Pioneering woman lawyer Bradwell / FRI 11-12-10 / Ancient resident Mexico's Cholula / Big C airer / Old NYC elevated operator / Newton alternative

Friday, November 12, 2010

Constructor: Barry C. Silk

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: TOLTEC (32A: Ancient resident of Mexico's Cholula) —

The Toltec culture is an archaeological Mesoamerican culture that dominated a state centered in Tula, Hidalgo in the early post-classic period of Mesoamerican chronology (ca 800-1000 CE). The later Aztec culture saw the Toltecs as their intellectual and cultural predecessors and described Toltec culture emanating from Tollan (Nahuatl for Tula) as the epitome of civilization, indeed in the Nahuatl language the word "Toltec" came to take on the meaning "artisan". The Aztec oral and pictographic tradition also described the history of the Toltec empire giving lists of rulers and their exploits. Among modern scholars it is a matter of debate whether the Aztec narratives of Toltec history should be given credence as descriptions of actual historical events. While all scholars acknowledge that there is a large mythological part of the narrative some maintain that by using a critical comparative method some level of historicity can be salvaged from the sources, whereas others maintain that continued analysis of the narratives as sources of actual history is futile and hinders access to actual knowledge of the culture of Tula, Hidalgo. Other controversy relating to the Toltecs include how best to understand reasons behind the perceived similarities in architecture and iconography between the archaeological site of Tula and the Maya site of Chichén Itzá - as of yet no consensus has emerged about the degree or direction of influence between the two sites. (wikipedia)
• • •

Streaky puzzle. Normal, easy, pretty rough for a while, and then easy again at the end. Lack of secluded areas kept me from getting terminally bogged down, esp. in the SE and on into the center-W, where I struggled the most. First scan of clues up top yielded nothing until I put in ALT (19A: What's gained after taking off: Abbr.), which revealed SOSA (1D: 1997-99 N.L. strikeout leader) and URAL right away. Took care of that NW section and then headed E thanks to a halfway decent knowledge of 20th-century pop music (the IKETTES (8D: 1960s R&B backup group, with "the"), "LET'S DANCE" (10D: 1983 #1 hit for David Bowie). Thought Ross Perot's birthplace might have been somewhere called TEXAS CITY, but that "S" wasn't working, and once I pulled it, things started moving again (starting with TEXARKANA).

Slight hold-up getting into the far NE. Had to work those long Downs from the bottom up, and couldn't do it until I realized that 39A: It's often in a sling was not GUN (as in GUN-slinger???), but GIN (great clue—"sling" here being a drink). Main problem in the SE was trying DUMDUM instead of TOMTOM at 53A: Monotonous beating sound, and then DUST MOP instead of DUST PAN, ugh (43D: Bunny collector?). Had DON and APE before ACT at 61D: Put-on. Figured 66A: Quartzite and such was some kind of -ORES (instead of SANDSTONES). No idea who MYRA Bradwell was (54D: Pioneering woman lawyer Bradwell). So it was a mess down there for a while. Started to dig myself out with ERLE, the only famous four-letter mystery writer I could think of from Ngaio Marsh's era (56D: Contemporary of Ngaio).

Once out of there, I poked around futilely for a bit, then took a risk on CONTAC (49A: TheraFlu alternative), which led to SCYTHE (46D: Means of splitting stalks?), and then the final quick push to the end was underway. Last letter into the grid: the "R" in OAR (36A: Backwash creator) / REC (37D: Sport, for short). Most of the difficulty today lay in clever cluing. Flat-out didn't know only a few answers, like MYRA and TOLTEC and HOWE (16A: "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" lyricist). The puzzle was mostly enjoyable: ALEXANDER I (29D: Grandson of Catherine the Great) is not that interesting, and OREO COOKIE (15A: Newton alternative), while valid, feels redundant, but otherwise the answers seemed pretty fresh and the cluing was tricky without being overly cute.

  • 1A: One "standing by the ocean's roar," in a 1963 song (SURFER GIRL) — could not place the lyric—got it once I got "SU-F..."

  • 27A: Division indicator (SLASH) — I wanted something way fancier, like, I don't know, OBERON? OBELISK? What's that think called? OBELI? Yeah, I think that's it.
  • 35A: Chronological threshold (EVE) — I had ERA. Stupid.
  • 44A: Fruit-ripening gas (ETHENE) — just made it up. It *felt* right. And was.
  • 46A: Crassus defeated him (SPARTACUS) — I always think of "SPARTACUS" as a fictional character, played by Kirk Douglas.

  • 3D: Robbed, old-style (REFT) — vaguely familiar, probably from Shakespeare.
  • 11D: Omega, to a physicist (OHM) — I love how crosswords can allow me to pretend like I know stuff (ETHENE, OHM ... look at me, I'm a scientician!)
  • 24D: Slot car controller (RHEOSTAT) — I have controlled slot cars before. I did not know the controller had such a fancy-sounding name.
  • 26D: With 45-Down, unisex topper (SKI / HAT) — "unisex" doesn't exactly say "ski," but I got it easily enough.
  • 33D: Maze full of dead ends? (CATACOMBS) — given the clue, I was looking for something-TOMBS.
  • 28D: Preparation that makes folks hot? (LOVE POTION) — nice clue. LOVE POTIONs are common in romance literature of the Middle Ages (most notably in the story of Tristan and Iseult).
  • 42D: Old N.Y.C. elevated operator (IRT) — Interborough Rapid Transit.
  • 62D: "The Big C" airer, briefly (SHO) — love Ms. Linney. Will watch this on DVD when it comes out.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


H Hefner 12:28 AM  

Racing along at a record pace, when it became clear that I wasn't the bunny collector, I just quit.

