Simple bit of plankton / WED 7-28-10 / MGM motto ender / Speaking machine developer / Beatlesque dos / Flying Cloud automaker

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Constructor: Howard Baker

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: MR. IGGINS AND MISS / DOOLITTLE / ATTEMPT TO / SOLVE A CROSSWORD (17A: With 27-, 49- and 63-Across, the story behind 5-, 36-, 39- and 70-Across) — four answers have clues for answers that appear in the grid without their initial "H"s, per Eliza Doolitle's famous pre-transformation H-dropping (hence, for instance, 'IGGINS)

Word of the Day: DIATOM (52A: Simple bit of plankton) —

Diatoms are a major group of algae, and are one of the most common types of phytoplankton. Most diatoms are unicellular, although they can exist as colonies in the shape of filaments or ribbons (e.g. Fragillaria), fans (e.g. Meridion), zigzags (e.g. Tabellaria), or stellate colonies (e.g. Asterionella). Diatoms are producers within the food chain. A characteristic feature of diatom cells is that they are encased within a unique cell wall made of silica (hydrated silicon dioxide) called a frustule. These frustules show a wide diversity in form, but usually consist of two asymmetrical sides with a split between them, hence the group name. Fossil evidence suggests that they originated during, or before, the early Jurassic Period. Diatom communities are a popular tool for monitoring environmental conditions, past and present, and are commonly used in studies of water quality. (wikipedia)
• • •
Weird, whimsical puzzle. Not sure why "H" is dropped in the long, explanatory answer (i.e. at 'IGGINS), as that answer does not appear to be in Eliza's voice, but I guess it's a sly visual tip as to what's going on with the four other theme answers. This puzzle took me longer than normal not so much because it's difficult, but because it has so much cross-reference, and theme cluing that takes some getting used to. Didn't love everything about this, but liked it overall. Ambition and originality earn a puzzle a lot of leeway with me. What's weird to me about this puzzle is how much the built-in title DOMINATES the grid, so that the wordplay game becomes a sort of marginal sideshow instead of a crucial structural element. The four affected answers are arbitrary, and a bit odd in two cases—I mean, HOSIER and HEWER are Terrible words (well, the first is just not great, the second is terrible). Something more plausible as the base answers would have been better, I think. Or maybe if all four of the answers had ended up as solid crosswordese (as EWER and OSIER certainly are), that would have given the theme greater unity as well. But as I say, it's an ambitious idea, and a cute one. And that—in addition to the awesome yin / yang of WEE LASS (34A: Bonny young girl) and CARRION (43A: Buzzard's fare) splashed across the middle of the grid—is good enough for me.

Theme answers:
  • 5A: Professor says "Stocking stocker," pupil suggests ... (OSIER)
  • 36A: Professor says "Qualifying races," pupil suggests ... (EATS)
  • 39A: Professor says "Ax wielder," pupil suggests ... (EWER)
  • 70A: Professor says "Equine restraint," pupil suggests ... (ALTER)
Biggest trouble today came from DIATOM, which frankly looked and felt wrong. First thing I did upon completion was look it up. Also was not at all sure about 23A: Ramirez of "Spamalot" (SARA)—figured that with such a non-mainstream clue (sorry, Broadway buffs, but Tony Shmony), the name would be fancier / weirder (like GERI, for instance). But no, just SARA. Wrote in PEPSI without ever seeing the clue (took a quick glance at it to make sure PEPSI was a plausible answer, and it was—Never heard of the slogan in question: 60A: "Twice as much for a nickel" sloganeer, once). That SE corner is kind of ugly, with suffix crossing Sp. abbrev. crossing Sp. plural pronoun, but PEEWEE is nice (51D: Tiny) and WET SPOTS ... well, that just made me laugh. Nice, reasonably family-friendly clue on that one (40D: Signs of leaks) ("family-friendly" depends on what you imagine is leaking, I guess).

  • 21A: Like much Vegas stagewear (GAUDY) — great word. Was just discussing tonight how I've never, ever been to a casino. Conversation precipitated by wife's recent trip to Atlantic City for a karate tournament.
  • 38A: MGM motto ender (ARTIS) — "Ars Gratia ARTIS" ("Art for art's sake" — I thought it came from Horace, but apparently its origins are a good deal more recent—popularized as a slogan by Théophile Gautier in the 19th c.)
  • 2D: Parisian picnic spot (PARC) — where you might sit on a BANC (another recurring Fr. 4-ltr word)
  • 41D: Jocular suffix with "best" (-EST) — did not understand the clue at all at first, as I was thinking "... how is that suffix jocular?" I was thinking the suffix signified something that was the "best," not that it was supposed to be attached (jocularly!) to the word BEST. Aha. BestEST. Yes, that is a jocular word.

