What a gimel means on a dreidel / WED 3-5-14 / Cuban salsa singer Cruz / "Total Recall" director Wiseman / Town with an eponymous derby / One of two in an English horn / Aria title that means "It was you"

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Constructor: Evan Birnholz

Relative difficulty: Who Knows? (See what I did there? No? Keep reading.)

THEME: CLUELESS — Theme answers are unclued and they all mean, basically, "Huh?"

You guys! It's me, PuzzleGirl! Got an SOS call from Mrs. Parker. Seems Rex is a bit under the weather so today you get me. Try to control yourselves. Let's see if I remember how to do this ....

Theme answers:
Cute theme. Not too many rough spots. I had AND for ARE (29D: Word often abbreviated to its middle letter, in texts) and wondered if HELL IF I KNOW would actually include H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks or if it would be tamed down for the masses. Also, I can never remember how to spell 50D: Don of "Trading Places" AMECHE. But that's just a personal problem.

There's some nice fill here and there: SUNSPOTS symmetrical with STONE AGE, MIDTERM right smack in the middle, and JET SET is nice. POKEMON always makes me laugh because I know what it is … kind of. I mean, I know Pikachu, of course, and I know Pokemon evolve into other Pokemon and there's a show with a kid named Ash who has a really annoying voice, and I guess it's a game? Maybe with cards? Kids collect them and then they ... play a game with them? I don’t know. After that it gets a little fuzzy.

Now Nancy Drew creator Carolyn KEENE, on the other hand, I know a lot about. My undergrad honors thesis was called "The New Nancy Drew: But Can She Still Tap-Dance in Morse Code?" At the time (this was, like, a hundred years ago), it was widely believed that Carolyn Keene was the pseudonym of Harriet Adams, whose father, Edward Stratemeyer, founded the "Stratemeyer Syndicate," which produced the books. And we all just went along our merry way believing that. But then the Internet came along and all hell broke loose. Turns out Harriet Adams wasn't the only Carolyn Keene. In fact, there were many, MANY Carolyn Keenes. Harriet Adams didn't even write the first Nancy Drew title, "The Secret of the Old Clock"! It was written by Edward Stratemeyer's secretary, Harriet Otis Smith! I’ll be honest with you, I'm not entirely convinced Harriet Adams wrote ANY of the Nancy Drew books. Maybe she just got the credit because her dad was a big shot! And the moral of the story is that Nancy Drew is awesome and if you have daughters, you should get her the old books not the new ones (because, no, in fact she cannot still tap-dance in Morse Code).

Wait, where was I? Oh yes, the puzzle. Unfortunately, I'm afraid I can't exactly rave about a puzzle that includes both OTO- (12D: Ear-related prefix) and OTOE (45A: Siouan tribesman). The ARETE / AS IN / EKE OUT (53D: Glacial ridge / 46D: Words clarifying a spelling / 47D: Barely make) section is also a little sketchy. But I think that's what happens when you cram five theme answers into a grid, which seems to be pretty standard these days. Sigh.

So hey, are you all coming to Brooklyn this weekend? This is my favorite weekend of the year. I typically spend the whole weekend in my happy place, so if you see me please say hi!

Love, PuzzleGirl


jae 12:05 AM  

Fun solve and just about right for a Wed.  Medium-tough for me.  Never heard of GCHAT, probably because I don't have a smart phone and am enough of a Luddite that I refuse to text.  If I have something to say why waste time thumbing it on a tiny keyboard.  That's why Edison invented the phone, so you could actually talk to someone.  Don't get me started on Twitter...end of geezer rant.

Stuff I didn't know: CELIA, G CHAT, ALL and AEROS (as clued). 

@Z from yesterday: not sure I understood your Ven diagram, but I knew both JA RULE (from paying attention to pop culture) and YSER (from crosswords...YSER should be a gimme after you do around 5000).  I did not know IDA and DARLA (as clued)...but the D rhymed with cider.

ERSATZ and MYRIAD are fine words.

Had mATES before DATES. I was probably rushing it.

Really liked this Evan, mucho zip and some Wed. crunch!

Hi Puzzle Girl, nice write up. 

Anonymous 12:06 AM  

The description of Pokémon as a “fad” is downright absurd. The franchise has been going strong for about eighteen years now! The trading card game…still going. The television series…still going. Pokémon movies…still being released. And the video game series...well that is breaking record after record for sales, and is one of the most popular video game franchises in the WORLD. It's hard to believe that anyone reading the Wikipedia article could dismiss Pokemon as a "fad".

And pseudonyms don't create characters. Characters create characters.

Elle54 12:06 AM  

Good puzzle Evan!!

wreck 12:12 AM  

I thought it was a well put together puzzle. It was just about right for a Wednesday.

If you are still obsessed with the fad of Pokémon after 18 years -- you might want to get some "help."

Anonymous 12:22 AM  

Oh man, that Clueless picture. Such a crush on Alicia Silverstone back in the day.

Casco Kid 12:26 AM  

Scratched on an oversight at TcE/AMECcE but otherwise it was a fun, 30 min workout. Fast for a Wednesday.

ERSATZ is a quintessential short, scrabbly, crossword, just esoteric enough to make you feel smart to get it. But ERSATZ is a loaded rhetorical weapon. A poseur could use it to out other poseurs. So I'll put the ERSATZ down gently and back away.

Boz Scaggs, the American, would spell his name with a ZEE. Led Zepplin, the Brits, would say ZED. Seems like a missed cleverness-in-clueing opportunity.

wreck 12:39 AM  

@Casco Kid

Very much agree about "BOZ!"
I think you summed it up nicely. The only "Boz" I know is originally from here in Dallas.

Ameche Celia Midterms 12:43 AM  

Yay, to the return of Puzzle Girl!!!
Where were you two days ago!?!

(Tho perhaps you would've said the same thing...)

But I think one CAN rave about a puzzle with but a word or two amiss!
OTOE and OTO are two totally different things...
As diff as PLEASE PLEAS.
Imo, The themes weren't crammed in, they were nicely laid out and having missing clues was super clever!

I feel sad at this trend to semi- dismiss a puzzle that is overall fresh, original, with lovely theme entries and interesting fill (JUNK, HEYYOU, POKEMON, HELLIFIKNOW) because there is the necessary glue.

