Virginia-born Pulitzer Prize novelist of 1942 / MON 4-19-10 / Theme song of bandleader Vincent Lopez / Greek portico / Auto financing inits

Monday, April 19, 2010

Constructor: Randy Sowell

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Screw Edinburgh" — Theme answers are people whose last names are European capitals, except ELLEN GLASGOW, whose last name is just a big city

Word of the Day: ELLEN GLASGOW (33A: Virginia-born Pulitzer Prize novelist of 1942) —

Ellen Anderson Gholson Glasgow (April 22, 1873-November 21, 1945) was a Pulitzer Prize winning American novelist. Born in Richmond, VA, she published her first novel, The Descendant, in 1897, when she was 24 years old. With this novel, Glasgow began a literary career encompassing four and a half decades that comprised 20 novels, a collection of poems, short stories, and a book of literary criticism. Her autobiography, A Woman Within, appeared posthumously in 1954. (wikipedia)
• • •
This felt way harder than the average Monday puzzle, but my final time suggests it was only slightly harder (3:37). Any time you've *never heard of* half the theme answers and still get in and out in anywhere close to your average time, you should consider yourself lucky, I guess. HAROLD ROME has a vague ring of familiarity to it, but ELLEN GLASGOW? No way. I got nothing. Picked up her last name because I saw the theme (this *rarely* happens on Mondays — using the theme to solve the puzzle ... usually just going too fast). She's out of place here, not just in terms of contemporary fame (I'm guessing ROME has some fame among Broadway aficionados), but in terms of her name not being like the others. Not a capital. This puzzle feels old-fashioned, not just in terms of its content (all people whose fame was achieved over 60 years ago), but in terms of its theme type. Last names are all cities ... yawn. This theme *has* to have been done before, somewhere, by someone, possibly (probably) in the days before databases started being kept. Fill is OK. I will remember the name ELLEN GLASGOW, so I guess that's something. Coincidence: I did this puzzle immediately after reading a review of the new biography of Muriel Spark (an actual famous writer). She was born in ... Edinburgh.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Broadway lyricist/composer who wrote "I Can Get It for You Wholesale" (HAROLD ROME)
  • 33A: Virginia-born Pulitzer Prize novelist of 1942 (ELLEN GLASGOW)
  • 42A: "God Bless America" composer (IRVING BERLIN)
  • 61A: "The Call of the Wild" author (JACK LONDON)

You hear an ECHO when you say "Anybody home?" How big is your damned house? I don't mind a couple of partials in a 15x15 grid, but I wish they didn't both have "ON" in them (see ON OR, ON A). Oh, but I guess there are Many more partials, technically (A CASE, A LA, A TO, yeesh). I think of WOLFMAN (5D: One who changes for during a full moon) as a specific character (owned by Universal) — the general term is, of course, WEREWOLF. [Dweebs] => TWERPS doesn't quite compute for me. I'm not quite up on my bandleaders of the '20s-'30s, so "NOLA" was all from crosses (24D: Theme song of bandleader Vincent Lopez). There were also many times when I just misfired: FDIC for GMAC (10D: Auto financing inits.), MISTER for SISTER (55A: "You said it, ___!"), MYNAH for MACAW (1A: Noisy bird), and, most pathetically, ADAZE for WOOZY (7D: Mentally unclear).

  • 29A: Gas log fuel (PROPANE) — I looked at this clue and couldn't make anything of it. It was like three random words were having a tea party. Didn't get that "gas log" was one unit.
  • 50A: Japanese site of the 1972 Winter Olympics (SAPPORO) — Saw only the "Japanese" part of the clue and filled it in (had a few crosses in place). Thought clue might have read [Japanese beer], which is how I know SAPPORO. Oh, I also know it because of the common OBI clue [SAPPORO sash].
  • 35D: Is low around the waist, as pants (SAGS) — didn't like this because a. the phrasing on the clue is just awkward ("Is low...?"), and b. it's not really true — "low" pants aren't even close to the waist. They're down the hips or (on some young men) even lower.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


PurpleGuy 12:23 AM  

Hand raised for MYNAH instead of MACAW.
Knew HAROLD ROME. The musical in the clue was the show that brought Barbra Sreisand her first big break.Her song "Miss Marmelstein" was a showstopper.Elliott Gould was the star, whom she married.
I know @jesser will react to ICETEA. How many times are ELOI going to pop up ?
This was rather smooth and fast for me. I have to say that I enjoyed it. Especially after a tough weekend of burying a parent.

I have to thank all of you on behalf of my family and me for all the support and kind words. Thank you is really not enough, but it is all I can say at this point.
I now need to get ready to celebrate my mom's 102 birthday on Wednesday. Yes, she is doing well and is in good spirits now.
That's my favorite picture as my avatar.

Great write up Rex, as always.
Have a great day, all !!!

syndy 12:25 AM  

easy monday;then i saw 47A and thought "Oh no-two days in a row" there will be growling from new mexico. And as for edinburgh;even if the 'supposed 'stone is back well"scots wae hae"

Rube 1:00 AM  

@PurpleGuy, I offer you my condolences. "Cent ann, encore" to your mother.

