Soviet spymaster in John le Carré trilogy / THU 5-15-14 / Actress Green of 300 Rise of Empire / Role played by Baldwin Ford Affleck Pine / US slalom great Phil / Inscribed pillar

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Constructor: John Lieb

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "AN I FOR AN EYE" (62A: Misinterpretation of a biblical code … or the key to answering 18-, 24-, 40- and 51-Across) — theme answers are phrases where "EYE" has been replaced by the letter "I"

Theme answers:
  • WANDERING IS (18A: What ladies' men tend to have)
  • ALL IS AND EARS (24A: Very alert)
  • LAY IS ON (40A: Espy)
  • "BETTE DAVIS IS" (51A: 1981 #1 Kim Carnes hit)
Word of the Day: EVA Green (5D: Actress Green of "300: Rise of an Empire") —
Eva Gaëlle Green (usual French pronunciation: ​[ɡʁin] as if it was an English word; Swedish pronunciation: [ˈɡʁeːn]; born 5 July 1980) is a French actress. Green started her career in theatre before making her film debut in 2003 in Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial film The Dreamers. Green achieved international recognition when she appeared in Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven(2005), and portrayed Vesper Lynd in the James Bond film Casino Royale (2006). In 2006, Green was awarded the BAFTA Rising Star Award.
Since 2006, Green has starred in independent films Womb (2010), Perfect Sense (2011), and Cracks(2011). She has also appeared in the television series Camelot (2011), and played Angelique Bouchard in Tim Burton's big-screen adaptation of Dark Shadows (2012). In 2014, she playedArtemisia in 300 sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire, and will star as Ava Lord in Frank Miller's andRobert Rodriguez's Sin City sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a somewhat fancier and more competent version of yesterday's one-note puzzle. Revealer is the joke. Yesterday, pun on "prophet." Today, pun on "i." I definitely liked today's better, but the theme execution is equally strange and weak. How many billion phrases in the English language are there with the word "eye" in them? What links these particular phrases? Anything? The only one that seems at all inventive or interesting is "BETTE DAVIS [EYE]S." Why are the [EYE]s always plural? Just curious. This isn't a fault of the puzzle, but nothing in the revealer seems to require that. Seems slightly odd to have all the theme answers feature the pun word in the plural. I guess it's consistent, but to what end? I gotta believe there are better, more interesting [EYE] phrases out there. But the main point is that there just isn't enough coherence to the theme to make it provocative, snappy, elegant. It's a corny pun, again.

To this puzzle's credit, the grid is pretty nicely put together. A bit gratuitously peppered with Zs, but not in a way that really compromises fill quality. If you want to see how bad the fill was from a couple days ago, just hold it up to this grid, which isn't scintillating, by any means, but which contains what I think should be industry standard quality for a themed / high word-count grid. No ugly variants, no glut of hoary, antiquated short fill, just a nice variety of words and phrases, most of them very much in-the-language. This puzzle was oddly out of my wheelhouse, with many proper nouns meaning nothing to me. Have never read Le Carré *or* Clancy, so neither KARLA (16A: Soviet spymaster in a John le Carré trilogy) nor RYAN (19D: Role played by Baldwin, Ford, Affleck and Pine) (what is "Pine"?) meant anything to me (though if you'd asked me "who created the character Jack RYAN?" I'm pretty sure I would've answered correctly). EVA somebody? Shrug. I watched Season One of "House of Cards" but had no idea KATE Mara was the young actress's name (34A: Actress Mara of "House of Cards"). I still don't get why RITZ is the answer to 21D: Alternative to Premium. Is Premium a cracker? Because RITZ and Premium sound like synonyms. Oh, it looks like Premium is what normal humans call "Saltines." OK then.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:07 AM  

Easy-medium for me too. Caught the trick very early so it was a pretty smooth solve.  NORah before NORMA which was a case of the pencil getting ahead of the brain, spY before PRY, did not know CRUZ, and paused briefly in the BOTS/NAPS/ZIP area....hence the medium part. 

