Conrad who wrote Ushant 1952 / FRI 11-26-10 / Ezio composer / Dressing Rich author Feldon / 1935 Pulitzer-winning biography / Aida chorus subject

Friday, November 26, 2010

Constructor: Gary Steinmehl

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Ancient movies with Z-words as the final word in their titles


Word of the Day: TERNATE (12D: Like a clover leaf) —

adj.
Arranged in or consisting of sets or groups of three, as a compound leaf with three leaflets.

[New Latin ternātus, from Medieval Latin, past participle of ternāre, treble, from Latin ternī, three each.[...]] (answers.com)
• • •

Very shortly into this puzzle, I realized I would need to be about twice as old as I currently am for this puzzle to be in my wheelhouse (which is to say, I'd need to be 82—today is my 41st birthday). In the end, I like the look of the theme answers in the grid, but dear lord, all of them, as well as several other clues, felt like something from a Very bygone era, or from some parallel universe where I don't live (somewhere where people enjoy the adult contemporary stylings of BETTE Midler (27A: "___ of Roses" (1995 adult contemporary album)) and say "PENNYwise" (8D: Wise leader?) and read LEAH Feldon (24A: "Dressing Rich" author Feldon), whoever that is). Clue that sums up this puzzle best for me is 52D: Conrad who wrote "Ushant," 1952 (AIKEN). There's literally no part of that I understand. "Ushant"?!—it's like textspeak from the 19th century, e.g. "U SHANT ride in brougham unless pa sez OK." I know a Claude AIKEN. I think he was on "Bonanza" or something like that ... no, dammit, I'm thinking of Claude AKINS, who was in "Sheriff Lobo." Clay AIKEN. That's an AIKEN I know.

A flurry of "?" clues was irking me today too, mainly because I just couldn't find their wavelength—so between clues out of my age-range and "?" clues, I felt like I was being bludgeoned (though I did end up loving the clue on POOLS, 15D: Crawl spaces?, which I couldn't see even with -OOLS in place...). Sometimes these things happen. Always good to know that I can fight my way through a puzzle so outside my frame of reference. I think I've at least *heard* of all three theme movies, although I know ZORRO from pulps and ZENDA from my old paperback collection. I had the Hudson movie as ICE SKATING-something for a while, which led to the stupidest moment of the solve: trying to convince myself that HAKS might be something (5D: They have crowns=>HATS)

"Bug A BOO" (23D: "Bug ___" (1999 Destiny's Child hit)) is about as contemporary as this puzzle gets, which is pretty pathetic, as that song was a "hit" in only the most generous sense of the word—it peaked at #33 (!) 11 years ago, and I assure you that virtually no one solving this puzzle could even hum it for you.

Theme answers:
  • 16A: 1968 Rock Hudson action film (ICE STATION ZEBRA)
  • 30A: 1940 Tyrone Power adventure film, with "The" (MARK OF ZORRO)
  • 46A: 1937 Ronald Colman adventure film, with "The" (PRISONER OF ZENDA)
Don't particularly like that two films are "adventure" and one is "action." Don't particularly like that two of them have their initial "THE"s removed. But the Zs are nice.

Last major complaint—that NE corner. The POULTS / UDE (10D: Ulan-___, Russia) / TERNATE triad should have gotten laughed out of the building for awkwardness and obscurity. You can let one of those guys in there, but to have them all holding hands? Come on. POULTS, dear lord (8A: Turkey tots?). And as if the word itselfa isn't bad enough, a cutesy clue to boot. It's all very tough to love for this BOSOX-loving PHD (28A: Green Monster's squad + 37A: Many a prof).

I do like that there's an INDEX FINGER (17D: Telephone dialer?) in the DIKE (44A: Big bank investment?). Very "Little Dutch Boy."



Bullets:
  • 14A: Lamont Library locale (HARVARD) — guessed off the -RD (ERA and DDT were the first things in the grid)
  • 34A: Dweller along the Skunk River (IOWAN) — wanted this to be a tribe member of some sort, but it appears to be simply somebody living in Iowa.
  • 35A: 1935 Pulitzer-winning biography (R.E. LEE) — pure crossword muscle. Didn't know it, but last two letters were -EE and that (grid-friendly) spelling of the general's name just leapt right to mind.
  • 40A: "Aida" chorus subject (ISIS) — I can't be the only one who has ASPS here at first. Can I?
  • 41A: Where Hausa and Djerma are spoken (NIGER) — No idea. Just figured it out from crosses. I hope I never see "Hausa" or "Djerma" in a grid.
  • 45A: "She's Got You" singer, 1962 (CLINE) — lest you think I dislike everything pre-1970 ... this one was a gimme because I Love Patsy.


[Why is she dressed like ISIS?]

  • 28D: Katharine Lee ___, writer of "America the Beautiful" (BATES) — do people really know this stuff?? Norman and Kathy want their damned crossword name rights back.
  • 38D: "Ezio" composer (HANDEL) — after "Water Music" and "Messiah," it's all hazy to me.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

92 comments:

Rube 12:35 AM  

The crowd is gone so thought I'd try the Friday puzz.

Saw a documentary on the turkey industry a few weeks back on the history channel so POULTS was a gimme. That opened up the NE. However, there was too much stuff I didn't know, so had to Google, i.e. DNF.

Never heard IRENIC before, my WOTD.

SINES make waves? There are sine functions and sine waves, and... oh forget it. This is a crossword puzzle where much license is taken.

Lot of good stuff here, particulary INDEXFINGER.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

Orange 12:49 AM  

Why, Conrad Aiken was a poet and novelist! You, sir, of all people, should know him BECAUSE YOU TEACH ENGLISH. You know the rules: If they wrote in English, you are thereby required to be well-versed in their works. ALL of them, not just the handful of works that are pretenders to the canon.

Good lord, at least skim the Cliff Notes.

No, wait. There are no Cliff Notes for Conrad Aiken's works. Carry on! He's nobody.

"Unless pa sez OK" made me laugh.

andrea harvard '80 michaels 3:41 AM  

Damn, I had AIdEN. My "Big bank investment" was a DIME. Gotta get me a job!