'Twas a quickie puzzle, but enjoyable IMO. I won't even comment on ICETEA. Didn't know IRVINGBERLIN wrote God Bless America. It may be doggerel to some, but I love Jack London.

Hadn't heard the expression "Three on a match" in a helluva long time. Probably from WWII, but maybe even earlier. Anybody?

My BASIL started to sprout today.

No new words of note today. Maybe someone in the comments will have something.

Clark 2:14 AM  

Nice link up of SONOMA and JACK LONDON

"The grapes on a score of rolling hills are red with autumn flame. Across Sonoma Mountain wisps of sea fog are stealing. The afternoon sun smoulders in the drowsy sky. I have everything to make me glad I am alive. I am filled with dreams and mysteries. I am all sun and air and sparkle. I am vitalized, organic." -- Jack London

I will be visiting family near SONOMA at the end of the week, driving the road that runs through the Valley of the Moon (one my favorite roads just because of the name). It goes right by JACK LONDON State Park.

chefwen 2:46 AM  

@PurpleGuy/Bob - I would like to offer my deepest sympathy on the loss of your dad. Congratulations to Mom on her 102nd Birthday, what great genes you possess.

Thought the puzzle had a little more crunch than your usual Monday, which is always welcomed. Knew Jack London and Irving Berlin, but the other two were new to me, but easily figured out via the theme.

andrea elicit michaels 5:27 AM  

I love a theme like this...
I get why @Rex feels it's a bit old-fashioned, but again, to find four names, and have them match up in length is quite the feat!

Bec I didn't know two of them this seems more a Tuesday than a Monday (Even after all this time I guess I don't fully know which constitutes what, bec I would have thought the fact that there were 4 theme entries, that one was rather obscure and not like the others, etc. would have made it too hard to be a Monday.

OPENIT felt fresh to me and could have been in yesterday's puzzle, no?

Lots to like. ELICIT feels all sexy to me and I liked the BROIL over JACKLONDON...seems like the start of a theme: JACKLONDONBROIL.

Loved the two Z's in WOOZY and ZEN and the JKZ sprinkled about...a Q short of a pangram.

where are you these days? I need you to chime in on "Sturm und DRANG"!

Come thru the city!

re: 14A
Where is the E in "Ninth"?! That looks so wrong to me. Maybe it's hanging out with the UE of EPILOGS...or...maybe it has disappeared along with Pluto's standing in the universe.

My friend who actually demoted PLUTO, Neal DeGrasse Tyson, is visiting SF Wed night to actually discuss "The Pluto Files" and we will have dinner and I will bring him this puzzle!
He may be in charge of the Hayden Planetarium, and all, but it's REALLY not official until it's been a clue in the NY Times puzzle!

Elaine 6:08 AM  

MYNAH bird, yep.
Surprised by the difficulty rating, although I certainly didn't know two of the theme answers. The crosses kept the forward motion going.
Plan to see if I can unearth some of Ellen Glasgow's work.
Not much else to say.

In a world where the crosswords validate ICE TEA and people pointlessly drop the E in 'nineth,' the demotion of PLUTO may be considered more of the same.

Anonymous 7:37 AM  

Wow, thought reaction to this puzzle would be a lot stronger. Really hated it, clues were terrible and some didn't ever make sense. Twerps? Why put three capital cities and one random one? Didn't like this at all.

jesser 8:02 AM  

Well, first things first: Congrats to PurpleGuy's Mom on hitting 102! Give her a hug, and tell her there's a guy in New Mexico doing The Happy Dance for her!

The puzzle: I loved it, except for 42A, and I won't go into that again, but I appreciate those who noticed from yesterday.

This puzzle was bound to be good for me, because it started with MACAW (I have parrots, and love them), and right below it, PLUTO, because the man who discovered PLUTO was the late, great Clyde Tombaugh, who lived right here in Las Cruces, and was a beautiful, gentle man who lived a good many years. Thankfully he died before The Unspeakable Event, but it traumatized his wife, family and friends.

Ergo, @Andrea, I will always adore YOU, but please tell your friend that he is decidedly a TWERP, and I said so, and everyone -- and I mean EVERYONE -- in southern NM agrees with me. Jerk.

I was unaware that a CUR is prone to be a biter. I thought it was just a dog of undetermined ancestry. I learned something, and I send a man-hating CUR to lurk nearby when Mr. Tyson gets out of his car.

I have loved DYAN Cannon since... forever. Major crush. She was so good in Honeysuckle Rose and Death Trap. Smooches, DYAN!

I have not yet seen GLEE. I am aware I may get kicked out of the club if I do not remedy this infraction soon.

I can't stand the Piña COLADA song, but I sure loves me a good Piña COLADA on a hot summer day after a Jeep trek.

