Heroine in Bizet's Pearl Fishers / WED 11-10-10 / L' d'amore Donizetti opera / Fountain of Youth site it's said / Manassas fighters / Jezebel's god

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Constructor: Samuel A. Donaldson

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: First two initials the same — eight theme answers are people whose official names start with two identical initials

Word of the Day: W.W. JACOBS (46A: "The Monkey's Paw" author) —

William Wymark Jacobs (8 September 1863 – 1 September 1943), was an English author of short stories and novels. // Jacobs is now best remembered for his macabre tales "The Monkey's Paw" (published 1902 in the collection of short stories The Lady of the Barge) and "The Toll House" (published 1909 in the collection of short stories Sailors' Knots). However, the majority of his output was humorous in tone. His favourite subjects were marine life: "men who go down to the sea in ships of moderate tonnage" said Punch, reviewing his first collection of stories, Many Cargoes, which achieved great popular success on its publication in 1896. (wikipedia)
• • •

Cute idea, but for several reasons, I didn't care for this one. First, W.W. JACOBS just isn't anywhere close to as big a name as the other folks. Most people will have heard of "The Monkey's Paw," but I doubt most people could tell you who wrote it. I sure couldn't. I'm far more familiar with publisher W.W. NORTON than I am with this JACOBS guy, who feels forced in here to make the theme denser / to achieve symmetry. The thing that irked me most about the puzzle, though, was that SW corner. It's a Disaster, mostly because of the abomination that is ELISIR (!?!?) (45D: "L'___ d'Amore" (Donizetti opera)), which I'm guessing is Italian for "elixir." Six letters is Long for an unusual foreign word from a not terribly famous opera title. That answer wouldn't have been as galling if it hadn't crossed Another Opera Clue. Heroine in Bizet's "The Pearl Fishers" (LEILA), are you kidding me? I completely guessed the "L" at that crossing, because it was the only letter than made any sense, but that is not a great way to end a puzzle: with a shrug and an "I guess" rather than an "aha" or the like. Wasn't too crazy about BIMINI (44D: Fountain of Youth site, it's said) down there to begin with, and then the Italian opera mess sealed the deal. Long odd plurals ESCROWS (25D: Third-party accounts) and (esp.) RICOTTAS (36D: Ravioli fillings) didn't do much for me either.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: "anyone lived in a pretty how town" poet (E.E. CUMMINGS)
  • 21A: Author better known as Saki (H.H. MUNRO)
  • 27A: "Star Trek" director, 2009 (J.J. ABRAMS)
  • 30A: "The Thrill is Gone" bluesman (B.B. KING)
  • 42A: Big name in mail order (L.L. BEAN)
  • 46A: "The Monkey's Paw" author (W.W. JACOBS)
  • 50A: Creator of Eeyore (A.A. MILNE)
  • 57A: 2007 A.L. Cy Young winner (C.C. SABATHIA) — always want his name to have a double-B in it...
My favorite answers of the day were SNUFF BOX (4D: Ornamental tobacco holder) — it's just pretty — and STRUNK, co-writer of one of the greatest books ever (and one of the most misguidedly, stupidly maligned) (10D: "The Elements of Style" co-author). Concise, elegant, dryly funny — good luck finding a style guide that's Any of those things, let alone all of them. I've looked at the clue 19A: Manassas fighters three times now, and each time I forget what the answer is supposed to be (REBS). My Civil War knowledge is poor. When everyone was going crazy over the Ken Burns documentary, I was ... not.

  • 14A: "Thirteen" actress ___ Rachel Wood (EVAN) — no idea what "Thirteen" is or who this actress is, but the name was familiar enough that I got it instantly.
  • 9D: Brit's "Baloney!" ("TOSH!") — If I'm cluing this, I'm going with Peter. (If I were younger and liked unfunny things, I might go with "TOSH.0")

  • 11D: Subtitle of 1978's "Damien" (OMEN II) — "OMEN" part was easy, and then ... well I figured they didn't make IV of them (did they?)
  • 12D: Former Cavalier James (LEBRON) — not a fan.

  • 24D: Hurdles for M.B.A. hopefuls (GMATS) — never met anyone who took these (to my knowledge).
  • 27D: "Selena" star, familiarly (J-LO) / 28D: Aniston, in tabloids (JEN) — nice 1-2 tabloid punch.
  • 30D: "Incidentally," to texters (BTW) — "By the way..."
  • 40D: Jezebel's god (BA'AL) — there's an apostrophe in there right. Somehow seems more unGodly that way...
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 12:06 AM  

It's AA Rex Parker (AARP)?

And it's bad, bad Leroy Brown
The baddest man in the whole damned town
Badder than old King Kong
And meaner than a junkyard dog

Croce died at the age of 30, way, way too young....

John V 12:46 AM  

Easy, yep, but I thought it fun. As an opera-ista, SW was fine by me. "L'Esisir d'Amore" is standard rep for major opera companies, not obscure. For me, a recovery from yesterday, never having read Lord of the Rings ... only Wagner's Ring Cycle, as it turns out. Just saying.

Anonymous 12:53 AM  

cleveland's response to lebron's bullshit is soooo good

Ellen 1:15 AM  

AARP, llama and Ba'al were nice inclusions I thought.

sanfranman59 1:27 AM  

As a long-suffering Cleveland sports fan (I know ... that's redundant), I was certain that the answer for 12D was "piece of sh!t", but it just didn't fit.

@Rex ... you really think most people have heard of "The Monkey's Paw"? I think I'm reasonably well-read and have never heard of it or its author. Let's take a poll of your readers ... Be honest now. How many of you had heard of that short story?

chefwen 1:29 AM  

Cute, fun, little puzzle, sticking points were LAMBDA and GMATS. Other than that, is was pretty much smooth sailing. Caught on with LL Bean and LLAMAS.