  • 46D: "Speaking machine" developer (EDISON) — took me way longer than it should have, I suppose. I had no idea what a "speaking machine" could be. Turns out it's the damned phonograph.
  • 47D: Paris's "The Simple Life" co-star (NICOLE) — this clue already feels sooooo dated to me.
  • 50D: Beatlesque dos (MOPS) — Really like this clue. It just looks great—simultaneously French- and Spanish-looking, and yet entirely English. Good stuff.
  • 59D: Pentagonal plate (HOME) — Site of many collisions and injuries. Detroit Tigers star slugger Magglio Ordoñez (please put him in a puzzle) broke his ankle just the other day sliding awkwardly into home—out four-six weeks.
  • 65D: Onetime U.A.R. member (SYR.) — United Arab Republic = short-lived union between Egypt and SYR (1958-61). You'll often (or at least sometimes) see "UAR" as fill. I still get it confused with "UAE" (United Arab Emirates, which still exists).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Zeke 12:07 AM  

Damn you Rex Parker - I just spent 20 minutes trying to rewrite the puzzle without those two damned H's in the south. Those two stuck out like sore thumbes, which never would have occured to me before I started coming here.
Damn you Rolin Mains - I saw a clue which demanded a four letter French word as an answer, and ANGE didn't fit. Who'd of thunk?

Rex Parker 12:09 AM  


Send me an email. I have a very non-lucrative offer for you.

D_Blackwell 12:14 AM  

Love the PEPSI commercial. I'd totally forgotten it.

Beaucoup points off for the lame clue on the great WET SPOTS entry.

Tobias 12:25 AM  

Was not enjoying this puzzle much until I hit 9 down.James Randi is an American hero and one one of my favorite celebrities.I know many of us in the skeptical world can come of as smug, arrogant and heartless, but I want to assure anyone that does not know much about Randi, that he has a heart of gold.Puzzle became pure joy after 9 down. I am still beaming...

retired_chemist 12:51 AM  

Agree the theme took some getting used to and that as a consequence the puzzle felt challenging. However, the crosses were quite easy and helpful in figuring out the theme. Once that was done, the solving was easier. And the result was cute - crosswordese via Eliza Doolittle. Who would have thunk?

I would have been tempted to use a different clue for 40D, one that Will would have edited out instantly.

Nice job, Mr. Baker.

Anonymous 1:01 AM  

Edison's speaking machine was the phonograph.

Steve J 1:19 AM  

I'm guessing I'm likely to be a distinct minority on this, but I hated this. Not because it was a DNF - the DNF was a consequence, not a cause of my extreme dislike of this one - but because I found this so frustrating that it rapidly sucked any enjoyment right out of me.

For one, I'm not terribly fond of cross-referential clues to begin with, but I especially dislike them when they take up seemingly half the grid, and I have to read the clue explaining all the relationships multiple times to get it (and still don't feel like I totally understand it unless I were to draw myself a map).

Secondly, with the very rare exception, I hate musicals. My willing suspension of disbelief has never extended to the idea of people randomly breaking out into song over and over again instead of just saying whatever it is that's being said. Tough for a hard-to-break theme to appeal when it's "aha" moment reveals something I don't like anyway.

Thirdly, a lot of the crossing, mostly in the southern half of the puzzle, was not sufficient (for me) to reveal enough of what was going on with the theme. SEETH? DIATOM? ROES (which I know only in conjunction with fish eggs)?

Definitely an ambitious theme. I suspect a lot of people will like it. I just won't be one of them. I'm clearly not this puzzle's target market.

chefwen 2:37 AM  

Steve J - you need to take a happy pill, this was a fun, easy, enjoyable, puzzle. I don't have one bad thing to say about it. Took a little bit of thought and a little longer than usual for a Wednesday, but no write overs, no Googling (when is spell check going to accept Googling?)

Thank you Mr. Baker for a good puzzle.

syndy 2:55 AM  

I thought Edison"s speaking machine was the dam dictaphone! And what's wrong with EATS ? or ALTER for that matter-qiute crosswordy fun puzzle but medium challenging surprized me-but I had no trouble with the cross references-pretty obvious where we were going but i will admit florida is pretty ugly down there

syndy 3:01 AM  

Nope I was WRONG A.G.Bell invented the dictaphone-just as well I didn't know.@ Steve J CHILL DUDE

PurpleGuy 3:04 AM  

@Steve J- I'm with you man. This was a slog, and I LIKE musicals, especially "My Fair Lady."