Chris Pine aka J. T. Kirk.

Turns out KATE is the sister of The Dragon Tattoo star Rooney.  We stopped watching Cards half way through the second season.  It's hard to get into a show that has almost zero likable protagonists, including KATE.  Kept wishing they all would go to jail or get killed off, and that, unfortunately, wasn't going to happen.

Cute theme, nice long downs, liked it.

Casco Kid 12:07 AM  

Close but no cigar. One google after an hour (DEPP) and two errors: COsY/sITS (dope slap!) and RISEs/AVEEsO (brand ignorance/Natick.) 1:07. Notably, MAHRE, NORMA, STELE were unknown to me, but the crosses made them possible. Patrick Berry-esque from my kindergarten solver's perspective.

First in were [2D Setting for most of My Cousin Vinny] bRonx/ORU. The next dozen entries were also mostly wrong (warm for COZY, sAucE for PASTE, wild for CAMP, lock for HASP), but somehow the grid turned around, and the fill really started gelling.

I ground to a stand-still in the NE as I just couldn't break in until googling DEPP, which gave me HASP and the rest fell into place. SKI was last.

Colin 12:19 AM  

Solid fill, and I liked the clue for SOAPY. A good example of some tough clues (for me, MAHRE / CRUZ / KARLA are totally unknown) being inferrable from fair crosses. The whole thing fell into place really nicely for me—my fastest Thursday ever (5:35)!

nanpilla 12:37 AM  

I would have liked all song titles, that used EYE differently. Like:
Brown eyed girl
Bette Davis eyes
Eye of the tiger

syndy 12:45 AM  

Somehow "all 'I's and ears" seemed a little too clunky even for a puzzle with no rhyme or reason. NO major highs or lows just a Kansas landscape.

Steve J 12:47 AM  
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Willie Taft 12:49 AM  

Chris Pine was the latest actor to play Jack RYAN - though not very well - following Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. He's more notable for being the latest actor to take up the role as Captain Kirk in the JJ Abrams - a name I could very well see in a Saturday puzzle - directed Star Trek reboots.

BETTEDAVISIS really hung me up. That was my Google and I felt totally guilty given it was a theme answer, but that wouldn't have ever to come to me so at least I know it now. Reminded me of Tuesday's puzzle with 70's and early 80's songs that were mostly - but eventually gettable - out of my cultural sphere. Today's puzzle more than made up for it with some contemporary cluing that might prove difficult for others.

Steve J 12:51 AM  

Paper-thin theme that didn't really grab me. Incredibly basic homonym swap, with none of the swaps transforming the source phrases in any interesting way - let alone amusing, which pun themes should be. Pretty bland in the end.

Fill's solid, and there were some nice bits of cluing (like for HANDS UP, SOAPY and CAMP). Most of the proper names fell quickly for me, so this came in on the easy side of medium for me.

@Rex: Ritz and Premium are both brands of crackers. Saltine is a not a brand name; it's simply a type of cracker, and Premium is a brand of saltines. It's a pretty straightforward clue/answer combo. (It's also a typical NYT "alternative to ..." clues/answer combo, in that they're alternatives only in a purely categorical sense. People aren't putting Ritz in their tomato soup any more frequently than they're buying Miatas in place of Porsches.)

crackblind 12:58 AM  

I got hung up a bit because I immediately got 51 Across (don't know why but that clue drew my eyes in, no pun intended) except I filled it as BETTEDAVISII. Whe n I noticed the eyes in the other theme answers were also plural, I filled them as II as well. That really messed me up for the crosses.

Considering Rex's critique, I think this might've actually made the theme answers more cohesive and justified the [EYE]S being plural and made the puzzle more interesting.