Sad day in Wenderville, big brother Mike had to install Mom in a hospice, the beginning of the end I'm afraid. He is handling it admirably. God bless him!

cpacha - uncern - exactly what I am not.

Steve J 2:07 AM  

Hated the opera crossing. Specialized-knowledge clues shouldn't cross each other, especially earlier in the week and when neither involves answers that most everyone will know.

Found the theme to be too easy for a Wednesday. Too much auto-fill as a result of just getting one or two of the first letters from a cross (other than WW whoever). Although, I should have noticed the lower-case on the clue and picked up e.e. cummings instantly, instead of getting a couple crosses to tip me off.

Really liked SNUFFBOX as well, although I had TIN instead of BOX at first.

Octavian 2:09 AM  

Great puzzle -- Rex way off base.

Interesting theme; chewy fill; nice mix of pop, classical and academic culture; all in a breezy Tuesday package. Very nice, even if it was e-e-easy.

aa michaels 4:42 AM  

really really cute theme even tho I didn't know THREE of the 8! But amazed it all worked out symmetry-wise.
That LLAMA was a wonderful little touch!

Was given a copy of Encyclopedia Brown for my bday from a 10 yr old who was shocked I had never read any of them. Not impressed, but good trivia question...Encyclopedia's real name is...LEROY Brown! Good Good Leroy Brown?

This Minnesota Jewess had POPe for "The old man"! Agree that SNUFFBOX is the most fun answer.

I suspect @Van55 will have a fit over all the proper names, but I loved this one...
Love AAMILNE, BBKING, EECUMMINGS... I would have totally loved CCSABATHIA if I'd ever have heard the name, so I needed every cross, but one of the c's!

Bleedover: TMAN from yesterday became TMEN today. What next TPARTY?

foodie 4:45 AM  

This puzzle surprised me in a good way. I'm so terrible with names and while some were extremely familiar, others were totally foreign to me-- especially anything sports related. In addition to the theme, there were a ton of other names, and yet I was able to solve this fairly smoothly. A stutter in the NE and the SW, but no cheating required.

I have a little collection of SNUFF BOXes and hand rolled cigarette boxes as part of my substance abuse collection-- opium scale, opium pipes, a hookah, etc. Who says design and addiction don't mix?

@sanfranman, I'm with you in ignorance.

Anonymous 6:51 AM  

Yawn. First of all, David Lewinson Wilk has done this theme in his syndicate once with (I think) the exact same answers. Now, I understand this puzzle may have been made before that one, but it didn't make it anymore enjoyable for me. I was able to pick up all except one of the theme answers (WWJACOBS) with out any crosses.

Squash's Mom 7:55 AM  

I do the puzzle in Across Lite which, of course, uses capital letters for everything. I thought EE CUMMINGS looked odd that way...

joho 7:59 AM  

Unfortunately, unlike @Rex, I guessed R instead of L in ELISIR as I know the word ERI in another opera. LEILA looks better than LEIrA I guess. Ugly corner for sure.

I got the rest but didn't have a lot of love for this theme. CCSABATHIA? Really? I also didn't know WWJACOBS but I have heard of "The Monkey's Paw." Which, of course, didn't help a bit.

glimmerglass 8:02 AM  

@sanfranman59: Great short story. Excellent for scaring the bejeezers out of middle-schoolers. Couldn't remember the author's name even after getting all but one letter (got the second W from the theme). DNF today because of the opera crossing (I hate opera). The L would have been a reasonable guess (didn't think of "elixer" as the meaning of "e_isir").

KooKooKaChoo 8:07 AM  

Never heard of Monkey's Paw. Didn't even know monkeys had paws. More like hands. Thumbs, even.

Groaned when I saw the theme was going to be names, but pleased when I was able to figure them all out from crosses. To me, that's what a name-heavy puzzle HAS to deliver or I'm just done. Pitchers, bluesmen, Star Trek directors--I'd be sunk. But instead, finished PDQ.

Fun, easy, thumbs up from me.

Have no idea why people still think that athletes should be loyal to rich, greedy owners and obnoxious, know-nothing fans, but maybe being from Philly makes me jaded on the folks who yell from the sidelines. So, so, so happy for our man Halliday after laboring in obscurity for so long. Is that really a nobel way to go down? Or does an athlete owe it to him/herself to go for the gold--literal or figurative?

Doug 8:12 AM  

Easy puzzle, and I filled in LEILA last, like Rex. Agreed with some of his nitpicks. I knew WWJACOBS and the Monkey's Paw, only from reading it as an adolescent along with a lot of E.A. Poe. Also though CC had two Bs as well. Liked that EE and HH were in the same puzzle. Never heard of JJABRAMS. I did know that Gene Roddenberry (sp?) was the legendary producer of Star Trek.

Kit 8:16 AM  

Strunk and White maligned? I've never run across that. I thought it was as beloved as Mom and apple pie. It's the only usage and style book that most people have heard of, and crappy writers like to show off by celebrating it, not maligning it, in my experience.

mmorgan 8:43 AM  

@sanfranman59: I know The Monkey's Paw but didn't know the author (but got it easily from crosses).

Knew all the others right off, except JJ Abrams (which, luckily and mysteriously, just filled itself in).

I liked this... one of those puzzles when you look at a clue and say,"Uh-oh, I don't know this..." and suddenly the answer just pops in your head and you find you've typed it in. Happened a lot with this one.

Rachel Evan Wood is a remarkably versatile actress. It's difficult to believe it's the same person playing some of the roles she's played. She's especially good in Woody Allen's "Whatever Works" (and "True Blood").

My last letter was a D in LEIdA (oops -- sorry, Mr Happy Pencil), which may have been (1) a typo, (2) a flat-out error, or (3) an effect of just receiving an email from a friend named Leda. (We report, you decide.)

Howard B 9:01 AM  

Read Monkey's Paw (originally in middle school), but did not recall the author's name.

