1906 Massenet opera based on Greek myth / TUE 4-24-12 / TV doctor Sanjay / 1940s Bikini blasts / Public place in Athens / Number of Los Lonely Boys

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Constructor: Adam G. Perl

Relative difficulty: Challenging


THEME: "The GIRL WITH The Dragon Tattoo" (1A: With 10-Across and the circled letters, a best-selling novel, with "The") — puzzle also contains the "heroine" (LISBETH SALANDER) and "hero" (MIKAEL BLOMKVIST) of the novel

Word of the Day: "ARIANE" (43D: 1906 Massenet opera based on Greek myth) —
Ariane is an opera in five acts by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Catulle Mendès after Greek mythology (the tale of Ariadne). It was first performed at the Palais Garnier in Paris on October 31, 1906, with Lucienne Bréval in the title role. (wikipedia)
• • •

There is only one reason this puzzle exists—because the constructor noticed that the two heroes of the "Dragon Tattoo" have 15-letter names. I know "everyone" has read these books, but I haven't, and filling in random Swedish names does absolutely nothing for me. I'm guessing the circles have some relation to the book—maybe the dragon tattoo is in a shape roughly approximating the stripe on Charlie Brown's shirt?—but if so, I don't know what that relation is. I got the title easily, actually, and filled in all the circles very quickly. I also vaguely remembered LISBETH SALANDER because Rooney Mara was nominated for an Oscar for playing her, so her name must have crossed my path a few times this year. But MIKAEL BLOMKVIST!? Forget about it. I thought that SW corner was going to stop me completely, and in fact if my (real) name weren't "Michael," it might have taken me even longer than it did for me to come up with that "A" at MIKAEL / "ARIANE" (43D: 1906 Massenet opera based on Greek myth).



Speaking of "ARIANE," !?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Wow. Now, come on, I know "obscurity" is relative, but *that* is obscure. I actually wanted ARIADNE there, but, obviously, it didn't fit. Between the "hero"'s name, "ARIANE," and the insane clue on GLIDE (40D: Dance movement—really? With that clue, I was looking for something like GLISSÉ or ... I don't know, something not ordinary), and the other not-totally-obvious stuff down there, I was in trouble. Was over my normal Tuesday time by a full minute. Times at the NYT site are quite high for a Tuesday. As with yesterday, this puzzle feels misplaced by a day. I found it mostly annoying, but my opinion is that of someone who hasn't read the book. Maybe "Dragon Tattoo" lovers will love it. Who knows?

Strangest moment of the solve came right away, when I got "GIRL" and thought "GIRL ... Interrupted?," then figured out the actual answer, and *then* ran into WINONA Ryder (10D: Actress Ryder), who was, of course, in the movie version of "Girl, Interrupted." Freaky. Stunned to see G-SPOT make such a quick return (34D: "The ___ and Other Recent Discoveries About Human Sexuality" (1982 best seller)). I'm sure there's a joke in there about G-SPOT coming multiple times, but I'm too tired. The non-theme, non-SW-corner parts of the grid all seem normal. Not exceptional, not terrible. Onward and upward.

Bullets:
  • 29A: Zero personality? (OPERATOR) — great clue, but Hard clue. Another answer that added to the later-in-the-week feel, difficulty-wise. 
  • 42A: Silicon Valley city (LOS ALTOS) — familiar to me, but I'm from California. This seems like it might be tough for some.


  • 40A: TV doctor Sanjay (GUPTA) — was wondering when I'd see him in a grid. Maybe I already have and am forgetting.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

103 comments:

Z 6:53 AM  

Looking at the grid post-solve, I can't remember what my first word was. The RELIC section was finished first, working down into the SHRIEK section. Giving me enough to get LAB/AREA and finish the NW. Having GIRL gave me the theme. Like @Rex, I've not read the books nor have I seen the movie, so the names had to come from the crosses.

Finished in Colorado, needing to wait on the MIKAEL or MIKeaL decision (I know it is always AE, but I always forget as I solve) with LOS ALTOS/ARIANE/GLIDE (thought sLIDE at first) all being reasonable guesses.

Happy to see GSPOT reappear, Mrs. Evil is sure to drop in again and discuss the proper use of the vibgyor.

Solid enough puzzle with little to complain about. Not my cup of tea, but way better than many Tuesday's we've seen.

@Rex - thanks for the Black Keys video. I've seen them three times in the past seven years, starting in a small venue and then seeing them perform at Joe Louis Arena this spring. Great band.

PETER 7:15 AM  

Hey Rex,

Sanja GUPTA is giving the commencement address at this Saturday's University of Michigan (your alma mater) graduation. I have a daughter graduating, so I get to hear him speak.

Gill I. P. 7:18 AM  

No love for this puzzle. Agree it seemed misplaced for a Tue.
For the first time in years, I actually wanted to just leave a puzzle unfinished.
I have had no desire to read the book nor see the movie and kept thinking why pick "The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo?" Like @Rex said, perhaps it's the two 15 letter protagonists.
Finally picked it up again and finished it. There were words that I liked GUNGA, ETUDE, ROSA and that's about it. I might have liked it better had it been a Wed. but then I would have preferred a different theme.

Nancy in PA 7:30 AM  

I zoomed through this, having read the book. Hated it. Original Swedish title translates as Men Who Hate Women, and that says it all for me. Don't intend to read rest of trilogy or see movies. BUT having fun with this puzzle made reading the book worthwhile...also highly recommend The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut by Nora Ephron in the New Yorker.

Mark 7:36 AM  

Haven't read the book(s) but saw the movies and I'm Swedish (heritage) so I remembered the "strange" use of the letter 'K' in names. Found it odd to see "NTESTS" two consecutive days (Mon-Tue); isn't that what editing is about, at least watching the pattern of words appearing in consecutive puzzles?

