Shipyard worker fired in 1976 / FRI 12-3-10 / Angel Cheryl / Powerful scent of real clean sloganeer / Oxymonoric chances / Game played dotted ball

Friday, December 3, 2010

Constructor: Matt Ginsberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: ALCHEMY (8D: 13-, 20-, 49- and 57-Across, commonly?) — word ladder going from LEAD to GOLD

Word of the Day: GOURDE (36D: Haitian currency) —

The gourde (French: [ɡuʁd]) or goud (Haitian Creole: [ɡud]) is the currency of Haiti. Its ISO 4217 code is HTG and it is divided into 100 centimes (French) or santim (Creole). (wikipedia)
• • •

Surely someone at the NYT should have remembered that this theme has been done before—just this past August! But then this is also kind of a themeless (just 70 words, very thin theme content), so ... I don't know. Feels betwixt and between, and for that reason, and despite the manifest greatness of BOLLIX UP (10D: Bungle) and THERMOPYLAE as answers (9D: Where Persia defeated Sparta in 480 B.C.), I didn't enjoy it much. Actually, as a themeless, it's not half bad. A bit on the easy side, but full of mostly interesting words. Had a weird lot of trouble getting started, but once I got going, had no real trouble. Obvious theme (helps when you've seen it before) made GOAD and GOLD super easy to pick up, and so I had toeholds all over the place on this one. I think I realized why I tend not to like Fridays of late—they seem to be the "overload on '?' clues" day. Always one (or more) too many of them. Just too cutesy for my tastes. At least today's are mostly terse and not strained. [Secretive group?] is probably my favorite (GLANDS), although HERMIT (which took me Forever to get) is also pretty good (25A: Definitely not a company man?). I'm oddly proud of getting SHOAT with no crosses (5D: Young hog). No one ever calls Spade a 'TEC in The Maltese Falcon, that I recall (35A: Spade, e.g., for short), so I wish people would stop using him in 'TEC clues.

Theme answers:
  • 13A: Sleuth's quest (LEAD)
  • 20A: Weight or freight (LOAD)
  • 49A: Pointed encouragement (GOAD)
  • 57A: What some hearts are made of (GOLD)

Just a few things I truly didn't know today. The A-TWO? Nope, not up on my Americanized spellings of German superhighways (1A: German superhighway connecting the Ruhr with Berlin). "GYPSY"? Heard of it, but know nothing about it: not its date, not any of its songs (36A: 1959 Broadway hit with the song "All I Need Is the Girl"). Had no idea a SQUASH ball was dotted (39D: Game played with a dotted ball). Otherwise, everything else in the grid is at least somewhat familiar to me (including GOURDE and HANSOM (43D: Victorian taxi), both learned from ghosts of crosswords past).

The clue on HARLEY (21A: Road hog?) gives us a nice "hog" mini-theme (along with clue on SHOAT, and then QUAHOG: 42A: Edible clam).

  • 26A: Endangered Arctic presence (SEA ICE) — "presence" is bugging me. It's a defensible use of the word, but ... I might have gone with "entity," for the alliterative clue if nothing else.
  • 38A: "The powerful scent of real clean" sloganeer (PINESOL) — Powerful is right. Headache-inducingly powerful.
  • 55A: Angel Cheryl (LADD) — Mmmm, softball. "Charlie's Angels" is one of my earliest TV memories (after "Electric Company" and "Mr. Rogers," of course).
  • 3D: Shipyard worker fired in 1976 (WALESA) — honestly wanted ROCKY here. Was he a shipyard worker? Was he fired? I know "Rocky" was 1976. Kind of funny when SLY showed up later in the grid (28D: Rocky, really).
  • 14D: Walking the dog and others (CHORES) — wanted (yo-yo) TRICKS.
  • 34D: Oxymoronic chances (EVEN ODDS) — Had ODDS. Put in EVEN, but because I had TIME NOR TIDE (?), EVEN looked wrong, so I took it out. Put it in. Took it out. Eventually changed NOR to AND (24D: They won't wait, in a phrase).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 12:33 AM  

Why is it that I loved this puzzle and not yesterday’s? The theme seemed familiar and was revealed early, so the theme was not the reason. It was the cluing and the answers. Cheryl Ladd brought back those memories when I worked in DC and watched reruns of Charlie’s Angels every afternoon on my Panasonic 4 inch screen in my office on Pennsylvania and 14th at 4. Then there was that January 13 (my younger son’s birthday) when the Metro had a bad crash and the Midway Airlines 737 jet went down into the Potomac after taking off at Washington National and the sirens were blaring all afternoon. Today DC would think it was under a terrorist attack. EVEN ODDS. Liked that one. Put right? UNLEFT (no); INSERT (no): INDENT (yes). Snake oil? PANACEA (no); CURE ALL (yes). Beach souvenir? CONCH, what we would find on the shores of the Outer Banks when I used to take my family there to surfboard and sun. TIME AND TIDE wait for no man (and woman, I suppose). QUAHOG. How did I remember that? Love clams, steamers as well as hard shells with linguine. THERMOPALAE, no, THERMOPYLAE, yes. KNIT 1, PURL 2, my mother would say. And GYPSY. Natalie Wood, so sad. NASH – does anyone know that the only car still around from American Motors is the Jeep? And my father drove a Hudson. Of course, we all knew what the NASH Rambler was really for. Maybe that’s why I loved this puzzle.

John the Banished....

David 12:45 AM  

Having never before encountered a "word ladder" in my years of doing crosswords, I rather enjoyed the progression. Perhaps it's that I just was never aware of them, for had you not pointed out this one, it too would have gone unnoticed!