Bad, bad SW corner. Baddest corner in the whole damn grid. Badder than ol' Rex Parker, meaner than OOXTEPLERNON.

David L 9:07 AM  

Neither the Monkey's Mitt nor its author rang any bells with me, but getting WWJACOBS wasn't hard. The LEILA/ELISIR cross was borderline naughty, but gettable from crosses and a dash of commonsense (what other name could LEI_A be?)

Count me among the non-admirers of Strunk and White. Why some people regard this peevish and pedantic book as divinely inspired is a mystery. Try this for an opposing view.

Jud Crandall 9:11 AM  

Pet Sematary by Stephen King was influenced by The Monkey's Paw.

jesser 9:13 AM  

Blogger has been eating my comments of late, but I'll try again.

I liked it, but I totally agree with Rex about that opera cross, and I, too, guessed the L and got Lucky.

I'm not sure what level of love I'd have had for it had 1A been different. Daniel calls me POPS, and it gives me serious warm fuzzies. He is also a majot perpetrator of the I AM SO ____ phrase. He uses a decidedly more colorful end to the phrase than the clue, however.

STRUNK and White's 'Elements of Style' has had a place on the bookshelf of every office I've had the good fortune to occupy. Loves it.

It is wildly tangential, but at 30A, I grinned because I can't think about BBs without remembering the great BB Gun War of 1972 in which my friend Bucky Sanders made the critical mistake of diving for cover. The rule was no shooting above the waist, but he dove, and in doing so positioned himself so that when the BB hit, it embedded itself in his tongue. He still has it in there, as far as I know. Although terrifying at the time, it has become The Reunion Story That Will Not Die, and a local legend.

While we're on tangential, Jim Croce (who wrote 'Bad, Bad LEROY Brown') was killed in a plane crash during a concert tour. He was days away from playing a gig at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces. I had a ticket. The record label that lost him needed a pop/country crossover to replace him, so they signed... Jimmy Buffett!

OK, that's enough out of me. Be kind, Blogger!

Aeamic! (I was too weak and malnourished to spell it correctly) -- jesser

chefbea 9:16 AM  

Never heard of Strunk and a few others but was easy from the crosses. My Natick was the L in Leila/Elisir

Liked llama and aarp...also add swee to the double letter list

Lindsay 9:24 AM  

An entertaining romp, even though I've never heard of Abrams or Jacobs. Last letter in was the second "l" of Leila. Of course.

CC Sabathia was a gimme as I'm still suffering from withdrawal now that the baseball season is over. How does one fall asleep at night without a ball game on the radio? They're so perfect for that purpose .....

nanpilla 9:31 AM  

Wouldn't it have been cool to have ZZTOP in the middle? Of course with so much theme material, I'm sure it would be impossible to fit in, but we can dream...

Never heard of Monkey's Paw or the author, but crosses made it gettable. The L in the SW corner was my last letter in, and I circled it on my paper to remind me in the morning how much it annoyed me!

@andrea - TPARTY - cute!

quilter1 9:39 AM  

Read Monkey's Paw in 8th grade English and it scared the hell out of me. Agree with RP about STRUNK and White, still on my shelf. But I read Annie Dillard's The Writing Life annually. Knew LEBRON James from...Jay Leno!

elaine2 9:44 AM  

easy puzzle for me -- and, Rex, "Elisir" is hardly a disaster! I agree that a cross of less well-known opera items MIGHT qualify as a "Natick" ....

Read "The Monkey's Paw" years ago, and had NO IDEA who the author might be...so got this from crosses.

Happy hump day!

retired_chemist 9:52 AM  

Easy, since the crosses were clear for most of the obscure answers. Didn't know the opera cross but only the L made sense to me. Writeover: BENIN => NIGER.

Only Monkey's [anatomical feature] I know is Monkey's Eyebrow, KY.

Who are L. L. AMAS and A. A. RP?

ArtLvr 9:58 AM  

JJust right for a Wednesday, for me -- unknowns gettable with crosses. ELISIR was a gimme, never heard of SABATHIA (sounds like a name for a Good Witch).

The way 14A was written in Across Lite made it look as if EVAN was the first name for Rachel Wood, and both ways turned up in google... but I don't really care if they are two different people or the same person!

Quite a coincidence if Anon at 6:21 was right about another author's very similar puzzle. I liked the density of the theme answers, plus FUDGES and PSEUDO, LLAMAS and ACCTS among other fill. Never knew that NAPE was the target of a rabbit punch. Is it boxing, and is it legal?


Jim 10:07 AM  

KooKoo: Don't really know whose viewpoint you're opposing, but a couple things: first, his name is Roy HALLADAY. Second, he hardly languished in obscurity in Toronto. I believe he won at least two Cy Young awards and was always a thorn in the side of any Yankee or (like me) Red Sox fan. FWIW, just watched Ken Burns' 10th inning last night, and the treatment of the strike and the evolution of the business of baseball throughout the last twenty years was very well done. Put it this way: things were so bad after the strike, it's no surprise baseball tolerated steroids for as long as they did.

Majority of puzzle was indeed easy but SW was so ugly (funny, it had nothing to do with the theme for me, though I didn't care for that, either) it kept me from digging myself out of a hole in the NE I had created for myself (aMElIa for OMENII screwed everything up. Obviously, not a horror fan).

Took the GMATs (an exam looking for a raison d'etre. Also took th GRE, which seems to be more representative of aptitude).

Stan 10:08 AM  

Did not enjoy the "guess the mellifluous letter" contest in the opera cross.

Did enjoy everything else. Nice and breezy for a Wednesday, with proper names famous enough even for me.

For statistical purposes: I haven't heard of "The Monkey's Paw." Have taken the GMAT.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:18 AM  

Shouldn't 42 D, LLAMAS, have had a similar and symmetrical cousin at 13 D, say LLOYDS?

Only kidding - I actually thought the puzzle was well done and enjoyable as it was.