(In other words, I sigh at the sigh)

Anyway, all to say, loved it... And look forward to seeing you this weekend

Acme 12:45 AM  

@casco kid, wreck
BOZ was Dickens nickname, no cleverness was missed

Anonymous 12:47 AM  

Yeah, but "Boz" is not Boz. "Boz" is Dickens' pseudonym. With the quotes.

Anonymous 12:48 AM  

I thought Boz was Brian Bosworth?

wreck 1:03 AM  

I guess it is arguable who the "BOZ" was referring to -- William Royce "Boz" Scaggs or Charles Dickens. I will plead ignorance of the Dickens "Boz." I'm guessing the Wednesday solvers are thinking 'Boz Scaggs' - as was I. I still think Casco had a neat point!

Casco Kid 1:04 AM  

@acme @anon 12:47 I wondered if there was a British Boz. Boswell was the closest that came to mind. One page of google "Boz" came back sans a Dickens reference, but I didn't follow the link to the wiki disambiguatuon page where all would have become clear.

In any event, thanks for the clarification. I'll go back to posing, now. ERSATZ am I.

Anonymous 1:08 AM  

I haven't seen any Pokemon for at least ten years.

McMurdo Station

Anonymous 1:20 AM  

"OTOE and OTO are two totally different things..." and two totally awful answers. I don't enjoy seeing either one in the grid. Both of them is downright painful.

Evan 1:29 AM  

Here's the info on the original submission:

* Will changed six of my letters, producing five new answers (6.4% of all answers) including OTOE. I wrote more about that specific point at Xwordinfo.
* He left 17 of my clues (21.8% of all clues) basically intact, though four of them were the blank ones.
* He made minor revisions to 13 clues (16.7%), meaning he kept the intended meaning of the clue as well as most of the same words but changed their order or added/deleted others.
* He made major revisions to the remaining 43 clues (55.1%), meaning he changed most or all of the words and basically went for a completely different angle on the clue.

A lot more clue changes on this than in my previous puzzles, but part of that was because I aimed to make it a Thursday-level and the NYT slated it for a Wednesday instead. As for the letter changes, there probably would have been pluses or minuses either way.

Evan 1:29 AM  

Continued from the last comment....

My five favorite original clues which the NYT changed:

* CELIA = Nancy's frenemy in "Weeds"
* DEAD = Like the parrot in a famous Monty Python sketch
* ROGET = He put in a good word for you
* ALL = "Gotta catch 'em ___!" (10-Down slogan)
(It goes without saying that I've never heard of a "gimel" either)
* STONE AGE = Era before heavy metal became popular?

My five favorite original clues which they did not change (or didn't change much) are for the following answers:


My five favorite revised clues from the NYT are for the following:


My least favorite answers:

* AS IN – not a spectacular answer no matter what one does, though I tried to spice it up a little by making it A SIN and cluing it as ["I came to win, battle me that's ___" (lyrics from House of Pain's "Jump Around")]
* MUS.
* OUTGO – before the letter changes, this was originally LET GO
* OTO – I originally had this as the native group, but then the letter changes produced OTOE. I too wished that both of them hadn't been in the grid, but oh well.

Thanks for the review, PuzzleGirl, and everyone’s comments thus far.

chefwen 1:34 AM  

HEY YOU, Puzzle Girl, have missed your sense of humor, the Puzzle Kids and Puzzle Husband, welcome back. Although, sorry @Rex is under the weather. With the weather y'all have been having it was bound to happen.

I was slow getting out of the gate, not too fond of clues that just have a - blank. Finally grasped it (a little slow on the uptake sometimes) and it was clear sailing for the duration. I HAVE NO CLUE was the perfect ending for me.

Holding it up to the light I have no Wite Out give aways so it couldn't have been that tough, it just seemed to be at the time.

Thanks @Evan, another keeper.

Steve J 1:45 AM  

Fun theme, done very well. Very appropriate to leave the theme answers unclued. And the phrases were all lively and clean.

Lots of really good fill outside the theme, too. I especially liked HEY YOU, JET SET, STONE AGE, GET EVEN, ERSATZ.

@Acme: You're right that every puzzle needs glue, but it shouldn't seep out between the seams and be highly visible (like happened with every model I ever built). If it were just OTO and OTOE that would be one thing (well, actually, both is problematic even if that were all that was visible). Add in multiple abbreviations (I count at least 5), multiple partials, a couple well-worn phrases (e.g., ERI TU), etc. That's a lot of glue, and I definitely noticed it while solving.

Fortunately, it's not enough to detract from a fun, engaging solve. But it doesn't surprise me to see people notice it and mention it.

Question for our resident chemists: Is the clue for 34A off? I thought all of the noble elements were GAS, not merely "many", as the clue states.

JTHurst 2:14 AM  

@anon would anonymous be a pseudonym or an ersatz character.

@casco kid (twice), @wreck (twice), and @acme you all have me totally confused is Boz or "Boz", who is either from Dallas, San Francisco or England, a clue or an answer?

and finally @anon then is "Boz" a real pseudonym or ersatz?

And what is a Pokemon? And is a 'fad' terminal?

retired_chemist 2:40 AM  
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retired_chemist 2:55 AM  

@ Steve J - yes, the clue is wrong. All the noble gases are gases. That is what is usually meant by "noble." But there are noble metals as well. Wikipedia lists eight - more than the number of noble gases. So, you get to choose how the clue is wrong, but either way it's wrong.

@ Evan - I had cee for 6D (gimel is the third letter of the Hebrew alphabet) and am equally mystifed why ALL is the correct answer. But GRAMS (my last fill) made ALL work, so what do I know?

Liked the puzzle very much. Thanks, Evan.

Jisvan 2:59 AM  

If you spin a dreidel it may land with the gimel side up, in which case you get all the chocolate coins! At least at my house. And I'm not even a member of the tribe. More of an OTOE, really... Loved this puzzle, because I still had empty boxes all over the place and couldn't figure out the theme until I suddenly saw the reveal. Then it was a wonderful AHA moment, and the themers fell like, well, dominos! Tada! Thanks Evan.

jae 3:07 AM  

So, thanks for not calling me on my Edison/Bell typo.... yeah, typo.