Anonymous 7:49 AM  

this was hard. Unfortunately I'm not up to date on the book/movie and when I had the first circled letters filled in tried to read them strictly across line by line and was coming up with "girl with hooter" then the g in gunga stopped that nonsense.

Anonymous 7:51 AM  

I was warned off reading the first of these books because it contains animal cruelty and I lose it big time over that. That said I, who fall short of the top rung of solvers, thought this was a very very easy puzzle. Not interesting and fun like yesterday, actually a bit boring. When I say not in the top group, I do always finish but slowly and occasionally with several passes. Love the Nora Ephron tip. Will definitely enjoy that I am sure. Now to the kitchen window to see if my mama robin has left any eggs yet. Much more interesting than this puzzle methimks. Grandson got a big kick out of what color the eggs will be:)

evil doug 7:53 AM  

"I know "everyone" has read these books, but I haven't, and filling in random Swedish names does absolutely nothing for me."

I wish I could say the same. I came in fear of everyone singing the praises of the series, and I'm thrilled to see the first few posters either haven't wasted their time (congratulations!) or disliked them. Descriptions so long they make your hair hurt, awkward translations from Swedish into English, gratuitous sexual violence in excessive detail---yeah, great stuff. With so many good reads out there, how does this junk go hypersonic?

Lots of g's today: girl, gale, goose, Gunga, Gupta, Gene, Stieg, smog, nutmeg, agora, and of course, g-spot---if I find out it's a narcissistic self-tribute to the constructor's middle initial I'll never do his puzzles in the future. Fair warning.

Evil

Glimmerglass 7:55 AM  

I've read the books. The title came right away, which filled a lot of squares, but the characters' names took several crosses. For someone who hadn't read the book(s), this would be more than challenging -- almost impossible. Hats off to Rex if he solved it with that handicap (and to others). With some of the other fill (ARIANE, GUPTA, GSPOT) and hard cluing (ARON, OPERATOR), this was a Thursday or Friday challenge.

SethG 7:55 AM  

Watched the movie last week. Couldn't have told you the characters' names, but remembered enough (and the rest was easy enough) that this was quicker than yesterday's.

John V 7:57 AM  

Also haven't read the book(s) so 17A and 54D came entirely from the crosses, all of which I found easy, save for ARIANE, which for this opera fan was way, way obscure, too. Didn't help that I initially had LOS GATOS at 43D. Author's name and the book(s) title mostly came from the crosses as well.

So, I guess the point is that the challenging stuff was fairly crossed with easy stuff, making for a fun, contmporary solve, with some debut words -- a good thing! Charlotte says thanks, Adam, for a new approach to Tuesday.

archaeoprof 8:04 AM  

Any puzzle with RELIC (excavation find) on top is okay by me.

But does that book/movie pass the breakfast test? It was pretty dark, wasn't it.

Evan 8:09 AM  

Wow, this is one of those rare puzzles that I would rate as Easy or Easy-Medium but Rex rated as Challenging. Somehow, it just clicked with me, even though a) I too found some of the clues to be pretty challenging (neither REGT nor ARIANE was happening without every cross) and b) I never the read the books either (though I did see the Swedish version of the movie, and probably would have been completely lost if I hadn't -- the names LISBETH and BLOMKVIST had to have been stored somewhere in my head for them to come to mind).

As soon as I had GIRL at 1-Across, I just guessed that it was gonna be the STIEG Larson book. I was also helped by the fact that every time I ran into a false start (like with ERIS at 2-Down, A-TESTS at 44-Across, ITS A at 50-Across, and VEST at 51-Down), the crossing word came to me immediately, so I didn't spend as much time as I normally do convincing myself that a wrong answer may still be right.

For now, I'm holding out a faint, faint glimmer of hope that, for the first time, I may have finished a crossword puzzle in faster time than Rex did. If only I could say the same for Thursday-Sunday puzzles.....

(Then again, if Rex were solving on paper, and I were solving on the screen, then maybe it isn't as impressive, since the keyboard always cuts a couple of minutes off of my solving times compared to the traditional method. And of course, there will probably be some puzzle in the near future that will kick the crap out of me but everyone else will breeze right through it. /ego-boost).

Sue McC 8:11 AM  

Saw movie recently, so names were fresh enough in my mind to get them easily. Good obs on NTEST, Mark.

r.alphbunker 8:14 AM  

I have got to admire a puzzle that was doable in spite of the fact that there were two 15 letter answers that I had never heard of. I liked cluing ODIN as the god of war given the Scandinavian theme of the puzzle. I of course started with Ares and this clogged up the SW for a while.

joho 8:14 AM  

This was freakily easy for me as I'm right in the middle of "The Girl Who Played With Fire." Within seconds I had filled in GIRL, WITH, LISBETHSALANDER, MIKAELBLOMKVIST, STIEG and knew the undulating circles spelled out THEDRAGONTATTOO. I can't remember when I got such a flood of answers so quickly.

I agree that if you haven't read the books like @Rex and obviously @evil doug, this would be really tough.

Truth is, I would have enjoyed it more if I'd had to work harder at it.

Congratulations to Adam Perl for managing such smooth fill in this theme dense grid.

jberg 8:18 AM  

Interesting sociological study here - correlations between solvers and people who haven't read and/or didn't like the books. I read them - loved them, couldn't put them down. They're best-sellers, not literature, and with a big political axe to grind (all that violence is there to convince you that sex trafficking is a serious crime), but then my politics are pretty far left, I can see why others might find it tedious.

As for the puzzle, the theme made it easy, and once you have GIRL and the stipulated "The," there aren't many choices. Wrote in the title, LISBETH SALANDER, and STIEG, but needed a few crosses to remember how to spell MIKAEL BLOMKVIST - thought it might be Q instead of K, or that he might have an H in his first name.

