Fritz the Cat's creator / TUE 4-12-11 / 1956 Fats Domino hit / Highest peak Northwest Territories / Seamen slangily / 1956 Fats Domino hit

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Constructor: Barry C. Silk

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Idyllic places — theme answers end with words that describe a state of perfection


Word of the Day: MOUNT NIRVANA (42A: Highest peak in the Northwest Territories) —

Mount Nirvana, at 2,773 m (9,098 ft) is the unofficial name of the highest mountain in the Northwest Territories, Canada. [....] As of 2008, the Canadian Government continues to refer to the mountain as "unnamed peak", however, the name "Mount Nirvana" is commonly depicted in alpine literature. (wikipedia)
• • •

Seems like a theme that's been done before. And it has. Once very recently (Gail Grabowski, July of last year, LAT) — this puzzle was probably submitted before that puzzle ever saw print. But it was also done in '06 (Raymond Hamel, CrosSynergy). Always a good idea to check your theme answers against the cruciverb database—BARBARA EDEN comes up five times, always as a theme answer. Searching SAL PARADISE was what helped me find the Graboswki/LAT puzzle, which shares 3 of today's four theme answers. Like today's puzzle, that puzzle streeeeeeetched to get that fourth "sore thumb" answer. I mean, MOUNT NIRVANA? Really? What in the world. That thing doesn't even have an official name, and is Nowhere near as well known as the other three theme answers (early puzzle over-reached with a WWII aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. SHANGRI-LA). Best to do what the '06 CrosSynergy puzzle did: stick to three theme answers (in that case: BARBARA EDEN, FOOL'S PARADISE, SEVENTH HEAVEN).



Theme answers:
  • 18A: Portagonist in Kerouac's "On the Road" (SAL PARADISE)
  • 27A: 1956 Fats Domino hit ("MY BLUE HEAVEN")
  • 42A: Highest peak in the Northwest Territories (MOUNT NIRVANA)
  • 54A: "I Dream of Jeannie" star (BARBARA EDEN)


Zero problems with this one outside of the NIRVANA part of MOUNT NIRVANA. I started writing in CRUMB before realizing I needed the initial R (4A: Fritz the Cat's creator). Wrote in RNS instead of DRS at 41D: O.R. personnel. Otherwise, no speed bumps, no troubles, nothing terribly memorable. I watched "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" for the first time yesterday, and as far as I know it's the only time I've seen BURL IVES act (he was good as the larger-than-life and terminally ill "Big Daddy") (9D: "A Holly Jolly Christmas" singer). I knew PLUTARCH wrote "Lives"; I did not know those Lives were "Parallel." Weird (36D: "Parallel Lives" author). There sure is a lot of slang out there for seamen. GOBS was not on my radar (sonar?), though I've certainly seen it before (10A: Seamen, slangily). After being smacked with it several times over the years, I seem finally to have made "MTA" stick in my brain somehow. Today is the first day I got it without hesitation (8D: Kingston Trio hit of 1959). Picked up a couple of cool old Ian Fleming paperbacks at the local library sale over the weekend, so JAMES BOND was on my mind (3D: Aston Martin-driving agent). Let's see, is that it? ... yes. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

82 comments:

aaron 12:14 AM  

BETTER THAN EZRA, perhaps, but still LESS THAN JAKE.

Wiki entry for Mount Nirvana 12:16 AM  

Thanks so much Mr. Silk. I've had a total of 23 hits in my existence here and 22 have come in the last hour, presumeably due to your puzzle. Perhaps now they will actually name me, as up until now I have been officially unnamed. Yup, I'm unnamed. I'm so friggin insignificant that is up until now that no one even bothered to climb me until 40 years or so ago. It's not that I'm so high or difficult it's that
a) I don't really have a name, and
b) I'm so friggin insignificant.

Barry S 12:32 AM  

Rex pointed out that this theme has been used before, so here's the background on this puzzle:

I originally submitted this puzzle to the LAT back in April, 2010. The LAT editor, Rich Norris, replied a month later telling me that in a "remarkable coincidence" Gail Grabowski had submitted a puzzle with virtually the same theme -- a day before I submitted mine. Rich remarked that he's gotten some common themes submitted twice on many occasions, but never with uncommon themes like this one. So, he concluded by saying he regretted he could not use my theme. After that, I decided to prepare a manuscript for the NYT and submitted it (in May). Before getting Will's reply, Gail's puzzle was published in July, 2010. Surprisingly to me, 3 of the 4 themed answers in her puzzle matched mine exactly. In August I received a reply from Will saying he accepted the puzzle. I followed-up with an explanation of what happened asking Will if he still wanted to use the puzzle. He said that he did... that there is a small overlap between solvers of the NY Times and LA Times. I presume that most readers of this blog fit in that category!

