Competitor of Bloomie's / THU 9-9-10 / Versailles valedictions / McCarthy associate Roy / Units of chains x furlongs / Electron-swathed nuclei

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Constructor: Kevin Wald

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: ...typographically — theme answers are words that describe shapes represented by black squares in the grid

Word of the Day: LEA Michele (38D: Michele of "Glee") —

Lea Michele Sarfati (born August 29, 1986), known professionally as Lea Michele, is an American actress and singer. Michele began working professionally as a child actor on Broadway in productions such as Les Misérables. She appeared in several more musicals before being selected for the lead role in the hit musical Spring Awakening, earning a Drama Desk Award nomination for her performance. She has recently received widespread acclaim for her role as Rachel Berry, which has accumulated Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, in the Fox television series Glee.
• • •

An ingenious puzzle, but one crucial cluing problem (which I ran into early) made the puzzle more irksome than entertaining, in the end. The problem: 26A: Octet of black squares in the middle of this grid, typographically. The problem part II: There simply is no "octet" in the "middle of this grid." There are nine black squares across the middle, and nine in the line I assumed was in question—the diagonal set of squares *straight* through the "middle of this grid." Asking me to see the two sets of four black squares as an "octet" (and then as TWO DASHES—not nearly as coherent a unit as the others) is not particularly reasonable. All the other square sets involve contiguous squares. This mislabeling issue killed the puzzle for me. I figured it all out, and ended up very impressed at the symmetries involved in this puzzle's construction, but the "octet" snafu sucked the life out of this one early on, and I never quite got that life back.

Other theme answers:
  • 9A: Lower septet of black squares in this grid, typographically (SEVEN)
  • 18A: Higher septet of black squares in this grid, typographically (CAPITAL ELL) — :( would you have accepted CAPITAL DEE as an answer? I didn't think so.
  • 45A: Nonet of black squares in this grid, typographically (SLASH MARK)
  • 54A: Higher pair of black squares in this grid, typographically (APOSTROPHE)
  • 60A: Lower pair of black squares in this grid, typographically (COMMA)
No tough words in this one, except maybe ADDUCTS (1D: Brings together, as two parts of the body). I had ADDUCES, adding to my TWO DASHES frustration ("EWO something?!"). Had a relatively easy time on the east side of this grid, and a less easy time on the west. Clues on basic words like ATOMS (27D: Electron-swathed nuclei) and ACRES (44A: Units of chains x furlongs) were nutso, and I don't recall ever seeing a SCRIPTO pencil before (36D: Classic pencil brand). Maybe I have one in my PENCASES (39A: Containers on desks) ... no, sorry, like most humans, I've never owned a PENCASE. On the other hand, I have a PENCIL CASE sitting on my desk right now, right next to my stapler. But the NW was the toughest for me — starting point is almost always a struggle, and today, except for DEMANDS, those Downs are all reasonably tough. Pretty sure I had MALLORY (?) for MARLOWE (2D: "Shakespeare in Love" role), had to piece "IVANHOE" together bit by bit (3D: Arthur Sullivan opera), and ... well, you know about ADDUCTS.

  • 5A: Work with singing Egyptians (AIDA) — gimmes like this one kept things rolling. AIDA must be the most popular opera title in Crossworld.
  • 14A: "Late Show" host, colloquially (DAVE) — easy, once I remembered which of the late-night shows is called "Late Show."
  • 20A: Bone on the pinkie side (ULNA) — weird clue. "... pinkie side OF ...?"
  • 34A: Groan trigger (PUN) — finding PUN clued via its groan-inducing capacity a lot these days.
  • 23A: McCarthy associate Roy (COHN) — first thought: Charlie McCarthy. SNERD didn't fit, and his first name is "Mortimer" anyway.
  • 35A: Much-read book of 150 poems (PSALMS) — something about "Much-read" screamed "Bible" to me.
  • 8D: Versailles valedictions (ADIEUS) — whenever I teach Donne's "Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" (every year), I start by asking what "valediction" means. Inevitably, almost no one knows. This leads to a lesson on Looking Sh*t Up!
  • 28D: Competitor of Bloomie's (SAKS) — not sure if I'm proud or ashamed of getting this easily. First thought: Macy's. Then ... bam.
  • 35D: New Jersey city, river or county (PASSAIC) — I know virtually nothing about NJ. I must know this place from dialogue in movies or TV. Maybe "The Sopranos?"
  • 43D: Outdoor summer pest, slangily (SKEETER) — off the "K"! For the win!
  • 51D: "Got it," jocularly (AH, SO) — if, by "jocularly," you mean, "in a way that mocks Asians," then yes.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Ulrich 12:24 AM  

I did this puzzle while watching the Federer/Soderling match and am impressed by it, even if my attention was not fully on it.

I agree the 26A clue is problematic--it took me a while to figure out--too bad since it appears to be easily fixable, like with "two quartets of black squares in the middle of this grid". And I blame fikink on my overguessing "watching people" and putting in "dieters", which held me up forever in the NE, especially since I do not do a seven as shown in the grid.

All in all, a great Thursday puzzle, to me...

foodie 12:24 AM  

I dunno. It did not make my heart sing.

It's a nice grid. But I guess I have trouble loving anything highly self referential that lacks humor.

Or may be I've just had a long day.

nanpilla 12:32 AM  

The radius is on the thumb side....