D_Blackwell 12:36 AM  

The grid was near pristine after the first full pass. Somehow though, the south just kind of crumbled away. IT'S NOTHING for MY PLEASURE was a problem for awhile. (NO PROBLEMO(A) fits also.)

A sad -1 in the end:(( Dropped down ETHANE and didn't see the HANGAR typ0. I'm lucky to finish one Friday in four, so it hurts to see one get away.

chefwen 1:32 AM  

This was a lot more fun than I had yesterday, that one just left me bloodied and bruised. Fess up to a a little Googling to get a toe hold, but once I did, everything just seemed to fall into place. Asked my husband to put his two cents in, but he was busy watching some obscure football game. Soon after that I shouted out, "never mind, I've got it". Really wanted ASS at 39A.

Thanks Mr. Silk for a great Friday solve.

Clark 2:10 AM  

@chefwen -- We're on the same wavelength. I put ASS in for 39A before I realized that it couldn't possibly be right. (We'd better not get Jesser started on this.)

@dk -- When I was puzzling over ‘Preparation that makes folks hot?’ I remembered that you had said something the other day, I couldn’t remember what exactly, but --- the answer LOVE POTION came to me. I just went and looked it up. You said, two days ago, “Just whippin up a patch of elisir d'amore #9.” So thanks for that.

jae 4:05 AM  

This one had me at (a gimme for me) SURFERGIRL. Nice puzzle! Only real problem was EXO then ECO until ECT finally fell into place. So, this was on the easy side for me. That said, I made the same typo error as D_Blackwell and needed a spell check from my bride to correct it.

andrea i'm spartacus michaels 4:11 AM  

how do physicians meditate?

I just made that up to amuse me and not feel bad that I put in PSI then CHI first...

My Tinkers to Evers to Chance on this puzzle was thinking 27A. "Division indicator" was cLASs to cLASH to SLASH.

Turning BRAINstorm into BRAINCHILD also took half the length of the Elvis gospel special I was watching while solving...
(According to this show I stumbled across, all three of his Grammys for best album were all gospel, not rock and roll!)

As for rock and roll, I'm going to learn that IKETTES dance and start every morning doing it with (my cats!)

Thanks for that video...and the LETSDANCE. Just last night I had to explain to the 22-yr-olds across the hall who David Bowie was (and that he had a son named Zowie who changed his name to Joey and how he was married to Iman, despite sort of hangin' with Mick...) it all made me feel like I was 103!

Leslie 8:13 AM  

I love how crosswords can allow me to pretend like I know stuff (ETHENE, OHM ... look at me, I'm a scientician!)

Lov. ing. this.

I thought I was going to sail through this, since I filled in SURFER GIRL immediately. Lots of it was mercifully easy for me, but boy, did I slow to a crawl in other places. SLASH did not want to appear. STADT, ditto. But all in all, this one was (for once) right in my wheelhouse.

Matthew G. 8:30 AM  

Deliberately took a little longer to break into this one because I really wanted to remember SURFER GIRL without any crosses, and I eventually did.

Didn't know RHEOSTAT, so that area was a nightmare. My other big problem was that in the SE I had BRAINstorm instead of BRAINCHILD for a long time, and I still think the former fits the clue significantly better than the latter — "brainstorm" is the birth of a notion and "brainchild" is someone's notion that has already been born (i.e., is past the moment of birth).

Should have gotten SOSA much faster than I did, but wasted a lot of time trying to think of the _pitching_ leader in strikeouts rather than the batting leader, and driving myself crazy with my (correct) recollection that there were no good pitchers of that era with four-letter names starting with S.

With the exception of RHEOSTAT, I thought this one skewed easy for a Friday, mainly on the basis that I actually finished it without taking all weekend to agonize over a few areas. But then, I personally tend to do better with puzzles where the difficulty is in the cluing, as Rex points out is the case here, than in there being lots of you-know-it-or-you-don't words. I'm pretty good at lateral thinking, not so good at remembering a gajillion celebrity names. So this was my kind of puzzle.

retired_chemist 8:37 AM  

Medium side of medium-challenging here. Don't know my time b/c I did the puzzle late at night and fell asleep for 2-5 minutes.

Liked it a lot. Some of the same solving experiences as Rex, e.g. ALT -> SOSA, DUST??? (mine was MOP, then RAG), and GUN before GIN. Also guessed MARY before MYRA @ 54D and BRAINSTORM before BRAINCHILD @ 64A.

BIG slowdown was the NW. Had EXO @ 5D, resisted RILE for a long time @ 9D (don't know why, except that it seems like there ought to be a better answer), needed 6 letters before IKETTES seemed probable, and did not know SURFER GIRL (readily inferrable, except for the aformentioned sleepiness). Mr. Happy Pencil had to wait for a while this time.

