Avant-garde saxophonist John / SAT 3-27-10 / Soles of her shoe hamlet / Faddish disk of 1990s / Magic practiced native Guianans

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Constructor: Samuel A. Donaldson

Relative difficulty: Medium


Word of the Day: TAMLA (21D: Motown's original name) —

Motown is a record company founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. and incorporated as Motown Record Corporation in Detroit, Michigan, USA, on April 14, 1960. The name, a portmanteau of motor and town, is also a nickname for Detroit. Now headquartered in New York City, Motown is a subsidiary of Universal Motown Republic Group, itself a subsidiary of Universal Music Group, and now operates as Universal Motown. Motown Records was also the name of Gordy's second record label; the first, Tamla Records, began on January 12, 1959. [...] Berry Gordy got his start as a songwriter for local Detroit acts such as Jackie Wilson and The Matadors. Wilson's single "Lonely Teardrops", written by Gordy, became a huge success; however, Gordy did not feel he made as much money as he deserved from this and other singles he wrote for Wilson. He realized that the more lucrative end of the business was in producing records and owning the publishing. // In 1959, Billy Davis and Berry Gordy's sisters Gwen and Anna started Anna Records. Davis and Gwen Gordy wanted Berry to be the company president, but Berry wanted to strike out on his own. On January 12, 1959, he started Tamla Records, with an $800 loan from his family. Gordy originally wanted to name the label "Tammy" Records, after the popular song by Debbie Reynolds. When he found the name was already in use, he decided on Tamla instead. // Gordy's first signed act was The Matadors, a group he had written and produced songs for, who changed their name to The Miracles when Tamla signed them. Miracles lead singer Smokey Robinson became the vice president of the company (and later named his daughter "Tamla" and his son "Berry" out of gratitude to Gordy and the label) ... (wikipedia)

• • •

This is a solid, if mostly forgettable, puzzle — loaded with gimmes that gave me important footholds. Only real problems I had were all in the vicinity (shocker) of proper nouns: names I just didn't know. The rest of it was very doable (with a little Saturday elbow grease) and, in parts, even easy (see the entire SE, which went down in something under a minute, once I finally changed BACKSLIDE to BACKSPACE at 30D: Move to your previous place). I started with EDNAS, clued today in what is currently its crosswordesiest incarnation: 10A: "Hairspray" mom and others. I've seen that ["Hairspray" mom] clue a million times now. OK, probably 6-10 times, but that's a lot of times. When you put a gimme in a place that gives me the first letters of a bank of long Downs ... well, it's probably going to be a good day. The super common DOONE is also up there (18A: Blackmore heroine), and the obvious ASNER (13D: Actor who won comedy and drama Emmys for the same role), so NE = no sweat. Problems arose when I tried to get out of the NE, however. I got smug and a little cocky when I got ST. MARK off just the "K" (28A: Donatello sculpture subject), but that attitude disappeared when I tried to get into the middle of the grid. Couldn't remember TAMLA, and certainly had no idea what I was dealing with at 34A: Capital on the Buriganga River, old-style. MECCA? No, that's not "old style." The fact that this was crossing TAMLA (which I didn't know yet) was giving me a minor puzzle panic attack. "That cross better be an 'A'..." By the time I was done with that part of the grid, I had everything right (it turns out), but I didn't know why. Honestly, when I was done, I thought DACCA was "old-style" for DAKAR, the capital of Senegal. Most humiliating fact of the day — turns out I don't know the capital of Bangladesh. In fact, have never heard of it. It's DHAKA (which apparently was spelled "DACCA" back in the day — at least I wasn't forced to come up with DHAKA's other former name: JAHANGIR NAGAR).

Other major sore spot was the far SW, which really is the ugliest part of the grid. Any random Roman numeral longer than three letters tends to irritate me. Today's was five (41D: Last full year of St. Julius I's papacy: CCCLI), *and* intersected a name I'd never heard of: CRAIN (50A: "Pinky" Best Actress nominee Jeanne). Jeanne CRAIN was a popular actress of the '40s and '50s, and "Pinky" was directed by Elia Kazan. The only movie CRAIN I know is Marion CRANE of Alfred Hitchcock's (see 54A) "Psycho," which stars Janet Leigh, whom I often confuse with Debbie Reynolds, who sang "Tammy," which is what Berry Gordy wanted to name his record company before settling on TAMLA.

Had some trouble in the west when I figured 29A: Outcast was LONER or LOSER and 25D: Foot part? was PODI-. Answers turned out to be LEPER and PEDI-, respectively. Also tried ICON before IDOL at 2D: Massive star, resulting in temporary befuddlement. Otherwise, not too hard. I'd like to thank OBEAH (7D: Magic practiced by native Guianans) for being a very handy piece of crosswordese. I'm pretty sure that without it, I'd have found the NW a good deal harder to get into. The "B" gave me the suffix -ABLE, which gave me ULAN (8D: ___ Hot (city in Inner Mongolia)), which allowed me to guess GINORMOUS (1A: Massive). And that's that.

  • 20A: Ezio Pinza's "Mr. Imperium" co-star (LANA TURNER) — and another clue takes us back to mid-20c. Hollywood. Never heard of this movie, but had -URNER by the time I looked at this clue, so getting the answer was a cinch. Figured Ezio (xwordese!) and Tina's careers probably didn't overlap much.
  • 35A: Avant-garde saxophonist John (ZORN) — didn't know this, and then somehow did, but didn't know why. Jim ZORN was the quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks in the '70s-'80s. He's the ZORN I know best.