Too bad the two horizontal black lines had to be the same length for symmetry purposes. Otherwise they could have been en dash and em dash.

Once I figured out where things went, it became an enjoyable and relatively straightforward puzzle. Southeast was the last to fall, as I had SLASH____ and couldn't think what to put there. I couldn't get forward slash and backslash out of my mind.

chefwen 12:36 AM  

I'm with @foodie - no singing here either. Started off slowly but soon fell into gear and it come down rather smoothly. Couple of snags where I had DEfog before DEICE and gRAM before DRAM at 17A and I was pretty damn sure that ADgUCTS was a word that didn't exist anywhere. Both were fixed with a minor Goggle.
Liked the Be Mousy clue.

O.K. but not a lot of joy, SQUEAK was the only one that made me grin.

jae 12:44 AM  

Kinda felt like foodie did about this one. Medium for me but it didn't make me smile (yesterday's cavalcade of Zs did). Had a bunch of missteps, DEFOG, FERN, TEAR (for REND) but nothing serious.

If you are interested at all in Roy Cohn's story, rent the HBO version of Tony Kushner's "Angels in America." Pacino plays Cohn and he is amazing.

jae 12:46 AM  

OK, chefwen posted as I was writing so, that makes three of us with a similar take.

Clark 1:09 AM  

Looks like a consensus. Not a bad puzzle, but there was a definite lack of razzamatazz.

I was going to ask what PERSE means (purse, terse, verse), but I just figured it out.

Falconer 1:45 AM  

Fun puzzle -- liked it a lot. Very inventive and full of neat words like apostrophe, amatory, kepi and snooze.

Typographic marks are an under-appreciated part of the written language. Look at how much you can do with the humble apostrophe. You can make things singular possessive, or plural possessive, you can leave out a letter, you can show a glottal stop, etc. Very versatile. Little known use of the term apostrophe: It's an address to an absent person or a personified object or idea, e.g. “O Death, where is thy sting?”

Anyway I realized I've been doing too many puzzles when I wrote down "kepi" as the answer for a Casablanca hat without even thinking about it.

John T. 1:54 AM  

I can't agree with Rex's complaint about cluing. I assumed that the "octet" was that slash going up the middle, so I struggled with it for a bit, but once I counted up the squares in the diagonal line and came up with 9, it was clear by elimination that the "octet" referred to the remaining eight squares, a mirrored pair of fours. That doesn't strike me as such a stretch (while complaining that there are nine squares across the middle -- and therefore "no octet" -- does get into the realm of stretchiness for me). It wasn't immediately obvious, sure, but that's part of the puzzle. Far from being a problem, it was a nice misdirect + "aha" moment, and I think a deliberate one.

Also enjoyed a lot of the fill. SCRIPTO, SKEETER, IVANHOE. An enjoyable Thursday with a very clever theme. I do love typography nerdiness -- I echo Falconer's sentiments on that front.

PurpleGuy 2:34 AM  

Agree pretty much with what has already been said.
I had fun doing the puzzle, but thought the cluing was a little off in places.
@Falconer- I also entered KEPI without thinking. Great minds think alike !
I liked the clue for 37down. Yes there were drawers in our ARTROOM. All the meanings are there ! Had a nicetime with EROS and many AROMAS, some of which made me SQUEAK. There was, however, no SCRIPTO involved. :-)
Wow. Haven't thought of that in a while.
Hope y'all have good memories too.

Happy Thursday!!!


pearliers- the tool for getting the gem from the oyster!


CoolPapaD 3:12 AM  

Thought this was quite clever, though the squares on top of each other don't really look like commas or apostrophes to me! Am I the only one thus far who has never heard of AMATORY or RIVE? The "R" was my error today - went through the alphabet twice before guessing "G."

Happy New Year to all the MOTs!

r.alphbunker 3:53 AM  

FWIW, a slash mark is also called a virgule or a solidus. I call it a forward slash to distinguish it from "\" . To be completely safe I also draw it in the air with my finger.

I liked the self reference and the fact that punctuation was smuggled into the grid. I wonder if there has ever been a puzzle where punctuation was required in the answer to a clue.

VaBeach puzzler 7:40 AM  

I was misled by the "typographically" cluing. To me, SEVEN and CAPITAL ELL re not typography. Maybe dashes and apostrophes are, but I was thinking along the lines of serifs and italics and bodonis.

Smitty 8:22 AM  

Well it was different...not the usual cluing.

I made the same mistake as Rex and had ADDUCES, leaving the cross unsolvable,

There is only one classic pencil IMO - a TICONDEROGA #2

Anonymous 8:32 AM  

Great puzzle. A Thursday record. I just found the octet in the middle by process of elimination, and added the two fours without a second thought. Too much Sudoku in my day, perhaps.

Anonymous 8:33 AM  

Or, rather, Wednesday record. Geez.

The Big E 8:38 AM  

Liked the puzzle a lot, but kept clicking submit and getting the message my puzzle was incomplete and could NOT figure out why! I figured it had to be the "Amatogy" word (which I had never heard of and couldn't find any references to on Google), but was at a loss as to where I POSSIBLY could have fouled things up.
For whatever reason, I was totally unwilling to relent and consider that "Rend" could be anything but "give," which I now realize was probably brought on by a case of late-night post (hours of) wedding-prep dementia. Ugh.