@Rex, you did well enough at the joke, I think we're preempted. But having G SPOT and N TESTS makes me think someone should do an A to Z theme of letter-word combinations: you know, B-SIDE, C-NOTE, T-TEST (or T-CELL), etc. Needn't all be the same length.

@Z, I had a student named Micheal once - he said it was Irish - so don't rely on that rule!

Evan 8:20 AM  

@archaeoprof:

The book may have been pretty dark, but the Breakfast Test shouldn't apply simply to the title, author, or characters' names. If it did, then lots of other innocuous names and titles would probably be off limits too -- like HEF, or WWII, or words referring to just about any show title on HBO.

mitchs 8:36 AM  

sLIDE and sUPTA also work if you don't know gUPTA.

Z 8:38 AM  

@jberg - I never remember anyway, so it won't be a problem.

@joho - I think @Evil is in the "read-did not like" camp.

the captcha blob is back. I must have offended the Borg.

Matthew G. 8:45 AM  

Difficulty level is a meaningless concept today. If you've read the books recently (as I have), this was super-easy through no merit of one's own. If you haven't, it's super-hard through no fault of one's own.

I finished this in less time than it took yesterday's hard Monday, but I know perfectly well that the 15-letter proper names would have been the death of me if they had been from a series I didn't know. So Rex's reaction is absolutely the right one.

As for the books, I listened to them on audiobook a couple of years ago during a year when I had to spend about nine hours on the highway each week. They were diverting enough, and well suited to the audiobook format, but ultimately I'm as puzzled as many others are about why they became an international phenomenon. It's pretty obvious that Larsson was living out a male hero-to-feminists fantasy through Blomkvist's relationship with Salander.

dk 8:57 AM  

I read the books, saw the movies, lived in Sweden, BLAKE is a great reference to Red Dragon (part of the Lechter series) and some of you may have also seen the movie RELIC. All of which made for an ERIE SHRIEK TEAM this Tuesday.

In sum Adam has linked together a "horrible" little puzzle.

I am not sure of any serial killings occurring in LOS ALTOS but I will check my case files. Four Pi movement was close by.

Happy to see NTESTS and GSPOT back to back (insert chortle about here).

������ (3 Stars) Just because you do not know the subject matter… Oh wait I do that all the time. Nice Tuesday Mr. Perl or is it peril

Anonymous 9:12 AM  

The problem with this type of theme is that if you haven't read the book or seen the movie (which I have not) the theme is simply boring. When you're done, there's absolutely nothing to enjoy about the puzzle. No clever wordplay, no AHA moment. And for most who do know the work, the puzzle must be overly simple. No one of Mr. Shortz's better selections.

Tita 9:18 AM  

Last trip back from Prague, in Zurich airport was looking to pick up a read that was unlikely to be something "hypersonic" (thx ED) in the US. Figured - no obscure Swedish book is likely to be on Oprah's list... Hah!!

Because of that accident, the puzzle just flew for me...
Until...
I hit the SW. Wasn't sure of how those Swedes spell Mikhael (or BLOMKVIST, for that matter,. though that corner was easy.)

But being certain of LOSgaTOS gave me a DNF. Thought gRIANE & GaIDE were fine answers, till I hit submit and scowling Rex told me otherwise...

BUT...
Loved:
One taking a gander?
Tango need
Zero personality? My sister was one for 2 years. Does she have stories. (An operator - not a zero...)
Does anyone under 50 know what that was? Does anything happen when you hit "0" anymore?

As Rex says, if I hadn't read the books, I probably would have hated this. Since I did, I can appreciate all the cool stuff, but it's not enough to make me love the puzzle overall.

@imsdave - congrats on daughter's wedding!

cheeseguy 9:20 AM  

Overall, the puzzle was pretty easy, having read the books.
However, with that being said, how does such an extremely poor written series of books warrant a NY Times crossword puzzle theme? (Much less the international "craze" over them.) I did manage to finish all three books, even with their numerous irrelevant tangents that had no bearing on the story( or the author's cause/point for that matter). Not to mention, the completely unbelievable events in the second book.
Sorry for the rant, just think there would definitely be a better theme for the "premiere" crossword puzzle in the USA.

Tita 9:22 AM  

PS - watched I, Robot yesterday - the capchas are much easier today!

John V 9:23 AM  

@Anonymous 9:12: As noted, I have neither seen the movie or read the books. I enjoyed the puzzle in discovering the new words. The fill was exceptionally high quality and pretty much Monday easy which made the hard stuff gettable (yes I know I repeating myself, but that was almost an hour ago. Sheesh.) For me the aha moment was the discovery of the new stuff and solving the such gnarly stuff as MIKAELBLOMKVIST totally off the crosses.

Also, how can a techie not love a puzzle whose name, Perl, is a programming language?

foodie 9:23 AM  

Like Rex, I have not and do not intend to read this series. Every time I was tempted and read the description, it stressed me out. There must be something I'm missing that made it go viral, but I'm ok missing viruses.

Yet, like some others, it was doable in spite of the two 15 letter theme answers that were obscure to me (though just the LISBETH part was vaguely familiar).

I think this is one of those "look at me, mom" puzzles that shows off skill on the part of the constructor without necessarily eliciting joy on the part of the solver-- whether or not you've read the book.

I think a great puzzle requires some theory of mind, the ability to imagine the solving process on the part of someone else. Great clues definitely require that.

Confidently put down LOS gaTOS in lieu of LOS ALTOS (off the L) even though I lived in Los Altos for 4 years (it's Palo Alto's next door neighbor). Sigh...

jackj 9:25 AM  

Despite all the celebrity and honors that flow to a cultural phenomena like the Stieg Larsson Trilogy, apparently it really hasn’t “made it” until it is tapped to be the subject of a NY Times crossword puzzle, and, today, LISBETH, MIKAEL and STIEG have been officially anointed both by name and by the dragonish circles sinuously wending their way across the grid.