@chefwen- I'm sorry, I don't think a happy pill is the answer. Some of, maybe A LOT of @Tinbeni's avatar might help.
NAh ! I even tried gin,"mother's milk" according to the script, and it didn't work.
I don't know about @jesser's special bourbon, but I'm putting this one "out at 'OME."

"appy Wednesday all !! ☺

captcha- pancxqu I won't even go there !

PurpleGuy 3:14 AM  

@Steve J - let's meet for "'appy 'our" somewhere,and maybe we can SEETH our way to OPEN up our 'earts to accept this CARRION of a puzzle.

Nah !! Too many WETSPOTS.

jae 4:18 AM  

For me this one was clever and amusing. A little story based on an iconic musical. What's not to like? Medium only because of all the cross-referencing. I usually don't comment on Wed. because of a fairly long standing peace agreement with my bride, but this one struck my fancy. Nice to see something a little different!

DrGaellon 6:29 AM  

The kicker with SARA Ramirez is that you'd get it wrong if you'd only ever heard someone say the name... she pronounces it with a very Latin American abbreviated trill, so it sounds like "Sada."

The Corgi of Mystery 6:35 AM  

Couldn't muster up too much excitement for this theme, even though it is fresh and unusual. I think the lack of unity among the words with the H-drops was what kind of dragged it down for me. It almost feels like this could have been a 21x so that there would have been room for the (ultra-long) revealer, as well as a good set of wacky phrases (ELLE IN A HANDBASKET?), as opposed to just individual words. Oh well. Congrats on your debut, though, Mr. Baker.

PanamaRed 7:33 AM  

I really liked this - "My Fair Lady" is one of our favorites (for those of you who haven't seen it - catch it's predecessor, non-musical "Pygmalion" from 1938 - a real joy).

Anyone else start with BAUDY before GAUDY?

Thanks, Mr Baker, for this one.

@Rex - I notice you often post at 12:01am - is that by mutual agreement with NYT to not publish before the date of the puzzle? Just wondering.

joho 7:51 AM  

This clever puzzle made it the first time I've had fun filling in such oldies ad OSIER and EWER.

My WOTD was also DIATOM.

My 'ats off to 'oward: loved it!

Howard B 8:05 AM  

Good to know there's another 'Howard B' out there puzzling somewhere.
Not a musical fan, but an ambitious theme, and some fun fill like DIATOM, so I was able to suspend my ignorance of the art and have fun with it.

Notable exception to the musical thing - A few years back I did see Spamalot in late previews (week before opening?), and at least in that performance, I can say that Sara Ramirez can seriously sing, even in a not-so-serious musical. She earned the standing ovation in that one, and it wasn't necessarily a pushover crowd that night. Great voice.

Today's CAPTCHA: 'bonivi':
1) A good French climbing vine,
2) A second-rate New Jersey cover band that almost, but not quite, looks and sounds like the original.

Jo 8:09 AM  

Nice puzzle, got the theme pretty fast, but put LIZA for MISS for a while and other stuff. Don't know why OSIER was so hard for me but it was, also because I did not know RANDI, ended up with GAUZY rather than GAUDY for the Vegas wear.
Had to check DIATOM in dictionary for the last letter of this bit of plankton.
Great seeing ENDOR in the puzzle. Want to find Perez or Zerah in the puzzle one of these days as biblical twin. Please?
Before there was the musical there was Shaw's Pygmalion, so not liking musicals is no excuse.

Greene 8:16 AM  

Fun little puzzle. I got completely stuck in the NE for a while because of my stubborn insistence on placing TAHINI in the 12D slot. Felt pretty confident about it too, even though nothing around it would work. Finally gave it up and all became well in puzzledom.

I really like the stage version of My Fair Lady, but I've never been a huge fan of the film. It is certainly opulent and gorgeous to look at, but Audrey Hepburn is simply miscast and Rex Harrison, after playing the role for 4 solid years in New York and London, turns in a rather tired and lifeless performance...a mere shadow of his former stage triumph. Okay, everyone feel free to plunge a dagger into my heart, but it's still true.

Useless theatre trivia: While My Fair Lady was being written and developed, nobody could seem to come up with a suitable title. The creators toyed with Come to the Ball and My Lady Liza. Composer Fritz Lowe insisted that Fanfaroon would be a dandy title, but this was deemed to sound to much like the former Lerner and Loewe smash Brigadoon so it was scrapped. Not sure who finally suggested My Fair Lady, but it is a clever allusion to how a cockney might pronounce Mayfair Lady. Needless to say, the creative team hated the title, at least until the royalty checks started pouring in.

I adored Sara Ramirez in Spamalot, but on a Wednesday I would have expected her to be clued for her recurring role on her TV hit Grey's Anatomy.

