Van Cleef French jeweler / WED 6-13-12 / Horse of Year 1960-64 / Revolutionary killed in his bathtub / Flu sufferer's quaff / 1955 Thunderbird seating capacity

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Constructor: Susan Gelfand

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: PLAYING WITH FIRE (38A: Inviting danger ... the end of which can precede each half of the answer to each asterisked clue) — what the clue said

  • 17A: *Staffing level (MANPOWER)
  • 25A: *Refuse to cooperate (STONEWALL)
  • 52A: *Woodcraft hobbyist's creation (BIRDHOUSE)
  • 64A: *Toothless mammal (ANTEATER)

Word of the Day: Counting of the OMER (14A: Counting of the ___ (observance after Passover)) —
Counting of the Omer (or Sefirat Ha'omerHebrewספירת העומר) is a verbal counting of each of the forty-nine days between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot. This mitzvah derives from theTorah commandment to count forty-nine days beginning from the day on which the Omer, a sacrifice containing an omer-measure of barley, was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, up until the day before an offering of wheat was brought to the Temple on Shavuot. The Counting of the Omer begins on the second day of Passover (the 16th of Nisan) for Rabbinic Jews, and after the weekly Shabbat during Passover forKaraite Jews, and ends the day before the holiday of Shavuot, the 'fiftieth day.' (wikipedia)
• • •

A very common theme type, given a nice little twist here with the playful theme-revealing phrase PLAYING WITH FIRE (that's what the puzzle's doing, in a way). Otherwise, nothing special here. Nothing offensive either. If you're wondering what cruddy fill like OMER and PENTA is doing in a very easily fillable little corner of this grid ... well, I can explain. But I don't want to. Can you guess? Because there *is* a reason. (Hint: it's something you probably haven't noticed and don't care about) Probably the same reason THRO and OEDS are in the opposite corner. And it's *not* because the constructor couldn't do any better—she certainly could. I'll let you think on it.

Give up? OK, here's the answer: the puzzle is a pangram (every letter of the alphabet appears in the grid). Except ... as a constructor friend of mine noted, you could still have your beloved (pointless) pangram and fix that damned NW corner very, very easily. His/her words, verbatim: "Ugh. Easy grid change to remove 14A. New 14A: {"The Wire" gangster} [OMAR], New 3D: {Seasonal cookie eater} [SANTA], New 1A: {Texas-based org.} [NASA]." So it appears there is absolutely No reason for the cruddy fill you see in the grid. I hereby retract my entire first paragraph. 

I imagine at least a few people are going to look at the intersection of OMER and ARPELS (4D: Van Cleef & ___ (French jeweler)) and think "......... ? ........" 

Despite booting several answers during my solve, and despite having no clear idea what the theme was til I was done, I ended up with my fastest Wednesday time since I started my spreadsheet three months ago. This probably should've run yesterday and yesterday's today. Well, yesterday's should've run Never, but if it had to run, today would've been better. I think I have noticed that speed solving is a bit like speed reading in that you take the clue in at a gulp, rather than word by word, and so sometimes there are processing errors. So, for instance, when I hit the clue 5A: It may be cut by an uppercut (JAW), I really only took in the first couple words and "uppercut," and so wrote in JAB (brain: "3 letters, starts J, boxing, JAB"). Occasional glitches like that are the cost of going fast, but I don't mind. Fun to see how my brain works (or doesn't). I also wrote in PUG for POM (22D: Fluffy lap dog, for short), TBA for TSA (41D: J.F.K. inits.), and started to write in ORKIN for ORTHO (46A: Name in garden products). I had a brief "oh crap!" moment at the KELSO / GELATO crossing (55A: Horse of the Year, 1960-64 + 51D: Cold dessert) because I wasn't sure I was going to be able to remember the damned horse and I could not think of a [Cold desert] starting with "G" ... "Damn, an old horse and some technical term for a cold desert—I'm doomed." But I remembered KELSO. Then, when I got GELATO from crosses, I realized I'd been reading [Cold dessert] wrong.

  • 19A: Flu sufferer's quaff (HOT TEA) — herbal tea, maybe, though that's not really "tea." Do people drink hot black tea when they have the flu??? I'd rather have a hot toddy. Or just the bourbon.
  • 29A: Revolutionary killed in his bathtub (MARAT) — a crossword staple. Helped me get rid of the damned PUG.
  • 5D: Moe, Larry and Curly, ethnically (JEWS) — remember the one where they count the OMER? Me neither.
  • 53D: Bidirectional, like a door (IN/OUT) — it's good that the puzzle is being inclusive and finally letting Bidirectional doors into the grid. Too many doors have been discriminated against for too long. Long live the LGBT door community (Locked, Garage, Bidirectional, and Trap)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Dan Feyer wanted me to pass along the following information on the Napa Valley Puzzle Challenge, coming up on Sat. Jun. 30, 2012 (10am-8pm):
The Napa Library Foundation is sponsoring a day of puzzle events -- including a crossword tournament -- on Saturday, June 30.  After a morning session of kid-friendly puzzles and games, and a free afternoon screening of the movie WORDPLAY, three-time ACPT champion Dan Feyer hosts the tournament at the Napa City-County Public Library.  The tournament will feature three unpublished New York Times puzzles as well as an exclusive Napa-themed crossword created especially for the event.  Between the preliminary rounds and the championship round, puzzle experts will lead a Q&A and discussion of crossword solving and construction.  Scheduled to appear: Tyler Hinman, Andrea Carla Michaels, Jeremy Horwitz, and moderator Dan FeyerVisit for more information!