Related note: Wild Hair's top came down yesterday. He is my STEED and my GUIDE, and I YELL like the WOLFMAN when we ride in the desert under the moonlight, and I bet you can here the ECHO in GLASGOW!

Happy Monday, Rexites!

Ouneddat! (What I did widdat until the bank repossessed it.) -- jesser

ArtLvr 8:17 AM  

Excellent Monday puzzle, one of my fastest ever. I always enjoy "beginner" words like TYRO, rookie and tenderfoot... and odd rhymes like NADA and Piña COLADA. It went down smoothly! Thanks, Randy.

@PurpleGuy, congrats to you and your mother on her upcoming birthday!


joho 8:25 AM  

@andrea elicit michaels ... I saw the beef, too! A mini-theme developed into:

The WOOZY WOLFMAN, after a Long Island ICETEA, Pina COLADA, a VAT of wine from SONOMA and mucho, in fact five INAROW, frosty SAPPORO beers, took his SISTER out for a juicy LONDON BROIL.

Nice Monday, thank you Randy Sowell.

PIX 8:31 AM  

Rome/Glasgow/Berlin/London/Sonoma/Orly/Sapporo...I'll take Geography for 200$, Alex...

I enjoyed the theme and thought it worked well...somewhat obscure theme answer (Ellen Glasgow)did make it seem more like Tuesday

Bob Kerfuffle 8:34 AM  

Easy, decent Monday.

Am I the first to chime in who did the puzzle in the paper? I was wondering how 38 A was rendered in Across Lite etc. In the NYT, the word "home" is printed in three progressively smaller fonts. Was that done in the electronic versions?

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

Never heard of Ellen Glascow, and will probably forget her within a few hours.
My hand's up for Mynah, until I looked at 2D and realized I had a write-over.

Biggest gripe-- 45D. Since when is BASIL a seasoning for pesto? It's the main ingredient. Horrible clue IMHO.

dk 8:39 AM  

I am with Andrea on this one. Perhaps it is the old fashioned part. Show tunes were a staple of the young dk household along with Call of the Wild, White Fang, etc.

ELLENGLASGOW came to me via a history of southern lit class, taken in 1969 or 70.

I found the ECHO clue cute. And, this whole ALIST, ateam thing is getting out of hand.

Apropos of nothing: Eldridge Cleaver once said: Platform shoes were created to make young men easier to catch by the police. The other day I read that the SAGS pants fashion was created for the same thing. Curiously, both trends seem to have evolved from a desire to portray oneself as "one bad dude." If I could spell self-fulfilling prophecy... never mind.

In the 70's today and I'm making iced tea.

@purplebobguy, Happy Birthday to your mom.

*** (3 Stars)

fikink 8:40 AM  

This was solid. I anticipate the ICE TEA vs. ICED TEA discussion once more.

Lon NOL always ELICITs a memory of Spalding Gray's "Swimming To Cambodia" for me. I still miss that man!

Think of CLOT as more than a blood circulation problem.

And CUR always recalls "What's Up Tiger Lily" with the hilarious invectives, such as Saracen pig! Spartan dog! Roman cow! Russian snake! Spanish fly! Anglo-Saxon hun! Turkish Taffy!
Isn't there a CUR in there some place?

Lots of stuff to inspire flights of fancy in this puzzle - thanks, Randy.

But, Rex, the best part of the morning goes to you and the cheesy Julie London! To think that some of us are of an age to have been brought up to aspire to that "Come hither," approach to men just shocks our liberated sensibilities! Tomorrow I want to see Jack Jones singing "Wives Should Always Be Lovers, too."

JohnV 9:02 AM  
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Zeke 9:09 AM  

"Pulitzer winner in '42" = "Tony winner in '56" = "Nobel Economics winner in '62" = A Random Name 99.9% of you don't know. If you can't reference someone by a specific work we're likely to recognize, or some massively important thing we should recognize, don't include them on Mondays.

Is a CUR more likely to bite one than any other dog? I'm way more leary of a Doberman chained in a front yard that a mutt wandering the streets.

mac 9:12 AM  

Nice Monday puzzle, probably more like a Tuesday. Have to look up Ellen Glasgow, and Harold Rome really sounds like a New Yorker!

@Rex: adaze? You've been doing too many crosswords. I found myself actually saying "agape" once.

Monday night flight has been cancelled, and next opportunity not until April 26, so the trip is off. Hope the skies will be clear in July.

chefbea 9:15 AM  

Great Monday puzzle. Easy and I loved it. Broiled steaks served with okra and a little pesto seasoning!!
I picked some of my basil the other day, also parsley. Guess it did pay to move down south!!

Liked the shout out to me...although I am Barbara Lee, not Ann

John V 9:16 AM  

Thought this to be a perfectly average Monday. Had 56A as "ateam" initially, which crossed me up for a bit. Otherwise, a friendly train companion.

OldCarFudd 9:40 AM  

I thought this was tough for a Monday, but enjoyed it. Rex, you were too tough on it, but "Screw Edinburgh" as the theme was a riot!

