Actress Balaban of Last Chance Harvey / THU 5-30-13 / Co-creator of Captain America Hulk / Leste UN member since 2002 / Movado competitor / La Bamba performers / Humbug preceders / Brightest star in Lyra

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Constructor: Julian Lim

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (more Medium)



THEME: EAST TO WEST (60A: How 17-, 23-, 37- and 51-Across run (in two ways))— theme answers run backward (i.e. literally east to west), and also run from "E" to "W" (i.e. figuratively east to west).

Word of the Day: LIANE Balaban (22D: Actress Balaban of "Last Chance Harvey") —
Liane Balaban (born June 24, 1980)[1] is a Canadian actress. Her film debut was in New Waterford Girl (1999), playing Agnes-Marie "Moonie" Pottie, and has since appeared in the films Definitely, Maybe (2008), Last Chance Harvey (2009), and the independent drama One Week (2008). She has guest-starred on the television series NCIS: Los AngelesCovert Affairs and Alphas, and joined the cast of Supernatural for its eighth season. (wikipedia)
• • •

As far as I was concerned, while I was solving the puzzle, it was just a "these answers go backward" puzzle. I'd seen answers do that before, so I couldn't figure out what the big deal was. Only after I was done did I see the E-to-W angle, which does make the whole endeavor somewhat interesting.  The grid is pretty clean and has solid if not sparkly answers. I was lucky enough to have three of the long answers—OMAR EPPS, LOS LOBOS, and JEANNIE—be utter gimmes, which is what pulled this puzzle toward the Easy side. The backward thing took a little time to pick up on. I had 23-Across ending -TIXE, and I knew no words had that ending. Figured I had an error, but all the crosses held tight. Eventually my eye caught the revealer clue, and even before I knew the revealer answer, I knew my themers were going backward. Once you pick up the conceit, it's not that hard a puzzle. Elinor WYLIE eluded me, and LIANE Balaban, as well as the movie she's clued by, are completely new to me. That's an insane LIANE clue, though I'm guessing that, with the NYT-solving crowd, LIANE Hansen in gonna be just too easy, no matter how you clue her (for years she hosted NPR's "Weekend Edition Sunday," a show on which Will Shortz makes a weekly appearance).


Theme answers:
  • WOFDNABBE (17A: Tidal movement)
  • WEIVRETNITIXE (23A: Firm last words?)
  • WORCTAE (37A: Take one's licks, in a way)
  • WONTISEODYSAE (51A: "Be careful!")
Love love love the JACK / KIRBY answer, with its "K" crossing. Nice to see a comics legend get some grid face time. I like NAGGY slightly less than I like the EGGY that it crosses, which is to say, I don't like it. Seemed like there were a bunch of oddish plurals, but I really see only three that fit that description. Perhaps I thought there were more because the worst of them is at 1-Across (1A: "Humbug" preceders = BAHS; truly terrible). Because the center theme answer was bookended by two obscurish proper nouns, I found the middle the hardest section to get into. Even with VI- and RE-, I couldn't get either 24D: Trattoria menu offering or 25D: It's sat upon. Had to come in to that section from the bottom. My home town makes a rare appearance today—I was never that excited to live there, but now whenever FRESNO comes up I feel a strange tinge of nostalgia (9D: San Joaquin Valley city).
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    77 comments:

    jae 12:06 AM  

    Medium-Tough for me.  Figured out what was going on from W________ABBE at 17a, but it took a while.  WOEs LIANE (Bob I know), WYLIE, and JACK KIRBY made this more difficult.  Plus there were only two "know it only from crosswords" gimmes: ELHI and TSO. 

    Clever/tricky two way theme with some zip...SCARF, DETOX, OMAR EPPS in full, LOS LOBOS (Ritchie wouldn't fit and the clue was plural so...), HELD WATER...plus crunchiness... Liked it!

    John Child 12:11 AM  

    I saw ...BBE on the tide clue very early, and so got the backwards gimmick. Since tides go "in two ways" I was hoping the rest of the backwards answers did too.

    Without that the "E" and "W" are a pretty thin hook for the gimmick, OHMI.

    elitza 12:12 AM  

    Straight-up tough for me. Didn't get the theme for way too long, lots of Googles for names, etc. Just never grokked it. Eh, well, that's a Thursday for me.

    Still can't decide how much it's worth staying up late/getting up early for Thursdays--or really, any days lately. Everything feels called in.

    jackj 12:27 AM  

    Can we call Julian Lim’s excellent puzzle WODAHSCIXELSYDAGNIRETNE?