jae 12:12 AM  

Now this was a Tues. puzzle.  Straight forward theme with pretty smooth fill. Solid but not zippy.   So, a tad easy for a Wed. but an OK effort as far as I'm concerned.

Nostalgia: I think the Apple IIC I had used a DOTMATRIX printer.

Possible tough and definitely strange cross:  ARPELS/OMER.  I really like Rex's fix for this one, but that would have made it a Mon.

Evan 12:21 AM  

I liked the theme and its execution, but OMER/ARPELS did me in. I've recently taken the strategy that when I run into a possible Natick, I just assume that if I can make a coherent word out of one of them -- even if I don't understand how it fits at the time -- I'll stand a decent chance of guessing correctly. So, that left me with OMEn. It's a real word, and it seems plausible that there'd be a Jewish tradition about counting omens, right? At least, I think so. And there was AnPELS -- well, it was French, so I had no idea either way, even though I figured an R was probably better. Alas, i guessed wrong.

In Monday's free Philadelphia Metro puzzle, there was a crossing between G-MAN and GHAT at the initial G. Yeah, you know GHAT, right? It means a step leading into the Ganges River in India. I mean, why have that corner make sense with the logical T-MAN/THAT pair when you can add a pointless extra degree of difficulty to it? Ticked me off, it did.

r.alphbunker 12:30 AM  

For some reason I noticed the four irregular constructions in today's puzzle: WORST, DEALT, SANG, THROWN.

Maybe it is because I am in Paris for the month which has made me aware of the advantage of learning a language at the age of two. Fortunately eating is easy. You just have to point like I do when I buy a GELATO.

In the 60s I once produced a "portrait" of my girl friend using a dot matrix printer. Dark parts were produced using letters with lots of dots (e.g., W), lighter parts were produced with letters with fewer dots (I). It ended up looking a lot more like Golda Meir than my girlfriend.

The Amazing Aztec Nomad 12:53 AM  

Had a rough time with OSSA (in that it wasn't Olympus), Lang (didn't know her), and ISLE. I think of the chain as a chain of islands and one part in that chain as an island. ISLE works, it just wasn't the first thing to come to mind. Well, the first thing would have been link, but that's okay. All of that made TSA hard to get. Even now it seems a little arbitrary.

Strong, tight theme. Was looking for fireWORK somewhere in there, but all were good choices.

Fun puzzle!

syndy 1:22 AM  

I suppose it is easier to get a pangram if you use a whole lotta initials {APB,ILA,QED,TSA)ASIDE from that super easy no hangups at all! I wonder if vancleef and ARPELS is a gender slanted bit of trivia-gimmee for me anyway.

Steve J 1:41 AM  

Very easy Wednesday. Had that sense while doing it, even before seeing my time. Only hangups for me were a little bit of parts of the SE and above. Couldn't remember OSSA, took me forever to remember that k.d. LANG goes lower-case, also couldn't remember KELSO or place GELATO there. Somehow things finally came together one letter at a time.

Speaking of one letter at a time: I really don't get why people try to achieve pangrams. They're not interesting on their own (having all letters adds no twist or cleverness), and I can't recall one that didn't result in some awkward compromises.

@syndy: I"m male, and I got ARPELS straight away (well, the ARPEL_ part; I momentarily couldn't remember if it was truly ARPELS, or a false-possessive of ARPELL, much like people commonly say "Nordstrom's" when the store is named Nordstrom). Don't know why I know it, but I do. Probably picked it up from movies at some point. It seems like something that would have shown up in something from the '40s or '50s.

John Hoffman 1:42 AM  

k.d. lang's best song: Miss Chatelaine.

chefwen 3:15 AM  

@r.alphbunker - I am so jealous, a month in Paris, Oh the joy. Can't tell you how much time I have spent at the Brasserie on the Ile Saint Louis, sitting outside sipping wine, watching the world stroll by while working on the NYT puzzle in the International Herald Tribune. Afterward, walking across the street for a world famous Berthillon GELATO. Aahhh!!!

