Raga accompaniers / THU 4-22-10 / Chat room opener / Certain trekker / Jewelry often used in hypnosis / Like a small egg

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Constructor: Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: X MARKS / THE SPOT (24A: With 40-Across, key to the "map" of this puzzle) — letter "X" represents the phrase "THE SPOT" in three theme answers (functioning simply as the letter "X" in the crosses)


Word of the Day: Gordon MACRAE (34A: Gordon of "Oklahoma!") —

Albert Gordon MacRae (March 12, 1921 – January 24, 1986) was an American actor and singer, best known for his appearances in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, Oklahoma! (1955) and Carousel (1956). // He was married to Sheila MacRae from 1941 until 1967, and was the father of Heather MacRae and the late Meredith MacRae. // After the filming of Carousel, alcoholism interfered with his career. Also, fewer movie musicals with a demand for his type of singing voice were made. MacRae later overcame his addiction. // He married Elizabeth Lamberti Schrafft on September 25, 1967, and they remained married until his death. // He was best friends with his co-star Shirley Jones and was the godfather of her son Shaun Cassidy.
• • •

Thursdays are short days while I'm still teaching (only a few weeks left!), so, to make a long story short: Loved it. If I have any complaint, it's that there are only three theme answers — wish it weren't so thin, but with those, and the longish theme-revealer, it's not as if there was much room for more. I figured out the gimmick early, up in the NE corner. Saw that 18A had to end in "THE SPOT," and just waited to see what the deal was with the Down — got the "X" from SEX DRIVE (13D: Libido), and the theme was plain as day. Maybe too plain. But whatever — it's a very clever concept, nicely executed. Sadly, it allowed me to fill in all the theme answers with almost no difficulty whatsoever, and since the cluing wasn't *terribly* tough, I was done pretty quickly. Only reason I have this rated at even a "Medium" is because tricksy puzzles like this often cause significant slowage in the solving population. Looking it over again just now, I think it "Easy-Medium" might be more accurate.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: One who's available when needed (JOHNNY ON X)
  • 55A: Asked a hard question in public, say (PUT ON X)
  • 63A: "Mmm! So satisfying!" (THAT HITS X)
The short fill was wobbly. At 78 words, this puzzle has lots of 3- and 4-letter answers, many of them straight out of the generic crossword playbook — the south, with ESTA crossing ESAS, is a particular low point. But here's the thing — this theme makes me not care. If your short fill is wobbly, there'd better be a good reason. And there was. Let's all just pretend that AREAR isn't there (30D: Backward).

Bullets:
  • 1A: Like saddle shoes and bell-bottom pants (DATED) — I had RETRO, and the correct "T" got me TABLAS (3D: Raga accompaniers), so RETRO stayed put for a bit.
  • 6A: Beehive contents (HAIR) — seemed obvious to me what the clue was going for.
  • 26A: Like a small egg (OVULAR) — ... and yet *not* a small egg? When do you use this?
  • 37A: ___ Wayne with the platinum album "Tha Block Is Hot" (LIL) — thank god Caleb is keeping it mildly fresh up in here with LIL Wayne and LADY GAGA (39D: Singer born Stefani Germanotta) and DEREK Zoolander and TIM the Enchanter (64D: Enchanter in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"). OK, so TIM is 35 years old, but that clue felt fresh as homemade bread. Made me literally LOL, and that almost *never* happens mid-solve.

  • 6D: Certain trekker (HAJI) — knew early on it had to do with the HADJ, but couldn't remember if the trekker was also called HADJ, or HAJJ, or what.
  • 8D: Chat room opener (IMHO) — "In my humble opinion." Hardly ever signals actual humility.
  • 25D: Band with the 2008 album "Accelerate" (R.E.M.) — I lost track of their album titles after "Automatic for the People" (a capital "G" Great album)

  • 12D: Jewelry often used in hypnosis (PENDANTS) — Hmmm, in my head this "jewelry" is always a pocket watch on a chain. Must be from some long-forgotten cartoon.
  • 38D: Dupe's shout ("I BEEN HAD!") — please don't complain about the grammar. It's colloquial, it's been in the puzzle before, it's fine.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

80 comments:

lit.doc 12:08 AM  

Now this one was fun! I’m guessing that many will clock in at their fastest Thursday ever (my 23:51 doesn’t count as I had to google for 5D DEREK, but still).

