Climbing legume / TUE 7-13-10 / Title girl in 1922 hit / Levy on booze cigarettes / Priestly attire / Bygone communication

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: ... or not — theme answers are phrases that contain (circled) letters that spell out an opposing sentiment, e.g. EVERY BIT AN ANGEL features the circled letters "E,V,I,L"; every theme clue is followed by "... or not" as a way of cluing this embedded reversal

Word of the Day: NOLA (71A: Title girl in a 1922 hit) —

Vincent Lopez was born of Portuguese immigrant parents in Brooklyn, New York[1] and was leading his own dance band in New York City by 1917. On November 27, 1921 his band began broadcasting on the new medium of entertainment radio; the band's weekly 90-minute show on Newark, NJ station WJZ boosted the popularity of both himself and of radio. He became one of America's most popular bandleaders, and would retain that status through the 1940s. // He began his radio programs by announcing "Lopez speaking!".His theme song was "Nola," Felix Arndt's novelty ragtime piece of 1915, and Lopez became so identified with it that he occasionally satirized it. (His 1939 movie short for Vitaphone, Vincent Lopez and his Orchestra, features the entire band singing "Down with Nola.") Lopez worked occasionally in feature films, notably The Big Broadcast (1932). He was also one of the very first bandleaders to work in Soundies movie musicals, in 1940. He made additional Soundies in 1944. (wikipedia)

[Vincent Lopez Orchestra - Nola 1922]
• • •

Strange puzzle to solve. Felt extremely easy *except* for the theme answers, which I couldn't see at all — I just solved most of the crosses and waited for something recognizable to appear. Knowing odd crosswordese really helped me tear the puzzle up in parts — OTARU, for instance, was a godsend in that ugly center, where the preposterous TWO TO (34A: 58 minutes past the hour) stabs OTARU (31D: Japanese seaport) and (ugh) TOBIT (32D: Book of the Apocrypha) in the throat. Knowledge of crosswordese came in handy again in the SW: VETCH (51D: Climbing legume) has been a Word Of The Day before, and ELY Culbertson (54A: Bridge expert Culbertson) is crosswordese royalty—not being a constant solver would have made that corner quite tough (in addition to being quite unpretty). Apparently today we are pretending that ELY and ELI (47A: 2008 Super Bowl M.V.P. Manning) are completely different names. Not even an attempt to come at ELY as a *last* name, which would have at least made the ELI/ELY thing defensible on some level. Nope. Just two first names, pronounced (I think) identically, derived (I think) from the same Hebrew/biblical source [I'm being told ELY is pronounced "EELY" ... changes my opinion of its appearance here only a little]. Just ... one has an "I," the other a "Y." Frankly, even if Culbertson's ELY is derived from, let's say, Xhosa, and not Hebrew, I still call foul. Also, what is up with the cram-as-much-crosswordese-into-a-phonebooth stunt going on in the north. RAIL and LAPEL are the only things up there that aren't supremely tired. Always disappointing when short(er) fill is treated with such cynicism (i.e. "it fits, good enough").

But back to the theme—as circle puzzles go, this one wasn't so bad. Circles are inherently relevant to the theme, and are not completely arbitrary; only partially so, e.g. you could have circled one of three different Ls, and one of two different Is, in TELLS IT LIKE IT IS. Consistency is slightly off, in that circled words are three times bad, one time good; also two times verb, two times adjective. But the idea is a fine and solid one, overall. Decent theme, somewhat ugly fill. That is the story of this one.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Nice through and through ... or not (EVERY BIT AN ANGEL / EVIL)
  • 27A: Really digs ... or not (HAS THE HOTS FOR / HATES)
  • 48A: Most wretched ... or not (ABSOLUTE WORST / BEST) — addition of the qualifier "ABSOLUTE" makes this one wonky; WORST is opp. of BEST all on its own
  • 63A: Speaks with brutal honesty ... or not (TELLS IT LIKE IT IS / LIES)
I don't know what a NIGHT RIDER is (11D: Certain vigilante). I know what a "KNIGHT RIDER" is (for one thing, it's what you get when you google [night rider]). And I know what a KNIGHT-RIDDER is. But NIGHT RIDER ... was just a phrase I put together from crosses. Wait, is this a reference to the $&%^ing Klan? For real? I can't find anything about "NIGHT RIDER" except for this:
Klan members adopted masks and robes that hid their identities and added to the drama of their night rides, their chosen time for attacks. Many of them operated in small towns and rural areas where people otherwise knew each other's faces, and sometimes still recognized the attackers. "The kind of thing that men are afraid or ashamed to do openly, and by day, they accomplish secretly, masked, and at night." With this method both the high and the low could be attacked. The Ku Klux Klan night riders "sometimes claimed to be ghosts of Confederate soldiers so, as they claimed, to frighten superstitious blacks. Few freedmen took such nonsense seriously." (wikipedia)
The taste of this puzzle in my mouth just got a good deal more sour. [Masked asshole] might have made this more palatable ...

  • 25A: Levy on cigarettes and booze (SIN TAX) — lovely phrase, but I'd like an "or" instead of an "and" in that clue.
  • 38A: Portland, Ore., college from which Steve Jobs dropped out (REED) — in an alternate universe, I went here. In this universe, I chose Pomona instead.
  • 69A: Terse order to a chauffeur (HOME) — "Terse" = unimaginably, comically, olde-tymishly dickish.

[If you ever wondered what Willie would look like in '70s-era 'Stros gear ... now you know]

  • 13D: Bygone communication (TELEX) — honestly, I'd never heard of this until seeing it in a crossword.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


PurpleGuy 12:25 AM  

As soon as I saw the circles, I wondered what Rex would have to say. He never HASTHEHOTS for them.
This wasn't all that bad, theme wise.