Loved INDEXFINGER, loved the Zs.

Odd combo of a Mon/Tuesday-themed puzzle disguised as a themeless Friday puzzle, no?

Three films with a five-letter Z word at the end is totally cool, and definitely a theme.

(Braving for an unwarranted attack from "some" for daring to say where I went to school, but) I thought that 14A "Lamont Library locale" altho lovely alliteration, is a tough, tough clue...went to Harvard for four years (+ two as a non-resident tutor) and never once stepped foot in its doorway...how would anyone know this library?

Considered gRITtED for 1A (as in "GRITTED one's teeth") which became WRITHED, but then GRITTY appeared at 32A. I count that as a semi-malapop!

One way to be in love, I had luckY.
But MADLY is so so so much nicer.
Wish it were true.

OK, cooks, what's the diff between TaRTE and TORTE?
Is there such a thing as a TARTE in English or is that the French spelling only? (Best bakery in SF is TARTINE) Is TORTE considered English?
(I'm so full from Thanksgiving dinner, I can't think straight...)

And even tho I considered but then left the T out of POUL?S/?ERNATE, I liked that they trotted out a turkey clue on Thanksgiving.

Hausa Djerma? Fine thank you, it cleared up in a week.

jae 3:51 AM  

Got to agree with Rex about the NE corner. Quite a bit of guessing up there but I made out OK. Actually a lot a guessing all the way through this. Got HARVARD like Rex did off the RD (pure guess), BORAX off the X (ditto), RACINE off the RA, ... Fortunately, I knew the movies. Catching the "theme" after 18a and 30a put this in the easy-medium category for me. I liked this one, lots of stuff I didn't know but all was gettable with some lucky guesses (e.g. the T in TERNATE/POULTS -@andrea, who is absolutely right about the toughness of the 14a clue).

Anonymous 4:44 AM  

Andrea:
I think you're the funniest person I've never met.
Peri

The Bard 7:54 AM  

A Midsummer Night's Dream > Act III, scene I

TITANIA: Come, wait upon him; lead him to my bower.
The moon methinks looks with a watery eye;
And when she weeps, weeps every little flower,
Lamenting some enforced chastity.
Tie up my love's tongue bring him silently.

mmorowitz 8:08 AM  

Tough, but I did pretty well.

The fact that this page is the 6th Google hit for USHANT says a lot about that clue to me.

PurpleGuy 8:09 AM  

Happy Birthday Rex(Michael).

The puzzle was kind of nutso, but doable. I guess all the food and pies helped to get the brain working.
I had the exact same experience as Rex, so I ditto what he said in his wonderful writeup.
Knew POULTS, but TERNATE came from crosses.

Have a great Friday all !!

Shanti -
Bob/ PurpleGuy

Gubdude 8:35 AM  

Friday is always a challenge for me but this was just impossible. I'm 24 so those movies and many of the other clues were too far beyond my lifetime.

I'm probably one of the few people Rex mentioned who could hum bug A BOO. That was my gimme.

ArtLvr 8:52 AM  

It's a rare occasion when I complete the NW before continuing onward, but using WHISKS to make pies yesterday got me started! Then HARVARD was a gimme, as I knew a Lamont well enough to be aware of the family's philanthropic legacy. Several New England colleges are BLESSed with a building bearing their name...

ICE STATION ZEBRA helped further on, as I caught the ZORRO after MILITIAS and ZENDA after CZAR. The fill was first-rate, from POULTS and PER DIEM to GRIPPER, EVASION, and DREARY. And that INDEX FINGER, which I got off the Hausa of NIGER.

Wow, what a feast of a puzzle! Many thanks to Gary Steinmehl -- I hope we see more from him. And happy birthday to Rex, too!

∑;)

real word captcha: dancers, en POINTE? neat...

Got whipped, not whisked, by this one. 9:08 AM  

I have to put my hand at least half way up for ASPS. However, much as I detest opera, I couldn't envision a song glorifying ASPS. Unless lisping was endemic to the Cairo populations, and people were lauding Aida's glorious ASPS, which would be explainatory of Ramades' love for her.

Rex Parker 9:11 AM  

Thank you, Bob/PurpleGuy.

rp

Smitty 9:20 AM  

HBTY Rex! Another year closer to the wheelhouse of old, obscure x-word references.

Today was tough but gettable, after my Rosanne Rosanadanna moments like
Ice Station Zero
Mask of Zorro
Prisoner of Zelda

And I'm old enough to know better!

Kurt 9:29 AM  

Happy Birthday, Rex. I think .... no, I'm pretty sure that I was 41 once!

I agree with Rex that this puzzle was a geezer's delight. But I disagree that you needed to be 81 to get on with it. I'm 61 and it seemed pretty easy-medium to me.

WHISKS & RACINE were gimmes (What else could they be?) and the NE fell quickly. That led to ICE STATION ZEBRA, LIBRETTO & PER DIEM and the NW was toast.

HANDEL, DREARY, COASTER, TERSELY & CZAR opened the SW and led to PRISONER OF ZENDA, which with MILITIAS & RESERVE nailed the SW. Finally, INDEX FINGER, MARK OF ZORRO & BOSOX took care of the rest.

Nice Friday puzzle. Thanks Mr. Steinmehl. And thanks again to the Rex, the Birthday Boy.

Enjoy leftovers!

joho 9:41 AM  

The NW fell fast so I thought I'd set some kind of record even though I don't time myself. But, that was it. Very slowly I proceeded to amazingly finish a puzzle where I didn't really know any of the answers.

Figuring out ICESTATIONZEBRA and MARKOFZORRO got me the third theme answer as I then knew it had to end in a Z word. CLINE showed me the Z and that was it.

Like @Rex, loved the clue "Crawl spaces?" I also liked "It's out of bounds" for NONO.

Happy Birthday, Rex, and thank you not only for the Patsy Cline clip which I liked a lot, but enjoyed even more when I scrolled down and saw your comment, "Why is she dressed like ISIS? That was unexpectedly funny!

leah712 9:41 AM  

"Irenic" is new to me, expected to see it as word of the day.