Freakish fast for me, despite the one google. I was driven out of NW quickly by (1A RETRO + 17A LIKUD + 20 URL) x (3D SITARS) and, no surprise, that was the last area to fall.

The “Aha!” moment came 12 minutes in when I had enough crosses to see 63A THAT HIT’S THE [X = SPOT].

Cath 12:33 AM  

I really liked the theme but I think I may be too new a puzzler to get some of the fill. Had no idea what TABLAS was... only Indian instrument I know is the sitar... our favorite Indian restaurant always plays the same old DVD of Ravi Shankar playing his. I don't get how ELATE is synonymous with send. I barely got DELUXE, couldn't figure out PSYCH (partially because I didn't know MACRAE), had to google elegiac to figure out DIRGE. So, the NW and the SE were the last to go in, and didn't go with just my brain for answers. For me, it was a pretty good Thursday attempt, though.

I agree on the weak parts, Rex, and dislike the ungrammatical "I BEEN HAD". Surprisingly, I managed to get both LIL and LADY GAGA, despite being totally out of the popular music loop.

Oh, and the clue for SHOE LACE was evil! But in a good way.

Oh, had to share today's captcha... bramate. I refuse to think of it as anything other than those plastic holders that keep the shape of a lady's unmentionables while in the wash.

retired_chemist 12:41 AM  

Medium Thursday time for me. It felt easier though.

Isn't IMHO "In My Honest Opinion?"

I presume many of us had RETRO before DATED and LIKUD before LABOR.

Thought “Star followers” might be MAGS – thus TSM for the Monty Python enchanter. Initials? Opted for MAGI/TIM instead, going for a name I didn’t know instead of initials I didn’t know. Yay.

Old enough that MACRAE was a gimme.

Caught the theme bit late. Was sure from crosses in the SE that PUT ON X was right and a moment's thought did it for me. Had HAIR instantly @ 6A but wanted BOER for the trekker. Didn't fix it until JOHNNY ON X appeared, after I got the theme.

Minor nitpick: is OEDS plural? Is there more than one?

A very good job. Mr. Madison. Thanks.

PurpleGuy 12:52 AM  

@Cath - think of the song "Darling, you SEND me."
Agree with @lit.doc that this was really fun.
I remember MACRAE also. Hand raised for oldster.
Really liked the cross of SEXDRIVE and JOHNNYONX(=the spot). Yes, I'm juvenile at times,he said with a smirk.
Probably one of my fastest Thursday puzzles.
The write up was a gas. Thanks for the Monty Python clip, Rex.
Great puzzle Caleb. It really HIT THE SPOT. !!!!

syndy 1:05 AM  

HEY;that was one mean bunnyrabbit.Really liked this puzzle although i did want more'just being greedy.had a little trouble with haji-wanted a "d" in there.giggled at how obvious "omoo" has become.hard to hide.

lit.doc 1:26 AM  

@syndy, ok, the Monty Python ref suggests a new way to hide OMOO: "Last words of farm animal shagged over the parapets by taunter with outrageous French accent". How 'bout that for obscure?

@Cath, I've only had TABLAS in my "Learned From/For Crosswords" file for a few months, and I still don't like it. Ugh.

newspaperguy 1:38 AM  

A pretty nice, satisfying puzzle, though a bit quick--probably 10 minutes for me--for a Thursday. Didn't like hair for beehive contents much, though, because the beehive IS the hair, not really the contents. The theme was a gimme when sexdrive dropped into place.

newspaperguy 1:41 AM  

Retired_chemist: If you have one OED and then get another OED then, yes, you have two OEDs.

SethG 1:45 AM  

It can mean honest, it generally means humble. And when it means humble, like Rex said it generally doesn't mean humble.

Fantastic theme. I was a bit slow to figure it out 'cause I didn't know the JOHNNY ON (THE SPOT) phrase, but I knew something weird was going on.

The EPISODE clue = win.

chefwen 2:09 AM  

Caleb and I are usually in different camps but this one I loved. Caught on with OX EYES and PUT ON THE X. Had a few clues marked to Google (just in case) but I never had to move my butt off X on my couch.

Thanks Caleb for a fun Wednesday evening.