Agree that Tuesday and Wednesday were switched yet again. One write over at 5A JAb before JAW. Last fill in was the E in PENA/OMER, a total guess that turned out correct. Woo Hoo!

Anonymous 7:26 AM  

I hated the crossing of OS_A with T_A as I didn't know OSSA and TBA or TWA were both possible for T_A -- I didn't think of TSA.

Glimmerglass 7:31 AM  

I got Naticked by OMER/ARPELS, but lucked into the right guess by a mistaken memory. I (mis)remembered an old perfume ad: "Promise her anything, but give her Arpels." I've since remembered that that was Arpege. I like guessing right, even for the wrong reason, but I'm not troubled by Naticks. They happen.

Z 7:38 AM  

I found this strangely chewy for me. Other than the OMER/ARPEL crossing I don't see why in retrospect. LOTS OF clues just weren't popping this morning, so this played more medium-challenging for me. My guess at the crossing was a P. ApPEL is a name I've seen. OMEp? No idea, obviously.

After seeing the numbers for yesterday from sanfranman59 (highest median solve time of the 3 plus years of Tuesdays in his data) I wonder if I was just making this more difficult than it was. Some sort of crossword hangover.

John V 7:50 AM  

This was an easy Monday. Only pause was KELSO/LETHE. I thought crossing MLI with EWELL was a bit unfair; EWELL plays old and crossing with a Roman numeral seems wrong.

I looked at the revealer clue, looked at the grid and just wrote it in.

So, pangram=Wendy Darling's mother? MARAT=Mickey's mom?

No fog in Charlotte this morning.

jackj 7:53 AM  

Susan Gelfand’s puzzle has a hint of peril, as evidenced by the theme revealer, PLAYINGWITHFIRE, but actually it’s a pleasant, solver-friendly, vanilla concoction.

The theme answers were all solid, if unexciting, and the fill runs the risk of being tagged as “serviceable” but did have some notable exceptions.

Among the exceptions was the clever cluing that asked for the homophone of THROWN that, while not difficult, was a thoughtful way to upgrade a routine answer.

Then, next to THRONE, (the asked for homophone), there is a nice debut entry of HOOFED, clued as “Walked, with “it”” and Susan further added to the fun by asking us to guess what every “Bambi” viewer is going to need, namely a clean, dry HANKIE.

Tied to HANKIE by its “K” is one of the greatest American racehorses of the 20th century, the gelding, KELSO, a horse that never won a Triple Crown race (in fact he never was even entered in one) but was chosen U.S. horse of the year five times from 1960 to 1964.

KELSO retired at the relatively young age of nine after a relatively minor foot problem but, as a gelding, he couldn’t draw stud duty so he starred as an unlikely show jumper, frequently comforted by an owner who coped with KELSO’s stable diagnosed insecurities by feeding him chocolate sundaes.

Thanks, Susan, especially for spurring me to reacquaint myself with the marvelous KELSO.

Horace S. Patoot 8:05 AM  

I really, really should stop bringing this up, but having studied the classics, I cringe when I see octopi. I suppose it is becoming common usage, but we'll never be able to insert the word octopus into Latin so we can form octopi grammatically, nor will we get Greeks not to say octopodes. Also, I associate lighter fluid with zippos and butane with prefilled Bic lighters, etc. Because it is a gas at room temp and pressure.

joho 8:06 AM  

LOTSOF fun theme answers made this most enjoyable for me. Think about how difficult it is to come up with one word that splits in two to work with FIRE. Then top it off with a great 15 reveal, PLAYINGWITHFIRE.

I loved the clue at 30A, "It's taken before a shot" for AIM.

I had lip before JAW.

I'm not a speed solver but sped through this one.

Thank you, Susan Gelfand! I appreciate that you created a pangram, too!

Sue McC 8:15 AM  

Super fast and easy Wednesday. Despite being far from a potential customer, ARPELS is one of those useless bits of info I have stored. I was familiar with OMER so that helped. Pangram, bleh. Thanks, Rex...without the write up I'd still be looking for the theme.

Anonymous 8:46 AM  

The Best Picture of 2011 was The Kings Speech which was not a "silent" film. Why is silent the answer to"like the Best Picture of 2011? Are they referring to non films and is there an award each year for photos vs films. I realize they would be silent but don't know about any competition.

Oscar 8:56 AM  

@anon8:46 - The Artist was the Best Picture of 2011, Oscar awarded in 2012. Common trap.

Anonymous 9:03 AM  

Question. I am a regular rexword reader and occasional poster. I get the NYT at home daily and do the puzzle in pencil. I will be away for a couple of weeks with just an iPad. Can I get the puzzle and solve it on my iPad? Do I have to pay for it (I am an online NYT subscriber)?

hazel 9:07 AM  

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.....

@anon 8:46 - there is nothing new under the sun.