JTHurst 1:29 AM  

Q. What has fourteen eyes, isn't scintillating, and is outside Rex's wheelhouse? This puzzle.

I scanned through the puzzle and thought I would answer 'those low hanging fruit' clues. Kim Carnes made only one hit 'Bette Davis Eyes" (wonderful song and I wonder why @Rex did not link it) and when it would not fit I thought welcome to Tricky Thursday - rebus eyes or what? Then I saw skier Phil....old what's his name and my brain froze. Clancy's Jack...., Puppy love crooner, Paul...., Victor....of the Giants. I did get Norma Desmond and Karla and Ipana and Ayn and Carr.

What finally opened it up was 'laysison' since I had most of the crosses. Seemed OK but with 'Bette Davis is' and the 55d clue I felt sure the answer had to be Eisner, one of the premier graphic artists but the other fill did not allow it to work out. Inker was lame.

As a frequent hummus eater I find calling it a paste to be nonsensical. But I don't want to be "That" guy as we already have @Steve J and this falls into his 'alternatives only in a classical sense' and I surely do not want to resurrect the fabled Cashmere/Orlon alternative or Miata/Porsche.

'Karla' was prominent in Le Carre's Smiley's People which for my money was the best acted mini-series ever with Alec Guinness. Better than the two Baltimore locale classics 'The Wire' and 'Homicide'.

okanaganer 2:10 AM  

"Old TV knob"...I hate abbrev.s, and that's a HORrible one, but for some reason it really took me back. Horizontal hold, vertical hold, tint...ah, those were the days. Not!

When I was little, our town only had one TV station. Then they announced we were getting a second one. Oh, the anticipation! On the appointed day I turned the channel knob--which in itself was a novel experience--clunk, clunk, from channel 4 to channel 6. Where I saw: static, with only a faint ghost of a picture. But you could sort of hear the audio. It was still exciting! I thought, well they are a brand new station, so that's why it isn't very clear yet. I watched it quite a bit anyway.

Days later someone at school told me there was this thing called a Fine Tuning knob.

chefwen 2:28 AM  

Right off the bat I filled in WANDERING "Oh shoots, I ran out of squares", left the last two blank until I could figure out what the trick was. Got it at ALL iii S AND EARS.

Way too many proper names that I was unfamiliar with and resorted to a couple of Googles. Oh well, I had fun anyway.

Liked the BABY FAT/ZITS pairing.

spY before PRY (hi@jae) TireS before TEARS, oSu before ORU. I think that was it.

Fun puzzle Mr. Lieb, thanks.

Will work hard to have a Google free Friday, yeah right, at least, I'll try!

Moly Shu 2:34 AM  

Medium for me, I had the entire west coast finished first, then worked steadily east, finishing on OILY. Caught the trick at BETTEDAVISII, which led to ANIFORANEYE. @Crackblind, I also started with BETTE DAVIS' first daughter, who was, of course, BETTE DAVIS II. Some called her Jr. , though. Liked the clues for RITZ and METAL.

@CascoKid, add STELE to your "things I only see in crosswords" list. I promise you'll see it again and again....

@JAE and @LMS, yesterday you 2 were talking about Occam, today, RAZORSHARP. How do you do it? Psychic abilities ?

r.alphbunker 4:30 AM  

I wanted BETTE DAVIS's EYES. I guess that "Bette Davis" is used as an adjective in the song title. Thinking about it I realize that using a name like this is not uncommon, e.g. a Bette Davis movie.

I found the following tidbit on the Internet:

After this song became a hit single, Bette Davis wrote letters to Kim Carnes and the songwriters to say she was a fan of the song and thank them for making her "a part of modern history." One of the reasons the legendary actress loved the song is that her granddaughter thought her grandmother was "cool" for having a hit song written about her.

For those who are grandparents what can you do to be cool to your grandchildren other than get your name in the title of a hit song?

JTHurst 5:29 AM  

@MS St. Simeon the Stylite standing on a Stele. I wonder if this is where we got soapbox preachers?