Can't add much else to what @Rex has already written.

I wonder if EVE, DEB and NOLA were PALS while they attended VASSAR.

Have a nice Tuesday all. Taking a friend to the airport for an early am. flight. Then off to do volunteer reading at Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. Busy but fulfilling day.

herth-how my tongue feels after I bite it.


Tobias 12:35 AM  

So yesterday Peter asks for more Gunsmoke, and today,badaboom baddabing , more Gunsmoke ! You got any stock tips?

D_Blackwell 12:44 AM  

I believe that both, Knight Riders or night riders, would be correct for the KKK reference. It would be fine by me, fully legitimate, but cover is provided by the television show, 'The Night Rider', which had a very short run. Sad to say, I actually remember watching the show. Knowledge of the former is tad more interesting and useful.

Robin 12:52 AM  

@Rex...Pomona...really? me too.
@Andrea Every Bit an Angel rose to the challenge on Monday, so help us out with some positive feedback on this thing!
I thought some of the fill was snappy (or what was it - "poppy"??), but the theme - not so hot. Maybe I'm a closet circle hater.
I really don't fault the constructors at all, cuz I couldn't construct one of these things in my wildest dreams, but Will? come on sweetheart...I expect more integrity in the days of the week aspect of this whole deal...Monday and Tuesday are not supposed to be medium-challenging by Rex's standards, or anybody else's. They're supposed to be fun and easy-breezy and my 80 year old mother should be able to solve them.
Don't mean to be such a witch, and I obviously love the puzzles, I'm just commentin' straight from the heart (which might make for a good theme?)

Robin 12:57 AM  

P.S. @Rex...13D Telex was before your time. It was a funky thing you typed into and it punched a computer card and somehow was sent overseas. It was the prequel to the text message, I think. But was much more complicated.

Steve J 1:27 AM  

Not a happy start to the week, in my opinion. Yesterday's puzzle was already hashed over, and I didn't find this one much of a step forward for me. Nothing that quite sparks the reaction I had yesterday to LEADY, but nothing to make me smile, either.

This theme is not the one to cure me of my hatred for circles. At least they're not arbitrary, and once I figured out what was going on they actually helped me fill the third of the four theme answers. So that's a step forward from most circle puzzles. But it took me forever - basically, until I had a giant empty doughnut hole staring at me - before I even noticed them. Until then, the theme clues were utterly baffling.

That's probably why I found this the toughest Tuesday I've done in a long while. The abundance of bad fill didn't help. Definitely agreed about ELY/ELI.

Interestingly enough, the TELEX is not bygone. The Economist had an interest article about a year and a half ago about how it hangs on in some parts of the world.

Found other references to NIGHTRIDER (it was a Count Basie album in the 1970s), and the one definition I saw didn't relate to the KKK, but I suspect the M-W definition tried to sanitize it by defining it as "a member of a secret band who ride masked at night doing acts of violence for the purpose of punishing or terrorizing."

If Hitler, Nazis, etc. are off-limits in the NYT puzzle, I think lynch mobs and the Klan are good candidates for exclusion as well. Not terribly happy to see this in the puzzle.

chefwen 1:34 AM  

Opposite of @Robin - I said to self, Ooh circles, I love circles. Agree with our leader on the rating, it was pretty crunchy in parts. Started out poorly with 15A dropping in see ya instead of LATER, and 31D with Osaka before OTARU. Han ERIES in, took it out, put it back in. Yikes! Finished it up in a longer time that it should have taken, but, as always, enjoyed my trip.

Used a TELEX machine many moons ago in my steel selling days, they were an interesting way to communicate.

Anonymous 1:53 AM  

In the old spy / war movies, the machine with the impossibly active carriage typing out the crytic message on a roll-feed, with the attendant impatiently waiting to tear it off and run it to the higher-ups, was a TELEX.

CoolPapaD 1:55 AM  

Wow - finished error-free by guessing the first two letters of ELY (the downs were equally unfamiliar to me), and praying that ERIE was correct (never heard of TOBIT, and OTARU was only vaguely familiar). Loved the clue for SEEK ASYLUM. Overall, challenging but enjoyable.

@PurpleGuy - your comment brought a huge smile to my face, as I recalled my Grandma Rose, a teacher and native New Yorker, who died in the mid 70s, when I was about ten. She was the one who first introduced me to NYT crosswords (though I didn't start doing them for 30+ years afterwards). At her funeral, the rabbi was talking about how selfless she was with her volunteer work: "Rose was such a wonderful woman, devoting her time to charitable causes, recording books on tape for the deaf...." My brother and I looked at each other, began giggling at the gaffe, and soon the laughter spread throughout the place, bringing smiles and some much-needed levity to the service. Great, great lady!

andrea eliy michaels 2:28 AM  

Sorry! No can do! I exhausted myself over yesterday's mess...
Today, I didn't even get the theme!!!
I kept reading: "EVIL HATES BEST LIES" trying to make sense of that quote!
I got the first circles and thought
they would all be anagrams of EVIL
(LIVE, VILE, VEIL...I feel a puzzle comin' on!)
Then I got the second and thought
they were all forms of EVIL. EVIL, when I got BEST I thought I'd made a mistake or it was BEAST as in the devil...
and then back to LIES.

SO I thought the undercurrent of the puzzle was a bit dark. EVIL, HATE, LIES lurking with the Klan (k)VETCH, homophone VIAL, TRIPE and DEBS!

I also tried to parse TOBIT
(Two bits? is there a book of the bible called TOBEY?)

(and I think this where someone is supposed to mention that James ARNESS was Peter GRAVES brother and that they were from Minnesota)

Plus I needed every letter for 19D
"Can I give you ___". After it became clear it wasn't AHAND, I couldn't figure it out. "Can I give you ALIF?" "Can I give you A LIFE?" (which I will now say instead of "Get a life!" I will offer to GIVE them one!)