Tinbeni 8:18 AM  

@Steve J and @Purple Guy
I agree with everything you both said.
As for the need of 'appy pills, I was in a great mood when I started this slog. There was a Dewar's reference in the LAT today (my "batting practice").
Then my grin evaporated here.

Well, at least the NE, after yesterdays CLUES, had the ANSWER.

And there is something about that TROT HOME after seeing the grandslam during Monday's Tampa Bay Rays no-hitter.

hazel 8:31 AM  

Hello everybody! Haven't done a puzzle in about 3 weeks - just back from hiking, biking, and kayaking all over Croatia - with a side trip to Ljubiana, Slovenia for a sampling of their wines. Beautiful beautiful part of the world!!

Now I'm a bit jetlagged, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how easy and fun this one was. Plus the Braves are still in 1st!

In case anyone was wondering, diatomaceous earth has tons and tons of uses - everything from toothpaste to kitty litter to insecticides. And under a microscope, diatoms are fascinating little creatures.

Van55 8:43 AM  

I almost never disagree with Tinbeni, but I do today. I thought his one was original, amusing and fun to solve.

Cavils: DIATOM/DAHLIA crossing; don't know why EPILOG is uniquely a feature of "The Fugitive."

Sparky 8:45 AM  

London bridge is falling down, falling fair lady. I can sing the entire Pepsi jingle if you'd like. We also sang a version, Pepsi Cola is a stinky drink, etc. Brooklyn kids are naturally cynical. Enjoyed the puzzle. I,too, dislike cross references, but I circled the words and underlined the explanation in the clue section and patchd it together. Whew, that was almost work. Enjoy your day.

retired_chemist 8:55 AM  

was anyone else slightly discombobulated by the professor - pupil dialogue? Professor - student would have been better IMO.

Tinbeni 9:06 AM  

Like @Steve J said:
"Definitely an ambitious theme. I suspect a lot of people will like it. I just won't be one of them."

Sometimes when I try to SOLVE A CROSSWORD I just never get on the constructor's wavelength.

@Hazel, Croatia was my favorite Ex-Pat location.
I hope you went to the Coliseum in Pula.

That drove me crazy, too.
(It was a short drive.)

dk 9:07 AM  

@hazel, mix those DIATOMS with coffee grounds and say: goodbye slugs.

Did not know NICOLE and 63A threw me for a loop. I have only seen one thing Paris has done... and I am ashamed of myself for it.

Humming Wouldn't it be Loverly as I give this little gem

*** (3 Stars).

I SEETH the pointeh of the cranky pants crowd but as Rex opined this one is cute as it does contain fill that both Higgins and Doolittle might enter. Using a Stablio Bionic with a 0.5 nib of course.

@Van55, on the TV show they always had this end piece about his continuing quest to find the one armed man as he was leaving town (riding off into the sunset)

GBS 9:08 AM  

Don't like musicals? Great, neither do I, but I can't see what that has to do with today's puzzle. I believe Pygmalion is still in print.
PS. In the book I recognize that the Teacher/Student relationship is one that cannot result in romance. It's a kind of child abuse.

jesser 9:14 AM  

I caught onto the theme at OSIER and just had a fun romp with this one. I suspect the SW corner would have been mas dificil pero I used to work (long, long ago) in a pet shop and we sold a lot of DIATOMic filter systems, so that came more easily to me than it apparently did to others. Really broke the corner open. Only writeover was at 71A, where I always gets ESoS and ESAS confused, and I chose wrong this day. Dang it.

@ Purple Guy: The special bourbon is called Bullitt. Nectar of the Gods.

@ Tobias: The rooftop party was not at Gorman's, although I attended every one of his Indian Market bashes and had a few quiet dinners up there with him, Virginia and Rose. Those were good days. The rooftop party I referenced yesterday was at Sally Howell's place kitty-corner from the Plaza and just east of the Taos Inn parking lot. Did you and I ever meet?

Balaesi! (You're damn right I want to play Balae!) -- jesser

Wade 9:34 AM  

A buzzard carrying a dead armadillo is about to board his flight. "Check your armadillo?" the flight attendant asks. "No thanks," says the buzzard. "It's carrion."

Thank you! I'll be here all week!

jigame 9:42 AM  

@Wade - Wrong. He's carrying both an armadillo and a raccoon, and the flight attendant says "Sorry sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger"
Sorry! Just got yanked!

CaseAce 9:43 AM  

Like Anon. said in his post above: "twas Edison who invented the phonograph, (Speaking Machine) Ring a BELL Rex?