Wanted ETHYLENE (didn't fit) before ETHENE. The latter is the correct IUPAC name we teach sophomores and rarely use again. SANDSTONE is the precursor to quartzite, not really a synonym for it. Any geochemists out there to confirm or educate me?

IMO a typical Barry Silk Friday, which to me always means a fun solve. Thanks, Mr. Silk.

quilter1 8:40 AM  

Filled in the SW first then worked my way up. Also remembered SURFERGIRL and LETSDANCE and felt surprised that I did. Gin in a sling brought back memories of a trip to Malaysia for a wedding and and a Singapore side trip going to Raffles Hotel's Long Bar for Singapore Slings. My 70-something mom had two. She then had a very good time in the gift shop. Ah, the joys of travel.

PuzzleNut 8:54 AM  

Good Friday puzzle. Finished with the ETHaNE error that others have mentioned.
Tried DUSTers, DUSTrAg and finally DUSTPAN. Also slowed down by BRAINstorm and SoNatA.
Unlike Rex and others, the music clues were my slow areas, but RHEOSTAT fell quickly, as did TOLTEC. The whole W SW filled itself in, but the rest was just challenging enough to be fun.

mitchs 9:01 AM  

Everything I could ask for in a Friday. Very similar solve to Rex's if you spot me about 20 more minutes.

No happy pencil - I thought it would be the T in Tortec - it was the A hangAr.

David L 9:07 AM  

ETHENE was my entry point -- because I'm a scientistical kind of a guy. And then got RHEOSTAT from the RH, despite having no idea what a slot car is (or rather, I probably would know if I saw one, but I guess I might call it something else).

Agree that BRAINSTORM works for the clue and BRAINCHILD really doesn't. All in all, steady going and a decent mediumish time.

One other quibble: TOMTOM is the name of a certain kind of drum, but I don't think I would use it for the sound (even though, now I think of it, I suppose tomtom is onomatapeic). OK, forget it.

jesser 9:22 AM  

@ Clark: You fonny! :-)

@ Rex: Thanks for the Bowie video. I remember when you couldn't turn on MTV without seeing that one within any given 20-minute window. I still love the song.

The puzzle? Oh, yeah. I did really well with this one. Only writeover was the ETHaNE boondoggle that has been mentioned. Slowest area was the California coast, but it eventually emerged in a series of little aha moments that make me love crosswords.

I feel like I have more to say, but I can't think of what it might be. The child in my brain is quiet this day.

And now, on to the weekend!

Blecome! (Out of deference to Clark, I'll leave this one alone) -- jesser, grinnin'

mmorgan 9:24 AM  

I had the opposite experience of Rex (he said "easy, pretty rough for a while, and then easy again at the end").

I started out pretty much stumped by the entire top ... and then I got the entire bottom fairly quickly (from SLASH and TEXARKANA on down, though I had ETHaNE and GuN)... and then I continued to remaine completely stumped by the top (only had ALT)!

Waaaah. Sometimes Fridays are Very Bad Days.


metamorphic petrologist 9:29 AM  

Retired chemist is correct - quartzite is a metamorphic rock, after sandstone (although quartz arenite is called quartzite by some).

fikink 9:30 AM  

@Rex, I was right behind you with DUSTmop, "don" and "ape" before ACT, and "gun" before GIN, thinking of gun-slingers also. Prior to that, "ass" did cross my mind, @chefwen, @clark.

@clark, too cool about @dk clueing you into LOVE POTION.

@Andrea Spartacus, how do narcissists meditate? MMMEEEEEEEEEEEE

@Leslie, yes, the scientician is priceless, (imo).

Fun, thinking puzzle that was much more enjoyable than yesterday's tortured challenge (imo) Thanks, Barry Silk!

Smitty 9:30 AM  

@Rex said " I love how crosswords can allow me to pretend like I know stuff "

So true - I loved this puzzle, very clean and tight and everything a Friday puzzle should be.

I did know Ethylene from writing a video on hypobaric Storage containers, but Ethene is another form of the same word.

Mr. Ed 9:30 AM  

I read 29d quickly and thought it read "Top of Catherine the Great."

Van55 9:31 AM  

Pretty gnarly for a Silk entry. I struggled all over the place. Also ended up with the COATHANGaR typographical error, so no happy pencil for me.

25 proper nouns in this one by my count. Same as Wednesday if you subtract the theme entries from it.

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

First I had very little, then I started rolling, but I finally stalled in the top right. What got me was that I had DSTS for OCTS, which led me to put in SUITHANGER instead of COATHANGER.

chefbea 9:52 AM  

Tough puzzle DNF

Loved bunny collector

joho 10:01 AM  

Very rarely do I start off on a Friday so easily with SURFERGIRL/LETSDANCE. That set the tempo for me. I did bog down at TOLTEC but got RHEOSTAT (which I still don't understand as a slot car controller) and then everything just fell into place.

Thank you, Barry Silk, for a fun, fun Friday!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:13 AM  

Forty-five minutes well-spent; nice Friday puzzle.

I particularly liked how 26 D and 45 D stood on top of one another to spell out SKI HAT.

