Central knob of shield / FRI 5-20-11 / Dont make plans for August / 1978 Daniel Patrick Moynihan memoir / Pioneering blues singer Smith / Brute 1970s

Friday, May 20, 2011

Constructor: David Levinson Wilk

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none


Word of the Day: UMBO (10A: Central knob of a shield) —

n., pl., um·bo·nes, or um·bos.
  1. The boss or knob at the center of a shield.
    1. Biology. A knoblike protuberance arising from a surface, as the prominence near the hinge of a bivalve shell or the projection at the scale tip of a seed-bearing cone.
    2. Anatomy. A small projection at the center of the outer surface of the eardrum.

[Latin umbō, umbōn-.]

• • •

Nine 15s. Impressive, but inevitably you pay for that kind of grid-spanning indulgence in the form of yucky short stuff. UMBO is paradigmatic yucky short stuff (10A: Central knob of a shield). SETT isn't far behind (40A: Rectangular paving stone). RENTE (60A: Pension, in Paris) and COMIN' hurt a little (45D: "___ Home Baby" (1962 Mel Tormé hit)), and there's other stuff here and there that's less than pleasant. There is some payoff here, namely GIANT SEA TURTLES (3D: Loggerheads, e.g.) next to "INDEPENDENCE DAY" (4D: 1996 blockbuster with the tagline "Don't make plans for August"), and OPEN PANDORA'S BOX (30A: Create a whole new set of problems). But the rest I felt like I was just getting through, and too many of the long answers clunked a little for me: SOCCER ANNOUNCER (which is a thing, but so is "[any sport that airs on TV or radio] ANNOUNCER") (5D: One who may comment on a beautiful head shot); INTERNAL AUDITOR (38A: Watchdog in the house?); the mysterious "A DANGEROUS PLACE" (Really? a 33-year old political memoir about being ambassador to the U.N.? OK) (9D: 1978 Daniel Patrick Moynihan memoir). The words and phrases involved here just felt a little limp. I did enjoy the solve, mainly because of the odd grid shape and the weird way that it forced me to solve (mostly burrowing into the little nooks and then blasting out of them with the long 15s). I enjoyed the GIGI / CARON cross-referenced clues (1A: 1958 title role for 21-Across), mostly because I took one look at the "GIGI" clue and guessed both answers straight off (guess that time I researched the difference between "GIGI" and "LILI" (1953) — both starring CARON — paid off). "A DANGEROUS PLACE" could've been cross-referenced with Idi AMIN (14A: Brute of the 1970s), since Moynihan was ambassador when AMIN was in power (Moynihan, not one to mince words, called AMIN a "racist murderer").


[OK, I changed my mind about COMIN'... Erudite!]

Highlight of the puzzle was (finally, well after the fact) deciphering the clue at 54A: Character in "I, Claudius" (COMMA). I wonder how many people are wandering around today (as I might have been if I didn't have to write this stuff up every day) thinking a. "I know Latin names can sound weird, but ... 'COMMA?' What kind of mom names her little boy 'COMMA?' (I guess if you can name a boy TRIG ... and you favor English more than math ...)" and b. "They couldn't have used a punctuation clue there!?" (turns out, they did—the "character" is the COMMA in "I, Claudius" (i.e. "I COMMA Claudius").

Weird start to the puzzle, with "INDEPENDENCE DAY" being the first thing I dropped in the grid. "So ... no plans for August ... which means something happens in July ... what happens in July?" Bang. Then straight into GIGI / CARON. I knew GARTH (from "Bevery Hills, 90210"), but do most solvers (judging by the volume of anti-pop-culture mail I get, I'm guessing 'no')? Ditto BLAKE Lewis (12D: 2007 "American Idol" runner-up ___ Lewis). "American Idol" fame is fleeting except for the very, very few (I say this as someone who watches "Idol" every year, owns not one but two BLAKE Lewis albums, and yet can barely remember the faces let alone the names of every moderately talented generic-looking white boy who's won the competition *since* 2007). OLIN is a better known pop culture figure (at least in crosswords), but her clue is Nuts today (58A: "Bang Bang Orangutang" actress, 2005). If your tastes run more high culture, maybe you enjoyed 42D: Thomas Mann's daughter who married W.H. Auden (ERIKA). I know who those men are, but that clue couldn't have been more useless to me. [A woman's name] would've sufficed. ONO's here again, attempting (and failing) to hide behind a strange clue (35D: Performer who's the descendant of a Japanese emperor). I once got hate mail from Peter NOONE (44D: Herman's Hermits frontman) because he thought I'd insulted him (it was a commenter, not me). I also once saw Peter NOONE in a local cafe here in Binghamton. Thus ends the Peter NOONE section of this program.