I tried very hard to find some link between this puzzle and a fantastic movie I saw last night called Bernie - as close as I could get was the Jack Black character SANG alot - and Rexville reminds me a little of Carthage, TX. The movie made me laugh so i enjoyed it more than the puzzle - though the puzzle was just fine by me. I finished it about 30 sec faster than yesterday's.

orangeblossomspecial 9:09 AM  

Irving Berlin composed a song on the puzzle's theme: "I'm PLAYING WITH FIRE".

chefbea 9:16 AM  

Knew arpels so I got omer. But I've ever heard of it...and I'm Jewish.

I agree about Zippo!

Thought it was Commin' Thru the Rye

And if you are likkered up, youve had too much likker. Isn't that spelt wrong?

jberg 9:16 AM  

I'm embarrassed - I usuall look for pangrams once I see a couple of odd letters, but in this one I thought "Hmm, Z, X, but no Q," having somehow forgotten IRAQ. So even with @Rex's broad hint, I didn't notice.

I did get ARPELS right off, though. Here's the rule: since this is the NEW YORK Times puzzle, any company that advertises in The NEW YORKer is officially crossworthy. At least half an hour per week of studying them is highly recommended.

As for 71A, the magnifying-glass days are over, alas! From now on it's online only.

quilter1 9:18 AM  

Great puzzle I enjoyed alot. I remember the old game shows giving way Van Cleef and ARPELS jewelry.

I have a young (28) friend who was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in Feb. During chemo he has been doing very easy crosswords to combat "chemo brain," a fuzzy feeling that is annoying on top of everything else chemo related. My enthusiasm for the NYT crossword led him to subscribe online. He has done the last three days, plus some older ones.

We were talking yesterday and his delight in the puzzles was a joy to behold. He said, "These are hard!" and then related how pumped he got when on Monday he got AROMA from kitchen magnet. The easy ones don't have that level of cleverness and he was getting bored. But now he's fired up. I also turned him onto BEQ (he'll have a better grasp of the pop culture than me) and this blog, so y'all be nice to him, OK? I know you will.

If you would like to view his amazing blog about his journey with cancer, the site is He won't mind me posting this as his aim is to reach as many people as possible. He's also making a documentary, and mentions crosswords as being helpful.

Tita 9:29 AM  

Shoulda been a Monday - super-quick for me! My ACPT score woulda been 930...hey - I even beat r,alph! Maybe that has to do with his sitting in that café while solving..."Oh garçon..."
@Rex - your sly method for teaching us about pangrams was right on target - I've been worried about your faltering art of explanation lately - you made up for it today. I still find myself somewhat ambivalent about the maligned pangram, but this was the clearest "see why they suck?" description.

ARPELS was first thing in the grid for me - don't own anything from there, but a gimme none-the-less.

Annoyed at the SNAIL answer because they and their sluggy cousins are slithering through my garden at alarming rates this season. A large percentage are getting STEWED in my beer traps, but seemingly not before decimating my crops!

Fun solve - thanks Ms. Gelfand.
Oh - and liked the [FIRE]BIRD in the grid with the TWO-seater Thunderbird.
Great revealer.

Norm 9:38 AM  

@Anon 9:03 -- if you're already an on-line NYT subscriber, I don't think you have to pay extra for the puzzle. Try going here:

@Horace S. Patoot -- Agreed.

KRMunson 9:45 AM  

@anon 9:03: Yes, you can solve the NYT puzzles on your iPad. You have to go to the app store and download the free app first. Solving is free if you are already a NYT premium puzzle subscriber. Of course, you can also go to Rex's blog to read all the witty commentary on your iPad...

Catherine 9:52 AM  

I too winced at OCTOPI, although I was pleased that i knew they were moray eels' prey. (I have eel/octopus obsessed boys.)

@anon 9:03, I do the puzzle online everyday. On the NYT home page just click "crossword" and Across Lite will come up. The first time you will need to download an app or something, but it will be fine. Also, if it comes to that, you can check a letter or even (!!) reveal one! Comes in handy sometimes!

loren muse smith 10:03 AM  

Loved the theme and its execution. I liked ROIL, HOOFED, SPEW, MAJORETTE. And OTRO, ORTHO, and three THROs!

I had never heard of a pangram until I joined this group, so I still get all prickly feeling when a B drops, then a K, an X. . .I just can’t help myself but hope that it is a pangram. I do see @Rex’ point that the fill suffers; OMER/PENTA isn’t anything to write home about, but I’m still childishly impressed with pangrams.

@Rex – I almost spit out my coffee with your “door” comment! Let’s not discriminate against the sordid group, either: Screen, Open, Revolving, Dutch, Interior, and Double.

DNF with the KELSO/LETHE cross. My first thought of an obsolete printer was a mimeograph, but that’s too long. I can still smell a freshly-mimeographed paper.

