Jazz great Evans / THU 6-24-10 / More colorful sloganeer / Clara Harriet 1960s TV / Cawdor title / Mortgage giant founded 1938

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Constructor: John Farmer

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: TAKE A STEEP NOSE DIVE (61A: Plummet ... or what this puzzle's theme answers do?) — this answer and two others start out Across, head Down, and then resume their Acrossness. Down and second Across parts are unnumbered in print version; in e-versions, they are numbered, but have "-" for their clues ... *and* the part that "dives" spells out NOSE. Ta da!


Word of the Day: THOR (31D: Onetime part of the U.S. arsenal) —

Thor was the first operational ballistic missile in the arsenal of the United States, operated by the US Air Force. Thor was 65 feet (20 m) in height and 8 feet (2.4 m) in diameter. Named after the Norse god of Thunder, it was deployed in the UK between 1959 and September 1963 as an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) with thermonuclear warheads. It was later augmented in the U.S. IRBM arsenal by the Jupiter. // A large family of space launch vehicles—the Delta rockets—were derived from the Thor design. A modified version is still in use today as the first stage of the Delta II.

• • •
This would have been a whole lot better if a. the theme answers hadn't leveled out ("Plummet" only tells part of the story), and b. the phrases involved were tight—far tighter than these. Are the phrases supposed to be commentary on the solving experience? If so, that's kind of clever. I have to DIAGNOSE THE PROBLEM (with this puzzle) because at first IT MAKES NO SENSE TO ME. OK, I like it better now. [Addendum—the letters NOSE make up the part that "dives" — how I didn't see this last night is beyond me.] The top half was hardest, probably because I just gawked at 1A for so long—wanted DIG IN, but had DIA- in place. Ugh. Also, those long Acrosses right underneath did Not come easy. Moses' wife was ETHIOPIAN (14A: Like Moses' wife, per Numbers 12:1)? I tried ETRUSCAN at one point (didn't fit, and is absurd). The train robbers I've seen on film generally took valuable stuff, not MAIL SACKS (though, of course, there could be valuable things in the mail, theoretically) (17A: Loot in an old train robbery). Seemed too pedestrian to be right. Didn't think PATTIE had that many letters (15D: Peppermint ___) (clue wanted the candy, not the character). Couldn't get ON SPEC from 8D: Without assignment for the life of me. FT DODGE means nothing to me (9D: Old Army base on the Santa Fe Trail, briefly). Even 6A: Squad leader, e.g.: Abbr. (NCO) wasn't helping me. I wanted SGT. So there was the problem of not knowing the gimmick and the added problem of not getting a ton of help from crosses. At some point I noticed the pattern of the "-" clues (which, in print, are just unnumbered Acrosses and Downs), and finally the DIAGNOSE answer went in. Rest of the puzzle wasn't nearly as tough, but initial struggle still made this feel Fridayish.

Theme answers:
  • 1A: Find out what's wrong (DIAGNOSE THE PROBLEM)
  • 30A: "Huh?" ("IT MAKES NO SENSE TO ME")
Clues are tough all around. First thing into the grid ... well, the first was DEMME (1D: "Philadelphia" director Jonathan), but the next was probably THANE (16A: Cawdor title), which I know from teaching Shakespeare. Sadly, though I've taught DANTE even more than I've taught Shakespeare, I had No Clue about the quote used to clue him (18A: "A great flame follows a little spark" writer). Another part of my woes in the northern climes of this grid. 4D: Jazz great Evans (GIL) had me wondering if BILL spelled his name with one "L." REV didn't make any sense to me even after I solved it (44D: Short circuit?). I'm guessing that REV is supposed to be short for "Revolution." No idea that Helen Keller even went to Japan, let alone that she brought back a dog (54D: Dog breed Helen Keller introduced to the U.S. in 1937=> AKITA). Never heard the slogan in question at 59D: "More colorful" sloganeer (NBC TV), though with the peacock logo, it makes sense. ICBM was cake (30D: Part of the U.S. arsenal), but THOR ... was not.



Bullets:
  • 19A: Monogram of 1964's Nobel Peace laureate (MLK) — Not a gimme. I'd forgotten he won this. Figuring it out helped me get "A HIKE!" (3D: "Take ___!")
  • 43A: Jug handle, in archaeology (ANSA) — textbook crosswordese. The only problem it gives me nowadays is that I have to stop and think "is ANSA the jug handle or the Faulkner character?" (the latter is ANSE).
  • 66D: Robert Langdon's field in "The Da Vinci Code" (SEMIOTICS) — Like "Lost," the whole "DVC" phenomenon is something I've deliberately completely avoided. "Ooh, if you like puzzles and mysteries, you'll like ..." Uh, no. No I won't. I promise you.
  • 6D: Actor in the Best Picture winners of 1975, 1983 and 2006 (NICHOLSON) — wanted this but refused to put it in because I believed there was a Nicholson Best Picture date missing: 1997. Turns out "Titanic" won that year, not "As Good As It Gets" (for which both NICHOLSON and co-star Helen Hunt won Oscars).