Favorite was THAT HITS X.

jae 3:09 AM  

Yep, fine puzzle. Got hung up briefly with RETRO but after I fixed that easy-medium works for me. Looks like Caleb is taking a page from BEQ with 9 music related clues.

Steve J 3:09 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve J 3:11 AM  

Just hit midnight (Wednesday into Thurday) here on the West Coast, where I spent the last 22 minutes of the last day of my 30s with Caleb's absolutely fantastic puzzle. Loved the theme (although it took me a diversion into rebus-land before I got the trick), and there was a lot of fill I considered fresh.

In fact, the same fill Rex found fresh, I did. I wonder if it's that it hits a sweetspot for people hitting 40 this year (especially TIM - practically every guy I went to college with could recite the entire Monty Python catalogue, and especially "Holy Grail," from memory). The beehive clue automatically triggered HAIR for me as well (I loved this one - maybe my favorite clue/answer combo of the entire puzzle), and while I don't know LIL Wayne's music at all, a three-letter partial leading into some musical Wayne is pretty much a gimmee for those well-versed in 2000s pop culture.

There were a few bumpy bits. In addition to some off-key short fill, it felt like there were an awful lot of partials and abbreviations. But I'm sure it's tough to make every single square sparkle when you have to devote space to a really, really strong theme. And the theme definitely outweighed the parts that didn't sing.

Great fun.

(@Cath: Think of the phrase/song "You send me," and you'll probably see the ELATE connection.)

sean m 3:18 AM  

pretty easy for a thursday, but very fun.

also got the theme right away, though with 'that hits x', because the first word i put in the grid was of course TIM.

also had retro before tired. and the shoelace corner came last for me.

Rube 4:00 AM  

Blech. The first puzzle I can remember where the "rebus" works only in one direction. Hated this. Had 4 googles and still could not make sense of the "X"s.

NEV as battle born state? Israel, West Virginia, Kansas, yes, but NEV?

28A, ESSE Quam Viden? A know or don't if ever I saw one.

1D DELUXE? Wanted option for choice and still think that's better.

MACRAE, a gimme for us oldies. The one bright spot in this disaster.

ELATE = Send? That's a stretch.

IBEENHAD? Only for trailer trash talk.

Actually, the South wasn't all that bad. It's the North that I found really objectionable, although thought SHOELACE as "On the tip of the tongue" was really quite clever, but definitely Friday-Saturday-ish.

There are others, but I've had it!

It could be that as I'm recovering from a root canal this evening that I'm a bit testy.

Elaine 4:08 AM  

Abandoning the NW and moving to the SE corner was a good approach to this puzzle, because OMOO/OXEYES revealed the trick.

Of course, I put GHOST in for Bob Marley, and COMB for [Beehive contents.] Old ladies are so silly.

The NW was just hell. Saddle shoes (once the dearest wish of my soul) are OUTRE, no? And OPTION is a [choice.] (No.) RETRO? Israeli party is LIKUD! I'm on a roll now! (Not.) SITARS for [Raga accompaniers?] Trudge, trudge. Still haven't seen 'Zoolander,' but did watch 'Charlie Wilson's War' this week. What's a five letter word for [Behind The Times?]

Fond memories of 'Titus Overture,' as our scores were entitled; (clarinets played the violin parts in Band.)

I think Caleb is a lot of fun, and not to PUT him ON X, but shouldn't he be studying for exams??

chefwen 4:12 AM  

@Steve J - Happy 40th, that was a tough one for me until I turned 40 and a day and thought "big deal, no problem, piece o' cake".

@Rube - Hope you are feeling better, have a little of Tinbennies sp? cure all, it works wonders.

edith b 5:22 AM  

I looked up "Battle Born State" - after the fact, of course - and learned that Nevada entered the Union during the Civil War.

Hand up for the RETRO/LIKUD combo in the NW. I had to completely redo that corner to finish as I also had MODEL at 5D that prevented me from seeing XMARKS/THESPOT in its entirety although the rest of the puzzle went done smooth as silk.

I found IBEENHAD to be sufficiently in the language to not condemn it as trailor trash talk and perhaps transform it to the world of idiom IMHO.

I think I love language in the same way as Mr Madison as I have been enamored with EDD Rousch's name for as long as I can remember.

Random observations.

andrea x michaels 5:58 AM  

of course I'm gonna say this puzzle really hit X!!!