TERPS need a new nickname...I know this was just in a puzzle but it still looks like TWERPS to me.

I don't know what to say. I am old enough to sort of remember what a TELEX is, but I think today I'll just sit back and let others reminisce!

imsdave 4:50 AM  

I won't swear to it, but I'm 99% sure that ELY is pronounced eely (not that that helps a lot). Enjoyable Tuesday morning fare.

Greene 4:52 AM  

Wow, this is just not turning out to be a great week puzzlewise in the NYT. Theme here was fine, but I can't say I'm in love with the middle of this puzzle with TOBIT crossing TWO TO and ERIES with OTARU close at hand. Not good at all. Somebody pass me the cranky pants.

I had a childhood flashback when I saw NOLA. I was forced to learn to play this novelty ragtime piece as a piano student and it is not a happy memory. I love ragtime, and could play the entire Joplin catalog back during that ragtime craze in the early 1970s when The Sting came out, but NOLA? Not exactly in the same league.

I was truly appalled to see NIGHT RIDER in this puzzle. If one lives in the south (as I do), this phrase immediately conjures up images of the Klan. I can only hope the constructor was thinking of something else because I cannot understand why anyone would willingly put something so loathesome and odious in the puzzle.

@D_Blackwell: The 1980s show you are remembering was called Knight Rider. David Hasselhoff's character was named Michael Knight, so I don't think it's the same thing as NIGHT RIDER. I remember the show as being quite popular. I think it ran for 4 seasons or so. Broadway's William Daniels was the voice of the car (more useless trivia permanently lodged in my brain). I remember thinking, even back in the 1980s, that Knight Rider was a very unfortunate choice for the title of a television program. What? They've got a TV show about the Klan? Who produced it, George McGovern?

XwrdJnkie 5:18 AM  

I really liked the theme of the puzzle - very clever, nice use of circles. Fill was meh and took me way too long to fill a Tuesday!

But overall, thumbs up for this unique offering.

Nighthawk 5:43 AM  

@Andrea I had the same reaction to the circled letters until I came here and read RPs write up. Nice, as usual.

As to the night rider issue, I too live in the south, but the phrase really conjures up not so much the KKK as any group of horseback vigilantes at night. In this part of the world, the most famous, still, incident took place over several weeks concerning a land title dispute. As ever, much mischief, mayhem, and murder occurred under the cover of darkness. Here's a short article:

As for the telex, for written, secure long distance communication in the bad ole pre-internet world, it was the gold standard. It was particularly good for international transactions that required written instructions and confirmation of trades being completed. Western Union operated the biggest network in the US. Here's a good article:

XConstructor 5:57 AM  

The theme: If you just solved the non-thematic portions of the puzzle and waited for the crosses to appear, how do you expect to enjoy the theme?

To enjoy the theme, the solver should jump into the theme-revelation game that the constructor has offered and play along. Work the first theme answer, see how the embedded reversal via circles is a wonderful aha.

Attack the rest of the theme answers. Then come back and tell us if you liked the theme.

(Aside, I know you don't really have to do the above - I know it's your puzzle and you can solve it any way you like. But then don't complain you did not see the darn theme, or that you did not enjoy it!).

"Two adjectives, two verbs, three bad, one good" - nits. This was a solid theme and very enjoyable.

The Fill: The constructor made the classic mistake of not using the entire 78 words allocated to this puzzle and getting enamored by the long down fill. He used 76 words, and in the process was forced into the bad fill.

(OTARU crossing TWO TO crossing TOBIT, ELY/ELI, VETCH and the clue for REED - all bad)

He could have easily resolved this issue by adding an extra couple of blocks, and removing all the bad crossings.

Overall, two thumbs up for the theme. Unique, well done.


Rex Parker 6:55 AM  

@imsdave, thanks for the (almost certain) info on ELY. Having only *seen* it in print, I had nothing to go on. Figured it was just a (Hungarian?) variant of ELI. I tried to look it up. One site said it was related to "ELI" ... and like I say, even if not, still not optimal to have both ELI and ELY in puzzle. (I left the NOLA / NOVA / NORA triplets alone ...)


Jo 7:38 AM  

Slightly too easy for Tuesday, breezed through it without writeovers, mostly because all of the theme phrases came with only a few of the letters filled in. Everything I did not know, as NOLA, TERPS, ARNESS came through the crosses. Knew VETCH, was not aware it is crosswordese.
Knew TELEX from reading, must have been spy or war stories. Was it used on ships?

redhed 7:42 AM  

Actually, I finished this one rather quickly. I feel like the puzzles are certainly more on the correct difficulty levels this week compared to last week. Only a couple of write-overs (TWO TO after first putting in TWO OF, e.g.). Wanted TELEGRAPH instead of TELEX, but knew it would not fit. Otherwise, it seems like an appropiate challenge for Tuesday.

Sandy 7:52 AM  

Is there a difference between IROQUOIS referring to the five/six nations of the confederacy (Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, Mohawk and, later, Tuscarora), and some broad Iroquois language/cultural group that includes ERIES? Because I was totally stumped trying to come up with an upstate tribe starting with "E"

Bob Kerfuffle 8:05 AM  

Easy as this was, this puzzle lured me into two consecutive write-overs at 34 A and 35 A: TWOOF before TWOTO (as redhed), and TRITE before TRIPE.

Craig 8:11 AM  

Ely Culbertson did indeed pronounce it EE-lee; he was half American, half Russian, and his given name was Ilya from which Ely derived. Still doesn't excuse the appearance of both names.

joho 8:32 AM  

@Rex ... that incessant plinking in Nola is like Chinese water torture!