But, I am crestfallen: One more hand up for ETHANE instead of ETHENE.

fikink 10:14 AM  

Isn't a RHEOSTAT just the same thing you put on light switches to dim or raise the light in the room. Do they just control the amps or the electrical current?
C'mon you electricians out there!
Doesn't the RHEOSTAT in this case just control the current to the car and therefore the speed at which it travels in the slot?

archaeoprof 10:16 AM  

Fun, fun, fun. SURFERGIRL, OREOCOOKIE, and "slot car controller" took me back ... way back.

Choo Choo Charlie 10:31 AM  

Actually, slot cars work off of variable transformers, which produce variable voltage, while RHEOSTATs produce variable current. You have a RHEOSTAT on your dimmable lights, a variable transformer to operate your slot cars or electric trains.

Unless there's some more specific, and arcane, info out there, this seems to be a major boo boo.

fikink 10:40 AM  

So, @ChooChoo, should this have been caught by Will and his team? Is the clue and fill wrong, technically? Or can "rheostat" be used generically to indicate a TOOL to "vary" anything?

Get my drift?

(variable lucidity going on over here)

foodie 10:42 AM  

Really a gorgeous puzzle with minimal crosswordese and a great deal to learn from.

I loved seeing CATACOMBS and its gruesome cluing!

I have established a new protocol for an intermediate level of cheating on Fridays and Saturdays (I know some of you are purists and think cheating is binary. I respect that. But yours truly has a scale that is getting refined and honed within an inch of its life). It requires no googling, no sneaking looks at Rex's solution, not asking Mr. Happy Pencil to reveal info. Just Checking. Taking a stab and checking to see if it is correct or incorrect. Checking a single letter is best. But if desperate, check the whole answer.

Protocol in hand, I finished in good time and was rewarded by the non-judgmental Mr. Happy Pencil.

Lindsay 10:46 AM  

Unlike most of you, I found the NW to be the most difficult sector. First off, I couldn't get Puff the Magic Dragon out of my head for 1 across. I mean, he lived by the sea, didn't he? In the '60s? Then, the only latish Bowie song that came to mind was "China Doll" which fits, though I'm pleased to report I didn't actually write it in.

Had "tattoo" for the monotonous beating sound at 53A, and fell into the dust/mop/rag trap.

But got it all straightened around OK.

The Bard 10:49 AM  

The Comedy of Errors > Act I, scene I

AEGEON: My youngest boy, and yet my eldest care,
At eighteen years became inquisitive
After his brother: and importuned me
That his attendant--so his case was like,
Reft of his brother, but retain'd his name--
Might bear him company in the quest of him:
Whom whilst I labour'd of a love to see,
I hazarded the loss of whom I loved.
Five summers have I spent in furthest Greece,
Roaming clean through the bounds of Asia,
And, coasting homeward, came to Ephesus;
Hopeless to find, yet loath to leave unsought
Or that or any place that harbours men.
But here must end the story of my life;
And happy were I in my timely death,
Could all my travels warrant me they live.

Masked and Anonymous 10:53 AM  

Easy peasy today. Waltzed right in at SURFERGIRL and kept on trucking. Well-crafted puz.

David 10:56 AM  

Does anyone else find a flawed inconsistency in the clues 63A (Division del dia) and 50A (Nuernberg or Neu-Ulm)? Using the conjunction "oder" (German for "or") for the latter would have been truer to form, I think.

As for slot car controllers, which I too recall fondly from my youth, I don't think they were ever referred to as rheostats, per se, Rex. But the technical term for any device that variably regulates electric current -- i.e., a light dimmer -- is a rheostat, and it's owing to one of them that we kids were able to throttle up on those straightaways.

As Silk constructions go, this one went down easier than most (it being only 7:40 AM on the West Coast).

Jim 10:59 AM  

Loved my British automobile namesake in the puzzle today. First time I've seen it in a puzzle. Embarrassed I couldn't get it w/o some help.

I don't share the complaint voiced about 64A. My problem with BRAINCHILD is the '?'. Threw me off. Would rather a straight clue.

Had NOBIGTHING and UMP and PLAYBOY, so most of south was wretched. CREST personifies my problem w Fri and Sat -- very little is straightforward. Peak--of course! Aargh! C'mon baby, gimme somethin'!

And since I can never let a Simpsons reference go un-commented upon, from that same scene in 'Lisa the vegetarian' with the great Phil Hartman:

Jimmy: "Mr McClure, I have a CRAZY friend who says it's wrong to eat meat. Is he crazy?"

Troy McClure: "Nooo...just ignorant! You see, your crazy friend has never heard of the FOOD CHAIN..."

Aaahh, rest in peace, friend.

Two Ponies 11:03 AM  

It seemed to take forever to get any firm toehold but once I did it was a very satisfying puzzle.
My first guess was catacombs.
Like @ Clark I remembered @ dk's love potion sign-off with a grin.
Also like @ Lindsay I could not get Puff out of my head for 1A.
Nice long stacks with little to none crap. Even the Roman numeral had a clever clue (for once).

Two Ponies 11:06 AM  

Oh, I forgot to add that I was thrown off by the ? in the choir practice clue. Singing seems as straightforward as you can get.

fikink 11:12 AM  

@The Bard, and let us not forget the word "bereft," the past participle of "bereaved."

@TwoPonies, my sentiments exactly on SINGING. I don't get the question mark. Anyone?