Took me a looong time tho, as I too had passe to make my sitar and Likud work...not to mention Boer and ALerts...m-e-s-s

Unclear where I fall on the hipness parabola since LIL Wayne was my first entry, but I didn't know DEREK nor TIM. (Had MAGs thinking Star magnets...duh)

Before I got PSYCH out, I had -SY-H and wondered what kind of terrible terrible mistake I had made!

@elaine
caleb prob isn't studying for exams, bec for all we know, he wrote this when he was eight!

Depending on how you count, for me, this puzzle didn't have just 3 theme phrases, it sort of had 5; with the reveal split in two, that seems like two more theme entries.

4 Xs, a J, K, and Z!!!
LADYGAGA, SEXDRIVE!!!!!
If I wouldn't get arrested for inappropriateness, I'd say I was in love!

CoolPapaD 6:28 AM  

Totally loved this one!

@Steve J - Happy Birthday, young man!

@retired-chemist - put me in the MAGS camp, from which I never escaped (too anxious to see if Rex had posted, and never double checked)

I saw a high-school production of Oklahoma when I was in 6th grade (~1976), and immediately begged my parents for the $5.00 to by the album the next day - wore my needle out playing it repeatedly. To this day, I still know most of the words. This was my intro to Broadway show tunes (not that there's anything wrong with that)!

Anonymous 7:38 AM  

Anyone else have PASSE at 1a besides me? That slowed things down for sure, but the rest came smoothly. It was fun, tho I agree with Rex: more like easy-medium.

foodie 7:49 AM  

I loved this puzzle and found it very amusing, with actual chuckling, even though I am way past my 40th. I especially liked that LADYGAGA corner. She definitely deserves to be in a puzzle, with a name like this.

I too was hung up on the fact that the rebus was relevant in only one direction. I put down X MARKS... THE SPOT fairly early on and stared for the longest time at 1Down because I could not think of an expression relating to choice that would have THE SPOT in it. It was only after finishing the SE and OXEYES that I tumbled to the differential role of the X...

How common is that for a rebus?

ArtLvr 7:57 AM  

Good write-up, Rex! Hand up here too for happily starting with Passé, the Sitars suspended from its first S and ending with ESSE in 28A. Quickly fixed at the very end after working out all the rest!

Caleb has a DELUXE range for fresh crosswords -- I especially liked the PENDANTS as Jewelry often used in hypnosis, and PSYCH for Demoralize, (with "out"). HAIR was funny and MACRAE was a gimme, fortunately, as the clues for RASTA, REM and DEREK meant nothing to me..

Listening to MOZART as I write -- thank heavens for our classical PBS station 24/7.... Happy Earth Day, all.

∑;)

nanpilla 8:06 AM  

Too many years spent at horse shows, I guess, but JOHNNY ON THE SPOT will always be a porta-potty to me.

Loved this puzzle - what a great idea, and super 8-stacks in the corners.

Smitty 8:10 AM  

Wow I didn't know Gordon MacRae's wife Sheila MacRae played Alice Kramden on the Honeymooners.
I followed Rex's link.

Anonymous 8:20 AM  

1) a rebus in only one direction is not a puzzle but a trick. It doesn't make any sense to have X mark the spot only in one direction.

2) I been had does not exist. There are two choice: I was had, or I've been had. The answer here is wrong grammatically and destroys the SW

3) Giving the clue for "Labor" as Isreal political party is beyond misleading. There are labor parties elsewhere. The answer as everybody put in was Likud. That made the NE harder then it should have been.

Overall I couldn't wait for this solving experience to end.

Dough 8:22 AM  

Great puzzle. Nice handling of all those X's and a beautiful Z (Mozart). I think that for long-time solvers, this was made easier by all the familiar crosswordese, which inevitably makes it harder for less experienced solvers, IMHO (which, usually comes at the end and not at the beginning!)
:)

joho 8:25 AM  

Fantastic puzzle! Solved last night in bed and was surprised at how fast I zipped through it and even more so at the fresh, totally unexpected theme. Too much fun!

@andrea x michaels ... I have SEXDIRVE, LADYGAGA written in my margin. Love it!

"It may be on the tip of your tongue" is one of the best clues ever.

I've heard IBEENHAD many, many times ... it is definitely a legitimate phrase.