I liked seeing SEEKASYLUM and SINTAX in the grid but had the same problems with the inconsistency of the theme as @Rex and @andrea eliy michaels. I also always read TERP as TWERP ... my brain automatically addes the "W."

It is so difficult to create a perfectly balanced puzzle, I can still appreciate one that isn't.

joho 8:46 AM  

(I guess my brain automatically adds an "e" to adds, too!)

Anonymous 8:50 AM  

i'm almost positive that when "ELY" is a last name, it is pronounced "eely."

i kinda breezed through this one...i thought it was mildly more challenging than the average tuesday. the "VETCH"/"ELY" cross was the only real bugaboo...i don't know what vetch is and i don't play bridge, so (given ELI previously) culbertson's name could have been ALY for all i knew. but i guessed with "ELY." lucky.

"nightrider" to me is a TV show. i didn't watch it, but i vaguely remember him being a cop or some kind of crime fighter which would make him a "certain vigilante."

could someone from spain take a break from celebrating the world cup victory and explain to me how "MAMMA" is peculiar to madridians for "mother" and not "MADRE?" MAMMA looks italian to know, like MAMMA MIA?

Rex Parker 8:56 AM  


Anonymous 9:03 AM  

Clever use of opposites in a single phrase, even though I didn't figure out the theme and the meaning of the circles until after I finished the puzzle.

But, I figured that VETCH could not possibly be right, because that would put an ELY in the puzzle, and ELI was already there. TOBIT and OTARU- huh? What are they doing in a Tuesday?

@ImsDave- ELY is pronunced eely--at least the city in Minnesota is; I'm not so sure about Ely Culbertson

@CoolPapaD- nice

captcha- wilis-- wachoo talkin' about

chefbea 9:04 AM  

Thought the puzzle was fairly easy. Had two of for a while wich fouled me up.

Never heard of vetch

@Rolin Mains. I think you are right. Way back when (in high school) our French teacher was Madam Ely. We pronounced it eely

Grammarian DB 9:15 AM  

I thought the clue for 63A explained only the AS/LIKE difference in the answer, otherwise it should be TELLSITASITIS.

jesser 9:16 AM  

I pay a lot of SIN TAXes to support my bourbon love.

Never heard of the SICA person, and VETCH/ELY was a bit of guesswork that worked out well. I am a bridge player, too.

No circles in my print-out version, so the theme was lost on me 'til I came here and Rex 'splained it to me. I like.

TOBIT and OTARU are just flat ugly, but absolutely gettable by the crosses, although obscured for a while by TWO of until TWO TO popped into my skull.

Not much more to say. This will be a busy day in Jessville.

Sympe! (Gym class for the Sym Tribe, which is not related to the Iroquois) -- jesser

JenCT 9:40 AM  

VETCH is a legume grown for erosion control, forage, and soil improvement.

Finished this one fairly quickly also; crosses certainly helped.

SEEKASYLUM took me the longest.

Agree w/Rex's assessment.

Van55 9:52 AM  

Like XC, I really enjoyed the theme today. Some of the fill is surprisingly arcane for a Tuesday.

I think that night riders are vigilantes of which those in the KKK are a mere subset. There's nothing inherently KKK about the entry and certainly nothing about it the extols the Klan or it's heinous goals. Let's not let political correctness spoil crosswords.

treedweller 9:53 AM  

I must be getting soft, because I wasn't put off by this one the way others were. That may be because I also solved the puzzle in the local daily today and yesterday--though it's not the ABSOLUTE WORST, they run one of those wire-service specials that seem to be constructed entirely by a computer with a crossword-solving dictionary as a word list.

It helped that I did not know there was a KKK connotation to NIGHTRIDER. I certainly can't claim TX was klan-free when I was a kid, but, at least where I grew up, they existed mainly under rocks and in slime pits where they belong. Reading about it here does put a pall on the whole thing.

I think it helps the circle thing that the phrases are related, rather than just finding random words embedded in random fill. Notwithstanding the KKKonnection, I thought it was a serviceable puzzle with a few too many iffy words, already mentioned by others.

Incidentally, Knight Rider was a terrible show that I nevertheless watched way too much of (anyone ever see the episode where Michael was talking to the car remotely and it was frightened because it was near a swamp and an alligator was walking up onto the bank? I mean, seriously, what was the car expecting the gator to do to it?).

archaeoprof 10:01 AM  

Pretty good Tuesday, imho.

Read the date in 71A as 1972 and confidently wrote LOLA.

@Rex: Merle and Willie!

CaseAce 10:12 AM  

You have to grudgingly admire people, such as the late Howard Cosell, who "TELEX like it is!"

Rex Parker 10:15 AM  

No, NIGHT RIDERS are *explicitly* racist and Klan-related ("a band of mounted and usually masked Whites in the southern US who carried out acts of revenge and intimidation at night after the Civil War") and there's nothing "politically correct" about thinking the Klan is fucking evil and repugnant. Politically correct, my eye. Objecting to "MANHOLE COVER," THAT is "politically correct." Finding the Klan, generally, unpuzzleworthy, that's just common decency.


jesser 10:19 AM  

Amen, Rex!

CaseAce 10:21 AM  

Somebody apparently fell asleep at the switch over at WP...only a single solitary comment, as of this typing!

RadioMan 10:25 AM  

@Rolin Mains - the clue for 20a is "mother, in Milan" (not Madrid), which is in Italy.

And I used Telex machines back when I was in the USN (late "50's-early 60's)

RadioMan 10:27 AM  

Meaning, of course, that Milan is in Italy.

PuzzleGirl 10:33 AM  

Does anyone know how Ely Culbertson pronounces his name? I think it's like eely. Also, Night Rider was a TV show.