Best I go to the store and quit conversing where one should just post. I have my Blackberry with me and look forward to your ongoing discussions of RHEOSTATS, REFT and SINGING - huh?

retired_chemist 11:15 AM  


@ ChooChoo & Fikink -

A rheostat is defined in wiktionary to be a variable resistor, which means it controls voltage. But dimmer is given as a synonym, so (agreeing with @David) I think in common usage it can mean either. I think "rheostats" on home lights are actually solid state devices.

@ Smitty - ETHYLENE is the so-called common name for the compound, while ETHENE is the name used in the systematic (IUPAC) nomenclature we have to have so that its chemical derivatives can themselves have a systematic name. All organic chemists will dig ETHENE, while most physical chemists (or anyone who doesn't use systematic organic nomenclature regularly) will have forgotten it immediately after their organic final. {/pedantry}

Shamik 11:22 AM  

Found this one to be on the easy side of easy-medium. But a lot of fun fill.

@Rex: You can catch "The Big C" episodes now on the Showtime website....maybe find a way to plug your computer into your 60" plasma screen? I'd never heard of it, but loved the clip so Googled it AFTER finishing the puzzle. Sounds like a watcher...and there found episodes of Dexter. No longer waiting for Netflix to deliver Dexter. Woohoooo! You have made my day.

Surgery on busted ankle on Monday.

Lookup Guy 11:43 AM  

It is a common PRACTICE, every Friday, for the choir to PRACTICE Sunday's hymns.

Definitions of practice on the Web:

•carry out or practice; as of jobs and professions; "practice law"
•a customary way of operation or behavior; "it is their practice to give annual raises"; "they changed their dietary pattern"
•drill: learn by repetition; "We drilled French verbs every day"; "Pianists practice scales"
•exercise: systematic training by multiple repetitions; "practice makes perfect"
•rehearse: engage in a rehearsal (of)

Martin 11:43 AM  


You want to really earn that {pedantry} tag? Tell a welder he's using ethyne.

Speaking of which, I love this picture of early butt welding. It turns out I had it all wrong.

JaxInL.A. 11:43 AM  

I had all the problems noted above, except one.
Myra  opened the door to this puzzle for me (that expensive law degree comes in handy sometimes).  I commend her to your acquaintance. 

Mrs. Bradwell was a civic leader in the Chicago area, fighting for better health and sanitation for the poor, for women's rights, and for improvements in the nightmare working conditions of the railroads.  She had married a smart and progressive man who encouraged her to join him when he studied law.  He was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1855, but when Myra passed the bar exam a few years later, they refused to admit her. She fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but they essentially agreed with the Illinois Supreme Court: "[T]he paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator." Bradwell v. State, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 130 (1873).  Ugh.

Myra cared about the law, though, and so in the absence of the ability to practice she became the founder and editor-in-chief of the Chicago Legal News, the most widely circulated legal newspaper in the United States in the latter part of the 19th century, offering information about court opinions, laws, and court ordinances. She supported women's suffrage reforms, efforts to gain employment for women, railroad regulation, and improvement of court systems. She assisted in writing the Illinois Married Women’s Property Act of 1861 and the Earnings Act of 1869 which had the revolutionary effect of giving married women control over their own earnings and property. At that time both the woman herself and any property she had automatically became property of her husband. Did you get that part about the woman being property? 

In 1872, the Illinois legislature passed a law saying that gender could not prevent a person from joining a profession (except the military). In 1890, Mrs. Bradwell was finally admitted to the Illinois Bar and in 1892 she received her license to practice before the United States Supreme Court. She died of cancer in 1894.

She's one of my heroines. Thanks for including here in the puzzle, Mr. Silk! 

retired_chemist 11:59 AM  

@ Martin - LOL.

SethG 12:04 PM  

I had ERA. I had gun for a long time, had DON and APE before ACT, had -ORES, dug myself out with ERLE, risked CONTAC, and the "R" was my last letter.

I also had NOWHERE MAN for a while in 1A. I was pretty sure of SOSA and URAL, but the xxxxERxxxx worked, the era worked, and the lyric seemed possible...

JaxInL.A. 12:21 PM  

Hey, captcha = bilbo. Love him.

JaxInL.A. 12:30 PM  

Just read the tail of yesterday's comments and saw @foodie's plight with rotating the iPad (funny to picture).

As a fellow iPad solver, it's even easier to stop that rotating than going to settings. That tiny black round thing next to the volume control locks and unlocks the screen rotation. Slide it one way and a little orange dot will show that the screen rotation is locked. Slide it the other way and you can spin and play Rolando to your heart's content.

Hope that helps.

Pedantress 12:36 PM  

@ Lookup Guy, Okay. But even the other meaning of practice doesn't really make the ? necessary. I mean, what else does a choir do or practice? Standing on risers? Making sure your robe is on straight? No big deal but thanks anyway.

chaos1 12:40 PM  

Wow! Anytime I can do a Barry Silk Friday this quick, makes me ecstatic. I thought for sure that Rex would rate this easy, but I guess it was just an " In My Wheelhouse " thing.

SURFERGIRL just flew off the page at me, and SOSA followed immediately. As soon as I had the K in COOKIE, IKETTES went in. Got TEXARKANA from the X at 31D, and then it was pretty much off to the races.

The SE went almost as quickly, nailing 55, 56, 57 and 62D right away. I too, had DUSTMOP at first, but that resolved itself quickly.