Some of the non-theme entries were a cut above with NUTMEG, GUPTA and WINONA having the crossword version of a pleasant “new car smell” about them (though surely LISBETH would dismiss Ms. Ryder with a sniff as being no competition since she is only a run-of-the-mill shoplifter).

But, there was one piece of the puzzle which could prove particularly vexing to Californians, (no, not GSPOT), as most Golden Staters will know that the Silicon Valley city could be either LOS GATOS or LOS ALTOS and a wrong choice will raise havoc with one’s solving time as there ain’t no GLIDE in GATOS.

I’ve read all three of the Larsson books and enjoyed them greatly but I can’t help but wonder if a dedicated Times puzzle on a Tuesday, is actually a tribute?

KRMunson 9:25 AM  

I have read the book and it was still a ho-hum puzzle for me. I was not enamored with the book, so that might explain it. Never saw the movie, but heard it was uber-graphic.

orangeblossomspecial 9:27 AM  

Rex is correct. G-SPOT has been coming frequently.

Here's a good version of "Little GTO" (23A).

I'm a sucker for "Jailhouse Rock" by Elvis ARON Presley (24A).

Here is a famous 35A Tango "Adios Muchachos" sung by Carlos Gardel.

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

@jberg- Peter Gordon did a "letter-word" puzzle at Lollapuzzoola one year. Great puzzle with an annoying soundtrack.

chefbea 9:56 AM  

Hand up for did not read/see

Hand up for noticing right away N test and G spot.

Love nutmeg and use to live in the nutmeg state

John V 9:59 AM  

Um, that would be "....whose constructor's name is Perl.:

the redanman 10:09 AM  

Very Easy, sorry. When it's pop culture you don't like, then it's not OK? Got it! Don't need to see movie or read book, TV, Newspaper, on-line, it's freakin' everywhere this GWTDT stuff.

62A - DEAD giveaway to entire puzzle, fill in the [roll eyes] dreaded circles, puzzle over. I'm bored, almost too bored to finish. Sharp contrast to excellent LAT today.

sOOt and gOOse on same line was highlight

SW corner was just dreadful, had to nick it a bit to get it - only part that wasn't smooth "fill-in-th-blanks".

NTEST, ATEST both bl*w as fill.

Fast, Easy, didn't care for it. Circles look like doughnuts, I finally figured out today why I dislike seeing them so much.

Wednesday! STAT!

p.s. @orangeblossomspecial - rank pun, just awful

Lon in Austin 10:11 AM  

I couldn't wait to read all the posts of people who were above reading this "terrible" book. I, on the other hand, loved it, its sequels, the swedish versions of the movies, and the one American version. To each his own.

r.alphbunker 10:16 AM  

@foodie
"I think a great puzzle requires some theory of mind, the ability to imagine the solving process on the part of someone else. Great clues definitely require that."

I love this comment. Greatness is in the synapses. I think that is why I liked the ODIN clue so much. I put in a hohum Ares and that stayed until AK[I]N removed it. Then SM[O]G gave me O_I_ and ODIN appeared fully-formed to me. But it didn't end there. Another aha came when I made the Scandinavian connection.

It was like a 4th of July fireworks display when there is a surprise pop at the end.

A great CAPTCHA would require having to reenter the answer to a clue that was in the puzzle. It would be a hoot to see a robot reenter the clue instead of the answer.

Lindsay 10:18 AM  

Brutal. I'm pretty sure BEQ used LISBETH SALANDER recently; otherwise I'm not sure I could/would have finished. Not that I remembered exactly what the name was, just enough to think there was a small chance I was on the right track and not inadvertently working on a puzzle in a language I didn't know.

Anyone else remember the old Blue Jays pitcher Dave STIEb? Not helpful. Likewise LOS gaTOS. But I did finish. Whoop-de-doo.

baja 10:20 AM  

I'm not usually up on books, movies, shows etc., so am usually in the position of solving from the fill - found it relatively easy today, was surprised at the rating.

Mel Ott 10:22 AM  

Needed pretty much all the crosses to get the Swedish names. Unfortunately I had IDO for the princess, which gave me SOLANDER for the heroine.

Done in by the crossing-foreign-names-Natick. Grrrr.

Cheerio 10:35 AM  

I agree that this was sadly easy if you know the books or have followed the saga associated with them, in part because the names have such odd spellings that you remember them (e.g. Stieg).

Pete 10:46 AM  

The SW left me with a DNF/DNC.

I was warned off the books by a friend who knew my absolute hatred of sexual violence as an "artistic" theme, so any details about the book remained a mystery to me.


LOSGATOS/GLISADE/Randomly Spelled Swedish Name (what's up with the V rather than a U? The Swedes can't get with the rest of Europe?) left me disinterested in actually finishing the SW.

oren muse 10:51 AM  

Agree with other comments....not being familiar with the book or movie, I was discouraged at first.

62A clue w/Larsson led me to think "Swedish" which w/crosses revealed the title (or would that be called the theme?)

@Z Re:40D..I stuck w/slide. Never heard of Dr.Sanjay so Supta sounded good to me.

Puzzle was difficult, but I was pleased that w/exception of several errors, I was able to complete it.

maurinsky 10:56 AM  

I solved this one really quickly, for a change - 17 minutes. I had to make a couple of corrections, but once I read 62 across, I was all set and everything fell into place.

Yesterday's was hard, though!

Sparky 10:59 AM  

Agree with @redanman. There's been so much publicity about these books/movie you don't need to have read them. Which is good because I don't do violence to women. Which leaves out a lot. Which is why I stick to Rita Mae Brown.