Two Ponies 10:33 AM  

Gunsmoke again!
Eries should have been more obvious but for the Japanese city I was expecting a K or a Y.
I have no clue whatsoever what Tobit is.
Theme was OK.
Ely is also a city in Nevada and is pronounced Eelee.
Night rider made me think of Lord of the Rings and the Ring Wraiths. If it made some think about the Klan, well, history is what it is. We cannot and should not ignore unpleasant parts of the past lest they be repeated.

pete1123 10:34 AM  

I see the reviews of my puzzle were a little mixed today. I'll resist the temptation to address the "clASSy typES" who picked on me. Just kiddin'.

I’ve got a little non-crossword puzzle news to share. This Saturday, I’m traveling to Port Huron, Michigan, for my grandmother’s 100th birthday “party”. Grandma actually turned 100 on June 23. Now, is it just me or is it extremely brave to schedule your 100th birthday party three weeks after your 100th birthday? Maybe Grandma knows something we don’t know.

Being 100, that means she was around when the first crossword puzzle was published in 1913. Although Grandma still lives on her own in the house she and Grandpa built in 1969, and is still extremely sharp, she isn’t a crossword puzzler. Never too late to start, right?

Pete Collins

Van55 10:41 AM  

@Rex-- I am sure you are aware of the shortcomings of Wikipedia as a source --especially a sole source. If you were to google night riders generally you would confirm that the term is by no means exclusive to the Klan. By your reasoning SHEETS would never be an appropriate crossword answer, nor would HOODS. I have no greater tolerance for the KKK than you, but I simply cannot share your outrage over the entry today.

About Me 10:44 AM  

Telex - early word processor generated approx 1-inch wide paper tapes that could be stored and run through readers to send them over early audio modems. Played with them at Bankers Trust in the days before faxes, email, etc.

mexgirl 10:44 AM  

@ rolin mains
The clue in today's puzzle reads: Mother in Milan, not Madrid. (Milan=Italy, Madrid=Spain). In Spanish the familiar term is MAMÁ (emphasis on the last A), and in Italian is MAMMA (emphasis on the first A). Otherwise, to be very respectful to your progenitor you can always say MADRE, both in Spanish or Italian.

@ Andrea
I had the same exact experience in my solving! I feel like I'm in the pros, now :^)

Wade 10:47 AM  

We're this far into the Ely roster and nobody's brought up the great Joe Ely?

You gotta see Joe Ely. He tours constantly and is probably in your town tonight, either solo or with the Flatlanders. Either way, get thee to Joe Ely. He'll change your life.

D_Blackwell 10:48 AM  

@Greene @Rex Parker

"The Night Rider" - 1979 Kim 'Sex and the City' Cattrall was in it.

I would hope that a thirty year tv show that ran for one year wasn't the intended reference, but it is convenient for "Oh, we really meant....."

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

here's an interesting phenomenon...I download the puzzle from my Times Reader feature which I get for free because i'm a sunday only subscriber. Guess what? No circles at all-I was totally unaware of their existence until I logged on to this site. Solved the puzzle just fine without them, just was at a loss for the theme.

PuzzleNut 10:53 AM  

Had the same thoughts on this one as @redhead and @jesser. Had heard of OTARU, but first wanted OsAka. Never heard of TOBIT. The crosses were easy enough that I never really saw either word.
Not a fan of circles as I do these early weeek puzzles diagramless. Thought the phrases had two meanings, first literally and second, sarcastically. Didn't see the circles til coming here, and not at all impressed with them.

An average Tuesday, IMO.

Martin 10:57 AM  


"Night rider" entered the language with the Klan. The first citation noted by M-W is from 1877. That's a bit late, because the first appearance in the New York Times is in an 1871 article about the Klan.

Other terrorist organizations later used the concept. Robert Penn Warren's first novel, Night Rider, is about tobacco farmers. Nevertheless, the term originated with the Klan and is almost exclusively associated with it.

Glitch 11:00 AM  

Expanding on @Van55, per wiki,

*The* Night Riders were a vigilante group operating from about 1906 to 1908 in southwestern Kentucky and northwestern Tennessee that used fear and intimidation against the Duke tobacco monopoly in the area. The Night Riders were led by Dr. David Amoss, a medical doctor from the Cobb community in Caldwell County, Kentucky. These "masked riders" initiated what were called the Black Patch Wars because of the unfair price ceilings being generated by the Duke tobacco conglomerate.

Although rumored to have *ties* to the KKK, they were not racist per se.

OTOH, night riders, as part of the KKK's *activities* definately were.


Zeke 11:14 AM  

Since when did terrorist groups become vigilantes? Oh, the Kim Cattrell movie. Sorry.

shrub5 11:26 AM  

Got hung up in the TWOTO, OTARU, TOBIT region as did others. Googled the latter two to verify.

Favorite clues/answers: Woman who raised Cain (EVE) with her partner ADAM ... and Club that doesn't beat much (DEUCE.)

Are the dance classes at the University of Maryland called TERPSichorean Studies? (Ha, who wants to bet I'm the first to ask that?!)

fikink 11:45 AM  

@Robin, I agree with you re: Monday/Tuesday difficulty level. Here's a music-of-the-spheres moment: As I watch the FIL (89) aging backward, I watch him do NYT puzzles that are less difficult. When he was robust, he used to zip through Saturday. Gradually, he stopped at Friday, then Thursday... He currently requests Wednesday books and we do the NYT Sunday puzzle together.
Maybe the NYT puzzle is a metaphor for life.
Let us pray.

@CoolPapaD, much laughter here - a great story!

It took me forever to read "defect" as a verb!

@tptsteve - I agree! How about a nice Midwestern clue for ELY - "town in the boundary waters of Minnesota," a beautiful place!

"olde-tymishly dickish" has a beat you can dance to, @Rex.
Shave-and-a-haircut, TOBITs!