Struggled in the SW for a bit. Had EASY at 58A and YES at 59D. Shoulda paid more attention to the question mark at 58A. Finally filled in the last square and WTF?
No Mr. Happy Pencil ! O.K. Where's the spelling error ? Ahh, I wanted to put that TWINENGINE in it's HANGAR, but not my shirt. Damn, still no Happy Pencil ! Finally realized that SLASH worked just as well as CLASH. Voila ! Those glitches shaved about three minutes off what was already an excellent personal time.

The music clues were definitely the reason I broke this puzzle open so fast. That, and a few obscurities that I extracted from the inner recesses of my hippocampus. Namely, TOLTEC and ERLE off Ngaio.

This song brings back a lot of memories from my misspent youth. I was trying to remember which of my teen-age queens to associate it with. LOL.

quilter1 1:08 PM  

@Shamik, voice of experience says once the cast is off good therapy is to do flights of *shallow* stairs. Good luck Monday, yay for morphine.

stix2metunesmiffin 1:30 PM  

TOM TOM does NOT get a pass! David L your first instinct is correct. It is a Drum, one of several found on a standard rock or jazz drum kit. For this clue to work the answer would have to have a few more TOMs. And why not just stick with our GPS theme when cluing this this one?!

Alexander I was a gimme for me, and if Alexander II was more like his old man we may still have Tsars today, maybe eve Czars.

Catacombs was my moment of zen for the day!

Roger Goodell 2:35 PM  

chefwen, more than 175 million fans have watched at least one NFL game this year, and the 14 most-watched shows on television this season are football games. So which one of you has an obscure hobby?

Shamik 2:45 PM  

@quilter1: Thanks for the good wishes and advice. Both are appreciated.

I love our subculture where we can be fans of both football and crosswords or only one of them. I'll let you guess whether it's one or both for me. Hint: I'm #3 in my fantasy league.

PlantieBea 3:01 PM  

Well this one was a challenge to get started, but then became fairly smooth sailing once the luffing period ended. Loved that dust pan once the mop was eliminated. I appreciate the range of answers and cluing without throwing in overly obscure junk fill. Thanks Barry Silk.

foodie 3:01 PM  

When I was fessing up to my embarrassing moment yesterday, I did not imagine that any good would come of it. But beyond amusing some of you, I learned something! Two things in fact, about how to shut off the rotation feature on the iPad screen!! Very cool! Thank you @retired chemist and @JaxinLA!

@Pedantress, I too pondered that ? mark. I'm guessing that sometimes it's meant to indicate a double meaning- that this is something the choir does to practice and that it is something it does as a routine. But I think it would have been better without, because its very literal nature is a sort of misdirection...

chefwen 3:18 PM  

@Roger Goodell - If it's not the Badgers kicking some Ohio State butt or the Packers sending Dallas home with their tails between their legs, it's obscure to me, in my not so humble opinion.

@Shamik - Best of luck on Monday

Shamik 3:37 PM  

Thanks, Chefwen.

@Rex: Sorry about sending you to the Showtime website to watch full episodes. Seems it was only clips. And that's after I returned my Dexter disc to Netflix after seeing only 1 episode. Dang.

Three and out.

sanfranman59 4:24 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 24:01, 26:17, 0.91, 33%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Fri 13:10, 12:50, 1.03, 61%, Medium-Challenging

chaos1 4:24 PM  

Where to start ? So much interaction on the blog today. I'm an electrician, but we've already beat the RHEOSTAT thing to death. Likewise the SANDSTONE thing, and I know nothing about rocks unless you count diamonds but never thought of crack cocaine?

@H Hefner 12:28 A.M.--- I desperately wanted to plug that name in there. Having worked for Playboy between December of 71 and March of 73, I thought it was the perfect clue. After falling one letter short, I settled for DUSTMOP and then DUSTRAG, before accepting DUSTPAN. Boring !

chefwen @ 1:32 A.M --- I too, wanted ASS at 39A, but soon remembered that I was at the NYT website, as opposed to B.E.Q.'s. Various SLINGS were popular circa 1940-50, but the " Singapore " is the only one that has maintained a modicum of popularity.

Andrea WOTD Michaels @ 4:11 A.M.-- I'm impressed ! I too, though the clue was baseball related.

These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double –
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

You never cease to amaze me Lady !

Mr.Ed said @ 9:30 A.M.--- I read 29d quickly and thought it read "Top of Catherine the Great." So, am I to surmise that your fantasies include viewing her from that perspective ?

Foodie @ 10:42 A.M.--- I'll cut you some slack on your new protocol, vis-a-vis trying to hone the parameters of what constitutes cheating. Checking a letter or a word is O.K. if you're 99% positive that you are correct. However, if the check corrects an error, you have to accept a total fail. That's only if you see things in total black and white as I do. Different people have different personal standards. Almost is very good, but almost is not perfect, and I think that's what everyone should strive for ?

Shamik @ 11:22 A.M.--- Hang in there buddy. I have two plates and seven screws in my ankle. A by-product of my never ending passion for motorcycles. The main thing, is to follow your physical therapy rehab rigorously. 85% is not good enough ! You must work through the pain until you're 100%. Otherwise, you will pay for it down the road. It just depends on how old you are, and what you're willing to consider as acceptable.