Bullets:
  • 15A: Hunting attendant of Artemis (OREAD) — one of the many -AD ladies I have trouble keeping straight despite fairly extensive experience reading classical literature / mythology.
  • 61A: Duma disavowal ("NYET!") — [Dumas disavowal] would be NON, and [Puma disavowal] would be ["grrrrrr"]. Not sure what [Yuma disavowal] would be. NOPE? SORRY, PARDNER?
  • 7D: Photographer Cartier-Bresson (HENRI) — plunked down ANDRE. They're closer in sound than they are on paper.
  • 10D: She performed admirably in the War of 1812 (USS CONSTITUTION) — another example of failed answer-hiding techniques. You go with "She" to make the solver think person, but then follow with "war," which pretty much negates any female name that might apply (in 1812, at any rate).
  • 11D: Much-performed work set in Nagasaki ("MADAMA BUTTERFLY")practically a gimme; only issue was that last "A" in "MADAMA," which I had as an "E" to start.
  • 31D: Some folks are in it for life (PEN) — speaking of ... looks like I might sign on for another hitch teaching in prison next year. A lot of work for just a little money, but the experience is something close to invaluable. Certainly memorable.
  • 41D: Pioneering blues singer Smith (MAMIE) — no idea, though I feel like I've said "no idea" about her before. I guess a Van Doren or Eisenhower clue would've been too easy.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

75 comments:

Glimmerglass 7:54 AM  

Harder for me than for Rex. This was a good example of the kind of puzzle I worry at and pick at until eventually (an hour?) it gives up. The only 15 I got early on was OPEN PANDORA'S BOX. Nothing came as easily for me as Rex reports it did for him. Liked the clues for COMMA and SCHWA, but I didn't see either answer right away.

Doris 8:00 AM  

W.H Auden, well known as gay, married Erika Mann so that she could stay in the U.S. to avoid the Nazis.

CY 8:08 AM  

I also found this a difficult one, to the extent that I couldn't quite finish it. The 40-across/29-down/28-across/11-down area was tough for me, since I hadn't heard of the words SETT or TARDE, I wanted "afternoon" in Spanish to have a "di" in it, and although I knew of Mt. Etna, of course, I thought that the opera was "MadamE Butterfly", so the mountain was perhaps something else, or some variant spelling of "Etna".

I did try the correct combination of letters in that area among other guesses, but I still couldn't get the answer because I got the devilish 53-across wrong as well: plugged in COLD instead of MILD and never looked back. Since the downs there were names I hadn't heard of, I was just able to fool myself into thinking that MACIE and EROKA were proper, if obscure names.

joho 8:22 AM  

I am more impressed than @Rex at 9 15's! It's amazing to me that Mr. Wilk could make sense out of all the other fill ... Wow! Even an unknown like UMBO wasn't that difficult for me as I'm an avid Idol watcher, so I immediately knew that BLAKE was the beat box guy even though I haven't given him a thought in years.

I loved ADANGEROUSPLACE crossing OPENPANDORSABOX.

I am always happy to finish a Friday.

SethG 8:29 AM  

KANGA/CRACK hid SOCCER for a while. ENIAC finally broke open the bottom middle. BLAKE I don't know, UMBO either, but that couldn't really have been anything else. And no trouble anywhere else.

INTERNAL AUDITOR is definitely a thing.

dk 8:32 AM  

Mel Torme was known as the velvet fog... back in the day.

Not knowing SCHWA was a problem and I was unable to see ADANGEROUSPLACE. So I tanked.

The grid as Rex opined is impressive with some strained short fill.

*** (3 stars) nice Friday puzzle even tho it whipped me. I just want to demonstrate that I am bigger than Ms. Van Doren's.... Talent

JenCT 8:38 AM  

Rex's Easy/Medium translates to a DNF for me!

For 44d (Herman's Hermits front man), I was reading the answer as NO ONE - hmm, there was no front man??? Oh, NOONE! Now, that made me chuckle.

Gary Z 8:59 AM  

As a 'can of worms' is a metaphor for a set of new problems, and Pandora's Box contained a clearly enumerated list of universal problems, OPENACANOFWORMS fit much better for 30A which, ironically, created a whole new set of problems for me.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:06 AM  

Today is an extremely rare day when I thought Rex was being far too forgiving. My overall reaction was a mixture of Aaargh! and WTF?

I did guess right most of the time, but finished wrong on ETNA and TARDE.

joho 9:13 AM  

Now I'm wondering if a reference to "Tyger, Tyger burning bright" would have been an easier clue for BLAKE to help with UMBO in that corner?

David L 9:17 AM  

Finished in a reasonable (ie medium) time but didn't really care for it. Both the long and the short fill are a mixed bag of familiar, clever, and whaa? Too much Spanish for my taste, RENTE as French for pension (annuity, says Google translate) is pretty obscure, and the UMBO/BLAKE cross was Naticky except that B was the obvious guess. OFA mind and IFWE puts our heads together are kind of random. Well, but I finished, and that's the important thing, right?

David 9:47 AM  

did anyone have ORION for OREAD at first? With HENRI and WAGON as pretty easy Down crosses I should've gotten this quicker, but I really liked ORION there, and that kept ADANGEROUSPLACE from me till the end.

Also strongly considered OPENACANOFWORMS, but fortunately it was 1 letter shift away, so i dismissed it. Got PANDORA mainly from other easy 15 letter crosses.