I never mind foreign words, but the Spanish “others” is always tricky because you just don’t know the gender. It always makes me grumpy – L’enfer c’est les OTR_S.

snoot 10:13 AM  

According to Merriam-Webster, no one is allowed to be snooty about any pluralization of octopus.

Tita 10:31 AM  

@Loren...I have a theory about those foreign word clues...since my testing began, it seems to be holding true...

If the indicator that it is a Spanish word is a name, then much of the time, the answer matches that gender.
Never mind that grammatically one has nothing to do with the other...BUT - the "rule" seems to be holding most of the time. Well, some of the time.

Random examples:
In the Liz Gorski Rex mentined yesterday (great puzzle indeed!):
103D Friend of Carlos - AMIG[O]
Carlos is a guy, AMIGO is masculine.

Senora's "other"
Feminine pronoun, clued with Senor[a].
Other, to Juanit[a]
Paulin[a]'s other

Tio's friend
Juan's other

Two Ponies 10:31 AM  

Too funny today Rex.
I've never seen a butane Zippo but I suppose it's possible. A better misdirect and more accurate clue could have been Bic-related.
Didn't like the clue for jaw either. While it could happen it seems that eyebrows and lips get cut much more often.
This would have been a lot easier if the RRN had not crossed a printer I've never heard of.
Oh well, hoping for a rebus Thurs.

JaxInL.A. 10:51 AM  

Today's NYT puzzle was nice, and since I'm Jewish and over 50, the OMER/ARPELS crossing didn't even register. I remember the Van Cleef and Arpels commercials.

On the other hand, I really loved today' s very clever LAT offering from our own DougP and Bruce Sutphin. The theme is movie shockers (no spoiler, as that's in the clues) with very clever clues and clean fill. If the link doesn't work, go to to get the puzzle.

Yesterday someone observed that the quality of LAT puzzles was rivaling or surpassing that of the NYT. I'm not sure that is consistently true, but at least for today it seems to apply. Enjoy.

mitchs 10:57 AM  

@Jax I read that comment as well and it does seem that for past few weeks the NYT is NOT the highest ranking puzzle on Amy's blog. Today is a perfect example...both the LAT and the Onion (both of which I thought were much more worthwhile than today's NYT) rank higher.

Horace S. Patoot 11:05 AM  

@snoot: On your entertaining video, I heard her say the equivalent of "'octopuses' is not more incorrect than 'octopi'". Regardless, I personally like octopuses, and certainly wouldn't want to appear snooty.

Tita 11:18 AM  

Let me clarify my post at 10:31.
I am not saying that in Spanish, genders of pronouns or nouns match the person who is talking about them. I am just saying that it seems like an extra hidden hint from the constructor to help us out that if it's a male in the clue, the answer is likely to be masculine, etc..
I don't mean to launch a discussion on gender agreements! (mostly because of all the master linguists on this forum!)

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

If I didn't know how far in advance Will Shortz plans his XWPs, I might think he purposely published today's pangram just to stick it to Rex. I will credit Rex with this. He always has a fresh comment on his hatred of pangrams...and sometimes is even funny, like today....


Dan 11:55 AM  

Alternate clue for 55 Across: What has two thumbs and doesn't give a crap about your pangram?

mac 12:07 PM  

Easy, smooth, Monday/Tuesday level puzzle for me, with only "toddie" as a write-over.

I remember the octopus discussion as well.

Van Cleef & Arpels has a nice little piece of real estate on 5th Avenue: the SW corner of Bergdorf Goodman's. Their Alhambra necklace has been much-copied the last few years. Mmmmmmm, Arpege....

Mel Ott 12:11 PM  

@jackj: Thx for the KELSO anecdote.

When did Zippo start making BUTANE lighters?

Rob C 12:37 PM  

Nice puzzle. Put in TISSUE for HANKIE which through me off for a while but other than that no problems. I though it played fairly as a Wed.

@jackj and Mel Ott
While Kelso never ran in a triple crown race, his damsire (maternal grandfather) was Count Fleet, a triple crown winner.

Lewis 1:04 PM  

Funny writeup, Rex.

This was a Tuesday easy for me, straightforward clues. Only hesitation was on OSSA/TSA/LANG.

Can you believe that on the NYT puzzle page, it STILL has the answers to the meta puzzle by Patrick Berry from last October? I still think it's a good bet that they will still be up there after a year.

Miss your comments, ED and ACME -- please come back!

Two Ponies 1:07 PM  

I looked it up and Zippo does make a line of wind-proof butane lighters. I still love the feel, sound, and smell of the originals.

Tita 1:10 PM  

@Rob C...I can't resist...had a terrible cold in Portugal - needed desperately to buy tissues.
Whenever a word fails me in Portuguese, I picture my mother talking about it, and it usually pops in to my head. That didn't work.
So tried describing it (in Portuguese)...
"You know, a hankie, but made of paper..."