With regard to The Monkey's Paw, I had to get the author's name from crosses, but I remember that I played a lead role (the father? is he one?) in a High School production. Now, 50 years later, I can't even remember how I got into that, since I have absolutely no acting talent and presumably had none then. My only clear memory is that toward the end, I ran across the living room set and tripped very convincingly and very solidly over an ottoman and hit the floor very hard, all in our script.

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

I was trying to come up with other famous double initials and couldn't think of many:
JJ Walker

Less famous:
ZZ Hill (blues musician)
GG Allin (punk rocker)
CC DeVille (heavy metal guitarist)

PlantieBea 10:25 AM  

I liked the double letter theme here, and that it was possible to fill in the thornier SW without any cheating, but it did seem like there were more obscure answers than usual for a Wednesday. No, I don't think I have read "The Monkey's Paw" and I thought that the fountain of youth was in Florida--too much propaganda from the Sunshine State! Evan Rachael Wood was pretty good in the movie Across the Universe. I saw Thirteen on DVD when my daughter was about that age; not a good idea. Count me in the Strunk and White fan club. I got my required copy in a college expository writing class.

Careful what you wish for 10:34 AM  

My confusion of Monkey's Paw with Cat's Paw had absolutely no effect on my completing this puzzle.


Two Ponies 10:35 AM  

I'll jump ahead of Van55 because I also despise proper name puzzles. No fun at all.
No command of spelling, vocabulary,or grammer will help you.
Just the sort of puzzle that leaves me cold.
I think Josh 2.0 is very funny and I think I'm more than a couple of years older than Rex.

efrex 10:41 AM  

Feh, fie, and phooey on the SW (BIMINI, LEILA, ELISIR - yuck!). Nice symmetry on the theme, which I missed initially (get it? "Initially?" Ha! Sorry, never mind...), causing me to put AMAZON instead of LLBEAN.

Just once, I'd like the answer for "Limerick's land" to be NANTUCKET... is that so much to ask? :)

will nediger 10:53 AM  

Well-written it may be, but the criticisms of Strunk and White are hardly unjust. Just ask any linguist (who ought to know about such things).

KooKooKaChoo 10:57 AM  

@jim (Sorry, Mr Halladay, for the misspelling.) I was responding to the folks in the video and the first few commenters who seem to agree w/ them. No matter how obnoxious athletes are, I don't blame them for wanting to make the most of their short careers. Bad teams can't be fixed by them.

My understanding of Halladay's move was that he wanted to finally be in the playoffs--in the bigtime. To him, missing that goal due to being stuck on a bad team meant he was languishing no matter how many Yankees or Red Sox he struck out or how many C.Y. awards he won. I get that. Athletes have goals they badly want to make. Good for them. That's what makes them great competitors. If H. had stayed languishing in Toronto, everyone would have missed out on some exciting, record-setting baseball. Let's see what LBJ can do with a great team.

Now, back to the puzzle before Rex scolds us!

No BS 10:59 AM  

I was trying to explain the fun of the NYT crossword to friends at a party last night, in the context of thinking about the effect of the internet on everyday life. It really made me aware of what a great thing this little community that Rex has initiated and fostered is. Thanks to all of you for bringing a little harmless amusement to me and to the rest of us by participating.

Well, OK, I never heard of Jacobs either,but I read that kind of thing and I'm really glad to have learned about him.

Funny that you call the puzzle "easy" and still carp that it has a couple of non-obvious elements. Aren't you glad to know, now, that "Elisir d'amore" means elixir of love--maybe "love potion."? I like the way that I can solve a whole puzzle even though I only "know" a fraction of the answers. It's fun to end on an "aha" but it's also fun to end on a headscratcher like this one in the SW and have guessed right, as Rex and I and many others did today.

Paul 11:03 AM  

Rex: If you're going to explode in indignation every time you're confronter by your own ignorance, isn't it time to give up your day job and become a full-time Tea Party organizer?

Mel Ott 11:05 AM  

I don't mind a theme featuring proper names as long as the fill is not also loaded with proper names from opera, pop culture, sports, etc. In this case we have the opera crossing, JLO, JEN, LEROY, STRUNK, LEBRON. All gettable, but not enjoyable, to me anyway.

Sports names that make me reach for the remote:
1. A-Rod 2. Favre 3. LeBron 4. Tiger.

@efrex: If you ever visit Nantucket, you can buy a tee shirt that says, "I AM THE MAN FROM NANTUCKET".

MMasked and AAnonymous 11:07 AM  

44's got it about right, IMHO. Puz didn't put up much of a fight; I'd rate it a two-ply wet paper bag. Major nat-tick at E?ISIR/LEI?A. Engine light stayed on, but did guess the "L".

Still had some fun with this; I'm just in awe of anyone who can/wants to construct crosswords on near-slave wages. Even tho I give 44's puzzle creations a lot of mock snark-back, they're kinda remarkable to the likes of me. [Don't expect me to admit that again.]

@sanfranman59: Re: survey -- I Have heard of "The Monkey's Paw" story. Think I read it somewhere in my schoolhouse years. Wasn't there a creepy moment when a zombie son is knockin' at the parent's unopened door, or some such? [Typical of my semi-absorbed forced school knowledge.] Remember thinkin', as a kid, awwheck, they shoulda at least got a look at that dude, before wishing him away . . .

Matthew G. 11:07 AM  

I'm with Rex on both counts with respect to the Monkey's Paw -- I know the story and know it well, but couldn't have told you the author before today. The story was in one of my middle-school reading books, actually, and I've seen it referenced, parodied and repurposed plenty of times in my life since. It's become a pretty famous parable of the "be careful what you wish for" strain.

So in answer to @sanfranman59, I do think the _story_ is very well known. But the _author_? No way. This story is pretty much the only thing he's remembered for, I think, and even that isn't really enough. If you'd put the question to me before this morning, I probably would have speculated that the monkey's paw was an old East Asian fable and that the version I read in middle school was just some random ghostwriter's version of it.