D_Blackwell 12:53 AM  

They turned a negative into a positive spinning PINESOL. "It reeks something awful. Let's say that it's a good thing and make it a selling point."

I spent 20 minutes on HERMIT. I had BOLLUX UP, and was open to BOLLOX. I was lucky to nail this one down.

The mini-theme was okay. Strange week, what with the previous themed-but-not-really ones.

TRICKS for CHORES on "Walking the dog and others"

retired_chemist 1:10 AM  

I enjoyed it. An easy Friday. It wold have been my fastest Friday ever, except I had ALI @ 7D and checked the downs first. SHAA was obviously SHEA (5A), and finally Mr. Happy Pencil emerged. OK, ALI wasn't 2010 and it was Will Smith, not Denzel Washington, but it's late and I'm tired.....

Had LEAD and GOLD before LOAD and GOAD, so I put ELEMENT @ 8D and searched for other elements for 20A and 49A. Decided that wasn't going to work, and soon had the word ladder and the correct 8D.

Other writeovers: TELEPATHIC => TELEPHONIC (ugly word), UAW => NEA. Answers that were right the first time but I thought would be written over: QUAHOG, AMES, PURL.

Thanks, Mr. Ginsberg.

fikink 1:16 AM  

ah, yes PINESOL...reminds me of the old Windsong perfume commercials. "He can't get you out of his mind," or his car or his bed or the drapes.

Surprisingly got SHOATS, too, without crosses. Think it is al the 4-H Fairs I've covered.

Thought GLANDS and INDENT had the best clues and the puzzle overall pleased this (in spirit) ROSY WENCH.

@r_c, I had ALI for a while, too.

Solid, Matt!

Anonymous 1:26 AM  

I was just going to complain that it's unfair to expect me to spell BOLLIXUP right next to THERMOPYLAE when I realized I could could simply shout Ballocks! So I shall, BALLOCKS!

I too would likely have spent 20 minutes on HERMIT given that pile up but I'm just not that patient.

I skip M-W 1:29 AM  

@anonymous. I well remember that horrible, snowy day in DC, though I've never watched Charlie's Angels.
@retired-chemist I was stumped with mid-N too because of telepathic.
lava isn't rolling or stone, is it?
A-two? I agree with @Rex; it's a bad clue.
Otherwise enjoyable and not hard

chefwen 1:36 AM  

So glad to be home. Had to make a quick trip to the Midwest last week. When we left Lihue it was 82 degrees and when we landed at good old Billy Mitchell it was 22 degrees. Major shock to the blood thinned body. Stopped at Las Vegas on the way home to mix up the trip but I never did find those POTS of money. Bummer.

Loved yesterdays Joe Krozel puzzle and today's Matt Ginsbergs. Was totally bummed out about my ride home puzzle by young Caleb. Do not care for Mr. Allen or his movies and did not even try.

jae 1:51 AM  

My internet was down this afternoon so I didn't get to comment on yesterday's which I also liked (except for SE which was just mean) and was harder than this one. Only problems were NE spelling issues much like anon 1:26. I did briefly try CLUE for 13a. Nice Fri. but a bit on the easy side.

Clark 1:55 AM  

I had GOLD. Then ALCHEMY got me LEAD (that much about alchemy I know), which made LOAD and GOAD easy to see. I thought maybe the German highway was going to be the A-ZWO. ‘Zwo’ is some kind of dialect or informal version of ‘zwei’, but I’m not sure I’ve every seen it written. @Ulrich could say more about that. TWO was a bit of a disappointment.

Seemed like the SEA ICE was an endangered presence, that is, that the very presence of the ice is what is endangered. Since I’m working on Heidegger at this moment, it just seemed natural to think of presence as a being characteristic rather than a thing (ontological rather than ontic), but I’ll spare you any more thoughts down that path.

It isn’t often that I have a smooth solve like this on a Friday. So I liked it.

andrea cureall michaels 1:57 AM  

Welcome back. I do have to say, even if you don't like Woody ALlen, Young Caleb created a masterpiece with NINE theme answers, all long and good. It's worth doing. FOr me, since theme is everything, I'd do a whole puzzle on Hitler if there were nine theme answers in a 15 x 15 grid!

SO for theme, Yes, this theme felt familiar, but super helpful...
would not have gotten ALCHEMY otherwise, would have left it as TELEPHONed!

Dislike this spelling out of don't like A-TWO as I wasn't crazy about B-TWELVE the other day...but at 1A particularly tough.

SHEA my first entry, of course, and also got SHOAT without the crosses, except I put in STOAT. Isn't that also an animal?

(Yep, didn't need Look UP Guy, it's a short -tailed weasel...
hmmm, maybe a good trivia question.
Name three animals that end in O-A-T: SHOAT, STOAT, GOAT.)

Loved EVENODDS. Didn't know AMMETERS. Hand up for Yoyo tricks.

Matt, I bow to anyone who can put in THERMOPYLAE and not even blink!

Have never heard of ELI. Is Denzel playing the man who invented the cotton gin while at Yale?

Since I had put in toPSY for the musical, I had that the Haitians use tOURDEs as currency. Ick.

Falconer 3:14 AM  

Loved this one -- my fastest Friday of all time.

It just seemed to hum and was full of great words and hard clues. I am a sucker for a word ladder, and then throw in some classical history, college football, an Arctic clue, the awesome animated movie "Open Season," a lummox crossing a bollix, and it was a golden 15 minutes.

Nice work, Matt.

pauer 7:12 AM  

"Gypsy" is a "coming of stage" story about Gypsy Rose Lee, the striptease artist, though the leading role is actually her mother - a stage mother to end all stage mothers. It has one of the best Broadway scores ever written, IMO; Jule really outdid himself on that one.