  • 40A: Subject of the 1997 biography "Woman in the Mists" (FOSSEY) — another gimme. This once confirmed what I suspected: that NO ONE KNOWS was the answer to 12D: "It's anybody's guess"
  • 54A: Hitchcock trademark (CAMEO ROLE) — another easy one. These banks of long Acrosses traversed by many short Downs are usually relative easy to solve. Even if the Acrosses aren't easy, chances are you'll be able to crack a couple of the Downs and start to open things up.
  • 3D: Launcher launched in 1958 (NASA) — I'm trying to understand why my first thought involved NERF balls and some kind of toy ball-launcher they might have produced...
  • 6D: Youngest Best Actress Oscar winner, 1986 (MATLIN) — wow, that's a surprising stat. O'NEAL and PAQUIN both won Supporting Actress Oscars. My first guess here was FOSTER.
  • 22D: "___ the soles of her shoe?": Hamlet (NOR) — really strange and unfamous quote to use as a clue for "NOR"; from Act II, scene ii:

My excellent good friends! How dost thou,
Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye
As the indifferent children of the earth.(235)
Happy, in that we are not over-happy.
On Fortune's cap we are not the very button.
Nor the soles of her shoe?
Neither, my lord.
Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her(240)
Faith, her privates we.
In the secret parts of Fortune? O! most true! she is a
strumpet. . .

  • 37D: 1982 Grammy-winning song by Toto ("ROSANNA") — a gimme handed to me on a silver gimme platter with "gimme" engraved on it. Though, to be honest, my first thought was "Africa."

  • 52D: Faddish disk of the 1990s (POG) — though I was too old for these to be truly in my pop culture sweet spot — still a gimme. This"fad" sticks in my head because of an episode of "The Simpsons" — one of the greatest episodes of all — where Bart sells his soul to Milhouse for $5 and then when Bart wants to buy it back, he can't because Milhouse has traded it in for ... POGs. "Alf" POGs. The line about POGs and "Alf" is the first thing I think of whenever I see a reference to POGs:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Elaine 8:28 AM  

BLEND INTO; LOST SPEED; BURPERS, CAMEO SHOT.... my page looks like the chickens got to it. My first entry was the Oscar Wilde line; the clever OPEN SESAME was one of the last. I also appreciated the sly CREASES, as of course I wanted CRANES (even though one can create many other things. My first Christmas tree was adorned with origami, as I hadn't any decorations back then.)

I had the entire East, the NW, even the center, but the SW and S-Central were a mess.
I finally Googled for Jeanne CRAIN (we're supposed to know *nominated* best actresses from 5+ decades ago?) I was left with an ugly little tangle at 24D/25D/33A. LEAP and EXPEL, ADEM.....Ah, there's many a SLIP twixt the cup and the lip. Fail for the Google, and either a DNF or Finished with Errors for that triplet. Should have saved that for morning, but instead I just gave up.

It's going to be a while before this chastened solver complains about puzzles that are 'too easy.'

Leslie 8:32 AM  

a gimme handed to me on a silver gimme platter with "gimme" engraved on it.

Heh. Heh heh heh. I liked that. ROSANNA wasn't that easy for me, but yes, it did come to me.

Writeovers: "To a tee" before SPOT ON, because of "trip" before SLIP; Rex's "backslide" before BACKSPACE; and "lag" before SAG.

I liked seeing the Pink Panther acknowledged as a JEWEL, not a cartoon character. PINPRICKS was a great answer--unusual but not ungettably outlandish.

Whenever I see Mary Matalin's name in the paper, I instantly confuse it with Marlee Matlin's.

SethG 8:46 AM  

I also had TRIP before SLIP, and had no problem imagining that [Outcast] might have a verb form on a Saturday (like DICE does) so REPEL worked, too. I tried to make HUMONGOUS work for a while, and spent at least 5 extra minutes because I couldn't come up with MATLIN (and had OBIAH in place).

I imagined Donatello might have made a sculpture of THE ARK. DACCA, I guessed from the D.

I didn't know CRAIN either, but C is the only letter than can work there. Several things I didn't know today, but it was fun sussing out as opposed to however you would describe the Friday sussing.

lit.doc 8:48 AM  

@Rex, your observation re OBEAH as the ticket into NW is dead on. Wasn’t in my CW 101 vocabulary and NW was, indeed, the last to fall. And in the spirit of Full Disclosure, I’ve gotta admit that for one, brief, unshining moment I had ROXANNE for 37D. Hey, it has the right number of letters and fits most of the crosses, no? Doh. The Police are, in toto, totally cool about it, though.

In other late-breaking news, it’s still conversationally safer to be a clever lexicographer than a cunning linguist. Except when 9D is SEMANTICS instead of ETYMOLOGY.

Best “Aha!” moment in this perfectly Saturday puzzle (which is to say “took almost 80 minutes”) was when 29A changed from LONER to LEPER, which left me staring at 26D “Getting in line?” thinking WTF. Tick. Tick. Tick. Finally saw the missing hyphen (not) in the compound modifier and keyed in the answer. And, magically, the puzzle still refused to open up. Gotta rub my lamp harder, I guess.

For the record, “Aha!” = video clip of Gilbert Gottfried loudly exclaiming “SONOFABITCH!!”

Peter PanIc 9:09 AM  

I penned in pet peeves off the P P, and that killed the east for a while.

dk 9:14 AM  

FOSSEY is clearly out of the mists this week.

Ones who aspire to be linguists do not use words like GINORMOUS. Even my spell checker hates it.

Had to a tee for perfect, rebel for outcast, wane for eroded, backslide instead of space and TAMiA. This made for more than a few, shall we say challenges....

Like @elaine Friday and today have me feeling like a puzzle WIMP.