Now, I bite my lip a bit as I pick up this gauntlet, but I have to disagree with Rex and agree with those, such as Professor Pullum, who have criticized Strunk & White. As a former copy editor and now full-time writer I hold the firm view that the net effect of The Elements of Style has been negative. The world is full of mediocre writers who have absorbed The Elements of Style as gospel and who write tortuous sentences to avoid violating its canons. So far that book has convinced at least two generations of otherwise smart people that splitting infinitives is bad, when in fact there is no reason to avoid it except when it actually sounds bad.

You might object that the problem isn't so much the book itself (which often softens its commands with tentative hedging) but the way it is used and taught, and there's considerable merit to that argument. But in the end, if you are a good writer, you don't need the Elements of Style, and if you are a bad writer it's only going to confuse you into thinking that following certain rules will make you a good writer.

More here: http://chronicle.com/article/50-Years-of-Stupid-Grammar/25497, here: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1505, and here: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/strunk-and-white.aspx

Moving on, I pretty much concur in Rex's assessment of today's puzzle. It was one of my fastest Wednesdays in a long time, despite several answers on which I needed the crosses -- HHMUNRO, WWJACOBS, ELISIR, LEILA (the L at the crossing of LEILA and ELISIR had to be a guess, but thankfully I guessed right).

I do like that a bunch of other double letters crept into the puzzle in non-theme answers, such as LLAMAS, MITTEN, PEEP, ACCTS, ANNI, and SWEE, the last being an especially nice send-off at the coffin corner of the puzzle.

But overall, eh.

Ulrich 11:09 AM  

@David L: Thx. Your link made my day--it's so nice to see my layman's judgment confirmed by an expert!

Ah, the puzzle: Although I didn't know half of the names (and that includes WW Jacobs), I got them all from crosses--my sticking point was the I at the LEILA/BIMINI crossing, but guessed it.

Can someone give me a non-forced sentence that uses the plural RICOTTAS?

No BS 11:16 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
No BS 11:18 AM  


When I was in Italy last year I made a point of sampling the profusion of locally-produced cheeses: I especially enjoyed the ricottas, as distinguishable from each other as the chiantis I drank them with (with which I drank them?)

11:16 AM

Mel Ott 11:21 AM  

@Ulrich - I love RICOTTA, but I hate RICOTTAS? Jes' kiddin'.

Hmmm. Think I might go pick up some canolis for tonight's dessert.

chaos1 11:27 AM  

Meh! I'm with Rex and @ SteveJ. on this one. SW was needlessly sticky, due to the specialized knowledge crosses. It seems as if Mr.Donaldson was deliberately trying to set up a natick that only few could nail. If you're going to do that, at least use two different areas of expertise. I had to keep plugging in various letters, until Mr.HP showed up. Had it not been for that, my time would have been better than yesterday. Even so, the puzzle was pretty easy for Wednesday.

@sanfranman59: I've never heard of "The Monkey's Paw" either, so there's several of us so far.

@chefwen: Sorry to hear about your Mom. Hopefully, she can end her days painlessly, peacefully, and with dignity.

@Jesser: Damn! You ran with a tough crowd. My friends and I, all had Daisy BB guns as kids, but we didn't shoot at each other with them. I'm sure the birds wished we had. Lol.

No BS 11:37 AM  


I'm no operista either, though my GF drags me to the HDs of the met here on the Cape and I am beginning to see the point. But today's puzzle provides a nice listener friendly access point: The Pearlfishers. Its most famous piece, a double-tenor aria, is certainly among the most moving pieces of music I have ever heard (long before I knew the story). But knowing the story adds so much: here are two friends, in love with the same babe (Leila of course) who in this song are stating their determination not to let this rivalry destroy their friendship. Simple, impassioned, naturalistic, noble and something everyone can relate to. Whenever I want to remind myself I actually have a heart I listen to this. If you want to check it out:


mmorgan 11:40 AM  

@ulrich: You just did! ;-)

Chris 11:50 AM  

Just TOSH.0, not 2.0.

treedweller 11:50 AM  

+1 knew Monkey's Paw, but not author. Got it, and JJ, and CC, from crosses (easily). But I'm with the complainers on the opera cross.

stix2metunesmiffin 11:52 AM  

I'm a composer and producer of classical music, I was just at the Met Opera last week, and still the SW annoyed the Hell out of me!

ELISIR is pretty standard rep, but only from an aficionado's perspective. Let's face it, opera lovers/goers are a Really small, insulated group (like people who can easily solve Saturday puzzles!).

Growing up in Maine helped me get out of there alive with LLBean.

Could have used a Yo-Yo Ma quasi-bonus in this one.

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

L'Elisir d'Amore is Donezetti's most famous opera and should be familiar at least to NYers as it is one of the most frequently performed works at the Met and is always advertised with the Italian title. The Bizet reference was very obscure -- I've never seen that opera and only recall the title from lists of his compositions. Over all though the puzzle was kind of a snooze.

Ulrich 12:04 PM  

@mmorgan: touché!

@No BS: I thought of a sentence like that, but dismissed it b/c ricotta, the type I get here, appears to be such a generic product that it makes no sense to distinguish between different versions. But if you say so, I believe you. Now, which was the best among the ricottas you sampled?

Clark 12:15 PM  

Oh no! Opera! What are we going to do?! Next thing you know there will be obscure sports clues in the puzzle!!

@glimmerglass -- You hate opera? And you use the name ‘glimmerglass’? I suppose I could hate Clark Bars. Well, no, actually, I don’t suppose I could . . .

@chefwen -- A group hug from all of us here to you and big brother Mike.

oldactor 12:17 PM  

I remember seeing a film version of "The Monkey's Paw". I checked IMDB and saw eleven film versions listed. The first 1923 and the last 2010. Is that famous enough for you?