@Evan -- Did not know CELIA the singer, did know CELIA (Elizabeth Perkins) from Weeds. 

Moly Shu 3:19 AM  

Fun puzzle that played difficult for me. Looking back over the grid, can't figure out why. Seems straightforward enough. Didn't know KEENE or GCHAT and had EReTU for the longest time, my only major hang ups.

Agree with @AlphaCharlieMike on the glue issue, some slack is needed. Sometimes.

@Evan, wish the Python clue would've stayed. "This is an ex-parrot" made me laugh out loud.

Thx for the write-up @Puzzlegirl, very fine job, refreshing, and much appreciated.

retired_chemist 3:39 AM  

Agree that the Python clue would have made my day.

Agree that PG's writeup was top drawer.

Am killing time at 2:30 AM while I upgrade to iOS 7.0.6, taking advantage of HughesNet's free minutes in the wee small hours to do so.

John Child 4:37 AM  

I loved this but got whomped up in Wyoming/Montana where ALL and MIL were WOEs and CELIA was an unknown. Persisting with iCHAT at 4D meant I wasn't ever going see GRAMS.

Glimmerglass 7:49 AM  

@evan. Very interesting comment. I had no idea WS had such a heavy hand in the process. Other constructors: is this how it always is? I bet Patrick Berry doesn't get steamrolled like this. I'd be so disappointed I might not submit another puzzle.

Milford 8:00 AM  

Loved the theme - I HAVE NO CLUE sums me up completely some days.

Liked the scrabbly nature of the puzzle - lots of Ks. One write-over was maTch before DATES.

Always have to pause at Terra cotta v. FIRMA.

I haven't heard of kids going ballistic over POKEMON in quite a while. It may still well be popular and selling well, but the frenzy is definitely past.

Didn't understand the Boz reference in the ZED clue, so I appreciate the discussion. Kinda wish it had been clued as the Pulp Fiction quote: "ZED's dead, baby. ZED's dead."

Thanks for giving us the inside story, @Evan!

Kim Scudera 8:19 AM  

Thanks, @Evan for the inside look into today's puzzle. Love the theme -- especially the leadoff entry HELLIFIKNOW; so fresh, unexpected, in the language -- and enjoyed the solve. Started smiling at HEYYOU. Lots of happy memories of my son's obsession with POKEMON around age nine. He's now 24, so this is clearly not a fad. I would have appreciated the link for ALL as originally clued, but I guess this was part of the transformation from a Thurs. puzzle into a Weds. puzzle. Glad to read that the OTOE/OTO situation was not of your making, I really, really wish the clue for DEAD had remained as submitted: "This parrot has ceased to be!"

joho 8:23 AM  

HEY YOU, Evan .. good one! Thanks for your take, I was wondering who wrote my favorite clues and it turns out it was you! (for IDEA, OOZE and EDIT) I also really loved the clue for FATS, thanks, Will!

Fun, fresh Wednesday and slightly irreverent, too: HELLIFIKNOW!

Unknown 8:23 AM  

Technically, the ,gimmel on the dreidel stands for the Hebrew word gadol, which means great. As Evan points out though, when playing the standard dreidel game, if it lands on the gimmel, you get everything in the pot. In my house, we paid with real coins, not chocolate ones!

loren muse smith 8:25 AM  

First of all, I'm so proud that one of our own is spreading his wings and is not just becoming, but *has* joined the ranks of the full-blown, serious, talented constructors! I'm so happy for you, Evan!

@chefwen – I do like to see this kind of puzzle because it highlights ALL the MYRIAD of ways we say things. What's funny is that one I always say now and can add to this list, (and it's only because of crosswords) is, "Well *that's* a real poser, huh?" Lots of people have no idea what a poser is. (And I have a box labeled "Aunt Florence's ewer" in storage somewhere.)

PG –Thanks for pinch hitting – enjoyed your write-up. (Rex – get better fast. Two years ago you were sick for the tourney, right?) I just, with great ceremony, gave my two boxes of Nancy Drews to my niece, who is in the second grade. My daughter had zero interest, but Anna C is gobbling them up (the modern ones). Some of mine are really old – see my avatar for my copy of The Clue of the Tapping Heels. Just yesterday I explained that there was no "Carolyn Keene" and that it was a father/daughter team instead. I'm going to copy what you said to show her. TANKS!

@jae – me, too, for G CHAT. I still have yet to IM anyone, and am mystified by my daughter's InstaGRAMs. And your "mates"/ DATES comment made me laugh!

SAID SO – boring alert – anyone who isn't interested in linguistics- skip this. Two days ago on the radio I was listening to some medical show. They were discussing the medications, N-SAIDs. And the doctors were pronouncing them to rhyme with SAID, not "braid" or "laid". "laid." Whatever. I was really surprised that a very new addition to the language is assuming an irregular, at least weird, pronunciation. Your day is now complete.

Also – I agonized with @Bob K on the phone yesterday about this and pleaded with him to call me out on it on the blog; I've set myself up for it and I deserve it. I actually looked into the difference between lightening and lightning before I posted and corrected it, but in all the recopying, pasting, etc, that e stayed in. Y'all need to poke fun at me, since I've shamelessly assumed the roll of Word Prisspot. ;-)

ROGET – one week I created a DEAD word cemetery on the bulletin board for some eighth graders – we got rid of words like GOOD, nice, very, and walk. Armed, then, with ROGET's, my student, CeeCee, had a sentence, "She ambulated to the gym. . . " And I had a new-found appreciation for regular ole (old?) lexical units.

Congrats again, Evan! See you this weekend, and I'll shake your hand. Sayoonara, padre!

Susan McConnell 8:30 AM  

Enjoyed this very much. As is so often the case, I have a great time solving the puzzle, then when reading the blog I have my joy diminished because things are pointed out that I didn't notice while solving, like OTO and OTOE. But @acme is right...if some amount of (st)icky stuff is needed to hold together all of those fun theme answers, so what? I say Great Job, Evan!

And very, very enlightening to read the extent of Will's involvement. I was kind of shocked, really.