Wade 9:51 AM  

I still have my 11th grade English textbook, "The United States in Literature," which was first copyrighted in 1952 and renewed most recently in 1968, published by Scott, Foresman and Company. I have it (as opposed to having been required to return it to the public high school that owns it) because my class (Class of '85 rox! Srs rule!) was the last year to use this particular edition, and my teacher recognized that I had a long career as a professional English major ahead of me and let me keep it. Conrad Aiken's "One Star Fell and Another" is on page 68, and that is how I knew--or more accurately, deduced--the answer to 52D.

My initial response upon seeing the clue, however, was not Conrad Aiken but Conrad RICHTER, whose "Early Marriage" is the very first story (page 4) in my 11th grade English textbook.

Other authors in this textbook are Karl Shapiro, Esther Forbes, and Leonie Adams.

It's interesting, to me anyway, how influential this textbook, and others I had when I was a kid, have been on the way I see the world, the bits of knowledge I retain, the lens I look at stuff through. To hear that Conrad Aiken is not a household name among well-read people is not a revelation or even much of a shock (I don't think I've heard of him outside of my textbook), but it is a little reminder that the earth is not as solid under my feet as I sometimes lull myself into believing.

That textbook, the poetry section of which was edited by the founder and longtime director of the famous Iowa Writer's Workshop, Paul Engle, represented somebody's idea of what, at that time, should be included in an educational curriculum for American high school students of the 50's and 60's and, I suppose, into the eighties. The editors placed some bets on who would wind up in the canon (Ha! remember the canon?) Alas, Aiken seems not to have been able to retain his claim or maybe never even got a critical mass way back then. Others selected by Engle have fared pretty well: nobody at the time could know that Richard Wilbur, James Wright, Elizabeth Bishop, Theodore Roethke and Randall Jarrell would still be read (inasmuch as poets are read) in the 20-teens, but Engle bet on them.

Call this post "Requiem for Obsolete Textbooks."

I didn't have much problem with this puzzle, but I'm a couple years older than Rex. I don't understand why Red Sox constitute a Green Machine. I wrote a LIBRETTO earlier this year, which is how I learned that word.

dk 9:51 AM  

Happy Birthday Rex. I think you could be young and subscribe to the Criterion Collection to sail through this one. My gift to you is no bad jokes for.... well today.

Happy to play in the lower ports ons of the alphabet this AM. Doing the electronic version and was greeted by Happy Pencil PhD after 26:36 and correcting a misplaced letter or two in 1A. I seem to make fewer mistakes working in pen.

Did not care for BOATER and wanted an E somewhere in POULTS. That said I am a little hungover.

*** (3 Stars) Love old films, Patsy Kline and... well lets just say I had dinner at the Acme Oyster Bar.

The weather has turned cool and damp in NOLA, still better than the 10 and icy I left in MPLS.

dk 9:52 AM  

That would be Cline

mmorgan 10:01 AM  

Happy Bday @Rex!

What is there to say after @ACMEs comment???? (Ha!)

Can't believe I finished this one... Had about 80% and then my sister sat down with me and we slogged our way through the rest, with great uncertainty regarding IRENIC, TERNATE, POULTS, and UDE (and totally confused by RELEE -- didn't think of R.E. LEE), among others. Sheesh!

I slowly lowered my finger to enter the final letter -- the K in DIKE (almost went in as an M) not knowing which message would appear... and what a joy to see Mr. Happy Pencil! Whee!

Loved INDEXFINGER... got it early with just D, X, and G.

Many great clues, e.g., SHOW CASE?

My captcha says exactly how I feel -- swoof!

Happy leftovers to all!

Ulrich 10:01 AM  

First, let me get into the line of the well-wishers. And I, too, am a Patsy Cline fan.

Second, the puzzle gave me less of a hard time than other Friday puzzles have done--knowing what "Irene", as in "Irene Dunn", means helped a lot in the NW--the rest I attribute to my advanced age, even if one of the movies was a total unknown to me, and the Prisoner of Zenda was a Prisoner of Zelda for a while (thx Rex for making this look less outlandish now than I thought it was in retrospect!)

Third--there should be one, but none comes to mind right now...

Ulrich 10:05 AM  

...ah yes: @ACME: I wish I had your way with words!

CaseAce 10:06 AM  

Just as Elvis was the King of R & R, Patsy Cline was the Goddess of C & W...therefore, she's entitled to adorn her head as if she were Isis and any other mythical being...she was that good!

Lindsay 10:06 AM  

I managed to escape unscathed, thanks to some lucky guesses at 8 across. I mean, if square #10 were anything other than "u" Gary and Will would have found a better clue, right?

Happy Birthday Rex.

Orange 10:11 AM  

(By the way, I'm guessing no more than 1% of the readers here would have known that Conrad AIKEN was also a novelist. I got that fact from Wikipedia last night but sure never knew it before. Know AIKEN's name from poet-related crossword clues over the years, but don't think I've ever read him.)

Van55 10:12 AM  

Wow! What a slew of marginal/specialized/obscure trivia today! A tough battle for me.

Only 23 proper names, but felt like more.

quilter1 10:13 AM  

Solved from the bottom up as I often do and had no problems with the geezer knowledge. Knew katherine Lee Bates from 5th grade music-thank you, Miss Longnecker-but DNF as that NW corner defeated me. Even with the movie title, HARVARD and HATS I just couldn't see WRITHED or WHISK, and I even used a whisk yesterday for gravy not for eggs. @Andrea, I believe the difference between a TORTE and a tart(e) is that a torte is a multi-layered cake while a tart would be a filled crust like a pie-three of which showed up yesterday, pecan, pumpkin and custard. Happy Birthday Rex from a fellow Scorpio.

Elisa 10:21 AM  

I wouldn't consider ORZO a side dish. That's all I got.

Rex Parker 10:54 AM  

@quilter1: it's late November, so Sagittarius, not Scorpio.

The smell of chocolate cake beckons...

Adam 11:01 AM  

I felt vindicated, having had to look up some things I never ever would have gotten (POULTS, ULAN UDE), that my Strongly Realistic FLINTY, to which I was deeply emotionally committed, was not going to be the only thing standing in my way. FLINTY is different from GRITTY and less appropriate, it's true, but I had so much joy putting it down that I stood by it. I went down with my FLINTY ship.