CaseAce 12:24 PM  

Never having had a neighbor named Chad, 41 across is Niger here nor there to me!

JaxInL.A. 12:27 PM  

Easy but very amusing solve today. I liked the theme and knew all but that WW guy.    

Every time there is an opera clue, Rex and several others here squawk loudly, but do you realize how much opera you get through all sorts of media these days?

The Pearl Fishers is less common (and thanks to @No BS for the lovely duet reference). As @JohnV notes, though L'Elisir D'Amore (The Elixir of Love) is pretty commonly performed.  An arrogant soldier and a noble peasant both love a rich woman, and a charlatan shows up claiming that his cheap red wine is really love potion, and the rustic falls for it. Eventually the woman (Adina) realizes the peasant's good qualities and then he inherits from a rich uncle and all live happily ever after.

L'Elisir's most famous aria, Una Furtiva Lagrima (One Secret Tear), shows up in movies and TV all the time. From Wikipedia: 
--A recording by Enrico Caruso features prominently in the movie Match Point (2005), directed by Woody Allen.
--This aria is used frequently in the Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still OVA series when referencing to the Tragedy of Bashtarle, a key event prior to the main story.
--This song is also featured in the independent film Two Lovers with Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow, and another Joaquin Phoenix film: "It's All About Love".
--In Pasolini's Mamma Roma, a group of young slackers is singing this aria to Ettore.
--A muffled rendition of this song can be heard in the background as the disillusioned Captain Yossarian, played by Alan Arkin, aimlessly wanders the streets of war ravaged Rome in the movie Catch-22.
--The character Jake Fratrelli, played by Robert Davi, sings a part of this aria in the feature film The Goonies.
--This aria is also recently featured in episode "Earthling" of Fox's hit television show Fringe.
--In Michael Winterbottom's The Killer Inside Me, the aria is used twice: first when Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) thinks of Joyce Lakeland (Jessica Alba), the prostitute he battered into a coma; the second is when Lou soaks the inside of his house with gasoline and other accelerants.

If you want to hear the charming and handsome Juan Diego Florez sing this devastatingly lovely aria, try this YouTube link.  

Check it out.

Dick Swart 12:30 PM  

Elise d'Amore number 20! Just saw a terrific production at Deutsche Oper in Berlin. Sold out! 15 minutes of standing ovation at conclusion.

mac 12:49 PM  

I liked this puzzle! I also filled that L in last, but it was the most obvious guess. Reading the comments, the majority of people who didn't know the facts guessed right.

@Sanfranman59: Read The Monkey's Paw, in a bundle of scary stories, and did not remember the author's name. It is scary!

Sad to think of Jim Croce and his plane crash. Reminded me of a scene in "Almost Rock 'n Roll", on a small plane, in violent weather, when one of characters starts singing a Buddy Holly song.

@ret-chem: how about Lorenzo Lamas?

Van55 1:04 PM  

@ AACME: "I suspect @Van55 will have a fit over all the proper names, but I loved this one..."

This one had a remarkable 33 proper nouns (a record since I have been counting them). Of late, I have simply been counting and reporting without having a fit. I'm going to pass on having a fit again today. After all, a puzzle whose theme consists of eight proper names with iterative first initials almost has to have a large number of them. If you subtract the theme answers, there are only 25 proper nouns today which, while kind of a lot, isn't way out of order for a mid- to late-week puzzle.

I, too, had to guess at the L in ELISER/LEILA. Everything else was pretty easy and smooth.

I had heard of The Monkey's Paw, and immediately thought "EAPOE." Never heard of WWJACOBS. I don't think I have read the book/story or seen any theatrical or film productions.

Glitch 1:32 PM  

@Anon 12:01p

In the 20 years I lived in Manhattan, I never attended a Met opera or a Met's game. I don't feel deprived.


I'm also exposed to rap music in the same manner, doesn't mean I "know", much less appreciate it.

"How can you not know" comments come up all too often, on a number of subjects, and might be taken as condecending to those not sharing the passion.

"Different Strokes" (NBC- 1978-1985, but everyone knows that) for different folks.


Rex Parker 1:34 PM  

@Glitch, it's "Diff'rent Strokes." How can you not know that?


Anonymous 1:36 PM  

My Partner and I took the GMATS to get into MBA program at Syracuse University and believe me they were hurdles. We both received the degree.

Badir 1:41 PM  

I also heard of "The Monkey's Paw", but not W. W. Jacobs. And I, too did not like the SW section. But I guessed LEILA, and ELISIR looked like it might be French for "elixir", and I still had my 4th fastest Wednesday time ever!

Captcha: disheman: the guy who washes in a restaurant.

Matthew G. 1:49 PM  

By the way, @Squash's Mom:

E.E. Cummings actually preferred standard capitalization of his own name. His publishers sometimes changed it to "e.e. cummings" on book covers as a stylistic device, but there are authenticated letters from Cummings in which he told publishers that his name should normally be capitalized. I wince whenever I see a notable publication print "e.e. cummings" as if it were his name, and unfortunately there are an awful lot of editors out there who insist on making it so. Had a serious argument with an executive editor about this once when I was a copy editor, and still lost despite documentation in Cummings's own hand. Seems to be one of those things you can't dissuade people from once they "know" it!

dk 2:14 PM  

Just whippin up a patch of elisir d'amore #9.

I prefer the law of parsimony, that said EB White is this man's meet and I found Eats Shoots, etc. to be... you know... cute.

Boring story alert: We used to drive to LLBEAN at 2AM on Christmas eve to spend monies we got in our stockings (hung by the woodstove with care, real care if you know what I am talkin about). We brought treats for the workers, the store was an old wooden building at the time, and had a great time. We always made it home before dawn and Santa. We opened our presents on xmas day.