  • 70A: Milan-based fashion label (PRADA) — helped me decide if LASAGNA was spelled with a final "E" or final "A" (46D: "Mangia!" dish).
  • 43D: Clara and Harriet, in 1960s TV (AUNTS) — cute but tough. I think the former is from "Bewitched." I don't know who AUNT Harriet is (the "Batman" TV series!? Wow).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

85 comments:

foodie 12:49 AM  

ooh, that was tricky! I did a chunk of the bottom first, enough to get TAKE A STEEP- and figured it was a rebus with DIVE in the remaining square. That really slowed me down, as I kept trying to work DIVE into the other spots. Then I played with the idea that the rebus was a synonym of DIVE- Still got nowhere. Finally noticed that all the downs with (-) were the same length and joined the others and saw -DIVE at 72A, and bingo. I was able to go up and put NOSE in the right spots and unfold the rest.

I thought it was an extremely clever puzzle. REX, I take your point that it levels off, but I took it to be literal: the "NOSE" is what dives and nothing else. And I also think that the rest of the theme answers were wonderfully descriptive of the experience. As I worked upwards, I felt: IT MAKES NO SENSE TO ME, until I was able to DIAGNOSE THE PROBLEM (in my case, the rebus assumption).

Some of the other fill was also clever and tricky. I liked the "Downhill" clue for TO SEED because of its resonance with the theme, the juxtaposition of ICBM and THOR,the "regards", etc.

A nit to pick: The clue "Take a" (HIKE) is the same as TAKE A STEEP NOSE DIVE. Is this kosher?

All in all, worth the effort!

retired_chemist 1:10 AM  

Very challenging, but doable. I spent 10-15 minutes, with almost all the squared filled in, staring at the puzzle and trying to make sense of the - signs. Eventually the light dawned. Overall, I liked the fill.

@ foodie re - "Take a (HIKE) is the same as TAKE A STEEP NOSE DIVE." The phrases have different meanings. I do not understand why you think this is tref.

Thank you, Mr. Farmer.

Anonymous 1:11 AM  

Hey Rex,

The theme is tighter, and more clever IMO, because only the letters N-O-S-E literally take the dive.

-MAS

PurpleGuy 1:19 AM  

A very clever puzzle, and a fun solving experience, once I got over the initial hangup in the NW. I had DIAG_ for 1A, and thought of a rebus. Could not think of a word for the 5D clue starting with NOSE. Sigh.
Moved on to other areas, finally hitting on the theme with the revealer answer for 61A. I had most of the crosses in by that time for the phrase to show itself.

Our cable system has On Demand, and the catch phrase for NBC is "more colorful." So that was a gimme.
Read "The DaVinci Code" but could not remember SEMIOTICS. I'm still not sure at this point what that is. I guess my "senescence" is showing !
I was a squad leader in basic training and then in VietNam, and still wanted SGT before NCO. Sigh.
My first thought was "lounge" for the Peppermint clue. That shows my age. I also went through "twist" even though it came up short. Loud sigh !!

I liked the Bible references for 14A and 10D.
They were gimmes. As was MRSULU of Star Trek.

Thank you John Farmer for an interesting solve. Just enough toughness to make it a good solid Thursday.
Good write up as usual, Rex. Thanks for the "Five Easy Pieces" Nicholson video. Great movie !

Have a great day all !

S.H.I.T.- Sure Happy It's Thursday !!!

foodie 1:28 AM  

@Retired Chemist, I did not mean that they shared the same meaning. I thought that if a word or expression (TAKE A) appears in the grid as an answer, it should not be used elsewhere as a clue? Did I just imagine this rule? Or does it only apply to the clue/answer pair but not elsewhere?

syndy 1:48 AM  

Yeah! suspected a rebus at first had diag(nose)ose and yelled Yreka!Got the bottom nose dive but fought hard for thbe middle kept plugging still i scared up the answer-wonderful puzzle fun work out!wonder if 44's nose got bent somewhere thank you Mr Farmer !!OOXXOO

Greene 4:14 AM  

Put me in the "thought it was a rebus" club. For 1A I had DIAG- and confidently wrote the NOSE rebus in square 5. Had no idea what the "-" clues meant and spent God knows how much time trying to shoehorn NOSE into other parts of the grid. Finally caught the gimmick when I realized that 61A could not be TAKES A STEEP NOSE. Had my Aha moment and the rest came reasonably easy, except for some of the difficult cluing pointed out by Rex.