Phil 5:31 AM  

SW haha moments
Rocky horror as a 'CULT'
Then tried 'UNIFORM...' something
Some bizarre kids thing of 'LETAL'
'TASTE' for hummus made no sense
Did finally get it FIXed but DNF for RITZ which seemed RIGged

John Child 6:09 AM  
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John Child 6:10 AM  

Not easy here! It took me a long time to see the gimmick since I worked (struggled) with the top of the puzzle before looking at the reveal. Still couldn't fill in the NW's four proper names intersecting with an unfamiliar TV show or the SW's RAZORSHARP. I thought the clueing was more that Thursday difficult.

Greg 6:29 AM  

I spent an unreasonable amount of time accepting that 'virginity' did not fit on 44D.

loren muse smith 6:57 AM  

@jae, @chefwen – me, too, for "spy" before PRY. I erased it when I read clues for 16A and 40A.

This type of letter manipulation is among my top favorite tricks for a theme. I saw it pretty early, too, but I tell you – before that, I was really, really struggling everywhere. Hardly any of those proper names were apparent to me, DEPP and RYAN notwithstanding. In fact, I didn’t finish because of the NORMA/ORU/MAHRE area. So hey, there, @John Child.

I thought Osmond sang "Puppy Love." (I always pretended he was singing about me.) I got ANKA anyway, mightily resisting the add-an-h URGE. Hey again, @jae. And I'll go with scrabble-twerking. Great idea. (Thanks, @M&A. Oh, and your puz yesterday was too hard for me!)

@Okanager – funny story. Ah, those pre-clicker days. . .

I can't be alone in regularly mind-melding IPANA and Ipanema? Neither is ever readily apparent to me, but an ever-morphing combination jumps out every time.

I had the Miller LITE and then wanted it for a "premium" alternative beer, too.

@Colin – I went "sudsy" before SOAPY. "Joy-filled?" What a clue! The first time I was charged with buying provisions for a run when I was on the boat in Alaska, I shopped carefully and had the boxes delivered to the dock. When the skipper saw I had bought Dawn dish detergent, he tsked, "No, no, no," and I suddenly found myself in my own weird detergent commercial. He got a can of diesel fuel and poured two patches on the water while I watched over the side. On the first, he squirted a bunch of the offensive Dawn. The blue soap just sat on top of the fuel. On the second patch, he squirted a bunch of Joy, and as soon as the soap hit the patch, the fuel looked like it exploded in every direction – scattering out until it was gone, history. At least that summer, all the deckhands swabbed their decks with Joy (explaining the store's wall, literally, of expensive Joy and the smattering of the cheaper Dawn. I guess I should have smelled a rat).

Speaking of which, I subbed yesterday again in the room with Lucille, The Pet Rat. I'm obsessed with this creature now. It's so weird because yesterday I was watching her lolling on her hammock and decided she had the air of a 40s movie star. I auditioned several in my mind, and BETTE DAVIS was among them because of Lucille's striking, prominent EYES. I'll post separately to spare those of you who hate digressions.

Again, John - Aye liked this trick a lot! Fun!

loren muse smith 7:18 AM  

Ok. So on Monday, I resisted sharing my caramel corn with Lucille because I had this "please don't feed the animals" mind-set - you know – unapproved food could kill an unsuspecting critter. Later I thought, "Sheesh – she's a *rat* for Pete's sake! Rats eat anything, don't they?" Then I felt bad that she had just watched me as I ate, imploring me to give her some. I didn't share one piece, and she not once looked bitter or disappointed.

I packed extra yesterday and all morning looked forward to sharing it with her at lunch. Sure enough, after I went and stood next to her cage with my caramel corn, munching, she climbed off her hammock and came over again to ask for some. I gave her a small piece, which she delicately took in her mouth and hands, and then disappeared into her house with it. I was disappointed that I wasn't able to watch her eat it and feel even more magnanimous and generous. Anyway, she seemed to eat it up pretty fast because she came right back out to ask for more. I got swept up in the moment and ended up giving her about six big hunks – each the size of a large gumball – that she took into her house, all the while I was vaguely uneasy and guilty at the large amount but thrilled that she was eating it.