That said, I had no real problem with the Octet clue. I saw the diagonal had 9 and that none of the clues referred to either of the blocks of four individually, so I assumed the Octet was 4+4. Anyway...

Happy Puzzling to all, and thanks to Kevin Wald for a fun puzzle!

David L 8:39 AM  

Hmm, clever idea, I guess. Why was I not impressed? It all seemed kinda random, and describing two black squares, one on top of the other, as either COMMA or APOSTROPHE is a bit schematic, to say the least.

I knew ADDUCTS because of time spent with physical therapists. Adduction and abduction are opposite motions (and they like to use fancy words because, well, physical therapy is serious stuff, right?)

Today's headscratcher for me was RIVE, which I figured must be right because of the crosses. I suppose it's the verb that gives us 'riven,' a word I use, oh, once every six and a half years, but I don't think I've ever seen RIVE as a standalone before.

Glimmerglass 8:48 AM  

A Scripto was a mechanical pencil, which my 9th grade science teacher forbid us to use. He called it a "neversharp." But, hey, it was 1953.

Diana Holquist 9:04 AM  

Loved this puzzle, but had "zeal" for "zest" for way too long. Also "gos" for "oks." Gah. Also wanted en- and em- dash. Bah to symmetry. Is that a rule that can EVER be broken?

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

And is there a way to clue "Ah so" that is not mocking and/or racist?

jesser 9:12 AM  

Those things are em DASHES, period. TWO DASHES is just... dumb.

The rest of the puzzle was fun and lively. Particularly liked the cluing for SEE STARS and SALAMIS.

This is shaping up to be one crazy day, so that's all from me.

Porypt! (We keep hoping he'll win the lottery) -- jesser

joho 9:17 AM  

@Falconer and @PurpleGuy ... I can go you one better, I'm wearing a KEPI!

The hardest section for me was the SE because I had SLASHbAcK and dAsE for way too long. Other problems were ZEal before ZEST and DEPUTyS before DEPUTES. I also took forever to get SEVEN as I was like @VaBeach puzzler not expecting a number, I wanted a punctuation mark.

I was glad to finish and thank Kevin Wald for this original idea.

The Big E 9:18 AM  

@Anon 9:11 - perhaps you could clue it as "mocking or racist phrase of acknowledgement?" :-)

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

Much was a slog... but the bottom right was a brick wall, as I had AMOROUS and ERODING and couldn't make anything work. Cute concept.

chefbea 9:34 AM  

Found this too difficult for a Thursday. Had to google and finally come here.

Loved the clue for art room!!

PIX 9:35 AM  

@1D ADDUCTS: If you are holding your arm out and you bring it to your side, you adduct your arm (think adrenal gland which is
ad-renal...near the renal[kidney]). On the other hand if I am holding my arm near my side and then raise it away from me, I abduct it...think abnormal, away from normal. Problem is it is difficult to tell the words apart from each other when they spoken...leading to much confusion...and people often partially spelling the word out loud, saying "A..D...duction."

Seemed easy for a Thursday.

joho 9:35 AM  

Typo: I meant to type that I had dAzE before TASE.

Ulrich 9:39 AM  

@Jesser: I beg to disagree: The dashes are too far apart to be em dashes--they are exactly what the clue says--two dashes

@fikink and NDE re. your comments from yesterday (I could not answer b/c I was under the 3-and-out gag order): In Southern German slang, "stopfen" is used in the Yiddish sense.

Does anybody know what "Error 503 Service unavailable" means? This is the third time I tried to post this brilliant comment.

Badir 9:39 AM  

As a fellow mathematician, I've been looking forward to Kevin's _NYT_ debut ever since he announced it last week. He writes amazing cryptic crosswords, which you can find by googling, if you like cryptics that mess with your brain.

I enjoyed the cleverness of the theme. I too was momentarily stymied by the octet clue; perhaps it would have been better to call it a pair of tetrads.

Parshutr 9:43 AM  

Two dashes, no problem. Ah so reminded me of my favorite movie quote, Stalag 17, when Sefton finds out that "Price" is the spy. He lights a cigar butt in the empty room and says "Ach zo".

Parshutr 9:45 AM  

@ulrich...all the talk about Soderling being ready to beat Federer was just hype to make you stay tuned for the commercials.
Wait for the Rafa/Roger final.

mitchs 9:54 AM  

I liked this one a lot. I had no problem with the two dashes, maybe because I had enough crosses by that point.

The NW was tough, so I was surprised how relatively easy the rest was, and by what turned out to be a really good time for me.

@Jesser: "Fresh and lively" says it for me as well.

Glitch 9:58 AM  

Random answers & comments:

HTTP Error 503 - Service unavailable: The Web server (running the Web site) is currently unable to handle the HTTP request due to a temporary overloading or maintenance of the server.

A dash is a punctuation mark. It is similar in appearance to a hyphen, but a dash is longer and it is used differently. The most common versions of the dash are the en dash (–) and the em dash (—).

The nonet of black squares are in the CENTER of the grid, the octet is in the top to bottom "middle". Anyway, already had 45a when I got to 26a. No problem.


Ulrich 10:00 AM  

@Parshutr: That's why I'm watching the entire US Open via live stream on my computer--I've said it before: The quality is unbelievably good; no commercials; and you are not at the mercy of some TV director who decides to interrupt an exciting match to bring a boring interview in which a player gives stock answers to inane questions--it's the future of live sport IMO (have to try the stream on my HD Bravia--if that works, it would be awesome!)