The geese are returning en masse to Mpls and our neighbor has resumed his peeping behavior. Both sure signs of spring. Although I am thinking of regaining my conceal and carry and not for the geese.

secret word: dingbo - a GINORMOUS pimple.

*** (3 Stars) Isn't our constructor a SEN ;)?

HudsonHawk 9:20 AM  

I opened the paper to see my ACPT buddy Sam Donaldson's name over the grid and smiled. Then I scanned the clues, noticed all the proper nouns, and became a bit concerned.

But it was an enjoyable Saturday solving experience. I also finished in the NW. GINORMOUS will always remind me of Buddy's reaction to the size of the toilets in Elf.

Loved the cluing for 3D (NASA) and 26D (OPEN SESAME). And ROSANNA, which was written as a tribute to Steve Porcaro's girlfriend at the time, Rosanna Arquette.

tedequity 9:22 AM  

5D Please explain RTS that are listed in a bill. Routes, right tackles, What???

Dough 9:25 AM  

I didn't love this puzzle. I had TEMPTATION, but otherwise was totally stuck in the SW till my step-daughter came to my rescue with the Toto answer and then everything fell. Loved the clue for OPEN SESAME. CCCLI just doesn't cut it for a Saturday puzzle. @REX, sensational "The Game of Dan Greenburg" chain from Jeanne Crain back to Tamla! Well done! It was more fun than the puzzle!

Ruth 9:26 AM  

Rights (bill of). I guess. Except who abbreviates that?

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

One goes to the dice (craps) table,throws the dice, rolls the dice, but one does not dice. Jeanne Crain was a stone fox in the 50's. Loved the clue for open sesame. Very enjoyable Sat. puzzle. Golfballman

Michael Lugo 9:27 AM  

The Zorn I know best is Zorn's lemma.

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

I liked this puzzle because I was able to solve it and it was fun.

I had an alternate solution going in the top left for a while: HUMONGOUS, HAIR (kind of ball), URSA (massive star), RATS (cry after failing).

Adam 9:32 AM  

@tedequity: Bill or Rights. I don't think RTS is an abbreviation for those kind of Rights. More for directions.

GINORMOUS is a portmanteau of gigantic and enormous, as well as a slang word. Should have been clued accordingly, no?

Also, hilariously, for "Foot Part" I had "OEDI-" as in Oedipus. Which meens "Swollen Foot". I thought, Hmm I guess so, and moved on, filling in uncomfortable crosses like "TO A TEE" for "Perfect" and TRIP for "Fall preceder".

Also, RATS for "Cry after falling" crossed with NOVA for "Massive star" left me flailing in the NE.

I bet I'm alone there, though.

Leslie 9:53 AM  

Not at all, Adam. I totally wanted "rats" and "nova." They weren't writeovers for me because I'm so wary of putting stuff in until I'm really, really sure. Which makes it doubly hard for me to let go of a mistake.

You guys, would someone please explain the "secret word?" What's that? Where do you get your secret word?

Bob Kerfuffle 9:55 AM  

Good one. (I hope someone can come up with a humorous and grammatically correct variant on "Play it again, Sam." to cheer on the constructor.)

My only write-overs already cited by Rex and others: TRIP/SLIP and BACKSLIDE/BACKSPACE.

Definitely a medium tending toward hard for me; took an hour, but that is with breakfast and NPR, not tournament-style.

Paul 9:59 AM  

Late to the party today because I forgot to set my AWAKER last night and overslept.

dk 10:04 AM  

@leslie, for me the secret word is the word verification I have to type in to complete the post. For Groucho Marx's the secret word was viaduct and why a duck NOONEKNOWS.

@adam, you are not alone. I ran through red giant, nova, etc. I do think it is rtes for directions, but I caint spill fur crup.

new secret word: cotoc - the nick name given the crocodile in Peter Pan.

joho 10:06 AM  

Really fun Saturday for me even though I ENDUPAT failure. I had DACCO/TAMLO and IRENE/ROSANNE. Regardless I still had a great time (not speed related!).

Interesting, original answers in GINORMOUS, PINPRICKS, DOORPRIZES and SEMANTICS. And just a Q and a V short of a pangram.

Thank you Samuel A. Donaldson for erasing yesterday's downer!

Glitch 10:16 AM  


The *secret word* is the captcha, or what you have to type in order to post.

Some are easliy amused and like to make up definitions --- then feel compelled to share will all ;)

My feeling is that if you divulge the word it won't come true.


Rex Parker 10:22 AM  

Me, Oct 1, 2008:

"54D: Bangladesh's capital, old-style (Dacca) - now DHAKA. I wanted DAKAR, which is the capital of Senegal. There was a horrid-smelling cologne when I was a teenager called DAKAR Noir. I might have owned some once."

Zeke 10:34 AM  

@Rex - Me, March 27, 2010 54A Hitchcock trademark: CAMEOROLL - easy. 49D Part of a fold chain: PRLY? WTF is a PRLY? Shit, it's not in the dictionary, not in Wikipedia, Martin's going to get mad at me if I complain that PRLY isn't a word. Oh hell, it's only a crossword puzzle.

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

I had NOVA and RATS too. Also BACKTRACK instead of BACKSPACE and OLIVE instead of LEMON. Am embarrassed I didn't know and also couldn't guess the Wilde quotation. My kids actually did collect POGS, but that completely escaped me. Found this much harder than Rex did.

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

Re: TAMLA. Was this name at all related to Tammy Terrell, one of Motown's greatest artists?

The Bard 10:39 AM  

Quite a few NORs in HAMLET. My favorites:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;

Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not 'seems.'
'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected 'havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
That can denote me truly: these indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play:
But I have that within which passeth show;
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.

