Boxer who almost upset Joe Lewis in 1941 / TUE 9-13-11 / Sneakers brand sported by Abdul-Jabbar / Eurasian duck / Lilylike garden plant

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Constructor: Patrick McIntyre

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: CON GAME (37A: Scam ... or an apt title for this puzzle?) — four "celebrities" whose last names are homophones of "CON"


Word of the Day: BILLY CONN (62A: Boxer who almost upset Joe Louis in 1941) —

William David Conn (October 8, 1917–May 29, 1993), better known as Billy Conn, was a Light-Heavyweight boxing champion famed for his fights with Joe Louis. He had a professional boxing record of 63 wins, 11 losses and 1 draw, with 14 wins by knockout. His nickname, throughout most of his career, was "The Pittsburgh Kid". (wikipedia)
• • •

Took me exactly one second longer than yesterday's puzzle. This one played on a little on the easy side until I hit the SE corner. BILLY CONN is a mystery to me—needed every cross—and ... let me say this about ALGID. I think that we as a people need to get together and decide: ALGID or GELID. One of them can stay, but the other has to go, because with FRIGID already in the game, there really isn't room for two additional -ID words that mean "cold." I had only vaguely heard of GELID and had never heard of ALGID until I started doing puzzles. I know that I've seen them both, but it's hard enough to dredge one of them up out of the swamp of my crossword memory, let alone remember that there are two that need dredging. ALGID. Bah. (Cager) ELGIN Baylor to NENE to ERSE. It's certainly no worse than what's in place now, and voila, no ALGID. ELGIN beats ALGID by a greater margin than DENT beats NENE (everything else is a push). Q.E.D.


[I said a few days ago that I was going to watch "Breakin'" (1984); I wasn't lying. This (amazing) song is featured prominently]

Theme answers:
  • 14A: "High Hopes" lyricist (SAMMY CAHN)
  • 20A: Singer with the #1 R&B hit "I Feel for You" (CHAKA KHAN)
  • 52A: He was Sonny to Marlon Brando's Vito (JAMES CAAN)
  • 62A: Boxer who almost upset Joe Louis in 1941 (BILLY CONN)
This one was pretty crosswordesed up: SMEW! Haven't seen that one for a while. You see them a lot in ENNA (8D: City of central Sicily), or so I imagine. ERITU is an ARIA sung by ESSENEs (48A: Dead Sea Scrolls ascetic) blah blah OCTAL LAIC IDE ENA OXO ERST ARY. Long Downs are decent, and the center is actually lovely, but you really gotta cut the mold off the edges to enjoy this one.

Bullets:
  • 18A: Lilylike garden plant (HOSTA) — Proud that I remembered this, sad that I wanted to spell it like HASTA la vista, baby.
  • 23A: "Paper Moon" father and daughter (O'NEALS) — Seems like the clue should indicate actors, not characters, but that's a technicality.

  • 30A: Japan's "way of the gods" religion (SHINTO) — part of this puzzle's sweet, creamy middle, along with KOKOMO, which is thankfully clued non-Beach-Boys style (21D: Indiana University campus site).
  • 59A: Allowed to wander, as a chicken (FREE RANGE) — like in that Wordsworth poem, "I Wandered Lonely as a Chicken"
  • 64A: Jonas who developed a polio vaccine (SALK) — I saw "Jonas" and immediately wrote in NICK. I then decided that Dudley Do-Right's heartthrob (NELL) was TESS. You know, TESS Trueheart. But that was Dick Tracy. You can understand my confusion. I mean, those animated guys swapped heartthrobs all the time. I hear.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

90 comments:

MountainManZach 12:11 AM  

Well, I finally know how to pronounce Sammy Cahn and James Caan. Thank you, Patrick.

santafefran 12:12 AM  

Rotflmao re "I Wandered Lonely as a Chicken"! Top form, Rex.
Solace as a verb?
Really liked Kokomo, but what Rex said about all the crosswordese.

foodie 12:13 AM  

Rex, you commentary was definitely the best part of this puzzle... I laughed about ALGID and GELID-- I mean they really are a scramble of the same letters but for the A-E mutation- a common allelic variant in the English language. And then there's the tawdry TESS/NELL swap... what's the world coming to?

To me, CON (GAME) sounds way different from the others. As a result the whole thing fell flat. I'm sure it's because I'm a darn ferner who can't relax her jaw like a proper American...

Anonymous 12:14 AM  

There is a good KOKOMO clue Will should know.

Nell Fenwick 12:15 AM  

@Foodie - Who you callin' a slack-jawed hillbilly?

syndy 12:23 AM  

Does the PAPER MOON clue indicate the characters? MOS denied being her Daddy.If it is creamy in the middle and moldy around the rim does that make the whole CHEESY?

Gill I. P. 12:25 AM  

I second @foodie and I vote for GELID.

The New Girl 12:28 AM  

Mostly enjoyable. I especially liked all the long non- theme entries. The theme entries were more like spelling contest. Chaka Kahn? Khan? Cahn? How did she spell her name? Neat looking grid. I dislike the fact that I'm becoming immune to some crosswordese. Curses! It's pushing things of relevance out of my brain.

andrea conla michaels 12:33 AM  

This puzzle was my undoing at the Alameda tournament!

I had never heard of HOSTA, so I talked myself OUT of OCTAL and decided the plant was named after HOSeA...
Like Tears of Naomi, or some other plant name. That meant OCTAL became OCeAL, but I actually decided that maybe it was a math term I didn't know and -EAL would still be adjectival!!!!!!!!!

Damn damn damn. Meant one square wrong (on a Tuesday!), no bonus, no perfect score. Now I know what it's like to care about racing in a competition of puzzles!

Didn't know BILLY either and needed every cross, esp bec it could have been GILLY, TILLY, WILLY or some weird nickname like HILLY or SILLY!!!!!!!

Fun fact: ALGOR, a variation of ALGID is good in Scrabble and indeed means FRIGID. I got quite a kick out of this when ALGORe was running for Prez...the kiss with poor Tipper notwithstanding.
(Hey, what happened with that masseuse who brought down their marriage, how did that disappear from the news?)

Anyway, at lunch during the tourney, we all decided the only one he left out was DIDI CONN, who sort of starred in "Grease" of course, but winner Jordan Chodorow stumped us with this trivia question:
Name the 70's movie she starred in whose title song is also the film's title?

Anyway, this is a fabulous theme, totally helped in the solving experience, AND having CONGAME in the middle was gorgeous!

I love a theme like this.

And, @Rex, if NELL has a last name, that might be the basis of a nice little puzzle...cartoon sweethearts: TESSTRUEHEART 13
OLIVEOYL (8) MINNIEMOUSE 12
NELL ???
AH, Yay Google: FENWICK
NELLFENWICK only 11. :(
Damn numbers!
See how hard it is to come up with a nice theme and in this case spell all four names differently, AND have the first names match up in length AND put a reveal in the middle AND have it be a fun solve???
Yay, Patrick McIntyre!!!!!
Yet another constructor named Patrick on the horizon. That seems to be the most common name in construction...what is up with that?
(I'm surprised DAVID KAHN didn't write this puzzle)
Oh wait! Just found this on the cruiciverb database...from ten years ago!

Puzzle Info
ID 1565
Constructor Peter Abide
Publisher code nyt
Date Tue, Mar 20, 2001
Size 15 x 15


Theme Info
Entry L Clue
MADELINEKAHN 12 Comedic actress who's able?
JAMESCAAN 9 Character actor who's able?
CHAKAKHAN 9 R. & B. singer who's able?
IMMANUELKANT 12 German philosopher who's UNable?

So, even tho this is a repeat of an idea, only two of the theme entries are the same and this one has all four cons and a reveal.
Still love it.

Tobias Duncan 12:35 AM  

I will take words like vitiate in my early week puzzles over the crap we had today.
Early week puzzles should have less crosswordese. If they are harder thats just fine.Vitiate is a word you might actually use or at least read once in a while.
Monday Tuesday puzzles are first and foremost to bring new solvers into the fold.

And what the bloody hell is an AFBS ???
I worked on B1Bs and B52s. Never heard AFBS one time.

Noam D. Elkies 12:39 AM  

For "Q.E.D." read "Q.E.F.". Maybe if Rex's crossword memory didn't have to be swamped with p*p trivia to maintain a 31st-best-in-the-world ranking it would better accommodate more real words. Q.E.D. ;-) But yes, 56A:ALGID is swampy no matter what, and (as Rex demonstrated) Quite Easily Fixed even in this too-ambitious grid (two pairs of intersecting 2x9 stacks each containing a theme entry!). Since 18A:HOSTA seems harder to get rid of, clue it as a partial "host a" — the lily is way too obscure for a Tuesday puzzle.

NDE

P.S. Apparently no etymological link between "algid" and "Algeria" (nor for that matter with "Algebra" beyond the definite article ال (al-)).

P.P.S. I enjoyed the Wordsworthy wordplay too.

SethG 12:41 AM  

AFBS isn't a place, it's a places.

I still like the clue [Eurasian ducks]. "Gotta cut the mold off the edges" is gold. This puzzle took me exactly 31 seconds shorter than yesterday's.

Tobias Duncan 12:55 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
andrea carla mondays 12:59 AM  

@TObias
We had a long discussion whether place should have been "places" or was a generic place, but plural answer.

As for Mon/Tues hard words, etc. @Sparky (and @slypett who agreed) had quite the rant yesterday...
I just chimed in now on why you don't have VITIATE in a Monday puzzle, it's the last comment on yesterday's blog if @Sparky is willing to go back and read it!

And, speaking of yesterday (SPEAK...ARF!) I missed the sly tie in of IDTAG as DOGTAG!

PurpleGuy 1:05 AM  

I'm with you @Rex in your write up. Too much crosswordese, although my only hangup was also BILLY CONN.
HOSTA brought back memories. Had Them on the side of the garage in Mineola, NY. The were green and white leaves with purple(naturally) flowers. They like shade, so obviously can't grow them here in Phoenix.

Agree with Mountain Man Zach about the pronunciation. Thank you Patrick McIntyre.

Any puzzle with e reference to Verdi is a hit for me.
Happy Tuesday all.


Shanti -
Robert Joseph Cain/PurpleGuy

Unknown 1:39 AM  

AFBs = air force bases

Anonymous 1:46 AM  

In reference to ("Paper Moon" father and daughter (O'NEALS) — Seems like the clue should indicate actors, not characters, but that's a technicality), the father and daughter are the actors, Ryan and Tatum. The characters in the film are not father and daughter. Good film, you might want to check it out.

Don Byas 2:09 AM  

I wandered, lonely, as a chicken
Far from the Kiev Sea,
Never to be finger lickin'
Good to be ranging free.

Anonymous 2:25 AM  

Anonymous

Paper Moon starred the real life father and daughter pairing of Ryan and Tatum O'Neal, as on-screen father and daughter Moze and Addie.

Anonymous Too

Anonymous 2:28 AM  

Andrea, how do you find similar themes in cruciverb?

CoffeeLvr 3:21 AM  

I had all my trouble in the NE. Started correctly with SASHA, but wasn't sure of the birth order, so when the area wasn't filling out switched to mAliA, which led to the flower being callA. And I have a lovely clump of HOSTAs right by my back door, thanks to the previous owner. Thank goodness I knew ONEALS. Anyway, took almost twice as long as yesterday.

Night all.

andrea chaka monsignor 4:25 AM  

anon 2:28
I had remembered doing a similar puzzle, I thought it was Peter Gordon in the Sun (he's done EVERYTHING under The Sun, literally!) so I put in CHAKAKHAN as an answer and this puzzle popped up.
80% of my ideas get tossed when I check one theme answer against the database...I go ahead if it's significantly different...and I think this one is, except really to be different, it prob should have had one modern Con, as the old one had JAMES and CHAKA and MADELINE, this one had SAMMY who is even older and BILLY who trumps everyone in age...to bad it's CONN-ICK, Jr. HARRY is sort of newer.

Rube 4:38 AM  

An oldie like me didn't know CHAKA KAHN so had a u for the first A and thought ENNu sounded like an acceptable Sicilian city.

Never heard of HOSTA either, but the crosses worked. Had uNiv, as in universal, for blood type until the crosses gave me ONEG. I've given over 10 gallons and have never heard of ONEG.

As an oldie, I was looking for Ray CONNiff... but, it wouldn't have fit the pattern. Definitely beyond Tuesday level of difficulty IMO.

Evan K. 6:35 AM  

The middle was good, but all in all this wasn't fun for me and I stopped 2/3 through. There's nothing like four names I just don't know, and I didn't feel like figuring them out.

Cross those with crosswordese, and I'm outta there.

exaudio 7:15 AM  

@andrea conla michaels: was the 70's movie with Didi Conn "You Light Up My Life?" Radio stations were playing that song, sung by Pat Boone's daughter whose name I don't remember non-stop for a few weeks in app. 1978.

Would have had a faster time on this puzzle if I hadn't guessed wrong on the aria title. When I see that clue I just throw in some e's r's and t's and figure I'll get it with the crosses, but this time I forgot to come back and repair it.

dk 8:07 AM  

Ahem... they are shuttles not birdies.

Dudley Do-Right's heartthrob was his horse who was named Horse, Dudley was Nell's heart throb.

These gross errors are enough to bring about the wrath of Kahn but instead I will ALGIDly grant this puzzle --

** (2 Stars) For all the reasons cited by our dear leader.

On HOSTAs. Started a HOSTA rescue league when living in So Cal. We would go to houses/apt buildings about to be torn down and remove all the Hostas we could. We would then plant them in our yards, at the local schools etc. LOL moment was when a realtor was showing my house and exclaimed to the potential buyer " The seller has invested over $10,000 in Hostas. You may wish to know that there may be over 100 varieties of Hostas... or not. Operations have been transferred to Western WI although opportunities are few as an unintended consequence of the housing bust.

Shay 8:18 AM  

Anyone else think that 53 Down would have been better clued if "Place" was the plural "Places?"

Matthew G. 8:27 AM  

Don't generally like puzzles where all the theme entries are celebrity names, and this was no exception. Never heard of either SAMMY CAHN or BILLY CONN. Also never seen SMEW, HOSTA, ESSENE, or ALGID before despite having probably done a thousand puzzles in the last year. Fill this weak had better be propping up a lively theme, but not today.

Thumbs down, sorry.

joho 8:33 AM  

This puzzle was a lesson in how to spell BADMINTON for me.

Loved KOKOMO!

The CON theme left me feeling decidedly PRO.

Thank you, Patrick!

jackj 8:39 AM  

Having had a good deal of contact over the years with Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Caan, I can assure you that neither one pronounced their name as "CON" (as in rhymes with "sawn").

For each of them, the pronunciation mirrored that in the famous "pahk the cah in Hahvahd yahd"; CHAKA KAHN I'm guessing the same.

So, a Tuesday theme gives us wrong answers for three of its four theme clues and adds in some dreadful fill; that sounds about right for a Times Tuesday puzzle.

If Will tried to publish a book called "Great Tuesday Crosswords I Have Edited", my guess is it would be refused an ISBN number.

jberg 8:41 AM  

Let's see, HOSTA are "lily-like" because . . . well, they have leaves, and flowers, and the flowers are on stems. That about sums it up.

Finished with a stupid error, SAMMY kAHN, even though that gave me a nonsensical CkS as a unit of measure.

John V 9:07 AM  

Agree that 53D could have been better if plural, but Jonas Salk was such a gimme that I never noticed or needed the clue.

ALGID? Is the the news network?

Hullo ESSENE! Where you been -- hanging with that Maleska/Weng crowd? Come again when you can't stay so long :)

No mileage rating this morning; too busy reading US Open stories to notice where I was (a common condition for me)

Easy/medium. Hosta la vista, y'all.

Jim 9:09 AM  

Surprised no one has a problem with PROKEDS. Who's the guy, JohnV maybe, who hates sports references? But a basketball sneaker used (as far as I can tell) only by a guy who's been retired for 25 years? I thought they all wore chuck Taylors.

And crossing both EPSOM (not clued with salts! On a Tuesday) and HOSTA? Maybe i$ getting better at all the crosswordese, but this turned a six minute Tuesday into a nine-and-a-half minute one.

I must say the rest of the puzzle was enjoyable though.

John V 9:21 AM  

JohnV loves sports references. JohnV would LOVE a puzzle with a tennis theme, for example (pun intended). That said, PROKEDS was a bit clunky as fill, for me, but no problem with it.

glatude: a glad attitude

Cheerio 9:21 AM  

Hostas are like a weed here in the MidAtlantic east coast. They tolerate shade and so are hugel popular. One thing that is fun about them is how you can divide them in half in the early spring when the shoots first come up and are sticking straight up. You can take a shovel right through the middle and replant as two separate plants. When the leaves unfurl, the 2 new plants both have perfect concentric hosta shapes. So, you can develope a whole border of identical hostas off of just a few plants and a few yeas.

jesser 9:31 AM  

No writeovers but the O in HOSTA was the last to fall and was a complete guess. I had it as either an e or an O, and went with PRO over PRe.

ALGID is new to me, but Purple Guy and I live in places that seldom become ALGID. Acrid? Ah, when the chile is roasting in the fall! Oven-like? Ah, summer! Yes, yes, we know those feelings.

It is my general feeling that the world will be better off when all the MONSIGNORS and their ilk head to the EXIT SIGNS and create a world without churches.

God = Good. Churches = Evil.

Happy Tuesday, Rexville!

quilter1 9:32 AM  

I believe HOSTAs are in the lily family not just lily-like. I have several varieties in my yard and I didn't invest, just divide every few years. Fun to hear about the hosta rescue league.

I thought this puzzle was easy despite having no knowledge of CHAKA or BILLY. Easy to get with crosses. I liked most of the less usual words, including ALGID. I think you can't have too many words for the same thing, so my vote is for more.

Lonely as a chicken so funny.

M07S 9:35 AM  

@jackj I'm curious about your location. I have lived and been to many places but have never heard "con" pronounced so it rhymes with "sawn". Jersey maybe? Just wondering.

envirojam 9:43 AM  

sorry, previous discussion notwithstanding, the "con" in "con game" is NOT pronounced anything like the theme answers in any region or dialect I have experienced in nearly 70 years


"con game" therefore, is still apt however...

envirojam 9:49 AM  

meant to except "Conn" from my previous comment

David 9:52 AM  

Had fun with this one, I like CONGAME very much in the middle of the puzzle as a reveal, in a superb section to boot. Fifteen seconds faster than yesterday (5:16 vs 5:31). Was fortunately familiar with all 4 theme names, though I never learn to automatically write SAMMYCAHN (I want KAHN).

Never heard of HOSTA or ALGID, and my hand is raised high for GELID. Hand raised one more time for AFB vs AFBS. And thumbs up for @JohnV channeling his inner Rickey Henderson today.....

Bob Kerfuffle 10:01 AM  

@M07S - In my part of New Jersey, all the theme answers and the reveal are pronounced the same. Maybe try Boston for "cawn."

DBGeezer 10:22 AM  

It might have been nice to include the clue, Hartford's state, CONnecticut.

@Rex, I am so ready to believe in the inspired accuracy of your words that I thought I had misspelled in my mind the boxer's name as Louis instead of the Lewis with which you opened. Then Wikipedia let me know I was right.

efrex 10:23 AM  

Liked the theme, even though none of the people referenced are in my cultural wheelhouse at all. Agree with everyone's gripes on the sub-standard junk fill, although I knew ESSENE straight away (those "Great Lecture" bible classes actually proved useful for once). Liked the stacked/ side-by-side 9s, both aesthetically and for the interesting entries. Never heard of SMEW or ALGID before, though. Finished in slightly slower-than-usual Tuesday time.

Food-nerd gripe: WOKS are only "stir-fry vessels" where you have a fire pit; in western kitchens, just use a heated saute pan.

chefbea 10:28 AM  

Fun puzzle. Knew all but Billy Conn.

Have plenty of hosta around our house..they do spread.

I'll have to try reeses flavored biscotti..yummm

Matthew G. 10:38 AM  

There are a lot of problems with this puzzle, but CON not rhyming with the theme answers is not one of them. I think they rhyme in the vast majority of dialects.

John V 10:41 AM  

In lower Fairfield County, Hosta make excellent deer bait. The wife plants them far from the house for the deer to eat, keeping them away from the house plantings. Works well.

Mel Ott 10:51 AM  

Some of us old crocks remember BILLY CONN.

I guess this conversation has been held here before, but I still don't see how the singular 'Place' can clue the plural AFBS.

In HS basketball in the 1950's we could choose between KEDS and Converse. Nike was still just a mere goddess.

slypett 10:58 AM  

Con is not pronounced cawn in the Boston area.

jackj 11:00 AM  

MO7S- UConn; Yukon; sawn; (Billy) Conn.

To this New Englander they all rhyme.

Mr McIntyre must be from Brooklyn or thereabouts.

hazel 11:12 AM  

This puzzle took me approx. 3 1/2 min. less time than yesterday's! I think because it oozes with ese - so that there was a lot of autofill - and the gimmick filled itself in from the downs. so not much thinking, just doing. i suspect i would have hated this puzzle a couple of years ago because of its insider nature, but today its just an easy puzzle that is already fading from my memory.

Two Ponies 11:16 AM  

The puzzle was pretty boring. All the old crosswordese made it almost seem like a satire.
Fortunately Rex and everyone else here are entertaining today, as usual.

Sparky 11:36 AM  

Glad your sense of humor is intact @Rex after all you and your family have been going through. Yesterday too funny with dog jokes. When can we have a cat theme and cat jokes? Or are cats above all that?

My accent like New Jersey @BobK. All sound the same to me. Skews on the mature side so fairly easy day today. One error, had HOSeA and I even know HOSTAs. Ah well. Apparently now in family Asparagaceae and out of Liliaceae. Taxonomy such fun.

Tomorrow humpty dump dump day.

Sparky 11:46 AM  

Thanks for the explanation @ACME. I can see it's complicated. And arbitrary. Must be frustrating. For what makes Shortz think GAOL, ROVE, OAST, and LYRE are "knowable"? Different strokes for different folks. "Positively 4th Street."

archaeoprof 11:58 AM  

@Rex: Hilarious write-up today.

If Dick Tracy and Dudley Do-Right got into a fight over Tess or NELL, who would win?

Lisa Feather Art 12:25 PM  

This puzzle left me irritated for several reasons. I'm a bit of a new solver so all the crosswordese went over like a heavily loaded vulture. And, as someone mentioned, the use of "solace" as a verb seems wrong. Then there was the vaguely clued "O'Neals", which I even knew but it was so awkward that I felt like a tween for a moment there. As for Prokeds, wasn't he an Addidas man then went to LA Gear? That's what google said, anyway. Algid just made me want to quit trying. Seriously. It's bad enough that smew was in there and whatever AFBS is without having to throw in that extra "igid" that no one except grammar mavens and word snobs ever might use (the crowd I hang with gets annoyed when I use the word "hale" in light conversation). Ugh. Even with the theme being crystal clear it was so impossible to figure out what was being asked for. Thankfully there is Rex to make you laugh at the whole thing!

WESISLAND 12:56 PM  

Is this the third day in a row for "epson" or "epsom?" I think so, and pretty sure that I had the last letter incorrectly each time!

mac 1:14 PM  

It was a decent Tuesday puzzle, but I did not use the theme to solve at all. Probably wouldn't have thought of Chaka Kahn if I hadn't read Frank Bruni's column this Sunday. Like @Foodie, I pronounce the names differently, but then I apparently don't even know where to put the accent in Canada...

Agree with @dk about the birdie. Even in Holland we say shuttle.

CFXK 1:27 PM  

Theme last names are homophones?

Not where I come from. No way. Now how. Not even close.

And I'll never be conned into thinking otherwise.

JenCT 1:38 PM  

They're all pronounced the same to me, a native New Yorker.

Didn't know ALGID or SMEW, and also hesitated on SOLACE 'cause it didn't sound right.

I remember when PROKEDS were big.

I have several varieties of HOSTAs around my house. I was given one as a gift, and when I complained to a friend that the hosta never grew much, she informed me that it was a miniature. D'oh!

Hostas

miriam b 1:49 PM  

How about "shuttlecock"? After a college badminton class, our strait-laced gym prof innocently instructed us to put our cocks on the piano as we left. All-female college, BTW.

Born/raised in CT (Fairfield County); college in Manhattan; living in Suffolk Co., LI lo these many years. To me, all CONs sound alike.

Stan 1:57 PM  

Homophones or slant rhymes? It all depends where you learned to speak.

For fun, take this quiz.

Nighthawk 2:03 PM  

Hand up for being confuzzled and later irked at the geLID, ALGID, frigid thing.

Otherwise, breezed through.

@RP's write up was ComicCon!

In the serendipity column, just re-watched last night "Flesh and Blood." I think a overlooked flic with Jimmy Caan playing an eerily upbeat and coolly cruel villain, a subdued Meg Ryan, Denis Quaid, and a breakout performance for Gwyneth Paltrow as an icy con as Caan sidekick. Written and directed by Steve Kloves (speaking of pronunciation, Clovis, as in New Mexico and spearpoints and its associated pre-Columbian culture, not cloves the spice) on the heels of his "Fabulous Baker Boys", and before his quirky "Wonder Boys" and before he hit the jackpot screenwriting all but 1 of the Harry Potter flics. All 4 play roles you don't normally see them in, making you realize what fine performances they muster here.

Anonymous 2:09 PM  

FWIW - Lew Alcindor wore Pro-keds. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wore Adidas.

chefbea 2:39 PM  

@Stan took your quiz. I'm Neutral which is right cuz I'm from St. Louis.

and btw all the cons sound the same to me

Anonymous 2:39 PM  

I'm with the nays on this one. Four names of people I don't know (OK, I know Caan, but not from the clue) with a lot of obscure crosses, not a great puzzle for a Tuesday.

quilter1 2:51 PM  

@Lisa Feather Art: I don't consider myself a word snob (though I have been called Conan the Grammarian) but I like to use a variety of words in conversation and writing. People who sneer if you say "hale" in a sentence are lazy/ignorant/limited. Use all your words while you got 'em. My mom was aphasic after her last stroke and it was so frustrating for her. My love of language came from her and my dad, both solvers and voracious readers.

sanfranman59 3:17 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 8:07, 8:54, 0.91, 26%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:22, 4:35, 0.95, 39%, Easy-Medium

M07S 3:29 PM  

@jackj et al. Interesting to me about the various pronunciations. All cons sound the same in my dialect. I lived in Philadelphia for a while and they pronounce Mary, marry, and merry uniquely. I couldn't believe it so I wrote down each one and had a native speak it to another. Yup, they got it right every time. I think that caused me to tune in to localisms (yeah, I looked that up before I used it). It is a fun and harmless hobby. I live in central PA now and am amazed at some of these. One doesn't bathe...one "baths". Jimmy, did you bath the dog today? Or, I was at the hospital and got "jug" with a needle. I have many more.

Scott 3:31 PM  

I don't understand CCS? I got stuck here because I had C_S and I put in COS for COSINE.

Northeastern . . . 4:02 PM  

Northeastern (aka Standard American) Accent said...

@Scott - CCS = Cubic Centiliters as in Hypodermic measure

Northeastern . . . 4:04 PM  

. . . or, to be correct, Cubic Centimeter

Lewis 4:13 PM  

@Scott -- "stuck" is the right word, CCS are a measurement used in hypodermic needles.

I'm a relative new solver, and this puzzle was a little but not much slower than my typical Tuesday because I'm not so well versed in crosswordese.

I pronounce all the CONS in this puzzle the same in my New York/Florida accent...

Two Ponies 4:20 PM  

@ MO7S,
That bath v bathe thing is funny.
Where I grew up in NE Indiana we would "warsh the dog down at the crick". I don't speak like that now and maybe never did. I was told when I lived in England that I sounded Canadian. I used that to protect my Yankee pride. If I did something clever then I was a proud American. If I did something stupid I claimed I was Canadian.

afroqwn 4:35 PM  

Shortly after coming to America from South Africa, I watched a Sesame Street segment where the sound 'o' was being taught, (pronounced tawt where I come from).

In the sketch the dentist asked the patient to open his mouth and say what I thought (thawt) was 'aah' as in Caan or Kahn - but no! The word was 'pop' - which I pronounce totally differently.
I laughed(lahfed) long and loud at our different pronunciations.

They show up again today!!
I love reading the comments, a daily ritual after doing the crossword and reading Rex's take on it.

chefbea 4:40 PM  

@two ponies My brother says warsh. Guess he learned that at Warshington University in St. Louis. I say Wash!!

william e emba 4:55 PM  

My last letter was also the cross between H-STA and PR-KEDS. I was first stuck, trying to think of something like "prake-ids", accent on the first syllable, then I remembered KEDS are a sneaker brand. Then I was thinking HeSTA sounded nice, and maybe Pre-Keds were some line for children, then thought, the puzzle had Pre-K in the clues, and the name is way too stupid anyway. Then I got it.

KOKOMO is perhaps most famous as the home of Ryan White, the hemophiliac who contracted HIV/AIDS in the 80s from a blood transfusion and became a poster child for raising public awareness, while battling the public schools and some very hostile townspeople.

Sfingi 5:10 PM  

Cute and clever.

Old programmers remember doing math in OCTAL.

SOLACE - According to Jens Otto Jesperson, in English, nouns and verbs have traded places traditionally.

@M07S - noticed that Mary/merry thing in Jersey. I've tried to hear it many times, but can't (Kant).

Speaking of Canada, how about that pronunciation of New Foundland with the accent on the last syllable?

santafefran 7:35 PM  

@chefbea, ditto what you said:

@Stan took your quiz. I'm Neutral which is right cuz I'm from St. Louis.
(and environs)
and btw all the cons sound the same to me

Plus, like @chefbea and @two ponies, I have heard people from Missouri say "warsh" and also "rench" (what you do with clothes after you warsh them), but I don't use those terms.

Two Ponies 8:07 PM  

@ santafefran, Wow, that's a new one to me. I'm learning a lot about regional speech today. Reminds me of a trip to Maine once. The accents were so thick in the rural areas that I wasn't sure it was even English!

Sfingi 8:46 PM  

@Stan - great quiz. I'm Northern, of course.

My paternal grandmother was from Baltimore and my father was born there but moved to NYC, then Upstate. He had some peculiar words. "Axed" for asked, "chimley" for chimney. My grandmother called breasts "dinners." Warshed disappeared after a while.

Then there's the soda/pop line somewhere around Rochester, NY. On the East side of the line we call colas "soda." On the West, "pop."

Captcha - pidotowa - little Ottowa?

My hosta is white with dark green leaves. Have to work to keep the slugs off - beer, peanut shells.

Schwa 9:47 PM  

Seriously, you're all arguing over regional differences in my pronounciation? I exist solely because there is no systemic difference between any of my hundreds of incarnations

Tita 8:27 AM  

Finished really fast.
Love all the comments today - especially the poem - thanks!

Just have to add that I smiled at 'Cooper cars- MINIS', and 'Sunday's Convertible- RAGTOP'. Now if only later this week we get Shade of Red- CHILI, my wheels will be fully described...

Well - sun is shining - the open road calls!!

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

I'm from Pittsburgh and remember Billy Conn well. He was a good fighter and a handsome guy who got a bit of attention from Hollywood in his day. Sports Illustrated published a story back in the mid 80s about his romance/marriage with "Greenfield Jimmy" Smith's daughter Mary Lou called "The Boxer and the Blonde." P.S. All the silliness over how to pronounce con, caan, cahn, conn, is just that, imo -- silly. It's a puzzle gimmick, people! -grin-

Doug 1:04 PM  

Schwa--

None of the names in the theme are schwa sounds, nor could they be. Sorr-o! Schwas are unaccented vowel sounds which always sound, more or less the same and so are often misspelled. Also, in English or American, schwas are only found in multiple syllabics, never in a monosyllabic words (or names). The first "e" in essential is a schwa, as is the "i" in pencil, or the first "a" in America or American. Of course, the beautiful "i" in Cybill and the "y" in sibyl are schwas. (I understand that some linguists believe there to be free-standing schwas in South African English and in Kiwi English, but those are probably just schwa-like sounds, and not true schwas . . .)

Cahn, Khan, Conn and Caan are all pronounced the same with a "short" O (although it tends to be stretched and held in names--the a sound in a con job (2 short a's) and a Caan performance are the same, but the duration in the name is a tad longer. "kon" perhaps is the clearest pronunciation guide, with a nice little round saucer above it. The delicious "o" from olive, sitting in the bottom of a martini.

As to your idea that there is no "systemic" difference in hundreds of "incarnations," well, all schwas are pronounced the same (note the vowel sound in all the of "-tion" words are in fact, schwas), but really it is only the spelling--a mere question of orthography--which varies.

Doug 1:08 PM  

Correction, short o's not short a's--

"Cahn, Khan, Conn and Caan are all pronounced the same with a "short" O (although it tends to be stretched and held in names--the a sound in a con job (2 short o's) and a Caan performance are the same, but the duration in the name is a tad longer. "kon" perhaps is the clearest pronunciation guide, with a nice little round saucer above it. The delicious "o" from olive, sitting in the bottom of a martini."

rain forest 1:45 PM  

Liked the puzzle. Don't care if there is crosswordese. Picky, picky. Fun blog, Rex. Stan: the quiz was amazing. I'm from Canada and the result showed I have a Canadian accent.

Dirigonzo 4:20 PM  

From syndiland, the results of @stan's quiz put me in northeastern New England, which is exactly right. While I do not pronounce all of the theme answer sounds alike they were close enough for the puzzle still to be fun. Got ALGID from the crosses - isn't that why it's called a crossword puzzle?

By comparison, early-Rex had this to say on this date five years ago:

- "Solving time: 9:03" (Wednesday puzzle)
- "Got up and immediately felt gross again, but I'm taking the day off in an effort to marshal my recuperative powers. It's "marshal," right, not "martial?" If I'm wrong, blame the cold." Early-Rex was still not feeling well but blogged-on through his suffering (but apparently did not go to work)!
- "I am sensing that eventually I will have to burn a "Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle" soundtrack CD, and I will be more than happy to put this great song (AC/DC "Back in Black") on it. If he ever produces it, I will buy it!
- "65A: Polio vaccine developer (Sabin)

I, of course, always want Salk here. Sabin's vaccine was later and LIVE, which put the US off it despite the many advantages (easy to take, no need for booster shots). Salk played up the dangers of Sabin's vaccine, but eventually the US tested Sabin's vaccine and it became the standard vaccine. And yet Salk gets all the glory because he got there first." SALK appeared in the grid today and modern-day-jokester-Rex went with nicK as his first answer.
- "Despite his inability to spell his own name correctly, Uncle Charley is of historical importance as a role model for future gay tv uncles." Early-Rex misspelled the name and so his solving time was increased and I suspect this irritated him.
- "28D: Actress Lindsay (Lohan)

A very respectful way to clue this young woman, given all your options. "She says her breasts aren't fake" or "Valderrama plaything" would have been too crude." Ouch!
- There were three comments including one by early-Rex which included this: "
Factoid: "skulduggery" derives from Sc. "sculduddery," slang for fornication. And the word dates only as far back as the early 18c. - weird, since it sounds so Shakespearean." There is still no where else you can go to learn stuff like this.

eastsacgirl 4:46 PM  

Disappointed in myself for a Tuesday. I usually breeze through at least until Thursday. Got stuck in the NE. Everything else came pretty quickly. Oh well, here's to a better tomorrow.

Anonymous 8:02 PM  

Spacecraft here. ALGID was new to me, too, and I rofl'd at Rex's "3 words for 2 meanings" rant. Puts me in mind of the late, great George Carlin:
"Flammable, inflammable, non-flammable. Either a thing flams or it doesn't. Don't you think two words can handle this idea?"
I wonder about the people who complain about "four names (they) never heard of." Really? Sammy Cahn, one of the most beloved song lyricists ever (including the theme song of the equally late, equally great Harry Calas, equally beloved longtime Phillies announcer)? And how quickly we forget Rufus Featuring CHAKAKAHN. And if you even try to tell me you don't know who JAMESCAAN is, I can only send you back home under that rock. Okay, BILLY's a little tougher--but by that time you've gotten the theme and can pretty much put it in.
Amusing that ONEG can be clued a variety of ways--depending on where you put the space. Could be clued as pilot math.
Crossing double nines: very ambitious, but pulled off wonderfully. The Patrick invasion continues!
EJECT SARAH; SMITE her if you have to!
THERE.

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