Greene 9:46 AM  

Oh, forgot to mention about PEEWEE being in the puzzle. Looks like Paul Reubens will be bringing his road show The Pee-Wee Herman Show to Broadway for a limited run starting November 11th. This show reunites Pee-Wee with many of the original Playhouse characters such as Miss Yvonne, Cowboy Curtis, Jambi the Genie, and Chairry. I assume the show will feature the same subversive silliness that made the television program such a classic.

The show will be the first production in the newly christened Stephen Sondheim Theatre on West 43rd Street. Sigh...I love Pee-Wee, but couldn't they get a more distinguished booking to open the Sondheim Theatre? I'm guessing there's something kharmic about Reubens playing a Broadway venue that was once a porno theatre.

Wade 9:50 AM  

No, he was backstage with his armadillo at a Kansas concert when Kerry Livgren, who I just had to look up because I realized I couldn't name a single member of Kansas, got lost trying to find the stage, saw the buzzard, nodded at the armadillo, said "What's that?" and the buzzard said, "Carrion, my wayward son."

foxylsi 9:57 AM  

@Wade - Ok, you win brother. I had to reread your clause there seven times because I didn't know what the concert being in Kansas had to do with anything. Like, are Kansan armadillos particularly tasty? Are there Kansan armadillos?

Anonymous 9:57 AM  

WTF? I go to the NYT puzzle page this morning and am greeted by an ADVERTISEMENT which I am required to dismiss with an extra click before advancing to the puzzle? Um, excuse me, did you not cash my check? I am paying for access to this page folks. Don't bombard me with ads or I will cancel my credit card.

Howard - your puzzle is an achievement and you are to be congratulated, but unfortunately, I still didn't like it. Put me in the Steve J. camp of DNF, musical-hating, cross-reference-loathing curmudgeons. I so wanted "OLIO" to have a theme clue (even if I have no idea what an "HOLIO" would be).

Zeke 10:02 AM  

I forgot to mention that I loved the puzzle. I bow to no one in my level of detestation of cross referential clues, but this one was the ultimate POMO crossword, poking fun at crosswordese while specificially citing doing the crossword by cross-referencing the crossword? Total genius, except for those two Hs. Totally made up for my staring at MRIG wondering what my mistake getting there was vs where can anyone go from here?

" 10:09 AM  

If one checks their dictionaries, one finds that student leans heavily towards enrollment at an institution of learning, pupil leans heavily towards close personal instruction. I was a student at Oxford, I was a pupil of my reading Don. Eliza was a pupil, not a sudent, of mine.

chefbea 10:18 AM  

What a great puzzle!!! Took a while to figure out the theme but lots of fun.

@Wade LOL

PIX 10:28 AM  

Creative, imaginative puzzle..something new and noted by Rex, Spanish(71A) crossing with Spanish (61D) which in turn is clued with French "Mlle" seems a bit much...but small price to pay for such a creative puzzle.

Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms. This has many uses including one test (ACT) that has been used during open heart surgery to see if you are anti-coagulated enough for surgery.

JenCT 10:30 AM  

I also liked the puzzle, though it took me a while.

Had COS before VOL, WEEMISS before WEELASS, DOES before ROES.

Why is 68a ETTE an un-p.c. suffix?

Isabella di Pesto 10:32 AM  

@Tobias said...

"Was not enjoying this puzzle much until I hit 9 down.James Randi is an American hero and one one of my favorite celebrities.I know many of us in the skeptical world can come of as smug, arrogant and heartless, but I want to assure anyone that does not know much about Randi, that he has a heart of gold.Puzzle became pure joy after 9 down. I am still beaming..."

As am I, Tobias. Mr. Randi showed extreme kindness when he made a personal phone call to my dying brother-in-law [who was a great admirer of Randi]. A friend of a friend knew Randi personally and asked him to call my BiL as a favor to him.

He did, and it brought such joy to my BiL and all of us at a very, very sad time.

Randi most definitely has a heart of gold.

Hannity 10:33 AM  

Everything's un-PC. People, or humanoids, should probably just be quiet and try not to emit anything.

Two Ponies 10:39 AM  

I had lots of fun once I got the theme. Very imaginative. I loved that all four of Eliza's responses were common words.
I find diatoms fascinating so was happy to see them in the puzzle.
Two "wee"s in the grid plus wet spots! Too funny.
I get almost all of my bible trivia from crosswords so I was a little surprised to see that Samantha's mom was named from that book.
Love the carrion jokes.

glimmerglass 10:46 AM  

No more -ess or -enne or -ette or -ina. Everything is un-PC. My IMAC word program cautions me that "fisherman" may be sexist. Please!