Ouch, I'm under that gag order again--too gabby for my own good...

dk 10:07 AM  

@Ulrich, error 503 is having too high an opinion of your post :):)

Today is dk is a idiot day. Read typo as topo and tried to figure out how the squares were map coordinates. Next I wanted to split pie not a PEA. Ahh, the knock on the door is the MENSA folks coming to reclaim...

No wait it is @joho in a KEPI driving a MINI.

Great Thursday puzzle.

*** (3 Stars)

Puzzlemates. I have been asked to compile a play list for a wedding. My plan is to have 4-5 hours of love songs for the day light hours and a similar amount of "lookin for nub" in all the wrong places for the evening hours. Email me any suggestions. This electronic dj thing is cool, I don't even have to pretend to listen to requests. I am calling my self djRUR -- btw, rur = Rossum's Universal Robots.

OldCarFudd 10:10 AM  

OK, enough with the octet, already! It may not be super-precise, but we all got it, and the puzzle was cleverly done.

I live near the headwaters of the Passaic River, so that was a gimme. So was Cohn, which was my first answer. Enjoyed amatory and salamis; deputes, not so much. I always wonder whether the plural of adieu will have an s (English) or an x (French).

Yes, Ulrich, I imagine the lower septet looks like a 1 to you, and that you cross your sevens. I still cross my Zs, from my days of keeping them from looking like 2s in equations.

Why is "ah so" considered racist, while other borrowed expressions like "no problemo" (a misrendering of "no problema") aren't?

SethG 10:32 AM  

I didn't so much enter KEPI right away as have no idea and have to run the alphabet for the K. xEN...could be a lot of things.

And I kept reading 39A as [Containers on decks], so that took me a while to figure out. L7 is a '50s slang term, and a band.

PuzzleNut 10:40 AM  

I was trying to split the TAB, but I couldn't let go of PUN.
GNU and GOA always confuse me, but today a SNOOZE took care of the problem. The octet was my last theme clue, so by process of elimination it was obvious. Just enough tough areas to make for a pleasant Thursday.

Two Ponies 10:47 AM  

What an odd puzzle. Three scruples above average I guess.
Since I didn't know my amatory from my amatogy but could believe give as a form of render I came away with an error.
I must give points for originality of the theme even if it didn't quite work for me.
Aloe is a hothouse plant? Then I guess you've never seen my yard.
@ jesser probably can say the same about his.
Pen cases?
Favorite word in the grid - skeeters.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:48 AM  

My kind of puzzle. I loved it.

@Falconer - OMG! Re: your comment on the meaning of "apostrophe": For whatever reason, I was reading the August 30, 2010, issue of The New Yorker last night. On page 52 is the following poem (It is listed as such in the table of contents.) which I am copying here in its entirety, exactly as it appears in the magazine:


O Sting, where is thy death?

-- David Musgrave

Jim 10:49 AM  

The NW was problematic? The NW?!?

Really liked this puzzle and making excellent time for a Thursday. Six squares to go in the SE and...BLAMO!! Like hitting a tree at full speed. Could make heads nor tails, nor hide nor hair of those five intersecting words.

AMATORY? An explanation, maybe?
EROSIVE? I can maybe see it now, but eroding was all I kept coming back to, gumming up the whole works.
SKEETER? I've always said skeeto, or first, squito. Tried pluralizing it and that went nowhere.
RINE and YSER as crosses were the real problem. There was just too much open and no paths to even any educated guesses.

Again, shame, because I really enjoyed it otherwise.

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

i thought the puzzle was very innovative...certainly not run o' the mill...and i liked it. did it sing? no. but it certainly was, for me, entertaining.

i have always understood the psalms to be "songs" or hymns and not merely poetry. most hymns and songs are poetic, but they are also blessed with the added dimension of music. and it is, i believe, generally accepted that the psalms were musical (whatever that meant to an early hebrew), accompanied by all of the instruments it names within. so i was a little befuddled by the clue, but the number 150 was what finally gave it away.

i'm curious to know if kevin wald set out to make a puzzle like this, or if he took a look at his empty grid and thought..."gee, those shapes all look like typographical marks! hmmmm...."

great job by him.

Masked and Anonymous 11:02 AM  

Feisty lil' ThursPuz. Lot of vocab today that was just plum outta my wheelhouse. "Typographically", for one. Didn't know "valedictions" from "bad directions".

Adding to the pummeling effect: ADDUCTS, DEPUTES, PASSAIC, AMATORY, Ur, scruples, and them abnormally blocky-lookin' commas and sevens. And then KEPI crossin' some animated movie character's name (KEN), a precariously close brush with the nat-tick, for moi.

Somehow, tho, I managed to piece it all together from helpful crosses, good guesses and clean livin'. So I'm still standin'. Plus the puz had yer six well-distributed U's. And a mighty *different* theme. So, thumbs up. Nice debut, Kevin Wald dude.

ArtLvr 11:02 AM  

If you google "Charlie Chan actor", you'll get better perspective on the detective as noted in Wiki... The Chinese liked the portrayals in the American-made movies at the time when they were made and found the Honolulu-based character honorable. I think the 51D AH SO clue's "Jocularly" hits the right note today, as it wasn't ever meant to be derogatory any more than "singing Egyptians"!