Elaine 10:53 AM  

@Anony 10:34
Olives are pressed; lemons are squeezed, eh? (See, THAT one I got. It's always interesting to see which rocks we each run aground on.)

DACCA. I had no clue where it was, or why I knew it. At least you were confused over some real place. I am now bracing for an uptick in the Dhaka/Dacca/Dakar cluing.

Xworders will take word play wherever they find it; captcha play is fair game, but one does run across those with a need to repress fun they don't share in.

Sam Donaldson--first a career as a newsman, then a Senator--and yet, he still looks so young!

JayWalker 10:55 AM  

Well, Mr. Rex, for once you and I diverge. The SW was anathema for me. I had the 3 nine letter across words, but I strongly object to "wore" since the clue is past tense. Ergo, the answer should have been "worn," and it clearly wasn't. "Wimp" nor "Prey" sprang to mind at all and "MelC"? Are you kidding me? Who would know that but a teeny-bopper? Which I ain't. BUT - it does sound (from reading most of the above) that I am in the distinct minority here. Ah well.

chefbea 11:00 AM  

Easier than yesterday but still tough. Had to google.
Hope tomorrow's will be fun and easy.

lit.doc 11:01 AM  

@Adam, welcome. It's hard to screw up badly enough with this crowd to be the only one. I toyed with 2D NOVA but found no cross-support. Instead, started with 1D BASEball crossed by 19A EGAD. Much better than NOVA. Since PRIDE wouldn't fit 24D, I was left wondering which language needed four letters for "summer". And you've clearly wasted too much of your life in school, as evidenced by your actually knowing the Oedipus story.

Smitty 11:03 AM  

Stepped in every pothole Rex mentioned....

@Ulrich and @BobKerfuffle. Thanks for the replies yesterday. Being immature, "Annus Horribilus" and "Annus Mirabilis" made me laugh in that context. ...But I do sincerely appreciate the enlightenment...

Aaron Riccio 11:09 AM  

@Rex - Still being the teacher, eh? :P

Fair enough, you shamed me into doing the Saturday again. You could not have picked a better Saturday, either. Not only was I on the same wavelength as the constructor (GINORMOUS was a gimmie), but there seemed to be fewer proper nouns than I remembered.

Oh, and to chime in about SanFranMan's stats (from yesterday's convo): I find them helpful. Few people post their times, and those who do tend to be Amy and Dan, neither of whom have times that I want to compare myself to. I've been collating my own data over the last six months, and I'm psyched to see how much faster I've gotten at Wednesday and Thursday puzzles.

Sara 11:18 AM  

Rex, it was Drakkar Noir. Yes, it smelled awful. I must have had a boyfriend who used it, but I can't remember who. Now that's a sign of age.

clark 11:23 AM  

@JayWalker -- WORE: past tense of 'wear' as in "to damage diminish or erode."

Took me a while to wear through resistance in the middle. I got SEMioTICS in my head and it was hard to put it right. But LANA TURNER would not let herself be outdone by any LANi or LeNi so I finally got it.

I was very proud of myself when I got 'MacGuffin' with no crosses at 54A.

JF 11:29 AM  

@JayWalker - WORE works in the sense of "wore away". Past tense verb, not adjective.

A pretty breezy and quick puzzle for me. A breath of fresh air after yesterday's disaster. Big holdup was PAQUIN for MATLIN. After trying to convince myself that GINORPOUS was some new slang I didn't know, I realized the date on the Oscar (which was for Children of a Lesser God) was wrong for Anna's award (for The Piano).

Rosanna, definitely a gimme, as was Oscar Wilde.

Seconds before filling in SUCKS, I had been pointing out to my wife that while crude language is forbidden in the NYT, it often creeps in as words that mean something else. So we actually got a laugh out of this puzzle, my first in a long time.

foodie 11:32 AM  

I crossed NOVA with EVANESCED.

The clue for SAG? It's wishful thinking...

archaeoprof 11:44 AM  

I agree with ChefBea: easier than yesterday, but still a really good Saturday.

I tried "semiotics" before SEMANTICS.

lit.doc 11:45 AM  

@Zeke, I soooo almost started with CAMEO ROLL. CFS Syndrome at its best. Amazed I wasn't the only one. And 49D should thus have been "PRLY vous frances?", n'est-ce pas?

@JayWalker, 46D WORE is past tense, like the clue. And I've no more heard of "MEL C" than of "POG". Congrat's on getting the crosses, and welcome to Saturday. And have you perchance ever caught an episode of Leno's "Jaywalk All-Stars"?

jesser 11:50 AM  

I promised Two Ponies I would be funny today. I do not know what I was thinking. Irish Catholic funeral at 1:30 followed by Irish Catholic celebration of life. It was a good celebration, I believe I drank Jameson's out of a shoe. Not my shoe.

This was a foggy, but enjoyable, solve. TEMPTATION was the first thing to drain its way into the grid, followed by FOSSEY and DOOR PRIZES. Those three gave me enough footholds to climb the cliff.

Most troubling area for me was the NW, where GINORMOUS was slow to spring into my besotted brain. Getting ADAPTABLE was slower than it should have been, but once it eased its way in, the rest of that quadrant emerged.

I did not like the clue for DICES. And I have entirely too many 80-year-old people in my life to let me believe that a SAG is a 'temporary turndown.' If I had to choose between which clue is FALSER, I'd pick the one for DICES.

My Godson is obsessed with POGs and Pokemon. The latter is easier to find in a store, but E-Bay is a godsend for procuring POGs.