Caleb Madison ... thank you for this new concept in construction and for such a entertaining Thursday puzzle!

retired_chemist 8:53 AM  

I have no problem with X being "THE SPOT" in acrosses only. Part of the fun of a puzzle is to figure out the rule in cases like this.

dk 8:54 AM  

I like @rubes trailer trash mini theme. IMHO rubes say IBEENHAD.

I would vote easy for this one except I spelled DIRGE with a u, had study for READY and best of all stared at HAI wondering what on earth was in a beehive, then I remembered RONDO and the buzzing stopped.

x-cel-ent puzzle. I am very happy I did not have to know what the things on the end of SHOELACE are.

My campaign for Typee over Omoo moves into high gear as a becomes platform plank for the Tea Party. The subtitle for Typee is A Peep at Polynesian Life. I have enlisted the aide of my marshmallow peeps as it is their off season. Stay tuned

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

had passe for dated, threw me off so had sitars and so on

retired_chemist 9:11 AM  

@ newspaperguy - I would have said "two copies of the OED." As another example, "two OMOOs" just sounds wrong yet is grammatically identical.

Rex Parker 9:14 AM  

The entire point of the puzzle is that X MARKS THE SPOT — it's gotta be "X" in one direction in order to mark "THE SPOT" in the other.

Ungrammatical expressions (ones that have some colloquial cred) are in the puzzle all the time. I BEEN HAD is nothing new.

As for LABOR. . . it's a common word. Tricky (overly specific-sounding) clue, OK, but not ungettable, by any means.

rp

Elaine 9:19 AM  

Well, a wee quibble. You always see a pocketwatch on a chain being swung before the eyes of the hypnotist's subject. When it's being dangled, it's PENDANT, I suppose, but still.

Hand up for actually learning self-hypnosis (for management of pain without medication;) no jewelry was involved. All the fakery, movie-misrepresentation, and fallacious ideas about hypnosis aside, it's actually a useful form of deep relaxation, an 'altered state of consciousness' in which one still has the pain, but is focused elsewhere. I think clues should be accurate in substance.

Judith 9:28 AM  

We have a port-a-pot company around here named Johnny on the Spot. There were no clues to do with that!

Loved the puzzle but I too had to google derek. Started watching zoolander, but couldn't stay with it. Liked Greenberg though. Life is wasted on people!

OldCarFudd 9:38 AM  

As an old fudd, I didn't (and still don't) know a lot of the modern artists. But they were all inferrable from crosses, which is fine. Hand up for passe.

I have no problem with a one-way rebus. Anyone writing a gimmick puzzle gets to choose his own gimmick. If we expected non-conformity to conform, we'd never have the pleasure of trying something new.

When did the President of the United States morph into tired fill?

twangster 9:45 AM  

I got Gordon MacRae from the Kinks tune "Oklahoma, USA," which is one of Ray Davies' most gorgeous compositions. Check it out here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6W_iVrXyQ4M

All life we work but work is bore,
If life's for livin' what's livin' for,
She lives in a house that's near decay,
Built for the industrial revolution,
But in her dreams she is far away,
In Oklahoma U.S.A.
With Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae...

As she buys her paper at the corner shop,
She's walkin' on the surrey with the fringe on top,
'Cause in her dreams she is far away,
In Oklahoma U.S.A.,
She walks to work but she's still in a daze,
She's Rita Hayworth or Doris Day,
And Errol Flynn's gonna take her away,
To Oklahoma U.S.A...

There are some recent live versions on youtube as well.

deerfencer 9:52 AM  

Zoolander had its moments--mainly Ben Stiller's facial tics and physical posturing. And the Monty Python skit was a riot; thanks for posting, Rex.

How can you not love the playful spirit that runs throughout this puzzle? Very infectious fun IMNSHO. 4 stars to Mr. Madison for the freshest NYT'S X-word in a long while!

Ulrich 9:53 AM  

@ret.-chem.: I'm with you all the way when it comes figuring out the rules a constructor set for a part. puzzle--viewing the world this way is def.--IMHO--more fun than traipsing through it wielding a given yardstick and holding it up to any phenomenon encountered in order to proclaim "it fits" or "it doesn't fit". That kind of attitude would preclude any innovation in the arts, for example. What matters, to me, is consistency within a set of rules, once they have been set, and in these terms, the puzzle is consistent and makes logical sense, pace Rex at 9:14. Just don't call it a "rebus" if that helps.