Overall, I really liked this puzzle. It really put me in my place after the three easy puzzles we had earlier this week. Can't wait to see how hard tomorrow is!

andrea oof michaels 4:16 AM  

@foodie
You imagined right...I think that IS a rule, tho prob not a mis-take a...

There is no other way to clue "AHIKE" and the whole reveal (TAKEASTEEPNOSEDIVE, which is a bit odd, come to think of it) was prob the genesis for the puzzle, so I'll bet it was shrugged off in order to pull off such a cool concept.

Only thing I didn't understand: YRS for sports seasons. Are seasons = years? I thought basketball is, like 6 months, or something, but I'm prob missing something like that INT clue the other day. Hate sports abbreviations I don't get. OOF!

One writeover (actually two: aloha had to transmogrify into ENTER and I don't care if transmogrify is maybe not even a word!)
I had LTSULU bec I mixed up SULU and UHURU/UHURA?

FTDODGE brought back fond memories. No sTDODGE mistake for me this time...but I'm still saying "Jesus Chrysler" every chance I get!

Kim 4:18 AM  

That was a tricky one ! I suspected a rebus at first ...
You can try out this brainteaser , its a good one -
http://www.iqtestexperts.com/brainteasers/

Falconer 4:26 AM  

Crossworld takes an interesting turn here because one of the fathers of semiotics is the English philosopher John Locke. ... Who is the namesake of a main character in "Lost." ... Who was aboard the Oceanic flight that took a nose dive. Spooky.

Awesome puzzle. Thought for a long time that it was a rebus where "Nose" went in the empty square. But when that didn't work out, the pattern gradually emerged. Incredibly clever.

Ahab of Montreal 5:22 AM  

GIL EVANS arranged music for MILES DAVIS on "The Birth of the Cool", "Miles Ahead", "Porgy and Bess", and "Sketches of Spain".

Here's Gil Evans in 1959 conducting Gil's arrangement of Dave Brubeck's "The Duke" and "Blues for Pablo" from the album MILES AHEAD:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFaK4q0pxcQ

The Bard 7:26 AM  

Macbeth > Act I, scene III

First Witch: All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!

Second Witch: All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!

Third Witch: All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!

Leslie 7:41 AM  

I liked the theme, of course, even though the very first theme answer was the last one I got. When I was done, I was thinking, "You know, what with FT. DODGE and ST. PETER, if Farmer had only been able to come up with one more abbreviated beginning, he'd have had a little mini-theme going on." Then I remembered MR. SULU. Nice going there, MR. FARMER!

rolin mains 8:16 AM  

28A (coffin nails) CIGS: ugh.

8D (without assignment) ONSPEC. i've done lots of work "on spec" and it usually means "free, with the idea of getting paid upon approval," in other words, they don't pay you to create the demo, but they use the demo to determine whether they will pay you. "without assignment" is a phrase that doesn't seem to describe ONSPEC very well...without assignment of funds? without assignment to a project? ??

like rex, i had far more problems with the top half than the lower half. could not get a toe hold until i saw "DIAGNOSETHEPROBLEM"...from there is was better...but CIGS...ugh and double ugh.

SethG 8:29 AM  

Robert Langdon is a Professor of Religious Symbology.

It's not a nose dive, it's an N-O-S-E dive. OK'D is awful. ITALY crossed with ETHIOPIAN is either awesome or awful. MANLY is a beach.

Got the theme quickly, still found this tricky.

joho 8:32 AM  

Bravo, Mr. Farmer! Loved this puzzle. You knew we'd all be looking for a rebus, didn't you?

My AHA moment was long in coming but definitely worth it. Extra special that the NOSEDIVE phrases describe what's happening as you're solving.

A+!

The Big E 8:38 AM  

28A - Coffin nails... Really? I think this deserved a question mark! I kept thinking of the phrase "another pin in your coffin." Though maybe I made that up. Either way, that confused me for a while, especially as I could NOT for the life of me figure out "to seed" or "Ft. Dodge."

Also had problems initially as I had crossed "Yeoman" instead of "Mr. Sulu" and was trying to fit Army or Navy into where ICBM would eventually go.

All in all, this puzzle made me go OOF and then I went to "COIL" up in bed (ok, that was weak, but I like the implied accent)!!! Quite challenging, but quite fun!!!