From the store owner, a smile...
"Sim, minha senhora - Kleenex!"

JenCT 1:23 PM  

@Rex: loved the LGBT comment!

I actually own a Zippo windproof BUTANE lighter; we keep it by the firepit outside.

Also, DOT MATRIX printers are widely used at businesses that favor triplicate forms; I see them at the hardware store all the time.

Got stuck at the KELSO/LETHE crossing.

Sparky 1:24 PM  

Found it easy. Rememberd OSSA from past puzzles. One wears ARPELS with ones HERRERAs. There is a woman who sells cosmetics on QVC named ARPELS.

I don't care about panagrams but I really don't see why NAsA/saNTA would be any better than what's there. PENTAgon, PENTAgram, etc. Why not?

Thanks @jackj and RobC for the horse stories. And, @Tita: great "rule" re otro/a. Usually I leave it blank and wait for the cross.

oldbizmark 1:35 PM  

i guess i am behind the times but i always thought that the word "Jew" was offensive. i am jewish and would never refer to another jewish person as a "jew." i would say that he/she is jewish. i guess "jew" was readopted as an acceptable term but i still cringe when i see it, especially in something as trivial as a crossword puzzle. anyway, this puzzle was much better than Monday and Tuesday but it still seems that NYT is a lot more hit and miss than it used to be. Get you stuff together, Shortz.

John V 1:39 PM  

@Anonymous 1:37: DIE, DIE, DIE!

Rob C 1:47 PM  

@John V
Not that we don't enjoy an occasional death threat, but there was no ANON 1:37

Nice story

Z 2:15 PM  

@rob c - how long until "damsire" makes an appearance?

John V 2:17 PM  

@Tita re: anon. Well, it's gone now. Maybe @Rex killed it? I promise you it was there. Or, did I kill it? Did I? Hmmmm.

It wasn't me, I swear 2:24 PM  

It wasn't @Tita either - she didn't make that post - twas Rob C!

I, however, DID in fact see a post from an Anon wanting us all to watch some nice video...
It has disappeared w/out a trace!

John V 2:33 PM  

Yep, Rob C, was you. I read it too fast. I suspect our leader put a spike in the video spam post.

Matthew G. 2:47 PM  

Rex's prediction was correct. I was totally Naticked by the OMER/ARPELS cross. Never heard of either, so I finished with an error, trying OMEN/ANPELS. I also struggled with SOYA -- I thought the correct term was simply "soybean," so I didn't know what bean we could be talking about. Now I see that SOYA is the British term. Good to know.

Long story short, I truly loved both the theme and the theme density today, but I hated the fill. Hate the fill even more now that Rex illustrates how easily it could have been fixed.

Rob C 2:47 PM  

@Z - It's a fun word. I've only heard it used for race horses but I suppose it could apply to horses in general. Wonder if the "sports haters" (said teasingly)would object?

@John V - Thanks for explaining. I wasn't sure if it was you or I that was going nuts. Luckily turns out it's neither

dangerousbreed 2:58 PM  

zippos are filled with naphtha not butane. this is a glaring mistake

quilter1 3:04 PM  

@Tita: that's hilarious. When we go to a foreign country we try to learn the polite words so we can be nice while looking ridiculous. Once in Spain a store owner complimented us on our courtesy and remarked, Are you sure you aren't Canadian?

Makes you wonder what ugly Americans he has encountered. Of course Canadians are American too.

JenCT 3:18 PM  

@John V: I saw it too; here's the post (minus the link):

Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it,
you happen to be a great author. I will make certain to bookmark your blog and will come back down the road.
I want to encourage one to continue your great posts, have a nice evening!

Too funny.

@dangerousbreed: see my earlier post.

Crosscan 3:20 PM  

I am Jewish but don't find being called a "Jew" offensive.

However, as a Canadian, being called an American too...

dangerousbreed 3:26 PM  

@JenCT indeed, zippo zippo makes a myriad of products including pens (so "ink" could also fill a zippo) but the classic, iconic zippo is filled with naptha

sanfranman59 3:45 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)

Wed 9:54, 11:47, 0.84, 16%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:43, 5:53, 0.97, 46%, Medium

Welcome to the 21st century 4:08 PM  

@dangerous breed - most early Zippos utilized naphtha as a fuel source. The switch in fuel option from naphtha to butane took place during the 1950s. This took place as butane allows for a convenient flame and has fewer odors

Anonymous 4:52 PM  


As a child of Holocaust survivors, the use of JEWS in this puzzle made me cringe. I find it hard to verbalize why, but the truth is, it just did! Being referred to as Jewish, does not have the same effect as the term Jews...

Just watched "The Diary of Anne Frank" on Masterpiece Classic...they were killed because they were the JEWS, not because they were Jew-ish...