Squeek the Anonymouse 11:35 AM  

Hey, I almost made it into a grid!
Funny puzzle in a strange sorta way. Why is the pea only split in a restaurant? Just look in any kitchen cabinet and the peas are split there too.
Scripto was a gimme. It's in the same drawer as my X acto knife in the art room.
Ah so racist? Not in my book. It was supposed to be a funny tag line for the detective. I guess we've gotten too thin-skinned for anyone to laugh at anything or anybody. Oh wait. Laughing at white trash hillbillies is still fair game.

Ubu Roi 11:38 AM  

Dear Mr. Masked and Anonymous,

Since you are interested in the letter "U", perhaps you would be interested in reading my Wikipedia entry, and be sure to stick with it at least to the line, "In Christian Bok's experimental book of poetry, Eunoia, the "U" chapter [in which the only vowel used is 'U'] is themed as obscene and vulgar. The character for this chapter is Ubu." Wikipedia also has an entry for Eunoia if you wish to pursue the matter.

Ubu Roi

Mel Ott 11:40 AM  

When I broke my radius long ago in my teens, I learned there are two bones in the forearm: the radius, on the same side as the thumb; and the ULNA on the same side as the pinky. I also seem to remember something about adductor muscles, which helped with 1D.

Liked the fresh clue for constructors' favorite opera person, AIDA. In fact there was a lot of fresh cluing.

JC66 11:42 AM  

IMO, great puzzle (it's got my name in it @23A) in spite of RIVE, PENCASES/PEA and scruples.

This review from last Sunday's NY Times also has some interesting stuff about Charlie Chan.

Matthew G. 12:22 PM  

I breezed through everything but the SE corner. After getting SLASHMARK and TASE, I became convinced that 42D, "Wearing," was IRKSOME, and that threw me off for a while. Complicating matters was that I had always thought "riven" was an irregular participle formed from "rend," and had been unaware that RIVE was a word in its own right. I appreciated the vocabulary lesson.

I agree with Rex completely about AHSO. This is an answer that probably shouldn't be used, however tempting.

Masked and Anonymous 12:32 PM  

@Ubu Roi...
To sleep, perchance to dream of an all-U puz: ay, there's the rub. "Such tumult upturns unsunk hulks; thus gulfs crush us, gulp, dunk us -- burst lungs succumb."

Bo and Luke Duke 12:44 PM  

We prefer the term Appalachian-Americans ...

Rube 12:44 PM  

Enjoyed this puzzle. Had no problem with TWODASHES, but, if I were to complain, don't think that 7 and L are typography marks. Then again, this is crosswordland and stretches like this are daily occurrences.

Had the usual errors, ZEal/ZEST, tear/RIVE, AHah/AHSO, and odER/YSER. Couldn't figure out PERSE until reading @Clark's comnmentary, then AHSO. Had _EPI as my last empty area when I thought, I'll bet KEN and Barbie are in Toy Story 3.

As it turns out I do have a PENCASE on my desk. Wife gave me this expensive pen some years ago and a wooden box in which it came. (Shh, I never use it.)

I could explain why I first put SLASHbang, but it's a geek thing.

One Note Wonder 12:46 PM  

I've decided to become a regular poster to this blog, highlighting any and all instances where the number of odd lettered words was odd, and the number of even lettered words is even, or decrying the lack of same, on a daily basis. I will never say anything interesting or informative about the puzzle.

I'm sure this will amuse you all.

shrub5 12:47 PM  

Had a gnarly time in the SE and did say "GRR" a couple of times. I couldn't come up with the containers for pens (had PENC---S) and CASES just would not come to me. Who has a pen case on their desk? Well, maybe President Obama. Also had FERN for the hot house plant and, like others, slipped on the GIVE/RIVE banana peel. Googling for YSER finally got me going and eventually cleaned up this area.

It took me awhile to see that PERSE was not an error but PER SE. I'm improving at getting wise to those parsing tricks like ATOZ, but this one got me.

The NW corner wasn't too kind either but some lucky guesses saved me up there (MARLOWE, IVANHOE) --which ultimately helped me grind out ADDUCTS.

@M and A: Why due U luv Us?

Falconer 12:51 PM  

@matthewg, @rex and others re "Ah So": It is not so much a racist or mocking use as it is a typical American mangling of a foreign language. but we do that to our own language too from time to time, as when there was a clue the other day "If'n" clued as a "backwoods conjecture." There will be other in-the-language manglings like "dunno" and "shoulda" which are not a matter of mocking the language so much as acknowledging a non-standard usage.

As for "ah so" -- I studied Japanese for a long time, including spans in Tokyo, and had a professor who spent hours w/ me once going over the various tonal intonations of the expression. the "ah" part connotes surprise (either real or ritualized) and the "so" part connotes agreement. the "ah" is used as a polite way of showing a conversation partner that you are listening to him. so if you speak to a native Japanese person you may hear them commenting "ah" "ah" "ah" a lot as you speak to show that they hear you, but not necessarily that they agree. (like we might say, "uh huh, uh huh, uh huh.") .... then the "so" is more of an emphatic. "ah soo desu ka" with an up-lilt in your voice would mean, "Is that right?" whereas "ah soo" with a down-lilt might mean that your partner hears you but they disagree.