Anonymous 12:40 AM  

Barry, where is the part about Gail and you talking about a heavenly theme for a puzzle while gazing at the stars?

lit.doc 12:55 AM  

Really solid, enjoyable Monday p.m. solve. Usually alarmed by Barry Silk’s name on a puzzle but, as luck and beer would have it, I didn’t think to look till I was done. Still took me almost ten minutes, which was nice after yesterday’s (for me) way-record-fast solve. Slik theme BTW, though I didn’t look for it till I was done. [Post-Rex-post post: didn’t bat an eye at Mount Nirvana (mons nirvana in Latino-Sanskrit), but am glad that grunge is so popular in Canada.]

Skip to the next comment unless you’re a Totally Tyro constructor. Doing a post-solvem on this grid, I noticed that blackening the center square would divide the grid in two. Grrrrr. I just spent the entire evening reconstructing a grid because the CHE’s guidelines prohibit same, and I foolishly assumed that the NYT and LAT (tacitly) had the same stricture. Sigh. And this was after I’d reconstructed the finished grid once already because I’d failed to check the word count (80) after designing the grid but before starting in on the effing fill. Live and learn.

syndy 12:59 AM  

I thought GOBS was what you hacked up when your cold went south!Also I must say I did't much care for carers otherwise okay puzzle-apparently the IUD is a RES in ionia but who knew.BETTER THAN EZRA draws a complete,utter echoing blank.possibly MR Short does not likr to think we are stepping out,but what does he base it on?(off to the LAT)

DJG 1:37 AM  

Nice puzzle.

Mount Nirvana is definitely a stretch (too bad the parody song "Smells Like Nirvana" doesn't fit), but the long non-theme fill (JAMESBOND, BURLIVES, SUBATOMIC, PLUTARCH) is really solid for a Tuesday.

Not really bothered by the repeat theme -- it happens.

andrea carers michaels 2:10 AM  

I'm amazed how many coincidences @Rex experienced prior to this puzzle, eg seeing BURLIVES in a film, buying Ian Fleming books, etc.

I'm glad Barry Silk wrote in, bec I was sort of thinking about the issue of repeated themes.
Before there was a database, you (a constructor) dreamed up something that was original (to you) and constructed! Done!

Now it is up to constructors to check every possible place to see if it's already been done...and, now, 9 times out of 10 (thanks to folks like Peter Gordon who has done EVERY theme EVER) usually have to discard what feels like a neat, fun idea...

So I totally sympathize with Barry on this one and applaud his asking Will if he still wanted to run it...
AND I agree that there may not be that much overlap (between NY Times and LA Times, eg) till the last few years when you could get all puzzles everywhere on line.

I personally had never seen this theme before, and thought it clever, as I don't do the LA Times usually, unless a friend has constructed it (more a time issue than a snobbery one) and I never had heard of CS till two years ago, so this seemed fresh to me.

That said, Barry and I are on SUCH different wavelengths!
He actually came up to me at the ACPT and said point blank "Hi Andrea, I'm Barry and you always write how much you hate my puzzles."
I was totally embarrassed and protested that that was not strictly true... but had to cop to the fact that that USED to be true, but that I had enjoyed all his latest ones and had written as much on this very blog...and had had a change of heart and was sorry I had been negative, and apologized knowing how hard it is to construct... period... and how horrible it is to fall prey to forgetting how one's comments can really be taken to heart, as I'm on the receiving end as well!)

So, this one, which was a step back to my old attitude, makes me want to examine what my problem is with Barry (not personally, he seems like a nice guy, but with his puzzles).

I guess where that mild antipathy comes from is that I have to stop and think about every single answer.
Normally this would be a very positive thing for me, and I'm not a speed solver, so who cares?
But I have to stop and think BECAUSE every single clue seems slightly slightly off TO ME...
NOT in a stumping, playful, tricky way...but in a linguistic, awkward way.

Our brains are just SO different (which makes me believe he must write all his own clues that don't get over-edited bec they are so different from the norm, which again can be a positive thing)
but for me it is this weird disconnect.

Like today, I had this "I can't parse this" sensation over and over while solving.

This puzzle exhibits in spades exactly what I've described above.
For example, I look at 3D "Aston Martin-driving agent" and I swear I don't have ANY idea what it is going for. It triggers NOTHING. Then slowly, I thought maybe it's a car part or someone in car sales or something!

When JAMESBOND began to emerge, I thought, "Oh, ok".
But it makes me testy instead of beaming, my preferred state of being.

It didn't help that my first answer was BAKSHI before RCRUMB.

Also, there was also this sort of odd medically undercurrent: AMA, INTERN, DRS, OVUM, IUD, ANEMIA and even PABST began to look like a PAP Smear at that point!

oh, wait! It's a pangram!
I loved it!!!!

PastelLady 2:19 AM  

@andrea carer

C'mon! Since when is being HONEST the same thing as being 'negative?' (This is what's wrong with America Today. Honest feedback is important to people who genuinely seek to improve.) I'm pretty sure Barry Silk is used to the sound of horses neighing whenever his name is mentioned.

When I happen to stop in at Rexie's blog I always look for your posts.

chefwen 2:33 AM  

@Andrea - Honey, you are cracking me up.

Sailed through this one on smooth waters until I came to the upper middle where I had RCR MB and ERES U and thought HUH, how can this be? Didn't remember MTA so ended up looking up the FRITZ THE CAT guy. Dirty pool using the guys first initial. Never heard of the Mocedades so ERESTU was also a first.
Other than that, liked it.