That will be all for today, friends. I realize, of course, that Two Ponies and She Who Must Be Adored will not find this as amusing as was promised, and my only excuse is that I am experiencing PIN PRICKS to the brain this morning, and I have to attend an animal shelter fundraiser at noon, where there will be barking -- by both people and dogs. Call me a WIMP, but I do not wish to go in my current state of slef-inflicted EMERGENCY. Still, go I will.

Love and peace to all in Rexville!

Cliate! (a poor substitute for Chianti, probably produced by the Boone's Farm Corporation, and which I probably ingested yesterday.) -- jesser

Stan 11:54 AM  

Thanks to TEMPTATION, FOSSEY and MEL_, then some lucky guesses (ZORN/DOORPRIZES, SEMANTICS/LOST STEAM), I actually finished this. Which probably places it as a 'Measy' for Saturday rather than a Medium, but I don't care. Thanks, Sam Donaldson!

Agree that the Crain-to-Tamla connection was a great moment in blogging.

Two Ponies 11:58 AM  

I had a very similar experience to twangster and many others here.
Ginormous is not, nor will it every be, in my vocabulary.
Aside from that word the NW all seems obvious now but I must confess that I folded and came over to Rexville for a peek.
I considered hair, ursa, rats, and gotten dim in that area. I even considered Goslin (whoever that is) because of humongous.
Dices seems wrong as does slime. You can be a slime ball or even a slime bag. But then I never skimp when I'm cursing.
I had to toss this one into the Fail Pail because it's too nice outside to stay indoors.
It's been a rough week in Puzzleworld for this gal.

Two Ponies 12:02 PM  

@ jesser, we were posting at the same time. Hey, you never fail to amuse.
Jameson's from a shoe? Now that's funny!

Tinbeni 12:26 PM  

After my 'Ass kicking' yesterday I was almost hesitant to attempt this JEWEL.
WTF that's what a WIMP does.

GINORMOUS fit, and I was on a roll.
NO ONE KNOWS why I use a scatter approach, searching for something that would BUILD INTO traction. When I LOST STEAM one way, being ADAPTABLE, I JOGged another. Never knew where I would END UP AT.

Got both CRAIN & ZORN by the crosses, didn't even notice these two unknown clues until I read the comments.

2 cups of coffee time.
Today I wasn't the PREY.
I WON, are there DOOR PRIZES?

lit.doc 12:29 PM  

@jesser and @Two Ponies, much as I appreciate anyone who gives good shoe, the important thing is that it be filled with Jameson's, preferably of the 12-year-old persuasion.

@dk 9:14, a laser sight can be a very effective attention getter, FWIW.

Jesse 12:54 PM  

Sigh; have to agree that "sag" is not temporary!

This was a tough one for me - tamla, obeah, crain, etc. Looking back over it, it doesn't SEEM as impossible as it felt while I was doing it.

I'd like to apologize to all (especially sanfranman) for the tone of my post on the statistics last night. It was pointlessly rude. I could have said the same thing in a more gentle fashion.

I'm not a speed solver - not close, although I'm getting better (I bought myself a sub to the NYT xword as an Xmas present, so I'm only three months into this particular puzzle.)

It seems to be the consensus here that the stats are useful. Since you can complete the puzzle in across lite, print it, and then "play against the clock", there have to be people who do what I just did to prove my point. (The puzzle took me a humiliating 62 minutes last night; typing the answers in "against the clock" gave me a <4 minute solve time). I can't imagine why people would want to do that, but it appears that some do. I'm surprised the NYT doesn't have a mechanism to prevent it.

But enough abt the stats. I mainly wanted to apologize to all for my tone of voice. As you can tell from the post-midnight timestamp, I'd been at the vino.

ArtLvr 1:13 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
ArtLvr 1:16 PM  

@ Elaine -- Laughed at your Burpers! Also, it was helpful that I don't know another actress Jeanne, only CRAIN. "State Fair" came to mind. "Backtrack" got me the C for CAMEO ROLE or vice versa, so BACKSPACE took extra thought.

I solved this in a giant backward C from the NW to NE to SE and center, leaving the California area last to fall (trip, SLIP), with SPOT ON oddly hard to see because of wanting something like PARAGON. One error, same as @joho, IRENE and ROSANNE. Pfui.

POG, MEL C, TAMLA meant zippo, so it wasn't much fun overall, though I like PINPRICKS and LEMON TREE. And I still don't understand the clue for OPEN SESAME. Anyone?


Tinbeni 1:36 PM  

It is the "line" to get the door open. Ali Baba ...

I did the same re:Puz.Sub. and also only 3 mo. at the "Gold Standard" NYT but as to the SanFranMan stats if you are like me, not a speed freak, so what.

I tend to do these in the morning, so I measure by "Cups of Coffee" if I did them at night, I'd measure by my avatar.

For whatever reason (probably the Jamaican Blue Mountain perked me up) today was in my wheelhouse.

Yesterday's DNF ... who cares.

Everything is relative, we all have different life experiences, studies, hobbies etc.

I hope the vino was good.
Later I'll have my avatar at sunset.

lit.doc 1:36 PM  

@ArtLvr, I totally had the same problem re 26D "Getting in line". Visualize the clue as "getting-in" line, line in the sense of a stock something to say. "OPEN SESAME" is what Aladdin said to "get in" the magic cave.

mac 2:00 PM  

Nice puzzle, but on the harder side of medium for me.

@Twangster and Two Ponies: I also didn't want to let go of that hairball, nor humongous, rats and Ursa.

I had Lorna for Doone for a while (the O and N fit!), Roxanne, and I also wanted the cranes in 41A somehow. I loved open sesame, spot on, cast a spell and stared and stared at 56, wondering what the Hebrew word for marriage was.