My Japanese professor was a great mimic and used the example of the English term "yeah" and "huh" to show how these terms can mean different things depending on our inflection. "yeah!" means "I agree". "yeah?" may mean, I doubt it." "yeeeeahhh" may be a mocking disagreement. "yeah" with a short up-lilt might connote surprise. likewise "huh?" and "huh!" mean two different things depending on our inflection.

the bottom line is that "ah so" is an in-the-language term of assent that derives from a different language, and since it can also be used in Japanese in exactly the same way (i.e. insincere agreement) i think it is an acceptable usage.

Two Ponies 12:54 PM  

@ Masked,
Very cool. How long have you been holding that little gem of a verse?
Why did you pull it out today?

Anonymous 1:26 PM  

I googled Ah so to get more info -- I once worked with a person who said the phrase when confronted with an opinion that didn't mesh with his own world view. Nothing mocking in his use, though.

The first entry I saw was for the Ah So Japanese Steak and Sushi restaurant chain.

Located in Arizona.

Make of that what you will.

masked and Anonymous III 1:27 PM  

@shrub5...Re:"@M and A: Why due U luv Us?"

Well, of course I luv y'all...what's not to luv? Or did U mean letter "U"-s? In that case...

Partly 'cuz I'm a nutcase. And, guess I just like rootin' for the underdog. This poor letter gets a measly 1-point Scrabble score, but, compared to its 1-point brethren like "S", "E", "A" and "T", gets hardly any use in crossword puzs. Some days there's more F's or K's than there are U's, for instance. I've seen days with no U's at all.

By extension, if you like fresh vocab in yer puz, words that use uncommon letters are gonna be more... uncommon. Ain't no more uncommon 1-point vowel than U, I guarantee yah. So those U's can really freshen up the puz. Which usually makes the puz more interestin'. QED.

I know I probably rattle on too much about the U's in a puz. It's kinda like rootin' for a football team, for me. Sorry if it annoys people.

Oh, ... and, Go Vikes!

archaeoprof 1:30 PM  

@dk: I suggest country music! All those songs about faithful happy marriages...

Count me in with @Foodie & Co.

Did this puzzle in a faculty meeting. Found the meeting more interesting.

edith b 2:18 PM  

Like Rex, I fought the octet war as I didn't see a discreet set of eight blocks. I saved this til the bitter end and the answer TWODASHES finally showed itself and I had an "aha" moment.

Not the kind of "aha" moment I appreciate as I spent most of my time confused, only seeing a diagnal set of black squares.

The puzzle itself was easy enough but I didn't much care for the ocnfusion

syndy 2:37 PM  

Kept Iolanth(e) for way too long even though i knew it needed a final "e". Embarassed to say I did not see the black squares as the answers I was Looking for (the "L" should have given it away)but I liked the puzzle a lot and was impressed with the use of "ing" in the puzzle to mislead, misdirect and confound

Doug 2:55 PM  

I was just glad to finally finish. Had no problem with identifying the parts of the theme black squares with the clues. I did get stuck with seven and capital L because, well, as everyone agrees, it isn't typography.

fergus 3:18 PM  

My variation on Rex's problem came from writing in EMM DASHES, which seemed to go along well with CAPITAL ELL.

This was a pesky one, which is a compliment. A lot of defogging before breaking the ice.

I don't think the use of the question mark has even been quite as questionable as it was for the Clue for ECLIPSE. Perhaps without ? Sun block just sounds too clunky?

andrea !!! michaels 3:36 PM  

I thought this was really fresh and original and visual in a super fun way... you had to keep LOOKING at the grid in a way I've certainly never looked at a grid before. And again and again...

I too tried a variation of em DASHES etc. But I have to say I loved this as every clue had the right amount of misdirection (hand up for tab to Pie to PEA which was my Tinker to Evers to Chance for this outing)

I really marvelled at how this man could get APOSTROPHES into this grid and then have them in there...
AND the SLASHMARK and one and on!!!!

(Sadly not the exclamation mark nor elipses that I'm so fond of...!)

@Foodie, I can't force your heart to sing (love that metaphor) if it didn't sing, but go back and really look at what a feat this is constructionwise without being the least bit bland or "meh" in the fill.
and I'll bet you you your heartstrings will at least be plucked!!!!

I think this is a tour de force in a lot of ways.

And I'm loving the AHSO discussion. Very edifying.
In Sweden, I always heard this deep intake of breath when they agreed and said what sounded like "Ja(g) soooo" and thought how cool that it's such a cross-cultural sound of agreement, from two such different cultures, and not so far from "ahhh, I see"

i had many "ah! So that's it" moments in this incredible puzzle.

and yes, happy new year!

fikink 3:38 PM  

@jae, thanks for the "Angels..." recommendation.

@Falconer, or the noble APOSTROPHE can be used to attempt to pluralize [dash] NOT!

@Smitty! I am totally with you on TICONDEROGA #2s.
In fact, FIL and I just bought a spankin' new box of them at Staples last week. (They double well as a stylus for my Blackberry, eraser-side down.)

@Diana Holquist, I, too, had GOS for too long, probably recalling my late MIL's crying, "It's a go," when she was officiating Sunfish races on a local lake.

@PIX, thanks for dusting off the Latin.
@Masked and Anonymous, in that vein, Semper ubi sub ubi !

@Ulrich, Although Eleanor used many Yiddish expressions, I do believe she was attempting to say "stupe" as one addresses Oklahoma's Coach Stoops; however, German that she was, every word which started with "ST," had the "sh" before the "t" as in the German word, "Stadt." Btw, her maiden name was Ulrich.