Rube 3:07 AM  

Except for briefly having adm at 1A before MAJ, went sailing thru this until I got to the midEast coast. Had rnS for a long time and rEBAR sounded good. Finally connected 14 AMA and realized that 41D had to be DRS, giving MOUNT NIRVANA, assuming EZRA -- a WTH?

I echo Syndy, why is Rock better than EZRA? Otherwise, a very enjoyable puzzle, and thx BCS for commenting -- always enjoyable to thear from the master(s).

Geometricus 3:38 AM  

@acme: Hand up for BAKSHI

@chefwen: ERES TU is in puzzles a lot, but Mocedades is not always mentioned. Brings back memories of 8th grade Spanish class. Senor LaBudd! The things you put up with!

Greene 4:57 AM  

I came to grief in much the same place as @chefwen: that collision of proper names in the upper center of the puzzle. NO IDEA who was responsible for Fritz the Cat, but was able to get _CRUMB thru crosses. Of course, that first initial could have been just about anything. Could not remember the first name of the Kerouac character either, so had _ALPARADISE. Could it be CAL, HAL, SAL, BAAL?

Oi, if I would just learn my crosswordese. Sadly, did not know RES, so I had these 2 blank squares mocking me. Good grief, DNF on Tuesday? The horror, the horror.

Of course, I could blame Mr. Silk for an unfair crossing, but I think sometimes you just have to say "Ok, I'm a friggin' idiot," take your lumps, and learn your damn crosswordese. I will not forget RES. I'm filing it right next to PEEDEE.

Ulrich 6:12 AM  

I must say I'm totally with Will Shortz on the repeat issue: The fact that a reader of the LAT has done a theme by one constructor should NOT prevent me from doing the same theme by a different constructor on the NYT. I think this whole issue is an artefact created by the availability of online databases, whose primary use seems to be to spoil the fun of people who are unimpressed by what unknown people do in faraway places.

I think we all have to come to terms with the fact that there is only a finite number of possible themes and, as we now know (thanks, love!), Peter Gordon has done them all--does that mean we should stop constructing puzzles?

And thx to Barry for showing up to face the music!

Anonymous 7:24 AM  

GOBS(Seamen)/OVUM? Not with an IUD around.

dk 7:30 AM  

Another Tuesday puzzle... they just try so hard.

Spelled TSAR wrong and it is all the computer's fault. That error cost me valuable seconds. I now live for the faint praise of Mr. Happy Pencil and my life is judged by that little digital clock. Woe is me. I want the dead tree collection back on my doorstep.

*** (3 Stars) You had me at RCRUMB. Nice 60's theme. We used to tie my sister's gnome dolls to the track of our LIONEL... and run the trains at night with the lights off some times when we may have taken 39A on our way to 42A. We may or may not have been listening to MYBLUEHEAVEBN. The Twist for sure.

Rex Parker 7:42 AM  

@Ulrich,

Why not just review old LAT themes and replicate them, then? By your logic, that's cool. Go ahead everyone. Have at it. "Hey, I see NYT has never done *this* theme. I'll just take it, tweak an entry, change the fill, and I'm published. Yay me." (note: I know this is not what Barry did. But the whole "it doesn't matter if you copy another person's idea" line of thinking is absurd).

Accidental replication of ideas is inevitable (I've done it, for sure), but if you stop striving to be original, I don't want to do your puzzles. That is, if you KNOW that a theme has been done, you SHOULD NOT do it.

I have a very good puzzle sitting here right now that I Refuse to submit bec. a puzzle w/ same theme was published in NYSun right after I finished mine. Now, it was a Sun puzzle, not an NYT, so most of the solving world has no idea it's been done, but still, No Way I'd submit mine for publication (despite my having written it under the influence of no one but my stupid brain). I'll release it from this site someday, maybe, w/ full disclosure and a discussion of the process...

I have a puzzle coming out in NYT some time in the future; after I'd submitted it, but before it was accepted, I saw a similar theme come out elsewhere. I IMMEDIATELY wrote the constructor to notify him of the coincidence. Our puzzles are diff. enough at level of theme reveal and theme answers that I didn't pull my submission, but I def. considered it.

Databases exist to force you to try harder to be original, however (nearly) impossible it may be to be truly so. Thus, they are good. Unequivocally good. Any decent constructor will tell you so. You want purity of experience, don't read blogs or listen to what anyone else has to say. Easy.

Anonymous 7:57 AM  

And then there's the 31 across, "Classic Jaguars' with the answer XKES. Never seen it written out or if it were, not like that. The cars were in the series of XK-120, XK-150, etc.

joho 8:10 AM  

I'm in HEAVEN reading the thoughtful comments of Andrea, Rex and Barry. I purchased the Cruciverb puzzle database for the very reason @Rex cites, so I can check what's been done. Today it's an important part of the creative process for sure.

As often happens @andrea carer michaels pretty much nailed it for me right down to the pangram.

