Puppeteer with 12 Emmys / THU 9-16-10 / Famous Olde Tyme brand / Sports legend with autobiography Open / Former sports org with teams Hitmen Rage

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Constructor: Joey Weissbrot

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: ROSTROPOVICH (50A: 20th-century master of the CELLO) — four theme answers related to ROSTROPOVICH and five circles on a diagonal across the middle of the grid spelling out CELLO

Word of the Day: Lake TANA (18A: Lake ___, head of the Blue Nile) —

Lake Tana (also spelled T'ana, Amharic: Ṭānā Hāyḳ,"Lake Tana," an older variant is Tsana, Ge'ez Ṣānā; sometimes called "Dembiya" after the region to the north of the lake) is the source of the Blue Nile and is the largest lake in Ethiopia. Located in the north-western Ethiopian highlands, according to the Statistical Abstract of Ethiopia for 1967/68, the lake is approximately 84 kilometers long and 66 kilometers wide, with a maximum depth of 15 meters, and an elevation of 1,840 meters. Lake Tana is fed by the Lesser Abay, Reb and Gumara Rivers and its surface area ranges from 3,000 to 3,500 km² depending on season and rainfall. The lake level has been regulated since the construction of the control weir where the lake discharges into the Blue Nile, which regulates the flow to the Tis Abbai falls and hydro-power station. (wikipedia)
• • •

Liked this one a lot. Don't understand why the circles are where they are, but I like that they are evenly spaced and form a nice straight line through the grid's center. Very elegant. I thought I was going to solve this in record time early on, but it turns out I don't know how to spell STRADIVARIUS (I had "STRAT...") (22A: Prized possession of 50-Across). And then it turns out that the NE corner had a bunch of short Acrosses that I found pretty brutal. And then it turns out that the AZERBAIJAN (59A: Birthplace of 50-Across) section was toughish as well. In the end, still on the easy side for me, but not by a whole lot. I didn't know that ROSTROPOVICH gave an impromptu (really!?: "Hey, I just happen to have my cello here, so ... aw, what the hell.") performance at the fall of the BERLIN WALL (16A: Site of a memorable 1989 impromptu performance by 50-Across), so that was a cool bit of trivia to learn.

In the NE, I had FHA for SBA (and had to look up SBA when I was done—Small Business Administration) (10A: Guarantor of many bank loans). Had nothing for TANA—if I've seen it before, I don't remember (18A: Lake ___, head of the Blue Nile). I didn't have any way of getting root beer from the clue for BARQ'S (21A: Famous Olde Tyme brand), so that was rough as well. Thankfully, the Downs were all quite familiar names, though spelling SHARI LEWIS's name is always an adventure (always want SHERI) (10D: Puppeteer with 12 Emmys). Down south we get the Scrabbly and rarely seen ZAX (60D: Slate-cutting tool) — its cutting tool cousins the ADZ and ICE AXE get far more grid face time. Got ZAX only after getting AZERBAIJAN, which would have taken me forever had I not had the "J" (from AJAX55D: Greek warrior) firmly in place. Found clue on EXPO absolutely batty (67A: Shanghai's ___ 2010) — does anyone really pay attention to where the EXPOs are any more? I went to one in '86, and haven't even heard of them since. I also couldn't pick up EVER SO (48D: Really) very easily at all. Had EVEN SO at first and thought "Well, that's not right." And it wasn't. But it all worked out.

  • 29A: Option after six months, say (RENEW) — something about this clue feels really off and clunky to me. RENEW is a verb, and clue seems to call for a noun, though clearly one's options may be verbs (e.g. put up or shut up). RENEWAL seems a better fit here.
  • 31A: Joyful damsel's cry ("MY HERO!") — There are several joyful damsels in "Erec & Enide," which I'm currently teaching in my Arthurian Literature class. There is an initially mysterious ordeal at the end of the poem called "The Joy of the Court," and everyone tries to tell Erec that it really sucks and he will die, but he's like "but it says 'Joy' right on the label. It can't be bad. I'm ignoring you people." Then it is, in fact, bad (putyourheadonastake bad). But he triumphs anyway. And there was much rejoicing! Some of it by damsels.
  • 43A: Its symbol is "X" (STRIKE) — aargh, bowling. This took me way too long. Thank god for YEN (40D: Its symbol is a "Y" with two horizontal lines through it), or that little eastern section would've been much tougher. Had AWAY for AWRY at first (38A: Off) but couldn't figure out what AKO was (it was supposed to be RKO39D: Early Fox rival).
  • 64A: Loch Lomond lovely (LASS) — Are all LASSes lovely?
  • 4D: "___ mezzo del cammin di nostra vita": Dante ("NEL") — oh hell yes. First line of "Inferno." I'll teach that (again) next semester.
  • 5D: Forum for 140-character messages (TWITTER) — Yesterday I tweeted that Google UK had changed the Google logo in honor of Agatha Christie's 120th birthday (letters turned into characters at a crime scene, very cool). Somehow that stupid little tweet got picked up and RTd ("retweeted") over 400 times. "Agatha Christie" was the Twitter-wide #1 trending topic for a while. My tweet was a "Top Tweet." I have no idea how these things happen. People from Brazil were sending me tweets asking me to follow them and religious fanatics sent me tweets telling me when the world was going to end. So weird. Kind of disconcerting when what you write circulates way way way beyond its intended audience. Mostly, on TWITTER, that does not happen.
  • 9D: Former sports org. with the teams Hitmen and Rage (XFL) — in existence for just one season, early in the last decade.
  • 23D: Gives a hand (DEALS TO) — the only way I figured out I had STRADIVARIUS spelled wrong was that I had TEALS TO here.
  • 28D: "Bullitt" has a famous one (CHASE SCENE) — it sure does:

  • 34D: The so-called "blue marble" (EARTH) — hmmm. Dorothy B. Hughes has a mystery novel called "The So-Blue Marble." Knowing this confused me.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Belinda 7:26 AM  

Mostly excellent grid built around one of the driest themes ever. Also, when circles add nothing, resist using them. Just put CELLO in the middle or the bottom right. These circles needed to spell out SLOPE or SLANT or something with resonance.

Oscar Madison 8:03 AM  

I'm sorry, but the NE corner was the largest NATICK violation ever. Every answer touching that section was a proper name except "SHAG/STAR." I had AGASSI and STRADIVARIUS and still couldn't finish.

r.alphbunker 8:08 AM  

When the cello is played it is held at an angle. Perhaps that is why the circled "cello" is at an angle. When I got "car chase" I was tempted to find a clip of it on youtube but then I thought RP will probably do that for me and I was right!

I enjoyed the solve.

joho 8:09 AM  

ZAX? You gotta be kidding me! My one error was dAX.

I learned a lot from this puzzle which is always a good thing i.e. there is an artist from AZERBAIJAN named ROSTROPOVICH who played the CELLO, a STRADIVARIUS at the BERLINWALL. Who knew?

I liked seeing AGASSI so close to VEGAS.

I enjoyed this scrabbly puzzle very much ... thank you, Joey Weissbrot!

Anonymous 8:20 AM  

I was thinking the circles signified the bow..

Great puzzle, but definite Natick in NE

KooKooKaChoo 8:23 AM  

Love the guy giving R. a coin at the end of the concert like he's a busker. Made my morning. But I will NOT try to spell his name again here in the comments. Once is enough. Like @joho, felt I learned mucho and thnx for the Agassi/Vegas comment. Read OPEN if you haven't. SO brilliant--and I hate tennis.

dk 8:23 AM  

@joho, ZAX is a favorite Scrabble word and my contribution to our neighborhood spelling bee (held at the dk manse last weekend). It was misspelled in a challenge round. Thus it was the gimme of the year for me.

Drew a total blank on COUGAR even thou my mom once owned one, in the day when a SHAG was au courant.

For some reason I think I want Lamp Chops for dinner tonight.

Had raise for RENEW but otherwise a solid fill experience.

**** (4 Stars) Joey, one of the better Thursday.

David L 8:24 AM  

TANA and BARQS were unknown to me, but the STAR at 15D was guessable, so that worked out. Where I tripped up was AWAY/AKO -- I knew it must be wrong, but was convinced that the K of STRIKE was at fault, since I didn't know in what context an X means a strike. AWRY for AWAY didn't occur to me...

Good puzzle, if a little too heavy on obscure fill (ZAX???) rather than clever clues. Nice theme, too.

dk 8:26 AM  

err, tho for thou and Thursdays for Thursday. Dunce cap for me.

joho 8:39 AM  

@dk ... what? ZOX, ZIX, ZEX, ZUX?

Anonymous 8:42 AM  

@kookookachoo...in the book, Agassi wrote that he, too, hated tennis.

Adam 9:08 AM  

I agree with anoynmous above, I thought the circles signified the bow as well.

Found this puzzle to be very nice despite the theme being way outside of my realm of knowledge. Everything except the guy's name were easy enough to get, and then ROSTROPOVICH eventually filled itself out.

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

Bad time in the NE (despite SHARI LEWIS). Had ZAX but didn't trust it.

SethG 9:14 AM  

I also got Banquoed in the NE.

John V 9:20 AM  

Ditto re: NE. Finally got it after guessing SHAG 15A. Thanks, Joey, for throwing a softball (Rostroprovich) to the classical music crowd.

Don't ever rember Azerbaijan in a puzzle. Zax?? Isn't that the fancy store on 5th Ave???

Opus Two 9:21 AM  

Likewise. I had Lake TENA crossing SHERILEWIS and couldn't find the error till Rex published this morning (Out late last night, Michael?)

Slatemeister 9:36 AM  

The last time a "Z AX" appeared was 2/7/08 and provided many entertaining comments in Rexville that day.