    It sure does slow one down when the thinking process is so radically altered, especially when the puzzle’s trick isn’t fully apparent until the reveal of EASTTOWEST (with the reveal’s clue also signaling the W and E compass points that begin and end each theme phrase) and before that “Aha” moment there are some strange looking words with which to contend.

    Joe Btfsplk, meet Mister Mxyzptlk.

    Indeed!

    My favorite of the theme clues, was the clever misdirect of “Firm last words?” for WEIVRETNITIXE (EXITINTERVIEW, if we must) while WORCTAE as the centerpiece of the puzzle made for a jaunty embellishment with a playful kick to the solver’s REAR.

    Lots to like with Julian’s choices of fill, especially BETRAYS, ASPECT, BIGOTRY, AMBLE and NEUTERS.

    In the proper noun department things were slightly demanding with CLIOS, OMAREPPS, JEANNIE, LOSLOBOS, FRESNO and TAIWAN, while dated poet Elinor WYLIE, Hulk creator JACK KIRBY and unheralded Canadian actress LIANE Balaban proved to be the real head-bangers, needing crosses to complete.

    With such a variety of clues to choose from for “best in show”, there’s no easy pick, but I’ll make mine “Added up” that gave us the brilliance of HELDWATER.

    Terrific puzzle from Julian Lim who has proven to be a constructor of the first order after only 11 Times puzzles.

    Thanks, Julian!

    syndy 12:43 AM  

    IT might be BIGOTRY but I prefer my CREME BRULEE not be EGGY or NAGGY for that matter.The revealer did allow me to throw in the "E"s and "W"s but I think WOLF-NABBE was going somewhere interesting and sparkly-EBB AND FLOW not so much.LIFEEVENT is an act of pure desperation I"ll have to say NAY(S)

    Anoa Bob 1:37 AM  

    Coming out of the gate with a plural of convenience (POC) BLAHS? Yikes! Further review, however, showed that the WOLF DNAB BE and the WEIV RET NIT IXE two rows below it put some serious constraints in that corner. Plus the beautiful HELD WATER made that whole area hold water.

    Lots of good stuff all around like BIGOTRY, NEPALI, DETOX, and, LOS LOBOS (Yo no soy un marinero, soy un capitán.

    Was Rex at the top of his game today? Seemed so to me.

    Amble Clios Marepps 1:54 AM  


    So it's phrases that start with E and end with W.
    Not enough, so they run backwards. OK.

    This is akin to what Patrick Bl and I did years ago, but the thing was, we wanted all the words to read either way, not just one.
    So this is sort of the reverse. Our fill was all forwards and backwards but the reveal was all backwards.
    So this feels like a companion piece to ours.

    That, plus Sunday's puzzle with the same title as ours (Made for TV Movies) makes two puzzles in one week that were similar to ours from three years ago. deja vu.

    The names were hard for me:
    Didn't know JACK KIRBY nor WYLIE, LIANE... But knew OMAREPPS, OSSIE, ILER, JEANNIE, CHE, ANKA and LOS LOBOS.

    I tried the "wHo" for the CHE poster, guess it depends on the year and the dorm room!

    I think almost all Sherpas are NEPALI and that becomes their last name too. I work with NEPALI folks at Curry Without Worry (We're starting a NY chapter! look out for it. We feed about 200 folks a week full vegan meal, for free to celebrate Tuesdays)

    Not to be too NAGGY, but LIFEEVENT didn't quite HOLDWATER for me as a solid phrase. And the NOW of EASYDOESIT (NOW) seemed tacked on, while solving. But they are both growing on me.

    Shout out to VEGA!

    And Fresno's chamber of commerce tagline: FRES..YES!

    okanaganer 2:09 AM  

    The saying is "familiarity breeds"...whatever. I own a thousand 70s-era Marvel comics, yet it took a while to get "co-creator of Capt. America and The Hulk" = my hero JACK KIRBY. I own a book about him for God's sake!
    http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/081099447X
    Forgive me Jack.

    Basic mind-fart happening, I just couldn't make the grid fall into place. Boy, there's nothing like backwards phrases to throw me into the ditch. Jeez I Love Thursdays!...they make me feel so humble.
    I wanted 51A "Be careful" to be ITS EASY PEASE
    (sp = whatever).