Thanks for stopping by, Mr. Silk!

mmorgan 8:40 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle well enough. It was one of those rare days when getting the theme really helped -- once I saw HEAVEN and EDEN I was able to get PARADISE and NIRVANA without knowing them.

But with no offense to the puzzle, this is also one of those days when the blog is even better!!

Anonymous 8:44 AM  

Better Than EZRA is among my favorite band names -- it's one of those weird ones that stick to my brain, e.g., Ra Ra Riot, Death Cab for Cutie, and my all-time favorite, Fountains of Wayne.

@Andrea -- I also immediately went for BAKSHI, which held me up for a while. Finally got RCRUMB through crosses, and no disrespect to chefwen, but the first initial made total sense to me because that's how his signature always appears in his artwork, not "CRUMB".

jesser 8:58 AM  

My Dad was in the Army. When he got back from Korea, he went back to school at NMSU. NMSU is a large campus, and two of his classes were back-to-back but far apart geographically. He was frequently late to the second class.

One day, upon entering the classroom, his professor called him out.

"Mr. Williams, you were in the Army. Is that correct?"

"Yes, sir. I was."

"Please tell me and the class what your sergeant would have said if you were late to one of his meetings the way you are late to my class."

"My Sergeant was a by-the-book kind of officer," Dad said. "I'm guessing he'd have said, 'Good morning, sir. How would you like your coffee?'"

Dad was a MAJOR. Mr. Silk, you had me grinning from 1A.

I think The SMELT EZRA TEST would be a fine name for a band. Dave Barry would agree, I'm sure.

Who the hell puts RELISH on a burger? On a hot dog, maybe. But on a burger? No. A burger gets diced green Hatch chile. Anything else is blasphemous.

Trydisen! (But only after your Hoover bites the dust) -- jesser

twangster 9:26 AM  

I can see both sides of it but in general I agree with Ulrich. I would hate to be deprived of doing a clever puzzle in the NYT because something along the same lines had already appeared in a publication whose puzzles I've never seen.

There's also the possibility of someone taking a good theme that was done poorly the first time and doing it much better.

OldCarFudd 9:27 AM  

Super Tuesday has nothing to do with elections - it's today! A smooth puzzle without crap fill, a theme that helped me get two theme answers, and a wonderful discussion of the puzzle-creating world by a panel of experts. Nirvana, indeed.

Lit.doc, I didn't realize you were a constructor; you've been hiding behind an alias.

Interesting that repeating a theme could be considered plagiarism, while repeating (ad infinitum and/or ad nauseam) a word or its clue isn't. I wonder whether the same sanctions (re themes, not words) could or should be applied to novelists. How many themes can there be for murder mysteries?

Ulrich 9:30 AM  

@Rex: The difference between repeating unknowingly and deliberately copying is known to me, too, and matters. Since puzzles are attributed, not to mention generate income, however modest, plagiarism is unethical and I'm totally against it. I regret that I even have to say this.

Yet... a German playwright once said "You are allowed to change classics only if you improve them". I could well see a constructor picking up a great theme that has been executed below its potential and try to push it as far as it goes. But for the above reasons, I expect, should her puzzle be published, that the origin of the puzzle be clearly stated; or even better, the originator's consensus has been obtained beforehand.

As to the purity of my experience: You are attacking a strawman that isn't me. I'm interested in what other people say about puzzles to the degree that I would never call anything they say "absurd". But it's true that I find people tedious who, after you told them that you enjoyed a show or whatever, say nothing more than "it's been done before." Now, you need not tell me that you said more than that--I know that. I'm only explaining why this type of response does not sit well with me, in the puzzle world or elsewhere. And BTW an "everybody else does it" type of argument fails to convince me just about every time.

In this vain: Which of the two puzzles we are talking about here was actually the better puzzle?

Ulrich 9:33 AM  

@twangster: I swear, I did not see that you have made one of my points minutes before me! Had I known, I would have provided the proper attribution.

Three and out--unfortunately:(

Bob Kerfuffle 9:35 AM  

Now I don't feel so bad about never having heard of MOUNT NIRVANA.

You young'uns may find this hard to believe, but I had never actually heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit." (Had heard of it, of course.) So I listened to Rex's video posting, and I still don't know what it says.

Must second (because Anonymous 8:44 got there first) that the artist is universally known as R CRUMB.

Lindsay 9:39 AM  

My band's gonna be called BLOGGER ATE MY COMMENT.

To summarize, no complaints about the mountain or the theme.

Rex, a GOB detectable by sonar is on the bottom. Not good.

If only 9:40 AM  

Now, if blog posters followed Rex's philosophy (i.e. read previous posts and post only "new" ideas for the day), blogs could be less of a slog, most days.

P>G>

chefbea 9:44 AM  

Fun easy puzzle. Of course I knew Stan the man!!!

Question...yesterday and today blogger will not let me see the comments (I use Firefox). Have to use Safari, which I hate cuz much too slow. Anyone else having problems?

PanamaRed 10:12 AM  

@anonymous 7:57 - You are aware that the XKE was the model that followed the XK-150, aren't you? Often called the "E type," it was introduced 50 years ago in 1961.