PurpleGuy, Many happy returns to your mother.

Aaron Riccio 9:40 AM  

It was all a Monday except for the crossings for ELLEN GLASGOW, a near unsolvable bit for me. To have ORLY and NOLA sandwiched between SONOMA and DYAN was really rough, to say nothing of the odd parsing of the then obvious PROPANE (and given that SPED could've also been HIED). Even the cluing felt unfair -- Vincent Lopez's theme song? I feel like "Setting of new HBO series "Treme" (abbr.)" would've been more current/fair.

Ulrich 10:03 AM  

@Andrea: From the wiki def. of Sturm und Drang (commonly mistranslated as "storm and stress"--it really means "storm and strong impulse"):

"...a movement in German literature ... in which individual subjectivity and, in particular, extremes of emotion were given free expression..."

Obviously, some commenters here, not to speak of the king himself, are clearly (late) members of this movement...

Two Ponies 10:38 AM  

I agree that there were some odd clues here.
Tougher than the usual Monday, always ok with me.
Never heard of two of the theme answers but easy enough to figure out. Well, I was hoping the G in Drang and Glasgow was right so, like Rex, the theme helped me out.
Neither of my curs would bite you.
I'm way beyond tired of seeing the tops of young men's underwear and their saggy pants.
Rex and the comments here were much more amusing than this sorta bland puzzle.
Favorite part was the changing font to clue echo. That was cool.

Glitch 10:38 AM  

"Three on a match"

The war time "development" seems to be a "myth", as is an ad ploy to sell more matches.

Most likely:

In the 1916 novel "The Wonderful Year" the following explanation is given: "It arises out of the Russian funeral ritual in which the three altar candles are lit by the same taper. To apply the same method of illumination to three worldly things like cigars or cigarettes is regarded as an act of impiety and hence as unlucky"

More here....

Also, NOLA clued via Lopez has been in 13 times, tho not recently (2004). Suggest you put it on your list next to STEN.


Scott A. 10:40 AM  

I didn't know two of the cityfolk, but now I do, and that's awesome. A little obscurity is not out of bounds as long as the crossings are fair. Will published a Monday of mine with Vikki Carr as one of the theme answers recently.

@Andrea. You are friends with NDeGT??? That guy is GREAT on the Colbert Report. Please tell him that segment he did with Steven on the planetarium tour was one of the funniest things ever on TV.

mitchs 10:45 AM  

"Screw Edinburgh" was flat out hilarious.

Cath 10:57 AM  

Mynah for MACAW was my first error, too. And, apparently I've not been doing crosswords for long enough to have heard the term TYRO. So, with being unsure of ARMEE, it took me a bit longer than usual (JACK LONDON and then IRVING BERLIN) to see the theme. The west was a big ? for me, with the confluence of NOLA, PROPANE, ELLEN GLASGOW, and DYAN... who I've never heard of and, from looking at her IMDB page, hasn't been in anything I'd recognize.

I remember reading the ICEd TEA argument before and seeing it appear here really grates.

Tried Nagano before I decided it was too short, as I wasn't aware SAPPORO had hosted the Olympics (one of those, "it was before I was alive, therefore it didn't happen" things. It happens a lot.) I think it's funny that the Wiki article claims that the city is best known for hosting them, and yet I know them (or at least the city name) best for the beer.

@Purpleguy, I add my condolences to the others and wish your mom a very happy 102nd.

Grrrr 11:03 AM  

Cur refers to a mutt, a dog of mixed ancestry, typically characterized as one who tends to growl frequently rather than maintain calm.

jesser 11:05 AM  
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JenCT 11:10 AM  

@tptsteve - totally agree on the pesto thing.

TYRO was my WTF?

Got GMAC due to a horrible temp job I had there about 20 years ago - it was practically an assembly line of auto financing applications that we were STRONGLY urged to approve no matter what. You can probably guess the results.

SethG 11:15 AM  

SOFIA COPPOLA and PARIS JACKSON are both 12s; too bad AMBER VALLETTA's a 13.

Cath 11:18 AM  

jesser, i misspoke when I said "here". I meant "in this puzzle" not "in the blog comments".

Oh, and I forgot to add to my earlier comment that I totally hate "twerps" because I know five-year-olds who are twerps... and very few "dweebs" that are... because dweebs are one of the many classifications of geeks and nerds, not an annoying brat.

Anonymous 11:29 AM  

ellen glasgow? sapporo? etc. this is not a monday puzzle. glad to have it confirmed. good prep for tuesday. ND.

Retired_Chemiast 11:40 AM  

A good, fun Monday. Medium - challenging works for me. Don't understand why the theme isn't just left alone as four prominent European cities. So one of them isn't a capital? That's OK by me.

hand up for MYNAH - a hangover from last Thursday I suppose. Easily fixed. Also hand up for laughing out loud at "Screw Edinburgh."

Really made 16A harder than is should have been - was thinking "Animal House" and looking for a random Greek letter. Got the X from 13D and ... D'oh!