Did have one writeover, TARDE/TARDI, SETT/SITT.

As a lifelong soccer player and fan I loved 5D, and am perhaps biased but loved the clue too.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:55 AM  

No Wonder I Was Confused Department:

I am looking at "100 Great Operas and Their Stories" by Henry W. Simon, copyright 1957, 1960, Doubleday & Company, Inc.

Main Entry at top of page: MADAMA BUTTERFLY

Below that, English translation: (Madam Butterfly)

And then the list of roles, starting with: MADAME BUTTERFLY (CIO-CIO-SAN) . . . Soprano

All spellings double-checked!

jesser 10:01 AM  

My writeovers occurred at: 2D with I fOld before I'M OUT; 5A with SoftA before SCHWA; and 55A with lets before IF WE. By far the hardest section for me was the minigrid at the top center. The rest of the puzzle flowed nicely, with the little stuff giving me enough of the 15s to plop them down confidently.

I will not retell my Gov. Bruce King story about the box of Pandoras. Except I kind of did.

I do not view IKEA as the same kind of store as Pier I at all, so I didn't see IKEA until the crosses made it undeniable. I still cry foul. But CROAK in the grid is too funny not to like the puzzle overall.

TGIF, everyone! (And go, Scotty!)

Dismi! (What Rex did playfully yesterday after my Rap faux pas) -- jesser

Matthew G. 10:03 AM  

I work in a building named after Daniel Patrick Moynihan (there's even a little mini-museum to him on the ground floor), but I still needed almost every cross to get his memoir's title.

There was just too much here I didn't know. Never heard of Leslie CARON (I had CAROL and assumed it was the first name of whoever played GIGI, which I had heard of, but only vaguely), GARTH as anyone other than Brooks or the buddy of Wayne, OREAD, "COMIN' Home Baby," and more. I got INDEPENDENCE DAY off just the C and the Y, and didn't have much trouble with any of the long 15s except GIANT SEA TURTLES (where I couldn't see "GIANT") and the Moynihan book.

This was my first Friday DNF in many months, so needless to say, I found the relative difficulty much harder than Rex did. I don't think of myself as a proper name hater, I feel compelled to say, just someone who knows they are his Achilles' heel. I filled most of the grid, but eventually gave up on a few squares in the NW, north central, and south central. David Levinson Wilk is my favorite constructor, bar nobody, so it broke my heart not to get through this.

Also, David clearly goes to better Karaoke bars than I do.

Catechist 10:29 AM  

Tough puzzle for me, although Fridays are usually beyond my ability (I couldn't really finish this one even with google).

I made a lot of mistakes that screwed me up, though. I did David's ORION (for OREAD). I had ONE (Mind), ORO (instead of ORI), ODA (instead of ONO), MADAME BUTTERFLY, SEDAN (instead of WAGON), and such.

Two Ponies 10:39 AM  

The long answers came quickly.
The fill was another story.
Ueys again!
Peter Noone reads this blog?

Rex Parker 10:41 AM  

I suspect Mr. NOONE was doing a little ego-surfing ... not that I'd know anything about that ...

rp

Gil.I.Pollas 10:45 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle.
I too wanted a can of worms. Loved SCHWA and ARTE.
Agree IKEA ain't anything near a Pier 1 alternative. In this part of town they bus people to IKEA and they spend a week looking at sheets.
REX, your write-up had me in stiches. Our daughter had a friend named Clematis. After closing my wide open mouth when I first heard it, I told her how nice it was to have a vine with pretty flowers named after her. She told me she was named after her grandfather Clem.

Neville 10:49 AM  

Boom - headshot! (I wanted an FPS reference - was this too out of the NYT ken?)

Broke in immediately at INDEPENDENCE DAY - we used to watch that movie 6 or 7 times a month back when we had HBO in the late nineties - the year gave it away if August didn't. That turned this into a relatively easy affair. I too had MADAME first. That's stupid.

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

At first I was wondering if the "Independence Day" clue signaled a theme around this whole world-is-going-to-end-tomorrow thing, but I guess it's not good form to ridicule a religion, even if it's an apocalyptic cult. At least until Sunday.

Another hand up for filling in "ORION" and sticking with it for way too long -- I'm like "OR___, it's a hunter in Greek mythology, what the hell else can it be?" Never heard of OREAD.

GLR 11:26 AM  

I found this one challenging, but did manage to finish it correctly on the first try. I liked the long answers more than @Rex did - thought INTERNAL AUDITOR was very good, and also liked SOCCER ANNOUNCER because I was thinking photography, not sports. USS CONSTITUTION took a while because I bit on the "she" misdirection - spent time trying to come up with a Clara Barton type. Another hand up for can of worms before Pandora.

@Rex - glad to see you changed your mind on COMIN', and thanks for the Torme clib. I had the pleasure of seeing him in concert late in his career. The only better example of "voice as a musical instrument" I've heard live was Ella Fitzgerald.