Trivia: Z Ax has been in 3 times, always on Thursday.


The Hag 9:38 AM  

You know, here was me all this week thinking, "Mr. Parker is being too hard on these Brown puzzles." I came here this morning expecting to see this one roasted. Just goes to show you! This was my least favorite of the week. I had to guess five times. That I was right all five times probably means that the construction was o.k. But I dislike having to guess. Especially five times. On a Thursday. I'm willing to place most of the blame on my weak skills in the spelling of Slavic names. But I neither know of nor care about the XFL and SELF magazine. I did like MYHERO and "Beach home?"

@Belinda and r.alphbunker - I was thinking that the slant represented the bow.

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

Why did I think this was about Ronald Reagan? Apparently I was being strung along. The Dow was under 1000 when Agnew was picked by Nixon. He went to jail for tax evasion (not paying taxes on bribes as the Maryland Governor). While in jail Agnew wrote a column about the nattering nabobs of negativism who do the NYT puzzles…. Nixon replaced Agnew with Gerald Ford (the only person to serve as President and never be elected as President or Vice President) because he thought Congress would never impeach him if it meant Ford would become President. When that ploy failed, Ford replaced Nixon and then pardoned him and ran for election in his own right, narrowly winning the nomination over an upstart from California named Ronald Reagan. Ford lost to Jimmy Carter and when Carter ran for re-election he lost to Ronald Reagan, so maybe this really was about Ronald Reagan all along….

Rex Parker 9:44 AM  

Now that school has started up again, I might not get to write-ups til morning.

But that was not the issue today—I just made a stupid error and forgot to time-stamp the write-up correctly last night. :(


John V 10:04 AM  

@Anonymous: Also thought Reagan at first.

Ulrich 10:08 AM  

Nifty little puzzle by Master White Bread. Decided to name the puppeteer Cheri, not Shari, tho--guessed wrong, although in retrospect, Tana sound more "African" than Tena.

To me, the diagonal CELLO connects Rostropovich with Stradivarius (never knew he made cellos, too)--makes sense...

Bob Kerfuffle 10:11 AM  

Good, solid puzzle, a pangram, all or most of the theme answers making their NYT debuts . . . , but, darn it, I still miss my Thursday rebus.

dk 10:11 AM  

@joho, it was misspelled as zachs. Just goes to show that some nattering nabobs of negativism are not as smart as they think they are...

@anon, I like your trickle down theory as to why this is about Reagan

Tobias Duncan 10:27 AM  

32 Down was a big fat gimmie for Jesser guaranteed!

Matthew G. 10:34 AM  

Rex: Look again at the first photo of Rostropovich in your post, and you'll realize why the circles are where the are.

I actually had no trouble with the NE (being a lifelong fan of both Shakespeare and root beer served me in good stead), but made three critical mistakes elsewhere. First, I originally put DOTE instead of DANE for "Polonius,' since the first thing I think of with that character is senility and I already had the D from Armada, and this made COUGAR and CHASESCENE both far harder to get than they should have been. Like Rex I had AWaY instead of AWRY at 38A. And for some stupid reason, I kept wanting "Greek warrior" at 55D to be a non-proper noun that described a type of warrior, and wasn't thinking of an individual person. This made it hard to get the J in AZERBAIJAN, which was what I eventually needed to pick up the birthplace.

All of those blunders were mine, though, and I don't think any of them can be attributed to bad cluing. Great puzzle, fun answers. Thumbs up, Joey.

Saw Rostropovich on a whim in 1997 during a summer studying in St. Petersburg, Russia. Wish I'd known enough about classical music back then to really have appreciated him. After the concert, one of my fellow students cornered Rostropovich outside and told him he'd come all the way from Canada just to see him.

"You came all the way from Canada?" Rostropovich exclaimed, and then kissed him on both cheeks.

Two Ponies 10:37 AM  

Somehow I hacked my way through this maze of proper names and came out the other side unscathed.
Hand up here too for thinking we were heading toward Reagan.
The Otero/Rostro cross was brutal and just a lucky guess for me.
End result is a pretty impressive grid. Well done Joey. I learned a lot today. Always a good thing.
I don't know what was being played at the wall but a tie-in with 52D would have been a nice touch if it worked.
Jeopardy geeks - Did you notice that yesterday we had Petrarch/Laura in the puzzle and the same answer/question last night? Twitter from today was also there clued nearly word-for-word.
@ Rex, Thanks for the Blue Nile. It is a "frequent flier" at our house.

Norm 10:38 AM  

Nice puzzle. Wanted SITAR and RAVI_SHANKAR (he could have a middle initial, right?) but 'twas not to be. No Naticks here, but then I like Barq's root beer almost as much as Stewart's!

deerfencer 10:40 AM  

Good puzzle but a struggle for the classically disinclined. Gotta love SHARILEWIS in the same space as a master cellist. My wife and I were able to bring this one down via crosses and in the end it felt satisfying.