Greg

CaseAceFos 8:55 AM  

OOF! A right hook to the old bread basket is what I got with this punishing twisty Xword from the facile mind of J. Farmer!

mac 8:57 AM  

Awesome puzzle. The top fell first, and therefore the theme when diagn made no sense. My hardest area was Northern California, with ICBM and Thor. I remembered the name Sulu vaguely, but thought it was a female.

Love Pang and cigs, and that cute puppy!

Have to fess up to trying to think of an oldish actor called Olson......

Smitty 9:44 AM  

I loved this puzzle enough to forgive some of the nits picked above.
@Rex I too wondered if BIL Evans might be some pretentious way of spelling Bill. But I saw him many times at the Jazz club where I worked and he too down to earth for that.
I tried TAKE A STEEP (DIVE) and wondered what could come after D-I-V-E for the down answer. Once I got the trick, DIAGNOSE came easy, and the "NOSE" gave me the answer to HUH!? after staring at it for a long time thinking WTF?! - (it had too many letters for that answer....)

fikink 9:47 AM  

@Foodie, I was right in step with your approach and thought it wAs a DIVE rebus. And I had the same assumption about the clue/grid repetition taboo.
@Andrea, "Jesus Chrysler" has just entered my repetoire, replacing "keeeeeeriist." Thank you.
@Foodie and @Andrea and @joho, Nina Simone story is on its way.
@Falconer, music of the spheres
@John Farmer, absolutely loved this puzzle! Gus and I had great fun with it and just must have been on your wavelength, because MAILSACKS, ITMAKESNOSENSETOME, and PATTIE went right in. This puzzle was a trip!

And starting the day with sunshine after 40 days and nights of rain, and with Bill Evans playing my waltz, who could ask for anything more!?

Van55 9:56 AM  

Epic fail - on my part. I couldn't escape my conviction that this was a rebus puzzle. Closed minds are inimical to solving crosswords.

Clever gimmick. Too damned clever for me this morning.

dk 10:17 AM  

Count me on the fail side.

Got the NOSE and DIVE idea soon enough. Did not know THANE and (because I always pander to Rex) the Da Vinci code allure is LOST on me.

Thus I stared at the fill exclaiming: ITMAKESNOSENSE.

Call me AHAB and this my white whale.

*** (3 Stars) Thank you John Farmer I have not been bested on a Thursday in YRS... well maybe a month or two.

Almost as much fun as the capatchas is the way spell check tries to correct them... note to self Get a Life

chefbea 10:27 AM  

Tough puzzle. Got the theme at 61A but it still was tough. Had to google a bit.

All in all a great puzzle

Bob Kerfuffle 10:36 AM  

My experience echoed Rex's and others': I thought it was a good puzzle; then I noted the three downward NOSEs and realized it was a brilliant puzzle.

Bravo, John Farmer!

I'll admit to pausing awhile over SEM__TICS, wondering if it was SEMANTICS or SEMIOTICS, but put in the correct letters.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:37 AM  

Forgot to say: Three symmetrically placed NOSEs!

Martin 10:50 AM  

I think WS has written that avoiding a fill entry in a clue is generally a good idea because it might cause subliminal spoilage, but that it's not a hard-and-fast rule. As has been pointed out, the meanings of "take a hike" and "take a nosedive" are unrelated so the self-spoiling effect was minimal. I never noticed it.

"OK'd" is listed before "okayed" in at least one dictionary.

Two Ponies 11:00 AM  

The northwest was too much for me and I finally threw in the towel.
I still admire this very clever puzzle. Some of the clues just would not click for me but Farmer's puzzles are usually difficult for me. An example would be "to seed". I just can't hear that in my mind except in the entire phrase "gone to seed".
Another example is pang for qualm.
Augur shows up today after the ice saw yesterday.
Cigs reminded me of other nicknames like cowboy killers for Marlboros.
I enjoy a challenge and if I did not get stumped once in awhile it wouldn't be fun.

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

Seth G is right: Langdon's field is symbology and that
threw me. Farmer needs a fact checker.

retired_chemist 11:18 AM  

@ Van55 - I too worked on the rebus concept for a LOOOONNNNGGG time....

@ foodie - Now I understand your question. Thanks. But I pretty much agree with @Martin 10:50. I didn't see it as a problem.

jae 11:28 AM  

Excellent challenge. I too went through a rebus phase solving this one. Well done JF!

jesser 11:35 AM  

It's so frustrating to figure out and finish a puzzle this hard only to come here and realize that the very last letter I plopped in the grid was wrong.