Nancy in PA 10:58 AM  

I too knew diatom from diatomaceous earth, which has uses in gardening and potted plant care (like perlite, vermiculite). Had no idea of its use in toothpaste and heart surgery! Like one of the alternative names for it, acc. to Wiki: kieselgur. Sounds like a captcha.

Fine puzzle, great debut.

fisherperson 11:00 AM  


Damn right it is! And about time.



John V 11:14 AM  

Really loved this one. Oddly, 5A was the last to fall: I'd misread the clue and was seeing "Stocking stuffer" not "Stocking stocker". Really liked the crossword puzzle self reference.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:31 AM  

Bravo, Howard Baker! Loved the puzzle.

In my 32 years in a chem lab, we used lots of diatomaceous earth for filtration.

@Anonymous 9:57 -- Maybe you are too young to remember that there was a time when we went to the movies and the only form of advertising was the trailers for coming attractions and a nudge to the concession stand.

Man, Rex, that Pepsi ad was creepy!

retired_chemist 11:32 AM  

@ " - I did check the dictionary in the Mac OS 10 Dashboard. "Pupil" may be linked to professor elsewhere but there the def. is "a student in school." I still believe American usage links pupil with el-hi and student as the more general term.

When I was a kid and got a microscope kit for Christmas one year they included DIATOMS. I was supposed to see the li'l critters moving but I never did. Still don't know what I did wrong.

Steve J 11:33 AM  

@John V: I did the same thing. Read "stocking stuffer" several times before I realized it was "stocking stocker."

At the risk of straying too far afield from the puzzle: One thing I've always found amazing here (and elsewhere with other subjects, really) is how if someone dislikes something, it's often an issue with them personally. Usually that's directed at Rex (the various "cranky pants" comments, the drive-by anonymous people bitching about his comments, etc.). I'm the focus of that today. Which is fine. I expected it, because I suspected all along that I was going to be one of the few who disliked this.

My point is just to remind everyone that just because you experience a puzzle a certain way doesn't mean that everyone else will. It's exactly like the "I can't believe you didn't know X" comments. I think there's a pretty good consensus here that people have different knowledge bases and backgrounds, and what's an automatic answer for some is unfathomable for others. Same with puzzles. Not all of them are going to please everyone.

I'm glad that most people enjoyed this. As I said before, it was definitely an ambitious theme. It just didn't work for me. Not because I'm unhappy, not because I'm riled up and need to chill out, but simply because my experience was frustrating and difficult, and involved a theme that just didn't sing for me (pardon the pun). It happens.

Two Ponies 12:00 PM  

@ Steve J,
Hand up for stocking stuffer at first as well.
You are quite welcome to air your opinion pos. or neg. as far as I'm concerned. The call for a "chill pill" was unnecessary and a bit too personal IMO.

Suggestion 12:04 PM  

@Steve J

The longer you go on about things you *hate*, or that *suck the enjoyment out ...*, the more people are going to comment on your tone in addition to your comment. We get the idea.

Try shorter posts.


CaseAce 12:08 PM  

Allo, Ducks! I dare say, this was a deloverly debut by Sir OWARD of BAKER street that was indubitably a bit of alright!

dominaTRIX 12:25 PM  


Please leave me out of this!

Ulrich 12:25 PM  

I join those who found the puzzle cute, and once you got the theme, the cross-referencing sorted itself easily out. Yes, at lest two of the h-less words are less than inspiring, but since they are not introduced as teaching vehicles by Prof. Higgins (which would be a stretch), but answers to a xword, I can live with them. It helps that I am a friend of self-referential stuff

@GBS: I was planning to come to your rescue: Pygmalion is not a musical; so, I don't know what the musical-haters here are whining about.

and @tinbeni: I just did a two-day sailing turn that started near Pula in the Kvarnian Gulf--check the pictures out where I normally post this stuff!

Anonymous 12:30 PM  

Pepsi Cola hits the spot
Twelve full ounces, that's a lot
Twice as much for a nickel too.
Pepsi Cola is the drink for you.

God I loved this puzzle. Played 'enry 'iggins on tour.
Made my living doing musicals for many years.

Used diatoms in my aquarium filter. Picnic'd in Paris. Love gaudy Vegas costumes. Loved "Spamalot" and all things Circus, flying and otherwise. Going to look up Amazing Randi.

Thank you, Mr. Baker

CaseAce 12:44 PM  

As for those posts that border on prolixity, I have very little to add, being that, yours truly, submits comments that are truly... the pith!

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

Should it ave been Prof. Iggins and not Mr. Iggins?

Venus 1:10 PM  

@dominaTRIX - You must be a really crappy dominatrix. Please? What sort of dominatrix says please? How about "Leave me out of this or I'll come over and whip your sorry ass!"

