matter how many sources we cite some people will deny it works anyway so...

andrea byenow michaels 3:38 AM  

is akimbo related to akela?
:)
i guess we clue-haters stand corrected

Schmidtenor 4:52 AM  

Liked it! Only proper name I'd never heard before was AKELA, but since it wasn't crossed with 3 additional foreign/made-up proper names, I could still get it. Loved that most of the answers could be had eventually by staring long enough at the clues. Much prefer this over a "Who the heck were they?", Trivial Pursuit puzzle. Genuine sense of satisfaction upon completion, instead of the mere cessation of pain.

Rick 3:26 PM  

From a syndication land far far away...

Loved "group hug". It reminded me of the final episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show...

Singer 8:13 PM  

I had a lot of trouble with the NW of this one. I had "BYE bye" forever. I had NY YANKEE (but knew that didn't make sense, given the past tense clue). Then I decided that 1D had to start with "E", so I stared at E_YANKEE for far too long without getting it. I have an excuse - I have a terrible sinus infection, sore throat and conjuctivitis - have had all week - so plead fuzzy brain. I finally put in the "X", got OXHIDE and then struggled with the Japanese noodles and the plover. Sherbets was there, but couldn't figure out the cigarette holder. (_Ib), the Japanese noodles (_DyN) or the bird (_EeIT). I finally gave up on BYE bye and deleted the second bye, and then slowly picked up on BYE NOW, and TIN. Still had no clue on the noodles, and had to come here to get it. Even then, I couldn't parse RESTUP - didn't think that stupping had anything to do with charging until I figured out "REST UP". Oy.

Anonymous 11:40 PM  

I was thoroughly shocked when I thought (for a while) that the answer for "retreat closer" was going to be "group sex." But, no, that could not be, so changed my "mess" to "hash" (eventually)."

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