I thought the concept was fascinating and the construction amazing. Like so many others I looked first for a rebus, and only slowly did the NOSEs poke their ways into the tent of my brain. Once they did, the thing began to fall fast.

Except for that last letter, which was the cross at 32D and 42A. I was thinking of augers, I guess, because I put in an r to make BOrE. Had I looked at the cross, I probably would have reconsidered, but I did not. .

I still don't get how STAMP = perforation site, unless my victim is already on the ground and I stamp on his midsection until I perforate his liver. And that's just not ladylike.

Picou! (The successor to Kirk is the best I can do with this one...) -- jesser

JenCT 11:38 AM  

Another one who suspected that there was a rebus, and it was DIVE.

Got the lower half; the northwest gave me trouble. Good workout.

Tried to fit Nick Nolte in before NICHOLSON. Also wrote in ALOHA before ENTER.

Liked the clue for CAKES.

JenCT 11:39 AM  

@jesser - postage stamp.

Two Ponies 11:51 AM  

Oops. I did the same thing that
@jesser did. I read augur as auger and did not check back until just now.
Mods, in my book, is a British 60's term. Thinking of Quadrophenia's Mods and Rockers.
Nobody at my school ever said Mods.

yes but 11:57 AM  

As noted, above and in wiki:

Robert Langdon (born June 22, 1964 in Exeter, New Hampshire, United States) is a fictional professor of religious iconology and symbology at Harvard University, created by author Dan Brown for the novels Angels & Demons (2000), The Da Vinci Code (2003) and The Lost Symbol (2009).
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbology_(fictional_field)

But SYMBOLOGY is a fictional field, based on what he does, SEMIOTICS is the *real* field ;)

P>G>

Moonchild 12:08 PM  

Well, I haven't had my ass handed to me on a platter in long time.
And on a Thursday!
Too bad because I really wanted to crack this very cool puzzle.
Way to go JF!

Reading above @yes but, Why does this fictional character have a birthday? I suppose the numbers come into play at some point?

The Big E 12:08 PM  

@yes but said - aren't most clues looking for responses that fall within the "realities" or "confines" of the clues themselves?
Asking for Superman's love interest shouldn't yield the response "Margot Kidder."
The clue probably shouldn't have referred to Langdon at all, IMO.

Masked and Anonymous 12:16 PM  

Lookin' at the filled-in grid, doesn't seem like such a tough puz. Sure put up a fight, tho.

Love Thursdays. Almost always somethin' weirdball goin' on. Sniffed out the theme idea pretty quick, but the feisty clues slowed me down to a pee-itiful crawl. Finished it in just under thirty minutes, by a nose. Could almost hear the Shortzmeister chortlin', as he was cookin' up them nasty clues. Can puz's give you a sinus headache?

Tip #2 to beginners: Don't start with this puz. Work a Monday NYT or buy a nice book of 11x crosswords from yer local supermarket. Easier.

A Fake Guy 12:16 PM  

I edited The Da Vinci Code, and as I recall, one of the two conversations took place between myself and Dan about Symbology vs Semiotics.

Me: Dan, none of your readers are going to know WTF Semiotics is. You have to come up with a different term.
Dan: How about Symbology? It's total nonsense, but that won't bother anyone reading this.

or,

Me: Dan, you know Symbology isn't a real thing, a real study, right? You're just making up crap here?
Dan: This whole thing is just just made up crap, you think anyone's going to raise an eyebrow because I made up Symbology?

The Big E 12:18 PM  

@ A Fake Guy - ROFLMAO!!! NICE!

Mel Ott 12:34 PM  

Really liked this puzzle. Tough, but rewarding.

One quibble: Like Rex, I still don't know what REV is supposed to be short for (reverse?). Crossing a crap abbreviation with an odd proper name (who the heck names their daughter NEVE?) is not fair.

N.B. My newspaper version has the grid numbered differently from the one depicted by Rex. The squares at the top and bottom of the three instances of NOSE are unnumbered in the newspaper. This throws the rest of the numbers off.

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

Has anyone figured out who Aunt Harriet is?
Who is Mrs. Ulu and what did she do on Star Trek? (Just kidding.)

Stan 12:59 PM  

Fun, tricky puzzle. Required much chipping away at the corners, which is fine once in a while.

The Department of Redundancy Department approves of TAKE A STEEP NOSEDIVE.