29A PROPANE was a gimme, and not because of chemistry. Propane is the hydrocarbon of choice down here for fuel for gas grills (where you BROIL) etc. And gas-fueled faux wood fireplaces are common.

55A clue kinda non-Mondayish IMO. Had BUSTER first, then MISTER. The crosses were gimmes,although EPILOGS is the less common spelling, so SISTER emerged, and I feel kinda embarrassed about the implicit sexism. If I had a STOA I would go for a nice calming walk and get over it.

Thank you, Mr. Sowell.

Van55 12:07 PM  

Though I found this easy, I guess that, on reflection, I can see how some would rate it more challenging for a Monday. I didn't know ROME or GLASGOW, but got them easily from the crosses.

I agree that the puzzle seems old fashioned and a bit bland.

lit.doc 12:11 PM  

I ConCUR with Rex's Medium-Challenging. Took me 10:13 (I'm still in the "anything below 9:00 = Easy to anything approaching 11:00 = Challenging zone).

Especially after reading the comments, I wondered how this one would feel to someone really new to CWs. Good CW101 training here: 19A's Latin lesson, 52A's basic Greek vocab, 8D's French-answer clue, etc.

But what about e.g. the ELLEN GLASGOW crossings that Aaron Riccio mentioned, or the MISTER/SISTER problem Retired_Chemist noted (and I also had)?

Any TYROs out there?

Tinbeni 12:32 PM  

ELLEN GLASGOW, fell in via crosses but was a Natick to me. Thanks for the info on her Rex.

Personally, I thought that today, being Patriots' Day, with the Boston Marathon happening, I kept hoping Natick would show up in the grid.

Wouldn't get into the ICEd TEA trap/debate, I hear it called BOTH year round here in Fla.
21A. A CASE reminded me it was time to purchase the avatar. Trust me, at 47A, I wanted Scotch!

After Saturday (I skip Sun.) left me WOOZY, it was nice that today had GLEE.
I like puzzles that are FUN.

edith b 12:46 PM  

Ellen Glasgow was a Southern novelist of the 20s who wrote about what was left of the antebellum aristocracy as it moved into the 20th Century. Anyone with an interest in gardening, formal or otherwise, may find her work fascinating, particularly in her short stories and her novel "The Sheltered Life". Her novel of manners may be a trifle dated but she wrote lovingly about gardens.

I was a bit surprised to see her in a monday puzzle. The times they may be achangin, eh Will Shortz?

retired_chemist 1:25 PM  

How could I have mentioned propane in Texas without referencing Hank Hill, salesman extraordiniare of propane an d propane accessories? Our favorite toon.

foodie 1:33 PM  

Yay! Back in the good ole US of A!! Took the most circuitous route out of Istanbul, via Amman, and a 15 hour flight (Yes ;<) from there to NY. Still winding my way home... Having witnessed messed up airports, overflowing hotels, and total confusion around the edges of Europe, I can only imagine what a mess it must be in Europe itself. "Screw Edinburgh" indeed... not to mention GLASCOW, LONDON, BERLIN and may be even ROME.

I agree with Rex that this was an odd puzzle. It felt erudite in some ways, and off in others. And as usual, Rex, you were very funny both in the title, and in the free associations. Like @fikink I blushed at the Julie London stuff.

@Ulrich, I liked your explication of Sturm und Drang. That expression used to rattle in my brain when my kids were teenagers-- I would tell myself I was watching a literary movement in action-- and it gave me perspective.

@Andrea, there must be a name for someone who single handedly reduces the degrees of separation between people. For example, I would have thought I had 2 degrees at least from Neil DeGrasse Tyson, someone I greatly admire, but you dropped it to 1. So, a naming challenge for you : )

andrea pluto michaels 2:04 PM  

Welcome back!
First of all, Neil will kill me for misspelling his name earlier...I have a brother-in-law who is a Neal and I can NEVER keep it straight.

But he is as funny as he is bright and will get a kick out of how enraged and delighted he's made folks. His book "The Pluto Files"
(which I had a hand in subtitling) is all about the hate mail he received from third graders, folks in NM (I hear ya, jesser, one kick forthcoming) and various cartoons...

Thank you! I knew you'd come thru!

I don't know from Julie London, but you said it, SISTA.

It is fantastic that you have cause to celebrate even after sadness...good reminder that life goes on...102!!!!!

jesser 2:20 PM  

@ Andrea PLUTO is too a planet by God Michaels: Bless, you my dahlink. Make it a hearty kick! Aim south! Make him buy dinner! -- jesser

Anonymous 2:28 PM  

I am a crossword beginner so maybe my opinion doesn't carry much weight here but this one felt way too difficult for a monday. I didn't even get have the clues either because I wasn't born early enough or I'm not cultured enough. Hopefully, the former. Three on a match??? I've never heard of that one.

Anonymous 2:29 PM  

err, sorry I meant half of the clues, not have the clues.