OldCarFudd 11:03 AM  

Happy Birthday, Rex! I have two kids and three step-kids, and they all have spouses. Out of those ten people, the youngest is 40-1/2, compared with your brand-new 41. So, at 74, I qualify as a certified 24-karat geezer, and I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle. It's one of the very few in which one theme answer, plus a lot of non-focused staring, give me an aha! moment and let me breeze through the rest.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:07 AM  

Happy Birthday, Dr. Rex!

(Sorry, but Katherine Lee BATES was my very first fill.)

Re: 36 D, my introduction to Conrad AIKEN was on a weekend camping trip circa 1962, reading the short story "Silent Snow, Secret Snow." Very profound and moving for our little circle of teenagers.

I don't shop, so I had time to work my way slowly through this wonderful puzzle.

One write-over, had HAYDEN (yes, wrong spelling) before HANDEL.

And a fail: Working pen on paper, finished with 11 D/27 A as LIBREATO/BEATE! (Thoughts: "Book" could mean a printed volume, to go fast, to enter data as in a ledger, to arrest [Book 'em, Danno!], a supply of matches, or . . . I dunno, maybe some Italian word (LIBREATO?) that bibliophiles use? And BEATA? Isn't that some German girl's name? I wasn't listening to adult contemporary 15 years ago or now, so any name seemed OK - though Bette of Roses is certainly good wordplay!)

mitchs 11:08 AM  

Probably one of this 55 year-old's fastest times. Read and saw Ice Station Zebra as a kid, so I was off and running. Really like a lot of the ? cluing.

Happy birthday, Rex.

Jim 11:17 AM  

Clue was Green Monster squad, not Machine. The Green Monster is the name of the left-field wall at Fenway. Object to the answer of BOSOX without a ', familiarly' in the clue. I'm a Sox fan, and even I hesitated for a while here.

Had cribS, bUrnS and finally settled on bRIdlED (with which I was quite pleased), and unable to extract myself. The five-letter, B-infested, obscurities in the middle of the grid just threw a real glaze over my attempted solve, as no long answers revealed themselves before cheating.

Really enjoyed LIBRETTO and MADLY in love, which I frequently and tragically am.

Always thought it was the MAsKofZORRO. Whoops.

Stan 11:26 AM  

Wow, Aiken wrote "Silent Snow, Secret Snow"? Like @Bob K and his circle, my literate friends were all impressed with that story. I also remember "Ice Station Zebra" -- very boy's-adventure Hollywood stuff, though I don't know how the Cold War politics would play today.

Really enjoyed this puzzle, except for the aforementioned POULTS corner. We team-solved online in in-law land, and Mr. Happy Pencil popped up to saved us 15 minutes of staring at UDE and TERNATE.

David L 11:33 AM  

As someone soon to be 13 yrs older than Rex (happy b-day!), I was able to come up with the movie titles pretty easily, especially once I realized they all had Zs (come to think of it, I only realized that after getting the first two, so at least it helped me get the third...)

This was one of those puzzles I was surprised to finish, given how much obscure stuff is in there.

They put BORAX in artificial gems? To keep out ants and roaches?

Mel Ott 11:40 AM  

Geezer here. I had heard of the movie titles, but I don't think I ever saw any of them. They were redeemed by the Z's.

I also struggled in the NE. Guessed the U and the T in POULTS. Figgered a relationship to the word "poultry". Didn't see the prefix for 3 in TERNATE til I got here.

In SE my ballerina had POINTy shoes for awhile. What was I thinking of - dancing elves?! Stared at TERSyLY for some time until the light dawned.

@Jim: my ZORRO also had a MAsK instead of a MARK for awhile.

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

I'm amused by the bright-eyed youth of Rex in this case. This was a piece of cake because it was filled with clues for "mature adults." Wait a few years for the complaints to start that only a geezer ever heard of somebody called "Beyonce."

Masked and Anonymous 11:42 AM  

Had to do some "trust but verify" work on this SatPuz. Thought we knew stuff, but had to peek in the small dictionary a few times, to verify that we were on the right track. TERNATE and POULTS, fer instance.

No prob with gettin' the flick titles, and am nowheres near 80. Must just like [all kindsa] movies way more than 44. Latest recommendation: "The Girl Who ..." movies based on Stieg Larson's potboilers. On tap for tonight: "Redneck Zombies" [Troma movie]; don't hold yer breath for a plus-side recommendation, tho.

@44: Really enjoyed the write-up today. You musta not gotten totally high on trip-toe-van and bug-juice. Either that or you need to get thataway more often. 10 hars! Thumbs way up.

Now to busy self today, stayin' as far away from all shopping areas as possible.

Cool random sentry word="bantu". Think that was an old Parker Brothers game that we used to play.

Shamik 11:53 AM  

Happy Birthday, Rex....you always seem so much younger than I am...and yet today i'm in complete agreement with you on needing to be 82 to solve this one.

Found this to be medium-challenging but it felt like challenging during the doing. Last change was DIME to DIKE when Mr. HP didn't show up on completion and AIMEN just didn't look right.

Great write-up (Why IS she dressed like ISIS?) and comments today.

jae 11:55 AM  

In the wee hours last night I forgot to wish Rex a happy birthday (sorry). And, I also had ZORRO in a MASK at first.

SethG 12:04 PM  

I agree with Rex, except I liked the theme less than he did.

Happy Birthday Rex!

PuzzleNut 12:11 PM  

Another wonderful Friday - difficult, but ultimately solvable. Lot of write-overs, but by the end I was fairly certain I had it right. A quick trip here made my day.
A few of the entries that I was pretty sure of were arboR/BOWER, area/ZONE, serene/IRENIC, ???lEss/TERSELY. In spite of these major problems, I slowly let them go and made room for the burgeoning crosses.
Also had a few mistakes that ended up helping me. Had the RD in Harvard, and guessed right on that, which "gave" me WHIrrS for egg beaters. Wrong, of course, but it got me WRITHED, TVSET and IRENIC, which allowed me to fix the WHISKS.
Wanted some kind of FINGER for the phone dialer, but the bottom was so messed up, it took a while for it to fit. The top was empty and I wanted POINT(ER) or FIRST, before INDEX came to mind. Just enough of a toehold to get BOSOX.
All in all, I teetered on the edge of DNF so many times that it was a real treat to actually complete without errors.