Like this puzzle and the theme. Laughed out loud at myself for thing IED at 25D.

santafefran 10:15 AM  

Someone has to say it--smooth as Silk. A pleasure to solve this puzzle.
Not sure if it might be ADM but knew it must be MAJ as soon as I saw James Bond saunter in.
Didn't know RCRUMB but easily got from crosses.
My only writeover was AXEL instead of LUTZ until I saw STAN the man, @chefbea. BTW, no problems here with Firefox.

franisan--someone simpatico with me.

quilter1 10:16 AM  

I guess I was on Barry's wavelength today because it was a smooth solve for me. Then did LAT. So my comment is that reading all of your comments has been terrific.
@chefbea: I use Firefox and am having no problem.
Lovely day today, time to work outdoors.

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

As someone mentioned above a lot of 60s related themes. As someone who grew up in the 90s and is now in my twenties a lot the clues were simple Google searches. In all honesty, I could remember the names of stars of popular 1960s sitcoms, but why would I? No one my age watches them or discusses them. So any puzzle that has a bunch of old stuff like this I just Google and forget.


Also, I do like the cluing for HAVANA. Here in Canada they are easy to acquire!

retired_chemist 10:36 AM  

I always like Barry Silk's puzzles but think of him as a themeless late week constructor. So, as usual, DSTTBICH.*

Nice puzzle. A few writeovers: VEIN @ 58A (again thinking late week subtlety), CORONA @ 62A, AXEL @ 38A (thought there would be others, and @santafefran came through!).

Thanks, Mr. Silk, and thanks for stopping by. FWIW I do NYT only, not LAT, so I would not have noticed the overlap.

*Didn't see the theme before I came nere.

Two Ponies 10:43 AM  

Having R. Crumb and LSD in the same puzzle made me grin.
Mr. Natural anyone?
This was a smooth sail for me, despite being really heavy on the proper names, until I hit the lutz/Ezra cross. I wanted scissors!
@ jesser, Blasphemy indeed. I love relish on my burger.
@ Ulrich, way to stand tall.

Tobias Duncan 11:01 AM  

Lively comments today , love it !
I think Andrea's diatribe was longer than Rex's blog, loved that as well.
Liked the puzzle and like Barry's explanation.What a fun day.
Anyone who has not seen the R Crumb documentary should put it in queue, such an odd little man.

archaeoprof 11:21 AM  

Apropos of the clue and answer for 27D ("shopaholic's mecca", MALL):

in Amman, Jordan, there actually is a "Mecca Mall."

Six floors, with a movie theater, a food court and a Starbucks.

John V 11:21 AM  

So, may I just say this was a fun Tuesday. Very happy for the crosses to make 34D Ezra work, as I had absolutely no idea at all. I'm not a speed solver (dead trees only), but this was under 10 mins for me, a decent Tuesday time.

Agree that today's blog exceeded its usual high standard.

Anoa Bob 11:59 AM  

I didn't know two of the theme entries and thought the theme itself was a bit pedestrian, but I loved the puzzle anyway.

The theme density was modest (46 theme squares) and didn't overpower the rest of the puzzle. Another plus for me was the 34 black square count which opened the puzzle up way more than the standard early-week fare. This allowed Mr. Silk to give us quality fill and cluing in every part of the puzzle. Great stuff. Fun solve.

I'll also add a note of thanks to Mr. Silk for stopping by. I wish more constructors would do this.

Anonymous 12:16 PM  

@Tobias Duncan

I second the reco of the R. Crumb movie. His brother was even odder than he. Both very memorable and eccentric characters.

jackj 12:16 PM  

Rex wrote- "no speed bumps, no troubles, nothing terribly memorable.", to which I say "ditto".

A mild grouse about DEBAR and CARERS.

Shouki from the SW 12:19 PM  

Another "sub-theme"? 3 down and 32 down are symmetrical and deal with particles that are "bonded" by atomic and subatomic forces.

Gareth Bain 12:23 PM  

Also found myself strangely proud at nailing MTA!

CoffeeLvr 12:44 PM  

@ChefWen, the cartoonist was always known as R CRUMB, no first name, not as CRUMB either. If you recognize him, CRUMB without the R would seem wrong. So I didn't find the answer with the initial unfair. (@anonymous 8:44am, I see you made this point before me, and BobKerfuffle!)

I committed RES to memory a couple of weeks ago.

Had "axel" before LUTZ as well, but easily fixable.

Tried to do the puzzle before I went to bed, but the computer was bound and determined to update itself. Glad I could enjoy it today.

Thank you for commenting here, Mr. Silk. I love to hear from constructors.

As for "reuse" of a theme, it is the editor's call IMHO. Seriously, humble, not in the crossword constructors' circles.

jberg 1:14 PM  

Really embarrassed - I've read a lot of R.Crumb comics, and saw and enjoyed the movie - but somehow got Fritz mixed up with Krazy Kat in my mind, couldn't remember "Herriman" correctly, so I had "Herres" written in until forced to change it by the crosses.

Much earlier, I had the BLU at 27 and thought "Of course! ON BLUEBERRY HILL" That seemed so right that I was looking for a 'hill' rebus, but it didn't work.

I'd never heard of "Better Than EZRA," and couldn't remember LUTZ, so finally guessed it. A little obscure, maybe, but I guess it was needed for the pangram, so OK.

Finally, some lines from another old song, this one definitely not by Tom Lehrer:

"I jumped into bed like a good girl should,
He followed me into bed like I knew he would
Because a GOB is a slob,
Wherever he may be.
So listen while I tell you what this sailor did to me."

foodie 1:30 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle.
@Archaeoprof, I came here to make your very same comment: Mecca MALL in Amman!

Today seems to be the day for demonstrating how great minds can think alike! I'm usually more interested in WHY, and also how they differ...

Speaking of thinking differently: I first got MY BLUE HEAVEN. Then I had SA-PARADISE, and entered SAD, thinking that the theme was the contrast melancholy and bliss! Was mildly disappointed when the rest of the theme did not play out. But SAD remained to the end. And the topping for the burger? RADISH!! hey, it can happen!

foodie 1:50 PM  

@Andrea, I appreciated your comments and hope that Barry does as well. I think what you did, and what Rex does regularly, is get underneath your initial reaction to explain why. I try to impress on my students, especially in cases where critiques can make or break someone's funding or career, that this is a real responsibility and quite a challenge, to be explicit of the reasons why. It's only fair, and it gives people a chance to use the information constructively. And the critic learns a lot in the process...

Back to work!

acme 2:03 PM  

@Foodie
I'd put a RadISH before RELISH on my burger any day! Oh wait! I'm a vegetarian!
(I do RELISH your comments tho! I was trying to be you/Ulrich today, examining in a more scientific/philosophical way why I like/dislike something, it was certainly not meant as a diatribe! (Talkin' to you @ TObias! ;)
But you see, @Rex had a perfectly good theme...and...Peter Gordon at the Sun had already done it!!! It's a bit of an in-joke I have with Peter, bec whenever I would suggest a theme, he would point out that had he had already done it back in 1989, done it with five entries, not just three AND made the entries circled, backwards and 3 dimensional...
so I would just slink off.)

@Jessr
You see, that's exactly what I'm talking about! I agree that RELISH is more hotdog-gy than hamburger-y, (@two ponies preferences notwithstanding)...so again TECHNICALLY not incorrect, but just slightly off for me (purely subjectively).

@Lindsay
LOVE the name of your band "Blogger Ate My Comment"!!! BMAC!
It's so "A Dingo ate my baby"!

The Wheezer of Oz 2:10 PM  

@acme - Love you, truly, but I don't think "A Dingo ate my baby" is really a funny punch line, since I believe, if you look into the matter, the truth was determined to be that a dingo had eaten the baby. Not actually funny.

Sparky 2:26 PM  

Axel before LUTZ, STAN the man fixed that. Adm before MAJ, MARK fixed that. That's a good story @Jesser.

Very interesting discussion re complications of constructing with originality and ethically. It seems hard enough to do at all.

Thanks to Mr. Silk for stopping by.

Clark 2:28 PM  

It happens so often that there is stuff in the puzzle that I just don't know (like MOUNT NIRVANA) even though everybody else (or everybody with a proper education, or everybody who's paying attention to current events, or whatever) knows it, that the imbalance in the familiarity of the 4 theme answers did not affect my solving experience one iota. In fact, I enjoyed figuring out what the mountain had to be called if Paradise, Heaven and Eden were already taken.

hazel 2:29 PM  

@bobk - in the event you're actually interested in the words... i'm not 100% sure why i clicked on the video link because the last time I saw it here it creeped me out (as it did this time). Curse you, elusive memory! At least you're good for theme repeats which I never ever remember!!

@Ulrich - very well said. I believe you might like Open City by Teju Cole, by the way.

Load up on guns and bring your friends
It's fun to lose and to pretend
She's over-bored and self-assured
Oh no, I know a dirty word

Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello

With the lights out, it's less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us

A mulatto, an albino
A mosquito, my libido
Yeah, hey, yay

I'm worse at what I do best
And for this gift I feel blessed
Our little group has always been
And always will until the end

Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello

With the lights out, it's less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us

A mulatto, an albino
A mosquito, my libido
Yeah, hey, yay

And I forget just why I taste
Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile
I found it hard, it's hard to find
Oh well, whatever, nevermind

Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello

With the lights out, it's less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us

A mulatto, an albino
A mosquito, my libido

A denial, a denial
A denial, a denial
A denial, a denial
A denial, a denial
A denial

Bob Kerfuffle 2:38 PM  

@hazel - Thank you very much for posting the lyrics. Now I know for sure why I didn't understand from listening. Tom Lehrer it ain't, but it must speak to its target audience (which clearly does not include me!)

chefwen 2:38 PM  

When I Googled Fritz the Cat because I was truly stuck up there it came up with Robert Crumb. Never saw his works so I don't think I would go so far as to say "he's universally known", now I'll have to watch the movie.

Kendall 2:51 PM  

Like seemingly most everyone I thought this was great for a Tuesday puzzle. Kudos to Barry on that, even if the theme was not original.

I had the absolute hardest time with the northernmost part of this puzzle as half of the answers were things I'd never heard of. BURL IVES... no idea. MTA...what? R CRUMB... who? These answers are all fine and I don't dislike them I just didn't know them so it took me 20 minutes to do that section alone.

The longer non-theme fill in this puzzle was fantastic, in my opinion. SUBATOMIC was my favorite by far. Actually, with the exception of CARERS, there isn't anything in here I didn't like.

Tobias Duncan 3:04 PM  

@The Wheezer of Oz said
the truth was determined to be that a dingo had eaten the baby. Not actually funny.

Even the tamest Prime time censors of the 1990s would disagree with that.It was a long running joke on "Seinfeld", a show that could hardly be seen as edgy.

The Wheezer of Oz 3:15 PM  

@Tobias Duncan _ LOL -- ROTFLMAO! -- Wikipedia says:

"Azaria Chantel Loren Chamberlain (born 11 June 1980 in Mount Isa, Queensland) was a nine-week-old Australian baby girl, who disappeared on the night of 17 August 1980 on a camping trip to Uluru (then known as Ayers Rock) with her family. Her body was never found. Her parents, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, reported that she had been taken from their tent by a dingo. An initial inquest, highly critical of the police investigation, supported this assertion. The findings of the inquest were broadcast live on television—a first in Australia. Subsequently, after a further investigation and second inquest, Azaria's mother, Lindy Chamberlain, was tried for murder. Lindy was convicted of murder on 29 October 1982 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Azaria's father, Michael Chamberlain, was convicted as an accessory after the fact and given a suspended sentence.

The media focus for the trial was extraordinarily intense and sensational. The Chamberlains made several unsuccessful appeals, including the final High Court appeal. After all legal options had been exhausted, the chance discovery of a piece of Azaria's clothing in an area full of dingo lairs led to Lindy Chamberlain's release from prison, on "compassionate grounds." She was later exonerated of all charges. While the case is officially unsolved, the report of a dingo attack is generally accepted. Recent deadly dingo attacks in other areas of Australia have strengthened the case for the dingo theory."

I'm laughing so hard I'm crying; can hardly type.

Rube 4:27 PM  

@ChefWen, keep in mind that the movie Fritz the Cat is X-rated. Apparently it is available on NetFlix.

Sfingi 4:38 PM  

@DK - Sure they weren't troll dolls? I have a few of those. A train ride is good for them.

For once I had little trouble with a Barry Silk puzzle. I had begun to think he was like that Watson computer. This time, he hit my interests - except LUTZ crosses EZRA (sports and young rock). I didn't notice the theme.

@Chefwen - you've got to check out Robert Crumb, really. Do you remember, "Keep on truckin'"? That was Mr. Natural. Then, Cheap Thrills was sort of based on Janice Joplin. He lives in France, now.

@Wheezer - I remember that well. "A dingo stole my baby," spoken in a monotone. The unemotionality (word?) of the woman is what convicted her. Was not fair.

GOB = tar = salt. In the crossword world. Like ape = parrot.

sanfranman59 4:39 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)

Tue 8:33, 8:57, 0.96, 45%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:24, 4:35, 0.96, 44%, Medium

Reposting ... my first attempt mysteriously disappeared

Late Night 4:43 PM  

@sanfranman59 -- Here we go again!

I just saw your statistics delivered to my email inbox, and noticed that you had revived the hot link to your original explanation of the figures, something you seem to have dropped for quite a while. I thought, he must have decided that it was safe to do that again. But no, Blogger will have its way -- your post has disappeared from the comments! Care to try again without the link, just so we can see what happens?

Late Night 4:44 PM  

Oops! Sorry, I type too slow!

John V 4:50 PM  

So, maybe its late enough in the day to rhapsodize on 45D, Pabst, with something that has stuck in my head since forever:

"There once was a lass named Anheuser
Who swore that no man could surprise her.
But Pabst took a chance
Found Schlitz in her pants
And now she is sadder
Budweiser"

Just sayin.

JenCT 4:52 PM  

@Tobias Duncan: I loved the R. Crumb movie! (By the way, the title is just Crumb )

I have Better Than Ezra on my iPod - here they are playing their hit song "Good" on Letterman: Better Than Ezra

mike p 5:00 PM  

I have faith in the endless supply of fresh ideas. Just when you think that all the puzzle themes have been done before, Liz Gorski thinks of a new one. She's cornered the themes-i've-never-seen-before market. Wunderbar.

mac 5:02 PM  

Well, what can I say... It's a lot later here. I enjoyed the puzzle this morning, as I usually do Barry Silk's, and I don't see any erasor marks. I wanted Blueberry Hill as well (our property had a lot of scragly blueberry bushes being eaten by the deer when we purchased it), but the CROSSES! They solved everything for me. I don't know about this R.Crumb person, but he just appeared! I must have missed the LAT puzzle with the same theme, and the theme made certain things easier, like absolutely expecting Barbara Eden to show up, but Nirvana? I needed a few good downs there. And they were there.

OK, the carers and XKEs weren't great, but, there again, the crosses saved the day. It's only Tuesday.

Loved Midwest, sub-atomic, Plutarch and relish, although I would not put it on anything.

@Gareth: you should be.

@Barry Silk: thank you for showing up.

mac 5:05 PM  

And John V: thank you for that!

chefbea 6:15 PM  

@john V lol!!! that was great

archaeoprof 6:33 PM  

@Foodie: too funny about Mecca Mall! And I very much appreciate your thoughts about constructive criticism.

Stan 6:36 PM  

How could I not enjoy this puzzle, with R. Crumb, Sal Paradise (who I first wanted to be Sal Moriarty), and Fats Domino? Plus some great crunchy fill, and still easy enough for a Tuesday.

Looked up Burl Ives -- my parents had some of his 78s so I grew up on songs like "Foggy Foggy Dew." Among other factoids learned: "In 1964, he played the genie in the movie The Brass Bottle with Tony Randall and Barbara Eden." (Wikipedia)

Gil.I.Pollas 8:51 PM  

@The Wheezer of Oz
When I was 13, I used to rat my hair up to a least a foot. I also used hair spray at least 4 to 5 times a day. I slept with it this way since I didn't want to mess it up. Lo and behold, some tarantulas found a way inside my hair and had 5 babies.

Two Ponies 9:10 PM  

@ Sfingi, See? I knew someone would remember Mr. Natural! (10:43 post)

william e emba 9:50 PM  

"Dingoes Ate My Baby" was the name for a fictional band in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series.

anemia cradle member 1:38 AM  

william e emba to the rescue!
:)

sanfranman59 1:39 AM  

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 5:29, 6:53, 0.80, 1%, Easy (fastest median solve time of 94 Mondays)
Tue 8:37, 8:57, 0.96, 46%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 2:52, 3:41, 0.78, 1%, Easy (fastest median solve time of 94 Mondays)
Tue 4:17, 4:35, 0.93, 33%, Easy-Medium

Anonymous 3:15 AM  

For a 22 year-old, so many important clues with 60s-70s references is a little annoying. I'm against googling answers - takes the fun out - so this wasn't my favorite crossword ever.

I'm usually a Wednesday-Thursday level NYT solver, but there were too many obscure clues in here for me.

Ah well. Tomorrow.

Anonymous 3:17 AM  

Oh, and no one puts relish on a hamburger. Relish goes on hot dogs. Could have given "hot tog topper" for that clue, especially on Tuesday "/

Not Nobody 9:35 AM  

Not only does Heinz make *hamburger relish*, it's Kosher.

the redanman 11:11 AM  

Stinky and full of the stuff that those who fancy themselves crossword elite love.
ehhh

Dirigonzo 2:55 PM  

Puzzle appeared on May 17 in syndication, the day we learned of the passing of another baseball hall of famer from the '60' era, Harmon Killebrew.

@dk mentioned the '60s theme woven throughout the grid, and a couple of young anonymice complained about it, but there are more examples of it than he cited: Jack Kerouac, Fats Domino, XKEs, LSD, James Bond, the Kingston Trio and Burl Ives, Stan Musial, Merv Griffin, Barbara Eden and some PBR to wash it all down! Damn, that's a '60s retrospective all by itself - no wonder some of the youngsters hated it! Oh, and Fannie Mae could have as easily been Mae West and Robert Crumb belongs even though he's not familiar to me.

Thanks for the memories, Barry C. Silk!

NotalwaysrightBill 5:04 PM  

Syndi-late solver.

Hand up for LSD and Fritz the Cat in the early 70's.

Only in crosswordland could a "theme" be considered exhaustively covered by three names or words or phrases, with anything more along the lines of the same theme being then thought to be plagiaristic. Seriously, folks . . . . Howsabout instead we have an entire week devoted to the same theme? I think someone mentioned that it was election week (where? NY?) when this Tuespuz came out. As the week progressed, each new day's puzzle could take on an increasingly in-depth approach to the "elections and politics" theme, moving from three or four to as many as ten or even twelve! theme answer words or phrases. It would be cathartic, purging the subliminal political toxins, and cover the base forever and ever to everyone's satisfaction. You could even have the additional requirement that the constructor use [Lyin' sack of ____ ] for one of his theme clues, with the politician who best helps the constructor clear his sinuses be the answer.

On another, but connected, note, I was struck by the parallel placements of PLUTARCH and BURLIVES (BUR LIVES?). Ives emphasizes the social consciousness in his work, the lowest common denominator ("C'mon, let's crawl/ to the ugly bug ball/ Oh how happy we'll be/ one and all/ at the ugly bug ball!"). PLUTARCH's "Lives" is an investigation into the qualities of character that raise men above the basest level, what ennobles them. I enjoyed thinking about the inherent tension thus implied, between the absolutely democratic principles of IVES and the more republican leanings of PLUTARCH. Charles IVES, the revolutionary American "classical" composer, would have had something to say, I think, about how many notes or bars of music constitute plagiarism, or when originality begins and when it leaves off and becomes pure theft. Or not.

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