Martin 11:52 AM  

BTW, I've been to Otaru, and it's far from ugly. (Not the greatest snap in the world, but you get the idea.)

Rex Parker 11:54 AM  

If anything could get me into a theater to see Kim Catrall, it would be her as a vigilante. Her as a Klan member, not so much.

Rex Parker 11:58 AM  

PS, thanks for the NIGHT RIDER documentation, Martin. I was actually quoting a dictionary, not wikipedia, but I failed to say as much.


Tinbeni 12:07 PM  

I dislike SNIP being in the grid. It reminds me of the day I had my vasectomy.

Also hate paying the SIN TAX on my booze & cigs.

Circle puzzles, not a fave. But when they spelled out EVIL in the first theme it brought on a grin.

Don't have a problem with ELI & ELY being in the same puzzle.
As for the answer NIGHT RIDER for "Certain vigilante." Not going to over analyze nor bring in "outside facts" not in evidence while I solved.

Peter A. Collins I liked your FUN Tuesday puzzle.

joho 12:08 PM  

@Michigan Pete ... hope your and your grandmother have a wonderful 100th birthday celebration!

Stan 12:40 PM  

Nice, clever puzzle with some less than ideal fill resulting from the high percentage of theme squares. But then again, I'm a fan, not a critic.

The verb/noun thing with 'Defect' and the DEUCE clue both stumped me at first.

Bitter Vetch sounds like a good name for an alt-country band. They could perform songs by Joe Ely.

The climbing legumes at my house (pole beans) did not do well in last week's heatwave. But the tomatoes and peppers *loved* it and grew about a foot.

Poignant remarks, @fikink, on your FIL's backwards-in-time progression.

CaseAce 1:15 PM  

The latest from WP, not that anyone here cares a fiddler"s fang, is they're finally up and running, due to still another snafu with their delicately nurtured blog!

CaseAce 1:18 PM  

As for Xwords that include these confounded circles, let me just say that the majority of us simply don't relish making the Rounds!

Swee' P. 1:48 PM  

Quite a nice theme, got it right off the bat with 17A. Some not so sparkling fill, but nothing terrible, considering that all of the "down" answers cross one or two or three (!) theme answers. Wasn't particularly disturbed by NIGHT RIDER, as others seem to be. I see 19 instances of NAZI/NAZIS in past Times puzzles. Apparently not a problem either.

Sometimes I wonder if people are actually looking for things to criticize in a puzzle. Must make a person v. grumpy afterward.

Cathyat40 1:52 PM  

Got tripped up at OTARU/TOBIT/ERIES/TWOTO; ignored the theme (circles) and solved it as if it were themeless.

grusines: horror magazines

poc 2:02 PM  

@Roll Mains: "mamá" (count the m's) is universally used in Spanish culture as the informal equivalent of "madre". I don't think this is at all peculiar to madrileños. It's similar to "Mom/Mum/Mommy/Mammy/Mummy" in the English-speaking world. The Italian "Mamma" is stressed on the first syllable and the double m is longer than the initial m, while the Spanish "Mamá" is stressed on the second syllable (hence the accent) and both m's are short.

Clark 2:44 PM  

@chefbea -- Don’t ask me how I remember this, but this is you writing at 8:15 AM on April 21, 2009 when VETCH was the word of the day: “challenging for me. Never heard of those players. Had to look up vetch which I have never heard of either.” Vetch, by the way, is very easy on the eyes.

I had everything done except OTA_U, TOB_T crossing E__ES. I actually generated 5 likely consonants for the first blank, used vowels including Y for the second, and was scanning the list of 30 possible 45As when ERIES popped into the old noggin. I didn't even have R on my list of likelies!

(When you want to know something like Was there a TV show called Night Rider? I highly recommend going to Until the back and forth today, I just assumed everybody knew this. I don't mean that there is not something worth discussing about whether certain words or phrases should stay out of the puzzle; I just mean that when it comes to facts, it's nice to know where to go to find them.)

Anonymous 3:45 PM  

FWIW, couple of weeks ago I passed through Ely, Nevada, and the folks call it "Eely." Stephen King fictionalized it into the town of Desperation, one of his better horror tales.

chefbea 4:06 PM  

@Clark WOW what a memory???. I have to go check out that puzzle

andrea two bits michaels 4:09 PM  

clASSy typES! Ha! Finally a hidden theme I got! ;)
(btw my failure to see your theme today was my bad, not yours,
thank god for @rex and this blog!
As the old saw goes "EVIL HATES BEST LIES"!)

Mazel tov to Grandma and YES, let's HOPE she knows LOTS of things we don't know!

Now to find someone I can offer to give a life to!

captcha: "bring" WTF?!!!! ;)

PIX 4:13 PM  

Suppose that Night Rider does reference the KKK and also suppose the KKK score a full 10 on the 1-10 scale of evil. It is part of American history and being reminded of our history-even it's a rather unpleasant aspect of it - doesn't detract from the puzzle, at least for me. I never understood this deep concern about having only pleasant subjects in the puzzle. Are we all so sensitive that such a reference ruins our day? Maybe being reminded of past mistakes will help us avoid them in the future.

sanfranman59 4:17 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)

Tue 9:20, 8:49, 1.06, 71%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 5:01, 4:31, 1.11, 86%, Challenging

Two Ponies 4:44 PM  

@ Peter C, Thanks for dropping by and giving me a chuckle.
@ PIX, Thank you for restating and agreeing with me from 10:33 this morning.

Van55 4:46 PM  

The IMDB is a good reference point. A search there reveals "Night Rider" or "Night Riders" in one form or another in more than a dozen titles, not one of which, so far as I can discern, has anything to do with the KKK or extols it.