Got it with STIEG. Filled in the circles. NTESTS yesterday. Ares befor ODIN. Gust before GALE. Liked clues for GOOSE and GENE.

That's all.

efrex 11:08 AM  

Bleah. Never read the books, and had to slog through despite getting the circle path quickly. Not my cuppa at all. Nice fill around, but not enough to compensate for an uninteresting (to me) theme. Now, if somebody would do a Terry Pratchett/Discworld themed puzzle...

orangeblossomspecial 11:47 AM  

@the redanman 10:09 It wasn't my pun, it was Rex's. Read his paragraph beginning "Strangest moment".

Apnea Cel Mikaels 11:53 AM  

When the books first came out, I had tried to make a puzzle sort of similar to this...

THE GIRL WHO...
PLAYEDWITHFIRE 14
KICKEDTHEHORNETS NEST 20
but who became with:
THE GIRL WITH
THEDRAGONTATTOO 15

and then gave up...
so bravo for Adam Perl for seeing a way thru it all!

For the record, I had a big DNF in the SW despite having the last name Michaels, despite living near LOS ALTOS, despite having a Swedish friend named MIKAEL. :(

I had LOSgaTOS/LOSALTOS, aBS/LBS, AsIN/AKIN, ARI?NE
Fixed LOSALTOS but couldn't figure out my other mistakes.
MIKAEL remained at MIs?Ea. ouch.

Also have not read the books, bec of said violence, but was arm-twisted into seeing the American version of the film, as I love
Stellan Skarsgard...
whose name i would also not be able to spell if I ran into it in a puzzle.
(And Steven Berkoff!!! And Max Von Sydow was originally to play the Christopher Plummer role!)

But yes, violent, sad, women-hating, dark, with an opening music credit that was fabulous Led Zeppelin song but had nothing to do with anything.

All that said, it seems totally legit for a puzzle, but as pointed out, ultimately youknowitoryoudont list-y.
Tho I liked THEDRAGONTATTOO snaking thru the grid...clever!!!

So people will be divided and it's nice there are these fora for feedback, but I suspect Adam Perl nor Will will care if we liked it or not.

To have a DNF on a Tuesday, however, is not my most shining moment!

(Now, did we ever solve whose NFL spawn/grandchild Rooney Mara is?!)

600 11:56 AM  

All this time I've been sure I'm the last literate American NOT to have read the "Girl with . . . " books. Kind of glad to see I'm not. But as such, I finally cheated by grabbing the book off the shelf (a friend gave it to me, insisting I MUST read it) to get those damn spellings. That counts as a DNF for many, but after struggling with the crosses, it became a necessity. Glad to see it's rated as "Challenging"!

@r.alphbunker--I wouldn't have written today, since I have nothing new to add to what's been said--but had to say my experience with ODIN replicated yours exactly. Also, @foodie--I too love that insight of yours.

One more thing, @foodie--LOL about missing those viruses!

Finally, I don't mind tough puzzles, even if I have to cheat a little bit to finish. Yesterday's and today's make me think we're in for a good week; I can hardly wait for Thursday (always my favorite day)!

Anonymous 12:02 PM  

Absolutely no point to this puzzle for me. I was so irritated by the prospect of filling in two long names I have never heard of, nor care about that I just quit the puzzle halfway through. This puzzle was utterly devoid of meaning for me.

Wood 12:18 PM  

Got the theme immediately but had a hell of a time filling in the circles with the clunky interface on my iPhone.

Read the first book and agree it was terrible. Long stretches of boredom are not what I expect from an international best seller. Plot ridiculously improbable, poorly written (or at least poorly translated). Total dreck.

chefbea 12:20 PM  

Have forgotten how to get the LA crossword puzzle to print out. Figured I try it today. Think I have to go to another newspaper?

Tita 12:28 PM  

chefbea - I was wondering that myself - can the LAT puz be downloaded to a .puz file?? Or must it be played online only...

r.alphbunker 12:44 PM  

@foodie
Shortly after reading your "brain theory" comment I came across this:

http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/04/23/159217/brain-scan-can-predict-math-mistakes

WesIsland 12:55 PM  

Hadn't heard of the Black Keys until they were profiled on last week's CBS Sunday Morning -- now, a unique music video in Rex's blog -- worth checking out.

Agree with @wood that the GWTDT plot is ridiculously improbable!

hazel 1:15 PM  

@tita - you can download LAT puz from cruciverb.com.

Saw the swedish version and found it super creepy. Made me a bit sad to think such a story would capture the imagination of so many - put the kibosh on me wanting to read any of it. That being said, the puzzle didn't irritate me - didn't wow me either.

Saw Jiro Dreams of Sushi last night, which was positively fascinating. About an 85 yr old man who runs a 3-star ( Michelin) restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station, and has devoted his life to perfecting the art of making sushi.

Also became a big Black Keys fan after @rex posted a video a long while ago, for which I remain grateful.

The

Grace 1:20 PM  

I thought this was rather easy - never read the "Girl With..." books but having read about them - easy enough. I am always amused (if amused is the right word) at how different folks view the easiness/difficulty level of the puzzles - all a matter of background and experiences. Any puzzle that includes a lot of sports clues/answers will stymie me - aside from that old standby Mel Ott - I am clueless, or should I say answer-less.

Charles in Austin 1:21 PM  

The Dragon Tattoo novels: improbable in many respects, and tedious for considerable stretches -- yes, all too true.

And yet the story is riveting, and the character of Lisbeth is wonderfully drawn and thoroughly satisfying. By far the majority of readers have seemed to have loved her. I certainly did. I found her magnificent: practically an archetypal force of nature.

mac 1:44 PM  

Didn't read the books and didn't see the films (when one of the first words in the review was "lurid" I wasn't going to), but I had no problem with this puzzle except for the Los Gatos location, and that only for a little bit.