Don't know the characters in I, Claudius well at all, so I got COMMA from crosses and didn't really think about it. After Rex pointed it out, I thought it was pretty clever.

jackj 11:28 AM  

For those of us who travel in or out of Boston on the Tobin Bridge, the ever present masts of the Constitution provide a vibrant history lesson and denizens of The Hub should find 10 down, USSCONSTITUTION, a rather obvious answer.

With so many 15's snaking all over the grid, David Levinson Wilk creates an impressive puzzle and an interesting challenge, but all those stacked and abutting monsters mean the constructor is hoist with his own petard by needing so much short fill, which eases the solve.

UEYS (UIES) seems to have become an obligatory entry but, if we have to clue a “U” word, let’s dump the loathsome maneuver and use new friend UMBO instead.

COMMA, SCHWA, CONGA, PEN, all cleverly clued; everything but a HARDC to trick us up.

Fun puzzle.

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

@Rex - Sandy's family back home OK? 'Cause you know the worlds' already ended there.

pizzatheorem 11:33 AM  

OREAD here refers to a type of nymph, not a specific character.

Karen 12:04 PM  

Rex: Loved your comments on naming your kid Comma!! I had the same confusion - who would name their kid "Comma"? Do they have siblings named "Colon" and "Semi- Colon"?? I didn't get the reference until I read your blog....but I love the clue now that I get it :-)

Anonymous 12:16 PM  

Enjoyed learning "umba" as a crosswordese that I've never seen before. "Sett" is also newish to me, though it came up recently. Not that I think these are good words to know for any other purpose in life.

Is there an acronym for if you can't put anything into the grid? Just wondering, though I was able to get "nyet" without any help.

Tobias Duncan 12:17 PM  

Very Tough,but loved it.The I, Claudius clue was brutal for me since I grew up a HUGE fan of both the books and the BBC series(I may have been the nerdiest junior high school kid ever).I went through the entire saga in my head twice.

Anonymous 12:18 PM  

I figure "rente" must be in the sense of a pension apartment that you can rent when you visit Paris.

syndy 12:35 PM  

WOW found this one dead easy! only write-overs were a few schwa here and there.HAd EMBO (many years since history of armour class)ORA for ORI and A DANGEROUS PEACE! all easily fixable from crosses!WAnted Dolly Madison for 10 d0wn but allready had ESSCO__- by then!OH?also wanted Bessie Smith but once again too late !SCHWA (my word of the day)was a WTH? and COMMA was my final answer! thank YOU RP foe the MEL TORME and THANK YOU deb EMBLEN for the I,CLAUDIUS (wordplay)

Jeff 12:40 PM  

The soccer clue was clunky too. No one who knows anything about soccer would ever call it a "head shot." It's a "header."

DBGeezer 12:46 PM  

UMBO as in umbilicus, the center of another shield

Masked and Anonymous 12:51 PM  

Pretty darn good puz. Haven't figured out the theme yet.

Yeah, maybe you can gripe a little about the short glue words, but heck. If you handed me this grid with no clues, held a gun to my head, and said "OK, fill this grid layout with words", I'd say "Momma".

Primo write-up, 31.

Fave clue: The one about the state and its capital. Went with Tempe, Ariz, at first. Wrong again, M&A breath.

Shamik 12:53 PM  

Aside from initially wanting SADIE Smith, found this a 10:01 easy Friday puzzle. I enjoyed the long answers and don't mind goofy fill to get some new and interesting answers. Good puzzle, though it went too fast.

Lindsay 12:54 PM  

No easy-medium here. Finished with Etne/Madame .... pretty much the same thought process as @CY.

And wasted way, way, way too much time trying to stretch Dolley Madison into 15 letters.

Pete 1:03 PM  

I would have found Mel Torme's intro to the song much more credible were it not from the same session as one where he totally ripped off credit for Dat Dere, lyrics by Oscar Brown Jr, music by Billy Timmons. He was absolutely shameless.

Pete 1:04 PM  

Bobby Timmons

TimJim 2:13 PM  

SCHWA ...???? I don't get it.

Anonymous 2:22 PM  

@TimJim -
schwa
   [shwah] Show IPA

–noun Phonetics .
1.
the mid-central, neutral vowel sound typically occurring in unstressed syllables in English, however spelled, as the sound of a in alone and sofa, e in system, i in easily, o in gallop, u in circus.

Or, the a sound in era

JaxInL.A. 2:28 PM  

HTG and still DNF. Defeated by the upper Midwest and the center in general.  I did not know the Moyni-memoir, and idiotically I could not shake the false notion that Audrey Hepburn starred in Gigi.  I know that film well and can only put it down to a brain fart.  I wanted Callisto for Artemis' attendant, and could not remember the generic group of her attendants (ocean nymphs under the age of 10). All of which made that quadrant impossible for me.  

I still find it an impressive feat of construction, even if some of the clues felt impossibly obscure (BLAKE Lewis? Jennie GARTH?? MAMIE Smith???, ERIKA Mann????).  Still, I loved the clue for COMMA and for SCHWA, even if I didn't get the latter. Except for the above-mentioned memoir, the long answers and their clues all held up nicely for me.