** (2 Stars) Despite the stroll down memory lane and my love of fudged data. A little easy for a Wednesday, a round heeled kind of puzzle... yeah thats the ticket.

efrex 2:20 PM  

(In best Columbo voice): Just one more thing:

"Concise, elegant, dryly funny — good luck finding a style guide that's any of those things, let alone all of them"
If you expand the definition of "style" to include text formatting and design, then any book by Robin Williams (the female author of "The Mac is not a Typewriter," not the male comic) fits the bill in spades.

Rube 3:04 PM  

I'm in the camp who had no trouble with ELISIR, but LEILA gave me pause. It had been at least 40 yrs since I heard a recording of The Pearl Fishers when a friend of mine, a baritone, announced that he and a tenor buddy were giving a concert of the duet from Les Pêcheurs de Perles. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend, but was quite surprised to see today's reference.

@noBS, thanks for the synopsis.

@JaxInLA -- I'm impressed.

@Plantie Bea, I'm with you about the Fountain of Youth being in Florida. Bimini? Had no idea.

Re Monkey's Paw, I remember it as having been on the Alfred Hitchock Hour Way long ago. Didn't remember the author. For you who are upset about the SW, try this, (per Wiki entry on Monkey's Paw): "Three opera versions have been created: one composed by Carlo Martelli in 1991, one by composer Stephen J. Grieco in 1996, ... and one by composer Jonathan N. Kupper in 2008."

Strunk & White? This engineer has never heard of it.

My only writeovers were ONION/bacON and POPS/PaPa. Very enjoyable Wednesday puzzle.

Glitch 3:06 PM  

@RP 1:34p

Now that was an appropriate comment ;)


william e emba 3:06 PM  

HH Humphrey
JJ Astor
JJ Cole
JJ Jameson
KK Downing
KK Slider
VV Cephei

As the folks at Language Log are often fond of pointing out, White himself did not follow his advice.

sanfranman59 3:22 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)

Wed 9:09, 11:39, 0.78, 8%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 4:47, 5:44, 0.83, 11%, Easy

Anonymous 3:23 PM  

The Elements of Style: i've always bought every copy ive ever seen @ any yard sale, because i hate the idea of one being homeless, but On Writing Well-by Zinsser is pretty great.

Anonymous 3:24 PM  

@rex -- a little off topic....but just got your lovely thank-you note for my daughter's embroidered puzzle in the mail. Hana will be thrilled it arrived and will love all the comments. Yes, we're here faithfully doing the puzzle and checking the blog--but not on Saturdays, alas. (Takes us all weekend to do the Sunday puzzle.) Anyway, went back to Sat Nov 6th blog, and saw all the kind comments. You all give us much; we are pleased to be able to give a small token in return.

archaeoprof 3:42 PM  

I like this one, especially because it included my favorite show, NCIS.

Mike and Mike every morning, and NCIS reruns every evening.

@ChefWen: my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

claire 3:58 PM  

to no B.S.
Thank you, you made my day.

Michael Leddy 4:11 PM  

I'm not crazy about linking to my own stuff, but I'd suggest that anyone who's read Pullum's Chronicle piece read this post: Pullum on Strunk and White. There are reasonable criticisms to make of The Elements of Style (I've made many, elsewhere). Pullum though consistently distorts what the book says (as in his claim that Strunk and White want people to write without adjectives and adverbs, at all).

fergus 4:22 PM  

Our poet at 17 quickly made this puzzle come alive. I would love to hear a BB KING version of some of the poems, just spoken or set to whatever music he chose.

retired_chemist 4:56 PM  

To those complaining about the opera cross:

Go back and do some Maleska era puzzles. I bought such a book (Simon & Schuster collection, pub. 2001 and edited by Maleska, $2.95 in the bargain bin at Books-a-Million in Shreveport LA). The proper name crosses are rampant and the crosses with obscure words even more so. These are more or less Sunday puzzles, or at least Sunday-sized, but I have a harder time with them than with current Saturdays for the reasons above. Also crosswordese of a decade or more ago seems different from the current. Like learning a strange dialect, e.g. Lichtensteiner Deutsch.

shrub5 5:09 PM  

Fun puzzle. Like @efrex, I had AMAZON before LLBEAN which allowed ALPACA to fit nicely into 42D (LLAMAS.) This, plus not knowing the mean cross streets of the day LEILA/ELISIR, caused major time lost in the SW. And like @Rube, I put BACON on my Whopper before ONION.

@sfman re The Monkey's Paw: Title is familiar but I've never read it. PS thanks for the data gathering.

Rex Parker 5:37 PM  

@Michael Leddy,

Thank you so much for sharing your article, which I had not seen. It's beautifully written, and it has made me want to re(rerere)read S&W, if only to encounter more passages like this one, which you cite:

If you have received a letter inviting you to speak at the dedication of a new cat hospital, and you hate cats, your reply, declining the invitation, does not necessarily have to cover the full range of your emotions. You must make it clear that you will not attend, but you do not have to let fly at cats.

Sentences like that make me wonder how anyone in his/her right mind could see S&W as "Peevish." Writing that effortlessly clear and funny deserves a better adjective.

I've been grumbling in my head all day about Pullum and how I *wish* his claim that S&W is the "book that ate America's brain" (which he wrote, I believe, while insulting Justice Sotomayor for her own S&Wophilia) were true—how much better, how much much much better, the student writing I see on a daily basis would be. Students and I would be free to discuss the finer points of grammar that S&W might have oversimplified or gotten wrong (e.g. the split infinitive, the use of "which" in a restrictive clause, etc.), instead of dealing with far more remedial issues (most of which S&W address directly, succinctly, wittily, gracefully).

Again, thanks for sharing,

SethG 5:49 PM  

Never heard of the Monkey book. Vonnegut had a Monkey book and a Snuff Box book. I knew Encyclopedia Brown's first name, and I'm shocked, shocked that michaels was not impressed.