Frances 9:56 AM  

For 1A, I tried RETRO, which didn't last long at all and then PASSE, which supported SITARS and ALARMS, so it enjoyed a long tenure but led nowhere. Giving up on NW, I completed the remaining 3/4 of the grid, so I didn't get to the two-part reveal until after I had generated three seemingly misplaced X's. The eventual Aha! was well worth the price of admission.

MikeM 9:59 AM  

I did not know that Meredith Macrae was deceased; she was stunning and I had quite the crush on her as a boy.

Had PASSE also; making the Northeast tough. Loved the puzzle

retired_chemist 9:59 AM  

"I BEEN HAD" is, presumably, the abridged form of "I DONE BEEN HAD."

foodie 10:04 AM  

Rex, you're so smart! That's exactly the way I should have been thinking about the theme. It did not even make sense to do it as a rebus in both directions! Now I'm really impressed (with Caleb and Rex, and not with me :<)

Van55 10:07 AM  

This was just great fun to solve. Sure one can quibble but the overall experience was fresh and just the right level of challenge and occasional misdirection.

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

I loved this puzzle, but found it slower going than most posters. The middle top and NW had me stymied. For some reason the pilot and beehive misdirection REALLY worked on me, and hand up for sitar. And I can never remember that other instrument that I've already forgotten.

earlier or later 10:14 AM  

Just curious:

Did those of you that needed to google DEREK do so in order to finish the puzzle, or to confirm it was correct after the fact?

My only question, at first, was I or E (DER_K), but Ipesode solved that problem ;)

P>G> the lurker

Bob Kerfuffle 10:31 AM  

Really enjoyed this puzzle. Took longer than it should have because I was a member of the apparently rather large PASSE/ALERTS/SITARS group.

archaeoprof 10:48 AM  

Sorry, but I don't share the love for this puzzle.

Caleb and I are rarely on the same wavelength. To me, his clues and answers often feel like they come from a thesaurus, or cruciverb, rather than from life.

That's just IMHO. Let the general celebration now resume!

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

@smitty...Audrey Meadows played Alice Kramden on the honeymooners.

Amomynous, Too 11:00 AM  

@Anonymous, 10:55 - Since you can't be bothered to follow the link as @smitty did, here is what it says:

Sheila MacRae (born Sheila Margaret Stephens on 24 September 1924, in London, England) is an actress and author. She is sometimes credited as Sheila Stephenson.

MacRae appeared in such films as Pretty Baby (1950), Caged (1950), Backfire (1950), and Sex and the Single Girl (1964).

She played Alice Kramden, the long-suffering but sassy wife of bus driver Ralph Kramden (played by Jackie Gleason) on the musical-comedy color episodes of "The Honeymooners" on The Jackie Gleason Show from 1966 to 1970 (a role originally played by Pert Kelton and then Audrey Meadows). She later played the role of "Madelyn Richmond" on the television soap opera, General Hospital.

lit.doc 11:04 AM  

@retired_chemist, LOL re your explication of the elided "DONE". Thanks for clearing that up.

@earlier or later, I needed a word in NW to finish, and bet on 5D. Don't know if I would ever have solved NW otherwise.

Two Ponies 11:21 AM  

I really adored this one. I felt like a dork that I took awhile to get the joke. I stared soooo long at 63A knowing I had the right letters. What a hoot when it all fell into place. Very clever and quite nicely done.

I live in Nev. but have never heard it called that.
@ Elaine, Your Marley mix-up amused me.
@ CoolPapaD, I also saw and loved a high school production of OK.
@ Rube, Hope you get over your crabbiness. I thought 37A might make you smile as it relates to your avatar. Speaking of Lil I think it is funny that a music genre that seems to ooze machismo has so many Lil names. Are they supposed to be ironic?
Alky had me scratching my head for awhile. Alky Seltzer?
I associate "I been had" with old movies like The Bowery Boys. Trailer trash? Not so much. Like
@ r_c said, that would "I done been had."
All in all a really fun puzzle.
I'm always game for a new trick esp. on a Thursday.

Chip Hilton 11:33 AM  

So what's the Spanish equivalent of Natick? The intersection of 71A. and 60D. had this non-Spanish speaker stumped. Call it a Salamanca moment.

tptsteve 11:36 AM  

Theme went right over my head; never picked it up, even though I had "the spot." Crashed and burned up top, since I couldn't get past sitars.