Apropos of Rex signing up to teach the prison class again, I ran the prison clinic while in law school and I applaud the impulse.  I have often wished that I could find another opportunity to work with that population. Fascinating and rewarding work, and interesting people despite the common perceptions of what goes on in prisons.

JaxInL.A. 2:39 PM  

Particularly amusing write-up today.  Rex, forgive me but, as a non-Idoler and with mostly peripheral knowledge of rap music, that clip of Blake Lewis beatboxing reminded me of both Vince Vaughn's hilarious character "Raji" (Roger Lowenthal) in the movie "Be Cool," and the video sketch  posted by @Tom, yesterday on the White People Co-opting Black Culture Network.  I recognize that the genre has long been part of the broader culture, not just Black folk (yeah, I know about pioneers of the genre like Eminem and cross-culture favorites Far East Movement, etc.). Even so, sometimes young white men adopting the clothes and mannerisms just makes me laugh, no matter how sincere.

andrea comma michaels 2:51 PM  

@Doris
Fascinating re: ERIKA!
Those kinds of insights from @Rex readers is the second thing I live for!
(His run on DUMA is the first!)

This construction is truly amazing.

I had a lot of fun trying to think of each state capital and if they had a letter in common with the state...but I gave up around Ohio, so luckily SDAK came from the downs, as did OREAD.

Whoa for "Let's not do anything crazy" (which is a fun, jazzy clue) gave me problems in the bottom...
and steRn for APORT messed the middle, but I really enjoyed this struggle.

@DBGeezer
Thanks for the UMBO mnenomic (damn, how do you spell that word!) UMBO one learns if one is learning all the 4 letter U words in Scrabble
(I'm talkin' to YOU @Masked and ANonymous!)
Needless to say, UEY nor UIE are good in Scrabble and are creepy in crosswords...but thank god for them if you are a constructor!

As PANDORASBOX and ACANOFWORMS are parallel, that is begging for some sort of puzzle theme, right, @joho?

Also got a little hung up on AUDITOR being some kind of ?????ALA eDITOR and trying to squeeze in floreNcenightengale (Is that even the right war?)

@jenCT
LOL at your Herman's Hermits booboo.

@dk
slap!

CY 2:59 PM  

After reading other people's comments:

@Anonymous commenter referenced in Rex's write-up & JenCT: I too didn't know Peter Noone and got the answer by thinking, "Aha! NO ONE was the frontman."

@Gary Z & David: I also thought that A CAN OF WORMS worked better than PANDORA'S BOX for more or less Gary's reasoning, and tried that first. The X at the end did make PANDORA'S BOX easier to get once I'd given up on CAN OF WORMS.

@jesser: I also tried I FOLD before I'M OUT. Didn't try SOFT A (which wouldn't make sense here, since A is not a consonant) but did try LONG A (which also doesn't make sense here, but it describes a vowel at least and I didn't think about it long enough to remember long from short).

@Catechist I tried SEDAN instead of WAGON too--that was one of the last bits to fall (of the ones I ended up getting right).

@pizzatheorem: Thanks for the info about OREAD.

@DBGeezer: Thanks for the info about UMBO--now I can at least relate it to something I know!

Other things I got wrong before going back and correcting: For 39-across, was torn between IS TO and UNTO (not being familiar with the original quote, although it does sound very Dickinson-y); ended up going with IS TO while keeping UNTO in mind.

Tried FUTURE for the end of 37-across when I had the TU_E and a sense of the direction the clue was going in.

Really wanted something squelchy-sounding like SQUEEK or SQUICK for 6-down, once I had the K, but nothing fit. Eventually I hit on CROAK.

Wanted 19-across to be a gimme and started desperately going through states and their capitals in my head until I finally had to admit to myself that my 5th-grade geography prowess was long behind me, and I was not going to get this by knowing the answer.

John V 3:01 PM  

Hello, late today, spending the morning at technology seminar, rather than solving. Bleh.

Finished, but with two wrong letters, hand up for OREAD and 40A had SETT, so of course 9D was wrong, too. In general, the entire North was hardest for me.

For me, challenging.

unsobbys: bad people at the UN

mac 3:33 PM  

Easy-medium for me, actually thought it was Thursday for a while this morning.

I wanted Orion, too, but I did write down "wagon" and wasn't going to give it up.

Agree, Ikea is very different from Pier 1. At Pier 1 you can decide which route to take through the store.

Had a write-over at 60: thought "hotel" was required. Then I did remember rente, which actually has more to do with interest, I think, unearned income.
For 10D Jeanne d'Arc crossed my mind, although both the country and the age are so wrong.

Nice puzzle day!

sanfranman59 3:38 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 22:57, 25:55, 0.89, 28%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Fri 11:36, 12:44, 0.91, 36%, Easy-Medium

I was apparently channeling my inner David Levinson Wilk last evening when I solved this puzzle. I've actually got a shot at landing in the top 50 online solvers for the first time on record (I stand at #40 as I type this). For me, it was one of those almost eerie solving experiences where the answers just kept popping into my head out of seemingly nowhere. I managed to get most of the 15s off of just a couple of crosses whereas I'm usually quite daunted by grid-spanning answers. Weird.

jae 3:50 PM  

Easy-med works for me. Plus, my opinion of this one was pretty much what Rex' said.

