1990 Clint Eastwood cop film / FRI 9-16-11 / Actress Diana / Minnesota home of Martin Luther College / Morse who sang "Cow-Cow Boogie"

Friday, September 16, 2011

Constructor: Joe DiPietro

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ELF OWLS (46A: Small night creatures) —
The Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi) is a member of the owl family Strigidae that breeds in the southwestern United States and Mexico. It is the world's lightest owl, although the Long-whiskered Owlet and the Tamaulipas Pygmy-owl are of a similarly diminutive length.[2] The mean body weight of this species is 40 grams (1.4 oz). These tiny owls are 12.5 to 14.5 cm (4.7-5.5 in) long and have a wingspan of about 27 cm (10.6 in).[3] Their primary projection extends nearly past their tail. They have fairly long legs and often appear bow-legged. They can often be heard calling to one another just after dusk or at sunset. Their call is a high-pitched whinny or chuckle. The male and female dart around trees and call back and forth. (wikipedia)
• • •
RP is away at some fellow's wedding this weekend, so you've got some guest bloggers filling in for the next few day. I'll leave my identity a mystery until the end of this post - you can be like one of the owls in this post asking, "Who?"

There were many people in this puzzle I've never heard of. Frankly, I doubt I'll ever hear of them again. Who is (33A: Wallace) STEGNER (who wrote "Angle of Repose")? I suppose that question answers itself. The Modern Library listed it as #82 on its list of top English-language novels of the 20th century, which I guess makes it fair game, but doesn't change my ignorance. Fair enough are THIN OUT (2D: Become sparse) and the cute (3D: Change one's image, in a way?) for RESCALE. That's something I'm fairly familiar with as a substitute blogger - grabbing pics from the net and rescaling them. Do we need both "in a way" and the ? in the clue? I don't think so. There was only one word crossing this one that I didn't think was completely fair, but the letter was guessable. We'll get to it shortly.

Who was  (6D: Actress Diana) DORS? Turns out she was the "English Marilyn Monroe." Diana Dors fun-facts:

  • When she was 20, she was the youngest registered owner of a Rolls Royce.
  • She was once married to "Family Feud" host Richard Dawson and gave him two children.
  • She was born Diana Fluck, but changed her name. Can't imagine why, especially since much of her work was borderline pornographic.

And who is ELLA MAE? She's Ms. (38D: Moore who sang "Cow-Cow Boogie"). There is not other option but to just simply let you listen to the song:

Who is NOAM (22A: Pitlik who directed "Barney Miller" and "Mr. Belvedere")? Again, I guess I've answer the question myself. Prolific TV director and actor with many supporting/ancillary roles. How I'd know his name I'll never know, but he's won an Emmy for outstanding direction, so I guess that makes him fair game. His crossing are a subset of Stegner's no no great issue here. But we do have a big Where? to contend with.

You might remember Rex's Natick Principle from a few years back. Tell me: Where is NEW ULM? (Okay, it's the (29D: Minnesota home of Martin Luther College).) But have you heard of it before? Fact: There are more characters on the Wikipedia page for New Ulm than people in that town. (Admittedly, Tippi Hedren was born there.)
I think it qualifies as a place that less than a quarter of solvers - even Friday solvers! - have heard of. So it's an educated guess on Stegner, an "I think so" on TWA being the (35A: Old "One mission. Yours." sloganeer) and figuring out that it's an M to start MFG, the (49: Abbr. before "Co." in some company names). Fairly fair, as I guessed right on all of them, but it felt like there was much more luck than I cared for here. This isn't a craps table; luck shouldn't be a big factor. And it looks like it should be New Elm, but you know HEINOUS has to be right for (37A: Worse than awful) - at least once you move past trying to fit HELLISH in. Did you have as big an issue with New Elm as I did? I feel like I'm channeling Angry Rex - perhaps he's displeased with his hotel accommodations. Let's go to a happy place.

No "who" necessary for HAN SOLO, though - that (47A: Reckless smuggler of sci-fi) was played by none other than Kris Kristofferson. What follows is perhaps the most memorable scene from all six films:

Han was the first thing to fall with 100% certainty, so I worked from there slowly but sure. Man this took a while and was just a bunch of jumping all over.

  • (1A: Reduce to bare bonesSTRIP DOWN — This is one of those entries where, were it not in The Times, I imagine the clue would been much more colorful, like (Pay a poker penalty) or something like that.
  • (31A: FirmAL DENTE — Too often I go to restaurants and they claim al dente but the word they are looking for is raw. Please don't undercook your pasta!
  • (63A: Spread quickly over the Internet) GONE VIRAL — Like my favorite, Nyan Cat! He's so cute! Wait - did you think that was a real cat? Nope!
  • (39D: "From my perspective..."I, FOR ONE — And this entry could clue answers like FIRST PERSON PRONOUN and ROMAN NUMERAL. I smell a chain theme coming in the future where theme entries are clued by the previous entries. Not sure whether I look forward to solving something like that.
  • (37D: Alice Cooper's appropriately titled theme song for "Friday the 13th, Part VI"HE'S BACK — This is an appropriate one to end on as I reveal my identity - the song first, and then my name.
Signed, Neville, Prince of CrossWorld


lit.doc 2:29 AM  

30D MEN IN BLACK explains a lot. I mean, seriously, what else could it be?

DNF. Eventually worked through everything but SW, where some sort of HEINOUS OWLS kicked my grASSfrog.

Tonight’s lesson for me was Read the Damn Clue, Chpt. n + 1. Making something sensible out of 19A IN? crossing 3D RES??LE took ages; 22A NOY? ruled out RESTYLE, and it wasn’t till I correctly read 23D “Certain meas. of [the] economy” that I saw that I’d also been misreading the clue for 3D. Sigh.

Ah, the blog is up. Hmmm. Good write-up, Neville, POC, thanks! Me too re NEW ELM. What a nightmare.

CoffeeLvr 2:33 AM  

No, I didn't know HEINOUS had to be right, I thought it was HidiOUS.

Thanks for posting, Neville. Now I will go watch all of the Stars Wars clip.

Catcha is humbat: a Dickensian small night creature

jae 2:37 AM  

I had the north as easy-medium and the south as medium-challenging. STEGNER was a gimmie. I've read the book which, BTW, won the Pulitzer. NEWULM not so much, but ULM shows up every now and then so, it was an educated guess. Write overs were, WENT for GONE (63a), RIGG for DORS, HAND for PUSH (9d), SNOW for SNAP (11d), and GNP for MPH.

This was what a Fri. should be. Tough but doable with some fun long answers, e.g. GONEVIRAL, RISKPRONE, SATASPELL ...

Nice write up Neville, although we disagree on the obscurity of STEGNER.

Octavian Solo 3:00 AM  

Great, classic Friday puzzle. Some lively phrases, some trivia, some pop culture.

Weird solving start for me. I was absolutely certain that 1A was going to be "Pick Clean." I then got the NEEDS A PUSH off the N and did the whole right side of the puzzle thinking 1A was right. Very confident.

But then the rest of the upper left was a struggle. Tried ASTIS for the A in CLEAN for "Blushes" and EASY for the E next to it and KID for the K. All made sense but ... couldn't get the crosses to work.

Then THE ROOKIE popped into my heed, and I had to rework the whole section. So it was fun to sort of do that part of the puzzle twice ....

STEGNER was a gimme for me, but NEW ULM and GRASSFROGS were hidden until the end because I was sure that the word before Co. would be LTD. ... MFG is kind of a clunker, though not technically wrong.

I was surprised to see BARE in the clues and BARER in the grid. That threw me.

Loved the ELLA MAE MORSE clip. Go full-screen and watch her eyes and hands, so expressive. What poise and style and showmanship. She was later credited with being one of the early precursors of rock -- a bridge from the big band era to Elvis.

That song is about a cowboy who's high on marijuana, which is why she has such a wry smile. Lyrics: "He's got a knocked out western accent with a Harlem touch / He was raised on loco weed / He's what you call a swing half breed / Singin' his Cow Cow Boogie in the strangest way."

Smokin'! I don't think this puzzle will go viral but it was fun. Thanks Joe and Neville.

retired_chemist 3:01 AM  

Hand up for RIGG, for not knowing NOAM and STEGNER, and for mentally putting the "The" in the 23D clue as did @lit.doc.

The latter error led to GNP, NNP,and CPI. CPI made STEINER (seemed sensible) but NOAC didn't sound much like a name. HTG to fix the two proper names, which I would not have if I had read the 23D clue correctly.

DAREDEVIL @ 17A was a problem, as were SCORE @ 21A, WENT VIRAL @ 63A and SPANK @62A. Actually these ambiguities represent a strength of this puzzle - lots of complexity to sort out. Solid Friday fare.

Thanks, Mr. DiPietro.

I skip M-W 3:41 AM  

@NEVILLE,, I don't understand what you say was played by K Kristofferson, since one of the few pieces of pop lore I know is that Han Solo was played by Harrison Ford.
Stegner, a gimme for me, too, headed the famous creative writing program at Stanford for many years.
There's a reserve for elf owls in Cesar Chavez Park in Berkeley, and bird watchers let you look through telescopes to see them in Spring. But what are grass frogs?
for a short while, I had Cabot born in Hanoi, though I thought not.

overall a good puzzle, not quite challenging.

jae 4:15 AM  

@I skip -- I kinda though Neville was kidding about Kris. At least I hope so.

acmeetmeinstlouis 4:16 AM  

are you here in St Louis?
Unlike @Rex, I made it here by midnight last night...we are going to some winery near Ofallon, should be lovely. Meet you near the arch for lunch? Altho it's 3:15am and I'll prob sleep in. I hope Rex and Sandy make it, otherwise it's just me and Puzzlegirl representing!

shrub5 5:13 AM  

Finished! but with one error: Figured Pitlik was NOAh so that left the economy measure as hPG. I figured it was some economy-related abbrev. that I didn't know. Also had HideOUS before HEINOUS. I like hideous better. PSSST has one too many esses...or maybe the subject didn't hear it the first time so it had to be repeated louder and longer.

Took me way too long to get SILENTE as SILENT E for matte finish.

I don't get RIP for big swing (61D) ?? Oh, maybe a big swing at a baseball?

I guess my wedding invitation got lost in the mail. Hope you all enjoy the SHINDIG.

lit.doc 5:17 AM  

@I skip (and @jae, FWIW), play the Osmonds' Star Wars riff. Clear, it will be.

WOTD: SARCHASM, the vast gulf that separates practitioners of irony from the irony-challenged.

Gill I. P. 5:33 AM  

IFORONE found this puzzle OK OK.
Didn't know STEGNER. I guess ELLA MAE would sing a song called Cow-Cow Boogie...NEW ULM? I'm sure it's beautiful..
Had Rigg before DORS. Cop a Wheelie before POPA but that didn't feel right.
My favorite TWA slogan was "up, up and away." 37A describes Carl Ichan to a tee.
Thank you Neville for the fun write-up.
Hope our Blog Master made it safely. A cheer blown to the about to be newly-weds.

Rex Parker 6:59 AM  

At the gate at DTW about to get on flight to STL. I haven't done this puzzle. It is early. The airport TV is driving me crazy with its constant loop of Jack Johnsony-soundtracked ads and celebutainment. Starbucks oatmeal is good. Neville is a godsend. Good morning,


SethG 7:35 AM  

I've lived in Minnesota for 20 years, and only realized I knew NEW ULM when I filled from the crosses. Because they make beer there.

Never heard of STEGNER, GRASS FROGS, ELF OWLS. Wavered between BARER and NUDER because [Reduce to bare bones] made me doubt the former. Guessed EBBED for hit bottom when spank didn't work. And tried MOANS for KEENS. For HE'S BACK, I had ??SNAEM in place for a while and even thought it was even backwards for some reason. And that's the most famous ELLA MAE they could think of?

Other than that section, not too bad.

Tobias Duncan 8:18 AM  

Buh-root-all, DNEFFCTF. I loved Barney Miller but I have not seen an episode since I was twelve.Did the English Marilyn ever star in American movies?
Write up was spot on.Thanks.

Anonymous 8:29 AM  

Wallace Stegner wrote Crossing to Safety which is one of the great all time books. I liked the reference to his lesser known but also brilliant Angle of Repose

dk 9:01 AM  

@sethg.. NEWULM also has a glockenspiel which is all I am going to say about this puzzle.

ELFOWLs.. I'd like to roast one on a spit.

TWA = bankrupt airline and that about sums up my ability to solve this one.

As a gentleman of a certain age I began with Rigg for 6D. I mean she is English as well.

Bitter! Table for one?

Worst thumping in awhile but still a fine puzzle.

*** (3 Stars)

As a young dk I loved the mix of animation and real when the cows would walk along the fence singing the Cow Cow Boogie. The one reeler (old school youtube) was a Saturday morning staple.

No BS 9:07 AM  

Stumped by SW not knowing themesong, elf owl, ellamae (or, to my shame) slot--could only come up with crease. But I pieced together the rest, and with a quick Google (which spells DNF for me) got He's Back and the rest fell into place. I got silente somehow by crosses, but thought there was some other worthy with the name Matte Silente. I always fall for those. Fun one, and I must agree, a challenge.

Larry 9:09 AM  

I hereby declare The Modern Library list of top English-language novels of the 20th century to be totally bogus and banned from further citation as authorative, as none of Raymond Chandler's works are included.

jackj 9:16 AM  

Old friend Joe DiPietro, (AKA Cakey), will never convince regular solvers that all the obscurities he was forced to use to finish this grid sprang full blown out of the depths of his knowledge.

ELLAMAE, NEWULM, GRASSFROGS, ELFOWLS, (and I suspect more to other solvers), may justify, for those who signed on to the idea of the Wentz/Shortz Theorem a short time back, the unapologetic use of the search button to help finish this poser of a puzzle.

(Just a reminder that the theorem was: "A solver is allowed to Google without penalty or guilt in direct proportion to the number of Googles thought to have been needed by the constructor while creating the puzzle.")

I also suspect Cakey cringed at what it took to fill the upper left, with RESCALE crossing GULPING which begat NOAM, though NOAM gives us a clear reminder that, as Pitlik preempts Chomsky, a new generation has taken hold.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, (ah, I love using that phrase!), I still enjoyed the puzzle and would have been less chippy if it had been a Saturday; yes, what a difference that day makes.

joho 9:25 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle but ended up with one error at STEiNER. Had I done the alphabet for MP(blank)I should have figured out MPG. Oh well. Loved many of the answers here. STRIPDOWN, RISKPRONE, NEEDSAOPUSH, SHINDIG, DOIDARE, GONEVIRAL and more. I also had HideOUS before I got HEINOUS.

And thank you, Neville, Prince of Crossworld, for your amusing writeup and great clips!

Anyway, one wrong square on a Friday isn't going to IRK me at all.

Thanks, Joe DiPietro!

joho 9:31 AM  

Should have proofread as my comment is disjointed with a typo, sorry! Hope you get the gist!

Oh, and best wishes to the soon to be newlyweds!!!

Glimmerglass 9:33 AM  

@Larry. I love Raymond Chandler, but Angle of Repose is a hell of a good book. I made the same mistake as Shrub5, but liked the puzzle. Definitely challenging for me. Wrestled with the SW for an hour before it finally fell. I love oldtimey country music, but ELLAMAE was a new one to me. Finally tried HE'S BACK (never saw the movie or heard the song, but all the F13s are alike), and that made everything click.

demit 9:39 AM  

Re 'rescale': I believe the 'in a way' part of the clue was referencing the fact that you can make several kinds of changes to a photo image. The question mark seemed to me to be a coy reference to the fact that the clue is deliberately trying to throw you off. It says 'one's image', not 'an image'. So it's trying to make you think of yourself instead of a photographic image. Actually, it does work both ways, if you think of dieting as rescaling...

I never heard of New Ulm, but knew that Ulm is a city in Germany, and Martin Luther was German, so...

Good Friday puzzle!

Larry 9:44 AM  

@Glimmerglass - "Angle of Repose"? 45 degrees in my Barcolounger, 90 degrees in my bed. Must have been a pretty short book :)

Or, insert puerile joke here.

syndy 9:47 AM  

@DK thanks that's why COW COW BOOGIE seemed familiar! 3/4 easy 1/4 HIDIOUS! I had NEW??? and MOAN and boy did I MOAN! It took twice as long for the SW as all the rest and I htg for NEWULM and ELLAMAE!GLAD we got a little boogie but now I want to revisit the cow version

jesser 9:48 AM  

I don't time myself, but I was ripping through this until I hit the SW, and then it all went to hell, because: 1) I wouldn't listen to Alice Cooper on a bet; 2) I confidently had 'spank' at 62A; 3) Cow-Cow Boogie? Need I say more?; 4) Although they are cute, I am not up on my ELF OWLS. Once I Googled ELLA MAE, the sector came together, but still slowly.

Writeovers were IRe before IRK at 4D, SwapS before SPIES at 21A (I like my answer better, given the clue), the aforementioned spank before CANED at 62A, and weNt VIRAL before GONE VIRAL at 63A.

I have No Idea how I knew Wallace STEGNER, but he apparently lurks in my brain in much the same way that ELF OWLS do not. (Thank you, Douglas Adams.)

Happy vacation, Rex! And Happy Weekend Rexites! And nice writeup, Neville!

P.S. Thanks to everyone who commented about my coming-out story the other day. My job usually prevents me from re-posting (damn job!), but I do read and appreciate all the feedback! Y'all rock!

jberg 10:00 AM  

As the old saying goes, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who love Wallace Stegner's novels, and those who have never heard of him. A gimme for me, one of the few sure spots in this difficult puzzle.

I'd also heard of New Ulm, though not of Martin Luther College. I used to drive through Minnesota twice a year, and I think it was on an exit sign or something.

My one big hangup was the NE - I wanted bok choy, then Snow PEA for 11D (I mean the whole point about snap peas is that you eat them raw, in the pod - not in a stir fry.) Finally POTS got into my consciousness, and the rest fell into place - though I still had to wrestle with myself for about 5 minutes before I could put that extra S in PSSST.

I never heard of GRASS FROGS or ELF OWLS either, but they were obviously FROGS and OWLS, so guessing wasn't too hard.

Tough, enjoyable workout in the end.

demit 10:09 AM  

Haha, jberg, if one had 'went viral' in there instead of 'gone viral' the bug eaters could've been GRASS CROWS. (I figured ok, they're semi-terrestrial, I guess they don't fly a lot, what do I know?)

I too had SWAPS for awhile, instead of SPIES. Agree, I liked ours better :)

Jim 10:20 AM  

Wow. What a humbling experience; methinks I shan't be concerned with timing myself on a Friday or Saturday anytime soon--I didn't even come CLOSE to finishing today.

SE was pretty good. A little tough, but OKOK, which got me from -SFROGS and MFG to SHINDIG. Alright, let's go!

Threw down resIN for Sap and didn't look back...and then I soon realized, I was in real trouble.

In summary...

NE? -- OUT!!
SW? -- Couldn't make more than AMOVE
NW? -- the worst of all. Had rib for IRK and nothing, I mean nada, zilch zero else.

Thoroughly humiliating. Nothing wrong with the puzzle, just out of my league. Thanks, Joe.

Lindsay 10:25 AM  

Hand up for STEiNER. Wanted cPi at 23D, but after considering the implausibility of NOAc surmised their might be a Manufacturer Price Index to complement the Consumer Price Index, thus ended up with MPi. Aaarrgh.

Problems in that area compounded by originally entering 28D IN fOr rather than IN TOW (I was thinking metaphorically rather than literally) and 49A amp (ampersand) which I now see is a slight misreading of the clue.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

Wallace Stegner is a giant. Depressing that his name is not instantly recognizable.

Sarah 10:48 AM  

Having grown up in England, I immediately thought "Diana DORS," but then thought "no, that's too obscure even for a Friday," and put down "Rigg." Should have gone with my first impulse. This one was a toughie with a couple of gimmes (SOLO, NEEDSAPUSH); ended up having to Google a few (NEWULM? Really??), and abandon a couple in the NE corner. Am I alone in thinking that PSSST is dirty pool? OKOK, "psst" is legit, but that third "s" is pushing it.

quilter1 10:50 AM  

Yes, challenging, but I finished, yay. Rigg before DORS, but Ms. Rigg is an actress, Ms. Dors not so much.

Good memory: a family of elf owls peering out of a saguarro cactus nest.

Uncomfortable memory: touring the old prison and caning floor in Singapore. The canes came in different thicknesses. Just the thought...eew.

Really liked SAT A SPELL. Homey.

Two Ponies 11:03 AM  

Didn't know the Eastwood film, the author, and the only Noam I know is Chomsky so the NW did me in.
I think that extra S in the NE is very questionable.
I have never heard the phrase "Met on the down-low".
I always struggle with a Dipetro puzzle so was not surprised to go down in flames.
Thanks for sitting in Neville.
Good luck to the travelers.

archaeoprof 11:18 AM  

SW was tough for me too, until HEINOUS opened it up.

Also tried "Stevens" before STEGNER.

I wonder if there is a guy out there somewhere named AL DENTE?

hazel 11:24 AM  

Cuma ti yi yi ay. its my new ay chi wa wa. Cowboy Boogie is one odd/awesome song.

@jberg - good one.

STEGNER was my first ink in the grid. I wonder if more men or women read his books? ;~)

great fri. puzzle - was trending an easy- medium based on my own Friday avgs. but, I spent as much time whittling down those last few HUHs as i did on the rest of the puzzle. so, it turned into a solid medium for me.

honored to be on Joe diP's wavelength.

MountainManZach 11:32 AM  
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mac 11:33 AM  

Fabulous Friday puzzle! This is how I like them best.

I had the most trouble with the NE, where I had snowpea. We call the other pod a sugar snap.

Nice shout out to our Noam.

Had "a sliver" at 40D, probably because I just had 12 women over for coffee and lunch, and that term came up quite a few times. I'm stuck with a lot of leftovers.

Great job, Joe DiPietro, and Neville, I recognized your "voice" right away! Thanks!

MountainManZach 11:34 AM  

Hungover Owls.

That is all.

mac 11:35 AM  

P.S. I envy everyone who still has to read Stegner's novels. So good.

slypett 11:36 AM  

Had a momentary lapse into yesterday's SPY/SPY thing and wanted 35A to be USA (U.S. Army) to accompany 36A USA. Not that I'm so gung-ho (what language does that come from? Burmese?) on our great warmongering land, but it would have been fun.

Campesite 11:37 AM  

First DNF in a loooong time. I just couldn't be bothered to hack my way through the southwest, and now that I see Ella Mae Morse is the answer to a song from 1943 (!), I'm glad I bailed. The rest of the obscurities I could let pass, but that one was too much. At least the cowboy was baked.
I liked your story too, Jesser.

Mel Ott 11:57 AM  

I guess we don't have a standard spelling for PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSST.

Elves have OWLS? Is that some kind of Harry Potter thing?

Matthew G. 12:06 PM  

Great write-up, Neville, and a great puzzle.

Although I've never been to Minnesota in my life, I found NEW ULM much less difficult than NOAM, but then, I am a geography buff and a pop culture ignorer, so I will almost always find obscure Wheres easier than obscure Whos. And somehow, I knew NEW ULM. But then, I probably spend more time staring atavistically at maps than the average person. It's this thing I do.

Harder for me than any of that was STEGNER. A giant he may be, but not one whose shadow has ever crossed my desk. The only Wallace I could think of was STEVENS, and although the title didn't sound like a poem, it was all I had, so it sat in the grid for a long time.

What I liked best about this puzzle is all the folksy expressions. I felt like I was having a conversation with the constructor on a country porch somewhere.

syndy 12:28 PM  
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CoffeeLvr 12:28 PM  

It was worth the extra S in PSSST to see SALIENT & SILENTE side by side.

I (confidently!) had wentVIRAL for a while, and that plus some other crosses that were correct gave me some interesting insect eaters: tReeshRewS.

I will put "Angle of Repose" on my library list. Alas, the Kindle version is not 99 cents.
Thanks for the laugh @Mel Ott, Elf owls!

Lewis 12:58 PM  

I too will put Stegner on my reading list, and great writeup Neville. I loved the taxidermy commercial -- saw that yesterday for the first time, and so, uh, different, that it is worth looking at...

syndy 1:16 PM  
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syndy 1:17 PM  
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Cheerio 1:18 PM  

I once had a conversation with my sister about the idea that female novelists have male characters that are not recognizable as males(Jane Austen) while male novelists have female characters that are not recognizable as females (Raymond Chandler). My sister suggested Stegner as a rare male writer whose female characters really do seem like women.

This puzzle was much easier for me than yesterday's. Yesterday, I could only get a few things in the grid, even with Googling. I had to look at RexP's solution to see the rebus, and then I was OK, but it felt like a challenging Friday before that. Today's seems on the easy side for a Friday.

DESievers 1:26 PM  

Very tough one! I suspect that, in general, those who didn't know Stegner are people who have never lived in the West. I have, so I did. However, having lived in Minnesota for 13 years helped me not a bit with New Ulm, which I had as New Elm until I was forced to concede to heinous demands. Then I said, 'oh yeah!' Who knew there was a Noam besides Chomsky? Not I! 'Strip down' crossing 'thin out' was a nice touch. But 'pssst' with 3esses? -- foul, I cry! Do I dare object that 'set a spell' would really have been more neighborly than 'sit a spell?' Yes, I do, and have! Hopefully, such a salient gaffe will not recur anytime soon. If so, I for one would move that the offender be caned. Would the punishment fit the crime? Not even! But a video of the caning would surely go viral, and on average, we would see fewer repeat offenses. And now I have an appointment, so I really must be punning! Ciao!

Sandy 1:58 PM  

Maybe Stegner's female characters are recognizable as women because they *are* women. I was kind of stunned when I read Angle of Repose and realized how closely it follows Mary Hallock Foote's own letters and words.

Did the puzzle on the plane, on actual newspaper purchased in Detroit this morning. Finished it by the time we got to St Louis. I found it meaty and enjoyable.

I did wonder at one stage if there might be such a thing as an Elm Owl.

Nice write up Neville. Thanks.


retired_chemist 3:32 PM  

I refer to parse it as EL FOWLS - small birds that haunt the Chicago transit system at night downtown.

sanfranman59 3:50 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 26:44, 25:49, 1.04, 61%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Fri 14:43, 12:46, 1.15, 77%, Medium-Challenging

DNF for yours truly today. Joe DiPietro always seems to whoop my rear. I was hopeful when I had the entire eastern half and the top three rows of the northwest in what was heading toward a Medium Friday solve time for me. But I just couldn't pull STEGNER out of my brain, had no idea on NOAM, still don't quite understand STRINGS and there were too many WTFs in the southwest for me to finish without cheating. NEW ULM, the GRASS part of GRASS FROGS, the ELF part of ELF OWLS, KEENS and ELLA MAE all had me stumped.

Cheerio 4:08 PM  

@Sandy Oh, yes, you are right. Actually, I totally forgot that I had also once had that very thought as well! Anyway.... Hmm. I recall that relatives of Mary Hallock Foote were angry about the book too.

william e emba 4:09 PM  

I went with Wallace Stevens, who wrote The Lack of Repose. Nicely enough, it gave me three correct letters from STEGNER, so it helped me solve the NW. But it slowed me down a bit in the center, as I tried to think of three letter words that could follow GULP, since the correct -ING clashed with the incorrect -ENS below. (The link, by the way, includes a photograph taken at yesterday's WOTD for some reason.)

Other than that, the puzzle was medium-challenging. I don't see what the big deal is about T-A crossing NE-ULM. There are not too many well-known three-letter companies, and since ULM is a German city and Martin Luther was a prominent German, what else but NEW ULM? I mean, at least the clue wasn't "former polka capital of the US".

I did not parse SILENTE until after I had all the letters from crosses and stared it for a bit.

hazel 4:25 PM  

@Sandy - One of the main characters was based on the Iife (and letters) of Mary Hallock Foote with permission from her family, who asked that he respect their privacy by not "outing" them. Until the book and character were so fabulous, then I guess they wanted to be outed. Her letters were then compiled the year after Angle of Repose came out (I think) and were published as a memoir.

So, depending on when you read it, the similarities shouldn't have been a secret. i gather his use of "the letters" remains a controversy to some. I read Angle of Repose well after it came out and only remember a beautiful blend of fact and imagination and truth and history.

Stegner was a wonderful writer, and it seems like he was also a wonderful man, so I felt compelled to provide some context to your remark. I'm actually glad you brought it up because it gave me reason today to reacquaint myself with him.

He talks, by the way, about the way he writes (including his characterization of women and researching The Angle of Repose) in the Paris Review Interviews - link below:


dk 4:29 PM  

singing cows:

lit.doc 4:54 PM  

@ret_chem, LOL at your nocturnal tweeters. Parse on!

Ed 5:07 PM  

Diana Dors starred in "The Unholy Wife", "I Married A Woman" and was sawed in half the Joan Crawford thriller "Berserk."

Alan 5:18 PM  

@DESievers, yup, I reckon it's the familiar regional literary bias that makes Stegner an unfamiliar name to so many who are literate enough to contribute to this site. I have every book he wrote, in part because my wife cowrote the first critical biography on Wally. We also have every book written by his son Page and his daughter-in-law Lynn -- "author of Sports Car Menopause " would've been a truly challenging clue. My favorite W Stegner book is nonfiction, a biography of John Wesley Powell (Beyond the Hundredth Meridian), strongly recommended even to those who live east of that line. Andrew Imbrie's opera Angle of Repose is based on the Stegner novel. Its title is a geological metaphor: "the maximum angle at which a slope of unconsolidated material can remain stable."

hazel 5:24 PM  

@d(hight hat)k - thx for immediately out-highbrowing me with the singing cow link. a new grudge begins.

Moonchild 5:36 PM  

DNF here too. On the bright side I did learn a few things and have a new author to investigate.
The bottom of the puzzle got me in a Beverly Hillbillies frame of mind with Sit a spell and Ella Mae (similar to Ellie Mae). Thanks for the videos Neville. Esp. love those low budget commercials.

chefbea 6:21 PM  

@acmeetmeinstlouis I am originally from st. Louis. Not there now. But I did see the arch being built. I know o'fallon - a nephew lives there. Want to here all about the wedding.

Too busy with family stuff today to do the puzzle just time to read Nevil's write up and a few posts before we go to dinner.

Sparky 7:48 PM  

Well, sink me. I sank. The upper NW my best area. The rest just had a few words. Lately, I have been filling in my blank spots and errors in green. This grid, all green.

Can't allow PSSSSSSSSST. Come on.
Rigg before DORS. WentVIRAL.

Looking at it solved, it really is a nice puzzle. Good write up Neville.

Eager to hear about the wedding.

michael 10:15 PM  

Fairly easy Friday for me. I'm surprised by the number of people here who don't know Wallace Stegner. I thought "pssst" only had two esses. Would psssst be ok?

sanfranman59 10:28 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 6:43, 6:51, 0.98, 47%, Medium
Tue 8:15, 8:54, 0.93, 32%, Easy-Medium
Wed 9:44, 11:50, 0.82, 13%, Easy
Thu 20:38, 19:17, 1.07, 69%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 27:19, 25:49, 1.06, 63%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:41, 3:40, 1.01, 53%, Medium
Tue 4:21, 4:35, 1.00, 56%, Medium
Wed 4:36, 5:50, 0.79, 6%, Easy (7th lowest median solve time of 115 Wednesdays)
Thu 10:32, 9:24, 1.12, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 13:59, 12:46, 1.10, 72%, Medium-Challenging

billthedog 12:15 AM  

I too am saddened that Stegner was unfamiliar to so many. And,for that matter, Ella Mae Morse. But I suppose it's a generational matter. Who in the hell is Hansolo?

Geordiegirl 10:52 AM  

Apart from the spelling of PSST I don't think it's correctly clued. PSST, no matter how many esses, is whispered and HEY YOU! is yelled.

Anonymous 2:45 PM  

Noam Pitnik! He was a semi-regular on the (first) Bob Newhart Show, which I loved a child. Nice to see him here.

Cheerio 12:19 AM  

It's Han Solo,a.k.a. Harrison Ford in Starwars films.

Anonymous 12:31 PM  

Challenging? Really? I must be getting better at this because it felt pretty easy for a Friday. Of course I did finish with two errors (Housing Price Index instead of Miles Per Gallon.)

@mel ott - According to the shampoo jingle, it's PSSSSSST

"he was my best friend"
- Mr. Peterson, mourning group bully Mr. Gianelli

eastsacgirl 5:03 PM  

Was feeling pretty smug and flew through the puzzle until I hit a roadblock at the SE. Had MOANS instead of KEENS for a long while so I was screwed up for a long time and DNF even though I had a few other crosses in that corner. Missed STEGNER and MPG also. Had STEINER and CPI instead. Still, was a fun puzzle and easier for me than a normal Friday.

Dirigonzo 7:55 PM  

Frpm syndiland, DQF (didn't quite finish) because SnowPEAS in the stir-fry led to the SwIsS working both sides (they're neutral, get it?) so that corner was a mess, and since I wouldn't let go of HideOUS in the SW that corner was no better. The rest felt pretty easy (for me, on a Friday).

And now from RPDTNYTCWP on this date (a Saturday) 5 years ago:
- "Solving time: 25 minutes (give or take some minutes)"
- "In the end, I managed to complete the grid, except for a single "wrong" letter ( in the "Providence, R.I." region of the grid) ... which I will defend despite its manifest wrongness, because my coinage / neologism is far superior to the actual "correct" answer. Sometimes solvers have to tell the puzzle what's right. If we don't ... well, I'm not sure. I think monkeys and/or robots end up as our masters."
- " Then I realized I really wanted DOLLY, which then led me right to Ms. PARTON, where I was happy to be led, as I love her like nobody's business. And I now have an excuse to put her on the "Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle" soundtrack, despite the fact that she was clued by way of reference to an abomination of nature and a perversion of God's Creation. I mean a sheep."
- "PS on rereading this entry, I realized that first-time readers might get the wrong impression about my religious beliefs (see my suggestion that God will GO POSTAL during END TIMES or that Dolly (the clone) is an "abomination of nature and a perversion of God's Creation"). So let me be clear: I love and respect all (non-violent) religious types, but the closest thing I have to a Church is IHOP."
- There were 10 comments including a dialog between early-Rex and @DQ, who had constructed the puzzle under discussion, which prompted Rex to write: "I suck too bad to contemplate entering a tournament. I mean, tonight (Sunday's puzzle), I couldn't even get ... well, no spoilers yet, but I couldn't get "Soldier's accessory of old" and I had EIGHT of the ten letters. And the answer (which I now know) is Patently Obvious. In a tournament setting, I would freeze, panic, flop sweat, etc. Still, I might attend, if only to satisfy curiosity / meet other word nerds."

Red Valerian 2:52 PM  

Finished with an error (so DNF): REStyLE instead of RESCALE. Ah, well.

Knew Stegner. The house he lived in when he was young is in Eastend, Saskatchewan. I saw it driving from Ontario (where I was living in exile at the time ;-) back to BC for the summer, just after reading Angle of Repose. (Going through Eastend is not the fastest route across the country, but the old '73 VW Westfalia was getting blown around too much on the Trans Canada.) His house is a Residence for Artists now (or was about ten/twelve years ago).

I enjoyed reading the book until almost the end, when I actually felt insulted by the plot device. But, hey, that's just me. It did when a Pulitzer, after all.

As always, I enjoyed the comments "today."

Anonymous 1:45 AM  

In the you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me dep't:
(1) Kris Kristofferson? Very possibly the worst actor ever to invade Hollywood, as Han Solo? As they say on ESPN, C'mon, man.
(2) SNAP pea? That doesn't even make any sense. Peas are round; there's nothing to "snap." But of course, you the constructor find a term that's only two letters different from the easily recognizable SNOWPEA, and you fiendishly say "Ha! They'll jump the track for sure on this one!" Yeah, okay, you got me. Proud of yourself?
(3) GENOA? My resource says Mr. Cabot was born in GAETA. How about that? Five letters, starts with G, ends with A. I guess you WANT trainwrecks, sir. You enjoy seeing all those cars in twisted metal ruins. Shall we call you Marquis?
OKOK, I'll quit. I'm NOTEVEN going to mention the triple S word, or the clue for CANED (an image you probably find amusing). But I must mention one of my pet peeves: SILENTE. If you have to resort to garbage like that, maybe you should tear it up and RESCALE. IFORONE found this puzzle monstrously unfair and undoable.


Red Valerian 11:29 AM  

@Spacecraft: snap peas and snow peas are not round-- they are flattish or slightly puffed up and about 5 or 6 cms long and 2 or so across. It is their pods that are round (if they get overripe). Unlike with "regular" (or, as we call them here, though I don't know why, "English") peas, one eats the whole thing, not just any round bits. And snap peas really do snap in half if they're nicely ripe. You should try some!

Anonymous 8:42 AM  

I know I'm a little late posting. Don't even know if anyone looks this far back. Just have to say that I was viewing the post on my iPhone and when I got to the end, I thought the guest blogger was going to be Alice Cooper!

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