She climbed back up on her hammock as the kids started coming in from lunch, and I returned to the front of the classroom. I was startled when Dakota yelled, "Wow, Mrs. Smith. You sure gave her a lot of popcorn." (I had told them I was planning to share a piece with her.) I walked back over to the cage, nudged my way through the accusing crowd of fifth-graders, and saw to my horror that Lucille had not eaten *any* of the popcorn – she had stockpiled the pieces in her house - it was all right where you could see it if you just looked in. I felt so exposed and guilty. I wanted to reach in and grab it back, throw it away so the teacher would never know my transgression. I wanted to insist that Lucille was just as culpable –that she had been standing there, begging, that she had forced me to give it to her, that she had lied and said she ate it all the time – no biggie. But she was just lounging in her hammock, staring off with those EYES. As it was, all I could do was mumble an anemic, "Oh? I hadn't realized it was so much. . ."

So now I'm wondering what happens to this damn rat during the summer. I have some room on a shelf in the family room. . .

Glimmerglass 7:35 AM  

I liked this better than Rex did, but that's true almost every day. As I was coming here, I was thinking that Rex would be upset that three of the theme answers had an extra "I" not part of the joke, but one did not. (If they'd all had one of two "is" switched, that would fit the revealer.) No worries, Rex found other things to carp at.

crackblind 7:38 AM  

@Greg Don't feel so bad. Until I got COZY I wanted the third letter to be a T.

jberg 7:42 AM  

One error -- almost had a blank, but decided at the last minute to go with RITZ, with no idea why it was right. I guess I was thinking RITZy could be like premium -- never thought of the crackers. But somehow I was fixed on HUGo LAURIE, didn't know Phil whoever, so that square ende dup wrong.

Hugh wasn't the only proper name I didn't know, so this was really challenging. I did recall KARLA after I had all but the L, knew DEPP (though not as clued), and knew it couldn't be BEcTE DAVIS IS, but otherwise I really needed those crosses.

A friend (OK, my ex) once made the mock apple pie recipe that used to be on the back of the Ritz cracker box. It tasted just like the real thing, but after you ate a slice you felt like you'd ingested half a pound of lead. Heavy.

I'll finish with a question -- is any puzzle toothpaste always IPANA?

Gill I. P. 7:59 AM  

@Loren....So far you're making my day!!!! I will be picturing you and Lucille every time I see a rat!
Puzzle: Felt a bit meh. I honestly think 13 proper names is a bit much.
My favorite was HUGH LAURIE because I have a crush on him.
LAYISON gave it away and the rest was really fill-in-the-blanks.
I too thought that Donny Osmond sang that perfectly hideous song...HOR and ORU are pretty ugly but BABY FAT is cute.
Friday....Please don't have a zillion names...please!

L 8:05 AM  

I'll be that guy and say hummus is not a paste. Tahini is a paste until it's made into a thinner sauce. And I'll go further and say "trial" is not a setting (2D). Courtroom is a setting. I found this puzzle hard but was really psyched to have Mahre at my fingertips. Phil and Steve were skiing heroes!

Mohair Sam 8:13 AM  

This one hit us in the wheelhouse in spite of the teenaged SW (BABYFAT, ZITS, METAL), played easy here. Liked it a little more than Rex, just wish we'd had a little more resistance. Cracked the theme immediately with Kim Carnes, and got the "I" trick thanks to INKER.

One man's meat department: RYAN, KARLA, KATE all gimme's for us while they left Rex with some head-scratching. Loved the clues for SOAPY and RITZ.