Masked and Anonymous and not Zorro 12:16 PM  

P.S. Have a good b-day, Rex/Michael. Only three more years, 'til 44 turns 44. Sorta like an alignment of the planets, or somethin'.

Margaret 12:22 PM  

Fortunately, amazingly (in one of those cross coincidences), I just watched Prisoner of Zenda about 5 nights ago. (Though older than Rex, I'm not yet a geezer -- but I do love Ronald Coleman, esp. in Lost Horizon.) Which gave me the toehold to make this puzzle doable.

I wanted crawl spaces to be PUBS and MOLARS to have crowns (even tho neither answer fit.) And add me to the Mask-not-mark crowd. Vises evolved from CLAMPERS to GRASPERS to GRIPPERS. That corner was where I finished up.

I'm feeling more of that sense of satisfaction one gets when finishing a chore (there must be some great German smashed-word term for that feeling -- Ullrich?) than any real pleasure from this puzzle.

Adding my birthday wishes to the multitudes of fans!

JaxInL.A. 12:29 PM  

UDE?  Ulan-something is supposed to be Bator.  I wasted a great deal of time trying to figure out a rebus for this puzzle based on that assumption.

POULTS?? TERNATE??? Crossing UDE???? And each other????? Never heard either one in my life.  For heavens sake. I have no idea how those of you who finished managed to do it. Even with extensive help from Google, I never had a prayer on this one. Charged right in with WHISKS and stalled soon after, even though I've got 10 years on Rex. Know of the movies, but no names leapt out without help from some crosses, and could not get far today. Speaking of which:     

Irenic: (rhymes with hygienic) Favoring, operating toward or conducive to peace, moderation or conciliation

From the Greek eirenikos and not, like serene, from the Latin sereno.

And If that link works it's because of the explanation in Rex's FAQ. My first coding ever, so I won't be surprised if it's just gibberish.

I suppose I can't complain about Lamont Library on the rival campus, since I remember my own gimme some time ago with the clue "location of Beinecke Library (Yale).". Yup, there it is from NYT 6/17/07.  I do love how easy the Internet makes it to find stuff like that.

@Rube, @Orange, @ACME, @Got Whipped (is that Puzzle Girl), thanks for your unfailing wit, which keeps good pace with that of our host. 

@Wade, what a great little meditation on literature and poetry. 

@Ulrich, did you really know that irenic was peaceful because of Irene Dunn?

Finally, I HATED the clue for BETTE. The Divine Miss M is one of the great (and under-rated) interpreters of the American Song Book, period, and cluing her album as the insipid "adult contemporary" is just disrespectful.    

Two Ponies 12:34 PM  

I felt rushed to solve yesterday but was able to relax and enjoy this semi-tough puzzle. Lots of names I did not know but somehow got through it.
I used to work at a mental hosp. with a rather limited library of films. Ice Station Zebra was one of them so I can't imagine how many times I fed that one through the old projector.
@ Andrea, Thanks for the laughs.
@ dk, How was the turducken?
@ wade, We never know when you will appear. Howdy.
Do you get more presents when the family is gathered the day before your birthday?

chaos1 12:35 PM  

Great Puzzle.
Love Patsy !
Happy Birthday Rex !

fikink 12:37 PM  

Happy Birthday, Rex. Vuvuzela! ...and many more.

The puzzle totally made a fool of me. You see, I am that IOWAN who dwells along the Skunk River. She is three miles away from the toy barn and yet all the while, bumping into that clue, I was wondering where there was another Skunk River in the world. Just couldn't believe my sweet Skunk in fly-over country was the one to which the NYT puzzle referred.
And then to enjoy Wade's shout-out to our Iowa Writer's Workshop. Wow!

Thank you,Gary Steinmehl. Lord knows, I took this one personally...sometimes narcissism has its perks.

Noam D. Elkies 12:57 PM  

So I finally got my Friday themed puzzle, and now I'm not sure I should have asked for one... Some nice stuff but the NE in particular is ugly.

I was just in Lamont Library a few days ago (in futile search for last week's crossword!). No idea how anybody who's never been here is supposed to recognize 14A:HARVARD. But then I might say the same about the 16A movie title. (As for 30A, there was a “Mask of Zorro” movie only 12 years ago.)

Asps, really? And here I thought the Aida chorus at 40A would be in honor of Ptah!

Ushant I know only from having sung (or rather accompanied) Spanish Ladies decades ago (“From Ushant to Scilly is 35 leagues”). 36D:AIKEN, no idea. If only it were clued via Harvard's old computer science building ;-)

Happy LXI to REX, and happy T-day to all,
—NDE

Ulrich 12:58 PM  

@Margret: The word is Aufgabenbeendigungsvergnügen ;-)

BTW "Steinmehl" means "stone flour"--I've no idea if something like this exists--perhaps flour produced by grinding wheat on a stone?

2.5/3

Pedantus Nitpickingus 1:10 PM  

@NDE - The saying is, approximately, "Even Homer nods once in a while."

I do believe you meant to wish Rex a Happy XLI, not LXI!

Jenny 1:14 PM  

I'm a few years younger than RP (HB!) And also had the feeling that the puzzle required more, uh, historical reference than I possess. But, as at least one other has commented, there are often clues requiring much more current pop culture knowledge. It just usually feels more well-rounded than this. We all have different toe-holds, though. (What is the average age of the NYT Xword solving audience? Anyone know? Or know where I could find such info?)

Enjoying a nice cup of tea on this uncharacteristically chilly morning (Austin, TX), and delighted that my captcha is SCONESS. Yum!

joho 1:25 PM  

@NDE ... I think you just wished Rex a happy 61st!

The comments are great today!

Larry 1:32 PM  

Ice station zebra as I recall was a movie that old recluse Howard Hughes was alleged to have watched almost daily ( via a 16mm print in the way pre VCR days).