Martin @ 11:43 A.M.-- Early Butt Welding ? Do they perform that shortly after circumcision ? You crack me up ! Bad pun!

JaxinL.A. @ 11:43-- Very informative post. Thanx !

Since my typing skills resemble Archie's, with Mehitable looking on, I often find that many posts go up between the time I start mine, and finish it. I've spent an hour on this one. I'm sure others have the same problem. Being recently retired, I have way too much free time on my hands. It doesn't help when it's raining. Please excuse my rambling. Just bored!

Fun with numbers 4:56 PM  

@Roger Goodell

While 175 million might seem impressive,

There are about 115 million tv "households" [Nielsen 8/2010] and the average NFL game is up to about 24 million viewers, and assuming only 1 viewer per household, 80% of the households are NOT watching the game ;)

(Not that a 20 share isn't a terrific rating)


Roger Goodell 5:10 PM  

I didn't count them, Nielsen did. Turns out, unique viewers is one of their metrics...

Sure, not everyone is a fan. But to call a game obscure I think says more about a commenter's opinion of football than it does about the game's obscurity. I'm just commenting on the value judgment implicit in the statement.

Ewan 5:22 PM  

Excellent Friday puzzle from Mr. Silk. I sure thought I was well on my way when I put in "China Girl" for the David Bowie song. What a gimme and it fit so perfectly!....but still wrong. Finally started making headway after accepting defeat and taking it out.

Fun with numbers 5:37 PM  

@Roger Goodell

Got my numbers from Nielson too. They can probably count me as one of those unique viewers as I have been know to watch the end of a game that runs past its scheduled time (waiting for what I really want to watch). ;)

FWIW, I took @chefwen's comments as the particular game being obscure, not the sport.


Roger Goodell 5:52 PM  

Right, and over 5 million watched the game she's talking about. Mostly on the NFL Network, which is only received in about half of tv households.

The sport is not obscure, and the game was not obscure. She just doesn't like it.

Three and out.

Sparky 6:20 PM  

I, too, had puffdragon as 1A. Brother of Ollie Dragon, no? Winkled it out with downs. Arm for 39A then erased. The NE terrible. End for 11D, ests for 11A, Saturn for 14D and didn't catch the two NNs at the end of 30A. Sigh. The rest I did okay. so finally came here. Very helpful. Amusing, too.
Well, I'm so late no one will see. I also am going into hospital Monday. Lung surgery. Serious but had the same thing two years ago and came out fine. I'll be in about five days. Will blog tmorrow and Sunday and then when I'm back home unless they have a computer there.
It's always something.

PlantieBea 6:34 PM  

Best wishes for a speedy recovery Sparky.

chefwen 6:34 PM  

@Sparky - Best of luck to you

@Roger - I REALLY do like football, it was just silly comment, I've spent the better part of my life watching it and other sports.

Shamik 6:39 PM  

@Sparky: Best of luck on your lung surgery on Monday. That's a biggie. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Thanks, Chaos. I plan to rehab it to the max. I'm 55 and a hiker and plan to continue hiking.

4th, but wishing someone well doesn't count.

Anonymous 7:07 PM  

I don't know why I do this. I did it before and after golf today. I felt totally lost at first. I felt like Sgt. Schultz -- I knew nothing. But square by square, clue by clue, word by word, area by area I slogged my way through, like my golf, and every clue was a mystery and every word filled an achievement and finally Peter I/Nicholas II became Alexander I. Eventually Mr. Happy Pencil (who looks remarkably like Mr. Peanut) flashed his catty smile and I did it all with no help, but no gratification, just exhaustion....

mac 7:51 PM  

Very good Friday, but tough for me. Slash: I started with colon and comma. Dustpan: Hef(f)ner and Hustler. Ores before stones.

Nobody thought about an arm in a sling?

Sosa, singing and foe were so easy that I was afraid to write them down. I was sure 18A was baseball related, or otherwise about Philadelphia. Maybe it is.

@David: I had the same thought about "oder". Where's Ulrich?

Smitty 7:52 PM  

@retired Chemist, thanks for the clarification. It took me months to figure out what Ethylene was,and now I find out I didn't even get the name right!

I bet Chiquita Banana didn't have to learn all this stuff

retired_chemist 7:54 PM  

@ Anon 7:07 PM -

You did well, grasshopper. Be pleased with your accomplishment. It bodes well for the future.

joho 8:24 PM  

@Shamik and @Sparky ... I wish you both the best on this coming Monday and look forward to your comments appearing here very soon!

chefbea 8:41 PM  

@shamik and @sparky good luck and look forward to seeing you soon. Big bunches of you know what to you both.

Anonymous 8:48 PM  

I've read all the crap about RHEOSTAT, one of the words I knew but didn't know. It is painfully, oh so painfully, obvious to me that none of youse people ever played with a Lionel train set as a child. The transformer had the same effect on the train when I was 6 as the rheostat in my light switch had on my chandalier lights when I was 40. So I don't know a rheostat from a transformer other than they do the same thing by controlling voltage because I was a child first and a homeowner later but let's not quibble....