Sparky 1:01 PM  

Good run but DNF. Did manage diagnose the problem and even saw the nose in there but wasn't able to move that insight into the other two. I even tried to cram I'm as deaf as a stone at 28A. Ah well, managed to change Scotty to Mr. Sulu, omen to bode. Did not consult Google or my almanacs and am proud of that at least. The semiotics thing did fool me because I knew the "field" was a made up word that I kept trying to figure out. Still, a good Thursday challenge.

The Big E 1:11 PM  

Was I the only one who understood "REV?"
It is short for Revolution.
Circuit as in lap.

PuzzleNut 1:28 PM  

Like most others, thought this was a very good puzzle, and now that I see the three NOSE's symetrically placed, it is outstanding.
I'm an old pen and paper guy so the numbering in the print version helped me a lot. Saw that the three answers had to be double L-shaped and long, so I avoided the rebus trap. Still, it was tough, but ultimately very fair.
Worked from the bottom up and really didn't have any gimme areas. Funny how many common solving experiences. Thought it was PATTY (which didn't fit) and remained blank for a long time. My confusion is ANSA/ANTA. Thought the German city was wEIMS, but ONSPEC led me to PROBLEM.
Any recommendations for a good crossword puzzle book for summer vacation? Ideally, it would have nothing but puzzles just like this one.
@anonymous - Mrs. Ulu, love it!!

Tinbeni 1:35 PM  

Did this watching the World Cup, it did not
BODE well for ITALY. 'nough said. Damn!

Then a guy named Farmer takes me TO SEED.
Oh well, DNF, no biggie.

Are CIGS really "Coffin nails" if you have made pre-arrangements to be cremated?

FANNIE MAE (going down) and crossing TAKE A STEEP NOSE DIVE got a laugh.

still_learnin 1:47 PM  

Phew... I was soooo glad Rex found this challenging. The school year is FINALLY over and the first xword puzzle I try to do on my summer break pretty much stumps me. I had 2 or 3 missing letters and twice that number of wrong answers after 45 minutes. Now I know how my students must feel on the first day of school. Not much retention here. I can't wait for Friday and Saturday :-)

balto 1:49 PM  

I am very happy with myself that I got the main theme -- and realized that NOSE was repeated -- without cheating! (Yes, I suck badly enough that the only way I complete the Th/F/Sa/Su ones in time is to cheat.)

So, therefore, I liked it. Glad I didn't think of the Thursday/Rebus thing -- that would have really messed me up.

Also had problem with Symbology vs Semiotics -- the NBC-TV cross got it for me (eventually).

For an earlier post -- "On Spec" vs assigned -- say you're a photographer -- you can either be assigned the story by a particular newspaper, in which case you'll get paid no matter what -- or a newspaper says we'll do it "on spec" which is a fancy way of saying they're not committed to paying you at all -- but I guess they provide the credentials if needed.

shrub5 1:55 PM  

Had to google for SEMIOTICS -- I had SE----ICS and thought of semantics but found semiotics in the wiki article about Robert Langdon. I haven't read The DaVinci Code; didn't particularly like the movie.

This was a very clever enjoyable puzzle. I figured out the trick but didn't notice NOSE was diving in all three theme answers until I came here. So that kicks it up yet another notch.

Re: AUNTS Clara and Harriet, in 1960s TV -- would have been a gimme if Bee (from "The Andy Griffith Show") was part of the clue. Clara, the bumbling, absent-minded but lovable aunt on "Bewtiched," was played to perfection by Marion Lorne.

Loved the cute AKITA puppy pic.

Masked and Anonymous 1:57 PM  

@PuzzleNut: Have you tried "The New York Times Think Outside the Box Crosswords"? Has a blue cover. Would think it's pretty much what you seek.

chefbea 2:05 PM  

Just googled Aunt Harriet...She was from the batman series

The Big E 2:09 PM  

I had never heard of Clara or Harriet - somehow just assumed that Harriet was from "Ozzie & Harriet," but whatever - I solved it finally! :-)

jesser 2:19 PM  

I highly recommend Will Shortz's X-Treme X-Words. I am (sadly) almost finished with it, but I credit it with making jury duty bearable.

Retired_Chemist 2:28 PM  

@ jesser -= don't worry, there are more.....

Interesting that one can get AUNTS, ITALY, THOR, ETHIOPIAN, and more without having a clue whether they are correct except from a few crosses.

edmcan 3:05 PM  

I am extremely satisfied that I finished this puzzle correctly, however, I think Mr. Farmer was showing off.