AliasZ 8:34 AM  

@Evan, I loved your clueless puzzle, although your I HAVE NO CLUE entry begged to be clued as "-" in order to be true to its literal meaning. The revealer could have been BEATS ME in the center.

I am at a loss as to why many a solver thought that the "Many a noble element" clue was wrong. "Many a" = each of a multitude. A noble element may be a noble metal, like gold, silver, osmium, iridium, platinum, etc. (in contrast with base metals), or a noble GAS like helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon or radon. That, and the fact that a clue ≠ definition makes this a perfect clue. The answer could have been only metal or GAS. Or baron, count, duke or earl.

No one is more painfully aware of the clumsiness of OTO and OTOE than @Evan, so there is no need to pile it on. I agree that both other versions of that W-central segment presented other problems: the CMS/MELO crossing may have been a Natick for many, and OMOO is not much better than OTOE.

A few of my own clue suggestions:
39D: "μμ".
34D: "1966 Eastwood role, with the." But tasty is GOOD.
35D: "Prefix for erotic."

We had PHENOMS yesterday, replaced by CHAMPS today.

Other then the necessary glue, there is not much to complain about this puzzle.

So why the complaints? Search me.

MetaRex 8:34 AM  

Cheers to @Evan for a nice puzzle. Thought it was ICHAT/ITEMS at first...after getting not one but two wrong answers to @Evan's robot meta on his Devil Cross site the other day, was worried this morning that I would spin my alphabet dreidel fruitlessly for long minutes...it all resolved smoothly enough...only 11 seconds and 7 seconds respectively behind my online pace cars sanfranman59 and tushnet.

Thx also to @Evan for his itemization of Will's revisions. FWIW, the eseometer (as I apply it) supports GAS/AUTO over CMS (-1 for abbrev., maybe another -1 for obscurity)/MELO(maybe a -1 for obscurity--the obscurity numbers are kinda tricky to apply given their dependence on day of the week, as @Evan pointed out here a while ago in noting that I hadn't dinged NIIHAU or TATARY for obscurity). Is the greater ese load made up for by the greater sweetness that @Evan sees in MELO? And then there's the riddle of how to measure the quality of clues...it's enough to make MR think that maybe writing an article is easier than solving the riddles of crucimetrics...

Ludyjynn 8:36 AM  

I preferred The Hardy Boys books, myself; I came across them in the attic after older brother had outgrown them. Later discovered Nancy Drew, who seemed comparatively tame and dull to this "girl".

Enjoyed the puzzle; perfect Wednesday. It might have been fun to have a Poirot or Sherlock Holmes or similar reference considering the theme.

loren muse smith 8:42 AM  
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loren muse smith 8:44 AM  
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loren muse smith 8:45 AM  

Oh, and @chefwen I meant to add this - you said you're "not too fond of clues that just have a - blank." I'm really not getting anywhere on solo constructing, unlike, ahem, some of our own – MYRIADs of nice, polite "thanks but no thanks" letters. I know this comes across as SULKing, but I'm not –I really do see THEIR points and feel kinda dumb in retrospect for even submitting them) – I'll share two groups of words that caught my attention (but I never really tweaked or tightened enough) that would have to be this style of puzzle – just a bunch of dashes instead of clues.



Hey- I'm still up for collaborating – just come up with some funny "cee" kind of reveal and have your people call my people.)

This alliterative revelation came during the first week with this new, upstart twenty-three-year old Assistant Principal for Curriculum(when I was a long-term sub). You get the picture? Evan's five themers did not appear in this person's vocabulary. She knew it all, man. Talked down to some very gifted, very experienced veterans on how to teach. Boy, did she IRK some people.

A clue today reminded me of one more idea tossed aside: "noble" AUDI GASP, RUM IN THE JUNGLE.

Mohair Sam 8:46 AM  

Great Wednesday puzzle. Fun comments by Puzzlegirl as well, now I'm up to date on my Nancy Drew. lol here with the Packer's "Eek" headline - while solving my wife looked over my shoulder and said, "That's EKE stupid."

Had no problem with the "Boz" clue - "Oh, that's Dickens, that's English, that's ZED". Never an English major, guess for me Boz is one of those things you just know and don't know why.

Played medium/challenging here because of the North Central. We've never heard of CELIA or GCHAT or a gimel and don't use the term HELLIFIKNOW ("darned" would be our choice). Finally remembered REED for the English horn, got GRAMS from that and finished.

Liked this one a lot, thanks Evan - and thanks for your input here.

Hope you're feeling better Rex. If not, it's my experience that gin cures pretty much everything.

Judith 8:46 AM  

Nice to be reminded of Eddie Cantor's song from the Thirties dedicated to his wife, Ida --- who was sweet as apple cider.
Okay, I hear you --- who was Eddie Cantor? Being old is not for sissies, although sometimes good for crossword puzzles.
Also --- for dreidel players --- gimel means WIN. So why wasn't it Win?

Otoe Jam 9:09 AM  

Here's the grandfather of this one, fwiw. It's isn't as colloquial but doesn't have repeated words, either.:

Nancy Salomon, NYT, Tue, Jan 17, 2006

CLUELESSREPLIES 15 Answers to 17-, 22-, 40- and 52-Across, literally

I look forward to seeing it again in another 8 years.

lawprof 9:18 AM  

Would have been on the easy side had it not been for that GCHAT/ALL/GRAMS/CELIA mess.

Shocked, shocked to see HE**IFIKNOW (hope the kids aren't looking over your shoulder); it's the NYT, after all.

For some reason dropped in aLOE at first. Can you imagine an Aloe Gin Fizz? Eeww.

Me, too, @ Moly Shu and @Retired Chemist: would have preferred the original parrot clue. But editors do what editors do.

Query: why the revealer clue at 57A? Wouldn't it have been better to leave that clueless, as well? Just asking.

Z 9:23 AM  

Wow, sleep in a little and find 37 comments already posted. There are probably 15 more since I started reading.

Great Wednesday. The "weejects" are minimal and only really get noted by close inspection. My only real issue was iCHAT and HEck IF I KNOW. I was far more open to HELL than GCHAT (popular?), but iRAMS made no sense, and dRAMS made sense but not on a label. Still, it was with a mild fear of a OWS solution that I declared myself done and came here.