    Ellen S 2:43 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Ellen S 2:46 AM  

    I loved it. Filled in BAHS and thought my, that's dumb, esp for a Thursday. The second thing I filled in was BIGOTRY and thought, are we allowed to say homophobia is bigotry? Are we allowed to have homophobia as a clue? I'll put it in because it's true but the right answer is probably something stupid, on the order of BAHS. But no, it wasn't. I put in a bunch of things around that that I thought would all be wrong becuase I had no idea what was doing, just filling in stuff, like I had been taken over by a ROBOT. CHE on a dorm room poster--I know he's just a fashion statement, but CIA as the instigator of coups, that's political. NEUTERS? DETOX? Oh, what a lovely puzzle.

    No googling needed. Somehow I knew Elinor WYLIE; even stranger, I filled in JACK KIRBY who I most assuredly did not know, with only the J, K and B .

    Got the revealer while the theme answers were just a random hodgepodge of letters. Took a little while to figure out what it was trying to tell me. EAT CROW was the last thing in -- I had forgotten that was a themer.

    Wait, I thought. Is that all there is?

    chefwen 2:55 AM  

    Had to lean heavily on my part time puzzle partner to get this puppy done. I'm on major drugs to fight an allergic reaction to Mango Sap, damn the luck, I love mangoes. I guess someone else has to harvest them for me.

    He got the EAST/TO WEST gimmick and is crowing like the irrepressible roosters that have been showing off ever since we obtained our domestic chickens.

    Anonymous 3:21 AM  

    Puzzle was enjoyable and seemed fairly straightforward for a Thursday. But how does "Triple, quadruple or more" = SOAR. This didn't pose a big problem (never heard of Liane Balaban, but was able to guess off the Li-ne, and the other SOAR downs were easy), but I'm in the dark. Thanks to whoever first makes me kick myself for idiocy.

    r.alphbunker 4:15 AM  

    Got [EAS]YDOESI[T]NOW first and thought that the progression of E, A, S, T from right to left was significant. But the other theme answers would not cooperate and I finally saw E...W.

    Cryptics often use initials in the damnedest places. For example from "European" I was supposed to deduce that the answer had an E in it. Maybe we are going from Europe to Waukegan in this puzzle.

    Speaking of cryptics, @Keith H nailed the cryptic question I posted yesterday. TIME SERVER was the answer for {Employee retiring soon? Measure how long 8 takes}. 8 indeed refers to the answer for 8A which was BARMAID. American crossword puzzles have conditioned me to want A or D after a clue number.

    jae 4:23 AM  

    @Anon 3:21 -- Had the same problem with SOAR. My best guess is that if, for example, your investment in (fill in the blank) triples or quadruples or more it SOARS.

    And, one thing that was helpful with this one is that I'm in the middle of a Peter Gordon edited NY Sun puzzle book puzzle involving prime numbers that has backwards answers (it's in my car and I work on it during long red lights or in COSTCO lines) (yes, I'm an addict). Anyway, I was primed to see backward stuff.

    r.alphbunker 4:42 AM  

    One last cryptic remark. The cross that provided the last E in SERV[E]R was {Town in Cornwall has a different one in Staffs} which clued ST IV[E]S.
    To get this, I needed to know the following.
    1. ST IVES is a town in Cornwall
    2. "staves" is the plural of staffs and must replace it in the clue.
    3. Capitalization is sometimes used to confuse (e.g., the S of Staffs is capitalized to make it look like a place name)
    4. "one" can denote "I"

    Plus I had to forgive the awkward resulting clue "St Ives has a different I in staves." To my mind, it is a stretch to call an "a" a different "i"

    Anonymous 5:11 AM  

    "Capitalization is sometimes used to confuse (e.g., the S of Staffs is capitalized to make it look like a place name)"

    "Staffs." is a common abbreviation for "Staffordshire" (in the UK). Rather like Florida = Fla, or Oklahoma = Okla.

    r.alphbunker 5:21 AM  

    @Anonymous 5:11AM

    Thanks. I think I will take a poll to determine how many people here know that. :-)

    The random sample (mainly waitresses) that I have asked about cryptics in general indicated that they prefer the quick puzzle which has no cryptic clues but does have uncrossed letters.

    Anonymous 5:27 AM  

    R Bunker:

    I'm originally from the UK. Other common abbreviations
    for counties are:

    Lincs: Lincolnshire
    Herts: Hertfordshire
    Hants: Hamphire
    Oxon: Oxforshire
    Berks: Berkshire

    -MAS

    Keith H 6:12 AM  

    I liked this puzzle, BAHS notwithstanding. I put it in as a gimme and moved on.

    This one had an odd topography for me. I got several gimmes right away, then sat and stared at 75% of the puzzle for about ten minutes. I had deduced the backwards theme by then, from -IXE, but for whatever reason couldn't get a foothold. Something in the SE fell into place - I honestly don't remember what - and the rest of the puzzle was a three-minute ski jump.