Joe The Juggler 5:01 PM  

I got the "R" in OMER/ARPELS on my first guess. (Had the puzzle done but for that square, and thought it might take a bit of trial and error.)

I agree with the consensus: this should've been a Tuesday, or maybe even a Monday.

As a fire-eater, I was glad to see ANTEATER.

Deb 5:14 PM  

Anon 4:52, I understand the distinction, as do most readers here, I think. Then again, maybe ED can swoop in and tell us how silly we are to even think of such things.

evil doug 5:20 PM  

Happy to. Some Jewish people mind, some Jews don't, so I innocently use what I want since I intend no offense.

To get wrapped around the axle on this relatively small point trivializes the massive horror of the overriding issue of the Holocaust.


Father: Tell me your sins, my son.

Jerry: Well I should tell you that I'm Jewish.

Father: That's no sin.

Jerry: Oh good. Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about Dr. Whatley. I have a suspicion that he's converted to Judaism just for the jokes.

Father: And this offends you as a Jewish person.

Jerry: No, it offends me as a comedian.



Deb 5:26 PM  

ba da bing

It wasn't me 5:27 PM  

@John V, @JenCT - so weird - I saw a post just before John's, saying something like "great blog - I hope you like this video"...
By the time John posted, it was gone. I never saw that other one.

The robots are infiltrating!

evil doug 5:30 PM  

As a practicing Christian, I've decided I resent and reject being called 'Evil Doug', or 'Evil', or 'ED'.

When I was a student pilot, my first flight commander strode to the podium and said: "Please, feel free to call me by my first name. My first name is 'Sir'." So as a former military officer I insist on hereafter being called "Captain", or "Captain Doug", or "Sir". Otherwise I will be highly offended.

Thank you,


mitchs 6:14 PM  

As Rex once wrote, and, as a newbie, I didn't quite get why at the time...EEEEVIL!

As one NKYer to another, I'm very glad you decided to "momback".

quilter1 6:51 PM  

@Crosscan: There are North Americans and South Americans and Central Americans and I think that when U.S. citizens call themselves Americans as if _nobody_ else is an American, that's pretty arrogant.

hazel 7:35 PM  

@quilter1 - how are we supposed to refer to ourselves? Every canadian i know is proud to call him/herself a Canadian. Likewise, citizens of countries in Central and South America seem to identify with their home countries - (based on my observation of baseball players, at least) Sports!

Or is it just the people who tell others they arent real Americans that you are referring to? In which case, I agree with you, though I dont know any such people.....

I do have a friend who prefers to identify herself as "from SanFrancisco" though she's lived in Atlanta for 7+ years!!

hazel 7:43 PM  

P.s. and she was BORN in Atlanta!

Z 7:46 PM  

@evil doug - keep practicing.

Sfingi 7:56 PM  

Also had JAb before JAW.

Dot matrix printers are still sold, but their heyday was during the mainframe years. There were huge, $40,000 printers which printed on wide continuous feed paper with green and white alternating lines.

I wish someone would write a pangram puzzle which included words of which there was one ending in each letter of the alphabet.

@Tita - I also use beer around my hosta. Since I don't drink the stuff, it's years old. In addition, I sweep the squirrels' nutshells around them. When the slug tries to emerge from the beer and escape, it cuts their soft underbellies. Heehee.

As for tea for the sick, we were given flaxseed tea with honey and lemon. For years I never saw flaxseed, but now it's everywhere.

I've concluded that the captchas don't care if you get them a little wrong - just proves your human, all-too-human.

michael 8:09 PM  

omer/arpels was a Natick for me.

Do the three stooges ever refer to their ethnicity in any of their films?

Alex Vratsanos 8:26 PM  

Two years ago today, Francis Heaney had his "Flag Day" Sunday, which Jim Horne, creator of the XWord Info database, named his Puzzle of the Year for 2010.

One year ago today, I myself not only graduated high school, but I made my New York Times crossword puzzle debut with a puzzle about ping-pong.

And thus, I was hoping for a good puzzle today... and that's what I and all the other people who do the New York Times crossword puzzle got. I guess it's similar to my puzzle from one year ago, except it uses both halves of the theme entries, not just the first half.

And so, I tip my hat to Susan Gelfand, on this lucky thirteenth day of June.

mac 8:57 PM  

Very nice comment, Alex Vratsanos. looking forward to seeing your name under the puzzle again.

Tita 11:38 PM  

@Alex - nice seeing you here, and nice commentary. I'll go look for those puzzles and redo them.

@sfingi - devious - I love it - DIE, DIE, DIE, slugs!

To the various Canadians and other Americans of all sorts...
On a Rhine river taxi between Switzerland and Germany, I struck up a conversation with an American expat family speaking German with their kids.
I asked the 4 year old if he was American. His reply:
"I'm not American - I'm from Texas!!"
(Insert suitable Tezas twang.)