@jae - to elaborate, insufferably, if the universe (hey - I'm not looking this up, I'm relying on forty year old jr. high memories) is "smart people" and each circle represents "smart people who know fact 'x'" than the overlaps can get pretty small even in an "easy" puzzle. Looking at CHE, CELIA, EPSOM - I would have gotten exactly one of those from my "prior to crosswords" knowledge.

My oldest asked for an out of production Nintendo DS for Christmas. Why? So he could have something to play his old Pokémon game on it. Nevertheless, it was a fad whose time of cultural saturation is long gone. Hey, people still do the Macareña and the chicken dance, too.

@wreck "If you are still obsessed with the fad of Pokémon after 18 years -- you might want to get some 'help.'" Or a date.

@MAS - Antarctica? I bet it is warmer than here.

@retired_chemist - you lost me. Why is the clue wrong? It looks okay to me.

lawprof 9:24 AM  

You, too, @Kim Scudera re the parrot clue. Sorry I missed you first time 'round.

jberg 9:34 AM  

Dang, I can't find it anywhere on the web -- but there was a pop song in the 1950s, or maybe earlier, called "The Greatest Invention," which began:

Do you know who invented the telephone?
Oh, that's peachy -- it was Alexander Graham Bell.
Do tell.

And then went on to say, in various ways, that the greatest invention is love.

I mean, you've got lips,
And I've got lips,
And baby, don't you think it's swell that everything works out so well...

So that brings @jae's typo full circle back to the puzzle.

This one was really tough -- basically, you had to guess a theme answer from crosses -- and then it all fell into place. My only problem was that I wanted I HAVE NO idea, which made me think the other IDEA must be wrong, even though it was crossed everywhere. To me "I haven't a CLUE" sounds more colloguial - and Jimmy Buffett agrees with me.

ArtO 9:35 AM  

Medium tough for me with GCHAT and CELIA a natick, although should have been getable with crosses.

Many thanks Evan for a great puzzle and your insider revelations.

Z 9:39 AM  

Off topic so apologies, but some things just p!$$ you off...

@LMS - What idiot hired a 23 year-old to be "assistant-principal for curriculum?" I had a boss with an extreme youth bias (a very smart man who never seemed to recognize when he was wrong). As Union president I got to give input into his hiring decisions, but was largely ignored. It was very frustrating to be right and then have to represent these people when it was found that they were in over their heads. Putting someone in that position is unfair to her and unfair to the staff. It is a recipe for dysfunction.

Milford 9:59 AM  

@lms - Hey, I actually read your N-SAID paragraph, boring alert ignored! I did my thesis in a lab that was studying the mechanism of the enzymes that N-SAIDs affect, and in the approximately one million times I heard that acronym, I never heard it pronounced any way other than "en-sed". And I honestly never thought about it being pronounced "en-sayd". Do you think it's a regional thing?

On an equally boring side note... I looked up the term "acronym" to make sure that was the precise term for an abbreviation that gets pronounced as a word (like N-SAID, NASA, SWAT team, etc.)versus an abbreviation like FYI, TGIF, OMG, etc. that are technically "initialisms". Learned something new! Ok, *now* my day is complete. Thanks, @lms!

quilter1 10:02 AM  

In case no one has said it yet Boz was Dickens pseudonym, so ZED is correct.

Wasn't @Rex sick at tournament time before?

Catherine 10:03 AM  

When I was a writing student at Columbia, I got a lead on a good writing gig: writing Nancy Drews. I got all the details from the publisher as to how to do it. Then they insisted that I write out a detailed plot-- chapter by chapter, meeting MYRIAD specs. I slaved on this for a while. Then I submitted it and they were all, "We're not doing anything with Ned at this time." (I set the mystery at Ned's college, which, let's face it, would've been awesome.) This whole process could've been done a lot more quickly-- in which I wrote them a one-sentence idea and they turned it down, rather than a 10-page incredibly detailed outline. This has left me with a bad taste in my mouth about Nancy Drew for almost two decades. But yes, there are millions of Carolyn Keenes!

OISK 10:09 AM  

Awful N center produced a pop culture DNF for me. Computer slang - G chat? never heard of it. Celia Cruz? never heard of her. Cool Mil?? yeah, maybe, but it didn't occur to me. I was looking for something in the realm of "minimum recommended daily requirements," and never thought of grams, which could have been clued more directly on a Wednesday. Grams clued as "nutrition units" is just bad, deceptive cluing. Grams are mass units, not particularly used in nutrition. Bad. Celia Bad. GCHAT, Computerese, bad. Hell if I know, not good either, but I got it. The rest of the puzzle was actually fine. But Will should have edited the top, which was impossible for me, and I generally solve Thurs through Sat. with no problem. Sorry Evan. Bad.

Notsofast 10:25 AM  

Not great, but fun. Love the sassy attitude. Sick of OTOE. But kudos!

retired_chemist 10:31 AM  

OK, at 2:30 in the morning I read "many" to mean "most," in which case my reasoning would have applied. As it stands, I pull in my horns and admit error.

Nancy 10:38 AM  

Much more fun than most
Wednesdays. Like so many, didn't know G CHAT or CELIA or ALL, but I guessed and I was right, so I finished. That's because I always say "Damned IF I KNOW", not HELL IF I KNOW. Otherwise, that section would have been easy, too. But challenging and interesting as Weds go.

Steve J 10:51 AM  

@Evan: Didn't see your posts last night. I'm in the camp that would have loved the parrot clue for DEAD. Good to see that OTO/OTOE wasn't your doing; knowing that you're a stickler for stuff like that when commenting here, I was surprised to see that.

@retired_chemist: Thanks for the explanation. I'd either forgotten or never knew that there were noble metals. And when I searched "noble elements" last night, Google only gave me stuff about gasses.

@Milford: I've heard the "en-sayd" pronunciation used in commercials. I think they were for Aleve, but I'm not remotely positive about that.

@OISK: The clue for GRAMS isn't bad or deceptive, and indeed GRAMS are used in nutrition. Go to your kitchen, grab any packaged food, and look at the nutrition label. The amount of protein, fat, sodium, carbohydrates, etc. are all stated in number of GRAMS (or fractional units). Same for the vitamins and minerals, aside from some that are listed in IUs. I'd say the clue was spot-on.

loren muse smith 10:52 AM  

@Catherine – I think a Nancy Drew story centered around Ned's college was a great idea!