I enjoyed the puzzle, Mr. Wald.

sanfranman59 3:48 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 17:59, 19:15, 0.93, 43%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 9:44, 9:15, 1.05, 66%, Medium-Challenging

dk 4:24 PM  

@one note..., may I ask that you also post the time it takes you to determine the presence of even evens and odd odds. Inquiring minds want to know.

@archaeoprof, I found a bunch of CW songs about loving boats, trucks, guns and dogs but none covering sentient beings. Except for one about saving a horse and riding a cowboy. In SUM, great suggestion.

The Big E 4:31 PM  

@dk - this is one that was recommended by my coworkers for my upcoming wedding (not sure Mary will let it on the play list, but...) :-)

She's No Lady (by Lyle Lovett)
Here are the lyrics:


retired_chemist 5:40 PM  

Enjoyed the puzzle. Medium.

Tried INKWELLS @ 39A. That is well before even MY schooldays. DAZE for 53A, YAK for 47A, both easily fixed.

Enjoyed learning that a chain-furlong is an ACRE. Who knew? Thought three scruples was a DRAM, and by golly it is!

A nitpick: typographically, should not the L and 7 be mirror-imaged, as the type itself would be?

Thank you, Mr. Wald.

John 6:01 PM  

I didn't like the Nervous Nellies clue. There's no way to reasonably infer that they're looking for the plural. The common phrase is Nervous Nelly, not Nervous Nellies. Also, at least for me, the black squares that were supposed to form a 7 didn't do so. Eventually, I gave in and typed "seven," but that right-angled thingy is not a 7.

Anonymous 6:14 PM  

There's also no way to infer that they're not looking for SYSTEMS, IMPULSE, or BLADDER. That's what crosses are for.

sanfranman59 6:50 PM  

Why is it that anony-mice are often so darned snarky? I'm beginning to think that the downfall of the human race will be precipitated not by Armageddon, nuclear war or environmental disaster, but by how far removed we are becoming from one another in this increasingly technological age. We seem to think it's okay to be rude and nasty as long as we can remain anonymous. This same mindset begets road rage. Separate us from the rest of the world by sheets of glass and metal and we seem to become much less tolerant and considerate of others.

Okay ... I'll step down from my soapbox now. Thanks for letting me vent.

joho 7:42 PM  

@sanfranman59 ... I wish I could shake your hand or give you a hug.

Stan 7:42 PM  

Geez, Rex has good-naturedly pointed out twice now that the phrase "Ah so" has somewhat racist or anti-Asian overtones (at least in American popular culture). Can anyone seriously deny this? It may be time to retire this bit of crosswordese.

retired_chemist 7:44 PM  

@sanfranman59 - totally agree. However, the anon. comments today as far as I could see were less snarky than they sometimes are.

enism - a religion which honors wine. Count me in. Or is that oenism?

CoffeeLvr 7:50 PM  

@sanfranman59 at 6:50pm: You are so right. We are rending the body politic asunder.

Moonchild 8:35 PM  

@ Stan, Did you read @ falconer 12:51?
It is a rational post worth reading.
Let's keep our sense of humor and our ability to laugh at ourselves.

Very cool puzzle that @ Acme summed up so nicely. Thanks Andrea!

foodie 8:58 PM  

It was certainly educational for me today to read everyone's comments. I started off feeling the way my husband must have felt early in our relationship when I told him how much I loved, loved, eggplants. He could hardly imagine what I was talking about. Over time, he learned to appreciate them if not love them as I do. So, I guess it's a matter of broadening one's taste.

Given that many people whose opinion I value have admired this puzzle, I went back and did as Andrea suggested-- took a closer look at it. I cannot change my initial reaction, but in a more cerebral way I can see what you all appreciate-- the originality of the concept the cleanliness of the fill. And while COMMA and CAPITAL ELL still don't speak to me, the Ode to the APOSTROPHE by @Falconer was rather compelling.

So, the APOSTROPHE is my eggplant. And the blog is, as always, a pleasure.

@Archeoprof, I laughed about the comparison between the puzzle and the faculty meeting. I know what you mean about the latter...

and @SanFranMan, it's great to see the passion lurking behind those numbers :)

PC Strikes again 9:20 PM  


Please provide one first person reference indicating "Ah So" is personally offensive to them.

Until then, forgive me if I don't respect your (and RP's) third party admonitions.

There's been lot's of alternative feelings posted today.

The trouble with this PC stuff is those assuming how others must feel.


thehersch 9:26 PM  

Versailles valedictions cues a French word, which would be "adieux". "Adieus" is just lame and bullshittical. I liked the puzzle overall.

Rex Parker 9:32 PM  

Miniature Gardens: Dr. Ah-So, Honoulable Ploplietor — from a "Beatles" cartoon.

Sfingi 9:49 PM  

Barbara Walter used to be Roy COHN's "Beard," and I loved how Mad Magazine drew him in hell. Where he remains.

The puzzle was mighty deep. I got the theme, but that's about it. I made every mistake everyone else did all put together, but also:
Had SLASHbAcK, KiwI for KEPI.
Does DEPUTE mean deputize? I always prefer orient to orientate, so I might start using it.
Wanted Elbe, not YSER.
All in all, got lost in Wald's Wald (as in forest).