Here's Patti Lupone with the end of Act I from the 2008 Tony Awards:

Anonymous 7:17 AM  

The autobahns in Germany are designated with A for autobahn and a number. The A5 goes from Basel past Frankfurt to Kirchheim. The A2 starts just west of Dortmund and ends near Potsdam.

Nancy in PA 7:17 AM  

This would have been a lot harder had I not just quizzed 9th grader on ancient Greece and relearned how to spell Thermopylae. Earlier in the week recent Bio review with 8th grader gave me Golgi body. And recent posting of oldest son in Mozambique helped me with Lake Nyala. Yay for kids.

Anonymous 7:34 AM  

More Neil...

Rex Parker 7:35 AM  


"I'd do a whole puzzle on Hitler if there were nine theme answers in a 15 x 15 grid!"

Best Andrea comment ever.

Also, thank you for bowing to me!


joho 8:23 AM  

Not knowing how to spell THERMOPoLAE I ended up with moPSY and mOURDE which isn't anywhere near as funny at tOURDE! LOL @andrea cureall!

With BOLLIXUP in place I briefly had iBex for IBAR.

I'm in with those who wanted tricks for "Walking the dog and others."

The theme helped me get LEAD, LOAD and ALCHEMY as the bottom of this puzzle sped by, the top not so much.

I liked it ... thanks, Matt!

Van55 8:39 AM  

Boring for me today.

16 proper names.

Matthew G. 8:40 AM  

I loved this puzzle. The theme was fun and no sweat, and everything outside the NE was in my wheelhouse. And even there, THERMOPYLAE (awesome) and LUMMOXES and HARLEY and the short fill went right in. I got bollixed up, however, by my wrongheaded absolute certainty that the phrase was spelled BOLLOX UP. That, and the fact that I've never heard of Tom HULCE, made HERMIT impossible to see. Also wasn't 100% certain that AMMETER was the word for the device that measures current, so I finished with two incorrect and two unfilled squares, all in the NE (my other error was PULL instead of PURL, a stitch with which I was unfamiliar).

I was also really thrown off because I was surprised that a word such as BOLLOX, as a variant of bollocks, would creep into the NYT puzzle, given its anatomical meaning. The Wikipedia entry for "bollocks" makes the entertaining claim that the word "bollix" is often used on the Flintstones and frequently misheard by British children as "bollocks." It then claims that "bollix" is not related to "bollocks" and not considered offensive in American usage. Maybe so, but speaking as an American, I didn't know it _had_ an American usage. Whether I hear "bollocks," "bollox," or "bollix," I assume the speaker is British (or Anglophilic) and referring at least metaphorically to testicles. And in any event, they are the same word --- Merriam-Webster states that "bollix" is derived as an alteration of "bollocks."

None of this, by the way, is meant as criticism of the puzzle, which was great. I just remain surprised that word crept in.

mitchs 8:40 AM  

@joho: both hands way up on MOPSY/MOURDE/THERMOPOLAE

mmorgan 8:46 AM  

Ackkk... all kinds of trouble. Had TELEpathIC for 16A, SHELL for CONCH, TIMEnorTIDE, BOLLoXUP (until I got HERMIT), ALI for ELI, and a virtual meltdown in the NE. Never heard of a SNOW PEA or SHOAT or GOURDE. To add insult to injury, it took me forever to get QUAHOG even though I'm utterly addicted to clams. (The horror...)

Finally had to give in and 'Reveal' my incorrect letters, which made "finishing" (so to speak) a breeze. I think I liked this one (especially stuff like EVENODDS and THERMOPYLAE), even though it beat me up.

@Rex, I hope you get to see Gypsy sometime (the show more than the film) -- it's terrific, innovative, groundbreaking, ahead of its time (mostly because of Sondheim).

David L 8:56 AM  

Unusually fast Friday for me -- helped that I got THERMOPYLAE immediately, and nothing else caused real problems. Well, except for the theme, which as usual I didn't understand until I'd finished the puzzle and pondered for a couple of moments.

18A prompts me to ask something that has long bothered me. Why is it that in crosswordland, the only trees capable of bestowing shade are ELMS? Where I live, there are lots of old oaks, and when they have their leaves on I like to park my car under one of them to keep the sun off. But how can that be? They're oaks, not elms, and yet somehow they prevent light from reaching the ground. Well, this is a great mystery. Perhaps one of the experts here can explain.

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

5A – SHEA Stadium: I awoke up this morning to the sad news that Ron Santo had died from complications of bladder cancer. He was a diabetic with both legs amputated from that disease. The broadcaster called Ron one of the best third basemen never to make the HOF. I remember too well the painful days of the season of 1969 when the relatively new Mets led by a young Nolan Ryan and a young Tom Seaver out of SHEA Stadium beat Leo Durocher’s Cubs with Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins. In recent years Santo was a Cubs broadcaster, always a Cubs “homer,” always a fan, always enthusiastic and never complaining about his health and never disclosing his bladder cancer. I’m sure these recent years under Lou Piniella painfully reminded him of that 1969 season. It did me. Well, Ron is gone, now free from the pain, free from the ache, free from his disappointments and free from having to endure another year when the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908. He might have been a hot dog to some, but he was in some respects more amazing than SHEA's 1969 Amazing Mets. He will be missed.

John the Banished....

Raider Nation 9:08 AM  

@David - You live in Oakland?

ArtLvr 9:08 AM  

I was following in Rex's missteps: TIME nor TIDE, yo-yo tricks before CHORES, and so on. I finally finished, but it was tough even starting with THERMOPYLAE and QUAHOG.

GYPSY, the Broadway hit, brings back memories of the superstar Ethel Merman (née Zimmermann). She was gypped out of the film role, but since Greene isn't chiming in today I recommend looking her up in Wikipedia. What a stupendous career!


Evgeny 9:18 AM  

here's my take again on the mention of the origin in the clue. "German superhighway connecting the Ruhr with Berlin" implies to me that the answer is in German ("AZWEI"). Of course, the right answer is obvious because of the four letters. Still, why not drop the "German" from the clue? what else would a superhighway connecting the Ruhr with Berlin be? French? Latvian?

Thermopylae was a gimme, mainly because of this bad-worse-worst of all Frank Miller adaptations, "300"

Overall, an easy Friday by my standards, i. e. finished without struggling. The theme really helped (@Rex was the use of "toeholds" in connection with a word ladder intentional? in that case - a deep bow from me as well!).

@ Nate: neither - v Germanii.

jesser 9:19 AM  

Years ago, at a party, my sister got up to go into the kitchen, and I -- being oh so funny -- shouted, "Serving WENCH! I need a beer!" Talk about your LEAD balloons.

Good puzzle. Like others, I love EVEN ODDS and OPEN SEASON. Great cluing!

Next week should be less hectic. One can hope.

Supedgen! (Of the age when soup was served MESSILY at school) -- jesser

jesser 9:21 AM  

One other thing. A nit. At 30D, I fail to see how a single STILT could help one make great strides, or do much of anything else. I suspect with just one, your best bet is kindling. Just sayin'.

dk 9:24 AM  

Fastest Friday in a long time! Random firings:

Isn't QUAHOG the town in Family Guy.
PINESOL = Memory of cross country bus trip.
SEAICE is a stretch
Son, at age 2, told all his friends - dad has a WENCH on his truck... I called her Cherl.

I would orate on TBARS again but EVENODDS some of my rants are boring.

**** (4 Stars) file under One Mans Meat -- fun fill and a very pleasant Friday morning. Thank you Matt.

imsdave 9:34 AM  

Nice to see a Wednesday puzzle with some teeth!

I liked this a lot, but felt a little cheated doing an NYT Friday in under ten minutes. I should never, ever, be a couple of minutes behind Orange on a Friday.

Loved the whole shebang, except for the difficulty level.

@pauer (and since Greene is missing) - "Gypsy" rules - tried to find a youtube with the original overture but failed. I won't post any of the ones I did find, but encourage folks to look for it. If you've heard it, you know that that's what the theatre is all about.

OldCarFudd 9:43 AM  

Perfect Friday. I looked at the whole NW quadrant and didn't know a damn thing. Then ditto the Great Lakes. I'd about decided to put the whole thing aside until this evening, when I found HOMO crossing AMMETER. Then I was off to the races, with nary a stumble. I also wanted (yo-yo) tricks for CHORES, but my only actual writeover was put down before PINDOWN. Great ? clues.

The late NASH Rambler may have been known for amorous extracurricular activities, but the ancestor of both Nash and Nash Rambler was - Rambler! It was a make of bicycle in the late 19th century, became a car in 1901, became the Jeffery in 1914 and the Nash in 1918. The reintroduction of the name Rambler was a return to the company's roots.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:43 AM  

Very nice if somewhat easy Friday, with a theme to boot.

Hardest part for me was 1 A; even after I filled it in it took me a while to parse correctly.

@Matthew G. - The role for which I remember Tom HULCE is as the star of "Amadeus," but if you haven't seen it that won't help either.

@David L - I guess the ELM is just stereotypically the crossword shade tree. I thought I might find some information online, but instead of a direct explanation, I can only offer the observation that "Elmshade" comes up 11,600 times on Google as a place or street name, so maybe there is something to it!

DB Geezer 9:46 AM  

When I played squash sixty years ago, the balls were smooth surfaced and black. No dots. Any answers on when they became dotted? Dotted in color, or in texture???

I get a big chcle out of some of the entries on this blog.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:48 AM  

. . . and OAKSHADE gets 318,000 hits on Google, so go figure!

David L 9:52 AM  

@DB Geezer: I stopped playing squash about 12 years ago -- bad hips! -- but the balls had little colored dots to indicate how fast they were. These were the international style soft squash balls, not the old north American hard balls. If if remember right, yellow dot was the standard and slowest ball, meaning that it was softest when cold and you had to whack it around some to get it warmed up so that it would bounce. We would give beginning players the red dot ball, which was more pressurized and therefore bouncier even when cold. The intermediates were green dot and white dot, I think, but I can't remember the order.

Tobias Duncan 9:55 AM  

@Andrea The Hitler puzzle made me stifle a spittake with my morning coffee,just was not ready for that.
I keep picturing his shadowy visage emblazoned in the grid Che Guevara style with two center squares blacked out to represent his little mustache.

Mel Ott 10:03 AM  

Nice friday puzzle despite the ho-hum word ladder. What's not to like when BOLLIX UP crosses LUMMOXES. I always thought BOLLIX might be a Yiddish word - guess not.

@Rex: Rocky was a legbreaker for the mob.

Kendall 10:04 AM  

First, I apologize yesterday for apparently upsetting people as I of course didn't mean to do that. As per today, maybe I'm just a bit of an odd person but I found this easier than the previous two puzzles.

@Rex, in case you hadn't looked it up the dots on the ball indicate how bouncy it is. To generalize, there are sort of two types of play, one with a "hard ball" and one with a "soft ball."

@dk Yes, that is the town in Family Guy

@Andrea I'm still laughing at the Hitler comment!

Der Swasher 10:05 AM  

Small coloured dots on the ball indicate its dynamic level (bounciness), and thus the standard of play for which it is suited. The recognized speed colours indicating the degree of dynamism are:

Colour Speed Bounce
Orange Super Slow Super Low
Double Yellow Slow Very Low
Yellow Slow Low
Green or White Medium/Slow Average
Red Medium High
Blue Fast Very High

mitchs 10:07 AM  

@jesser: let's say you've got one stilt. That second stilt is gonna help you make great strides.

Mel Ott 10:12 AM  

@Anon 9:07: I was at SHEA on Sept. 8, 1967 (or thereabouts) for Cubs-Mets. Bill(?) Hands, who had a reputation, hit Tommy Agee when he led off the home first. Ron Santo led off the top of the second and Koosman hit him with the first pitch while the crowd roared its approval.

Those were intense games between Durocher's Cubs and Hodges' Mets. In earlier days Leo had managed both the Dodgers & the Giants. We expected nothing less.

Santo was a fine player. Sorry to hear of his passing.

PlantieBea 10:17 AM  

Nice and easier Friday with some great entries. Would have gone down quicker had I not struggled with ALI and Cheryl TIEG/TEIG before remembering LADD. As for WENCH, I learned that word at the GORE Hotel in England where my father took me for a traditional (?) olde English feast. PINESOL, blech!!!

mmorowitz 10:25 AM  

If not for the unexpected spelling BOLLIX, and having TRICKS for CHORES in there for way to long, I'd have cruised through this one in record time. Those two really tripped me up.

mmorgan 10:25 AM  

Don't know nothin' 'bout trees, but I was going to suggest that "shady elm" is more commonly encountered than "shady oak."

But in terms of Google hits (with quotes), I get:

"shady elm" = 48,400

"shady oak" = 1,340,000

So mystery solved. Not.

Jim 10:25 AM  


Right. What Mitchs said: it MAY (i.e., if you have another one, it may).

Lingering ugliness on the east side, and a virtual abandonment of the west, since I couldn't get more of a toehold than ELSE and LEAD west of CHORES and PutDOWN. Oh well. Worked some more muscles and hopefully will continue to pay off in future.

Quick hits, then:

Quite lucky to remember a young Tom HULCE was in Animal House, as well as the aforementioned Amadeus. Always loved that guy and thought he should have been a major movie star longer than he was (MatthewG, I think you're around my age--early thirties. Since you don't know Tom HULCE by name, presumably you haven't seen Amadeus--could not recommend it more highly. You'll never forget him after that).

THERMOPYLAE was a gimme for me, as was OSTIA a few days ago. Maybe I watched too much Rome back in the day, but it's proving helpful.

BALE spooked me, since I thought they were referring to that farm-related four-letter word that I cannot now remember, but which felled me the last time I put in BALE for what I remember as a similar clue. Too bad, because would've confirmed LADD (too young for Charlie's Angels, but I remember the name), as well as ANDI, etc. In retrospect, SHIT!

Great, great puzzle and terrific cluing. Even the construction seemed doable today...just a little too much, too often, to break through. Thanks, Matt!

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

My only quibble with the puzzle was the 'commonly' on the alchemy clue. What is there 'common' about alchemy? But maybe somebody can explain that to me.

Other than that, I liked the puzzle. The ? clues were well done instead of the forced cuteness so often present.

quilter1 10:43 AM  

So proud of myself quickly putting in THERMOPYLAE and BOLLIXUP, QUAHOG, CUREALL and SHOAT, then hung on to TIMEnorTIDE too long. Great puzzle, enjoyed the wrestle. I know a former HERMIT who had not yet left the order when I met her. She introduced herself as a "hermit in community." My thought "huh?" Great song from GYPSY is Everything's Comin' Up Roses. I'll be humming that all day in my cozy sewing room watching the snow flurries.
stropo: automatic razor sharpener

Matthew G. 10:45 AM  

You're right about my age, Jim. I'm 34. And I have seen "Amadeus," but I saw it not long after it first came out, so I couldn't have been much more than 10, perhaps less. And while I like to think I was a reasonably precocious kid, I didn't retain the names of the cast. Good to know, though!

Likewise "Animal House" -- seen it, more than once, but couldn't tell you anyone from the cast other than John Belushi. As I've mentioned before, there's a black hole somewhere near my brain that sucks away the names of actors and actresses. They've always been, and always will be, my biggest weak point when it comes to trivia. I remember plots, titles even, and character names ... but I can never tell you who played who. That probably accounts for more than 75% of my Naticks.

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

Anon at 10:38 - I believe alchemy is commonly associated with changing lead into gold but it involves much more than that.

Two Ponies 11:00 AM  

Very nice Friday.
My big speed bump was the intersection of purl, Gypsy, and the unknown Haitian money.
I caught the theme early and that helped.
@ fikink, Love your Windsong comment!
Family Guy always helps me know that clam. Quahog is the town and the local watering hole is The Drunken Clam.
My grandparents had a Nash Rambler with push-button transmission on the dash. To this 4 year old child it seemed so modern at the time.

Look Up Guy 11:02 AM  

Bruce Carley, in his article on saving American elm trees (emphasis added):

"The interweaving limbs of the stately trees that lined the streets ascended into a towering canopy with a graceful, arching beauty unmatched by any tree that is commonly seen today, spreading horizontally at heights often greatly exceeding 100 feet ... and drooping long, slender branches in abundance high above the street, blocking all view of the sky. Along countless streets for many miles in cities and towns throughout the tree's extensive native range in the eastern half of North America, even as late as the early 1960's, this scene abounded, the effect of the only species capable of giving us such majestic splendor."

On a less poetic note, perhaps some arborist (@treedweller - still around?) can confirm the elm's canopy is large and denser than the oak's?

@acme --- Thanx for the mention, I think.

deerfencer 11:18 AM  

Excellent puzzle with sterling creative cluing.

Re shady elms, Ulmus Americana is or was the quintessential American shade tree in its day until the dreaded Dutch elm disease moved in to decimate the population. Widely planted across the country as a street tree, the American Elm has a very elegant and distinctive vase-shape branching structure that is fairly unique (the Zelcova tree is close but much smaller) and instantly recognizable from a great distance to the trained eye.

Oaks and maples are also beautiful shade trees, for sure, but neither has the history in this country as a beloved street tree that also happens to provide decent shade.

Besides, shady elm just plain sounds better than shady oak or shady maple, Google hit count be damned ;)

Ulrich 11:48 AM  

@Evgeny: I agree (as usual) re. the 1A clue. The answer was not a gimme for me since I do not remember which Autobahn leads where--I put in A TEN after getting the teepee, but then good old Lech set me straight.

Obviously, the "A" in front of the German highways serves the same function as the "I" in front of the American ones.

@Andrea: I'm waiting for a chance to cooperate on a puzzle with you, but I'm passing on this one--LOL

chefbea 12:13 PM  

Tough for me DNF. Very busy no time to read all the comments

Shamik 12:51 PM  

Way too easy for a Friday. Ho-hum.

Doc John 1:02 PM  

I know a Friday is easy when I can complete it in one sitting.
I loved the clue for GLANDS and AMMETERS was a gimme, as that was one of the products my dad's company made.

Nice little movie sub-theme, too:
GYPSY (was just on TCM the other night)
BALE (as in Christian)
and finally, HULCE.
Just where is Mr. Hulce these days? I'm always amazed when actors break through with major roles and then just- pfffft- disappear. I hope he's well and happy somewhere.

Happy weekend, everybody!

retired_chemist 1:34 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist 1:44 PM  

@ OAK lovers -

The most likely (IMO) cause for the predominance of ELM in crosswords has nothing to do with either tree. K is a scrabbly letter, M less so. I believe it has to do with ELM being substantially more helpful with longer answers. Constructors do not put in OAK or ELM to ask "Let's see, what 7 letter word can I make around OAK (ELM)?" They fit the short fill to the more interesting longer words.

Same story for a LOT of short(ish) words - Ernie ELS, ENID (OK), OCALA (FL), EDINA (MN), ESSEN (Germany), etc. An oldie I haven't seen in a long time in new puzzles - Andy Gump's wife MIN.

fikink 1:45 PM  

@retired_chemist, and, of course, AMES, COE and AMANA coming from Ioway.

Thanks, @Two Ponies

"fuslue" - Backatcha, Jack!!

retired_chemist 1:57 PM  

@ fikink - NAE is starting to get me too. Do only Scots use the negative?

Here is a negative unusable in crosswords (but IMO hilarious).

efrex 2:32 PM  

As a cryptics fan, I guess I'm more fond of the "?"-type clues. Loved 'em all, although they took quite a while to get through. AMES, AGA & TEC are still not part of my regular reportory. Surprised that WENCH is acceptable: in my circles, it's more frequently used as a deragatory. GYPSY is one of the most perfect scores of all time. The word-ladder was more of a bonus than a theme, methinks, and it was a nice cherry to top this sweet puzzle.

NATE 2:36 PM  

1)...themeless(just 70 words
Why not a theme and what is a
theme? Also,what 70 words?
2)....manifest greatness of BOLLIX
What is so great about them?


Note:by mistake this message was
first put in yesterday's

Two Ponies 2:51 PM  

I meant to add that I like the idea of a yoyo trick instead of
chore. Sometimes walking the dogs is the best part of my day and never considered a chore.
@ Andrea, Can't wait for that puzzle. If The Producers can write a play about Hitler why not a puzzle?
I also noticed that Gypsy made it into the grid in a PC way.

Matt 2:57 PM  

Hey All:

It's great to read the positive comments, and amusing to see a couple of entries from another Matt G. :)

This is my first Friday, and I'm glad that people enjoyed the clues! Most (not all!) of the ones people liked were in the original submission ...

Again, thanks! Happy holidays to all.

andrea chill michaels 3:10 PM  

ooops! I think that is rex's not-so veiled way of his reminding me that he had said that first!!!
No wonder it sounded familiar!
Sorry about that, chief!

And to think I had to receive all these bitchy private emails about it first thing in the morning about how offensive I was!

(tOURDEs comment, sadly, is all mine, though...)

archaeoprof 3:16 PM  

Like @Evgeny and @Ulrich, ATWO didn't seem right to me.

During many visits to Germany I've often heard "A-Zwei" spoken, and often seen "A-2" written, but I've never, ever heard anyone call it A-TWO.

Anonymous 3:31 PM  

Elaine Kauffman died today (I seem to be the bearer of bad news). She was 81. How ironic she dies in the same week the NYT has Woody Allen as a theme. Manhattan opened with a scene from Elaines. It was just a regular dump, but one filled with the rich and famous. I'm sure many on this blog have their own Elaines story. I was at a closing in NYC and some of us went there for a nightcap. There was the (very funny, IMO) comic Alan King sitting at a table by the wall with two comely young things, one on each arm. I suppose there was always some celebrity there every night, but it was reportedly one of Woody Allen's favorite haunt. Gotta go buy a tree now....

John the Banished

Cathyat40 3:33 PM  

Misspelling: THERMOPoLAE

I knew I was in trouble when I was trying to decide if the broadway musical was toPSY or moPSY; and if the Haitian currency was tOURDE or mOURDE. That's when I bailed and went to the Rexblog.

Other than that, my only error was misspelling HULsE, resulting in TEs, which made no sence ;)

PuzzleNut 3:34 PM  

What Rex said (and others).
Easy puzzle. Had EVENODDS before the TIME???TIDE, so held off on NOR, until I saw that AND worked OK. Had aLI and SHa? for the longest time. Almost tried SHay, as a joke. First thought on 27A was LUnaticS, but the ARM straightened me out.
Off topic, but just finished a book of puzzles by the four Patricks. Lot of good puzzles, but was really impressed with the big 25x25. Chockerblock full of 7 letter words, and not one crap fill in the whole puzzle. Absolutely incredible!

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

this was my first friday solve!i'm beaming!pinesol was my first write in. 1A my last. bring on more easy fri's!

Arthur 4:02 PM  

Answering your first question, there are 70 distinct answers, not specifically words (though that seems to be how it is referenced), in this puzzle.

Why not a theme? Traditionally, Monday - Wednesday are themed puzzles, Thursday varies, Friday and Saturday are themeless. Themeless puzzles tend towards lower word counts, with more solid blocks of higher letter count words.

Today, we had the mini theme of the word ladder, LEAD/LOAD/GOAD/GOLD tied together with ALCHEMY. One way to evaluate the difficulty of consturction in a themed puzzle is to consider the number of squares occupied by the theme entries. The higher the number of letters in the theme, the more difficult it is to work good, non-trite fill around them. Here it was very small, in the Woody Allen puzzle earlier in the week, the theme letter count was very high. Hence, today had a mini theme in what was essentially a themeless.

What's good about THERMOPYLAE and BOLLIXUP? THERMOPYLAE has never been in a major crossword before, BOLLIXUP just once before. They're new, different, and give us a chance to speculate as to why LL Bean hasn't launched a new line of THERMOPYLAE underwear for winter sports.

And remember, Rex, while an astute critic and dedicated fan of crosswords, he's just expounding on his solving experience, so when he wrote that THERMOPYLAE and BOLLIXUP were manifestly great, that's simply a statement that he found them to be manifestly great.

sanfranman59 4:35 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 19:31, 26:13, 0.74, 10%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Fri 10:13, 12:49, 0.80, 17%, Easy

NATE 4:49 PM  

ARTHUR: Thanks for the explanation.


I consider a theme a theme no matter how many words it contains.
I am not hip to solvers' jargon.
As far as BOLLIXED UP and THERMOPOLAE, how many people would
either know or care how many times
they had previously appeared? And
"Manifestly" great. Great isn't
I guess my problem is that I do the puzzles for the challenge and
the smiles when I get a particular clever definition. I don't do them
to pick them apart.

Rex Parker 5:00 PM  


You're paranoid. I genuinely liked your comment (re: hypothetical Hitler puzzle) and am profoundly sick and tired of moralizing grandstanders. Ugh. "I can't stand Woody." Hey, guess what? You're not alone, and nobody cares. 1992 called and it wants its timely indignation back.

And I have no idea why you put up w/ private emails telling you you're offensive. (it wasn't from horrible whatsherface, was it?) If they can't understand hyperbole, F*&^ them. "Delete."

SethG 5:30 PM  

Thermowhowhat? Never mind the bollocks.

I like RATIONAL next to EVEN ODDS, CONCH, QUAHOG, and HERMIT, Animal House, and the clue for INDENT. Abbreviated W.H.O. threw me off for FLU, and it took me _way_ to long to understand SLY.

Pythia 5:56 PM  

Loved this puzzle -- a little theme thrown in for fun, lots of nice stuff ... and super clues today. A pleasure after yesterday's, which, to me, had an interesting enough theme idea and lots of theme material (challenging to construct), but had less inspiring everything-else (constraints of the theme material).

mac 6:10 PM  

Loved this puzzle, too. Had a busy day so couldn't do it all at once, but I looked forward to getting back to it, savour it, every time. Felt like a themeless with a little extra gimmick.

I agree with the A two comments, should have been clued differently. Got Thermopylae with only three crosses, no idea where that came from, and love lummoxes and bollix up.

You have no idea how relieved I was that the Dutch didn't cause the elm disease!

chefwen 6:26 PM  

Did Rex just yell at me???

Anonymous 7:00 PM  


Ulrich 7:03 PM  

Following up on the chief's remark about offenses, I'll present my own personal classification of people who feel offended:

1) people who are offended by a slur directed at them
2) people who are offended by a slur they KNOW others will be offended by
3) people who are offended by a slur they THINK others will be offended by
4) people who are offended by a slur they think others SHOULD be offended by

I call those in group 3 and 4 "professional offense takers"--there seem to exist people whose mission in life is to feel offended--and I find those in group 4 insufferable

A thought for people in group 1: If you are offended by a slur that is meant to be offensive, you are playing exactly into the offender's hand--why not laugh and just walk away? I mean, if all Germans call themselves "Krauts", the slur ceases to be a slur--it sends the ones who use it packing--the onus is now on them b/c they have to find another offensive epithet.

Finally, since Hitler is on the menu today, a true story: Once, just once, in all the years I have been living in the US, I found myself in a situation that put me simultaneously into groups 1 and 2. It happened when a worker at our house, during a discussion of some riots that were happening somewhere, told me, to my face, that "Hitler killed the wrong people". I must admit I was speechless for a few seconds and then just managed a lame "I don't consider this funny". So, yes, sometimes it's hard to follow your own advice...

Sparky 7:11 PM  

Finished this last night which is amazing. So, I know it had to be easy for a Friday. ATWO mean, thought of yoyo also, only now caught on to GLANDS. Filled in the ladder but didn't see it as a ladder. Brain still fudgy. Coming off the Percocet.

@Shamik. Hope you are getting up and about.

How are people getting Andrea's email address? I thought addresses were available only with blue letter commentators.

The blog works in mysterious ways.

acme 7:15 PM  

can not tell you how sorry I am to have brought it up. I should know better. Hitler = red flag. The point I was trying to make about Caleb's brilliance was lost AND I inadvertently cadged Rex's line (which obviously positively resonated with me way back when!) and was given credit/abuse for it, both off and on blog. Bleck.

Oh well, hopefully chaos1 will not downgrade me to LFP.

mac 9:25 PM  

@Andrea: don't apologize, you were very funny. There will always be people without a sense of humor.
Makes me think of the Pia Zadora/Anne Frank incident! I've made more people laugh recounting it.

annychid: I'm at a loss but impressed.

Orange 9:47 PM  

But wait!

1. It's 72 words, not 70. Still a themeless-grade word count.

2. Andrea is manifestly wrong and theme is not everything. Fill is everything! (I do generally prefer themelesses to themed puzzles.) I could appreciate the Hitler puzzle with 9 theme answers provided the rest of the fill was smooth. Pack the grid with ERNES and ERSE and OONA and partials and you'll lose me.

3. Rex used the word "manifest" because writing comes alive with judicious use of adjectives. Read the sentence without "manifest" in it and it's flatter. Its rhythm and style are disrupted. Plus, those answers ARE manifestly great.

fikink 9:56 PM  

What a delight this blog is!
...and this wine, I might add.

"vicapp" - video concierge

Anonymous 10:14 PM  

Just finished watching the latest episode of Boardwalk Empire and I can't tell if that is more wierd than what this blog has turned into....

Anonymous 10:15 PM  

Just finished watching the latest episode of Boardwalk Empire and I can't tell if that is more wierd than what this blog has turned into....

Hitler 10:23 PM  

"Heil myself!"

sanfranman59 10:23 PM  

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

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

Mon 7:03, 6:56, 1.02, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 8:29, 8:56, 0.95, 43%, Medium
Wed 15:48, 11:43, 1.35, 95%, Challenging
Thu 17:22, 19:01, 0.91, 40%, Medium
Fri 19:36, 26:13, 0.75, 10%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:48, 3:42, 1.03, 64%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:24, 4:36, 0.96, 43%, Medium
Wed 7:31, 5:46, 1.30, 95%, Challenging
Thu 8:31, 9:10, 0.93, 45%, Medium
Fri 10:00, 12:49, 0.78, 14%, Easy

Anonymous 10:36 PM  

@Hitler, I am laughing so F*&^ing hard I can't F*&^ing stand it....

NATE 11:05 PM  


Can't you do something about these people who love to curse and cover
it up with various characters, starting with the key letter? I
use the same phrase, but not in a public medium.

deerfencer 9:52 PM  

Think I'll name my next daughter Ljubljana
in honor of Doug Pjetarsan.

Lurking, Just Behind You 12:58 PM  

I can't believe that there are almost 100 comments and nobody said anything about ALCHEMY and Snake Oil being in the same grid....all that was needed was a good bleeding to make it an early science triple play.

@ACME - I thought the thought of a Hitler grid was hilarious.

@REX - I love the way you rule the blog....if they are offended, screw 'em.

emora - What the Moon did to my eye (like a big pizza pie) when I was dyslexic.

NotalwaysrightBill 7:38 PM  

Syndicated paper solver.

Didn't get the theme until I came here. Loved the clue for 45D GLANDS ("Secretive group"); don't mind any number of "?" clues when they're that cute. Which is, of course, asking too much.

Disappointed that "libretto" didn't fit into 4D Lyricist's offering=ODE; thanks for the "Gypsy" clip, supergreat. Always think of the Led Zeppelin song when I hear the name ROSY (Damn!, that was some great rock!).

LOL @tOURDE as the Haitian currency. Can't get the image to begone. Always figured that the I-don't-give-a-fig economy was somewhere in the Mediterranean. With this additional info and if I can PINDOWN where they trade in rat's asses, I think I'll be pretty much set for international travel.

Could dig a nine-answer theme puz devoted to Papa, Baby and related Docs, I think. Except didn't we have one recently?

I'm highly offended. Name it.

Cary in Boulder 8:52 PM  

@NATE: "Can't you do something about these people who love to curse and cover it up with various characters"

Please see Ulrich's comment at 7:03.

After yesterday's DNF this one was a blessed Friday relief and lot's o' fun. Figured out the change one letter thing without noticing it was LEAD into GOLD, so at first I thought 8D ALCHEMY was the name of a kind of word puzzle where you do just that. So it's a "word ladder" huh -- learn something every day and every puzzle.

captcha: erias. Halloween at the opera?

clansman9448 9:29 PM  

Took me a while today, but i persevered & finished. Surprised myself with THERMOPYLAE right off the bat. Got INDENT right, but didn't know why until Anon 12:33AM made a comment.
I agree totally with Rex about ATWO.
I agree that 30D clue actually demands STILT"S" or you can't make stride"s", big or otherwise.
Theme & tree were just "ok".
Unless I missed it, I can't believe that there were no comments on 37A, on 2 fronts. First, we ALL know that "PAPA was a rolling stone". Second LAVA may be a roiling or flowing or running stone, but I still have trouble getting my head around rolling in this context (although I guess all 4 words could be coupled with river, for instance). I still prefer PAPA.
A Question TO ANYONE: Where can I find a link from today's Syndicated page, to go back to yesterday's so I can find out if there are any comments after mine? I don't usually comment until about 9:30 EST. Thanks in advance.

Anonymous 9:44 PM  

Right there, on the bottom right. <Older Post>

clansman9448 11:32 PM  

to Anon of 9:44pm (quietly): thanks. I knew I'd seen it, then it eluded me.

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