@Milford – thanks for the note! I guess it makes sense now that I think about it to pronounce that SAID the way we all do, since it's spelled that way. So it's not as remarkable as I may have thought. In my own mind, I had always pronounced it to rhyme with degrade, which leads me to . . .

@Z – yep. Kanawha County Schools in WV. She was twenty three years old with two years of classroom experience, doing surprise "walk throughs" in classes, critiquing, criticizing. . . all with the tact of a bull elephant. The morale plummeted and veteran teachers were leaving right and left.

Ok. Granted, I was not a SAID veteran teacher - just a long-term sub- but I received this terse email from her once:

"Mrs. Smith. Come to my office today at noon with your lesson plans for next week."

I reported as directed, lesson plans in hand. She said, "I called you in here because this past Friday you did not email me your plans for next week." (I had emailed them on Friday before 10am – they were always due by 4pm.) I told her that I had emailed them in time. She said, "Well. I didn't get them." Then she pulled up her email, saw that I had indeed submitted them properly, and said, simply, "Oh. Ok." No apology. I just kind of got up and left the office. Awkward.

I could have responded to @Z off blog, but stories like this should be heard. In a small way, I'm there in the trenches of public education, and it's a big, fat mess in a lot of ways.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:07 AM  

Great puzzle, Evan!

retired_chemist 11:11 AM  

@lms: "Then she pulled up her email, saw that I had indeed submitted them properly, and said, simply, "Oh. Ok." No apology."

There are self-important tyrants everywhere. Unfortunately in the public educational system weeding them out, or getting them to where they will do less harm, is difficult. Sorry for your experience.

Z 11:30 AM  

@lms - I will only say two things and then let this go - "Public Education" is a huge undertaking by our society. It benefits and suffers from all the greatness and weakness that is us.

Second, I have some empathy for the woman. She was told she was "all that" by the district when they hired her. I suspect that, much like me at 23, she didn't know what she didn't know. She was doing "best practices." If I had to guess, she was probably intimidated by the staff and responded by trying to project expertise and power. I reserve my anger for the people who put her in that position before she was ready.

Oh, and I wish you had said to her, "look - dragging me in here is no big deal, but it would be nice if you apologized for thinking I was incompetent." That was the best thing a teacher ever said to me. From that I learned to go to them and ask when I thought something was amiss.

And to everyone - Sorry about going on.

Tracy Bennett 11:40 AM  

I've had one puzzle published so far in the NYT, and RP totally slammed the title and theme clues, which I had nothing to do with. I had labored for weeks to make my clues exquisitely punny and to craft my perfect title, and these were for the most part substantially changed. After the initial shock wore off, I could make sense of how and why those choices were made. Another time, team orange took issue with my clue for TWO-FISTED in a CHE puzzle, where my originally submitted clue was possibly more apt. Like Evan, I'm grateful to have work accepted and published, and I'm especially admiring of the editors who've accepted my work. I trust they know how best to clue for the audience and day of the week. I now have a gig where the people editing my clues are not crossword editors. That brings an entirely different element of surprise to the process. Like occasionally they want to put an article at the start of a clue. They're the customer---contract says so! Whenever I do self-published puzzles I can see the difference an editor makes. The intended audience is not so general, and sometimes the puzzle can be laden with peculiarities and in-jokes, but also fresh language, and the personality of the constructor shining through, which I like. It's a trade-off.

chefbea 11:43 AM  

Great puzzle...cuz it was kicked up a notch!!! Of course I knew Emeril.

@Evan..thanks for a fun puzzle

Anonymous 11:54 AM  

Yes, Bell.... Played by Don AMECHE!

Fresh and sassy and fun puzzle, but a near Natick with the C in the GCHAT/CELIA cross -- lucky guess.

Kim Scudera 12:06 PM  

It's breaking my heart that people here don't know from Celia Cruz: the undisputed Queen of Salsa! Numerous awards, numerous appearances on Sesame Street (search Celia Cruz Sesame Street and see all the hits you get! Then watch "Put Down The Duckie" for all the great cameos...). Then watch her sing -- and dance! -- "Guantanamera". Azucar!

Lewis 12:16 PM  

@ Rex, hope you feel better. Didn't this happen last year or the year before at tournament time?

I held off on ROGET because I believe it should be ROGETS, especially clued with Bartlett's. When you look at Roget's Thesaurus, it is spelled with the 's.

Never heard anyone say AEROS.

Overall, though, very little JUNK (OTOE and ARETE, pure crosswordese), and I can predict that Evan's puzzles will never have much junk. It's plain from his posts that he hates junk. From what constructors say, one or a very small handful are hard to avoid.

And every Birmholtz I've done now has been constructed with a twinkle in his eye -- clever cluing and an element of fun. Also contemporary.

I loved this one. My whole being lit up when I saw he was the constructor.

Lewis 12:23 PM  

@evan -- just curious... Did you know that this theme was done before, or did you coincidentally come up with it yourself?

mac 1:00 PM  

Hi PuzzleGirl! Thanks and see you in Brooklyn!

Excellent puzzle, Evan. I'm amazed how much of the original was changed by the Shortz staff, that must be hard to accept. Can you tell us about the Boz/zed situation? I put in zed without blinking an eye.

I expected some form of "drawing a blank" might be in there.

Get better quickly, Rex!

Masked and Anonym007Us 1:03 PM  

Hi & Yo, @PuzGirl. Primo job. Hope 4-Oh is feelin on the mend, real soon.

@Evan: When it came to solvin yer excellent puz's theme, I "drew a blank". But I luv, luv, luved yer 4-Across (see below). Agent 007-U will return, btw, in "Shootin Blanks"...

Wasn't gonna ever use the followin puz, cuz it was hopelessly incomplete. Then good ol' Evan opened the trap door, that let er out...


(Not sure the above makes for good ACPT practice. Bet Dan F. ain't gonna do it in no 55 secs, tho.)