Tita 11:39 PM  

...*Texas* twang.

sanfranman59 1:26 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 6:13, 6:49, 0.91, 15%, Easy
Tue 12:03, 8:55, 1.35, 100%, Challenging (highest median solve time of 156 Tuesdays)
Wed 9:58, 11:47, 0.85, 18%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:38, 3:40, 0.99, 46%, Medium
Tue 6:25, 4:37, 1.39, 100%, Challenging (highest median solve time of 156 Tuesdays)
Wed 5:37, 5:53, 0.96, 41%, Medium

JenCT 2:09 AM  

@Tita: LOL

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

There are a few Zippo lighters that take butane (for lighting cigars and pipes and when the wind is blowing),but the classic takes lighter fluid.

Solving in Seattle 2:20 PM  

Funny writeup, @Rex. And pangrams are wasted on me. Who cares? Just make the puzzle clever.

Nice to hear from Evil Doug being... well, evil.

Had Doled before DEALT and Pek before POM. @Rex, a Pug is not fluffy.

Liked the crossing of SANG/STONEWALL. It reminds me of the Watergate gang and their "bunker mentality." First they STONEWALLed, then they SANG. All but G. Gordon Liddy, THAT IS,whom I met soon after his release from prison while on the lecture circuit. I stood next to him and looked into the scariest eyes I've ever seen.

I'm an American. I lived in Vancouver for 18 months and love Canada. I never once heard a Canadian refer to himself as an American.

Nice puzzle Susan Gelfand.

Texas Solver in Syndiland 3:29 PM  

Thanks to a re-run of Sex And The City on Saturday ARPELS was no problem. But KELSO/LETHE did me in. Rivers in Hades I think of Styx. Other than that not too bad for a Wednesday.

Dirigonzo 4:16 PM  

Like others I found this one to be easier than yesterday's. For "Walked, with "it"" I first tried Hiked - but then I figured I probably wasn't supposed to have an empty square at the end of the word (that's one of those pesky crossword rules, I think). So I just left it blank and let the crosses do all the work for me.

Right between the two cash registers (or "Points of Sale" as we call them today) at the hardware store where I work there sits a tractor-feed DOTMATRIX printer that prints a three part invoice for each sale charged to an account. That puppy is printing pretty much full time and if something goes wrong with it things turn ugly quickly. Life would be so much simpler if the boss would just go "paperless" but I don't think that's ever going to happen.

Anonymous 4:47 PM  

come on, Parker, get with the program!

Spacecraft 5:30 PM  

@Oldbizmark has a point. Though not Jewish myself, "Jew" makes me cringe while "Jewish" does not. Can't explain it, but the scene in "...Anne Frank" when the police shout "Vo sind die Juden?" (Where are the Jews?) remains blood-freezing to this day.

That Kelso had to be gelded was perhaps the greatest single tragedy ever to befall the Sport of Kings. He wasn't just a superior racehorse; he was a FREAK. I think his father shipped him to Earth from the planet Krypton. Anyone who ever saw him race would never forget him.

Well, we ALMOST had a pangram that OFL didn't despise. But it's pretty transparent when you could have IRAN/NED just as easily.

Overall, I liked this one. Theme density is fairly impressive, with the central reveal being a very common expression squarely on point, and with perfectly ordinary compound words whose parts each fit with FIRE. Actually, when I was doing it and put in the first themer, MANPOWER, I thought LINE (lineman, power line). Didn't know the Richie song at first, and I hate "XED" so bad that I resisted putting it in--even after I knew it had to be right. But that's the only part of the puzzle that STONEWALLed me. MAJORETTE may be the cool word of the month for me.

Hand up for a near natick at OSsA/TsA. Finally decided that OSwA and OSbA were just too damn awkward, and went with the S. Easy-medium. I'm one of the few who found yesterday's easier.

Parting shot: I liked EWELL standing there as Marilyn's dress was THROWN horizontally up in front of him--all the while SPEWing ASIDES to the audience.

Dirigonzo 8:04 PM  

I see @Sir (formerly @Evil Doug) is back. I will grant that the man has a way with words, and I especially enjoyed this phrase (taken completely out of context, to be sure): "To get wrapped around the axle on this relatively small point..." because it reminded me of this nomination for a Darwin Award: " James Burns, 34, (a mechanic) of Alamo , MI , was killed in March as he was trying to repair what police describe as a "farm-type truck." Burns got a friend to drive the truck on a highway while Burns hung underneath so that he could ascertain the source of a troubling noise. Burns' clothes caught on something, however, and the other man found Burns "wrapped in the drive shaft." So while I am sure ED (oops, sorry - I mean Captain Doug) was speaking metaphorically, apparently the phrase can be applied literally. too.

Leslie Lim 2:59 AM  

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