@Big E - Aunt Clara was in Bewitched.

acme 3:33 PM  

@edmcan
Showing off???!!! Showing off what? His brilliance at constructing? This is what a great Thurs is all about! We should be thanking him!

chefwen 4:00 PM  

I'm going to blame that bottle of wine my friend and I polished off at lunch yesterday for my failure. Should have just put it aside, as husband suggested, and come back to it in the morning, but noooooo, I had to visit Rexville to help me out. Said to husband "I feel so dirty now" husband replied "as well you should". Sigh!!! Next time I will take his advise.

Stephanie 4:10 PM  

Numbering in the spaces is different in the solution you give from the puzzle printed in the Times...how come?

Martin 4:21 PM  

@Stephanie,

Across Lite can't handle entries without numbers, as this puzzle has. The closest you can do is to create a number for the continuations of the ladder entries and use a dummy clue ("-"). So the online version has more clue numbers. Rex had an extra blog post last night warning and bemoaning.

Anonymous 4:22 PM  

@Stephanie

You're kidding, right?

Noam D. Elkies 4:36 PM  

Darnit, I knew Moses' wife was a Cushite (כושית), but "Cushitic" wouldn't fit and my second guess "Midianite" off 4D:GIL went nowhere; only once I eventually figured it might end with -IAN did I think of 13A:ETHIOPIAN. Yeah, challenging all around for a Thursday, though once I noticed the thematic NOSEdives I was able to quickly fill the remaining blank expanses of the grid.

NDE

sanfranman59 5:34 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 28:08, 19:16, 1.46, 96%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 13:27, 9:14, 1.46, 96%, Challenging

By the numbers, this one's on pace to be one of the most challenging puzzles in the 12+ months I've been tracking solve times (relative to the day of the week, of course). The median solve times for both groups are the third highest of 54 Thursday puzzles in my spreadsheet. Only Xan Vongsathorn's 1/7/2010 and Matt Ginsberg & Pete Muller's 12/3/2009 puzzles had higher online solve times. The ratios are the fifth (all solvers) and seventh (top 100) highest of 313 puzzles overall. If it were a Friday puzzle, these solve times would place it in the Medium-Challenging category.

retired_chemist 6:25 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Van55 8:45 PM  

If my research is correct, "semiotics" is never used in Brown's novels to describe Langdon's expertise. Rather Langdon is a Harvard professor of religious symbology. I call foul!

Oscar 8:50 PM  

Pretty obvious gimmick from the placement of the missing clue numbers. The spate of original clues was appreciated, but that has to be the most tortured revealing phrase ever. Aren't all nose dives steep? Why, yes; yes, they are. Forcing one's theme to span the grid isn't worth it if it results in clunkiness like that.

retired_chemist 8:52 PM  

Semiotics is pretty much synonymous with symbology (If you lisp please do not say that out loud). Certainly one who knows both words and has read the novel should not have a problem.

No harm no foul IMO.

Anonymous 8:58 PM  

I’m somewhat new to this blog, and absolutely love all the commentators. You’re great teachers and entertainers! Thank you.

What I don’t love is trying to figure out when a clue needs a “?” (26A Coffin nails) or clued to indicate an abbreviation (26A and 25D Having a permit) or when an answer like “mods” at 30D, as Two Ponies noted, doesn’t require a clue indicating Brit speak….ugh.

@ Falconer, I thought Ferdinand de Saussure was the “father” of semiotics. Also, since semiotics is the study of signs, “symbology” must have been a means to define whatshisname’s profession for the masses, most of whom I doubt ever heard of or would think of looking up the definition of semiotics….a sign of the times. I'm happy to have read de Saussure and happier that I never read the Da Vini Code, 'cause that made the solve easy for me on that one.

Today’s puzzle was a blast. What a great theme.

retired_chemist 9:11 PM  

@ anon 8:58 -

The "?" means you are not to take the clue literally but to look for a trick/joke. 41D is a good example - if taken literally one would be looking for a 4 letter word for someone who fixes the electrical systems of cars. PYRO(maniac) of course is one who ignites, but it's a trick since you would not normally be looking in that
direction for the answer.

The abbreviation is either inferred from use of a synonymous abbreviation in the clue or is called for explicitly with (abbr.).

Welcome. Pick an alias so we know who you are.

Anonymous 9:29 PM  

@ retired chemist…I’m shy. And a moniker seems too semiotical to me…at least for now, I simply enjoy reading the comments. Thank you for the explanation. I especially enjoy the clues with “?”s, because they make my brain work. In today’s puzzle, I thought clues like “coffin nails” would require a “?”, and that “okd” (25D) needed to be signaled as an abbreviation. I read on this blog that it’s legit as an unabbreviated word, but my mind says, really? This is the source of my confusion. Nonetheless, I loved the puzzle and, despite my earlier comment, I do love learning the seemingly varying ways of clues and answers. In the end, someone on this blog always clears up my befuddlement. Ciao.

fikink 9:51 PM  

Right on, @Retireed Chemist!
Crossword puzzles are about the world. They are about language; they are about structure, form and function; they are about individual experiences and universal consciousness; they are about culture.
And their trick is to play with language within certain perameters established by the crossword tradition.
Have fun, expand your mind, tune in, turn on, drop out.