At least the Mel part of MelC was a gimme; easy, there are two of them in the quartet.

Tinbeni 2:10 PM  

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
Open Simsim, "Open Sesame" in English, got the cave door open.

Aladdin had a 'Magic Lamp" but that is a whole 'nother story.

caphcha: dementi

Van55 2:15 PM  

I count ten proper names and three other proper nouns, which isn't that many for most Saturdays.

Add me to the EVANESACED/NOVA crowd. Had DIP for SAG.

Tough puzzle for me, but, unlike yesterday's still fair to the average to above average solver.

Like Rex, I hated the random Roman numeral as usual.

ArtLvr 2:24 PM  

Yes, re OPEN SESAME, that "getting-in line", many thanks for helping. I did find it at Amy's site, where it turns out that Sam D has blogged his own puzzle -- Great fun to learn what constructors are thinking, and very informative! I like today's puzzle better now, even if I'm still sorry he chose the A for ROSANNA and IRENE in the end.


hazel the friendly tutter 2:26 PM  

Another DNF - 2 in a row. One less google than yesterday, but it still felt like more sussin', less fussin', more DOHs less WHAs - so way more fun overall.

Can't abide GINORMOUS though. Hope never to see that or SKILLIONS or BAJILLION or any of the other words I haven't used since I was 10 ever again!

fergus 2:30 PM  

Couldn't let go of TO A TEE for Perfect, even though I knew that should be Perfectly. Another one with PET PEEVES.

edith b 2:33 PM  

Movies are one of my things so Jeanne CRAIN and LANATURNER were neons to me as was half the Hitchcock clue CAMEO****.

Once I began to develop crosses, I came to this puzzle through the back door, getting the answer by figuring out what it might be before going to the clue as written. I got several answers this way and finally guessed A at the TAMLA/DACCA cross to finish.

Ah yes, wordplay in all her permutations. Use every tool in the bag. Alls fair in crosswords and . . . other things. Open sesame, darlin'.

treedweller 3:45 PM  

Hand up for "Friday killed me but today I finished (in the NW)."

We pruned a LEMON TREE for a client last year. A real JEWEL--GINORMOUS ones like this are RARER here than hen's teeth, since every few years we have enough of a freeze to knock most citrus down a few notches. Thorniest STMARK I ever climbed. I'd dodge one only to ENDUPAT the tip of another. In the end, I had only a few bleeders that left a SPOTON what I WORE, but I had many minor PINPRICKS. I felt more like the TREE's PREY than its tender. What SUCKS is, this winter knocked it down a few notches, so, ALAS, IWON the RTS to climb and prune it again soon. And I just can't resist the TEMPTATION to exercise them. I will take great care not to SLIP in the process.

foodie 3:53 PM  

@Jesse, you're a good person : )

For me, the value of the stats has nothing to do with speed solving (I wish I were in that league). It's about getting a sense of how difficult the puzzle was in general, vs. how I found it to be (understanding that it's an imperfect system). It's part of the whole experience, along with what Rex had to say about it, and how the Rexites felt. Like eating pistachio gelato-- different textures adding to the pleasure.

BTW, if you look at the website repeatedly, especially within say 30 minutes of the puzzle's appearance, you come to recognize some names that are reliably there early on (and couldn't be you on a Saturday, since it took you an hour : ). They too are a good index of the puzzle's difficulty. Amy Reynaldo (Orange) is definitely one of my beacons. If a puzzle takes her 8 minutes, you can be sure it's a hard one.

@Rex, I was intrigued by your thinking of Mecca on the way to DACCA. It made me wonder if there was a river anywhere near it. So far, I don't think so.

archaeoprof 4:12 PM  

For 24D I first wrote "trip" and had to change it to SLIP.

jesser 4:36 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 4:51 PM  

Hand up for TRIP, NOVA, RATS, and PAQUIN. Those plus not knowing OBEAH made this on the challenging side of medium for me. Fun puzzle with stuff like SPOTON and GINORMOUS. That said I was not fond of DICES and iffy about SLIME. Oh, and I'm over 60 and knew MELC who is not to be confused with MELB aka Scary Spice.

Jesse 6:03 PM  

I'm trying this a second time.

@timbeni: Thanks. I fear I had CCCLI glasses of wine before posting. Next time, I'll go for CCCLX and pass out instead.

@foodie: Your comment yesterday was ace. I'm off to google Amy Reynaldo, who must be the Amy who has the interview with the constructor.

You're totally right. The folks who finish first (they must have their alarm clocks set) once a NYT puzzle becomes available are the only people with reliable - if terrifying - times. And what I did today was wrong and undermined them. I was making a point.

I hope it will be at least as funny as yesterday's NYT "interview" with Hook. I believe he said he couldn't remember writing it, or words to that effect. I believe him; I can't remember anything I did in the 80s either, except wear totally awful clothes.

Jesse 6:08 PM  

Oops! Crap!

I was having a problem posting. The latter part of my post belongs to an earlier post that got lost in the ether.

Anyway, that last paragraph referred to the Amy interview.

I think I will shut up now.

Yours in shame,


Elaine 6:16 PM  

I was glad to see your post,@Jesse. I had tuned in for The Late Show on Rex's Friday blog and was surprised at your post. Nice to find out it was 'out of character.'