This puts the lie to the assertion that the "Night Rider" is "almost exclusively associated with the Klan." Interestingly, even Rex made no such association at first, doing so only after consulting Wikipedia and/or a dictionary.

I feel confident that neither Peter D. Collins nor Will Shortz intended an explicit or implicit reference to the Klan in the puzzle or the cluing. Those who find that the answer "must be" associated with the Klan and express their outrage thereover seem to me to be attempting to display some kind of moral superiority -- which is what political correctness is all about in my opinion.

Three and out.

Tinbeni 5:19 PM  

I agree 100% !!!

I believe a whole lot more than just the "clue and answer" was read into this discussion today.

Though I really do dislike SNIP for the reason I gave above.

Rex Parker 5:19 PM  

I guess facts don't matter. I read a recent article that discussed this phenomenon. People are wrong, and then they are presented with facts confirming that they are wrong, and it only makes them dig in and insist on their wrongness even more furiously, amassing all kinds of arbitrary "evidence" (from websites with no historical or fact-checking dimension to them whatsoever, e.g.) to confirm their position.

From the OED:

1875 Chicago Tribune 6 Nov. 3/6 To-night..there is to be a ‘night riding’ and arouse a degree of uneasiness in the darky's mind and cause him..not to go to the election.

1897 Catholic World May 249 Some foolish whites, in the night-riding Ku-klux-klan, Sought for mastery by underhanded means.

1877 J. M. WELLS Chisolm Massacre x. 118 They said that night-riders had shot into the houses of the colored people.

1948 E. N. DICK Dixie Frontier 94 Patrols, called patterols by the slaves, were organized by the whites, and these night riders endeavored to enforce the regulations.

2000 Oxf. American Jan.-Feb. 14/2 Exposed as a former Klansman..[he] asked the country to believe that he was never a night rider.


Fact that the phrase has been used to talk about non-Klan "vigilantes" does nothing to take away this *primary* association.


Tex 5:32 PM  

That same argument about "digging in" can be used for both sides.

If the answer made you think of the KKK then that's just how your mind works.

Some people love that warm feeling of superiority.

Personally, I thought about cowboys and posses.

Rex Parker 5:46 PM  

... and the Confederate Flag is just an innocent expression of regional pride. I hear ya.

Anonymous 5:49 PM  

Clark, maybe it was reinforced when chefbea wrote "Good puzzle but I never heard of vetch. I'll have to google it." at 9:51 AM on December 31, 2009.

Perhaps 6:03 PM  

Stipulating your *primary* association, (and I don't see any significant objections), puzzles often use non-primary meanings in their construction.

I believe the alternative interpretation presented does, in this case, come from authenticated sources.

Why can't both camps have a point today?

Much like the discussion of the Confederate flag vrs the "Stars and Bars" a while back.

Clark 6:18 PM  

@anonymous 5:49 -- Well, it couldn't have been reinforced in my memory because I don't follow the blog in which that other reference appeared. (Not that there's anything wrong with it.) But, indeed, there is chefbea talking about vetch. I forget a new word about 47 times before I finally remember it, so, @chefbea, I mean to be laughing with you. :)

Rex Parker 6:19 PM  


Yes. You are exactly right. The question is: when your strong primary association is a vivid act of terrorism, do you go ahead and (ahem) pull the trigger and rely on a weaker secondary association to justify it. In the case of non-inflammatory material, there is no question: secondary and tertiary associations are always justifiable. Part of the game. In other cases (today), it's a judgment call. Reasonable people can disagree. Writing off someone's distaste at the primary association (today, racist terrorism) as "politically correct," however, is ... well, you know what it is.

I spent a lot of time answering people's mail, explaining that JEWFRO was not, to my knowledge, pejorative. And yet I did not, in any of those cases, say "don't be such a sensitive Jew."

Tinbeni 6:27 PM  

@Rex and @Tex
When doing the puzzle, I had an image of the vigilante posse from the movie "The Ox-bow Incident" in my head as I entered NIGHT RIDER.

The other "image" never popped into my head until I read the Blog write-up and all the comments.

Maybe I just don't have the proper perspective.
I solve (or attempt to solve) a few Crossword Puzzles each day just to have FUN.
Come here to learn a few things about solving on a more timely basis and enjoy a few laughs.

Maybe that is why when ELI and ELY are in the same grid it never, ever bothers me.
Maybe I just like homophones.

Then again, I agree with Rex that the KKK and Confederate Flag (as a symbol) though part of our collective history are probably not the best clues/answers to have in a NYT puzzle.

After all, the My Lai Massacre is part of our history.
I know I would not like to see it appear in the grid.

Wade 6:44 PM  

This is always the first thing I think of when I hear Night Rider. Then Reconstruction-era vigilantes. Then the Allman Brothers.

Jerry Jeff Walker is from . . . Oneida, New York.

Rex Parker 6:49 PM  

More people should be named "Jerry Jeff"...

Wade 6:55 PM  

His real name is Ronald.

The part about being from Oneida is a meta-joke (in that most people assume he's from Texas because he, well, like some commenters around here, won't shut up about people being from Texas.) It looks like I was trying to make a point about the guy who wrote a song about night riders being from New York, but I'm not. He didn't write the song anyway. This is me trying to clarify something that probably didn't need clarifying and making it murkier, one of my specialties. Never mind. But he did write "Mr. Bojangles," the first song that made me cry.

Rex Parker 6:57 PM  

And now I'm listening to Suzy Bogguss yodel. Not somewhere I expected to be an hour ago. Thanks Wade/youtube.

Wade 7:09 PM  

I was going to use that one! But the clip was long and it takes awhile to get to the song. She's a jewel. In the early nineties there were a lot of very credible women singers/songwriters who had a moment in the sun in Nashville--Suzy Boggus, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea all had hits--and it looked like country was correcting its headings. That didn't last, but all those women kept doing their own thing. Suzy Boggus is wonderful, especially doing those Ian Tyson songs.