    Enjoyed the solve, to be sure.

    @r.alph

    Argh - almost nailed it! I had TIME SERVED. I have heard that phrase but never TIME SERVER. Looking at it, yours is obviously a better fit for both clues. I am at least a wee bit mad at you for piquing my interest in cryptics now. My Games subscription is still active, so maybe I'll take a stab at a couple in there.

    Mitzie 6:17 AM  

    Easy for me. Like Rex, many of the longer non-theme answers were gimmes.

    Always good to see my man OMAR EPPS get his full name in.

    loren muse smith 6:50 AM  

    Wow. Every ASPECT of this puzzle kicked my REAR. The proper nouns – OSSIE, CLIOS, EILYW, LIANE, JACK KIRBY, ILER, GITA. . . completely out of my wheelhouse. And then the dastardly clues for HELD WATER (ok, that was brilliant), ASPECT, BOWL. . .I kept thinking “boar” there. . .I just finally gave up, as I TEND to do won neve that I’m getting pretty good.

    Like @Rex, I kinda raised an worbeye at EGGY, but I guess crème brulée is indeed EGGY. It’s just that in a house with teenagers, that adjective is reserved for something else.

    AMBLE reminds me of the time I was a long term seventh grade English sub. I had my students wehcse common, overused words and write epitaphs on tombstones that we put in the Dead Word cemetery on a bulletin board. And then of course I introduced the thesaurus. Things got really weird then. When CC wrote, “She ambulated to the gym.” (there’s a future constructor who will put orientate in a grid soon), I found a new appreciation for regular words. FWIW, when I enjoy a constitutional, I “stroll,” but that didn’t fit.

    Now I get to have my ego further squashed when I see my six questions at the Learned League, a daily trivia game that just makes me feel, well, dumb.

    Nice puzzle, Julian.

    Milford 6:52 AM  

    Count me as one who solved 1A and thought it was a bad omen for the rest. But it wasn't - rather a medium Thursday (definitely not a Tursday).

    Whatever scattershot way I solved worked, because EAST TO WEST showed up quickly for me, and eventually all the theme was solved. I did not notice the E to W progression until I finished. Very nice touch.

    One geeky thing - although JACK KIRBY should have been a gimme with The Hulk in the clue, the first name I thought of was John Byrne. My brother owned hundreds if Marvel comics.

    Geeky thing #2 - thought the equipment found in some labs was going to be PCR. Ok, maybe just a biochem lab.

    Thought the cluing for some answers was a little strange - BADE, DO IN, ALIBI, LED TO, ASKS, ÉLAN, and even EATS CROW. But it is Thursday.

    Loved NEUTERS, BIGOTRY, and NEPALI.

    I'll take any write up with a Pet Shop Boys video, @Rex.

    Evad 7:09 AM  

    After listening to the Pet Shop Boys video, I'm thinking Johann Pachelbel is rolling in his grave right now. Too bad he didn't patent that four chord progression.

    Enjoyed today's offering a lot; any rationale to spell something backwards is ok by me.

    CBCD 7:10 AM  

    Thinking that our crossword puzzle friend ENYA sang You are My Destiny slowed me down a bit.

    The Bard 7:27 AM  

    The Merchant of Venice , Act III, scene I


    SALARINO: Why, I am sure, if he forfeit, thou wilt not take
    his flesh: what's that good for?

    SHYLOCK: To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else,
    it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and
    hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses,
    mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my
    bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine
    enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath
    not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
    dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
    the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
    to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
    warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
    a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
    if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
    us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
    revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
    resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,
    what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian
    wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by
    Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you
    teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I
    will better the instruction.

    Milford 7:30 AM  

    @Evad - your Pachelbel comment made me think of this:
    http://youtu.be/JdxkVQy7QLM

    Z 7:45 AM  

    Same thought about having a POC at 1a, but all was forgiven in the end. I went all the way through the clues and was on trip two before I grokked the theme, but I had enough to get it all at once, slap in some missing Es and Ws and the puzzle went from impossible to easy.

    I had an EGGY Pinto, not an EGGY VEGA, back in the day, a '72 yellow pinto wagon. I wanted the '68 mustang but was overruled by my mom. She was a wise woman.

    Is the WYLIE/KIRBY cross going to cause problems for people? I got WYLIE from the "learned from crosswords" region of my brain.

    JEANNIE NEUTERS NAGGY DIVAS. I'm pretty sure I saw that episode.

    MetaRex 7:51 AM  

    A forward-thinking backwards puzzle! Am a Julian Lim fan...