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

Yesterday it was a remote Mexican mining town but today it’s the whole damn thing. It’s enough to give me indigestion on yesterday’s leftovers. Racine was easy. We drove there this summer. Let me tell you there is more there than my fill after 30 minutes and Racine is one seriously depressed area. Lamont Library? I know Lamont Cranston but he’s the Shadow and I doubt it’s his library. I like movies but tough to remember 1937 when I wasn’t born and in 1940 I was wetting my diapers, not a good habit for movie-going. I recall Tyrone Power was Zorro and the only ZORRO that fits is the one with a MASK. So, great, one line standing alone like a dead sidewinder in the desert. Vise is a GRIPPER and Obama appoints CZARs. ORZO and it looks like a Z theme. Ronald Coleman was in Lost Horizon (the only place on Earth one can hide from the IRS) but no fit. Something started dawning: PASSENGER OF ZENDA , er, PRISONER OF ZENDA, but don’t ask me where Zenda is. The SE starts to crumble before my bloodshot eyes. RESETS sounds more like what I do with my cable box than my houseplants and EVASION is what any good politician does. Something held in RESERVE, like the C-Note in my wallet that was left in the taxi? The Green Monster is the left field wall in Fenway, so BOSOX. TUBES reminds me of my 6 year old grandson when he was born prematurely. ANNEX, like the bastards who tried annexing my client’s garbage incinerator just because the fumes were killing the neighborhood. With INDEX FINGER I am halfway done. What is that 3rd movie? Rock Hudson was in Pillow Talk. What action movie? I recall that movie with James Dean and Liz Taylor. But Giant doesn’t quite fill 15 blanks. Big bank investment can’t mean Citi buying the rights to name the Mets ballpark. Besides, that’s way too NY centric. Holland is where they have DIKEs to keep the whole tulip picking country from sinking into the North Sea. Time out for coffee to kill the ache from the Maker’s Mark last night while watching the Jets march toward a Patriotic showdown, like some tattered MILITIA. At this point I am totally lost, thinking Rex is going to rate this easy to medium and tell us he finished in about his average time of 15 nanoseconds. This does me no good. The only way out is cheating but I say temptation get thee behind me (my initials are JC). BATES crosses with RELE. Must be R.E. LEE (is that really a title?) for Robert E. Lee, whose estate is now Arlington National Cemetery. TOSTE follows (never heard of it, even though I’m fat). Now the top is left and a total mess. Who lives by Skunk River (what a name)? An IOWAN (never thought of skunks in Iowa, but it explains why the first presidential primaries are there). I have PO for 6A and want POULTS so badly I can taste those tots. BATOR doesn’t fit in 3 squares, so Ulan-what? FLASH!!! ICE STATION ZEBRA – a thriller (Graham Greene? No, that was The Third Man, Alistair MacLean, yes) with a spy on a sub at the North Pole. Can barely remember it other than the special effects looked fake. EON becomes ERA. I’m still looking at POULTS? If I only had one more square I could find the Lamont Library in my backyard. BORAX is for fake gems? I thought it was something Ronald Reagan sold on Death Valley. Can a clover be FERNILE (what’s that, fern-like or some plant egg producer)? PER DIEM goes back to my Air Force days. HATS have crowns. How obvious (I can hear Rex saying a gimme). Discomfort is WRITHED (what a word) and Egg beaters must be WHITES (like yolks are never beaten?). So, peaceful is IRENIC instead of SCENIC and the Lamont Library is at HARVARD (sounds so Harvard). I’m done but no Mr. Happy Pencil, so more to do, likely in the NE. Is 27A BETTE or BEDDE? Bette Midler makes albums. I don’t know any Bedde. Finally, I give up and ask Mr. Happy Pencil to check my letters and with those 4 Xs I change WHITES to WHISKS (should have stayed with KNIT), MASK to MARK (OF ZORRO) and POULFS to POULTS (I was right all along). Mr. Happy Pencil appears and the moral of thi is: if you’re not Rex, cheat....

mld 1:35 PM  

Happy Birthday!Well,I misread "turkey tots" for "turkey lots" and entered "pounds" which means I never really came up with "ternate".Other than that I thought this puzzle was pretty easy.A little F.Y.I:Iowans are named for the Iowa River which is named for the Iowa Indians ("sleepy ones")who,referencing yesterday's puzzle,are members of the Chiwere Group....

PlantieBea 1:35 PM  

Happy Birthday, Rex!

I just watched Tyrone Power in "The Razor's Edge" last night. ZORRO I got, but I'm glad my husband was home to help me with the ZEBRA and ZENDA titles. With the front of the answer, I could only think of Epcot's Ice Station Cool. Likewise I had the ZENDA end of 46A, but no clue about the front of that title. I also needed hubby to define the Green Wall. But, finish I did.

@ArtLvr, I did not connect the Lamont name with the house at Smith College, but I'm guessing it belongs to the same philanthropic family you referenced in your post? I believe my daughter dines there often.

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

PS to my 1:32 post: Happy Birthday, Rex. 41 was a great year and hopefully will be with you, too....

Sparky 2:01 PM  

Hey Rex, Happy Birthday and many more. Thanks for the gift you give us everyday.

DNF, natch. Had MARK OF ZORRO though thought of The Black Swan first. Found the other two, age. I guess. WHISKS, yes, WritheD, no. Also wanted 11D to be a hotel reservation or something.

Filled spots here and there but gave up. Haven't the attention span of a newt or even an eft these days.

Great holiday weekend to all.

Matthew G. 2:04 PM  

I found this one flat-out impossible. If you combine the fact that movies and actors are one of my weakest spots on a good day with the fact that all of the pop-culture references in this one were made for people twice my age (I was born during the Ford Administration), I knew very early on that I was toast. Got about 25% of the grid full before I couldn't figure out anything else, and reluctantly started making liberal use of the "check puzzle" button.

Figured out "The Mark of Zorro," but never heard of the other two movies, nor of Tyrone Power or Ronald Colman. Never heard the words IRENIC or TERNATE before. Never heard of LEAH Feldon or of "Bette of Roses."