Zeke 2:32 PM  

@Anon 2:28/2:29. Your opinion carries weight equal to mine. Hell, I'm a dog for all you know. Your analysis is right in line with most of ours.

Masked and Anonymous 2:48 PM  

Well, this one didn't do much for me. Looks like plenty of folks liked it, so I won't do a thumbs up/down thing; probably just me getting up on the wrong side of the bed (and slamming into the wall).

Want to put out a positive vibe for the constructor, so hat's off for whipping up a Monday puz with solid fill; no small mean feat. Got your X and Z, and didn't use no ARLOs or OTTs. Need more U's, tho.

Tinbeni 2:58 PM  

@Zeke & Anon Tyro
Felt more Tuesdayish but after Saturday at least the clues had some substance to their misdirection.

@Andrea, Pluto was Betrayed, Michaels
I hope your bud goes on the show and learns, definitively, that HE is "Not as Smart as a Third Grader."

@Two Ponies
I figured I failed your test.
I'm still waiting to meet anyone who has named their dog FIDO, soooo, I took a shot at it.

NOLA was recently in the LAT, clued exactly the same way.

archaeoprof 3:31 PM  

So-so puzzle.

@Andrea: Neil Tyson recently visited the college where I teach, to film an episode of Nova. We have a psych professor who has taught a sheltie to recognize several hundred words.

@Foodie: I'll be taking that flight in June, to Amman (and back) for this summer's dig. How many meals do they serve?

Anonymous 3:45 PM  

A brief comment on Three on a Match-
I knew it, and had heard of the wartime etymology.

But the reason the phrase was in my mind at all was because Three on a Match was a mid-70s game show hosted by Bill Cullen. I think Don Pardo did the announcing. When I was a kid in the mid-70s, I received the board game as a birthday present.

Am I the only one who remembers it?

Sfingi 3:55 PM  

Easy. Cute. Theme obvious. Lot's of oldster stuff, 'tis true.

Never heard of Ellen Glasgow.

Harold Rome is familiar to oldsters. Wrote a ton of schmaltzy, forgettable stuff.

Wanted "sucker" before SISTER.

Can you imagine being the Marx Bros.' mother?

@Rube - great avatar! Should we call you Abner? I always wondered what to say to people 99+
Cent'ann would seem a curse. So. it's "Cent'ann ancora. May you live another hundred years."

Strangely enough, GMAC was good to us in the '80s. I didn't have to pay until I got another job! However, I never bought a car on credit again.

@Andrea - Now I'm impressed. A scientist, not a star.

Propane is used widely in the rural areas of Upstate NY. It's usually in a tank as big as a car outside the house or trailer.

@TptSteve - I would consider the base the main ingredient, that is, the oil. Pine nuts and grated cheese are often added.

@Ulrich - I always think of Goethe's insane story (The Sorrows of Young Werther) of suicide for unrequited love and for guilt over lusting in his heart. Goethe himself certainly grew out of it. Hard to understand at all these days.

Steve J 4:04 PM  

I had a weird reaction to this one. There are some things I disliked (mildly to intensely), nothing I particularly liked, yet I feel kinda neutral about the puzzle. I think it's because it's tough to get much DRANG in place with a Monday.

I gather from the comments there was plenty of discussion yesterday about ICETEA. I haven't done Sunday's puzzle yet, so obviously haven't looked at yesterday's post. So I guess I'll hold off on further commentary, other than to note that common usage doesn't mean correctness (if it does, then making words plural with an 's is now acceptable).

The reason I haven't done the Sunday puzzle yet is because I spent the weekend in SONOMA (@Clark: I was actually driving through the Valley of the Moon yesterday). Absolutely gorgeous day in northern California yesterday, including when I got back home in SF (where we don't seem to get to say "gorgeous weather" very often). Gorgeous enough that I stayed outside rather than catch up on the puzzle.

@tptsteve: I had the same thought about BASIL. Without the basil, there is no pesto. That's like saying a hamburger is a sandwich seasoned with beef. (And, yes, I know there are other pestos, but pesto is basil until it gets an adjective indicating the new main ingredient.)

I had a Natick at ELOI/ONA. I'm not a scifi guy, and ELOI didn't ring any bells. Never heard "Three on a match." I had INA at first, as ELII looked no less right or wrong than did ELOI. Figured it out only when the puzzle app said I wasn't finished because something was wrong, and I had no typos/mistakes anywhere else.

Actually, now that I'm writing about it, I think I've talked myself into disliking the puzzle more than I did at first.

Wikipedia 4:09 PM  

@ tptsteve - I remember everything, including "Three on a Match."

sanfranman59 4:18 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)

Mon 7:13, 6:55, 1.04, 64%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:47, 3:40, 1.03, 66%, Medium-Challenging

@Andrea ... very cool that your buds with Neal DeGrasse Tyson ... I'm a fan and recently read his book about the Pluto controversy. He's a very engaging writer and speaker. I heard a while back that he'd be in town, but forgot (until now) to look up the details. Are you attending his talk?

william e emba 4:31 PM  

Regarding the off-kilter theme: Glasgow, while not the capital of Scotland, is its largest city, like London in England, Rome in Italy, and Berlin in Germany.