Evan 1:14 PM  

@Lewis (and @Otoe Jam by extension):

It's a little hard to remember, but when I was doing my initial theme check, I looked for the phrase I HAVE NO CLUE and found nothing. I also did a wildcard search for *NO CLUE* and saw nothing that raised any flags. I think I did search for CLUELESS, which would have turned up this LA Times puzzle from November 2010 by Daniel Finan, which used a similar gimmick with nouns to describe people who are clueless (i.e. SPACE CADET), and I think that's significantly different from today's puzzle. I did not, however, do a wildcard search for *CLUELESS*, since I didn't expect that any word would be attached to it in a crossword -- of course now that I see it, it looks like TOTALLY CLUELESS was in a New York Sun puzzle in 2003, though I can't find the grid for that. In any event, I never saw Nancy Salomon's puzzle from January 2006 and wouldn't have seen it using my searches.

This was a good-faith effort on my part. Arguably I should have done a little more rigorous checking of each theme answer -- though between mine and Nancy's, it looks like the only one that got repeated was BEATS ME, and hers was long ago enough that it probably doesn't matter. I'm still glad I debuted the phrase I HAVE NO CLUE all the same.

Perhaps I'll start keeping a tighter record of search terms when I'm doing a theme check just to have it in my files -- I have scrapped themes that I've found have been done before. But I doubt I would have scrapped this one entirely even if I had seen Nancy's puzzle; at most I might have changed BEATS ME to something else.


My clue for ZED was [Character in Elizabethan literature?].

Doc John 1:19 PM  

What do you call a Jamaican proctologist?

Two Ponies 1:22 PM  

Thanks Puzzle Girl for stepping up for our ailing FL.
And thanks @Evan for a fun solve.
The only clue that rubbed me wrong was the one for route. Very interesting to hear about your editing experience. IF I ever had a puzzle published I think I would go mad if it was changed as you described. I would think that writing the clues would be the best part.
@ jae, This geezer agrees all the way about texting.

Z 1:24 PM  

@Doc John - Are you writing clues for M&A?

@M&A - It had me all mixed up, but got it in the end.

LaneB 1:36 PM  

Hate blank clues but survived with plenty of write overs and a couple of Googles (Keene, ALL,LEN). Not bad for a Wednesday..

Saved Monday and Tuesday for today also. Hi to Andrea and a loveLy Monday puzzle.

desi 1:55 PM  

So nice to hear from the author. I enjoyed your clues and your puzzle. Thanks!

Alby 2:15 PM  

"Late 1990s fad" ... among which age group, would have been helpful to mention. My mind went straight to overalls and hi-top fades.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:51 PM  

Today's M&A solve time: 5 min 26 sec; no peeking!

Good one as usual.

Anonymous 2:56 PM  

@Steve J. Maybe a case of too much knowledge, but grams are a mass unit used in EVERYTHING. Using "nutrition" as a pitch leads a chemist to look for something unique to nutrition, not the fundamental unit of mass (actually a kilogram) used throughout the world. Bad clue, especially when linked to the awful "GCHAT" and the unknown "Celia." I am sure she is wonderful, but I never listen to "Salsa," which I thought was a kind of sauce. (Oisk)

Gill I. P. 3:13 PM  

@Evan, you're fast becoming one of my favorite constructors....As they say in Argentina - CHE, que buena onda!
@Kim Sudera...It breaks my heart as well!!! I grew up with CELIA singing in my home. My sister and I would dance to her music in front of any one who would watch. This was in Cuba and both of us stood out like sore thumbs. She very blonde and I red haired. Both of us singing in Cuban Spanish to gawking by-standers....! AZUCAR indeed.
Didn't even notice the OTO/OTOE and didn't care. What blew me away was the amount of changes made. YIKES... I remember my first art teacher changing an oil painting I had spent weeks on. She was renown in Spain and would impose her style on us students. It drove me nuts and even though the changes were perhaps more appealing, it was not MINE any longer...
Thanks for a good Wed. workout and for stirring up the memory bank..

loren muse smith 3:31 PM  

@M&A - 14 minutes. Tub quiet ought. Cine luces!!

M and Also 4:00 PM  

@muse: hope it didn't shake U up too much. (Garbled speech ain't a real good sign.)

Rootin for yah, on that there pensmanship award deal. If U can't get much on tourney puz #5, just fill in the letters M-A-N-D-A, real neatly, over and over. Should get the attention of the awards committee. Do not spit on eraser, before makin any corrections.

Back to the NYT WedPuz, now that I've gotten over my sympathy hangoverpains for 4-Oh...

fave fillins: POKEMON. SUNSPOTS. ERSATZ. HEYYOU. MYRIAD. OUTGO. Special collab award for 'GRAMS.

fave clue: Move like the Blob. Great schlock movie; cool that Steve McQueen got to debut in a Call for Help flick. FATS clue is also quiet cine.

weejects anonymoUs: OTO. No harm no foul on the OTO-E clone, as not Evan's doing. MIL MEW MUS. mm-mm.

Thanx to all the folks that work on my lil puzs. Will give y'all some time off, now, to rest up for the Big Show in Brooklyn. Take it easy on my best buds, Shortzmeister. Don't wanna have to come down there, dude.


sanfranman59 4:12 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)

Wed 10:54, 10:14, 1.06, 69%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:20, 6:17, 1.01, 54%, Medium

Fred Romagnolo 4:19 PM  

I'm with Mohair Sam: Boz was in quotes cause it wasn't his real name; you don't have to be an English major to know it. I have NEVER heard anyone in San Francisco say "Hell if I know," it's damned (or more commonly, but not NYT possible, beats the **** out of me). On the WVir teacher situation: just try and get someone fired in a school system. Ha!

Fred Romagnolo 4:25 PM  

figured out Montana-Wyoming area when I realized I was thinking French, not English, horn; no excuse, just carelessness.

Blue Stater 4:33 PM  

I'm surprised no one has commented on 5D. An English horn doesn't have two reeds, as the clue implies. It has one double reed. The two pieces of cane that are joined to make the double reed aren't themselves reeds until they are joined to become one double reed. All the obsessive, wrong-headed editing (thanks, Evan, for telling us about it) might have been better focused on minor factual matters like the reed/s/ issue and the question whether "[a cool] MIL" is an actually occurring English phrase (I don't think so). This was a nice puzzle. It would have been better if it had been left alone.