None of this is meant to be critical. All of the answers seemed perfectly legitimate (with one exception, see below), but I didn't know enough to solve it.. If ever there was a puzzle in my anti-wheelhouse, it was this one. My worst showing since I became a regular solver about five months ago — by far.

As hard as it was, there's just one clue I'll criticize: I _really_ don't like "Neighborhood" as a clue for ZONE. A neighborhood is an informally identified area, and a zone is something pretty formally decreed. I don't regard those words as closely related at all.

I had to laugh when Rex posted the cover of The Legend of Zelda, because I was thinking of that the whole time, and getting a humbling reminder of the generational divide.

Ben 2:12 PM  

Heh. Brougham.

Liked this puzzle. Good job, Gary Steinmehl. Got there in under 18 minutes, which felt like a victory given all the olde tyme obscurities (about which I second all of Rex's thoughts).

Had HA__ARD and wanted HAYWARD, then HAZZARD.

Had __ENIC and went from SCENIC to EDENIC to IRENIC.

Happy birthday, Rex. We give thanks for you.

ConnieA 2:20 PM  

30 years en pointe and all I've got are bad knees and the answer.
Thanks Bob Kerfuffle for "Silent Snow, Secret Snow."
My goodness, Rex. They even taught it at the Conservatory to dance and music majors.
Happy Birthday, anyway.

Clark 2:33 PM  

@Rex, Happy Birthday to you, Sir.

ICE STATION ZEBRA I knew. The other two I tried out on Semi Puzzle Partner, and he just knew them as usual. (He was never allowed to go to the movies as a kid, so he used to ‘go to bed’ and climb out his window and go to the movies all the time.)

Somehow I just knew IOWAN -- @fikink, I must have gotten a sympathetic vibe from your proximity to the Skunk.

PlantieBea -- “The Razor’s Edge” is all I know from Tyrone Power. I love that movie. OM.

Anonymous 2:41 PM  

Where does this idea come from that people should know nothing about things unless they happened during their own lifetime? Haven't we been to school, read magazines and newspapers, watched old movies on TV? I am 63 and got all the "geezer" clues easily. Also, it is a crossword puzzle and not a game of trivial pursuit. Puzzle solving skills will often substitute for a lack of encyclopedic knowledge. I never complain if some piece of unknown pop trivia shows up in a puzzle. I just puzzle it out.

Anonymous 3:00 PM  

@PlantieBea OMG I used to LIVE in Lamont! Hadn't thought of it in years until your post. Department of repressed memories. I just filled in Harvard based on having walked through the campus once.

nebraska doug 3:02 PM  

Started puzzle last night and thought, "I'll never finish this one." But when I picked it up again this morning, INDEX FINGER just came to me and from there I steadily made my way through the puzzle. I'm "only" 49, but I'm a TCM fanatic so I've seen all three of the movies.

Noam D. Elkies 3:03 PM  

> Even Homer nods

D'oh!

Sorry about that (though an LXI-year-old Rex might have found this puzzle more pleasurable). And no, I wasn't time-traveling back from 2031. So indeed, happy 41st!

NDE

Anonymous 3:22 PM  

No one's complaining about a geezer clue. They're complaining about an entire puzzle filled with (and based on) geezer clues.

william e emba 3:40 PM  

All three movies are also classic adventure novels. I have not seen the movies. I have copies of all three of the novels on my bookshelves, although I have not read any of them yet.

Actually, I had an amusing error that I did not catch until the very end. I filled in PRISONER OF ZELDA, and since I was getting the ballet shoe from the crosses, I ended up looking at POILTE shoes. I just knew that was wrong, thought about it, decided it was POINTE, and so got the correct title.

And then I come here, and see Rex has put up something with ZELDA in big letters in its title, and I'm thinking, oh darn, I choked, I was right the first time, and wondering if maybe there was a movie about F Scott's unhappy marriage I had never heard of or what? Sheesh, some days I'm just so gullible.

Matthew G. 3:43 PM  

I'm not even complaining. There's nothing about the puzzle I object to. I'm just stating a fact: I knew far fewer of the proper nouns in this puzzle than in the average puzzle. I'm actually pretty good with some mid-20th century stuff, such as 40s, 50s and 60s music, which I probably know (and like) better than the music of my own generation. But I'm not a big film guy even now, so I'm absolutely horrible with clues that test knowledge of old movies. They are, an probably always will be, my single biggest Achilles heel as a solver.

It was a fine puzzle. It's just about stuff I don't know about, which happens.

joho 3:53 PM  

@NDE ... I just thought you had a sudden bout of dylexia ... I do it all the time, especially with numbers. You had the numerals correct in your head, you just switched their order when you jotted them down.

3 and out, good evening!

mitchs 4:05 PM  

@matthew g: thanks for the voice of reason.

stix2metunesmiffin 4:11 PM  

Finally! Tsar with a CZ!!

Anonymous 4:23 PM  

@ Anon 2:41 - To answer your question directly, several weeks ago someone suggested to someone else on this blog who was, as I recall, new here and struggling somewhat, that it helps if you have lived long enough. I am reminded of a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin: Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.

PS. Having written a tome at 1:32 that no sane person would read, I forgot to add that my favorite clue is: Without any gas? for TERSELY....

sanfranman59 5:20 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)

Fri 26:54, 26:17, 1.02, 57%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Fri 15:37, 12:52, 1.21, 88%, Challenging

imsdave 5:25 PM  

Did this one on my brother-in-laws iPad - 40 minutes. I attribute 15 minutes of this to my lack of knowledge about Apple products, but still found it in the "Challenging" category.

I was satisfied with the puzzle though. Age thing, I guess.

JaxInL.A. 5:57 PM  

UDE?  Ulan-something is supposed to be Bator.  I wasted a great deal of time trying to figure out a rebus for this puzzle based on that assumption.

POULTS?? TERNATE??? Crossing UDE???? And each other????? Never heard either one in my life.  For heavens sake. I have no idea how those of you who finished managed to do it. Even with extensive help from Google, I never had a prayer on this one. Charged right in with WHISKS and stalled soon after, even though I've got 10 years on Rex. Know of the movies, but no names leapt out without help from some crosses, and could not get far today. Speaking of which:     

Irenic: (rhymes with hygienic) Favoring, operating toward or conducive to peace, moderation or conciliation

From the Greek eirenikos and not, like serene, from the Latin sereno.

And If that link works it's because of the explanation in Rex's FAQ. My first coding ever, so I won't be surprised if it's just gibberish.

I suppose I can't complain about Lamont Library on the rival campus, since I remember my own gimme some time ago with the clue "location of Beinecke Library (Yale).". Yup, there it is from NYT 6/17/07.  I do love how easy the Internet makes it to find stuff like that.

@Rube, @Orange, @ACME, @Got Whipped (is that Puzzle Girl), thanks for your unfailing wit, which keeps good pace with that of our host. 

@Wade, what a great little meditation on literature and poetry. 

@Ulrich, did you really know that irenic was peaceful because of Irene Dunn?

Finally, I HATED the clue for BETTE. The Divine Miss M is one of the great (and under-rated) interpreters of the American Song Book, period, and cluing her album as the insipid "adult contemporary" is just disrespectful.    

quilter1 7:08 PM  

@Anon 1:32, I did read your entire comment and speaking for myself (and presumptively for @fikink) there is no need to dis Iowans. Yes we have caucuses and primaries, but we also enjoy xwords. Central to this blog is that we come together to converse about a pleasurable activity and to enjoy our diversity with mutual respect. But I fear no one will read this as I am late.

michael 7:18 PM  

Well, living in Iowa gave me one clue...But I had to google Ice Station Zero and stuck with Mask of Zorro until the bitter end.

Anonymous 8:03 PM  

@quilter1 - I would never dis Iowans (and don't believe I did in the posting). However, presidential candidates are another thing....

Anonymous 9:50 PM  

Who is Leah Feldon? 60's and lived in Miami, she was a staple on morning TV. If you are in your Perhaps you missed her great follow up to "Dressing Rich", "Do I Look Fat In This?"

Chip Hilton 10:01 PM  

My Zorro's MASK stayed there, even after I put down the ol' pencil. How careless not to correct TOSTE!?! But, we're human after all and this human joins in wishing Rex a delightful birthday.

sanfranman59 10:07 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 6:24, 6:56, 0.92, 22%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:01, 8:57, 0.90, 21%, Easy-Medium
Wed 13:11, 11:40, 1.13, 81%, Challenging
Thu 17:22, 19:02, 0.91, 41%, Medium
Fri 27:47, 26:18, 1.06, 62%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:24, 3:42, 0.92, 16%, Easy
Tue 4:17, 4:36, 0.93, 33%, Easy-Medium
Wed 6:19, 5:44, 1.10, 79%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 8:50, 9:11, 0.96, 51%, Medium
Fri 15:25, 12:51, 1.20, 88%, Challenging

I skip M-W 12:17 AM  

Finished correctly in 41;56, but don't know old movies or current (or old) pop songs either. My first gimme was Lamont Libarary, because I hated that place while at Harvard: it was no-women-allowed, so had to suffer through all-male section for Hum 7 taught in its bowers. How was a nerd supposed to meet girls? Also, hated studying there, as the fluorescent lights emitted a constant, un-ignorable buzz, as well as terrible light.

Anyway, Happy b'day to Rex!

shrub5 1:48 AM  

I thought of POULTS as soon as I got the P. Had many problems with the rest of the puzzle though and could not finish without googles for AIKEN and BATES to get things moving.

As a huge fan, I want to underscore @JaxinL.A.'s comments about the BETTE of Roses clue and the Divine Miss M.

Loved PENNY for "Wise leader."

@Rex: I wish you a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY across the miles -- and will take this opportunity to express my thanks for this blog. Thanks to all the commenters for your eloquent thoughts and informative posts. Anonymous posters: give yourself names so we can get to know who's who.

JD 11:08 AM  

I must have put in NOBED at 27-A and taken it out about 5 times, thinking of this. Turns out it (a) was 1994, (b) wasn't an album, and (c) was just titled "Bed of Roses." Still! Man, was it clear to me that that was right and was also not right.

Jerry W, NYC 11:54 AM  

For a Ph.D and a crossword solver, you sure kvetch an awful lot about things being out of your chronological experience. I thought a Ph.D. is supposed to be somewhat conversant with things of the past.
Even as a child, I became familiar with things and people and places up to at least 40 years prior to my birth by listening to my grandparents. (I did live with them, so that does account for some of why this stuff imprinted.)
As for things of the more distant past, I think any highly educated person is supposed to be familiar with certain givens about almost any age.

Yes, I get just as annoyed as you at certain really obscure past references, but some of the things you complain about, frankly, make me wonder about the depth of your education.

Marc 5:51 PM  

This was a tough one for me, although once I got through the north half, the south half fell without much difficulty.

Having never heard of Lamont Library, my first wild guess was BROWARD. That's the county in Florida where the GOP protesters invaded the office where the recount was being held. Of course, they weren't holding the recount in a library. Silly me.

If this puzzle made you feel young again, you've got company. I'm 57 and this stuff was all before my time. However, once I got ICE STATION ZEBRA (which I've actually seen), I filled in the others fairly quickly.

Yes, I have heard of Conrad Aiken, but know next to nothing about him, and haven't heard of his novel USHANT until now.

And still no idea what RELEE was about.

In all, a good tough puzzle, if a bit slanted towards the older crowd.

Anonymous 11:37 PM  

@Marc, it's Robert E. Lee.

And happy MMXI to those of us riding the syndicate range.

Shina Willson 7:02 AM  

very informative and interesting blog.
Thanks for sharing:-)

Anonymous 3:23 PM  

As a syndicated puzzle solver, this is very late in the game... I tried this puzzle upon intitial release in my local paper but didn't get very far. I had the orzo in and was trying to fit Prisoner of Zenda into 16A. Gave up and put the puzzle down for weeks. Took one final look at it weeks later and decided to recycle. As soon as the puzzle hit the recycle bin "Ice Station Zebra" came to me out of nowhere and the rest of the puzzle was history.

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