Anonymous 4:44 PM  

@wikipedia- Now I remember why I hated the game- I couldn't (and still don't) understand the rules.

Rube 5:22 PM  

@Sfingi, thanks for correcting my (very poor) Italian. I keep getting my French, Italian, and Spanish mixed up.

Moonchild 6:58 PM  

Rex you were too funny today.
Thanks for the Julie London video. I have no idea who she is but surely she slept with Frank Sinatra at some point. Her video looked like a soundtrack to one of your pulp novels.

@ jesser, Why does the Pluto guy have your knickers in a twist? Inquiring minds want to know.

Somehow "three on a match" came naturally. Thanks to whoever provided the bad luck background info. That's the only way I knew it. Naughty kids sneaking a smoke but not wanting to be the third on the same match.
Oh, the puzzle? Yeah, big cities. Got it.
Today I saw a young guy in a chef's coat, obligatory black and white checked pants, and a bill cap holding a sign that said "late for work, no gas." I gave him $5. Was I a sucker?

Stan 7:41 PM  

Re: >>HAROLD ROME has a vague ring of familiarity to it, but ELLEN GLASGOW? No way.<<

Ellen Glasgow is a canonical literary author, if you care anything about American women's writing.

Glitch 7:55 PM  

@SteveJ [wrote]

"... other than to note that common usage doesn't mean correctness ..."

Actually, it does, eventually.

Since English lacks an authorative source (unlike France's L'Académie française), "correctness" is a mattter of opinion.

When and from who/whom we learned, the source(s) we choose to cite, regional idoms, and even our "generation" creates a highly subjective opinion of what's correct usage.

Like it or not, "The Urban Dictionary" is as valid a citation as any handbook of style.

[@Elaine, feel free to chime in ;) ]


Two Ponies 8:11 PM  

@ SteveJ and Glitch,
Regional or not I think Ice Tea is just more convenient to say. You can slip in the added "d" if you want. I don't think most people would notice unless you make a point of enunciating specifically. In that case you will sound like a snob at your local diner/coffee shop/truck stop/IHOP. Just ax me and I will orientate you further. Actually, don't ax me 'cause I'm toasting the sunset ala Tinbeni and have no excuse for holding this keyboard.

Tinbeni 8:30 PM  

@Two Ponies
Like I said earlier, I (over)hear ICEd TEA being ordered both ways here in Fla all the time.

Don't really care to know which way is actually proper or not, nor would I want to sound like a snob.

Agree with @Glitch that "Like it or not, "The Urban Dictionary" is as valid a citation as any handbook of style."

It's probably why I go to places that allow the drink order "Scotch, neat!" is all I need.


mac 8:49 PM  

For a while I thought Archeoprof was saying something bad about Neil Tyson with his remark about the smart Sheltie.

@Sfingi: there are two cups of basil and mere tablespoons of olive oil, pine nuts, parmesan and pecorino romano cheese. Basil is definitely the main ingredient.
P.S. There is also garlic, salt and pepper involved, and last minute, two tablespoons of softened butter before the two tablespoons of pasta water are added.

Anonymous 9:29 PM  


I have just started to follow your blog and you noted that you solved today's puzzle in 3:37. The number of cross clues today was 35. How do you read, comprehend, answer and write/type the each answer in just 6.2 seconds? I don't think I could type the answers in this time.

Am I missing something or is the time relate to something else?

Thanks in advance for your response and please keep giving us your witty and instructional insights.

Sfingi 9:33 PM  

@Rube - Have you read "Diable, a Dog"?
One of the stories I read to my inmates when I taught.

@Mac - it's hard for me to think of a spice as the main ingredient; but, so be it. It would be like saying a dancer had a dress of sequins, rather than a chiffon dress covered with sequins.

@SteveJ - The Eloi are one of the 2 races in the future in the book. They are being raised as food and have the will of sheep. I rather like the 1960 movie.

sanfranman59 10:01 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

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:44, 3:40, 1.02, 62%, Medium-Challenging

Tinbeni 10:11 PM  

@Anon 9:29
I have been solving for years, the NYT about 4 months.
I check the times of the speed solvers just about everyday and they amaze me.
@Orange's site one said "I had a hard time with this Monday ..." he did it in 3:17, on paper.

I measure by "cups of coffee" and have no idea how long that would be.

For some, like @Rex and @Orange, and others, it (xwords) just hit their wheelhouse.

I "tip my hat" to them, and make another cup.

Seaking for Rex (unauthorized) 10:24 PM  

@Anon 9:29

Those solving for speed can separate the "answer" from "putting in down".

That is, knowing HITHERE is an answer, will be entering it as they read the next clue --- multitasking.

Easier when entering from a keyboard (think touch typing --- eye to fingers), but some of the best can do on paper.