Kim Scudera 4:47 PM  

@M&A: 5 suit-men, iNeBRIAted on_stINk

Arnold Holtzman 4:57 PM  

6 down... What a gimel means on a dreidle.

It means "big" definitely not "all".

Last Silver Bull Woot 5:02 PM  

@Kim: har. day-um.


wreck 5:23 PM  

The bottom line for me in the "B0Z" question is that I did enter "ZED" because "ZEE" did not work!

Ann Heil 9:06 PM  

Loved it Evan!!! The revealer made the puzzle. The non "-" clues were definitely easier than the usual Wednesday clues, I suppose to balance things out. I do enjoy Wacky Wednesdays with the NYT crossword. You never know what you'll see.

sanfranman59 10:04 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 6:04, 6:18, 0.96, 30%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:07, 8:16, 0.99, 49%, Medium
Wed 10:46, 10:14, 1.05, 66%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:47, 4:00, 0.95, 19%, Easy
Tue 5:10, 5:13, 0.99, 44%, Medium
Wed 6:09, 6:14, 0.99, 45%, Medium

Acme 12:56 AM  

@arnold Holtzman 4:57pm
when you land on Gimel, you get everything/all.
The mnemonic when I teach folks how to play dreidel
Is "gimme all"?
I usually have seen it spelled with two mm and I don't think it means big (that's gadol, no?) but to run or give (as to the poor)

Dave 7:09 PM  

Really wanted "eclipses" instead of "sunspots" and since I saw the clue and had written it in first it caused a bit of a headache in the NE. But otherwise, a fun Wed. puzzle.

Phil 6:09 PM  

Guessing dreidel is an ell and figuring iChat would be a good guess i had to blink a few times to discover the nutrition unit isn't some arcane acronym

My 57 across clue
See 18 27 34 52 or
What one can say about them

Chuck Minnich 10:40 AM  

I thought Pokemon was a rasta proctologist.

spacecraft 11:02 AM  

North was trouble for me too. I know what a dreidl (never saw it spelled with a second E) is, but am not deep enough into the culture to know how to play, or what the gimel means. I concur with the double-reed argument, but figured that was what he meant. A 3-letter "cool" amount came up MIL in my head, so (eyebrow raise) 18a had to be HELLIFIKNOW. Leaving me with _R_MS for the nutrition label units and __L for the gimel. If 4a was GRAMS and 6d ALL--seemed reasonable--then I was left with the natick at 15. Who's Cruz? 37a! What's that app? 18a! What's AN app? 53a! Running the alphabet for Cuban names, I stopped at DELIA, skipping right over the C. GDHAT?? OH wait. A C would at least make it CHAT, though why you'd stick a G in front of that 57a. But oh yeah, CELIA is a good name, my favorite being Celia Lovsky, memorable portrayer of T'Pau in the STTOS episode "Amok Time." So I went with it. Whew!

Good, clever theme, including the (NON!) revealer. Nice, fresh fill interspersed with tired stuff like ERITU and EKEOUT (but at least both halves of those!) as well as OTOE and EERIE, but as has been said, probably necessary.

Hand up for And before ARE, and the fact that OTO and OTOE don't belong in the same grid. Another near-miss pair, not nearly so bad, is DEAD and DEAR. Also had MATch before MATES. Surprised to see THE as a stand-alone entry; actually it's probably fresh!

Overall, thumbs up. Today I had only six cards to work with, and ALL I could come up with was a straight, 6 high.

Anonymous 1:36 PM  

Speaking as an old-timer, I would certainly be more than pissed with all the editing revisions, as mentioned by the constructor. I can understand correcting inaccurate or very obscure words only. As far as the oto/otoe argument goes, I believe there almost always has to be just a little dreck or crosswordese fill in order to have everything balance out.

In fact, I was just wondering whether anyone has published a puzzle with homonyms, such as meet/meat, tare/tear, bare/bear, sweet, suite, etc. Sounds like a winner to this old codger.

Ron Diego 10:35 AM PST 4/9

DMG 3:04 PM  

Only problem was in the mid-north. A French horn, that's the round one, maybe it got that way with two benDs? (dont ask) That sat for a while. Don't know the singer, my Dad,s expression was "Damned if I know", and have no idea what's on a dreidel. Finally decided ?CHAT had to work and CELIA is a name, and, slowly it all fell. Glad to see my guesses confirmed here!

@Ginger: glad to see you back! Thought you were probably on a Spring break with the grand kids.

Another nothing hand!

Dirigonzo 4:27 PM  

i had the same difficulties in the north-central section as others had but managed to sort things out with the unlikely sounding GCHAT. Seeing UPEND in the grid reminded me of a recent news item reporting that several of those tiny eco-cars had been tipped over or UPENDed in San Francisco - the urban version of Cow-Tipping, maybe?

As to things having umbras and penumbras, I confidently entered a eclipses which was wrong, of course, but it gave me a reason to mention to the night sky watchers here that there is a total eclipse of the moon during the wee hours of April 15 - it should be quite spectacular if the sky is clear.

I have eight cards to draw from and the best I can come up with is two pair, fives and fours.

Solving in Seattle 4:43 PM  

@Evan, thanks for your funpuz and for the play-by-play re: Will's editing. I can see how this could have been a thupuz.
My only writeover was trying to cram IHAVE'ntaCLUE into 57A.
Quite a discussion about "Boz." One of my fav singers. I don't know if he still does it, but for years he would give a concert in Oakland to benefit the inner city. He still lives in No. Cal.
As for who really wrote the Nancy Drew mysteries, and who got the credit, I also ask who really wrote all the works attributed to Shakespeare? After reading "The Greatest Plagiarist" I agree that it must have been Christopher Marlowe. Maybe we can send Ken Burns back in time.
@Ron Diego, a friend and his family have a game/contest to unearth triple homonyms, e.g., bight, bite, byte.

Go Mariners!

Two lousy pair. @Spacy BEATSME.

Anonymous 10:31 PM  

Evan, just now getting around to doing this puzzle (I clip them and do them later). This was one of the most fun Wednesday puzzles I've ever done. I especially liked the Dickensian clue BOZ! Thanks much, from Surf City USA.

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