Anonymous 1:24 PM  

I loved it! Maybe it has to do with the order you do it in. Totally ignored the second half of the clue for 17A, didn't pick up that pupil = Doolittle, and so was completely befuddled by osier & ewer. When I finally undid the theme sentence, which is delightfully absurd in itself, and the meaning of the mysterious words became clear, I was simply elated. It's the sort of experience that makes NYT crosswords worthwhile, the sort that makes you want to show the puzzle to anyone, whether they do crosswords or not, as an example of pure, happy brilliance. Many thanks, Mr Baker!
- Abu Owlfish

archaeoprof 1:26 PM  

I share the love for this puzzle.

And hats off to @Rex for an especially festive write-up today: PEEWEE Reese, Gladys Knight, and that classic PEPSI commercial!

PS: the first tv show I ever watched in color was the final episode of "The Fugitive."

andrea car(la)rion michaels 2:08 PM  

I think deep down I would have preferred less the long answers (agree it should have been professor iggins, and all in the voice of Liza) and just the names Doolittle and Iggins and then tons of minus h answers instead of 4 short ones.

But I suppose that is like Siskel saying what he wished he had seen in the movies he reviewed instead of commenting on the movie he actually saw!

I had one problem after another initially..."begs" out of, right from the get the E gave me "Erbe" instead of PARC, tho at least I got the dropped H right, if unconsciously, as it's "Herbe" in French
(Are you listening, pupil Seth?!)
and bunches of other mistakes...Dune instead of MESA gave me Hockey/Soccer Dads!
and on and on.

I guess this puzzle was da bomb...da H bomb. Dropping da H bomb...something!

I thought about the same CARRION cartoon while solving, but couldn't remember the word, other then remember it was a pun on luggage! Speaking of which, I'm waiting my Delta flight as I write this back home to SF and they charged me $23 for my non-carrion :( At least the wi-fi is free.

Van55 2:35 PM  

I for one will not be personipulated by the PC cops.

As for the pupil/student debate I come down on the side of "tutee" or is that "tutette"?

ArtLvr 2:46 PM  

@Andrea, that luggage pun is hysterical.
I thought "carcase" before CARRION --

A luverly smooth solve otherwise! Many thanks, Mr. Baker.


Shamik 2:46 PM  

LOL...loved the carrion jokes. Thanks for those!

Felt like this one was a slog until I saw my time and it turned out on the easy end of easy-medium for a Wednesday. And I liked this puzzle for the little extra thinking up of those h-less answers.

Again, it is always a "good" puzzle when it generates this much activity. Definitely not a meh today. My rule for solving all those cross reference clues is to ignore them until later. It goes faster, easier and I don't get as annoyed.

I do like musicals.

SethG 2:51 PM  

Do you need elp, andrea? I entered PARC with no crosses.

The Big E 3:11 PM  

@Anon 12:55 - I think because the character was just as much "Mr. Enry Iggins" as he was "Professor Iggins," that the clue works (for me).
I enjoyed this puzzle overall - wasn't madly in love with it, but did find it cute and well done.
I had a hiccup for a minute at the very end when I was finishing the puzzle in the East.

I had "pit stops" crossed with Brooklyn-"ite."

This left me with EP_R and _TT for my last two clues, and I sat there perplexed for a moment before I realized my gaffe.

Frankly, as someone who lives in Brooklyn, I find the word "Brooklynite" FAR more everyday and thought-of than "Brooklynese." People say someone has a Brooklyn accent, but I know of no one who says he/she/I/they/etc. speak "Brooklynese."
Only unsatisfactory moment for me.


The Big E 3:12 PM  

and I agree that "hosier" v "osier" is "meh."

Martin 3:12 PM  


I think you might confusing the diatomaceous earth that came with the Gilbert microscope with the brine shrimp eggs that were also included. The former was a vial of white powder that was alleged to be fossil remains of diatoms. Only mine might have been cornstarch for all the diatoms I never spotted.

The latter was a vial of brine shimp eggs that looked like little tan collapsed beach balls. They were supposed to hatch and reveal nauplii and other microscopic crustacean wonders according to the book. But they pretty much stayed like collapsed beach balls.

Shorty 3:12 PM  

@SethG - And it's a damned good thing you entered the PARC with no crosses, as we are very strict here about public displays of religious iconography.

Nicolas Sarkozy, President

chefwen 3:31 PM  

Welcome ome @hazel, was wondering where you were. Sounded like a great trip. Next stop Kauai for the big five o?

The CARRION jokes are making my day!

jigame 3:36 PM  

Re CARRION jokes - all luggage CARRION jokes are in the public domain, Wade's CARRION my wayward son is a new coinage.