Rex Parker 7:19 PM  

For reasons I can't remember, I bought a CD of hers in 1992. It was the one with a cover of John Hiatt's "Drive South" on it. Whole album is very listenable. Also, she is awful purty. Not important for the singing / music, but ... memorable.

"Drive South"

PIX 7:27 PM  

@ Two Ponies...yes, I agreed and restated your earlier post...when you are right, you are right...however, we seem to be in a minority opinion here...maybe the others are correct; let's pretend bad things never happened and let's eliminate all words that might possibly reference something offensive,like the KKK, and confine our discussion to obscure Indian tribes or The Simpson's bus driver...

Wade 7:29 PM  

I remember that cover. I love that song. I had the John Hiatt CD it was on, "Slow Turning"(well, cassette. I was a slow convert to CD's.) I wore that thing out.

Rex Parker 7:29 PM  

Had a crying-laughing hilarious back-and-forth today with a constructor about the possibility of an abortion-themed puzzle. Hey ... abortion happens. Why not!?

Rex Parker 7:31 PM  

Hiatt is like Laura Nyro in that he wrote songs that were covered by Everyone but he never got terribly famous as a solo performer. Or maybe he's not like Laura Nyro at all. I'm out of my wheelhouse on this one.

I am literally listening this very second to the Suzy Boggus album we were discussing. Aside from reminding me of early grad school [shudder], it's beautiful.


Zeke 8:10 PM  

This is what I think of when I think of night riders. Just to ruin everyone's night.

Wade 8:13 PM  

Hmm, I only thought I knew who Laura Nyro was. I looked her up, and I still don't really know who she was, nor did I know she was dead. She inhabited the same place in my subjective storehouse as Tori Amos, Niko and Joan Armatrading, who probably have nothing more in common than being Respected or at Least Cred-Imbued Female Songwriters and/or Singers I Know Pretty Much Nothing About.

John Hiatt wrote the sexiest non-Marvin-Gaye song ever written.

HudsonHawk 8:17 PM  

I've seen John Hiatt five or six times (first time was on the Slow Turning tour, 1988, opening for Robert Cray--front row center at Memorial Hall in K.C. Kansas). Fantastic show all around. He deserves recognition as one of the most covered artists in the last 30 years. Extremely entertaining in a goofy, endearing way.

Van55 8:23 PM  

@RP -- I respectfully disagree that I have been proven wrong. But I bow to your self-proclaimed moral superiority.

But perhaps you would have found the answer more palatable had it been clued "One who takes the redeye".
Blame Shortz for the racist clueing!

Anonymous 9:00 PM  

Where can one find the rules of the NYT puzzles? I’m wondering if there is anything to rule out such offensive cluing as “certain vigilante”. The answer, “night rider” deserves a more apt clue for what it represents in American history and what it signifies to everyone, and especially to those who were legally and summarily Terrorized. Of course, if there is no rule regarding this – this being innocuous cluing of heinous acts and their perpetrators – than that is the history lesson for us today.

But I am curious to know if this is considered acceptable by the NYT and will appreciate if someone refers me to the NYT puzzle standards. Thank you.

Sfingi 9:20 PM  

This was smooth enough, but I thought the circled letters were some sort of saying,
"Evil hates. Best likes."
Did not know what it had to do with the long expressions, til here.

Had MAdre for MAMMA. Good grief!
Had pAPEr, then pAPEL, then LAPEL.
As in pAPEr of pins. But, pAPEL? I guess I have Spanish on the brain.

Never heard of OTARU.

@Rex - you can make a person feel old - I've sent TELEXes, and feel better to know they aren't defunct.

ELY must be pronounced long E for the same reason poppy is not pronounced long O. If the vowel is followed by one consonant, it is long, 2 or more, it is short. Sadder Sadist. ripped ripe. I can see a CW in there somewhere. It could be annoying.

2 of the 7 sisters are co-ed now. Girls' schools don't get as much alumni $. But, I went to Sage and Skidmore, and it gives a shy person a chance to star.

The Book of TOBIT is nutz, since he goes blind when a bird poops in his eyes. He needs some of those books. Or Braille. Then he marries his cousin. The Aprocryphae I like are Susanna and all of Daniel. Susanna is obviously Greek as it resembles Pentheus.

@Anon900 - I think these rules are Apocryphal.

TERPS reminds me of the nickname for turpentine, used by artists.

Glad I didn't even see NIGHTRIDER. My son had a friend whose family wouldn't allow a TV. When she came to our house, she wanted to watch NIGHTRIDER, but my son said, "We watch McNeil Lehrer." I was so proud.

The VETCH is a nasty weed that we'll never get rid of even by nuclear bomb. To kVETCH is what I do if you don't let me drive.

@Tinbeni - I like you paying the SINTAX. I suppose some day they'll catch up with me. Hubster knew a lawyer who had a client with a tattoo that read, "Pay as you enter."

sanfranman59 10:05 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 7:33, 6:56, 1.09, 85%, Challenging
Tue 9:21, 8:49, 1.06, 71%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:10, 3:42, 1.13, 91%, Challenging
Tue 4:48, 4:31, 1.06, 73%, Medium-Challenging

Stan 10:19 PM  

We've seen John Hiatt a bunch of times and totally agree with @HudsonHawk's assessment of Hiatt as a "goofy, endearing" and first-rate songwriter.

He once (actually twice) toured with Lyle Lovett, Guy Clark, and Joe ELY. Great show!

SharpGal 12:50 PM  

@Tex: Had the same reaction-cowboys and posses. My grandaddy defended his spread against night riders during the fight over fencing ranches.

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