Rube 11:11 PM  

@Sfingi, the avatar was inspired by Sunday's clue/answer of Rube/Abner. Seemed apropos. Will look into the Jack London story.

On to Tuesday.

Stan 12:10 AM  

@foodie: I am just so flipping happy that you made it back okay. These news stories were making travel sound so difficult.

@mac: Good luck to you, wherever you are with travel plans. Must tell you that your post at one point about using crossword diction ('agog' etc.) in social situations was very funny and resonant to us. My wife now says just AGAPE to me whenever I am in a certain state of wardrobe malfunction. Recently I tried saying 'neap tide' to someone who lives near the water. He knew what I meant but he looked at me funny. His phrase was 'a real low tide'.

Anonymous 12:46 AM  

Not a big deal but @Rube and @Sfingi leaving out the "i" in cent'anni. I was never sure if it meant 'may you live to be 100' or 'may you live another 100 years (from this day on)'. I was also under the impression it was more of a Sicilian thing, but that may be more of a Godfather movies influence.

Regardless, cent'anni ancora, Mama PurpleGuy. :-)


Steve J 1:06 AM  

@Glitch: You are, of course, correct about usage ultimately being authoritative. In fact, I've always looked down on overly prescriptivist approaches to language.

The challenge with something like "ice tea" is twofold: 1) written and oral language are different, and 2) at what point does usage become common enough to move from erroneous (or non-standard) to acceptable?

I threw in the 's-pluralization example to show that there are very common usages that aren't considered acceptable. It's just not correct in contemporary written English (and if it ever becomes correct, I hope it's after I'm gone; while I'm not generally a prescriptivist, that one drives me crazy).

People definitely say "ice tea" a lot. In fact, they say it nearly exclusively, unless they really make a point of enunciating the D. In most American English dialects, that D has a T sounds anyway, and the elision of two similar consonants is going to sound as one. But there's a difference between that and how to write it. It's much the same as someone writing "I use to drink hot tea" and "I used to drink hot tea." Both are phonetically the same. Both are not interchangeable in written language.

Off to work on Tueday's puzzle ...

ArtLvr 5:32 AM  

The ordering of ice/iced tea is usually no problem, but imagine my surprise when once I ordered Tea, expecting a comforting hot pot, and got a glass of sweeted liquid full of ice cubes instead! Local usage of language, I guess.

@foodie, I'm glad to hear that you're back safely!


Elaine 5:57 AM  

I'm late to this party, but:

When I say it, it's two words: ICED (meaning ice has been added to it) and TEA (preferably brewed, not instant.)

Here in Arkansas, it's just about 'iced tea weather'...and my mint is well up. The first Saturday in May, we'll make mint juleps. After the Bourbon is gone, I'll pour tea over the ice and have ICED TEA.

william e emba 6:15 PM  

Regarding the speed solving, as Rex has said before, it's only possible with absolutely no hesitations as you fill things in. Also, you only need to solve just the acrosses or just the downs, which is what speed solvers end up doing usually.

My times are typically 2-to-3 times Rex's, except on bad days when I have to put the puzzle down and come back later, sometimes repeatedly, sometimes overnight. I simply don't know most of the cultural references, and have to solve around them, and I am frequently too slow to come up with the right synonym or to decode the hidden jokes. I'm happy.

I should also say the speed solving doesn't impress me as much, since I have speed solved KenKens often enough, with a few freak fast times, that I know the groove they are operating in.

Rex Parker 7:00 PM  

Wm e emba is incorrect on two counts. I often hesitate while solving (even when I solve in 3 flat), and Never, ever solve "just the acrosses or just the downs." No speed solver solves that way. Absolutely none of them. That's a highly inefficient and deadly way to try to solve. It's called "cross"words for a reason. You *use* the info you have in the grid, you don't just let it sit there (which is what solving all Acrosses or all Downs would essentially do — leave pertinent information to rot).

And no one is trying to impress Mr. Emba or anyone else, either. You speed to speed. For fun. What other people think is irrelevant.


william e emba 7:35 PM  


Your "hesitations" are a fraction of my "hesitations". So small a fraction that I wouldn't call it a hesitation if it happened to me. It would just be ordinary thought processing.

Yes, I know you and other speed solvers are not interested in impressing anyone with speed as such. But you do impress many just the same.

So your three (not two) corrections are really one correction and two clarifications. To further clarify, the point made about so many words to fill implied an astonishing rate was off by a factor of two, since each letter is clued twice.

I've noticed a downside to having a freak record time on KenKen. I'm now often greatly disappointed when I get my typical times, usually about twice as long.

Anonymous 11:41 AM  

This one is included in the 'Clever Crosswords' book (#9). Finished it in what must be close to my record time for a Monday, even with working around 23D Pairs suburb which had me scratching my head.

Working on crosses I had OR?Y which of course was ORLY , and that the clue had a a typo (yes - it said Pairs, not Paris). Clever Crosswords indeed to throw in a new wrinkle.

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