Steve J 3:48 PM  

@Suggestion/P>G>: Fair enough. I've always been in need of a good editor.

That's three for me. Done for the day.

retired_chemist 3:49 PM  

@ Martin - you may well be right. All I REALLY remember is that (1) DIATOMS were mentioned; and (2) whatever I was supposed to see, I didn't.

D_Blackwell 5:00 PM  

Some people prefer Coke. I think that this commercial caught a lot of flak and got pulled.

Coke commercial

Sfingi 6:54 PM  

I have a theory that the third of all guys who hate cats are the same ones who hate musicals. But, I have many theories, untested.

I "finished" this with a WTF and "I'll find out the theme and weird proffesor/student conversation from Rex." I didn't Google - what would I Google? and instead of DOOLITTLE, ended up with viOLeTTLE. Took a wrong guess at the Spice Girl's name.
At the bottom, had ECOl crosses AltER.

For a while had CAdaver, then CARcass, before the delicious CARRION. Terrible job, but someone has to do it. Thank you buzzard, maggot etc.

Asked Hubster what sport has a pentagonal plate and got HOME. I just knew it was sports.

This was too clever by half, but I guess it was good. Though I hated having errors and not having an idea.

Some good jokes, esp. @Shorty.

@Martin - Nauplii - at least it can be Googled.

@Rex - my sister, the MD art professor, is named Dedree Drees, and was, of course, Peewee Reese all through school. Born too soon. No one's ever heard of him, now.


william e emba 7:06 PM  

I would have found it medium but I misread the SEETH clue as "Has in view, architecturally", so I had a lot of pointless difficulty finishing SEET-. The "Pentagonal plate" -OME just made no sense to me, and going through the alphabet did not help. Finally I saw the clue said "archaically", finished, and then took about another minute to realize HOME was HOME plate. Well, duh.

hazel 7:10 PM  

@Tinbeni - We didn't make it over to the Istrian Peninsula - closest we got I guess was Zadar, which had a beautiful downtown area. I checked out Pula after you posted - and that coliseum does look spectacular. We DID get to the Peljesac peninsula on our way to the beautiful island of Mljet, tho.

@Chefwen - yes we are still considering Kauai for the big five oh, but now some other candidates are starting to try to muscle in. We'd wanted to stay in Todd Rundgren's house (which had been available for rental, but appears to be off the market now). Got to get through the less big four nine before I get serious, though.

@DK - what is your organic solution for tomato hornworms?

Stan 9:38 PM  

Back from Cape Cod (beautiful place). This tour de force puzzle had me staring blankly at MRIGGI and was the perfect thing for a three-hour drive.

Really liked "Vulture fare" as a clue. And all the carrion jokes, which were new to me.

In my experience, diatomaceous earth is effective against carpenter ants. Also good for oil spills in the garage. Not great as cat litter since it doesn't clump.

@Hazel: The *only* effective thing against tomato horn-worms is staring at the damaged plant until you see them and then pulling the horrible things off by hand. I actually relocate them because I don't like killing anything.

mac 9:46 PM  

Lots of puzzle work for a Wednesday, I liked it! Of course I was convinced this was our Howard B., so I looked at the whole thing differently.

It was a little complicated to get into, but once you got the trick it was just fun. No complaints about this one.

mac 9:47 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 12:58 AM  

I enjoyed the Godfather/Pepsi commercial, but here's the Pepsi commercial you should have included:


Anonymous 3:18 PM  

Also appreciated the cross of OPEN and SESAME in the NE corner.

andrea peewee michaels 11:53 PM  

Just saw your comment now. If it makes you feel any better, Tues night was having dinner with old friends and their delightful, baseball-obsessed 10 yr old.
He was playing hangman at the table and had PEEWEE. I asked if it was like PEEWEE Herman, and he said, "No, Peewee Reese". I asked if he was a Met or a Red Sox or Yankee...
and he said (I now forget what team) but that he protected Jackie Robinson. And I asked how? (thinking he meant he was the catcher or something) and he said from other teammates who were racist!!!!!!!!!
This from a ten yr old, so don't fear, PeeWee Reese and his legacy live on!

Waxy in Montreal 4:01 PM  

Certain there was no cause and effect but I seeth that betwixt the original NYT solution of this crossword by 'Enry & Eliza on July 28th and its syndicate appearance today, 69A (Patricia) NEAL has passed away. Wonder too if there was some type of shoutout to her ex (Roald Dahl) in 48D DAHLIA.

The Big E 4:04 PM  

questions for all constructors:

1. Is it typical nowadays to use software to construct puzzles?

2. If so or if not, is there a good book/class/e-class/video/etc. to look at to learn more about constructing one's own puzzle?


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