@Retired Chem - That is no SEVEN. How about a line through it, then?
Inkwells I had in 1st grade, dipped pigtails and all. In 2nd grade the teacher complained about the new-fangled ball point pens that skipped a lot.

@Stan - There's a new book by Yunte Huang on the character Charlie Chan. Huang actually likes him, in a post-post-racist, very sophisticated way.

Another use of SO these days: All scientists commenting on radio must begin their sentences with SO,

@John - Agree. I would have put NELLy in on my first pass, but the NELLIES had to wait.

@Ulrich - I've gotten on the 503 many times, but my comment still goes on. I guess I put too much in one comment.

Ft. Ticonderoga always reminds me of a joke about a guy named Tiny with a tattoo.

@David - Then there's the RIVE gauche, but I've already said something gauche.

Stephen 9:51 PM  

Let me complain about Rex's complaint. The misdirection on the middle octet got me too, but I often get caught and then get uncaught. Isn't that the fun of crosswording? It seems our speedo Rex is so good at this game that he is now annoyed by getting caught. Too bad he can't enjoy this game any more!

This puzzle was a fine Thursday. I coughed and sputtered around KEPI, but got through it. In the SE, though, I totally died. AMATORY, RIVE, TASE, and even ALOE were brutal. (Why would one grow aloe in a hothouse?) So I could not get going anywhere. And I could not get EROSIVE, SKEETER without a cross either, although I liked the clues.

The only entries into the SE were PENCASES (gad) and SLASHMARK (gad). Show of hands please: how many people have ever seen plural pen cases anywhere but a stationery store? ... right. Thought so.

I had the SLASH (dreadful name for a lovely piece of punctuation), and I have used that word countless times while teaching computer classes, but SLASHMARK?? Show of hands please... how many people have ever said the word SLASHMARK? ... right. thought so. This is one of those words that would be comprehensible if someone forced it into your ear, but everyone chooses not to utter it themselves. My brain simply refused to entertain the extension.

In summary, I gotta compliment the lack of tired and tawdry three-letter words, and I'm impressed by the stacks of fresh 4-letter words.

shrub5 9:51 PM  

@Masked and Anon:

I hear ya. I have a soft spot for underdogs, too. We need more opportunities for the under-appreciated U, the Rodney Dangerfield of vowels. Constructors, some affirmative action is needed here --

..more Q words
..more references to institutions of higher learning
..more Hawaiian words
..more military branch references

I can feel a groundswell of support building to right this egregious wrong.

sanfranman59 12:00 AM  

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 6:48, 6:58, 0.98, 44%, Medium
Tue 9:49, 8:53, 1.11, 80%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 8:55, 11:42, 0.76, 6%, Easy
Thu 18:06, 19:15, 0.94, 43%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:34, 3:43, 0.96, 33%, Easy-Medium
Tue 5:11, 4:35, 1.13, 88%, Challenging
Wed 5:10, 5:46, 0.90, 24%, Easy-Medium
Thu 9:09, 9:15, 0.99, 57%, Medium

Amy 2:55 PM  

How about the clue for 49A? Who uses "sir" BEFORE "yes"????

The Big E 3:00 PM  

@Amy - in the military it is common for soldiers to respond to commands with the phrase "Sir Yes Sir!"
It could also be "Sir, No Sir!"

NotalwaysrightBill 1:16 PM  

Had some of the same trouble in the NW as already noted, "adducts" was new to me. Went smoother once I saw how straightforward the typographic theme was shaping up.
Have to agree with @PC Strikes Again . . . about assuming how others must feel about caricature of their cultural peculiarities. Consider how Costa Ricans got their national nickname, Ticos (and Ticas), as in "Todos somos ticos" (We're all Ticos). Attitude is everything.

Dirigonzo 5:26 PM  

When one posts 5 weeks after the fact there is often nothing of interest about the puzzle left unsaid (although @One Note Wonder's even/odd letter concept makes me hopeful of discovering a line of commentary I can make my own) so today I would like to express my thanks to a couple of regular (much earlier) posters here. First, to @a!!!m (aka ACME) for expressing your pure joy at the concept and execution of the construction of this puzzle - all nits aside, this truly was (to this puzzle-neophyte, at least) a "tour de force". And to @sanfranman59, thank you for commenting on the topic of (the lack of) civility vis-a-vis anonymity, although in fairness it should be pointed that many of us who post here and elsewhere use screen-names that don't reveal our true identity so we remain, in most respects, "anonymous" to others. And to @RP (not his real name, I might mention) for hosting this forum which, for me at least, is always as educational as it is entertaining.

Mark 3:40 PM  

As another five-weeks-late poster, I wanted to say how much I enjoyed this puzzle, right up to the final AMATORY/RIVE cross. That one blank is what drove me here.

I was pleased to get DEICE, ECLIPSE, and ATOMS, but had lots of trouble with ADDUCTS, SRTA, EROSIVE, and HRS and TASE slowed me down.

And I've never even seen a SCRIPTO.

@Bob Kerfuffle: It's two hours since I read your post, and I'm still laughing.

Nevertheless, I look forward to Mr.Wald's next submission.

Sudsy in Chicago 8:07 PM  

Gotta say I'm with the minority on this one. Novel, certainly, but strained. And and not enough colorful clues and/or answers to lighten the burdensome theme.

And "deputes." What a killjoy. When's the last time you deputed something? Or engaged in deputing? Or received directions from a deputer? Really yucky.

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