Sondheim's Mrs Lovett / THU 9-29-11 / Baritone piece sung by Renato / Best selling PC game released in 2000 / Curie Kelvin Fermi

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Constructor: Ben Fish

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: PLUS — Puzzle note: "Two hints for 17- and 57-Across and 11- and 26-Down appear somewhere in this puzzle"—P, L, U, and S appear in circles in the corners, and black squares make a "+" sign in the middle of the grid.

Word of the Day: Princess IRENE of the Netherlands (14A: Dutch princess who's the daughter of Queen Juliana) —
Princess Irene of the Netherlands (born 5 August 1939) is the second child of the late Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. [...] Because of the invasion of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany during World War II the Dutch Royal family chose to live in exile in Canada, where Irene attended Rockcliffe Park Public School, in Ottawa. As a teenager, she was dubbed by the Dutch press as "the glamorous Princess of the Netherlands." During the war, the Royal Dutch Brigade (the formation of Free Dutch soldiers that fought alongside the Allies) was named for Princess Irene. This was continued after the war as the Regiment Prinses Irene. (wikipedia)
• • •

Decided to solve this without stopping to check the [blurb] and still finished in regular Thursday time, so I'd say this was pretty easy. I am pretty sure I've seen this gimmick before—in that I've seen the "black squares form a symbol" gimmick several times, and the "+ is the easiest of those to make in a crossword grid. It was an entertaining puzzle almost in spite of the theme, which didn't thrill me, mainly because the theme answers seemed a bit wonky. A "+" is not a GRADE BONUS. It's merely another available grade. Part of the normal grading spectrum. No BONUS involved. "NICE" is a pretty weak adjective, and END wants to know what it's the END of. But still, we get a nice varied array of PLUS types, and unlike some recent puzzles, the fill on this one is really quite good. I went "Ugh" precisely one time, and that was at the RRN (Random Roman Numeral) (19A: Year St. Augustine of Canterbury died=>DCIV). I really like those thick stacks of answers through the middle (all the 7s PLUS the two 5s). It's very clear that Mr. Fish took good care to make the puzzle smooth, and that deserves acknowledgment and praise.

The PLUSes:

Had slight trouble getting going when it turned out I didn't know either of the women in the NW corner (IRENE, Mrs. Lovett the BAKER18D: Sondheim's Mrs. Lovett, e.g.). Otherwise, the only tricky part was inferring the theme answers (again, I didn't see the note, so didn't know for a little while that I was dealing with PLUSes). Made some wrong turns along the way, including going with SRS. over SEM (21A: School yr. section) (SRS. is a yearbook section...); PROFFER over PROFESS (6D: Claim); and SPA over MAT (59D: Bath ___). This last error resulted in a stray wrong (uncorrected) square that I had to track down at the end—specifically, I ended up with SAABS as the answer to 68A: Tries. Always bad when your mistakes look like real words. I would've gone with GAOL for 56D: Shakespearean stir (ADO), but a. there weren't enough letters, and b. I never actually saw the clue while I was solving.

I thought a Ming Jar was some kind of science thing, like a Leyden jar, so I was surprised to find out that I was dealing with the Ming of Ming vase fame, i.e. the dynasty. Had a little trouble coming up with THE SIMS (43A: Best-selling PC game released in 2000), but once the definite article was in place, the answer was obvious (which is good, because I was *not* getting SIMON despite having SI-ON) (34D: One who says a lot in a game). The "table" of 9D: #33 on a table (ARSENIC) is of course the periodic table. "Te reo" means simply "the language" (65A: Language known to native speakers as "te reo"=>MAORI). Didn't know GINSU was a "type" of knife. Thought it was a brand. Love the triad of Curie, Kelvin and Fermi for EPONYMS, though for some reason all I can picture (or hear!) when I look at this clue is Alvin, Simon and Theodore:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jackj 7:37 AM  

A very nice debut puzzle for Ben Fish, if a tad on the too comfortable side. Thursdays should elicit a little bit of pain, if only to establish their bona fides as late week puzzles.

With that humongous plus sign in the center of the grid and the cornered circles, the magic word was pretty obvious and the four “blurb” entries filled in nicely. (Nicely enough that we might have been spared the “Note” at the top of the puzzle).

The fill was pleasant, highlighted by the “Triple S” string of SAUSAGES, STOOGES and SAVANTS, (oh my).

For a brief moment I was thrilled to think that Ben had given us DESPOND for “Hopelessness” but, alas, ‘twas but DESPAIR and an old favorite word was again sent back to its slough.

A very nice start, Ben; of course, applause seeks an encore.

SethG 7:49 AM  

A plus sign is a math symbol, or the indicator of the positive end, no "sign" in the nice quality. What Rex said about the bonus. And to spell P-L-U-S in the corners? Woo.

But those 7s! I think 18 of them, all solid, with fine cluing? That's what made this good.

Te reo is one of those clues I love--I'd have had no idea what MAORI was called in Maori, but seeing it in clue form I got it instantly.

nanpilla 7:59 AM  

I agree that the note was not needed, and probably made it a little easier than a normal Thursday.

Always think it's GINzU, but that was easily fixed. Loved ANODYNE, and NOTEPAD was a cute touch. Could have been clued as Solver's aid today....

Anyone else having trouble posting?

dk 8:03 AM  

I echo jackj's praise for a NICEQUALITY start.

Found this one to be Wednesdayish in ease, but I am always happy when a theme is writ so large that I can get it.

PISA and ORB appear to be our new puzzle pals. I have seen a lot of them lately.

** (2 Stars) I would like to add a + but that would overly complicate my grading scheme.

Bear update: It seems (according to Ranger Jane) that a family of bears live in the local park. Mama bear had twins and one of them (I have named them Castor and Pollux) likes to roam. Pollux is the roamer. Saint Croix Falls accommodates diversity (they let me an ex-NYC rat live here) so people just watch out for the bear and we encourage our neighbors not to put cat food, dog food or Pate outside. A bear that comes by often quickly wears out its welcome. That plucky Pollux peed on my screen door... needless to say the local cat gang does not come by anymore.


exaudio 8:28 AM  

Nice puzzle, perfect Thursday for me in that it was gettable but not too easy. Major slowdown was ODD/DCIV crossing in the northeast. D just doesn't leap to my mind when I'm trying to remember which letters could possibly be in a roman numeral clue.

jberg 8:30 AM  

Don't know much about constructing, but I'm guessing that big plus sign in the middle makes it a hard grid to fill, as you need several 4-letter strings where each letter starts a word, or each letter ends a word. This one is filled very well.

My only hangup was that I had MATH SYMBOL at 57A and - - - EQUALITY at 11D, so I figured I was looking for something about an equation. Didn't help that I had soRE instead of DIRE at 16A, which kept me from seeing the otherwise obvious ODD duck for far too long. And then, since I thought this was about math symbols, I wanted negaTIVE for POSITIVE and miNUS for BONUS. It all came together in the end, but on the upper side of medium for me.

AnnieD 8:41 AM  

Thank you Ben Fish for one fine puzzle. I had fun from start to finish. A real + to my day.

joho 8:42 AM  

Loved the CUPCAKE/BAKER cross.

Congratulations on your debut puzzle, Ben, you deserve a very good grade espsecially for the non-cringing fill in a constricted grid.

I also love SNAFU which this puzzle is most definitely not!

Z 8:47 AM  

I have more "-" feelings about this puzzle. Three of the four theme answers are stretches. NICEQUALITY? NICE is just there to stretch the answer to 11 letters. GRADEBONUS - what RP said. POSITIVEEND, END is just there to get to 11. ERITU is ick (Yahoo's top answer is a crossword site, the second answer is a music site) crossing a RRN.

On the "+" side, I do like SAUSAGE and ANODYNE. + both the NW and SE threes are better than usual for short fill.

Jim 9:01 AM  

Flew through this one and discovered the theme, but got impaled on the 4-letter box in the NE.


Couldn't infer whether it was -CE QUALITY or (less likely) -C EQUALITY. Wasted minute after minute after minute, all the while refreshing the baseball scores. Then, at 12:00 midnight the postseason was decided and...SUCK IT!!

Gave the finger to the computer and to jonathan Papelbon and went to bed.

ONE L was a powerful concept last felled me, and it felled my beloved Red Sox.

Evan 9:04 AM  

When the blurb said there were two hidden hints, I figured one had to be the corner circles, which was easy to spot. But because I almost never pay attention to the black squares except as barriers, I didn't see the big plus sign in the middle until I was nearly finished, sort of like Indiana Jones finding the big X in the middle of the library in "The Last Crusade."

Let's not forget that UND could be its own "+" (if we're thinking of plus as "and"), and that an ION can have a "+" charge, even an ARSENIC ION.

jackne 9:04 AM  

I don't like "trashes" for "wrecks." I had "crashes" and still prefer it.
I suppose "eponyms" is good but I didn't think of the more familiar adjectival form "eponymous" (I rarely think of it) so it didn't snap into place for me. And I never heard of "the Sims." Result: I zipped through three quarters in no time and dead-ended at the southeast quarter for an embarrassing number of minutes.

jesser 9:12 AM  

Putting in dali at 10A really mucked up the NE corner, but it eventually came together with no other writeovers.

Like others, I ignored the blurb and just flat didn't see that ginormous PLUS sign in the middle, so the last letter to fall was the R in G_ADE BONUS. I don't remember Mr. Heller's book all that well. Happily, an alphabet run gave me the most likely possibility, which turned out to be right.

Then I searched for the theme and finally 'saw' the grid, and got it, and grinned. Nice work, Mr. Fish!

I promised you all a story. Tomorrow, I will deliver!

Happy Thursday!

Anonymous 9:16 AM  

Ah, the "ick" factor of one of opera's most famous baritone arias... an "ick" that gets a mere 869,000 hits for the exact phrase on Google. The first page giving several references to that icky obscure Youtube site.

-Joe Green

Mike 9:30 AM  

Not happy with NICE QUALITY. Surely there are more appropriate meanings for the plus sign.

John V 9:31 AM  

Got hung up with 11D, kept seeing ***EQUALITY, not ***E QUALITY.

GRADEBONUS didn't come together either.

Got the clue from the corner squares but never saw the big old plus sign staring right at me.

So, this was two puzzles for me; easy, save for extreme NW and NE corners. Imagine, I just could not get PEA as a green globule. Sometimes that happens. Weird.

So, a good puzzle, slight DNF.

Condolences to Red Sox fans. No one deserves that kind of collapse.

Z 9:35 AM  

@anon 9:16 - When the search engine comes back with a crossword site first I conclude that the word is now more recognized for its good crossword letters than for being an aria. Not fair, not right, but still "ick" in my book. And I did look first to see if it was just my ignorance. It isn't.

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

Z, you can "ick" all you want, but Eri Tu is far more famous for being an opera aria than crossword fill. Google it and see.


evil doug 9:45 AM  

You might be surprised to learn that my USAF pilot training 'call sign' was "Cupcake".

The Bosox fiasco is almost enough to make up for the lousy treatment fans and media there trashed a good guy---Bill Buckner---with. He's forgiven you. I haven't. A buddy of mine was the captain flying the Red Sox charter back after they won it all in 2004, and he said Curt Schilling was like the 'fu' in snafu, so that's another reason I'm celebrating today.

'Green globule' sounded like a mucous wad to me.


Helena: I haven't worked since 1934, how old do you think I am?

Kramer: Well, that's only uh, 58 years.

Helena: It was a Three Stooges short, "Sappy Pappy."

Kramer: Right.

Helena: Moe hits Curly with an axe.

Kramer: Uh huh.

Helena: The Stooges catch the kidnappers,

Kramer: Right.

Helena: But it's too late.

Kramer: Really.

Helena: The baby's dead.

Kramer: Really?

Helena: The boys are sent to Death Row and are executed.

Kramer: Well I don't remember that part.

Helena: Yeah, it was sad for a Three Stooges, what with the dead baby and the Stooges being executed and all.

Kramer: Well, that was an unusual choice for the stooges...



Anonymous 9:46 AM  

Also, this is the first "Eri Tu" hit from Yahoo search:

Unless I need glasses, that is not a crossword site.


chefbea 9:56 AM  

Found this a bit hard. Agree with the plus and then wondered what the other hint was..Doh. finally saw it

Had to google the Dutch princess but I'm sure @Mac knew it.

Go Cards!!!

andreaomn 9:58 AM  

Haircut 100....what the #%&+?
that has to be the most iconic 80s video I've seen in my life. You made me laugh!

OldCarFudd 10:03 AM  

Rex's lookup of Princess Irene reminded me of a personal microscopic tie to Dutch history. After the war my father was transferred to Ottawa. The family lived in Rockcliffe Park for about a year and a half, and Irene's older sister, Princess Beatrix, was in my class in Rockcliffe Park public school before her family went back to the Netherlands. The Dutch royal family were welcome and much-liked guests in Canada.

Tobias Duncan 10:08 AM  

Seeing ORR clued as the Joseph Heller character instead of some sports figure I care nothing about, nearly made me swoon.I read Catch-22 in high school and it was the first assigned reading that made laugh out loud constantly.The image of ORR lost at sea paddling with his coffee spoon oar was somehow perfect for my absurdist sense of humor at the time.I remember giggling hysterically about that on the bus and trying to explain what was so funny to my friends with no success.

David 10:24 AM  

@Evan, I also didn't see the big + sign until the end, but for me it evoked the Big "W" from the fun 60's flick "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World". Very cool grid...

Medium for me, b/c of the NE and b/c I've never heard of THE SIMS. The S was a pure guess but was semi-educated, as the only other letter I even considered was A for THE AIMS and AED. In the NE I stupidly wrote in LYCEE for LEVEE at first for New Orleans sight, which hid the whole section, esp as the roman numeral answer was a crapshoot without any crosses and I didn't feel confident with any adjective in front of QUALITY. But I was happy to learn and solve 10A (the One L lama), which gave me a chuckle to end the puzzle.

quilter1 10:25 AM  

Got the plus clue early on and sailed through until coming to a screeching halt at 24A. I had teacake and simply could not see it any other way so I gave up and came here to find my mistake. I guess as an endearment honeybun and cupcake are similar, but I was thinking more like a BAKER and those two things are nothing alike except sweet. Never think of CSPAN, don't know anything about Nirvana except as a religious concept, so DNF.

We got THE SIMS for grandgirl this summer and then I was a little surprised to find that the characters could be sexually active. We switched to a different and more suitable for 8 y/o version.

On to BEQ and LAT.

JaxInL.A. 10:34 AM  

Ooh,@EvilDoug, you can't drop a gem like "my USAF pilot training 'call sign' was "Cupcake" and then fail to elaborate. Inquiring minds want to know!

This went down like an early week puzzle for me. Not only was it one of my fastest times, but I did this one faster than today's LAT puzzle. That rarely happens. It's a great feeling!

Off to Rosh Hashanah services.

hazel 10:37 AM  

epic epic fail - the Braves, not the puzzle. the puzzle i liked, though the blurb wasn't available (or necessary) to me, and seems like it might have been a bit of overkill anyway.

I just finished reading State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, which is set mostly in the Amazon basin where a BOA (constrictor) enters the story and is immediately up to absolutely no good (as far as the human characters are concerned). His presence got the protagonist (and, by extension, me) to wondering, though, just exactly how a murderous snake came to inspire its EPONYMOUS "fun" fashion accessory. Anyone?

Tortured Logic 10:38 AM  

My thesaurus lists premium and extra as synonyms for bonus. If you think of A-plus as a premium grade, maybe "grade bonus" makes sense. Or if you think that the plus sign after a grade indicates that someone did extra good on a test compared someone who earned the same grade without the plus sign, maybe you can justify "grade bonus."

I'm not totally convinced.

John V 10:43 AM  

Re: Catch 22, I remain annoyed at myself for not getting ORR, having read the book and seen the movie, albeit several hundred years ago.

Two Ponies 10:43 AM  

I guess this was tougher for me than most of you.
Like @ evil doug I was thinking a globule has a more liquid quality than a pea.
All told however, I think this was a very nice debut.

r.alphbunker 10:46 AM  

Didn't see the connection of the large plus to the theme until prodded to do so by the note. Brought to mind the following: (note: in Firefox you can right click link to open a new tab).

evil doug 11:14 AM  


My flight commander wanted me to come back as an instructor after I earned my wings---we kind of derided those guys as "plowbacks" when they went straight from training to instructing without any "real world" flying experience. My boss said, "Hell, Doug, you sit there quietly and do your work while the rest of these juvenile deliquent students are all screwing around." Naturally my buddies couldn't let that go without hanging a lovely nickname around my neck. Shouldn't surprise you guys---you know what a sweetheart I am....

I was able to talk my way out of the instructor slot into C-130 Hercules transports with a worldwide flying mission that I loved. While at Little Rock AFB going through C-130 school I ordered a phone, and gave my first name as "Doug". The first bill showed my name as "Duck", which is probably a perfectly normal Arkansas moniker. That's the call sign that stuck with me the rest of my career. Better than Cupcake, I guess....

(Wish I'd had THAT for my call sign...)

Sparky 11:20 AM  

Stuck in top NE. Had dali for the longest time so thought the circles were a Pope. Don't know PC games and tED for Rx words. The lama went out the LEVEE went in but still couldn't see ODD.

When I look at grids I see crosses and little graveyards. Remnants of a Catholic upbringing.

On the PLUS side great words: ANODYNE, SAVANTS, ANTIQUE, ROPETOW (no Tbar?). ST--MEN for quite a while. I think it should have clued "see note" not "see blurb" as my mind went off trying to connect up with some popular or hated advertising blurb.

So, with all of that gave me a good run for the money. Thanks Ben Fish. @Jesser: Breathless with anticipation.

Campesite 11:41 AM  

This was a lovely debut puzzle, even if a tad easy. Maybe this week was Wednesday Week.

Here's a clip of another band with math in their name:

Three Times One Minus One

Mel Ott 11:49 AM  

I usually look at the grid to get some sense of the puzzle before starting to solve. Didn't do that today and didn't see the huge plus sign until I finished.

I've never played a video game in my life, so I wanted CRASHES for 43D.

Altho I've studied a lot of history, I've never been big on memorizing dates. But somehow the year 597 AD has stuck in my head as the year Augustine (1st Archbishop of Canterbury) arrived in England. It's kind of a watershed date in English history. So early 600's made sense for his death, which gave me DC--.

Anonymous 12:14 PM  

very nice enjoyable puzzle. happy new year to those who celebrate.

mac 12:19 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle, medium Thursday for me. Thanks for the gimme with Irene (named "peace" because of the war). She is one of 4 daughters, and had by far the most interesting life, although not altogether happy. I hear she talks to trees now.

I agree with Evil and Two Ponies: the green globule evoked a very different picture in my mind. And look at the sausage next to the arsenic!

Have to sautee some fresh andouille sausage for the lentil soup.

syndy 12:26 PM  

The one L Lama,he's a priest.The two L Llama,he's a beast;and I will bet a silk pajama-there isn't any three L Lllama. Odd was my last word (and I'm torn between thinking of you know who as Evil cupcake and Odd Duck)kinda sorta gotta love a RRN that does Not start with a M.Throughly enjoyed Mr Fish easy Thursday problem with the theme answers or definitions-on thursday I don't expect them plated.and my favorite was EPONYMS crossed by ANODYNE! I way swoon!

Rube 12:29 PM  

Gave up last night when I fell asleep over the puzzle. This morning things fell together quickly except in the NE where, like many, had dali. Finally read the clue for ERITU and put in LycEE. Had no idea when St. Augustine of Hippo died much less when the one of Canterbury died. Eventually worked out the RRN and the puzzle.

With dali, had Pi on top and with MATHSYMBOL, thought I had the hint all worked out... wrong. Some good fill here to accompany a fun puzzle.

Shamik 1:51 PM  

Ack! Never saw the black square plus sign. Still, calling this one an easy one. Nice debut puzzle, Ben!

Anonymous 1:58 PM  

Lots of obscure clues so I DNF. Not saying it's a bad puzzle, I just didn't know enough answers to complete the grid. I also did not see the huge plus sign in the middle even though I had MATHSYMBOL. Oh, well.

Another baseball answer to go with the end of regular season.

@Hazel - sorry about your Braves, but I cannot extend my condolances to your husband (yes, this is the same Anon Yankees fan from yesterday). That was some ending to the season - extra innings, nail biters. Wow.

Anonymous 2:09 PM  

Sorry, I did not like it not think the clues clever, good nor entertaining.

Sloggish. Reminds me that I dislike the NYT puzzles often. Ick here.

TimJim 2:12 PM  

DNF due to THESIMS, which I had never heard of and TRASHES sted CRASHES. Great aha moment when I saw the plus in the middle. Go Cardinals!

archaeoprof 2:21 PM  

DNF. And a slog right up to the unfinished NE. Just never got on the right wavelength.

RedSox fans were so much nicer when they hadn't won anything. How quickly a little success went to their heads.

Anonymous 2:53 PM  

Wrecks a hotel room
Trashes hotel room

Anonymous 2:59 PM  

Red Sox fans were nice when when the team was losing because the fans knew their place. Now that the curse is over and they won a couple trophies they think they will/should win every year. They should think that way, but just be nice about it. Like Yankee fans.;-)

Oh, and the puzzle was easy. Enjoyed the fill and congrats to Ben on his NYT debut. I'm working on puzzles myself and hope to see one of them in the NYT. That would be cool!

hazel 2:59 PM  

@anonyYank - thanks. what a one two punch that was. drive home from a 13-inning heartbreaker (you should see my scorecard - 17 pitchers!) and find out that the Rays won (that comeback was a little too convenient - I smell a rat!!!) AND the Sox lost. sigh. choke. sigh.

@martin - are you out there? i had a boa/constrictor question (above) that seemed just up your alley!! if not you, someone with knowledge of flappers? @evil cupcake? anyone?

Anonymous 3:08 PM  

@Hazel - I was watching the Yankee/Ray game and they kept showing scores for the wild card teams. I couldn't believe how tight everything was. I know what you mean about the rat. I think if the Yankees were playing to get into the postseason they would have played the regular starters and swept the Rays, and the Sox would be in the playoffs. Can't blame the Yanks though - if the Sox had won . . .

- AnonYank

Lewis 3:09 PM  

Holding you to that, Jesser, and looking forward to it.

600 3:24 PM  

I liked the puzzle a lot. Never saw the plus in the middle until I came here, but wasn't worried about it.

Smiled when I figured out "green globule" was PEA, though I agree with those who pointed out "globule" brings to mind a different kind of matter.

@jackj--You made me think of one of my favorite poems, "Letter from Slough Pond." I'm not sure I ever thought of the allusion to Bunyan. Thanks!

@dk--I've replaced too many bird feeders this year because of my own Castors and Polluxes. Loved your story.

Looking forward to Jesser's story.

Even though I read Rex before the comments, I could not figure out RRN. I can't tell you how many times I looked at the puzzle for it--even checked Rex's FAQ's. Finally looked at ERITU (thanks, @Z) and remembered Rex creating it. SOOOOOO . . . how about adding it to the vocabulary list in the FAQs? I'm sure to forget again . . .

sanfranman59 3:32 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Thu 19:00, 19:13, 0.99, 54%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 8:56, 9:22, 0.95, 50%, Medium

JenCT 3:34 PM  

I had the same thought about the green globule as others.

Had SIMCITY and ARSENIO for a while - thinking, Arsenio Hall played some sport wearing #33???

Had to walk away from this puzzle & come back later to try & finish, but the NE doomed me.

chefwen 4:01 PM  

This one was more medium + for me. As others did, had crashes for 43D, don't know diddly squat about PC games, so ended up with an error. It took two of us but we did finish the rest Google Free. Like someone else noted CUPCAKE crossing BAKER was sweet. A plethora of good seven letter words here.

Great debut Ben Fish, keep 'em coming.

Noam D. Elkies 4:39 PM  


Anonymous 4:39 PM  

If you're still wondering about the 'end' in POSITIVEEND, it refers to one end of a battery.

Z 5:37 PM  

@600 - you're welcome.

@anonymous three times - I suggested ignorance on my part and you've confirmed it. I was using yahoo to search for "eritu." You used google and yahoo to search for Eri tu. So, it is you who are right, Eri tu properly parsed does come up with Opera links. Google recognizes the searcher's ignorance when "eritu" is entered and lists sites with the proper parsing. Yahoo and Bing, OTH, respects the searcher's ignorance and list crossword sites. Alta Vista lists "Eric Trudel" first and suggest that I may really be looking "eritu verdi aria." Wikipedia helpfully points out that the page for neither "eritu" nor "eri tu" exists, a fact not true for, say, "Yesterday" by the Beatles. I stand corrected, ERITU isn't icky crosswordese, but is a widely known aria.

Rex Parker 5:49 PM  

I know that the POSITIVE END was (probably) supposed to refer to a battery. The point was that it's a stupid-looking answer without the referent. You don't have to infer context for any of the other theme answers.

Chip Hilton 6:00 PM  

Defeated by the NE corner, I quite enjoyed the rest of the puzzle. So many marvelous 7-letter answers.

I've been watching baseball for 50+ years and last night was like no other. Only season-ender I can think of comparing was 1967 with Yaz and The Impossible Dream. Three teams all involved for the ONE World Series bid (Back then, Wild Card was associated with the TV quiz show Concentration, not baseball). Congrats, Rays and Cards, condolences Sox and Braves.

Phil/Marc 6:27 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil/Marc 6:28 PM  

ONE BIG QUESTION: What the heck does the answer to 21 across, SEM, refer to?

Great puzzle, although I never got the smaller NE sub-corner of the puzzle. Never heard of the One-L poem, and put "Doll" there instead (imagining some sot in a comedy saying something like that).

foodie 6:32 PM  

Cute puzzle. A nice mix of easy theme and good fill. Great debut!

Evil Duck! There's a concept!

Anonymous 6:40 PM  

Jesser, how do you know what's going to be in tomorrow's puzzle?

skua76 9:06 PM  

I enjoyed others I didn't see the + sign in the middle but I guessed the top two circled letters after getting --US and MATH SYMBOL. Hardest was the NE, I did some guessing but everything was right in the end, although I had no clue about ONE L. Great debut for Ben!

@jesser, I'll be back tomorrow for the story...

dk 9:08 PM  

So can we call Evil D: Cupduck? Just asking.

fergus 9:09 PM  

Sometimes a Note (which I almost always dislike) can be a true impediment to solving the puzzle.

Since I first got MATH SYMBOL, I was looking through the Clues for hidden hints because loosely the # mark qualified. Couldn't finish during my break, but it all dropped in shortly after school.

sanfranman59 10:02 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 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 6:10, 6:51, 0.90, 14%, Easy
Tue 11:09, 8:55, 1.25, 95%, Challenging (7th highest median solve time of 119 Tuesday puzzles)
Wed 12:18, 11:51, 1.04, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 19:18, 19:13, 1.00, 55%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:14, 3:40, 0.88, 5%, Easy (6th lowest median solve time of 118 Monday puzzles)
Tue 5:35, 4:35, 1.22, 97%, Challenging (5th highest median solve time of 119 Tuesday puzzles)
Wed 6:07, 5:51, 1.05, 68%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 8:38, 9:22, 0.92, 42%, Medium

Phil/Marc 1:35 AM  

I don't get the answer to the yearbook question (21 across) --- To what is "Sem" a reference?

arsenic cupcake mathsymbol 2:23 AM  

oh no, another andrea on the blog! Andreaomn 9:58am is not me, despite the fact I'm still in the pic tho!

Thought the puzzle was a work of art!
Loved the big PLUS in the grid.

Since I had Dali Lama, I had PiUS in the corners, and honestly thought the theme was going to be about Popes!

Anonymous 4:58 AM  

@Phil/Marc the clue did not say "book". A SEMester is oart of a school year.

Jenny 1:53 PM  

Same as Rex with regard to the NW corner; that was tough for me. I don't get PEERAGE (5D)...
I liked seeing ANODYNE and ECSTACY, and thought the clueing clever. Gotta agree re knives (Ginsu being a brand and not a type).

JenCT 2:13 PM  

@Jenny: Peerage

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

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Anonymous 12:17 PM  

Peerage is something that's induced by cleavage.

Anonymous 2:49 PM  

Spacecraft here. Scanned the cluebank, and thought: Gonna need some hay-elp for this one. I had no idea what half of those clues meant. But I thought, can I at least get a foothold somewhere? Found YESWE, and thought maybe ECSTASY for 33a. Aha'd SIMON the talkative gamer (great clue, if we can't get a shout-out for geniuses Paul and Neil--not to mention Carly); then 48a looked like some kind of TOW--I guessed wrongly LINETOW; then hit on THESIMS, forcing out LINE as the TOW material.
From there I went SE and quickly got ______MBOL, so filled in the SY and got EPONYMS. Oh, OK: it's ROPETOW. And so on and so on...I never needed a single Google to finish! Never would have guessed that when I first saw it.
I get all proud and stuff when this happens, so whatever else you can say about Mr. Fish, he did that for me. So puzzlers, do not DESPAIR: even when it looks like a total SNAFU, just keep thinking and you might find solving ECSTASY!

anava: as in "Anava thought I could do it"

Mighty Nisden 5:08 PM  

Enjoyed the puzzle, but because I am being dim today, I can't for the life of me figure out what SEN stands for in 54A.
Anybody help me out?

Anonymous 6:09 PM  

Mighty Nisden, SEN stands for Senate, the "upper body" of Congress.

JenCT 6:11 PM  

@Mighty Nisden: I took it to mean SENior, as senior classman, upper body of the student body?

JenCT 6:14 PM  

And so I would be wrong!

Dirigonzo 6:15 PM  

From NE syndiland, it was the NE corner of the puz that did me in. And since I often overlook the obvious, that big plus sign in the center of the grid took a while to come into view.

Let's see how the countdown to RP's birthday in 2006 is going:

- Solving time: 20:28 (on screen)
- "Anyway, the main point is that I've never seen such definite article density in a puzzle in my life. Probably not what Mr. Nosowsky intended to be the most striking aspect of the puzzle, but my mind sees what it sees."
- "1A: Santa _____ (Monica)
So warm. So much good food. Home to many celebrities and pseudo-celebrities. Home to Bongo Comics (publishers of all of my Simpsons Comics). Also, home to my second-most faithful reader."
- "I am frequently tempted to address my students with sentences beginning, "In my day..." e.g. "In my day, we didn't have the 'Internet' - we had books. Dusty books. And you had to get off your ass and go to this place called the 'Library' to read them." "In my day, we didn't have cell phones. If you wanted to call your friend, you had to cup your hands around your mouth and yell real hard." And so on."
- "What? Is this some economics or Department of Labor stat? Sounds like the plural form of a summertime festival in Provincetown or San Francisco. "Are you going to Man-Week this year?" "Girl, you know I am." "What happens at Man-Week stays at Man-Week." etc."
- There was one comment (perhaps from Santa Monica?)

Mary in Oregon 6:23 PM  

Mighty Nisden: I believe "upper body" refers to the US Senate; thus, "sen". Of course, I could be wrong.

Dirigonzo 6:54 PM  

@JenCT - it was really nice of you to travel all the way back in time to give your thoughts on a puzzle you did five weeks ago. We don't get many visitors from "prime time" commenters back here.

JenCT 8:24 PM  

@Dirigonzo: Thx - hopefully next time I pop in I'll give the correct answer! :-)

Mighty Nisden 9:07 PM  

Thanks to all of you for the answer! And thanks to JenCT for coming back to speak to the masses (even though we are fairly silent) syndylanders!

Anonymous 10:37 PM  

Hello desperate syndies--
much appreciation to syndy @ 12:56, who supplied the one l lama reference (must be Ogden Nash). That was almost my downfall, but got it after finally sussing nice quality. Like most commenters, northeast=hard. Also, could not help considering Tobias Duncan's Story about reading Catch-22 on the bus. I think quite a few of Rex's fans have similar stories. The Orr clue was a refreshing change, though, especially since I vaguely remembered it with ony one cross letter.

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