@ Retired Chemist, I drink bourbon, not grasshoppers....

michael 8:49 PM  

A perfect Friday puzzle -- looked hard at the outset, but turned out to be quite doable with lots of nice fill and very little crosswordese. Good clues, too.

retired_chemist 8:53 PM  

@ anon 8:48 -

Bourbon is fine. But did you know about Global Zinfandel Day - Friday, Nov 19? Ridge Vineyards just informed me and I think this "it's 5 o'clock somewhere" crowd just ought to know that.

mac 9:10 PM  

@Sparky and Shamik: hope all goes well on Monday, and get back to the blog soon.

Anonymous 9:11 PM  

@retired_chemist, I have in my hallway a painting on driftwood of three parrots/macaws drinking Margharitas and "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" but on a Friday night after playing a round in chilly Chicago weather bourbon is better (I like the Alan Jackson version), and I made all the mistakes at first on this puzzle as everyone else has mentioned and more but bourbon quickly eases the pain of golf as well as the frustration of the puzzle....

Martin 9:28 PM  

I'm going to be traveling next Friday so I'm breaking out a bottle of Ridge Lytton Springs for dinner tonight. It's 71% zin, 22% petite sirah and 7% carignane. Sounds like a Global Zinfandel to me. Thanks for the headsup.

Hand-held slot car controllers are rheostats, aka potentiometers. A rheostat is a variable resistor that can control voltage or current, denpending on how it is used in a circuit. For slot car applications, they typically control a power transistor that varies the motor voltage. There is nothing wrong with the clue.

Rheostats would be very inefficient as light dimmers because they would generate a lot of heat when directly controlling a load. Light dimmers use solid-state devices called silicon-controlled rectifiers or triacs. These don't simply vary voltage (or current) but determine how much of the AC sine wave is allowed to conduct. By switching the power on and off every 60th of a second, SCRs or triacs vary power consumption by a fixed impedance very efficiently.

And yes, model trains use a variac or variable-ratio transformer to control voltage. It's too heavy to be held in the palm of a hand like slot car controllers, which is why they went to rheostats controlling a solid-state power supply.

Anonymous 9:53 PM  

@Martin, all that knowledge is impressive but when I was 6 I hed the freakin transformer in my hand and jammed the lever and watched the freakin train run off the tracks, but it was the chandalier light switch that made the light bulb go on for me when it came to the puzzle (or maybe it was that freaking furnace control, I don't remember anymore)....

Kendall 11:09 PM  

While it's true that I'm probably the youngest puzzle solver of anyone that visits this blog, and therefore probably have less of a qualified opinion, I didn't really love this one. First, as previously stated, BRAINCHILD? *Ugh* Second, ETHENE is technically the IUPAC correct word here, but I've never seen that used once before. It's always Ethylene instead. Lastly, and possibly the part that got me the most, was the use of the ?'s in inappropriate places. I mean, there's just no cute or clever way to think about choir practice other than singing. Oh well, overall it was enjoyable to finish, even if I did get a -1 for stupidly not getting TOLTEC.

Anonymous 9:45 AM  

Did anyone try BACKUP AL QB for Newton alternative?

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

Auburn. Make that BACKUP AU QB for Newton alternative.

Adam R 11:40 PM  

The word you're looking for is OBELUS, not OBERON or OBELISK.

NotalwaysrightBill 6:11 PM  

Syndicated paper solver.

Confidence builder puzzle for me today, which means that I wanted to Google an awful lot but resisted every time and finally finished without help.

SW was the first area to fall, thanks to knowing TOLTEC right off; the solve then slogged around counterclockwise.

I really wanted STRAWBERRY for "Newton alternative [to Fig];" and when that became obviously wrong, I kept trying to fit HYDROXIES in there somehow (with EXO crossing for "External: Prefix." Turns out I was trying to replace the original (the right answer, OREOCOOKIE) with the knockoff, Hydroxies.

Had ATE (instead of ICE) for awhile for "Put away," which gave me LETSDANtE for the Bowie song; and I could sort of imagine Bowie trying to get all Infernalized; but XII finally made more sense as a timepiece topper than XIA, so that sorted itself out OK.

Still not sure but what PMS doesn't fit the clue for 22A "Letters of discharge?" better than TNT. I think one discharges firearms (and many other things) but DETONATES TNT (nit of the day).

Loved the IKETTES vid.

Waxy in Montreal 10:25 PM  

Getting close to Christmas here on the syndicate so while I'm trying to come up with Bowie's #1 hit, the radio plays "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" by one of the oddest singing duets of all times - Bing Crosby and Mr. Bowie. Pairing them was somebody's brainchild for sure.

5 weeks and a day behind 1:03 PM  

Is it just me, or did anyone else put NYQUIL for "TheraFlu alternative"?

Also, "we" always called the slot car controller a Plunger. The housing was a round dealywad (I believe that's the technical term for it) with a copper wound "plunger" you pressed down to control the voltage to the car.

Dirigonzo 8:30 PM  

Ok, so this was a Friday puzzle and it's Saturday but I still want to take a (almost) victory lap for actually (almost) completing this one. I finished with ETHaNE as did so many others but the point is, I finished. When I started out yesterday the NW fell pretty quickly, then nothing. Picked away at it on and off today, until finally ALEXANDERI (my son's name, without the I) took me down to the SW and I was done. This puzzle had everything I love about crosswords, even if it took two days to (almost) complete!

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