Got the theme almost immediately after "girl" and seeing the order of the circles, so I filled in a lot. Lisbeth Salander was sort of familiar, Mikael Blomkvist I had to get through some crosses and a basic little knowledge of Swedish spelling.

Goose was great, as was the clue for "operator"!

I had nutmeg on my cauliflower and escarole this evening; many vegetables are sprinkled with it in Holland.

mac 1:50 PM  

@chefbea and @Tita: I just went to cruciverb.com, opened the LA Times puzzle and clicked print/puzzle, and out it came.

Tita 1:54 PM  

@r.alph & @foodie - fascinating!
Maybe some of us could volunteer to have electrodes hooked up while we solve...graph the differences between an easy Monday and a BEQ toughie.

Some of the comments there are quite insightful too.

Anonymous 1:56 PM  

I nominate this for the worst early-week of the year to date. Horrible, stale crosswordese. Looks like a puzzle from 1998.

From the East (with my grades in parens)

OPERATOR (C-; boring word where a fresh, sparkling 8 should be)

TWO (C+; fine, has a "W" at least)

TOES (C; boring letters)

SEPIA (D; stale, old, been done)

NTESTS (F; Crosswordese, dated, out-of-the-language, plural)

TEES (C-; boring, plural)

TTOPS (D+; stale, but at least an interesting word. Plural.)

OWEIT (F-; this should have been a sale-killer for a puzzle with this many flaws)

ROSAS (F; obscure foreign-language plural)

Clark 1:58 PM  

Read em. Saw em. Loved em. Lisbeth is a great character. And she is brilliantly acted in both the Swedish and American films.

Anonymous 2:08 PM  

Challenging??? Wow I did this a good 3 minutes faster than yesterdays puzzle. I'm horrible at crosswords so I have no idea why everyone had such a hard time with this.

My only slip up was I put in Los Gatos instead of Loa Altos and since I didn't know the crosses, they made sense to me.

And wow I thought everyone had read the book or seen the movies. Guess its too mainstream for NYT solvers?

Kristin 2:43 PM  

Huh, I just happened to have bought a $4 used paperback copy of GWDT in Eureka CA while on a long road trip last week. So very fresh in my.mind. Although I am only on page 200 and haven't gotten to the rape scene yet. I've certainly heard about it.

Bird 2:52 PM  

When I saw the circles I thought, “Uh, oh . . .”

Anyway, Rex called this Challenging? I liked this one and thought it was Easy-Medium even though I’ve not read the books nor seen the movies. I got the theme pretty quickly as I started with the downs today. As soon as I got 1A and 10A I filled in the undulating circles, which to me resemble a typical dragon pose in a statue or painting (head, back and tail up with feet on the ground). The long proper nouns were fairly easy to get from crosses. Only pause was 43D as I wasn’t sure if it was ARIANE or ARIeNE and both seemed valid. Guessed correctly.

Hand up for ARES in SW. Liked the clue for 29A – did not think it hard at all, unless perhaps you look at it without any crosses.

chefwen 3:08 PM  

Husband read and loved the series and was positive that I would also. Got about 200 pages into the first book and as @efrex said "not my cuppa".

I get the LAT puzzle at Daily crossword - chicagotribune.com and download it in Across Lite.

Hand up for Los Gatos first.

Azbert 3:11 PM  

Love all you folks who haven't/won't read the Stieg books, but hate them. Great intellects.

Anonymous 3:12 PM  

Walked away, DNF,didn't read the books because of the violence I was warned about. Dull, repetitive fill. "To err"? "Gunga?". Waste o' time.

IMDb 3:13 PM  

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009, Danmark)
Män som hatar kvinnor (original title)

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, ruthless computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet's disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from almost forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves.

IMDb 3:14 PM  

The Girl Who Played with Fire (2009)

Flickan som lekte med elden (original title)

Mikael Blomkvist, publisher of Millennium magazine, has made his living exposing the crooked and corrupt practices of establishment Swedish figures. So when a young journalist approaches him with a meticulously researched thesis about sex trafficking in Sweden and those in high office who abuse underage girls, Blomkvist immediately throws himself into the investigation.

IMDb 3:15 PM  

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (2009, Danmark)

Luftslottet som sprängdes (original title)

After taking a bullet to the head, Salander is under close supervision in a hospital and is set to face trial for attempted murder on her eventual release. With the help of journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his researchers at Millennium magazine, Salander must prove her innocence. In doing this she plays against powerful enemies and her own past.

IMDb 3:16 PM  

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011, US)

This English-language adaptation of the Swedish novel by Stieg Larsson follows a disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), as he investigates the disappearance of a wealthy patriarch's niece from 40 years ago. He is aided by the pierced, tattooed, punk computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). As they work together in the investigation, Blomkvist and Salander uncover immense corruption beyond anything they have ever imagined.

Lewis 3:17 PM  

Well, I guess, if you are familiar with the book/movie, this puzzle was Tuesday easy, and if not, it was Thursdayish.

I am of the former, and my solve was easily faster than yesterday's. I did read all the books -- they did hook me in.

I think on Tuesday it's okay to have a puzzle theme being not just a best selling book, but a phenomenon and huge buzz...