Agree the Agassi book is a great read and one of the best sports bios out there. Big tip of the hat to co-writer
J.R. Moehringer, who was so modest as to insist his name not be put on the cover.

@ anonymous:

"While in jail Agnew wrote a column about the nattering nabobs of negativism..."

Speaking of proper credit, this famous phrase was actually written by the late William Safire, who was a speechwriter for the Nixon administration, and spoken
by Agnew at the Republican Convention, years before he was jailed.

Here's a good summary of that speech and the rancorous atmosphere of the times from Rick Perlstein's book on that era, "Nixonland":

"At the California Republican Convention in San Diego,... Agnew loosed Safire's most triumphant linguistic confection: "In the United States today, we have more than our share of nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H club -- the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history."

Agnew knew the scribes would write about it, if only to mock him. That was good: Let the elites mock patriotism!

The words that William Safire penned and that Spiro Agnew mouthed actually had enormous impact that has lasted until this day. They helped foster among conservatives and the folks that Nixon called "the silent majority" a growing mistrust of the mainstream media, a mistrust that grew over two generations into a form of hatred. It also started a dangerous spiral of events -- journalists started bending backwards to kowtow to their conservative critics, beginning in the time of Reagan, an ill-advised shift that did not win back a single reader or viewer on the right. Instead, it caused a lot of folks on the left and even the center to wonder why the national media had stopped doing its job, stopped questioning authority.

Today, the vast majority of Americans of all political stripes -- conservative, liberal, centrist -- don't believe the "nattering nabobs of negativism, a.k.a. the mainstream media, in record numbers. In the long run, a New Media is emerging that may ultimately prove to be better than what it is replacing, but in the meantime the cost to America in the journalism that was lost during the run-up to the Iraq war and Wall Street's hijacking of the U.S. economy is incalculable.

Now that's a mission accomplished --and an amazing tribute to the power of a few words some four decades ago to start convincing people to distrust the words they read and hear today."

Noam D. ElkiesI 10:45 AM  

Liked the theme, of course; didn't know Rostropovich was Azeri — the only famous 59A:AZERBAIJAN native I was aware of was former chess champ Kasparov, and that didn't fit. Turns out the circles spell CELLO, not CHESS (and nobody says "master of the chess" anyway).

For once the filler 52D:IN_B (which happened to be the first thing I put in the grid) is actually related to the theme, because the trio has a prominent cello part. I can't find a youtube recording with 50D:ROSTROPOVICH, so try this instead, concluded here (as usual it's the later version, which Brahms created 46 years(!) after writing the trio.)

Elsewhere in the grid, yes, lots of Scrabble value, and yes, the 18A:T?NA/10D:SH?RI_LEWIS crossing is terrible; I guessed correctly but it was a guess. Could have been improved by changing TANA to the more familiar CANA, and 15D to SCAR, even at the cost of the cute hereoglyph clue for 15D:STAR. The Bullitt-clued 28A:CHASE_SCENE, and several other bullШit clues ;-), needed most of the crosses too.

Rex questions the alliterative clue for 64A:LASS, but it doesn't need every lass to be lovely, only every lovely (used as a noun) to be a lass, which seems to be more-or-less right.


Van55 10:53 AM  

By my count there are 31 proper nouns in this puzzle. I think that's excessive, but that's probably just me.

Not my favorite Brown puzzle by a long shot, and I put it in the Medium-Challenging range for my personal sphere of knowledge.

chaos1 11:02 AM  

Rex: I'm Shocked, Shocked, ala Peter Lorre !
How many times has STRAD and AMATI been in an NYT puzzle? I'm too lazy to look it up. LOL.

JaxInL.A. 11:06 AM  

Possibly my fastest Thursday ever today, thanks to a youth spent as a square (listening to classical music while ridiculing my siblings taste in popular music) and a nerd (memorizing Shakespeare at 13).

Stumbled momentarily by entering Spiro instead of AGNEW, and wanted Afro for Retro Hairstyle, but thanks to a turn as a witch in "that Scottish play" in college, got BANQUO right away. As soon as I had the circled O in the NE, I knew that the puzzle's subject was a master of the CELLO. Made a leap and entered Pablo Casals as the Master of 50A, but had to give his surname a second S to make it fit. The crosses fixed that fast, though, and I realized that it had to be Rosty. STRADIVARIUS dropped right in, had BERLINWALL from the NW already, but I had no idea he was born in AZERBAIJAN.

It all fell in place unusually easily for me. I like BARQ'S root beer, I'm a major fan of Stan Getz and his SAXES, heard a recent NPR interview with AGASSI about his book, and love ANGLEE's Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. My dad drove a Mercury COUGAR, and told us kids that he powered it with a pound of hamburger in the glove box each week. We never opened that compartment.

I even knew the Shanghai EXPO and got a smile when Rex said he attended the world Expo in 1986, because I travelled to Vancouver for several weeks to work in that event. Didn't do the Times puzzle then, though.