I'm like Foodie-- I am sometimes glad to see the SanFranMan's ratings coming in the way they do--as with Friday's--because then I don't feel so badly about being smooshed like a ginormous bug.

sanfranman59 6:21 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 6:06, 6:53, 0.89, 23%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:19, 8:53, 0.94, 36%, Easy-Medium
Wed 11:47, 11:50, 1.00, 54%, Medium
Thu 19:01, 19:27, 0.98, 49%, Medium
Fri 34:44, 26:18, 1.32, 97%, Challenging
Sat 33:06, 30:49, 1.07, 71%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:16, 3:40, 0.89, 22%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:29, 4:31, 0.99, 53%, Medium
Wed 5:46, 5:48, 1.00, 54%, Medium
Thu 8:40, 9:20, 0.93, 32%, Easy-Medium
Fri 19:06, 12:42, 1.50, 99%, Challenging
Sat 17:18, 17:32, 0.99, 51%, Medium

Until just now, I missed all of the discussion after I posted the final statistics last evening. Thanks to all for speaking up for me (@Andrea ... aren't you sweet! ... and right back at ya!). I really have nothing to add except that it's gratifying to know that some people find the numbers I post of interest. @Jesse ... apology accepted. I fully recognize the potential short-comings of the online solve times. But in the roughly 10 months that I've been tracking them, I'm struck by their consistency from week to week and the story they seem to tell. I find it interesting to see how the numbers jibe with my own subjective solving experience and Rex's evaluation. If you don't, I promise not to hold it against you if you make it a habit of skipping over my posts.

michael 6:23 PM  

I had to google crain in order to finish. Even after reading the comments, it took me a while to understand "open sesame," but now that I get it I think that "getting in line" is a great clue.

Jesse 6:34 PM  

Um, which post was that, @Elaine? The bad one from the wee hours of this morning, or my latest two desmadres?? Or the one in between??

Hey - you have to admit, at least I'm giving people options on which post of mine is the stupidest.

I've read your posts with interest and a not-minor tinge of envy. So many people here can just rattle off obscure arcane facts without a pause. You seem to know every damn thing, so it's a great comfort that you were, like me, one of the DNFs who failed on Friday.

It's kind of you to acknowledge a newbie.

I really like this blog. Rex, don't boot me off yet.

Ulrich 6:44 PM  

Speaking of misdirection clues, I loved "getting in line"--parsed it correctly only after I got the answer.

For those who are learning German through this blog (like Seth is learning French), here are the 7 deadly sins in German:

Zorn (wrath), Habgier (greed), Faulheit (sloth), Stolz (pride), Wollust (lust), Neid (envy), Völlerei (gluttony)

After Zorn's appearance today, I expect Neid soon!

Stan 7:23 PM  

Hmm, many people are named Zorn or Stolz. But I kind of like 'Stan Faulheit' as a name.

Tinbeni 7:25 PM  

Actually your "rant" last night was cognizant from the point of view of at least "questioning" the stats being presented.
(Before anyone thinks I'm off base. I'm a former Auditor. I've looked at fake invoices, etc. before discovering the fraud at hand. NOT THE CASE HERE!)
Also the comments afterward explained the stats reality very clearly.

Your database and computation of relative difficulty level for both "All Solvers" and "Top 100" is most impressive and informative.
Hey, I'm a 'numbers' guy, in more ways than one...

My problem is I have not yet figured out how to compute each 'cup of coffee' into a time-frame.

Thanks for the 7 sins.
Is my Scotch at sunset Faulheit or Wollust?


andrea doorprizes michaels 7:41 PM  

You are rivaling me in mea culpas!
Next thing you know, you'll be using too many exclamation marks!!
One does not get booted off Rex's for occasional stupid comments, I am living proof!

@jf, archaeoprof
I had TRIP which left the social outcast as R-PER...and I KNEW you couldn't have RAPER in the NYT...so the supposedly non-existent breakfast test helped me catch my mistake.

I haven't read Amy's yet, I love to see someone blog their own puzzle!!! I'm gonna guess that GINORMOUS was the impetus for the whole puzzle. (I was so proud of myself for plopping it in and accidentally being right!)

Loved DOORPRIZES, but not sure why.

Thanks for the TAMLA tale...had NO idea and love a good naming story.
At least in the last year and a half you have forgotten the icky cologne...
I'm with you about forgetting which old boyfriend did what! Definitely a sign of age!

Danke schoen for the German lesson!
ZORN is a deadly sin? Did I ever send you my story when I was assigned Wrath/Zorn and taught the audience a mnemonic I made up for the 7 Deadly sins in English?
RIghteousness (pride)

I time myself by whether or not I finish before the end of one of the guilty-pleasure reality shows I watch while solving and checking email...that way I figure it cancels out the sin. I mean, if I can solve a Saturday puzzle in less than half the time "ET's biggest Hollywood cheating couples scandals" I'm allowed to watch the second half!

Damn, I forgot to use AGLEAM today.
Perhaps it's not too late.

MsCarrera 8:14 PM  

So many comments on the solve times that I cannot recall who said what, but someone wrote that the people who usually post their comments first are among the fastest solvers. Is that really so? (I actually posted a comment first once and second another time, but I seriously doubt that I was faster than any of the other solvers.) I found out recently that a lot of people get the puzzle early because they subscribe to it online. Others like myself, have to wait for the NYT to be delivered to their homes. Are the calculations derived from the times that people supply in posting their comments, or are they derived automatically from the online site to which people subscribe? I went back to the 7/30/09 posting to read about it and it was not clear to me. I have often wondered about this, but never asked. Now seems like an appropriate time to jump in. Thank you.

Bob Kerfuffle 8:25 PM  

@Andrea - Re: Your statement that you loved DOORPRIZES but not sure why:

Here's half of an explanation -

As it happens, I was just reading the Feb. 14, 2010, New York Times magazine last night, and the On Language column was devoted to words held to be beautiful simply as words, and the number one spot was held by "Cellar Door." So, the door takes the prize.

Here's the Wikipedia article on Cellar Door. (Being Wikipedia, it even references the 2/14/10 article.)

Elaine 8:26 PM  

With all due respect, now I have a headache in addition to this awful cold.

Well, I was posting before the latest stuff floated to the surface...so I was just responding to last night/this morning. Nonetheless, I think it's good you are going to stick it out and outlive your misdemeanors.

I will add: I'm 62 (Edith B and I are twins separated at birth, we've decided) and I have a LOT of education, reading, traveling, and living to draw on.....but (as you see) even then I can be defeated by some puzzles.

Welcome to the community....

Hmmm. my captcha is "mousings"...somewhat like 'musings,' but more nibble-prone?

Tinbeni 8:48 PM  

@Andrea Doorprize Michaels
Now I get it.
Having you here with your sense of humor is my doorprize.

I had GINORMOUS so fast I had to check to see if it was Wed. and Mr. Peabody had put me into the Wayback Machine and my butt wasn't still sore from the whoopin' it had yesterday.

Mon-Fri I use CNBC to see how long it takes me to lose
$ 100 Cold-Cash American in the market.
Sat. I'm in a fog. CNBC has Pd.Prog. and I don't need
another Grill/ABFlex/Chopper/Shammy/Sweeper.

I should check out 'E' ... Celeb Sluts sounds like fun.

joho 8:52 PM  

@Jesse ... welcome!

Glitch 8:54 PM  


On line subscribers can get the puzzle, usually, at 10 pm ET.

Thay can do the puzzle "on line" complete with a timer, or "off line" and enter their times manually on a site.

The "posting" referred to is of their times on that site, not here.

Someone posting a 4 minute time at 10:05 pm is probably not cheating.


Glitch 9:14 PM  


The online versions tell you when you are correct, but if not correct, no indication of the errors.


fikink 9:33 PM  

Well, just finished the puzzle, enjoyed it, read all your comments and now am in need of some Jameson's, yesterday's puzzle, and then yesterday's commentary.

@Ulrich, thanks for the 7 deadly. Seems I come face to face with them on a daily basis.

I second @Bob Kerfuffle's call: "Play it again, Sam."

captcha: infedirs - The stuff of Crusades.

sanfranman59 9:34 PM  

@MsCarrera ... what @Glitch said. I only use the solve times that appear in the list of solvers posted in the NYT Premium Crosswords applet. Except, unless I'm missing something, I don't think Glitch is correct about off line solvers being able to manually enter their times on the site. Care to elaborate, Glitch?

Ulrich 9:39 PM  

@Andrea: The German equivalent of your WRIGGLES would be VE HEF ZE SNOW!

MsCarrera 9:58 PM  

Thank you Glitch and sanfranman59. Sorry if some thought my question stupid.

Two Ponies 9:58 PM  

@ Tinbeni,
I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who still travels with Mr. Peabody. I raise my stiletto of Jameson's to you courtesy of our friend jesser. (Not that I really need another one at this point but what the hell.)

Yoda 9:59 PM  

Drink lot of Jameson's need.
Friday forget!
Give not into the forces of the Dark Side.

Tinbeni 10:42 PM  

@Two Ponies
With my avatar you looks like four!

Yesterday you mentioned the Peabody Wayback Machine.
I asked if he sold them.

Well I found it on the Grand Fenwick eBay site!
Only One Bazillion Tayels.
I think that is approx. $ 7.32 USD.
So I splurged and bought it.

From here on out, I can do the puzzle, check Rex, and go-back to clean up any snafu's.

It is amazing what you can do with a little Pinch.

jesser 12:12 AM  

It is late. I am not drinking anything from any shoes.

Tibeni may be working into that space. I am WAY cool widdat.

@jesse: Never apologize!

@You Know Who: We'll see. :-)

See y'all in the a.m.

Nowne! (decidedly not a vurb) -- jesser

fikink 1:14 AM  

@Yoda, you are wise beyond your sweet vole years.

@Tinbeni, with props to Pinch, prefer my Johnny. Do you really look at galaxies?

Best thing for me about this puzzle was St. Mark. Thanks for the image, Rex - wrote many a paper on Donatello before I found out he was a Ninja.

captcha: "OLOPHY" Wasn't he a cartoonist?

Orange 1:36 AM  

Friend of mine just blogged about having a shot of Jameson followed by a "pickle back"—a shot of pickle brine. He loved it. Me, I won't drink either one.

foodie 2:06 AM  

@Orange, ewe...

re the pickle back.

But nice to hear from you again, in this neck of the woods.

mouthphil 9:02 AM  

Nobody uses "Dices" as a verb when referring to the game of craps (34 down). I play craps often, and ifI told my wife I was going to do some dicing, she'd have me locked up.
I put "rolls" as an answer here because that what we do, roll dice, and it totally messed me up with this sectionof the puzzle.


Glitch 10:34 AM  

@sanfranman59 & @mscarrera

Left it a little vague as I wasn't sure which site(s) SFM was using.

NYT Premium does make you complete the puzzle (correctly) and then it enters the time for you.

There are other sites that allow the time to be entered on the [dis]honor system. ;-)


Singer 5:19 PM  

Very late comment from syndication which no one (except perhaps Rex) will read, but I can't help myself. This is for sure a wonky comment, but Justinian I was not Pope. The office of Pope wasn't created until about 150 years after his term as Bishop of Rome. Learned this in a Christian History class I am currently taking (which also gave me the random Roman Numeral - helpful)

Singer 5:24 PM  

Sorry, meant Julius 1

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