Amazingly, I had most of the south done, including, "That hit the x," But I looked and looked and looked at it, tried to parse it and could only think WTF?

Oh well, it happens.

Steve J 11:51 AM  

Re: Israel and "Labor": I, too, had Likud at first and eventually realized that wasn't working. I had no issues with the misdirection (and had actually hesitated a bit before entering Likud because I knew Labor could go there too). And while lots of countries have Labour parties, very few have large Labor parties (Australia is the other prominent one). Absolutely fair cluing, IMHO.

Anonymous 11:59 AM  

I put LABOR in immediately for the Israeli party, didn't even think about Likud. I did have the A and O in place already, though.

I think some of us are taking this a bit more seriously than we ought today. It is just a crossword puzzle.

icculus 12:06 PM  

lit.doc called it: fastest Thursday ever for me. Laughed at the "tip of your tongue" clue, and thought the LOOKATME/IBEENHAD/LADYGAGA stack was really refreshing and fun. Probably should've been a Wednesday, but a really fun puzzle for me.

jesser 12:06 PM  

Late to the party today. I woke up to the alarm and my throat was on fire, indicating my first bout with strep throat in 2010. I generally get it about three times a year, and it's no biggie as long as I sleep a lot, so I called in to work and went back to bed. Hot tea with honey = yum.

I loved this puzzle. Uncharacteristically, I started in the SE corner, where DIRGE, ON EDGE and OMOO were the first entries. MOZART followed quickly, as did ZEE, and then OX EYES. I stared a while at 55A until the bell went off. With the puzzle's hook in hand, I was off to the races.

AREAR was the only thing that made me cringe. I don't associate demoralization with being PSYCHEd, but the crosses gave it to me, so OK. URB sounds like the noise my chihuahua makes when he's about to upchuck. Loved LADY GAGA and SEX DRIVE, and the clue for SHOELACE is worthy of all the praise it's received here.

All in all, and all the way through, it was just one little grin after another. Thanks, Caleb, Will and commentfolk for a bright point in this day.

I believe I'll go back to sleep now.

Mitenes! (what I have on, because I don't have to wear dress shoes on a sick day) -- jesser

Glitch 12:20 PM  

Nevada ... The state's nickname is Silver State, ... "Sagebrush State" and "Battle Born State" are its alternative nicknames. In 1864, Nevada became the 36th state to enter the union, and the phrase "Battle Born" on the state flag reflects the state's entry on the Union side during the American Civil War.

.../Glitch (from the Empire State)

mac 12:41 PM  

So much fun, but over much too soon!

I also considered retro and passe for dated, then left that corner and did the east coast first, which produced the trick very soon.
Only write-over has haji for hobo.

Tinbeni 1:01 PM  

OBAMA ATONES
Across in the middle, Hmmm?
Caleb Madison ... What for?

Fell into the passe, sitar snafu. The NW was a LABOR.

Really like the X MARKS THE SPOT theme.

The SW ... LOOK AT ME, I BEEN HAD, LADY GAGA was descriptive.

IMHO this was FUN.

fergus 1:38 PM  

Where Andrea went for MAGS I almost went for RAGS.

The "map" had me looking for something I still haven't found. I guess that the quotation marks were meant to signify nothing other than a reference to a pirate's treasure?

Stan 2:53 PM  

Because I gave up at the top and did the bottom first, I got THE SPOT (indicated with just a dot in the square) before I saw what was happening with the X's. Thanks, Caleb, well done!

Rube 3:05 PM  

@Caleb, If you're out there, I apoloogize for being so rude last night, (after the novocaine wore off). In the light of day, my objections seem to melt away. I drew straws with my conscience and it will now allow me to accept a one-direction rebus.

Besides, my lumbering hulk of a Land Cruiser passed it's smog inspection this morning so all is right with the world.

Something fishy going on here. My captcha is (mea) calpa.

Anonymous 3:14 PM  

Just because it was in the puzzle before, doesn't mean it's fine.

It was stupid the first time and it's stupid today, you sot!