Jimmy Legs 3:19 PM  

Isn't most crossword construction noticing that a phrase is fifteen letters, or that a few phrases have the same length, and then going with it? Like Rex I haven't read or seen any books or movies, but they are popular enough that they are fair game, and if Rex and I don't know the protagonists it is simply a hole in our popular knowledge, not a flaw in the puzzle. I think instead we should admire how THEDRAGONTATTOO was fit into the grid, and note the interesting pseudosymmetry of GIRL, WITH, and STIEG. There are only ten answers of three letters. And I don't mind being asked to figure out how common first names appear in another Germanic language; in fact, I like it when I am tasked with using a bit of logic to figure out an answer, rather than hoping my store of knowledge is large enough. No, Mr. Parker, this puzzle only exists because it is a quality solve; I look forward to more of Mr. Perl.

jae 3:26 PM  

When I retired I vowed not to read any more "airplane" books. Ocassionaly I have relapsed. The Girl series was one of those ocassions (The Hunger Games was another). As genre books go I thought they were a cut above Cussler and Clancy but not in the same league as say LeCarre. Maybe on a par with Ludlum. Anyway, I enjoyed the series and the Swedish films. I haven't seen the American version so I can't comment.

Yes, they are dark and violent but I'm a Tarantino fan so that's fine with me. I suspect many of you who have avoided the books have also avoided Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs (not to mention Kill Bill I & II). The Emmy winning TV show Breaking Bad is probably not on your list.

This is a long way around of saying I liked the puzzle (circles and all, I mean it's a dragon, right?) and found it easy-medium.

Bird 3:54 PM  

If IMDb is a database how the hell is it posting?!

Or better yet, how does it know what we humans are posting about?

Big Brother 3:57 PM  

I'm watching you all right now.

Deb 4:03 PM  

I am so surprised you didn't like this one, Rex! It can't be easy to come up with new themes, and this one was, IMO, really clever. And you must be being purposely obtuse not to see that the circled THE DRAGON TATTOO is in the shape of a dragon.

I haven't read the books, but I did catch the Swedish version of the movie when I was staying with my son last spring and searching Netflix specifically for foreign movies (as I need captions to "hear" and at that time Netflix had very few captioned offerings). When I started seeing the hype about the American version I was perplexed as to why they'd bother: Why can't people just watch the original with subtitles?

At any rate, nice job, Mr. Perl. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Pete 4:11 PM  

@Bird - The more salient question is why IMDb is posting.

@Azbert - After your comment I went and re-read each comment and found no one who didn't read the book but offered a critique on it. Most gave their reasons for not reading it, none said that they hated the book, just that they didn't read it for the reasons specified.

IMDb 4:26 PM  

@Bird - nervous?

@Pete - because I can

Tita 4:35 PM  

@chefbea, chefwen, @ mac - thx re: LATimes...I am looking to be able to download the .puz, which I can't figure out how to do, not even on teh Tribune site - I jsut get that schlocky flash player.
But apparently cruciverb.com has them.
(They are currently having a problem with their registration, but I've been assured the AcrossLite files are available ther.)

Thanks one and all.

Anonymous 5:15 PM  

to all complaining about the theme: how is that any different from obscure musicals/operas/books being featured? just because something is popular and not (according to you guys) high-brow doesn't mean it is automatically off limits.

for the record, i did not enjoy the first book so i didn't read the rest, but i find the elitism here unsettling.

joho 5:16 PM  

@Clark, I agree with you that Lisbeth is a fascinating character. I'm in the middle of the second book and will surely read the third. It's hard for me to tolerate the darkness and violence encountered along the way, but following Lisbeth and seeing how she fares is worth it to me.

sanfranman59 5:36 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)

Tue 10:11, 8:53, 1.15, 87%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 5:12, 4:35, 1.13, 87%, Challenging

I don't think I've ever said "who?", "huh?" and "what?" so many times while solving a Tuesday NYT puzzle. Perhaps obviously, I've not read the book nor have I seen the movie. Given the book's popularity (at one time, it seemed as though everyone I knew was reading it), I'm happy to have finished the puzzle with a time that's on par with the two groups of online solvers. I came in just under the top of my Medium-Challenging range.

jae 5:51 PM  

As for the KV instead of QU in BLOMKVIST, think Hagar's duck.

chefbea 6:18 PM  

@tita,@chefwen@mac thanks but I still cant get it

Mighty Nisden 6:30 PM  

@Tita - I watched I, Robot too! Loved that movie. But I can only prove I'm a robot when my red light is on.

@jberg - Absolutely right. There is a huge difference between best sellers and literature. However sometimes they come together.

As for me DNF although I made it within a couple of letters. Never read it and a few of the crosses were too hard to figure out... And my guesses were all wrong. I must work on my guessing ability.

Tita 6:42 PM  

@chefbea...on the www.chicagotribune.com puzzles/games page, click into the puzzle, answer at which level, then at the top right, above the clues, you will see Print.
On the LAT site (obnoxious, as you have to wait out an ad that plays (loudly) http://games.latimes.com/games/daily-crossword/daily-crossword.aspx
It is on the LOWER left, BELOW the clues. You will see a little icon - 4th from the left.

(Nothing like consistency, eh?)

michael 6:44 PM  

Very easy if you've read one of the books; otherwise (as the commentators say) obscure and irritating. I've read them, but can see why they would be offensive to many. Coming soon, a puzzle about a series I haven't read (Harry Potter, Hunger Games) and I'l; find it obscure and irritating. Because we don't all share cultural touchstones anymore, such puzzles maybe aren't worth it.

I wonder if anyone would object to a puzzle with a Simpsons or Shakespeare theme (both of which would be hard for me).

retired_chemist 7:51 PM  

Medium. Did not read the book but managed to do the theme answers pretty much totally with crosses.

G_I__ @ 40D "Dance Movement" became GRIND (seriously!) for a while.

I must nave known a BENGT Larsson sometime because I put that in with some confidence. Oh well...

Except for the theme answers for those who had not read the book, this was easy.

PaulGall 7:53 PM  

At some bookstores, I hear that they call Lisbeth, "the girl who is paying the rent this month."