I too finished by switching out the E I had at the end of ETNA.

@ David et. al. - hand up for ORION. I also briefly tried LOVELINE and SOCCERTEAMCOACH.

william e emba 4:02 PM  

Medium-easy made challenging by going nuts on the last bit. I made the ORion mistake, and I too went for A DANGEROUS PeACE at first, and I knew to switch MADAMe to MADAMA, and I had SEAl before SEAR for cauterize. Nothing major.

Well, there was the little bit where I couldn't remember the capital of Ohio, but I could remember the capital of Utah and Iowa, and since the clue was so long I couldn't have been bothered to read it all the way to the very bitter end and find out it was asking for an Abbr, so in went the four-letter state name that I thought was correct by dumb elimination. I got the dumb part right. Fortunately, I figured out quickly who 10-D "She" was.

For those who guessed wrong on ETNA/ETNe, well, I too thought maybe there's a dialect version that's ETNe, but the clue didn't call for non-English. Whereas opera names--why, they can be anything, and there's nothing you can do about them, so why bother trying?

In this case, I am so ignorant that it was easy to get it correct. In fact, my knowledge of MADAM? BUTTERFLY is almost entirely based on Peter Schaffer tragicomedy the The Private Ear (usually double-billed with his The Public Eye. My parents were into little theater, and nearly 40 years later, I remember those plays. Vaguely. Very vaguely.

For what it's worth, there is an Etne out there somewhere. In Norway. Real tiny, about a decinatick. With its biggest claim to fame being that it was the birthplace of a King of Norway not named Olaf. Who knew?

Full Service 4:02 PM  

Unlike Pier 1, IKEA provides a family with a screaming baby in a mega stroller, plus a couple of drooling toddlers, to follow you along the route through through the store.

Also, I'm dating all my checks the 22nd, just in case the world does end tomorrow (team coverage on Fox starting at noon ET).

P>G>

Famine 4:12 PM  

@P>G> Why bother? They won't clear in either case.

william e emba 4:15 PM  

That bit about finishing the puzzle going nuts at the last bit. Yes, I figured out the COMMA joke. But I was torn between guessing REsTE or RENTE for the French pension. I thought about it way too much, trying to figure out was the song ??M IN or ??M Is Home Baby, and making all sorts of insane guesses. (UNCAP doesn't give a good cross? Mutter. How about UNTAP? UNPOP, maybe? Etc.) It took forever before I noticed COMIN' was one word, not two. Usually I have trouble remembering to split words (like I, FIDO).

And PS: I'm typing this up 20 feet away from U Penn's display of a panel from the original ENIAC. Where it all began.

EG in TO 4:56 PM  

Hi all, I've been following this blog for quite a while but this is my first time de-lurking. I have loved reading all your witty and intelligent commentary. Thank you Rex for being our fearless leader-- I have learned a ton!!

I finally have a useful piece of information to share with you all about a clue that is obscure to some.

Mamie Smith was the first musician ever to record the blues-- her song "Crazy Blues" was released in 1920 and sold over one million copies, back when the record companies were just getting established and trying to figure out what would sell.

The success of "Crazy Blues" sparked a rush by all of he record companies to find and record blues singers, and literally hundreds of women blues singers, including more well-known singers like Bessie Smith (no relation), were recorded over the next decade or so.

jberg 4:57 PM  

I thought NO ONE was such a good clue until I came here - and now we've ruined it for future use, since no constructor will want to be accused os stealing it from this blog. ("Frontman for Anonymous 4?")

After all the complaints, I suspect that Will Shortz is deliberately sticking in a UEY or UIE every time, just for spite.

As a Bostonian, I got USS CONSTITUION right away (after I remembered that it needed that second S), followed by the obvious crosses OPEN PANDORA'S BOX and THE PUBLIC EDITOR. It took quite a while to get rid of that one. Then I struggled for a while before suddenly realizing that I did know GIGI and Leslie CARON, after all!

MADAMA BUTTERFLY was quick, too, although she was a bit flustered, having lost her OBI to yesterday's puzzle.

Artemis would never have hunted with Orion, only with other women. Remember what she did to Actaeon!

Rex, I spent a few months in prison myself decades ago - thanks for teaching in one.

I may be a middle-aged white guy, but my captcha is INARAP

Pamela 6:05 PM  

Pamela @ Anonymous - i think RENTE is the French term for the kind of pension one gets later in life. First of all I put in BANDB, the Anglo translation of "pension", a kind of French lodging-house.

Anonymous 7:32 PM  

As to 'she' and War of 1812, for those of us north of the border the first thing that comes to mind is Laura Secord. Couldn't make it fit at all, but it did send me off to the mall to buy chocolates.

Z 8:19 PM  

Ethics Committee for 38A slowed me down. First time reading the comments where NoOne else tried out one mistakes.

Two Ponies 8:35 PM  

@ EG in TO,
Welcome and thanks for the history.