Martin 10:00 PM  

@Shy anonymous,

If you say it as written, an abbreviation signal is not needed (or is optional). You say "OK" so it's a word. You turn "Thu." into "Thursday" when reading, so "Thu." is an abbreviation and needs a signal.

joho 10:05 PM  

@Shy anonymous, why not just post as Shy? We still won't know who you are really.

Anonymous 10:12 PM  

@Martin, thank you. That makes sense, and makes "cigs" okd too. I'm new enough to enjoy all the answers and how they are clued, yet still scratch my head over what seems to be cluing contradictions. If that makes sense.

I actually solved this puzzle without much difficulty. It took some time, but was pleasurable.

sanfranman59 10:32 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 6:41, 6:55, 0.97, 45%, Medium
Tue 7:58, 8:48, 0.91, 23%, Easy-Medium
Wed 9:40, 11:47, 0.82, 10%, Easy
Thu 28:00, 19:16, 1.45, 96%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:36, 3:41, 0.98, 43%, Medium
Tue 4:08, 4:30, 0.92, 23%, Easy-Medium
Wed 4:55, 5:47, 0.85, 12%, Easy
Thu 12:55, 9:13, 1.40, 94%, Challenging

Nebraska Doug 10:37 PM  

Glad to find this one rated challenging. Took me a long time to figure out the theme. Started from the bottom and worked my way up. The NW was the last to fall. Good to be really challenged on a Thursday. Fun puzzle!

Two Ponies 10:44 PM  

@ shy anon.,
Welcome. It also seems that the later in the week the more relaxed the rules are. Today was a prime example for the reasons you stated.
It also is nice when comments are made after perusing what has already been written.
Grab a chair and have a seat.

Harry Puzzled Potter 10:49 PM  

My first adventure was "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone". But since Americans are generally considered to be . . . knowledge deficient? . . . that had to be translated as "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone". My question: Is that a matter of semantics, semiotics, or symbology?

Anonymous 11:02 PM  

@Harry Puzzled Potter you made me chuckle. Thank you. I do believe, but I’m just a knowledge deficient American, semantics is part of semiotics.

But to answer your question, it is no matter for symbologists. (That’s better left to the Germans, like Hegel’s “Phenomenology of Spirit”.) The matter of Harry Potter’s “philosopher’s stone” is indeed one of the difficulties with transatlantic translations of English to American. Oh, the task of the translator is never easy……

Anonymous 11:07 PM  

@Two Ponies...thank you, this also helps to clarify why one puzzle's clues don't seem to follow the same rules as another's. It's also why I get much more enjoyment from puzzles later in the week...I guess the puzzlement is part of the fun for me, as is the de-puzzlement, or as is said here, the "aha moments".

mark 11:48 PM  

re: 27D subject in many a joke: St. Peter. I'm Catholic and don't know too many St Peter jokes. Most of them were Polish based. But that went downhill since Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) became Pope.

St. Peter 7:46 AM  

@mark -- We may have another example of disputed cluing here. I don't believe I am so much the actual subject of jokes, as the one whose job provides the setting for jokes. Of course, I do manage to get in a few zingers from time to time (or eternity to eternity.)

Give my regards to matthew, luke and john.

liquid el lay 11:45 AM  

Farmer John makes tasty sausages and bacon and is a sponser of The Dodgers.

Also tasty- John Farmer's puzzle.

I had a very easy experience with this puzzle- solved while conversing with friends and had no snags at all, really. The NW corner revealed the first NOSE dive, and that made it go.


What I like is the

.........
.
.........

Pattern, because, well, we prefer our planes not to dive into-the-ground.

Always glad to see AHAB and METHOD actors in the grid.

Avionics?: ICBM, THOR, MR SULU,..
Jack played an astronaut I guess..and ANSA looks like NASA to me.

Ohh, and Andrea O Michaels?
What trousers get in high water-
A HIKE!

Anonymous 12:05 AM  

I liked the puzzle but couldn't solve some until stumbling on this solution searching some clues. I still don't like the Clara - Harriet clue since Clara and Harriet were neighbors and friends on the Ozzie and Harriet show. Aunt Harriet from Batman? pleeez!

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