    Still underwater w/ work stuff...still solving, though...saw this morning that my pace cars tushnet and sanfranman59 were next to one another on the leader board...thought at around 11 minutes in that this could be a rare MRian win over both...ended up lagging them by around 20 seconds...got bogged down b/c of not realizing WORK TAB and the other stuff I was running through for the middle answer was all bass-ackwards...ya'd think a not-so-fast solver like moi would take the time to read the reveal clue and realize that the middle is thematic, but no...

    dk 7:53 AM  

    Forced fill to serve a questionable endevor.

    ** (2 Stars)

    jberg 8:00 AM  

    Does it count as finishing if you fill in all the letters but don't understand the theme? The revealer gave me the right-to-left part, but I didn't figure out the second of the "two ways" until I got here - feeling stupid now!

    Aside from that, this was a nice challenge -- I had to give up and skip to a blank part of the puzzle three or four times, but it all came together eventually.

    Carola 8:28 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Carola 8:29 AM  

    Nice! Not getting much of anywhere at the top, I solved from the bottom up so had the reveal to help me. Liked the theme answers a lot - and the little bonus of FLOW crossing HELD WATER. Some nice clues, too - especially liked the one for ALIBI.

    In my "known only from crossword" ranks: OMAR EPPS and General TSO. New category: known only from reading book reviews: Elinor WYLIE.

    @Anoa Bob - At 1A my immediate thought was "plural of convenience!" I'd never noticed these at all until you wrote about them.

    @r.alphbunker - Thanks for telling us answer. Never occured to me that the "8" was referring to a different clue.

    @sandy k - I took a look at a British one a couple of weeks ago. Didn't matter how long I stared - got nuthin. Impenetrable.

    Gill I. P. 8:30 AM  

    My dad's morning constitutional meant we couldn't use the bathroom for at least an hour.
    I'm with @elitza and @Loren on this one. The pathetic part is that I got the theme right away but just could not get the damn proper names. Oh wait, I did get JEANNIE and CHE (Hi @Ellen S.)
    So, I had to WORC TAE and hope Friday is a bit more funner for me.

    John V 9:03 AM  

    Medium/Challenging here because of the proper names. Got the first part of theme early, second part took a while. NE very hard, last to fall. All okay in the end.

    A Thursday.

    joho 9:34 AM  

    BAH to BAHS! But it got much better from then on.

    Love SCARF for gobble down.

    I really appreciated the backwards theme answers and the fact that each one started with "W" and ended with "E" helped immensely in my solve.

    I had never heard of JACK KIRBY so learned something and thought that particular crossing to be brilliant!

    Loved it, thanks, Julian!



    Nancy 9:43 AM  

    Was I the only one who enjoyed 10D "homophobia" next to 11D "out"?

    chefbea 9:54 AM  

    Too tough for me. Got the theme right away but still had to google a lot of names and DNF.

    Why is Che a popular dorm poster subject???

    Notsofast 9:57 AM  

    Loved it! The clueing was outstanding. I got a nice workout! Nice work, J.L.

    Susan McConnell 10:48 AM  

    Hand up for the thumbs down on BAHS. I filled it in and thought "oh,no" but things got better. This was tough for me - took waaaay to long to get the gag, but liked it ever so much when I finally did.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:59 AM  

    Good puzzle.

    I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to finish, because of one simple write-over: At 16 A, had put in IGER instead of ILER, which made ALIBI impossible to see, and had a few blanks because of that fiendish clue for SOAR, and on top of that a lot of difficulty parsing EXIT INTERVIEW (not worth the trouble to spell backwards!)

    But I held on, stared a lot, ran the alphabet a few times, and finally finished correctly.

    Two Ponies 11:05 AM  

    I can't say I had much fun with this one. Unfamiliar names and vague, even off, clues created a sloggy solve. Ordered = bade?
    Like @ Gil I.P., enjoying a constitutional has a much different meaning at our house.
    Other margin notes
    Lady Gaga and others - men?
    Hook up with - screw?
    I just wasn't on Mr. Lin's wavelink today.

    Sandy K 11:21 AM  

    I really admire the constuctor's dual theme answers running EAST TO WEST and the E>W.

    But I was looking for a Y as in Why? or a raison d'etre...EBB AND FLOW and EXIT INTERVIEW provided some 'movement'- the tide may flow E>W? You can EXIT from E>W?
    But the rest didn't HOLD WATER as to why they are backwards.

    LLEW HO...NAP A NOT, LJ!

    Sandy K 11:27 AM  

    TARD! I meant- NAP A TON.

    Rob C 11:58 AM  

    Great puzzle. As others have already mentioned, the fact that the theme answers worked on two levels really bumped up the style points. Lots of good medium length fill too.

    DNF b/c of LOS LOBOS. After seeing it I'm kicking myself because I have heard of them, but for a non-music fan like me, the memory recall just wasn't there. 16A and 19A were out of my wheelhouse, and for some reason I never saw ALIBI or DETOX either, even though they were clued fairly straight and I had the X already. LIANE was another ? for me. Anyway, I couldn't complete the NE corner and finally gave up.

    Eric 12:06 PM  

    Didn't even pick up on the E/W gag until I came here...which gave my initial humdrum "aha" a slightly more impressed head nod.

    Nice. Well played, Julian Kim.

    Also:
    - WOLF DNA!

    - WON'T I S.E.O.? (perhaps a new motto for a silicon valley startup?)

    mac 1:04 PM  

    Easy-medium for me, as I got the theme very quickly when --BBE appeared at the end of 17A. The exit interview and detox/alibi were the last to fall, even with interview completely in place. Detox saved the day.

    At 36A my first thought was :Farrah! Favorite clue/answer: 3D held water

    Good one, Julian Lim.

    Masked and AnonymoUs 1:33 PM  

    har. 46-A had to have originally been NEATER. And 49-A had to have been ASDO, clued "__ I". But the grid had no U's at all. Sort of a reverse pangram, if you will.

    So NEATER became NEUTER.
    Who needs U's, you say?
    "US DO!" says the puz editor.
    What keeps 'em comin back for more, you ask?
    "U'S DO!" says the editor.

    thUmbsUp, for the nice save.
    Also for the eewjects GITA and BAHS.
    Good puz.

    Wrong Again, M and A 1:46 PM  

    p.s. ok, so NEATER/NEUTER has an S at the end of it. Probably was a cheater black square there, originally. But now, I'm down to only 54% confident. Still, makes a cool story...

    Bird 1:47 PM  

    At first I didn’t care for this one too much (how does one put the ugly BAHS at 1A?). But once I discovered the theme, at 51A, most of it fell into place easy. That NE corner was the last to go (never watched The Sopranos and I do not see Bhagavad-GITA often enough to remember it). Too bad the revealer didn’t follow the theme.

    Liked JACK crossing KIRBY. Didn’t like BAHS and NAGGY crossing EGGY. Thought 30A should be “A NAP” and the clue for 48A should include “in a way”.

    Write-overs:
    TOLD before BADE
    MANY before SOAR
    REPAIRS before NEUTERS
    DISEASE before BIGOTRY
    NOT IN before ALIBI
    SOBER before DETOX

    Wrong to Say Wrong Again, M and A 1:54 PM  

    p.s. I know. I know. Maybe 48-A NEUTERS was originally NEATENS. Yeah. Sure. That's the ticket. Back up to 99% confident.

    Benko 2:50 PM  

    Also,had the hardest time in the middle section. The only Balaban I know is Bob.
    Somehow WYLIE did trickle into my brain, though.
    Liked a lot of the fill in this one.

    Anonymous 3:04 PM  

    "I couldn't get either 24D: Trattoria menu offering or 25D: It's sat upon. Had to come in to that section from the bottom."

    Ha!

    sanfranman59 3:33 PM  

    Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

    Thu 19:56, 17:12, 1.16, 79%, Medium-Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Thu 11:33, 10:00, 1.16, 75%, Medium-Challenging

    Not a homohobe, but . . . 4:03 PM  

    So . . . if you are diagnosed by a legitimate doctor to have homophobia, you are a bigot? Damn, that hurts.

    David from CA 4:21 PM  

    The garbage gets worse and worse. NYT "puzzles" drift more and more towards exercises in name memorization or recognition.
    JEANNIE X JACK
    JACK X KIRBY (and CHE)
    KIRBY X WYLIE
    WYLIE X EPPS
    EPPS X OSSIE
    OSSIE X CLIOS
    LOSLOBOS X LIANE
    TIMOR X FRESNO
    TAIWAN X ANKA

    And someone explain why, in a non-contest situation, you consider it "lucky" that there are a bunch of long "gimmes"? Isn't the fun supposed to be in the puzzling? Or is it really just in bragging rights about speed?

    All summed up in 1-across. (OK, without the 'S')

    Sfingi 5:21 PM  

    @John Child - Thanx. I didn't catch the 2nd "way" for East to West from Rex. (Duh)

    DNF. Never heard of JACK KIRBY and had EAsy ROW instead of EAT CROW. Not that it made sense, but had sEAt instead of REAR.

    Since it was Thurs., and therefore, hard - why double-clue GITA with the parenthetical? So people should know comics and California geography before basic Hindu classics? Just sayin'

    Kids still like CHE?

    Lewis 5:24 PM  

    I liked the homophobia clued answer next to OUT.

    LaneB 5:47 PM  

    Takes me forever to figure out many of the cleverly misleading clues. But I finally did with a little google help (VEGA, LIANE, TIMOR) Even though I filled in SOAS, I don't know how it connects to the clue. Any help out there?

    chefbea 5:51 PM  

    what is Che??? no one answered my question

    Ernesto Guevara 6:08 PM  

    @chefbea - You can find my lovely poster-worty face http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Che_Guevara

    Ernesto Guevara 6:13 PM  

    That's "poster-worthy", cartel digno.

    Paul Keller 6:30 PM  

    @chefbea Che Guevara

    I had a good wrestling match with this one. I was nearly stymied with a mostly barren grid when I broke the revealer EASTTOWEST. Things got a lot easier after that.

    I pondered for a while before completing SO_R. I agree that clue was a little off.

    Finished with two mistakes: OSSEE crossing CLEOS and ALABI crossing GATA. Sad, but still a very satisfying solving experience.

    GLR 6:47 PM  

    @LaneB - Looks like you have a typo there. It should be SOARS (triples, quadruples, or more) - like the value of a stock "soars."

    acme 7:17 PM  

    @CHEF BEA
    CHE GUEVARA. Lots of folks in college think they are going to be revolutionaries who change the world and have his poster up for inspiration.
    It's still a sort of cliche, you see dorm rooms in films with CHE up on the wall.
    As I mentioned, off the H I had the wHo.

    GLR 8:06 PM  

    @David from CA:

    Not sure there’s any “drift” toward name-recognition in the NYT. I’ve been solving some of the pre-Shortz puzzles at xwordinfor.com lately. Here are some crosses from 30 years ago (Thursday, March 10, 1983):

    HIRT x GALSWORTHY
    MORSE x GALSWORTHY
    KARA x ORNE
    KARA x MASON BROWN
    ALANS x JACOB ASTOR
    ATTU x JACOB ASTOR
    ENOS x JACOB ASTOR
    DORP x MASON BROWN
    BOWIE x MASON BROWN
    ATTU x ETNA
    BOWIE x BARTH
    BARTH x EISENHOWER
    ETNA x ENOS
    DEVA x LEVI
    DEVA x EISENHOWER
    BAER x ATTU
    BAER x ENOS

    I’m starting to understand some of Rex’s comments about the Maleska-era puzzles.

    Tita 8:08 PM  

    @Nancy - I noticed Out too.

    Have a friend named WYLIE - that was the only reason I was able to get teh W when staring at _YLIE. Thanks, BB!

    @r.alph - your cryptic musings make my head hurt.

    @acme - your puzzle sounds awesome!

    I liked the gimmick, even though
    a) I didn't see the W<<E part - only noticed the backwardness, and
    b) never noticed that WORCTAE was an answer.

    b) caused a DNF. Annoyed at self.

    Is a PC something different in a lab environment, or does it mean just run-o-the-mill Personal Computer.
    If the latter, then huh? Could have been clued as Equipment in some dorms, in some banks, in some libraries, in some kitchens...

    @Z - too funny about you & Mom's car divide.

    jae 11:35 PM  

    @Tita -- Schools used to have rooms with PCs in them where students would go to learn computer stuff or work on computers. Hence PC Lab. I think now most classrooms have tablets so PC Labs may be a thing of the past.

    sanfranman59 11:53 PM  

    This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. 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 6:00, 6:12, 0.97, 33%, Easy-Medium
    Tue 8:36, 8:09, 1.05, 67%, Medium-Challenging
    Wed 12:00, 10:00, 1.20, 88%, Challenging
    Thu 19:52, 17:12, 1.15, 79%, Medium-Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:50, 3:49, 1.01, 50%, Medium
    Tue 5:10, 4:52, 1.06, 66%, Medium-Challenging
    Wed 7:11, 5:49, 1.23, 93%, Challenging
    Thu 10:54, 10:00, 1.09, 66%, Medium-Challenging

    Unknown 9:18 PM  

    In theme answers: wofdnabbe should be woLfdnabbe. I could not finish this, even after looking at the answers. But I can find typos! Great blog.

    Nigel 4:54 PM  

    @sanfranman69 who asked "So . . . if you are diagnosed by a legitimate doctor to have homophobia, you are a bigot? Damn, that hurts.." That is not the job of a doctor- homophobia is not a disease, it's an attitude. I'm guessing you are confusing the "phobia" with "philia" as in "hemophilia". And homophilia would in that case be love of homos, so a positive thing.

    On the puzzle itself. I'm glad I knew VINO from the Trattoria clue, makes me feel just a tad superior to Rex for a change. And managed to get the answers to the theme when I guessed the revealer answer because of some crosses I already had and then realized that the answers would run E to W - oh I felt smart for a minute or two. Nice to see a clue to Paul ANKA, a nice Canadian boy who has just released a biography called "My Way". He's been recording for 55 years!

    Texas Syndy Solver 10:45 AM  

    Late to comment - I'm in Syndyland - No one clarified LIFEEVENT. When you do your taxes or make changes to your health insurance marriage, divorce, birth of a baby are LIFEEVENTs. Very legit answer. But OUT = ALIBI???? How is that?

    Thefreedictionary.com 11:22 AM  

    Out -

    noun -- 1. Chiefly US a method of escape from a place, difficult situation, punishment, etc.

    spacecraft 11:35 AM  

    @Texas: You have to read "out" as a noun. An ALIBI is an out, as, I have a way out of my predicament, or for short, I have an out. Think poker. How many "outs" do you have to draw to? I agree, it's one helluva mean clue--as are several today.

    I had some troubles today--including ALIBI. "End" for DO IN is nasty; so are the twin obscurities at ILER and GITA, which I had to take on faith for the crosses. The SOAR/LIANE natick was solved only because no other letter made any kind of sense. But that clue for SOAR? Positively Grinchy. Plus: CHE is supposed to be a "Popular" dorm poster subject??? Where? Now if the answer had been DENNISHOPPER (the one where he's on his hog shooting the finger, moments before his character gets blown off the road) I'd have agreed.

    "Some campaigns win them:" CLIOS. Yeah, but it's a stretch leading to a lesser-known award. Mean. And in between we have tired old-timers like ELHI, STN and TSO; the awkward partial TIETO, and the utterly ridiculous USDO. "Solid?" Uh, that would be a "no."

    Even one of the theme (clever enough, I guess, as themes go)answers needs to include a totally superfluous "NOW" to the familiar phrase EASY DOES IT (I refuse to type these things backwards). So, medium does it, but with little ELAN.

    And now to prove we're not ROBOTS again. Ugh. "Geowner?" Nah, I don't even have a car.

    Dirigonzo 12:08 PM  

    Damn, I have trouble parsing long theme answers when they read left to right (or west to east in the spirit of the puzzle) but backwards is nearly impossible! I figured out the gimmick when the back end of EASYDOESITNOW (only backwards, so I guess it's the front end) filled in from the crosses and I could see it would read right to left. When the reveal clue suggested there it worked two ways I guessed the E-W part of the theme and plugged those letters into the first and last, or maybe the last and first, squares of the theme answers. I thought the cluing was spot-on for a late-week puzzle and had several "aha" moments when I made the connection between a clue and its answer. ILER and GITA I got strictly from the crosses. Good puzzle, JL - no need to WORCTAE over this one!

    DMGrandma 2:55 PM  

    Really struggled with this one, and was contemplating just quitting when I realized I was getting there. A lot of it was luck and guess. Had to accept the banal BAHS, respell EPPS with two P's, not one, and give thanks that Miss WYLIE's name dropped from some dusty corner of my mind. But could not finiah the SW corner. Re-read the revealer and realized that EASYDOESITpal was wrong! And, with the W in place, I managed the rest. On the other hand, I missed that 37A was part of the fun, and came here hoping someone would explain WORCTAE. Several someone's did, and I'm hanging my head.
    Just noticed the other world's Memorial Day work-out was our Independence Day gift. Happy 4th, Syndies!

    Waxy in Montreal 4:01 PM  

    Syndi-synchronicity at work today: for some reason, my eyes AMBLEd over to the bridge column printed to the left of the NYT crossword and espied the relative positions of WEST and EAST which led to an immediate 'ALOE, 'ALOE moment revealing 60A and the puzzle theme.

    A few quibbles in an otherwise-outstanding Thursday grid: thought all Sherpas were Nepali, disliked the EGGY/NAGGY cross, and SOAR was certainly a sore point.

    It may be a bit early, but quoting the immortal words of WORRUM R DRAWDE, "Good night, and good luck".

    Texas Syndy Solvet 6:57 PM  

    THANK YOU! Now I see it.

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