Z 8:02 PM  

Thanks @Pete4:11 - That was my sense, but I haven't had time to go back and reread.

I am also amused (bemused? chagrined? insulted?) by @anonymouse5:15 - a number of commentators read and liked (or even loved) the books. Several read the books and cited flaws. Still others pointed out that having not read the books (for a variety of reasons) made this puzzle more challenging. The only "high-brow" comments that I saw make a distinction between being a "best-seller" and being "literature." I have to admit that I am elitist enough to conclude that the work of, say, Sherman Alexie or Stuart Dybek is better than the work of Danielle Steele or John Grisham. I suppose you believe all book reviews are "elitist," though.

loren muse smith 8:26 PM  

Way too busy to comment until now. I, too, found this almost really easy. I tore through it like a bat out of hell until the SW almost shut me down. I did read the book but still would never have gotten the names without the crosses.

@retired_chemist – I entertained the same alternative to GLIDE.

@Evil – I noticed all the G’s, too, especially the extra one I had for LOS gatOS.

@michael – you left one out. Just imagine. . .THE TWILIGHT SAGA (15)

ariane gupta michaels 1:16 AM  

I have never seen ARIANE, nor heard the music, but I hear it's women hating and really violent, so I'd probably hate it!
;)

sanfranman59 1:44 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 8:17, 6:50, 1.21, 98%, Challenging (4th highest median solve time of 148 Mondays)
Tue 10:12, 8:53, 1.15, 87%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:31, 3:40, 1.23, 99%, Challenging (2nd highest median solve time of 148 Mondays)
Tue 5:09, 4:35, 1.12, 85%, Challenging

nebraska doug 4:22 AM  

So much complaining about a pop culture phenomenon? I wasn't doing crosswords when Star Wars blew up, but I have to wonder if people complained about the first Star Wars themed puzzle? Saying they hadn't seen the movies? Complaining about answers like Ewok, Vader, Wookie...don't blame the puzzle for your woes just because you haven't been assimilated yet into the phenomenon, ...not every puzzle has to be done in a personal record...enjoy the challenge.

nebraska doug 4:23 AM  

So much complaining about a pop culture phenomenon? I wasn't doing crosswords when Star Wars blew up, but I have to wonder if people complained about the first Star Wars themed puzzle? Saying they hadn't seen the movies? Complaining about answers like Ewok, Vader, Wookie...don't blame the puzzle for your woes just because you haven't been assimilated yet into the phenomenon, ...not every puzzle has to be done in a personal record...enjoy the challenge.

Spacecraft 12:39 PM  

Actually, for me, the NW wasn't much easier than the SW, and I had to backtrack by doing the NE and then filling in the center (agreed that "Zero personality" might just win a prize for greatest clue of the year), and that finally gave me GIRL. See, I had WIND for 1d and EASE for 3d, and couldn't make much sense of the REST of it. The 15er, of course, was unknown to me; both of them. Having never read the book OR seen the movie, I found this puzzle so challenging that I had to resort to Google in the SW. Way too much obscurity there.

The circle pattern, I guess, is meant to depict the dragon's segmented body as done in oriental parades.

Yeah, I'm with you, @Rex, on to tomorrow.

Solving in Seattle 12:52 PM  

WOW, did I love this Perl of a puzzle, and the comments! Where do I start?

I caught the theme almost immediately, having read the (IMO) capivating Larsson Trilogy recently, and finished the puzzle quickly, although I did visit LOS gaTOS before realizing my mistake. Not being a high-brow opera buff, had gRIANE until it got sorted out.

To all of you "haven't read them/haven't seen the movies/not going to" folks, I say you are missing one of the absolutely best developed characters I've read in LISBETH SALANDER. This is, of course, coming from a person whose favorite movies all star Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Once I started reading the Trilogy, I could not put the books down - a pure treat. As for the violence against women, I think the way Larsson addressed the issues and the way Lisbeth responded made the reader suffer through the awful mental and physical torture, but gave us retribution through her righteous revenge. You rock girl!

If you don't read these books or see the super Craig/Mara movie (not film) you're missing out on great entertainment.

@ACMe, the Rooney is from her mom's family who own the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Mara from her dad, whose family owns the NY Giants.

Finally, liked the NUTMEG fill as it reminded me of my late Golden who lived to be almost 16, was the mayor of our neighborhood, and ran 6 miles every day with me.

rain forest 4:34 PM  

@SIS Goldens are truly "golden". I still miss Tanner.
Didn't read/watch, but unlike others I wasn't bored by this effort. I figure if 35 million plus read the books, it's a totally appropriate theme, and the fill was actually very good with a few sparklers in there.

Regarding subject matter in books: if all one reads are books that avoid the seamier side of humanity, one is reading pap.

Dirigonzo 4:37 PM  

So far I am 0 - 2 for the week. I was familiar enough with the book/movie title to get the theme, and I managed to get her name almost right through the crosses but his first name eluded me. I think I made every mistake that has been mentioned plus some of my own: wavE instead of TIDE as the beach washer at 48d; my Armory group started out as Rotc before it became RpGs (you know, Rocket Propelled Grenades, which surely are stored in an armory); I finally dialed "0" and the OPERATOR gave me REGS, which I presume is regiments? I liked my answers better. And at 1d, my "Air force?" started as a wind, became a Gust and then turned into a full-force GALE. As a sailor, I hate it when that happens.

Maybe tomorrow I will actually finish the puzzle.

Anonymous 6:37 PM  

Not having read the book or seen the movie I had some difficulty with the characters, but the title was a piece of cake, starting with just WITH.

Was shocked to see LOS ALTOS in there, my home town (to which I will never be able to afford to return). No serial killings that I'm aware of in Los Altos, but I can remember as a boy being edgy about walking to school because of this "Zodiac" character who was all over the news.

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