Speaking of EB, count me a Strunk & White fan. I don't use it prescriptively, but I try to read it every year or so. That and Pólya's How To Solve It, which I think doesn't have any maligners. I took the GMAT, but Rex has never met me.

For 15A, AMNIO...was not my first answer.

fergus 5:52 PM  

Rex -- we are kindred spirits on this issue of grammar, as well as on that of writing style. FF

fergus 5:58 PM  

Seth G,

You counter Rex so well, and Andrea and dk, it makes me wish to call on Wade or PG to challenge the Rex writing.


Martin 6:13 PM  

Barry Haldiman's Times puzzle page is a great source for "antique" Times crosswords. The "Litzmas" offerings are an especially rich trove. He lovingly "litzes" (converts to Litsoft AcrossLite format) a dozen or so old puzzles from his archive every December. He has been collecting them from library microfiches for years.

It's a great way to experience the weird old days. Start with Litzmas '99 (50 Years of Puzzles)if you think you can take it.

Glitch 6:51 PM  


From a wierd old days, before blogs perspective:

I started regular NYT solving near the end of the Margaret Farrar era. She was in at the beginning, eventually becoming editor, and is [anecdotally] credited for coming up with the black squares. She also came up with many conventions that define the NYT style.

Then Will Weng came along and started to change things. We hated his puzzles at first. After a while, however, we learned his slant, style, and "crosswordese", and all was well again.

Then Maleska arrived. Another approach to recognize, a new set of "crosswordese" to learn --- but eventually all was well again.

Now it's Will's turn. I'm amused at commenters with a couple of years under their belt calling for Will's dismissal (or worse) whenever they dislike an innovation. It will all work out in the long run. Just give the kid a chance. ;)

Not quite an antique (most days),


Rube 7:42 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rube 7:46 PM  

@Glitch, I too remember Geraldine Farrar from my days in NYC. Even did a few of her puzzles, although I was too busy integrating in the complex plane at the time. Her wiki entry is brief, but interesting. For you inquiring minds, she was the first NYT crossword puzzle editor, from 1942 to 1968.

Anonymous 8:56 PM  

Reading all these esoteric comments I am reminded of what me doctor said to me many, many years ago while giving me a physical for college. He said I would learn a little about a lot while going for my BA. After that if I went on for advanced degrees at each level I would learn a lot about little and eventually know an awful lot about very little. Not that I’m saying that’s true about anyone here....

Sfingi 10:42 PM  

Just left Hubster for his 2nd sleep study with CPAP, but I had to comment. This was chock full of good stuff. "With up so floating many bells down."

I have a huge short story collection, so I loved this - MUNRO and JACOBS. Both stories are classic for the genre. I'm surprised at how few collections exist in even college libraries. Some day I'll need to find the right place to donate mine.
I asked Hubster for 2 of the sports clues; got LEBRON myself.

STRUNK and White, I keep finding extra copies in my house. Never leave 2 together alone.

@Anon, Jesser - miss that Sicilian boy, Croce.

Took the 747 on my 1969 honeymoon to San Francisco; 2nd floor was a lounge. Those were the days.

I did some antique TV Guide puzzles I found in my mom's house - talk about proper nouns! And of long forgotten shows.

@Emba - thanx - I didn't have time to do that today. I'm relieved.

So, anyone here have the elixir?

Anonymous 11:36 PM  

Ever ready to jump into a fight I know nothing about, having no skin in the game, I read @Michael Leddy's blog, read some of Pullam's writings, went to a bookstore and browsed through STRUNT & White and came to the following conclusion.

Pullam posts here, regularly, as an anonymouse, performing such useful tasks as reading Rex's moderate, nuanced compaint about WWJACOBS, and then calls him an idiot for not knowing about "The Monkey's Paw". Hitting his stride, he then calls him an uncultured idiot (apparently, not knowing of The Monkey's Paw doesn't quite rise to the level of being uncultured) for not knowing off the top of his head the 20th most performed opera in America.

No BS 11:57 AM  

@ulrich: sorry, that was just an example sentence; I have no actual experience with ricotta-hunting. But your response suggests it was an "unforced sentence."

@Jax: Wow! Is Wikipedia kewl or what? Thanks for the research results

@Clair: you're welcome.

Anonymous 12:43 AM  

Do you all want some cheese with those whines?

Cary in Boulder 12:36 PM  

I'm a syndicated puzzler so no one will actually read this, but wanted to give a shout out to this blog anyway. Started doing xwords last month to hopefully stimulate my calcifying memory. Quickly got hooked on the NYT because of a) it's challenge -- I usually breeze thru M-W then hit the wall, and b) Rex and all the other erudite and humorous blogsters, especially aa michaels.

I enjoyed this one, even though it pretty much filled itself in for me. My musical tastes lean way more to BB King than L'Elisir, so that was where I finished up, too.

BTW, I've been an editor, writer and publisher. I have a copy of S&W still sitting unread on a shelf. Maybe I should reconsider.

Cary in Boulder 12:38 PM  

"It's challenge"? Obviously I've been ignoring that S&W for way too long. Its Its its.

Dirigonzo 7:49 PM  

I was totally prepared to hate this puzzle due to all the unfamiliar proper names when the theme came into view (thank you BBKING and LLBEAN. Managed to finish with only one error: LEIdA, (ala @mmorgan, without her good excuse). Oh, I just discovered I had GsATS for GMATS, so make that two errors. Still, had fun + learned something = good puzzle.

Dirigonzo 7:57 PM  

And I never read "The Monkey's Paw".

Waxy in Montreal 11:08 PM  

Not having heard of Mr. Strunk before, I somewhat-too-smartly assumed the theme answers could also include a TT RUNK (10D) so that became my personal Nattick along with TOLI (10A) which could easily be a specialized group of arias for all I know...

Anonymous 2:03 PM  

Also, puzzle #1111

Ties nicely to the theme.

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