Lohengrin's love / MON 3-26-12 / Singer/actress Deanna of 1930s-40s / Violinist Mischa

Monday, March 26, 2012

Constructor: Ray Fontenot

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (i.e. this was a Tuesday)


THEME: MOVING / VAN (7A: With 58-Down, vehicle for people on the go? ... or a hint to five strategically placed answers in this puzzle) — "VAN" "moves" thru five theme answers, diagonally, right thru the center of the grid

Word of the Day: Mischa ELMAN (5D: Violinist Mischa) —
Mikhail [originally Moses or Moishe[1]] (Mischa) Saulovich Elman (RussianМихаи́л (Ми́ша) Сау́лович Э́льман; January 20, 1891, TalnoyeKiev GovernorateRussian Empire – April 5, 1967, New YorkUnited States) was a Russian violinist, famed for his passionate style and beautiful tone. (wikipedia)
• • •

Very choppy for me, for a Monday. Flat-out didn't know two answers, which is more apt to happen to me on a Thursday or Friday than a *&^ing Monday. One of those answers, ELMAN, was particularly exasperating because it brought back memories of a messed-up clue from days gone by—specifically, from this puzzle, where [Violinist Mischa] was used to clue AUER, only *Leopold* AUER was the violinist, not Mischa. Mischa was an actor. Aaaaaaaanyway, ELMAN, eh? DURBIN, eh? (27A: Singer/actress Deanna of the 1930s-'40s) Ugh. OK. Not Monday fare for me, but OK. I love the long Downs on this one, but my main (big) problem with this grid is how invisible the theme answers are. There are so many other Across answers of the same length that they don't stand out. For some reason I find this phenomenally annoying. I'm impressed at how straight the VAN drives, but that's all I'm impressed by, theme-wise. The placement of MOVING / VAN is absurd. It's an OK puzzle, misplaced on a Monday.


Theme answers:
  • 13A: Alternative to chocolate (VANILLA)
  • 21A: Sir Walter Scott novel ("IVANHOE")
  • 36A: Native of Cuba's capital (HAVANAN) — not your loveliest / most plausible adjective
  • 49A: State of bliss (NIRVANA)
  • 61A: Desert procession (CARAVAN)


Screwed up by going with LAMÉ over LACE (2D: Fabric that doesn't block much light). Got completely befuddled by 53D: Long-haired uglies (HAGS). Had H-GS and definitely considered HOGS. NEW ERA was like pulling teeth (18A: Time of change). I made up some time at the end because I knew the crosswordy stuff like ELSA (33D: Lohengrin's love) and DAKAR and NOOR. All in all, 1m 20s longer than last week's Monday, and just a few seconds shy of last week's Tuesday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

84 comments:

foodie 12:06 AM  

Rex, I agree

jae 12:09 AM  

Like Rex, a bit tougher than average for me also.   Nice grid with some zip...HOODWINK, KNOWITALL, INEVER...  Fine Mon.!

The following comment was written prior to reading Rex's post.

Isn't Mischa Auer a fairly well known violinist?  (Pause to google)...No, it's  Leopold Auer one of whose pupil's was ELMAN.   His son Mischa was an actor who shows up in xwords occasionally.   And, according to google,
Rex had something to do with planting that bit of misinformation in my knowledge base.

Evan K. 12:31 AM  

Believe it or not this was an easier-than-normal Monday for me. Caught on to the theme instinctively and had no trouble with the fill. I tend to perform much better when there's a minimum of proper names with respect to people of whom I've never heard.

Liked: DO-SI-DO, the three long downs.

Tobias Duncan 12:48 AM  

Sports free Monday!!!

Evan 1:02 AM  

Yeah, this played tougher for me too. The clue for DURBIN seems like it came from the Friday or Saturday puzzle playbook. I've never heard of Deanna Durbin and my knowledge of singers from the 1930s and 1940s starts and stops with Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, and Al Jolson. I figure that "Illinois Senator Dick" would be a more suitable clue for a Monday or Tuesday puzzle, but maybe that's because I'm originally from Illinois and follow politics somewhat closely, so maybe that's more in my wheelhouse.

The puzzle is timely for me, as I'm in the process of MOVING, myself. My back is already taking a beating and we haven't even rented a VAN to move the big furniture yet.

Atedirt Cosa Movingvans 1:29 AM  

Cool puzzle, totally not a Monday, and LATVIAN threw me off, because there was VAN tho not consecutively...
Definitely would have put another word there, throws off the whole rhythm.

How is this a Monday?
OCTAVIAN, ELMAN, NACRE, DURBIN
( tho ask any Deanna you meet whom she was named after and shell say my mother/grandfather loved Deanna DURBIN.

LOVE HOODWINK, wellINEVER and LOOKALIVE! ATEDIRT!

Not to be a KNOWITALL, I have it on pretty good authority Will has some Mondays awaiting in the queue, I don't get why he doesn't run them and save this for a Tuesday! Certainly not the choice of Monsieur Fontenot...

In any case,
V is a crazy hard letter to use in a crossword, or in Scrabble ( as there are no two-letter words with V) so to have SIX is quite the accomplishment.

Octavian of Latvia 1:57 AM  

Fantastic puzzle -- how anyone could complain about it is beyond me.

Super clever use of the "moving van" motif, with the vehicle literally advancing across the page from the upper left to the lower right.

Who really cares if it is a Monday or a Tuesday or a Wednesday. The point is that it exists, and it was incredibly fun, in an xword way, to discover the theme post-solve.

And of course you just have to love a puzzle containing Octavian. He is better known by his later honorific title, Augustus and for the fact that his reign ushered in Pax Romana (virtually 200 years of what passed for peace, at the time, across the Mediterranean.)

Deb 2:47 AM  

I almost never comment on Mondays because there's just not that much to remark on (from a solver's point of view) but being the thus-far only person who immediately thought DURBIN for the Deanna clue surprises me since her glory years predate me by a decade or more. For those of you even older than I, was she a news item beyond that time? I can't put a face to her, but the name is part of my cultural psyche for some reason.

#%}+]*#%!%}!!! These captchas are seriously pissing me off! I know you can't do anything about them, Rex, but there's gotta be a way. Mass protest from blogspot bloggers, perhaps? Maybe if a sizeable number of popular blogger threatened to find another venue? This has to be hurting bloggers - particularly fledgling ones. Seems like a helluva good time to stand up and demand google get back to their do-no-evil credo, because there are scads of other options. Stepping off my soapbox now. Mea culpa and all that. (But pray for me as I attempt the next captcha, please)....

chefwen 3:03 AM  

I also thought it was "choppy" but I blamed myself as I was having company over for dinner and I was multi-tasking while solving. Happy to see that I was not alone.

5D ELMAN was a new one, but obtainable with crosses. Knew Deanna DURBAN, before my time but I knew that really cool name.

Puzzle seemed tougher than it really was.
I guess concentrating at one task at a time would have been the answer for me.

acme 4:28 AM  

@octavian
On second thought, you are absolutely right...who cares what day of the week it was... Good puzzle.
As I said, my only quibble were the other VIANs (LATVIAN and OCTAVIAN to some extent threw me off, rhythmically, but it was a lovely puzzle)
And make that 8 Vs! Oh V8, maybe that was another secret theme...we could have had a V8!

Anonymous 4:39 AM  

I had no problem with Deanna DURBIN. But the puzzle as a whole, I agree was a tough Monday.

Z 6:49 AM  

I didn't look for the theme until after I was done, solving counterclockwise through the puzzle. So this played as a themeless for me. There was quite a bit I didn't know, but all the crosses were simple, so it played on the easy side of medium for me.

Nancy in PA 7:22 AM  

I knew Deanna DURBIN but mispelled it with an "a" at first. Got the theme after the fact, but didn't realize until I read the write-up that the VAN moves not only in the puzzle but also in each theme answer. Gotta admire that! Hand up for LAmE before LACE. Loved HOODWINK and LOOKALIVE. Fun Monday.

jberg 7:33 AM  

Like @Nancy, I saw Deanna and immediately wrote in DURBaN; that and wanting 36D, "snooker" to be something like pOOl-like were my only problems with this fun puzzle. But I'm old enough to know (if not spell) Deanna's and Mischa's surnames, both very familiar to me.

I got the theme after VANILLA and IVANHOE, so was able to deduce the other theme answers - which made this easy puzzle even easier.

Well, I had one other problem - I thought maybe Julius Caesar was the first Roman emperor - isn't that what Caesar means? But the answer was obviously OCTAVIAN, so that didn't hold me up very long.

The two VIANS didn't bother me. As for the placement of the revealer, it's hard to see what else to do - spling MOVING in half, do that it can be three 3s? MOV in the N half, ING in the S, and VAN in the center, intersecting the center of HAVANA. That would be elegant, but I don't know if it's possible.

orangeblossomspecial 7:38 AM  

Deanna DURBIN (27A) was cultivated by MGM at the same time as Judy Garland. However, she left the industry at a young age and moved to France I believe.

Square dancing is a treat, and DO SI DO (43A) is the back-to-back step, from the French dos-a-dos.

Juan Tizol's composition popularized by Duke Ellington, CARAVAN (61A), this version with Ella Fitzgerald.

Mischa ELMAN plays Ave Maria.

burgundy 7:59 AM  

Is Ray Fontenot the former Cubs pitcher?

Burgundy

loren muse smith 8:02 AM  

I sailed through this one at regular Monday pace but somehow got hung up in the NE, wanting “syncs” and , mysteriously, “lucre.” Way, way overthinking 17D, and resisting a non-foreign MRS just made everything harder than it should have been.

Once I saw it, the MOVING VANS screamed out at me, and I’m truly impressed by the theme and its execution, those VANS marching across and down the page so elegantly!

@Acme - OCTAVIAN and LATVIAN gave me a bit of a pause, too, but I ultimately don’t find them objectionable.

Like Rex, I loved the long downs, especially HOODWINK, KNOWITALL, and, crap, “LOOKALIVE”, that my whole family was yelling to our point-guardless team last night in the final awful minutes against Kansas.

Oh well. Go Jayhawks. Sorry, @Tobias. For me, 32D was definitely a sports clue!

Anonymous 8:16 AM  

Deanna Durbin is a not-so-tough one. The violinist was a mystery but all crosses (except "new era") were gimmes, and "new era" was eventually get-able. The only thing I really hated was "daters." Otherwise I thought this was nice. Plus, I thought the Sunday theme was fun and it totally was clear to me after two answers. Different strokes...

Sue McC 8:17 AM  

I thought this was a typical, smooth-fill Monday. The hardest thing about this was trying to make a puzzle about a moving van sound even remotely interesting whilst talking about it to hubby over breakfast :-).

Anonymous 8:49 AM  

Got caught on 15A - was convinced it was CONCERT until none of the crosses worked. Even then couldn't see RECITAL.

mac 8:51 AM  

I agree with Rex, Tuesday for me. Just a few more words/names that needed crosses than I would expect.

Love hoodwink, know-it-all, look alive and Ivanhoe, plus the placement of the vans, so perfect.

efrex 8:57 AM  

Had to run the alphabet twice before getting the DAKAR/DATERS cross, but would have been very happy with this as a Tuesday puzzle. Lots of great fill everywhere, and a nice "moving" theme makes up for the occasional crud (ANI, ATNO/ENO). Much fun throughout. Thanks much, Mr. Fontenot!

JenCT 8:58 AM  

More challenging than a usual Monday for me also.

First thought for chocolate alternative was carob (yuck!)

Thought Rex might post a NIRVANA video.

Thought of pool also at Snooker (36d), like @jberg.

Agree that the captchas are annoying; but I really miss getting the follow-up comments in my email.

jackj 9:06 AM  

Ray Fontenot is no newbie to constructing; he had three Times puzzles published in 2007 and one in August of 2008, then, nothing, until today. Still, it was well worth the wait to get this ambitious and clever MOVING VAN puzzle!

The way the theme answers were placed and moved, (both in the overall grid and in each theme answer), the puzzle seemed as well planned as a complex military operation and the result was such a neat and ordered puzzle that Ray gets my nod for the “Felix Unger Fastidious Crossword Construction Award”.

Even with the constraints imposed by the theme, there was no let down in the non-theme entries, with such stellar examples as HOODWINK and LOOKALIVE leading the long downs and NEWERA and ARTDECO lighting up the horizontals in the grid.

Having moved many times over the years I can appreciate the statement made by 7 and 62 across, (which, by location, are the mirror images of each other), namely, MOVING STINKS! Amen, Mr. Fontenot, Amen.

Great fun today!

chefbea 9:11 AM  

Found this to be very easy. Knew Durbin and Elman.

Didn't we Italia yesterday???

jesser 9:12 AM  

My only writeover was DURBaN before DURBIN at 27A.

I don't believe I'd have ever seen the theme had I not come here. 7A filled itself in with the downs, so I neglected the clue, which (in hindsight) was hard to do, because it's freakin' wordy!

About 25 years ago, Albuquerque was all by itself as a big(ish) in central New Mexico. Then INTEL came scouting for a location to build a plant that was close to a cargo airport, a major highway and a rail hub. That plant was built in what is now known as Rio Rancho, N.M.'s third-largest city (behind Albq and Las Cruces).

There is something beautiful about NIRVANA crossing INANE.

And I'm still all a'flutter that ACME is planning to use Christwords in her Jewish puzzle book! Oh DEAR!

quilter1 9:26 AM  

Very easy for me. I am married to a LATVIAN and used to watch Deanna DURBIN movies on TV while folding diapers. Yes, folding diapers. Liked all the same fresh words as the rest of you. On to BEQ and the dentist. The dentist will be easier.

@Deb: hit the refresh button beside the captcha box until you get some you can read.

joho 9:27 AM  

Great job of construction with the VAN on the move through the grid plus some fresh lively fill to boot.

Thanks, Ray Fontenot!

John V 9:28 AM  

From the tarmac in Charlotte. Easy here. The Tuesday words had very easy crosses. Loved the theme. Brilliant :-)

dk 9:34 AM  

I love the gardening theme with the commands IVAN HOE and EAT DIRT. Plus all the floral clues and fill like ARRANGE and STINKS. What a wonderful way to welcome in spring.

or...

Nope. Not going there. No comments about HOES and alternative meanings for DOSIDO.

Sailed through this fun outing with 1A&D oddly serving as the stumper fill.

������ (3 Stars) Thanks Ray

Deb, I am with you on the prove you are not a robot thing. I mean everyone here posts far worse things than any robot ever would. And, I mean what is a robot going to do - still your tag and make lame posts about solving times, sports or nymphs v. sprites... oops I did mean to make this about me.

Gotta go assimilate,

T.H.E. Borg.

Tita 9:41 AM  

Not a single letter wrong today, so was easy, though a few Tuesday-esque answers needed to wait for crosses to confirm.

@Nancy - thanks for pointing out that VAN moves within each answer - cool!

Found myself in Arras, the start of the DAKAR Rally one year. The ancient Grand Place was packed with monster off-road trucks with snorkels and logos. Quite bizarre.
Why we don't see ARRAS in puzzle more often?
How 'bout a theme of cities along the RALLY route...ARRAS, MADRID, GRANADA, TUNIS, TRIPOLI...

JaxInL.A. 10:03 AM  

As a huge movie musical fan, DEANNA DURBIN was a gimme. As @orangeblossomspecial noted, she and Judy Garland started out at about the same time, and there are (possibly apocryphal) stories that Louis B. Mayer regretted letting Deanna go, since she was a HUGE box office hit in everything she did. She was also pretty drama-free as an employee.

But Deanna only made one film in color, did her musicals for Universal, and got sick of being typecast in the same role for most of her 21 pictures, so while still in her 20s she retired to France with her husband shortly after the end of WWII and dropped from the limelight. It appears that she is still alive and living outside Paris.

If you know anyone named Deanna between the ages of 45 and 70, chances are they were named for her.

archaeoprof 10:11 AM  

Nothing wrong with a harder-than-usual Monday every now and then.

Clever theme, too.

Cluing OCTAVIAN as a "general" is a bit off. Military leadership was the least of his considerable skills. Hell of a politician, though.

Gill I. P. 10:22 AM  

I enjoyed watching how the VAN moved with its start-up at 13A and arrival at 61A. Clever!
I too thought it should be a Tuesday. I gauge these days by our daughters comments. She's up to Wed. but then, she's a KNOWITALL.
Never hear of Ms. DURBIN nor ELMAN. I too get my Mischa's mixed-up. I really like the sound of that name which means "who resembles God."
Big thumbs up Mr. Fontenot.
Put me on the list of those that think this new format STINKS. Bring back the email follow-ups. Why were they ever discontinued?

Matthew G. 10:25 AM  

I could have written Rex's review today, more or less (though with less entertaining photos and videos, of course). I thought this was a Tuesday. I didn't know the same two names Rex didn't know: ELMAN and DURBIN (would have known the latter if it had been clued via U.S. Senator Dick, which goes to show that my idea of a Monday-easy clue is sometimes the polar opposite of Will's). I also tried LAME before LACE and struggled mightily to see NEW ERA.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

One of your esteemed bloggers wrote to me
"...a pedestrian limerick does not a poet make."
This was so discourteous
And also a mistake.

My poems are not limericks
(Why such snarkiness and disdain?)
A limerick's structure has 5 lines
This has 4- making it a quatrain.

And as for calling them pedestrian
There are some who disagree
This remark reveals more about its author
Than about this poetry.

Anonymous 10:48 AM  

Thouht it was cool to see the theme words move from left to right in the grid along with the letters VAN move from left to right. Deanna DURBIN was no problem for an old movie buff and have no complaint with the clue, even if my senator would have made it easier for some. A trifle hard for a Monday but hard to see where else it might go (maybe Tuesday)....

Last night was the first new episode in the Mad Men series, which seemed to be about how professional communicators fail at communication....

JFC

People here are actually, usually, quite generous 10:57 AM  

@Anonomyous Poet: Perhaps the comment "...a pedestrian limerick does not a poet make." wasn't about you at all, but about a limerick she posted here a while ago coupled with someone's guess that the anonymous poet was actually she. Perhaps it was an act of self-deprication, also a aknowledgement of the merits of your scriblings.

loren muse smith 11:02 AM  

@People here are . . . . exactly.

@anonymous poet - Your poems were not limericks – they were better - and I was explaining that I could not be the mysterious bard because I'm very ungifted in poetry and that MY limerick about Rex’ being DONNISH was pedestrian!

Obviously, I’m not anonymous (and wish I had thought it through more before I joined this site, since almost everyone else is a bit un-knowable). Because everyone knows who I am, where I live, what I do, etc., and because I’m a big fat coward when faced with confrontation, I would never purposely insult someone here.

You're way out of my league when it comes to poetry, and I meant no offense!

If I were better, I could have responded in verse, but again, I’m just lacking that poetry chip.

Ulrich 11:17 AM  

Monday, Shmunday. Tuesday, Shmooseday. Wonderful puzzle!!!

Sparky 11:21 AM  

Deanna DURBIN a gimmee, natch. I remember she was always perky in movies. Later there was a noir film with Gene Kelly as the baddie.

I found this nice going. Do HAVANANS eat bananas in their CARAVAN? Pretty much solved from top to bottom so didn't see the MOVING VANs till finished. Nice surprise.

Hope for a good week.

oren muse 11:33 AM  

I thought the puzzle was great. Breezed through the western half and was so excited with my success that I got carried away and misread some clues. I missed that it was “native” of Cuba’s capital, so that messed me up until I calmed down and paid more attention.
I do not care to mention that I didn’t finish only because I’m not a scientist or music expert. That last O in the ATNO/ENO cross kept me from finishing.
I was glad and surprised to see that some of you had difficulty with today’s puzzle. Guess there’s still hope for us non-intellectuals. Thanks Ray and Will.

John V 11:34 AM  

Gretta Garbo's getaway vehicle:
A VAN TO BE ALONE.

Sorry.

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

@loren muse smith

I regret I didn't know what you meant to say
I also dread confrontation-
I've always held your comments in great regard,
That's why I really appreciate your exlanation!!

chefbea 12:07 PM  

@JohnV LOL

evil doug 12:18 PM  

Iamb what iamb,
and you am what you am.
But it's not a poet.

Were I you, I'd stay anonymous, too.

Evil

Joe The Juggler 12:20 PM  

It didn't seem any harder than a typical Monday to me (I completed in under 6 minutes). . . but then again, I'm accustomed to not knowing one or two answers on most Mondays!

People here are actually, usually, quite generous 12:23 PM  

But not always.

archaeoprof 12:55 PM  

Once upon a time I read this little couplet:

"Sir, I admit your general rule,
Every poet is a fool.
But you yourself may serve to show it:
Every fool is not a poet."

Wood 1:34 PM  

Love it!

oren muse 1:35 PM  

I need to add my two cents here about Loren. Several times in her years in school, she had to compose poetry. Now I’m no expert, but I can assure everyone that she didn’t set the world on fire with her poems.

Bird 1:41 PM  

Easy for me, considering I knew the VAN was MOVING across the grid. If you plot the times for Mondays and Tuesdays on a control chart would there be a statistical difference?

Didn’t mind DURBIM, OCTAVIAN and ELMAN as they were all easily gotten by crosses. Speed bump at 15A with CONCERT instead of RECITAL.

@Anonymous poet – Brilliant prose

@Sparky – Yes, while wearing bandanas

@John V – Groan, grin

Lewis 2:05 PM  

I had "ecstacy" instead of NIRVANA, which held me up for a few moments.

Does anyone at present ever ever say "well I never!"

@oren -- but sometimes her posts set this blog on fire!

afrogran 2:15 PM  

I thought this was an elegant puzzle and only found the 'reveal' when it was completed - which made it more fun.
It was only when I changed 58D from CAR to VAN, that the theme was revealed. VAN flows beautifully through the grid on the diagonal. So thanks to the constructor.
I love it when the puzzle is knottier, and requires some knowledge other than sports team names or rock star albums.
And thanks for explaining DOSIDO. I'd been wondering about the origin.
I LOVE these daily comments.
Thanks, fellow bloggers (from California).

foodie 2:20 PM  

The secret of life is knowing WHAT/WHOM you want to set on fire.

miriam b 2:30 PM  

I found so many gimmes that I feel like a KNOWITALL. My mother was a LATVIAN by birth. My father, as a teenager living in the Russian immigrant community in Boston in the nineteen-teens was a neighbor of ELMAN's.

Had to read IVANHOE in jr. high and was consistently amused by the teacher's mangling of the Norman surnames. Reginald Front de Boeuf particualrly sticks in my mind. I seem to have a memory problem in reverse in that there are certain irksome and often useless things I'm unable to forget.

My lawyer's name is Deanna, but she's only in her late 30s so I doubt that DURBIN could have inspired her name. BTW, I tried to email her (the lawyer, not DURBIN) but was ultimately defeated by the captchas, so finally had to phone.

JenCT 2:59 PM  

@John V: you started it... Anyone remember the NY Post headline "Ivana Divorce" (ala the Trumps?)

Jim in Chicago 3:44 PM  

No conplaints about "xx items or less"?? The phrases makes my teeth hurt and I actively boycott stores that use it. The word is FEWER.

Attention Shoppers 4:00 PM  

@Jim - Chillax. You can't complain about the puzzle's content if it legitimately refers to usage. And I'm guessing you do most of your shopping on-line since all stores use the phrase.

My teeth hurt too 4:05 PM  

@Jim in Chicago - Trust me, that's been raised here before, repeatedly.

@Attention Shoppers - I don't know that Jim was complaining about the clue, but rather about the phrase. And no, about 50% of the stores I've seen use the correct version. If only sports casters would.

Airymom 4:06 PM  

Puzzle okay---the real news, Rex, is that my son got his acceptance from Binghamton, opening up the possibility of a second generation Harpur graduate!

sanfranman59 4:15 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)

Mon 7:38, 6:50, 1.12, 91%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:09, 3:40, 1.13, 91%, Challenging

Anonymous 4:37 PM  

Must be the K-marts, Walmarts and Targets that don't use no good English.

I'll bet Tiffany uses proper English - "10 Diamond Rings or Fewer"

Anonymous 5:16 PM  

Don't just stand there... "bust a move"... Very clever, threw me off.

Tita 5:18 PM  

JohnV - congrats again - post pics when you have 'em!

jbsnadb 5:58 PM  

My biggest complaint was having a wordy partial-theme revealing clue sitting in the third across position. Totally threw off my mojo. I can appreciate the theme execution after the fact (each theme answer not only has the same number of letters, but moves two columns over and three rows down each time), but finished a full minute or so slower than an average Monday for me.

Sparky 7:03 PM  

@JohnV, Bird. JenCT. Oh gee, I giggle with glee.

michael 7:55 PM  

How many of you ever say "I never" in the sense of the answer in this puzzle? Not me. Not ever. I never...

sanfranman59 1:13 AM  

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 7:39, 6:50, 1.12, 92%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:03, 3:40, 1.10, 89%, Challenging

the redanman 10:20 AM  

Done in A-Lite. Couldn't post yesterday, traveling but a solid if easy puzzle save one or two awkward clues for a Monday. Snap-O finish time.

Go figure ...

However ...Tuesday this week is just awful in so many ways I must disparage it here also

Spacecraft 11:19 AM  

Impressive extra theme execution, with the VAN traveling in position from word to word, top to bottom. I have but two quibbles: the dreaded vowel-buy at 24d (though it could have been given either of the hackneyed clues: "Singer DeFranco" or "Blackbird"); and the clue for HOODWINK. "Snooker" as a verb means to block, frustrate or stymie, from the billiards game in which participants are often prevented from hitting the object ball by the intervening presence of other balls. HOODWINK, or, "drawing a hood over one's (winking) eyes," means to con, scam, swindle, cheat--that sort of thing. "Snooker," IMHO, ia a terrible clue for HOODWINK.

The puzzle as a whole played very easy for me; I happened to know DURBIN (though don't recall how) and the clues, despite the bad one for 36d, very Monday-simplistic. In fact, I think I'd have enjoyed it a lot more with at least a few grade-school-level clues mixed in. Instead we get kindergarten. Nice job, Ray.

Waxy in Montreal 12:15 PM  

Great Monday xword. Floral bouquets to Ray Fontenot and especially @John V for his superb themed tagline for the extremely secretive Ms. Durbin: "I VAN TO BE ALONE". Made my week.

Syndisynchronicity - ELS in the grid scant hours after pro golfer Ernie Els blows a tournament by missing a two-foot putt.

Solving in Seattle 2:11 PM  

Mr. Fontenot, my complements on an elegantly constructed puzzle. I thought about quibbling on DATERS, but determined I can buy it.

@Lewis, I bet NIRVANA did some ecstasy.

@Deb, regarding your capcha issues, I know you're not a robot because you allow your husband to wear your articles of clothing.

@ACME, I thought about you while dropping in LACE and MRS - "sometimes we need to not overthink the answers."

@Waxy, I think it was a 6 foot putt, but felt for him, nonetheless.

Apologies in advance...

The HAVANAN eating VANILLA icecream in his CARAVAN listening to NIRVANA while reading IVANHOE.

Fellow Sydielanders, do you think our comments to the real timers are like when the tree falls in the forest, does anyone hear it go boom?

Capcha: essatedi. What I just wroted.

DMGrandma 2:59 PM  

With names like Durbin and Elman being part of my memory bank, this puzzle was a pleasure. It even included my mother's scathing "Don't be such a know-it-all!"
Because I got 7A without ever seeing the clue, I totally missed the van ride across the puzzle, just noticed a lot of v's. My loss.
@SIS. I rather imagine comments out here in Sydieville only reverberate in our local forest, but maybe that's the Real Timers loss?
Today's robot words sound like an order from Octavian:
Invensi Iverchi

rain forest 5:05 PM  

My mother's name was Deanna, and so as a kid I loved Deanna Durbin. Loved Mom, too. I winced at daters, but OK. One Canadian quibble. In grade 9, my class was selected for a square-dancing "festival". The instructor took pains to explain that the manoeuver is "dos a dos". Indeed I've heard square dance callers pronounce it that way, and in Quebec, that's the term. However, it's been Americanised, as much has. Resist I will, however, and the last letter in the alphabet will always be zed. Besides, the Nissan Zed car sounds tougher than Zee car.
@SIS I hear you!

Solving in Seattle 5:07 PM  

@DMG, the google capcha guy has resorted to Latin edicts... too funny.

capcha: ediscoa. Go forth and disco!

Solving in Seattle 5:11 PM  

@Rain Forest, you hear because you're hanging out where the trees are falling.

Dirigonzo 5:18 PM  

I finished the grid with NO writeovers, a first for me. I credit great cluing and strategic crosses that made even the unknown (to me) answers accessible. @Octavian of Latvia captured my sentiments exactly (5 weeks before I had them - how does (s)he do that?

Shout-out to CANADA at 42d!

@Solving in Seattle - this puzzle originally appeared during the "dark period" when the email update feature was incapacitated, so prime timers will not see our comments as they had no box to check to receivenew posts. Now that the feature is available again, I assure you that several a-listers will read our posts when they emerge from the black-out period in a week or two. (Sunday puzzles are already out - see yesterday's syndi puzzle to see what I mean.)

Waxy in Montreal 6:15 PM  

@Diri - couple of other subtle Canadian shout-outs as well, eh - Deanna Durbin was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba (though she apparently departed our frozen tundra as soon as possible) while the scientific name for the North American elk is "Cervus canadensis" (thanks, Wikipedia).

Dirigonzo 6:33 PM  

@Waxy - OK, those are some Canadian trivia that I did not know (but I don't know much Canadian trivia) and "subtle" touches often elude me anyway. So good catches - it's nice to see Canadian national pride on display here.

Waxy in Montreal 7:23 PM  

Heck @Diri, when we Quebecers swarm to Freeport, Old Orchard, Kennebunkport, etc. in the summer, we just about consider Maine as part of Canada. So we'll be pleased to offer you honorary Canadian citizenship so you can share our pride!

Ginger 7:57 PM  

Deanna Durbin got more attention today than she has in years, but seeing her name brought back lots of memories. As a kid I thought she was terrific, with a wonderful operatic voice. I also remember violinist Elman. The puzzle just seemed to flow, and was finished before I'd barely started. I think this one played easier for we who have some mileage.

@SIS, was up in your area over the week-end. Took in a softball game at U-Dub. Great fun and a beautiful city. But got home late and didn't finish Sunday's entrant 'til 1:30 this morning.

I doubt if many of our Syndi-posts are actually seen by anyone other than ourselves.

Solving in Seattle 9:26 PM  

@Diri, it'll be interesting to time travel with the RTers about posts when the email catches up. Already have exchanged emails with @ACME, thanks to you. She's interesting!

@Waxy, I spent 18 mo working (and partying) in Vancouver years ago. Can I get in on some of that honorary Canadian citizen stuff?

@Ginger, it was a great weekend here, other than Seattle getting shut out by Toronto (hear that @Waxy?) with Brandon Morrow pitching. We never should have traded him - Rats!

Waxy in Montreal 10:59 PM  

@Solving, sure, you're in - the State of Washington qualifies much like Maine. My in-laws in Abbotsford, B.C. do most of their shopping in Sumas and when the Blue Jays play in Seattle, half the crowd comes down from Vancouver.

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