CFXK 8:56 PM  

When visiting Boston to tour the USS Constitution, had a nice stay at the Hampton Inn in Natick across from the now-closed Twinkie Factory (featured on Family Guy) on the site of the former Natick Drive-In Theater which would have played "My Cousin Vinny" (with free in-car heaters)had it not been closed and demolished to make way for the Hampton Inn. Casey's Diner in Natick has great grits, however.

sanfranman59 10:02 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 5:56, 6:52, 0.86, 5%, Easy (5th lowest median solve time of 99 Mondays)
Tue 8:30, 8:55, 0.95, 44%, Medium
Wed 12:20, 11:46, 1.05, 66%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 20:37, 19:00, 1.08, 71%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 22:54, 25:55, 0.88, 27%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:12, 3:40, 0.87, 5%, Easy (ditto)
Tue 4:11, 4:35, 0.91, 23%, Easy-Medium
Wed 6:20, 5:48, 1.09, 79%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 10:02, 9:10, 1.10, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 11:16, 12:44, 0.88, 31%, Easy-Medium

Geometricus 11:14 PM  

@CY: I had exactly the same coLD mistake as you. I put it in and took it out twice before I finally had the mistake-checker tell me to "listen to your instincts, dummy: 'Not so hot' would never be 'COLD' on a NYT Friday, only on an easy puzzle somewhere else!"

Even though I HTG the Moynihan title, I got everything by myself, legit! Second time in two weeks I finished Friday in less than an hour. I'm thrilled.

There's a delightful piece of sixties drivel on the 'Comin' Home' record by Torme called "Right Now". You can just smell the vinyl go-go boots on those chest-singing back-up girls bouncing in front of that cheesy organ...

Red Valerian 12:59 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle, though I had been hoping not to see it rated as easy. Great write-up, Rex.

Finished with one error (so DNF in my books). Guessed earlyish that the end of the Moynihan book was OUr PLACE, what with rETT looking as good as SETT to me. When I finally got SCHWA and OREAD, I did think the title a little, well, difficult to parse, but not impossible.

Another hand up for OPENacanOfworms. Didn’t know the pop culture names such as GARTH and BLAKE, but they were easy enough to get.

I didn’t understand COMMA until I read Rex’s write-up. It seemed a strange name, but there were lots of strange names back then, no? But it was good to learn the cluing was more brilliant than I’d realized.

@Gil.I.Pollas: hilarious story about Clematis. (If you’re reading this blog, Clematis, it’s still a very lovely name!)

@Anonymous 7:32pm: Laura Secord—ha ha! I wonder whether (and if so, how) she comes up in American history classes. (and now you’ve got me craving chocolate, too)

@jberg: Maybe we should think of UIE or UEY as a shout out to this blog. Or a thumb of the nose at…

Anonymous 2:47 PM  

Laura Secord came to my mind first too (MISS LAURA SECORD would've fit). But I'm Canadian...

rain forest 2:53 PM  

Personally, I liked that we had a Friday that was daunting-looking yet was easy. Not one write-over. Question: If the constructor comes up with nine 15's why do they also have to be bristling with what? Freshness, sparkle? As a group they were pretty darn good, and the fill wasn't bad at all. Last fall I laid out a pathway using setts, so that was a gimme for me, and a good word, to boot. You write a good blog, Rex, and fellow bloggers live up to your standard, mostly, but too often I find you are trying way too hard to poke holes in the product. Maybe it's just me.

Waxy in Montreal 3:33 PM  

My Quebec pension comes from the "Régie des rentes" so 60A was a gimme. Only real problem with the puzzle was my newly-revised Moynihan memoir "An Anger Outplace" which is umbo-jumbo but fits. Today I learned SCHWA, SETT, UMBO, SALA, who the Bang Bang Orangutang actress was and that Thomas Mann's daughter married W.H. Auden - plus the reason why - so 'twas an NEA kind of a day.

And as we in the frozen north chanted incessantly during the 1972 Super Series (ice hockey): DA, DA CANADA - NYET, NYET, SOVIET!

Red Valerian 5:02 PM  

@Waxy in Montreal: LOL at your comment. I especially liked 'umbo-jumbo.' And your book title is, well, in search of a book to title, but it would be a really excellent one!

And, yes, I remember the '72 series--I think we listened to the last game in the cafeteria at school, or something like that. I don't, ahem, recall a live video feed. (I'd like to forget the 2011 NHL series; rather, I'd like to forget the riot. Interesting, though, how things are unfolding with the advent (so to speak) of social media. It's facilitated more morons ("here's me smiling in front of a burning car") but also led to less anonymity. There's been a bunch of tearful mea culpas in the local press. Why the VPD thought their meet-and-greet strategy would work as well with a Stanley Cup play-off as it did with the Olympics is beyond me. Different crowds. Plus, "we" won in the Olympics.)

Sorry--venting over.