Hooray for Brown week, and for Joey making a puzzle that felt tailor-made for me. Thanks!

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

So here I go for day #3 on this blog, & I suspect this will be my limit for the week. Thursday is a great challenge for me always, & I must say I am very pleased with my results today.

I worked a full 1:10 and progressed further than I ever suspected-- after struggling to what I thought might be a near halt after the first 15 minutes. Here are my errors:

1) I had no idea that BANQUO was the ghost in "Macbeth." I think I read "Macbeth" in high school, but I have never understood Shakespearean dramas. The language overwhelms me despite having committed several of his sonnets to memory because I like them: "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes" and "Let me not to ther marriage of true minds admit impediments"--really great poetic wording, but his plays???? As a further aside, how do actors memorize Shakespearean lines in his dramas???

2) I knew ROSTROPOVICH but substituted one of the "O"'s in his name for an "A" and ended with OTERA rather than OTERO.

3) I'd never heard of a ZAX and did not know the second letter of AZERBAIJAN, so I guessed that perhaps a MAX is a great name for a powerful cutter. Sounds like a great name for something strong and "cutting edge."

4) I did not know the Italian phrase "Ti AMO," so not only was my answer of ARO incorrect, but I substituted RAZE for MAZE. After all, RAZE means to destroy the ground, as in perhaps redoing a garden??? Is that OK?? MAZE is a complex system of pathways, I understand, but is MAZE, as the clue expresses, a "big garden project?" Yeah, I guess so. This is the evasive fun that xwords are all about, I understand.

Of course, each of these errors accounted for more than just four mistakes, but I rate my work pretty darned good, all things considered.

I loved the clues, particularly when just one or two letters suddenly opening offers me the answer that I initially swore I could not get. This actually is my favorite part of solving--taking the totally unknown, & throwing little bits at me, & then suddenly there it is!!!!

My favorite clue/answer combo was 48-Down: "Really." I'd never have answered "EVERSO" initially, but several intersections gave it to me. That's the fun of catching something so apparently vague at the outset.

Well, goodbye most likely until I brag on Monday. If I open Friday's puzzle, I sure won't tell any of you!!!!!!!!!!!!!I needn't lower my ego any lower in the toilet than it already is.

I had fun sharing with all of you.


abide 11:38 AM  


Finished with ROSTRIPOVICH and AZENGAIJAN. Double Natick= not my cup of tea. But I did learn something.

jae 11:42 AM  

Nice puzzle but more of a medium for me. I needed help spelling AZERBAIJAN and had AFRO at first, but otherwise a fairly smooth solve. I've seen SHARI often enough to know about the "A," but I don't remember seeing ZAX before. An informative Thurs. Joey, thanks.

Howard B 11:43 AM  

Strat-O-Varius would be a great name for a strategic orchestra simulation game played with dice.
Choose your instrument, roll the dice, see if you tuned correctly, played the chord, dropped your drumstick, etc.
So, who wants to design this? Sure to be a hit.

PuzzleNut 12:07 PM  

A little tougher for me than it should have been. Finished with one mistake, AWaY. Hadn't even checked the aKO cross, I was so certain of the other answers.
Had the JAN in place and correctly filled in the rest, although I didn't know ZAX (I'll definitely remeber it now - what a great Scrabble word!).
@chaos1 took the words out of my mouth regarding STRAD.
Had POVICH for a while and thought it might be MAURYPOVICH, but I don't think that is the correct spelling and I'm sure he wouldn't rate inclusion in a NYT puzzle. Once I had the R in place, the rest the name fell as did the rest of the puzzle.

syndy 12:07 PM  

My only write over was the evenso-everso:fastest thursday ever!Made me feel everso smug!RP so when did you post? not til after I went to bed here on the west coast.

Anonymous 12:18 PM  

@chaos1..."Shocked, shocked" spoken by Claude Rains, not Peter Lorre.

ArtLvr 12:25 PM  

Fabulous crossword -- congrats to Joey! I must be the only commenter here today who once played the CELLO? That lasted only through high school orchestra though, as voice was easier to pursue in college...

The angled line of the circled letters? A bow, for sure: UP, UP and away! Super memories, excellent puzzle!


Moonchild 12:27 PM  

It took some crosses for me to know if it was Shostakovich or Rostrokovich. Of course, if I knew more about either of them it would have come faster.
Does the -kovich mean "son of" or "comes from" in Russian?
Another nice puzzle from the Brown crowd.

CaseAce 12:36 PM  

Cello! Is it me you're looking for?"

archaeoprof 12:57 PM  

I too had "afro" before SHAG.

Also tried "deals in" before DEALS TO.

Pretty good Thursday.

Warren Howie Hughes 1:15 PM  

Joey Weissbrot, You're My Hero, however, don't get too sexercited, as I can hardly be described as a "Damsel in Distress!"

protege01 1:22 PM  

Way better and more enjoyable puzzle than yesterday.
Blew through the NW and West really fast then got stuck trying to figure out the theme. A puzzle about a cellist? Really? That was disappointing. But cool nonetheless.

mac 1:24 PM  

A real Thursday, and a pangram at that. Nice to see the whole word rather than Strad; I learned a couple of things today, including that fact that they made cellos.

I, too, had most trouble in the NE, but somehow remembered Banquo, although I had trouble with the spelling.

@deerfencer: amen.

Thank you, Joey, for the clue for Cougar!

I once heard someone say he thought Eat, Drink, Man, Woman was something Arnold Schwarzenegger said.

Now I wonder what kind of coin the man gave to Rostropovich. Hope it was a Deutschmark.

Rube 1:32 PM  

Did this late last night after a poor showing at bridge. Needed an ego booster and this helped. Sped through with very few rough spots. Probably would have screwed up the SHARILEWIS/TANA crossing as I've never heard of her, (12 Emmys, really!?), except that we have a new asst with the same first name, but pronounced Shäri. TANA looks to be seldom used in NYT xwords.

Really don't remember the details of solving, but do remember being mildly surprised at having ROSTROPOVICH appear and thinking Shortz is going highbrow. Maybe, just maybe, we'll see more of this level of theme and fewer pop culture proper names. (Dream on Rube.) Loved this puzzle.

David 2:24 PM  

A somewhat easy Thursday, with its traps - AWRY/RKO and BARQS too, even with the downs. The pleasure of this one however was its combination of high and low culture (HECHE I put as low culture) - with ROSTROPOVICH as a wonderful touchstone.

The Brown students demonstrate erudition, that's for sure. And also is there a link between interning for Will Shortz and going to Brown?

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

Kind of a "Naticky" puzzle. Too many proper names and oddities like ZAX and BARQS.

Shamik 2:32 PM  

This felt challenging in the doing but ended up a medium for me for a Thursday by the end. Some usual gimmes weren't gotten immediately, so more time got eaten up. Misreading clues didn't help. I thought the damsel was in distress not in joy!

In the end, I spelled STRADIVARIUS wrong. :-(

But any puzzle with my name in it makes me smile. SHARILEWIS was no problem. And no. My name isn't Lewis.

Anonymous 2:38 PM  

Brown was founded by Baptists. The only Brown student I ever met was an unhappy rich drunk in a downtown Providence bar who hated the thought that after graduation he was returning to his Pennsylvania home town in some desolate area to go into his family’s business. If Will has any egalitarian sense of fairness next week’s puzzles will be done by URI students/alumni/faculty. There is mucho unemployment in RI and they could use the extra buck….

fergus 2:54 PM  

I also thought the circles represented the bow.

Cringing at thought of dk eating Lamp Chops ...

TULSA is the new home base of the NYT puzzle.

chefbea 3:09 PM  

Good puzzle but DNF Too busy today and not much time for puzzling.

Hopefully tomorrow I can devote more time.

Sparky 3:29 PM  

Found this hard and a good challenge. Wanted Jim Henson or Burr Tilstrom but settled for that woman with the awful lamb. Missed on Zax and XFL, the latter due to not proofreading. Grateful for so called highbrow entries. I felt this puzzle had some personality and Tuesday and Wednesday felt as if composed with a computer. I am probably all wrong but that's how I felt this week. Congrats to all the college students. I'll never be clever enough to compose so I apologize in advance. Tomorrow is Friday; we are in the home stretch.

jesser 3:51 PM  

Crazy Day. Did the puzzle at lunch and enjoyed it. The writeup and comments are excellent. And yes, @ Tobias, 32D provided no friction whatsoever. They're right next door!

Melannit! (What's that critter on your cantaloupe, Madam?) -- jesser

andrea cella michaels 4:09 PM  

seemed like a super smart puzzle. wow. smart boy.
I had TWO mistakes...AWAY (AKO? just shrugged but thought it was some obscure cable network) and since I didn't know from OTERO, I had BY HERA! I thought it was like saying BY ZEUS but for a gal! I changed it to MY HERA, close but no cigar!
Oh, and I loved the pangram, it helped me get ZAX and BANQUO...I didn't know SbA, TAnA nor BARqS...that NE corner was brutal...but magically BANQUO came to me, bec I needed a Q!

I've heard of ROSTROPOVICH (Maury's Jetson-like dog?) but didn't know what he played and felt like this puzzle schooled me, literally. Congrats, Joey.

Dashiell 4:35 PM  

First time posting here, been reading for a couple years now. For some odd reason I've been finding these Brown puzzle pretty easy. Monday's and Tuesday's were my fastest finish times for those days ever actually (around 5 and 8 minutes respectively) and moved through Wednesday's at a nice clip too. This one slowed me down a little though. I knew AJAX from the start. The Iliad has always been a favorite of mine so it was a gimme. That made 59A a gimme too. What other country has such a long name with a J near the end? Knowing the spelling didn't hurt I guess. Other really easy ones: CHASESCENE, ENT, BRUTE, BANQUO, LASS, SAXES, NEL, TWITTER, AMO, LASS. AGNEW and IMAX came quickly as well.

Some that gave me particular trouble: DANE (I had "king" for a while, confusing him with claudius stupidly enough), MY_HERO (I had "up_here" for a long time. Thinking of Rapunzel I guess?), and I really wanted CRAZE (65A) to be "dance" and couldn't figure out why it wasn't. I also had "sleepy" instead of SLEEPS, the former still seeming more appropriate given the wording of the clue. I also had "away" instead of AWRY almost the whole time.

Once I got CELLO through the circles STRADIVARIUS was fairly obvious and BERLIN_WALL fell into place with 4d, 5d, 6d, 7d all coming quickly as crosses.

Didn't particularly like the puzzle overall. The theme seemed fairly random. Facts about some cellist doesn't seem like a strong theme to me. Some clues - "Sam Getz's instrument," "Live" - were ugly.

I'm just happy I managed to finish though. Still at that point in my crossword career where Thursday completion is common but not a given. Looking forward to Friday and hopefully something a little more coherent.

Anonymous 4:39 PM  

@ Fergus -- There are so many proper names that begin with A that TULSA is an offset, unless you read it backwards.

sanfranman59 5:11 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 16:59, 19:13, 0.88, 35%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 7:48, 9:14, 0.85, 32%, Easy-Medium

Evgeny 5:14 PM  

@ Moonchild: if it's a surname like Rostropovich the ending doesn't mean anything (anymore). In the "obligatory" father's name every Russian has - I believe the correct English word would by patronym - the ending -ovich signifies "son of", without containing the actual word. The surnames such as the puzzle's theme do come from there though.

@Mr. Parker, it was certainly not a coincidence that Rostropovich played on the Berlin wall. He was one of the prominent dissidents in the Soviet Union, advocating human rights and democracy as early as in the late 40s, at stalinist times, when the phrase "human rights" could be a death sentence. Rostropovich was forced to do a lengthy "exile-tour" in Siberia at some point and had to leave the country in the 70s. To some Russians he's as known for his activism as he is for his musical genius. Reportedly, during his last years, Rostropovich was bitterly disappointed in the backward-directed course of Russia in the recent past.

Very cool to see an American puzzle being dedicated to Rostropovich, and even more so to have all these gimmes related to him to help start off the solving.

fergus 5:19 PM  

I sense a palindrome coming from Oklahoma.

PIX 6:46 PM  

I love classical music but the theme was boring and seemed more like a spelling test. None of the crazy creativity that some of us look forward to on a Thursday.

Ulrich 7:16 PM  

@Evgeny: I appreciate all of your explanations. I must confess, though, that all through the puzzle, I expected, with trepidation, his first name to be called for somewhere, which I remembered as unusual, to put it mildly:-). But the constructor took mercy on us...

Nighthawk 7:26 PM  

I really liked this one. As some have mentioned, some clues were, it seemed, a bit off - like 41A: Isn't alert for SLEEPS rather than SLEEPy - but given the theme, certainly pardonable for a few clunker clues.

And nice to have @Evgeny put things in perspective, and among the many reasons Rostropovich is not "some cello player" as some have peevishly commented, and the reason that impromptu performance was "memorable." (Also nice to see Willy Brandt in that clip for additional memorability - thanks @RP.)

I liked the international flavor of the clues too: Azerbaijani, Italian (2x), Spanish (3x), French, Danish?, Greek? -AGNEW, Ethiopian? - TANA, Chinese? - ANGLEE and Shanghai's EXPO. Music as the international language?

Was stumped for a long time after too hurriedly reading 33A Director of "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman" as "Director of 'Eat, Pray, Love' "

Was tickled to wonder if SEAL really is Anne HECHE's HERO.

Liked AGEE clued to the 69 Mets' Tommie rather than James (though I like James' work far better!) That said, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men:
Agee batted .357 with two home runs and four RBIs in the Mets' three game sweep of the Atlanta Braves in the 1969 National League Championship Series. The Mets were heavy underdogs heading into the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. In Game 3, with the series tied 1-1, Agee had what Sports Illustrated called the greatest single performance by a center fielder in World Series history.[10] In the first inning, Agee hit a leadoff home run off Jim Palmer for what would eventually be the game winning hit and RBI, as the Mets shut out the Orioles, 5-0 (Interestingly, two other Mets would also hit Game 3 lead-off home runs in subsequent World Series: Wayne Garrett in the 1973 World Series and Lenny Dykstra in the 1986 World Series).[11] In the same game, Agee also made two incredible catches that potentially saved five runs. The first was on a two-out line drive to left center field by Elrod Hendricks with two runners on base. Agee sprinted across the outfield and caught the ball in the webbing of his glove just before crashing into the wall. The second catch was on a fly ball hit by Paul Blair with the bases loaded in the seventh inning off Nolan Ryan (the only time Ryan appeared in a World Series game in his 27-year Hall of Fame career). Agee sprinted towards the right center field warning track. When the wind blew the ball down and away from him he lunged into a headfirst dive for the catch. He rolled on the warning track but held on to the ball. With Blair rounding second base, Agee may have saved an inside the park grand slam home run.

ZAX was my WOTD. Got it from the crosses, but couldn't find it in my Oxford American or my MW 11th. Finally tracked it down in my ancient high school Concise Oxford 4th (1950) and in my MW Scabble. I'd like to see a photo of one, though. According to my Concise Oxford, it has a spike on one end that is used to punch the nail holes. Handy piece a gear for a slater. Alternative spelling is "sax". Wondering if that prompted the Getz clue?

(sappech: "Understand?" from a Sicilian, just back from the dentist, whose Novocain hasn't worn off?)

CoffeeLvr 7:43 PM  

Not my best Thursday, but there was a lot to learn here. Both from the puzzle, and from Rex and fellow posters. Four errors, all mentioned by others except my embarrassment at forgetting the ghost - BAsQUO. Looked over the puzzle when I was done, knew something was wrong, but didn't realize how much.

I would like to have a pint of ALE in a JOINT, where musicians play SAXES.

Anonymous 8:34 PM  

Cable out. No internet. No phone. High winds
Tornado-like conditions. Hope I can download the puzzle later.


CrazyCatLady 8:46 PM  

This was the first NYT Thursday I've tried in a while and I actually finished. Kind of tough in the SE since I had Cutlas(s) before COUGAR. BARQS was a gimme. I had a serious root beer float habit for a while. I switched around between Hires, Dad's and BARQS. BANQUO was also a known. I played the part of BANQUO when my sixth grade class did a production of MacBeth. And that was in public school. Those were the good old days. Misspelled STRADIVARIUS (STRAT) and had BERLIN Hall before WALL. AZERBAIJAN was just cruel.
All in all a fun puzzle and an accomplishment for me.

Sfingi 9:19 PM  

Wonderful relief from the LA - smooth and easy, no Googles, even for the few sports. Did not know ZAX (what a word!), LOI, XFL, TANA, or this AGEE but got from crosses.

@Van55 - even though there were scads of proper nouns. I needed to be proud of myself after this morning's washout. And, dammit, I was!

Had wAiL before BAWL.

Mstislav ROSTROPOVICH bought Gelston Castle, a stone Scottish-style castle in Herkimer County, the next county to the East. My late brother-in-law was somehow involved in the real estate deal. The CELList wanted a place unobliterated by transmission lines. This was near the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Monastery in Jordanville. It is now a "green" event center.

@DK - Leave Lamb Chop alone!

@HowardB - go for it!

@Evgeny - double thanx.

@Aleman - is it possible to go to Rex Parker Does if everything is out of service? The mysteries of the internet.

Stephen 9:21 PM  

preamble: I have a special distaste for themes that you don't get until you finish the puzzle and then have to ponder what it means.

Today: I was having a tough time getting going. Had 5 words in and a few guesses here and there. Finally I asked myself what happened in 1989, and bingo! For some wacko reason I knew that guy ___OVICH had played his CELLO at the BERLINWALL, guessed it musta been a STRADIVARIUS and suddenly my day blew open! Yay for themes that actually help out!

Got nailed by AWRY (had AWAY). Don't know RKO. Couldn't fathom STRIKE; haven't bowled in 40 years.

Several good teasy clues. Don't like obscure acronyms.

sanfranman59 10:00 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:04, 6:57, 0.87, 6%, Easy
Tue 8:38, 8:53, 0.97, 49%, Medium
Wed 11:15, 11:41, 0.96, 43%, Medium
Thu 17:03, 19:13, 0.89, 35%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:22, 3:42, 0.91, 11%, Easy
Tue 4:37, 4:35, 1.01, 60%, Medium
Wed 6:06, 5:46, 1.06, 75%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 7:43, 9:13, 0.84, 30%, Easy-Medium

shrub5 10:32 PM  

Learned a lot from the puzzle -- was not familiar with ROSTROPOVICH but have a very vague recollection of someone playing an instrument as the Berlin Wall came down.

Finished with no errors or googles but it took me a long time. Had SLEEPY first; also had THOU before THEE. I remembered (incorrectly) the root beer as BARG'S but pulled out BANQUO from some deep recess, fixing that plus giving me the N for TANA.

Joey, this was an amazing puzzle - bravo!

Belinda 6:41 AM  

Oh, a bow!

Pretty weak.

EZPickins 6:50 PM  

Loved this puzzle. Only took about 20 minutes, but was nicely tricky. Didn't have to look anything up.
I've got some Barqs in the fridge, so that was pretty easy. Had Azerbaijan and then Rostropovich before the other theme clues. The only one I got wrong was awry instead of away.

SEO Book 6:09 AM  

Managed to finish in about 35 mins. But I see that there are people much faster than me :)

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