-Missy

jesser 3:53 PM  

On behalf of sots everywhere, I take umbrage. -- jesser

Sfingi 4:25 PM  

Like many I had trouble in the NW.
I had to Google for DEREK, ESSE, to get it at all. It was also a problem since I had "pAsse" before DATED, and "sitar" before TABLA which I never heard of. I had no idea which of the 100 Israeli parties was wanted. What is ETO? if it's European Theater, I never heard it as initials. The corner was a Natick nest.

Outside of the NW, had to Google for AMOS.

Never heard of TIM the Enchanter, learned LADYGAGA's real name.

Did not like AREAR or many of the other A-words CWers come up with.

We've had too much OMOO.

But, the rest was foyn.

Strangely enough, and probably because I started at the bottom, I got the theme from the first clue -THATHITSX, and was wanting a 4th clue the whole time after that.

sanfranman59 4:37 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 14:40, 19:30, 0.75, 7%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Thu 7:26, 9:21, 0.80, 11%, Easy

Elaine 4:42 PM  

Will see you guys on Monday. Heading out to visit one of the offspring and celebrate the birthday of Hubby Dearest-- the big Six-Nine. (Next year might be more painful.) If he were a puzzle-husband, he would be quoting the NYT crossword: 'OW OW.'

Good luck, All, on the Friday/Saturday line-up!

PurpleGuy 5:13 PM  

@jesser - hope you're feeling better soon. At least your sense of humor isn't affected.
A toast to SOTs everywhere !!!!!

@Tinbeni - we should only hope that OBAMA ATONES !

Tinbeni 5:36 PM  

@PurpleGuy
Well they always say "If you see it in the New York Times, it must be true."
When I saw the across OBAMA ATONES it made me wonder.

@Anon Missy
My Avatar has added you to my daily "sunset toast."

To one and all, Cheers !!!

PurpleGuy 5:51 PM  

@Tinbeni - When I saw it, it made me hope ;)
My mom enjoyed her birthday, and your sunset toast. Thanks.

joho 6:09 PM  

I just came to read the comments and noticed for the first time that when you change the "a" to "e" in Caleb you get CELEB. How appropriate.

@sanfranman59 ... I haven't said it before, but I love your keeping track of difficulty. What's interesting to me about this puzzle was it was easy but also so fresh and interesting it was fun. Lots of times easy puzzles are just fill in the blanks. This was fill in the fun.

Cath 8:04 PM  

Thanks @ PurpleGuy and Steve J for the song reference regarding "send". Would it make you laugh to hear that I never understood that song! I always wanted to change the words to You thrill me, because that, actually made sense!

The only reference to that definition I could find notes that it's a slang term, but I guess that the slang marking isn't necessary on a Thursday?

sanfranman59 10:03 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 7:25, 6:56, 1.07, 70%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 11:27, 8:52, 1.29, 96%, Challenging
Wed 10:12, 11:50, 0.86, 18%, Easy
Thu 14:42, 19:30, 0.75, 7%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:44, 3:40, 1.02, 62%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 5:43, 4:31, 1.26, 93%, Challenging
Wed 5:23, 5:48, 0.75, 32%, Easy-Medium
Thu 7:17, 9:21, 0.78, 10%, Easy

Anonymous 10:44 PM  

"Send" = ELATE seems smooth to me, as crooned in song "Darlin' you-oo-oo-oo SEND me...." >Signed, affectionately, Rock(in') Rabbit

Stan 12:13 AM  

@jesser: Feeling for you. Strep is pretty evil. Antibiotics, herb tea with honey, and don't neglect the sleep!

David 3:48 PM  

@ Elaine. You asked what's a five letter word for "behind the times"? Were you thinking of "arear"?

Could someone explain what a captcha is? I don't get any of the references as used above. Thanks.

MaryPatOR 4:38 PM  

@David: Could someone explain what a captcha is? I don't get any of the references as used above. Thanks.

When you want to leave a comment on this blog, you first must type a strange-looking word in a box. It's wavy and odd. These words are called "captchas" - why I don't know!

I thought this was a very fun Thursday puzzle--just the right amount of difficulty. I'm old enough to remember "Oklahoma!" and Gordon MacCrae AND Lady Gaga!

Waxy in Montreal 5:57 PM  

@David and @MaryPatOR - according to Wikipedia "the term "CAPTCHA" (based upon the word capture) was coined in 2000 by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas J. Hopper, and John Langford (all of Carnegie Mellon University). It is a contrived acronym for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart"."

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