No comment on Laura Secord, Waxy? I'd guess she's not wildly popular in Quebec, though she must've helped keep the Americans from over-running the place.

captcha: stedly... how a drunk walks

Gill I. P. 5:38 PM  

@Red Valerian
I'm so glad syndication sends those in your future a post. I read them all and enjoy a different take. I know it's not always a "meet-and-greet" or a "fresh sparkle" but I sometimes find the comments a lot more entertaining.
May Clem rest in peace.

Waxy in Montreal 6:09 PM  

@Red Valerian - guess I might have considered our courageous Laura if this were the Globe&Mail puzzle instead of the NYT. I've always found it typical of the Canadian reluctance to single-out heroism that it took almost 50 years for her to become famous. According to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography online, "Laura Secord was 85 before she achieved wide public recognition for her heroic deed. While visiting Canada in 1860, the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII) learned of Laura’s 20-mile walk. She had prepared a memorial for the prince describing her war-time service, and she also had placed her signature among those War of 1812 veterans who presented an address to him. After Albert Edward returned to England, he sent Mrs Secord a reward of £100."

NotalwaysrightBill 7:36 PM  

Syndi-late.

East fell first except for the UMbO/bLake cross. Never seen an Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Reality show, You're Fired or even an Oprah show in my life, plan to keep it that way.

Some of the same initial wrong guesses as others, like Dolly Madison (my heroine!), truck for SUV alt., etc.

Never say YOWIE myself, usually take a deity's name in vain, like GIANTSEATURTLE; if someone else says it, however, that's what they get for asking for NOOIL.

Believe "mana" is YumaN disavowal.

Gotta look up the "Bang! Bang! Orangutang" movie. I hope it's not about some of the things my overimaginative head says it could be. Is Tijuana still a thriving mecca for . . . . Never mind, just thinking . . . .

Dirigonzo 9:26 PM  

Puzzle seemed easy for a Friday, so why didn't I finish it? Because SCHWA and OREAD were totally unknown to me, that's why. Had ORion, was sure it was right (always a sign it's wrong) and that kept me from seeing the Moynihan title.

@Gil I.P. - nice to see you are staying in touch with us in the hinterland. Seems to be a significant "Canadian contigent" developing back here. Come to think of it, if the War of 1812 had a different outcome, I could be Canadian.

@Red Valerian et al - I enjoyed learning about Laura Second; I know far too little of the history of our neighbors to the north.

Nullifidian 12:48 AM  

Syndicated solver here.

You won't hear any complaints from me about Jennie GARTH, whose name was one of my gimmes. As a Gen-XER in the midst of a lot of baby boomers or even older solvers—and puzzle constructors—I sometimes feel that my generation's pop culture references aren't given a fair shake.

Never heard of BLAKE Lewis because I don't follow reality TV, but it was easy enough from the crosses. Personally, if I had been constructing it, I might have been tempted by "____-light tragedy among the scholars of war". IMO, references to Howl are far cooler than American Idol, and might have still preserved the Friday difficulty.

Ironically for your complaint, there is a mythic 'sailor' named Lucy Brewer who was said to have served on the USS CONSTITUTION in the War of 1812 in the guise of a man, but the story is apocryphal.

For me, the USS CONSTITUTION was serendipitous answer because I just finished Patrick O'Brian's seventh Aubrey-Maturin novel, The Fortune of War, where the Constitution is portrayed as vanquishing the HMS Java in a sea battle. With that and MADAMA BUTTERFLY, I had the east side of the puzzle half finished in two strokes.

Cary in Boulder 12:49 AM  

I personally cursed a lot at this one. Wanted HOCKEY annoucers and SCHWA, OREAD, UMBO, SALA & SETT opened a CAN OF WORMS (if not whoopass) on me. But I did know Mamie Smith.

BLAKE Lewis I did not know, and after seeing that video I wish I still did not know. Idol, shmidol.

Cary the Music Snob

SharonAK 12:51 AM  

@ Matthew G
You'll probably never see this since I'm five weeks, and many hours, behind but wanted to tell you I literally laughed out loud at your Karaoke comment.

And Rex,
Really enjoyed your riff on The Duma disavowel

Red Valerian 1:26 PM  

@Waxy and @Dirigonzo

Synchronicity for syndi-solvers. There's an article on the War of 1812 in today's Vancouver Sun. I'll see if I can make a link:
War of 1812

Yes--it seems I can!


Okay, enough time in the past...

Waxy in Montreal 3:42 PM  

Thanks for the link @Red Valerian. The article also is in today's Montreal Gazette. When I read it, I was reminded once again just how relevant @Rex's blog often is for we late syndi-solvers.

Red Valerian 9:28 PM  

Sorry, you lot, but I tried to put in a link in a post to a more recent puzzle, and it didn't take (twice!), so I'm going to inflict one last attempt on you. At least you can see that I have succeeded in the past!

I am trying to embed a link to "runcible" at Wikipedia, for reasons I'm too tired to explain. Here's my attempt: Runcible

I can't tell on preview, so I have to post to see whether it really works. Sorry for clogging your inbox.

@Dirigonzo: it seems that, had things gone otherwise, @Waxy would be American, but you would not be Canadian. Unless they'd gone *way* otherwise, I suppose...

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP