1913 Literature Nobelist from India / SUN 9-1-13 / 1954 film septet / Gossip well told per Elbert Hubbard / Star of 1981 Broadway revue subtitled Lady Her Music / Star of four Spike Lee films / Rapper who feuded with Ja Rule Nas / Pop/rock group with 2002 hit co-written with Mick Jagger / Acronym for hearing-impaired / Burj Khalifa locale

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Constructor: John Farmer

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: "Persons of Note" — rebus puzzle where theme squares read as a number in one direction and a name in the other—number is a denomination of U.S. paper currency, and the name is the person appearing on said currency. Jokey revealer: "DON'T TAKE ANY OF / IT AT FACE VALUE" (31D:  With 33-Down, Skeptic's advice ... or a "noteworthy" hint to seven Across answers in this puzzle). Also, my wife just informed me that the black squares toward the middle of the grid form a "$"—Nice!

Theme answers:
  • DENZEL (Washington / 1) SEC
  • LOU (Grant / 50) CENT
  • BO (Jackson) / MATCHBOX (20)
  • ARETHA (Franklin) / HAIRCUT (100)
  • ELMO (Lincoln) / HIGH (5)
  • LINDA (Hamilton) / HANGS (10)
  • GEORGE (Jefferson) / AGE (2)
Word of the Day: ELMO Lincoln (119A: First film Tarzan) —
Elmo Lincoln (February 6, 1889 – June 27, 1952) was an American film actor.
Born Otto Elmo Linkenhelt, the actor is best known in his silent movie role as the first Tarzan in 1918's Tarzan of the Apes as an adult -- (Gordon Griffith played him as a child in the same movie). He portrayed the character twice more—inThe Romance of Tarzan (also 1918) and in the 1921 serial The Adventures of Tarzan.
Following the end of the silent movie era, Elmo left Hollywood and tried his hand at mining. In the late 1930s, he returned to the film industry, most often employed as an extra. He appeared, uncredited, in two Tarzan films in the 1940s—as a circus roustabout in Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942), and as a fisherman repairing his net in Tarzan's Magic Fountain(1949).
His final work saw him also playing a brief, uncredited role in Carrie, starring Laurence Olivier. According to Tarzan of the Movies, by Gabe Essoe, Lincoln was quite proud of his work in this film, as he was an admirer of Olivier.
Lincoln died of a heart attack on June 27, 1952 at age 63. He is interred in a niche at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle was very entertaining and hilariously difficult. I say "hilariously" both because of the enormous number of proper nouns (and other stuff) that were totally unknown to me, as well as the proper nouns (and other stuff) that I knew, but that I also knew many many many people would not know. The arrival of MTV (discovered by me in 1982) was such a momentous occasion in my life that I know the name of every band that was on heavy (or even light) rotation on the network from about 1982 to 1985. That channel introduced me to music I never would've heard of in my Top 40-dominated little (actually pretty big) town (actually city). This is all to say that I owned a HAIRCUT 100 album back in the day. Owned it. An album. I have no idea how you would know this band if you are a. an American and b. did not watch MTV in the early '80s. They did have a couple of minor hits, but ... wow. I laughed Out Loud when I wrote them in. And I thought MATCHBOX 20 (earlier in my solve) had been tough to uncover—their clue was beyond useless, but at least that group was a. very popular and b. made music in recent memory. HAIRCUT 100!? Oh, man. I would love this puzzle for that answer alone. Thankfully, there are many more reasons.

But first, here's HAIRCUT 100's big hit, "Love Plus Washington":

The gimmick here, as well as the revealer, was really wonderful. I like that the Sundays appear (lately) to be getting tougher. They've had a tendency to be kind of tedious. I mean, just fine, but long. I feel like Sundays need to be very funny/clever and/or need to have these added levels or layers to them in order for them not to feel like a slog. This puzzle had obscurities in it, yes, but I think they were all work-outable, and the puzzle had so much ridiculous weird attitude that I couldn't help but love it. I mean, I have Never heard the phrase HIT IT FAT, but how am I supposed to knock it? It's too awesomely colloquial for me to do anything but just tip my hat, hold the door, and say "after you, sir."

Here's the stuff I'd never heard of:
  • HIT IT FAT (53A: Strike turf before the ball, in golf)
  • AMESLAN (!?!!) (91D: Acronym for the hearing-impaired)
  • ELMO LINCOLN (ha ha ha, seriously? Read the wikipedia snippet above to see how "big" he was)
  • Rabindranath TAGORE (!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! x infinity) (98D: 1913 Literature nobelist from India)
  • USX (84A: Steel giant, formerly)
  • ZOE Kazan (4D: Actress/screenwriter Kazan)
  • DUBAI (70A: Burj Khalifa locale) (to be clear, heard of DUBAI, but not "Burj Khalifa")

And the stuff I'd barely heard of:
  • ERNST (2D: Bond villain ___ Stavro Blofeld)
  • DOOD (1D: "I ___ it!" (Skelton catchphrase))
  • GODEL (spelling = hard for me)

I spent a lot of early energy just eating up answers where I could, with no real idea about the theme. I thought 1A Star of four Spike Lee films should be DENZEL, but he didn't fit. I thought it was DENZELL for a bit, but didn't like that at all, since nothing in the clue was cuing "first name only." Eventually I cornered that 1/Washington square, and the theme was apparent. But even then, the puzzle was still Tough. So you've got two toughness layers—picking up the theme, and then just solving the damned thing. Lots of places to get bogged down if not outright stuck. But all good fun.
    Lastly, Happy Birthday to Bruce Cozadd, who turns Grant today, and whose wife is very (lovingly) persistent.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. If you've got some extra time, here's a free, very current puzzle for you from Andy Kravis, Cruciverbalist at Law—Enjoy!


    August West 12:00 AM  

    Dig the trick at 1A/7D, so I'm cruising right along, enjoying the gimmick, some devious cluing (esp., Webster's second?), and smile-inducing, snappy answers (eg., CHIME IN, HAREMS, HIT IT FAT, ARC (well known to a GUNNER), REEFER, ROOMER, WON). I'm on course for a near-record Sunday finish when ... I splat, like Wile E. Coyote, face first into the wall that was 42, 43 and 44D.

    I love question mark clues. Belay my last. I usually love question mark clues. Upon the "aha" moments enjoyed when I *finally* bumbled, stumbled and fumbled my way through 42 and 44D, I must say I love those two clues. But, Man, Oh, Manischewitz(!) was I thwarted by them AND the ... just cruel ... HAIRCUT 100 wedged between them.

    Setting my sights on this triad I had: _ _ D_ A _ IAS at 42D; _ _ I _ C _ T 100 at 43D, and; _ _ A _ O _ Y at 44D. And I couldn't see NUTHIN'!

    Although I had the FL of 62A (Tease), FLIRT simply would not come to the forefront of my grey matter. I had nothing in 78A (Prickly sticker) and ... nothing was coming to mind. I also had nothing at 42A (Electrical unit, old-style) and tried ohm, amp, erg, rho ... all the arguably three-letter electrically related ... stuff ... I could think of and ... NUTHIN'!!!

    FLIRT finally did drop, which, mercifully, gave me MEDIA BIAS and, thus, BUR -> ORATORY -> EAR (Bud's place - brilliant!) -> MHO (???) and ... HAIRCUT 100.

    I'm an '70's-'80's music guy. The BritProg of my college years is both wide-ranging and well-loved to this day. The Smiths, Cure, Psychedelic Furs, Sex Pistols, Big Audio Dynamite, Elvis, Joe Jackson, Siouxsie and the Banshees, New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen, Love and Rockets, The Fall, The Pop Group, Spandau Ballet ... I know my '80's UK Pop pretty damned well. And I'd NEVER heard of these clowns before tonight. A li'l post-solve Wiki reveals that they had ONE single that charted in the US, at a high of 37, in 1982. Sheesh!

    Closed it out in 29 and change, literally half of which was spent in this tiny nook. Damn you, John Farmer! Damn you straight to hell!!!


    Malcolm X 12:02 AM  

    That I should see the day that, in the New York Times, the preponderance of theme entries is black men and women. Men and women of grace, dignity and grandeur. Absolutely beautiful.

    At first glance, and only at first glance. They are only in there because of their slave names, names given to them by their white overlords, as if naming them after presidents somehow reduced the indignity of their slavery. So, once again, black men and women are denigrated by white society, they are only there because of an historical anomaly. Their slave names.


    We declare our right on this earth...to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.

    This puzzled didn't fulfill our rights.

    jae 12:17 AM  

    Delightful, clever, fun Sun.  Loved the grid design.  Plenty of zip...REEFER, HIT IT FAT, PHENOMS, CHIME IN, DOOD, MEDIA BIAS...and a reasonably crunchy solve...i.e. not as easy as some recent Sundays.

    Medium for me (caught the theme before filling in the "hint") and this caps a week of fine puzzles.

    HIT IT FAT aka "Hitting the big ball first"


    Isn't Newsweek now defunct?

    Very nice Mr. Farmer!

    pmdm 12:23 AM  

    I did a fast count of the proper names. Fast, which means I might be off by a few numbers. Of 137 clues, 37 had proper noun answers. About 27%, over 1/4 of the answers. Many in this community don't seem to mind this type of puzzle, but for those like me who are not entertained by a plethora of proper nouns, this puzzle was less than entertaining.

    Started at the bottom, where the theme clues were pretty easy to get from the down clues. Very cleaver puzzle with the above caveat.

    I don't know if the comment above this one (as I write this) will be removed. I only say this: odd conclusion.

    pmdm 12:24 AM  

    Turns out, the comment is the second above mine.

    Gill I. P. 12:24 AM  

    Well @Rex....Glad you had a "work-outable" and "after you sir moment." Mine was more MOANING at the HIT IT FAT PHENOMS.
    I usually like John Farmer but EKING just made me SIC.
    Way over the top on trivia and pop culture for moi. Saving grace was Red Skelton's "I DOOD it!"

    Anonymous 12:30 AM  

    The Burj is the tallest building the world!

    Anonymous 12:31 AM  

    I got hung up in the same place as August West, and for at least 10 minutes, even though I, like Rex, was a keen student of all early MTV bilge in real time and slapped down Haircut 100 easily. "Where does it go from here, is it down to the lake I fear?"

    Steve J 12:33 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    John Child 12:36 AM  

    Completely in agreement here that there were too many proper nouns.

    I was DNF over MHO (WOE) and BUR, which I never knew was a variant of burr. Without those I couldn't see MEDIA BIAS and ORATORY, both of which I love in hindsight.

    Steve J 12:37 AM  

    Liked the theme. Picked it up early, whenI recognized something was fishy with LOU? and saw that neither Ice T nor Ice Cube was going to fit at 17D. Got a few downs over in the NW to make it clear that DENZEL was supposed to be there, and then I noticed the giant dollar sign in the middle of the puzzle. Light bulb on, and the theme fell together quickly. (Being of the MTV generation definitely pays off on this one; HAIRCUT100 came quickly as soon as I got the theme. I'm pretty sure I never once heard them on the radio and knew them only from heavy video rotation c. 1982.)

    I did not like the parts of the puzzle that weren't involved in the them (well, most of them; I can't complain about a Kurosawa film and, especially, the word REEFER in the grey old lady). As is often the case in a theme-rich puzzle, there's a lot of clunky short fill. But what I especially disliked was a couple things that I expect are Naticks for a great many people: The TAGORE/EGG crossing and AMESLAN/AALARGE. I ended up with a DNF because of those two. I've never heard of/seen AMESLAN (when abbreviated, I've always seen American Sign Language listed as ASL), and AA_ARGE looked like nothing remotely comprehensible. Likewise, since EGG relied on filling out AALARGE to suss from the clues, that square was blank for me as well.

    I suppose John Farmer deserves congratulations of sorts for finding the most impossible cluing for EGG ever.

    The theme ultimately wins out on this one for me, but it's a close win.

    @jae: Newsweek survives online. Hence the answer of EMAG (just one example of the bad short fill I mentioned earlier).

    Merle 12:42 AM  

    Ameslan is American Sign Language. it is a language used by some hearing-impaired people.

    Tagore. Indian poet/philosopher. "On the shores of endless seas, children meet." This line of Tagore's was quoted by the great psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott, which is how I first was introduced to Tagore's work.

    "Godel, Escher, Bach" -- formidably brilliant book, engrossing, entertaining, and I prided myself on reading it through even if the concepts were way way beyond me.

    Cute puzzle. I think Thursday's puzzle was amazingly brilliant, totally challenging, a work of sheer imagination. This puzzle was medium, not challenging. But fun. Once I got the concept, I was amused at myself for not remembering who was on each bill. I knew Franklin, because of the movie "All About the Benjamins". I don't generally have $100 bills at my fingertips, but I know that they have the image of Benjamin Franklin smack dab in the center.

    I guess the stuff Rex knows, I often don't, and stuff I take for granted, Rex is baffled by. I hit quite a number of WTFs that Rex knew, like Matchbox and Haircut.

    ANON B 1:02 AM  

    There are two John Farmers in N.J.
    One is a columnist for the N.J.
    Star-Ledger, the other, his son,
    John Farmer,Jr. is the Dean of
    Rutgers Law School.
    Any relation to the John Farmer
    who made this puzzle?

    syndy 1:09 AM  

    My brother Knew the HAIRCUT band so with that little bit of help I muddled through!Liked it a lot The EGG made me giggle.I found enough gimmees (or Maybes) to work out the hard bits.That pack of LLAMAS scares the crap out of me however!

    Davis 2:20 AM  

    AMESLAN has been an obsolete term since the 1960s, so this falls into the bucket of obscure trivia you're unlikely to ever pick up in ordinary life if you're below a certain age. One of my least favorite categories of crossword fill.

    The "old-style" bit made the clue for MHO harder—or at least, it threw me off the scent. I think some physics profs still toss out the MHO offhandedly these days, simply because that's the kind of thing that's amusing to a physicist (or maybe that was just my prof).

    Overall I thought the theme was cool, and there was some interestingly unusual/hard fill, but the proper names really tried my patience.

    Rube 2:49 AM  

    Got the theme at LOU (Grant=50), but still consider it another Sunday slog.

    For the scientists among us, MHO and GODEL were gimmes. However, I for one spent zero time watching MTV and was completely ost on Brit bands of the whatevers. Had to rely on crosses here and US currency.

    Did I like it? No. Do I like Sunday puzzles in general? No. Why do I do Sunday puzzles? TMFT on Saturday nights! Yet, There are usually more interesting facts per square grid, such as that the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world at 2722 ft -- it is ~twice as tall as the empire state building.

    Now as to HITITFAT... who cares.

    Horace S. Patoot 2:50 AM  

    My big pain with these is, how do you get the ipad app to recognize a correct entry in the number cells?

    Anonymous 3:59 AM  

    Let me know too! I am stuck!

    Anonymous 4:12 AM  

    Entering as numbers worked for me (clicking "rebus" first for the multi-digit numbers)

    jae 4:28 AM  

    @Steve J -- When I tried to move my 30+ year subscription to Newsweek to their online EMAG version they sent me a refund.  My impression is that they are now The Daily Beast, although after some google research, the Newsweek name seems to be part of that site. 

    Charlene 4:38 AM  

    The hard part for me? American currency. I know the 2 and the 1, but I was at sea for the rest. Only got most of them through the cross-clues, and Grant from process of elimination.

    Mohair Sam 7:18 AM  

    Found out we're a dnf on this one when I came here. Had SOYs instead of SOYA. Never seen Acronym AMESLAN which is ASL I guess.

    This was challenging for us which generally means we like a puzzle, but not today - just too many obscure (to us) proper nouns - surprised we didn't have more errors. I mean ELMOfreakingLINCOLN? If only John Weismuller had been on the $5 bill.

    Clever rebus. Struggled with 1A for quite a while looking for an actress/actor with name ending in "a" to go with aSEC. Gave up and stumbled upon two gimmes (LOUGRANT and 50CENT) that gave us the rebus and opened things up a little.

    Don't understand ROOMER - help?

    Any young'uns wondering what a torch singer was should utube Lena HORNE singing "Stormy Weather."

    Dean 7:21 AM  

    Entering the numbers definitely does not work on the Magimic iPad app - at leadt, not on an iPad 2 running iOS 6. Nor does rebusing the names. Has anyone found another solution?

    August West 7:44 AM  

    @Mohair Sam: Think "Room to let."

    Entering the numbers, rebus style, worked for me on my iPad/Magmic.

    Bookdeb 7:45 AM  

    @Dean, are you sure you have all the other squares filled correctly? The app worked for me with numerals but only after I found and corrected my DNF: BAtAAn ...BAZAAR

    chefbea 8:02 AM  

    Saw the $ sign immediately when I printed out the puzzle. Then had to figure out what bills went with what person. DNF but it was fun trying.

    thursdaysd 8:20 AM  

    Between far too many unknown to me proper nouns and (not having grown up in the US) neither knowing nor caring who is on which dollar bill, I abandoned this one as unnecessary slog, which I never do on Sundays. That was despite figuring out the theme. No way I would have finished without help. I despise puzzles overloaded with proper names.

    Glimmerglass 8:40 AM  

    I agree with Rex about the improved quality of Sunday puzzles recently. I like it when they're both hard and clever. I caught today's theme at LOU 20. Fun gimmick. I somehow worked out HAIRCUT100 but not MATCHBOs20. I'm much too old to have watched MTV -- ever -- over 40 when Rex was grokking MTV. I thought US Steel was just USS.

    Mohair Sam 8:44 AM  

    @August West: Wow, great clue. Thanks.

    Anonymous 8:48 AM  

    I believe USX may have been the company's stock ticker symbol?

    Paul 8:52 AM  

    As an inept golfer who "hits it fat" way more often than I'd like to, that term was depressingly familiar to me. However, because I'd never seen "bur" spelled that way -- never seen it any other way than "burr" -- I couldn't believe bur was correct, hence I couldn't finish that area. Ruined an otherwise interesting solving a experience.

    Anonymous 8:55 AM  

    I see from some of the comments that others use magmic app to do the puzzle as well. I am not a fast solver, so I don't know what the best people do for times. But is it possible that people actually finish these puzzles in some of the ridiculously fast times people post on the app? I have always assumed they have some way of cheating, as I cannot even read all of the clues in the times they claim to finish the puzzle.

    Anonymous 9:05 AM  

    Agree on the trend of harder Sunday puzzles. This one was tough for me in the middle -- IMOFF -- fans and E-SE -- MEDIABIAS had me stuck, and HAIRCUT 100 took way too long to come to this survivor of the music-videos-on-MTV era.

    my only gripe about the writeup was mistakenly pressing the link on my phone screen and jarring my companions with a blast of "Rich Girl." . Couldn't it at least have been "Sara Smile"?


    Blue Stater 9:42 AM  

    Worst in years, and worst Sunday that I can recall. Sunday used to be a refuge from the gimmicky craziness that has overtaken the NYT puzzles. No longer, alas.

    jackj 9:43 AM  

    Another puzzle with an eye focused on generating the backslaps and huzzahs of fellow constructors.

    As happens all too often with such concoctions, it will receive their oohs and aahs, but the quality of the fill is so painfully forced to accommodate the gimmick that the end users, the solvers, are the losers who must contend with impossible obscurities like AMESLAN and HAIRCUT100.

    No fun with this one, at all.

    August West 9:47 AM  

    @8:55: I am much slower on the magmic. Invariably, my fat fingers hit the wrong letter, or previously entered correct letters are accidentally changed when I advance or switch from vertical to horizontal. Rebus answers really slow me down due to the need to access the entry window via separate tab, and forget it when backwards entries like Thursday's are required. Much, much faster with pen and paper, but I refuse to pay the riduculous newsstand price or subscribe to home delivery of a propagandist rag I otherwise revile.

    Anonymous 9:55 AM  

    USX as far as i know is US Steel's former stock ticker... it is currently just X

    ArtO 10:01 AM  

    First Sunday DNF in a long time so relieved to come here and learn my woes with 42,43,44 were common and see the challenging rating.

    Got the theme with Lou Grant and took note of the $ sign in mid grid but much teeth gnashing along the way.

    Kudos to Mr. Farmer for a tour de force.

    r.alphbunker 10:13 AM  

    @Jae Loved your "hitting the big ball first" It really reminds of our place in the cosmos!

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank Will Shortz for telling us that there were seven Across answers that were "noteworthy". Otherwise I would have gone on a wild goose 10,000 to find other denominations.

    John Farmer definitely earned his Cleveland on this one!

    DBGeezer 10:21 AM  

    @August west, I still do not get the connection between the clue and the answer for 79A ROOMER. Can you please spell it out for an old geezer?

    Z 10:27 AM  

    I recognized the song, but HAIRCUT 100 was a definite WTF moment.

    @August West, fine list of 80's acts from Britain, but Elvis goes first in the list (he is king, after all).

    I didn't realize that an acronym could include more than initials forming a word, so AMESLAN, known to me only as ASL, was beyond my ken. Not realizing that Proust wrote about Hall of Fame wide receivers led to a Naticky DNF for me. Liked the theme fine, but thought the non theme pop culture was excessive.

    @Malcolm X - were those "slave names" or were those surnames adopted post slavery by those who hadn't been afforded the dignity of surnames?

    math guy 10:28 AM  

    Went to bed with middle right blank. I didn't know a band whose name ended "100." I was trying to think of a word for "Tease." When I woke up this morning, TAUNT was on my mind but it didn't work. But I got ALT which led to STADIA which led to MEDIABIAS.

    I didn't enjoy it very much although I admired the theme and the dollar sign after Rex pointed it out. But I only found nine unusual entries and six clever clues.

    By the way, lots of polygons have 135-degree angles. Regular polygons have eight of them.

    Steve J 10:28 AM  

    For those wondering about how to get the numbers to work in the Magmic iPad app: In the lower right corner of the keyboard, there's a key marked %123. That gives you the numbers. For all of the theme answers other than 1, 2 and 5, you'll need to use the rebus button, too.

    Regarding USX: US Steel renamed itself USX Corp. in 1986 when it became a holding company for more than just steel manufacturing (it also owned Marathon Oil). It returned to the US Steel name in the early aughts when they sold off Marathon.

    @r.alphbunker: Nice work, getting Salmon P Chase into the conversation.

    Blue Stater 10:30 AM  

    @DBGeezer (from a fellow geezer). I can get this one, at least. The key is "letter," which here means "person who rents" (to or from; in my dialect this kind of "letter" would be only one who lets to, but never mind). So, a renter "with a limited amount of space," or ROOMER.

    @jackj: you put it much better than I did or could have.

    Z 10:41 AM  

    @Malcolm X - lots of interesting reading on the interwebs about slavery surnames.

    Anonymous 10:41 AM  

    Math purist here...any polygon with more than 3 sides can have angles of 135 degrees. An octagon can have angle measures other than 135 degrees. Only REGULAR octagons will have all angles 135 degrees.

    Shamik 10:55 AM  

    Got the theme pretty quickly at 50CENT....but after 40:30 challenging minutes, I screwed up on....wait for it...wait for it...EGG. Figured EHG was some sort of scientific thing graded in AALARGE. Right. Shows you how much I haven't been cooking these last couple of years.

    But I really enjoyed this meaty puzzle.

    Ellen S 10:55 AM  

    @malcolm X, I think many of your people who are "named after presidents" named themselves after being freed, preferring Washington to the names of thie former owners. However, it would be sadly interesting to learn how many of the black people in this puzzle are in fact keeping their slave names--are descended from people actually owned by those presidents (or Franklin, Hamilton and Chase). For those more familiar with obscure rock bands than Nobel Laureates in literature, the latter three were never presidents.

    Speaking of obscure rock bands plus sports references, I had to google at the crossing of MATCHBOX20 and BOJACKSON. With the rebus at the intersection it could have been MATCHBOX5000 and BO Madison for all I knew.

    I thought it was fun and the non theme fill not overly dumb. And it seems to have been a pangram, thanks to USX. I thought @Rex would complain.

    Questinia 10:55 AM  

    Didn't know too many of the people, AMESLAN?

    Did not like the conceit of the whole thing. One of those puzzles (rare!) that I did not find worth my time to finish to try yhat hard at (sorry Mr. Farmer!).

    Bitty claustrophobic fill smeared around like a messy kitchen. So put it aside as a


    DBGeezer 11:04 AM  

    Thanks @Blue Stater. It seems so obvious now that you've explained it. I am ashmed of myself, because I love puns and word plays.

    Milford 11:20 AM  

    On my way to a big, fat Greek wedding, but just wanted to add my 2¢, so to speak. Very proud that I saw the dollar sign on the grid immediately and along with the puzzle name, I knew more or less what was going on from the start.

    Agree with @Rex, that although I got HAIRCUT 100 immediately, I knew that it would stump a good many.

    Like others I was tripped up in the AMESLAN area, and the BUR area - totally lost for awhile.

    Funny misstep early on: knowing there was a money theme, I thought the movie septet was going to be MAGNIFI and then the CENT ¢ was going to show up another way...

    Rob C 11:21 AM  

    Challenging for me. So challenging, DNF. I only got about 80% of it. Combo of stuff I didn't know and stuff I did, but didn't get. Finished with more holes than Jarlsberg cheese.

    I liked the double rebus gimmick, but as @jackj and others point out, the fill was noticeably strained in some places. Some of the clues were clever though.

    Went with Beyonce for singer at Obama's 2009 inaug., but of course, that was this year.

    One gripe with the clue for 97D "Does a surfboard stunt" for HANGS10. Isn't hanging 10 simply surfing, and not necessarily doing any particular stunt?

    Anonymous 11:39 AM  

    Fun puzzle and excellent comments, now that I've learned to skip the bloviating.

    Anonymous 11:42 AM  

    Ahhhhh, if only all Sunday puzzles were this much fun.

    The Big Kahuna 11:44 AM  

    @Rob C - Hanging ten is when the surfer positions the surfboard in such a way that the back of it is covered by the wave and the wave rider is free to walk to the front of the board and hang all ten toes over the nose of the board

    Benko 11:46 AM  

    In surfing, "hanging ten" is hanging all ten toes off the side of the board.
    @August West:
    Nice to see The Fall and the Pop Group.
    Why can't a person know both obscure rock bands AND Nobel laureates?

    Anonymous 11:48 AM  

    I would fret too much about the keeping of slave names or not. A large chunk of the world still speaks Spanish, the language of their conquerors and masters.

    G. 12:01 PM  

    This was a magical week. YADSRUHT and $unday were the highlights of my vacation.

    Rob C, hanging ten is stepping out over the front of the surfboard with ten toes over the prow

    Mohair Sam, letter = renter

    Rob C 12:01 PM  

    @Big K & Benko - thanks guys. I guess I thought that hanging 10 toes off the board was the proper positition for surfing, so the term hanging 10 was generically used for surfing. Live and learn.

    Rob C 12:03 PM  

    thanks G too

    Sandy K 12:13 PM  

    I agree with those that liked the theme, the double rebus, and the $ sign in the center- thanks @Sandy

    Agree with @jackj and @Rob C- re: the fill. Did some MOANING at AMESLAN, TAGORE, and HAIRCUT 100- really wanted the Dave Clark 5, tho that didn't fit boxes or clue...

    We recently had GODEL, Escher, Bach-glad I recalled that! Never heard of HIT IT FAT, but I finished- and glad of THAT!

    @Carola- Diagramless went in pretty fast...

    Rex Parker 12:32 PM  

    "This puzzle fails because it omits the $10,000 bill. I mean, where is "WILD GOOSE [Chase/10,000] DOLLAR PYRAMID"?! Come on, Mr. Farmer—let's have some consistency."—BizarroRex

    retired_chemist 12:44 PM  

    A DNF @ TAMi/iTF, which I corrected easily (D'oh!) once I knew it was wrong. But, overall, Wow.

    Got the theme early at LOU 50/GRANT CENT, which made me go back and change A SEC (5A) to 1 SEC, which gave me 1A. Had trouble in the N early, though, with DWARVES @ 19A and, unaccountably, SEASONS @ 22A. Prefer Vivaldi to Holst but that was ridiculous.

    Miscellaneous areas of difficulty and WTFs (HAIRCUT FRANKLIN, AMESLAN) all over the map but worth it in the end.

    Thanks, Mr Farmer.

    Numinous 12:47 PM  

    @Anonymous 8:55 I've always suspected cheating on the parts of those MagMic users with the insanely low scores. A little research showed me that it is possible to have separate MagMic accounts. One could solve the puzzle in ones own time, log on with a different account and simply fill in the answers from memory. I have inadvertently cleared puzzles in the past and have been surprised how quickly I have been able to fill them in again.

    I don't know that these solvers do this put it is at least a possibility.

    This one took me half as long again as usual for a Sunday for me and the proper nouns had me burning up google.

    Tried to make 50CENT be Ice-T but failed. I tried Roman numerals for a while but AGE2 wouldn't work without a rebus. ELMO5 finally tipped the 1c over the edge and the other six fell in line.

    I guess I enjoyed this. At least I feel like I accomplished something, not sure what, but something!

    Anonymous 12:59 PM  

    Blue Stater has it right: according to the OED, a "letter" is someone who allows another to use his/her property for hire. A roomer might be a lettee (by analogy to lessor/lessee) or a subletter of one's own room, but never a letter.

    Anonymous 1:13 PM  

    Did anyone else have Across Lite problems with getting a wrong mark on the numerical answers that were single digit? All the two digit numerical answers (and the one three digit numerical answer) were marked correct but the answers: 1,2,5, are marked wrong!

    joho 1:42 PM  

    I have to agree with @Rex that even though I got the theme quickly with DENZEL(WASHINGTON/1) and LOU(GRANT/5)the puzzle was in no way easy -- a huge plus on a Sunday. And come to think of it, if Sunday's difficulty equates to a Thursday level puzzle, this one was still easier than Thursday's brilliant creation. I say bring on more puzzles just like these!

    I got it all but DNF because I wouldn't give up MATCHplay even when I changed Nepal as I wrote in VIRTUOSO. I knew this is where I'd find the 7th rebus but USX??? BO(JACKSON/20)done DOOD me in.

    Thank you, John Farmer, and I'd say Will for raising the bar!

    spinsker 2:02 PM  

    I loved the challenge of this Sunday puzzle, just like last weeks. I actually had EKG for EGG and "SO I" instead of "AS I". For 116 down, which led me to "AS LARGE" for 115 across(???) and TOURIST for 120 across for the clue "White Russian" which I thought was pretty clever! Live it when I can laugh at myself! HIT IT FAT completely threw me and gave me trouble in that whole area because I didn't know any of those long down answers. Other than that I was proud of slugging through this one.

    Anonymous 2:03 PM  

    yesterday is was surprised you didnt know what "NCO" was. Now, you admit you scarcely knew of the "Argonne" Forest (BIG! in WWI). As an old guy (78) who therefore had to do military service I knew NCO right off (it is also in lots of puzzles), and "Argonne" was equally simple for me. But like most people older then, say, 55, I have trouble with all the pop culture trivia that clutters up puzzles--and that young dudes like you snap right up. Jim

    Anonymous 2:04 PM  

    a MHO is the reciprocal of an OHM. nothing old about it. please puzzle constructors, stick to what you know.

    Carola 2:08 PM  

    I found all of the spaces for the $$, but, beaten down by the hailstorm of proper nouns, I threw in the towel. Appreciate it more after reading @Rex and the comments.

    @Sandy K - Indeed!

    david kulko 2:32 PM  

    the right middle 42,43,44 down screwed me. very tough clue for media bias. haircut 100 is impossible for anyone over 45 i'll warrant and that's even with the 100/franklin clue. big deliverieS ground my gears sump'n fierce too. mho?!? no. maybe i should've gotten bur i'll give you that. had "glean" lightly in there for "flirt." and oh yeah-- "earbuds." sorry but... yuck.

    Anonymous 2:34 PM  

    @Anon 2:04 - The MHO was officially renamed the Siemens in 1981. 33 years ago. It's old. Dead, and old.

    Anonymous 3:16 PM  

    "Letter" as in one who rents (lets) a room .

    Lewis 3:39 PM  

    I normally skip the Sunday puzzle, but OFL put a tease on facebook yesterday:

    "Oh this puzzle (Sun.) is going to eat some people alive. Took me forever. Loaded with ... well, I'll let you do it."

    I couldn't resist the challenge, expecting something tough but very special. I didn't find it tougher than a typical Sunday (when I do them), but nothing extra special. The theme was clever and fun to discover, and some of the cluing was clever, and I did enjoy the solve, however, and am grateful for your creation , John!

    daveyhead 3:45 PM  

    First comment ever on this terrific blog. Not only does Rex provide answers and background on them when needed, he makes me laugh doing it.

    Two things: did NO ONE not at least tentatively, peeking through fingers, wonder early on if 53D was not HANDRUB but HAND, uh, SORT of rub (blush)? I couldn't make myself believe it enough to enter, of course. Tell me I'm the only one here with the dirty mind.

    Second, what's with all the carping? A puzzle is SUPPOSED to be hard. Unfair? Only if a clue is demonstably incorrect which really never happens. I can not remember EVER thinking a clue or puzzle didn't play fair. Obscure baseball names are easy for me; obscure Shakespeare quotes, not so much. That's the breaks.

    Anyway, thanks Rex for a most entertaining way to end my puzzle day, whether I ace it or dnf.

    Dean 3:54 PM  

    @BookDeb: You are quite right. The third check uncovered an error in TANAGER masked by a valid but incorrect cross. Thanks for the reality check.

    I enjoyed the concept, and I did finish. But any puzzle that expects me to know MATCHBOX 20 *and* HAIRCUT 100 *and* TAMA Janowitz *and* HIT IT FAT *and* EVAN-Picone *and* ELMO LINCOLN *and* ZOE Kazan *and* Warren OATES *and* Dickens's BOZ *and* Rabindranath TAGORE in one puzzle is just flat-out constructing by Google.

    Anonymous 3:57 PM  

    Great puzzle. And what fun with Haircut 100! Hadnt thought about them in years. And what a wacky 80s video. I dont know what that marimba is playing but it is certainly not the tune.

    OISK 5:33 PM  

    Well, at least I am glad it was called "challenging." For me it impossible and unpleasant. Bad enough to include key answers like Matchbook and Haircut which are obscure even to many who listen to rock. ( I don't). But there is simply no excuse for cluing "alt" with "___-rock." There are plenty of "alt" ways to clue that, for non-rocksters, who were certainly struggling to get a haircut. I didn't know Tama Janowitz, and had Tami, thought only of the verb form of tease and so never considered "flirt," and so had a most unpleasant DNF, first in several weeks. I got the theme almost immediately, but the fill was unbalanced. No fun for me at all. I give it a C-, passing only for the cleverness of the theme. Ugh.

    michael 5:55 PM  

    Hardest Sunday for me that I can remember. DNF even after some googleing. Haircut 100, Matchbox 20. ok...Now I understand how some people feel about baseball clues.

    retired_chemist 6:10 PM  

    Echo Anon 2:34. MHO is now the Siemens. It is no MHO.

    Seems clear from a lack of perspicacity why Anon 2:04 chooses not to identify him/herself.

    karen h. 6:24 PM  

    Well forunately my husband is a music geek, so interestingly, once I go the theme and "Franklin" all I had to say to him was "Is there a British band from the '80s with 100 in their name?" and he told me.

    I can see where people who don't live with my husband would have trouble with that on. Also, frankly, american sign language is ASL usually, not Ameslan. At least when I was sudying it at school.

    Otherwise, fun afternoon at the beach for me! Cause...these things take me an afternoon.

    ahimsa 8:12 PM  

    I loved this! So cute and clever. Kudos to John Farmer! And thanks to @Rex for the interesting write-up, videos, and the
    "BizarroRex joke" about leaving out the $10,000 bill!

    Somehow I was able to finish this puzzle (lots of guessing/re-writing) in spite of the fact that I did not recognize two of the theme answers [ELMO (Lincoln) and HAIRCUT (100)]. I did at least recognize the name of the band MATCHBOX 20 but I could not tell you anything about them.

    On the other hand, I know who Rabindranath TAGORE is (perhaps not surprising for someone who goes by "ahimsa") and that the Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world) is in DUBAI.

    Anyway, as soon as I figured out the theme I wrote a list currency values, with the names next to each number, so I could keep track of which ones were left. The funny thing is I wrote "Benjamin" (first name, not last) next to 100! I did not notice my error until I got to ARETHA and realized there was no FRANKLIN on my list! :-)

    Oh, and I completely left out 2/JEFFERSON when I made the list. So I thought I was done with theme entries until I got to GEORGE in the SE corner so it felt like a bonus.

    AMESLAN was the only really ugly fill that stood out during the solve. But for me the puzzle was well worth it.

    Miette 8:13 PM  

    My guess is that instead of "checking" their results when they finish filling in the answers these people back out of the puzzle and restart it again. They can then race through the puzzle and fill in the answers and receive a high (albeit by cheating) score.

    retired_chemist 8:42 PM  

    @ ahimsa - not a funny thing at all. Lots of times a C-note is referred to as a "Benjamin."

    ahimsa 9:08 PM  

    @retired_chemist, I meant "funny" in the sense of "one of these things is not like the other ..." I never noticed that I wrote the down last names for every bill *except* that one (didn't write George or Abe, for example). I wrote down Benjamin without even noticing that it didn't match the rest of the list.

    My point is that I sometimes have trouble staying on track and paying attention to det... Oooh, what's that? Shiny! :-)

    Steve from Natick 10:54 PM  

    Clever theme, but absurd fill, best described by Dean at 3:54 and Oisk at 5:33. Did not finish, but no surprise since I do not google. Surprised others did not find the "unevenness" of the fill more objectionable.

    Ellen S 11:51 PM  

    @Benko, the thing of it is, it just seems some can do the one and some can do the other.

    Anonymous 1:27 PM  

    Haircut 100 (a band, it turns out, that still exists- reunited in 2009 and still together) was a new one on me. Had trouble with "media bias" because I put "bar" rather than "ear" for "Bud's place." Knew of the band "Matchbox 20" (forgettable '90s band) but did not know that they had a "comeback hit" in 2002 co-written with the front man for my favorite rock band of all time. I knew who Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali polymath who well deserved the Nobel he received) was and have even read some of his stuff (in translation, of course) and is probably the greatest Indian man of letters of the modern era, so that wasn't hard for me. "Ameslan" as an acronym for American Sign Language (usually abbreviated as ASL) was ridiculously obscure.

    Anonymous 2:23 PM  

    Letter is someone who lets an apartment.
    If you have a roomer you have limited space.
    Took me forever to get it.

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    Anonymous 9:42 AM  

    I thought "hand rub" was "hand job," too

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    Anonymous 10:51 PM  

    Finished pretty fast, only write-over was "Argonne" instead of "Ardenne". Saw the dollar sign in the grid and the "note" in the title, so had a good idea what I was looking for in the theme. Had "Ardenne" for "Argonne" as only write-over. Knew Haircut 100 from college days. I don't really get a lot of the complaining or praise here from you commenters - if you know something, you think its a good puzzle; if it's not in your wheelhouse, you think its bad.... and I can't believe you google answers. WTF? I guess that's fine, so long as you don't claim to have actually finished the puzzle. The only time I have real objections to the puzzles are when extremely esoteric crosses make it pure guesswork to finish. Not fair. I don't mind tricky cluing, but crossing an obscure 1920's musician and uncommon technical jargon is not good puzzle construction. Just my .02 dollars. I don't think that I'll comment again...

    Anonymous 10:52 PM  

    Finished pretty fast, only write-over was "Argonne" instead of "Ardenne". Saw the dollar sign in the grid and the "note" in the title, so had a good idea what I was looking for in the theme. Knew Haircut 100 from college days. I don't really get a lot of the complaining or praise here from you commenters - if you know something, you think its a good puzzle; if it's not in your wheelhouse, you think its bad.... and I can't believe you google answers. WTF? I guess that's fine, so long as you don't claim to have actually finished the puzzle. The only time I have real objections to the puzzles are when extremely esoteric crosses make it pure guesswork to finish. Not fair. I don't mind tricky cluing, but crossing an obscure 1920's musician and uncommon technical jargon is not good puzzle construction. Just my .02 dollars. I don't think that I'll comment again...

    rain forest 1:44 PM  

    At first, I was at a disadvantage on this puzzle, as a Canuck who doesn't know the personages on the legal tender. However, just knowing a smattering of president's name helped a lot. Overall, I found the cluing excellent, and in many instances the crosses enabled some wtf's to be unearthed: TAGORE, HAIRCUT100(?), MATCHBOX20. Got the rebus at the LOUgrant/50CENT cross (fitty cent), and enjoyed the process of discovering the others, the last of which was the HAIRCUT100. That whole East area was really tough, and it was an aha moment to get MEDIABIAS. For once, I completely agree with Rex on this one. Great puzzle!

    spacecraft 1:46 PM  

    For me as for many, this was a Tale of Two Puzzles. Frowned at the extra square after DENZEL for about ONE second before I caught Mr. Farmer's drift. I think it immensely clever.

    Though the center down "instructions" took a little longer to unravel, this, too, fell without too much of a fight.

    And then there was the entire E/SE. It didn't help that I failed to notice the theme entry in the SE corner, writing ["the terrible"]TWOS confidently at 113d. Everybody's familiar with that saying; I recall kids (and grand) of my own with that affliction. As if that didn't hold me up enough, I just had a bear of a time getting any headway in that area. Had _____BIAS and no clue for the first part. What "story?" Eventually I decided to guess TACO for the all-Hispanic clue at 69a, and tried FLIRT, which led to MEDIABIAS, the tricky ORATORY, and last. letter by letter: HAIRCUT100. This has to take first prize for UBER-obscurity, and together with EKING marred an otherwise great experience and wonderful puzzle.

    I did finish it, though, and that persuades me to give it a double thumbs-up. "Letter" as one who lets: a varsity clue. Bench-warmers need not apply; this game's for the starters...and that's a perfect sentiment for the kickoff of the new NFL season. GO E! A! G! L! E! S! EAGLES!

    Anonymous 3:36 PM  

    DNF; did not care to. Too many people I had no idea who they were; as someone noted above, it would have been a google fill, which defeats the point.

    Never really got the rebus although one of the first things I got was LOUx and xCENT; just didn't tie "grant" to "fifty". Didn't really matter for most, as they were in corners. But, it was some of the other obtuse material in the middle that made it a total drag for me. Just got tired of having to hammer out crosses for people I didn't know.

    Anonymous 5:40 PM  

    Difficult, fair, playful, clever and fun.

    Had me doing some research afterwards, which is sort of a good thing, too.

    Dirigonzo 7:49 PM  

    I couldn't quite bring this one home - I caught onto the theme, I know the images (they're not all presidents) on the currencies, but HAIRCUT100 did me in. The whole mid-Atlantic north of TACO remained blank, so DNF big-time.

    One of the clues for this puzzle would have been a big help to me yesterday (and today, too) as I worked on the Saturday puzzle in prime-time. I won't say which one, but syndie-solvers will wish they could remember it when they solve the puzzle five weeks from yesterday.

    Solving in Seattle 9:31 PM  

    Like @Diri, DNF in the mid-East because I threw down oHm and wouldn't change.

    Caught on to the theme at ELMO5 and loved this puzzle enough to explain to my wife what it was and the clever, funny use of the denomination and president in the theme. She looked at me funny.

    Hofstadter's "Godel Escher Bach," is one of the most brilliant literary works I've read. Maybe the most. If you haven't read it, do yourself a favor and tackle it. Also, go to the RPI website and see the Youtube of the Escher staircase they did there. You will not believe it.

    Would have posted earlier but I played this morning then watched the 'Hawks squeeze by Carolina.

    Go Hawks! Yeah @Rainy!

    rain forest 12:37 AM  

    @SIS - I read Godel Escher Bach around 1984, and agree it is brilliant. I should read it again with my more experienced perspective.

    Way to go 'Hawks! What a great defense. What a nice player Wilson is.

    Anonymous 12:56 AM  


    Anonymous 4:42 PM  

    >Did anyone else have Across Lite problems with getting a wrong mark on the >numerical answers that were single digit? All the two digit numerical answers >(and the one three digit numerical answer) were marked correct but the >answers: 1,2,5, are marked wrong!

    Yes, and it really got my goat. We tired the numbers, spelling the numbers out, even roman numerals. The multi digit ones worked properly but the single digit ones, no matter how you tried to enter them (number in the square, number inserted, leading zero etc...) they all failed.

    This was not good. I enjoy a fun puzzle but there should not be mechanical issues with it.

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