@JTHurst - A big yes to Guinness's Smiley - it's as if le Carre wrote the character with Alec in mind.

For those haven't seen all of season two of "House of Cards" - the last 10 minutes of the season are worth the wait. Spacey is an amazing actor.

Z 8:25 AM  

I had trouble in the Dakotas, but looking at it now I really like the NEXUS/XENON crossing. If you are going to scrabble twerk, do it right at the top. No hiding in a bottom corner.

"I'm all ears" is a phrase I know. ALL IS AND EARS, not so much. This added to my South Dakota struggles.

I don't know KATE Mara or EVA Green or NORMA Desmond or KARLA from leCarré, so I am pleased that the crosses were doable and the names are fairly straight forward. I also wanted a Y on the end of CAMP, so I had brief thoughts that there was going to be more to the trick. Otherwise, fairly easy. I got the ploy at BETTE DAVIS IS, having come down the west coast quickly thanks to HUGH LAURIE. I have his blues album (decent), have watched some of his British comedy shows, and saw every episode of HOUSE because wife and son were both obsessed with it, so he was a gimme.

Best part of the puzzle for me were all the Zs.

@LMS - My 7th grade science teacher kept a boa constrictor in the classroom. It did not eat popcorn, but it did get a mouse or two during the year. Yep, live rodents. We were all fascinated.

AYN Rand but no Obama. I am sick of the continual conservative bias of this crossword. I fully expect the NYT to fire any women who ask for equal pay, next.*

*That is half joking and half serious. I'll leave it to you to be offended by whichever half you wish.

Susan McConnell 8:27 AM  

Went by quickly, since I got the I switch right off at WANDERING IS. Finished uneventfully, but joylessly....just didn't get any big wow from this one.

Andrew Morrison 8:36 AM  

I, too, must question PASTE for hummus, and must celebrate the inclusion of Phil MAHRE. Good thing I knew that answer immediately, 'cause with that spelling it could present a challenge. Overall, very easy for me. Finished in almost half of my usual Thurs, even after a wasted minute locating an error (so Oral Roberts U is in Tulsa, not Ok. State U.? Duly noted.)

Sometimes these puzzles just fall into place. Other times, not so much....

Sir Hillary 8:39 AM  

Fine puzzle. Nothing particularly striking, although the Zs were nicely done.

Why do I always want to spell his name HUGHLAwRIE? Feels more BRIT to me, I guess.

joho 8:40 AM  

I thought the ANIFORANEYE trick very clever and perfectly suited to a Thursday.

Loved the clues for both AKA and SOAPY which jazzed up that corner for me.

The long downs were nice with HUGHLAURIE and RAZORSHARP which made me wonder would this be a good moniker for OFL: Michael "Razor" Sharp?

BETTERDAVISIS was my favorite.

Thanks, John Lieb, this was fun!

@Loren, if you're ever published I will buy your book! You better include your story about Lucille!

retired_chemist 8:56 AM  
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retired_chemist 8:58 AM  

@ AM - Okla. State is in Stillwater. U of O is in Norman.

Easy-medium. Had to get to the revealer before the theme appeared. And then it wasn't particularly exciting. At least sensible....

Mentally went through several mechanical/electrical elements, none of which fit, for 6D. Got NEXUS and that left XENON. So since when do they call an ionizing gas an element? The NEURONs flashed. Oh,a CHEMICAL element. Well OK then....

Victor CRUZ generally torches the Cowboys when they play the Giants. Gimme.

If you can find old Blackadders on your PBS station you can see HUGH LAURIE's wonderful comedic skills. He is an actor of impressive range.

Decent fill except for a lot of proper names. But I knew enough of them to keep it from being annoying.

Thanks, Mr. Lieb.

Arlene 9:08 AM  

It took a while to get some traction on this puzzle. I did get the reveal fairly quickly - but that didn't help with all the names and such that I simply didn't know. So Googling was a must.
For those aging Boomers - do you remember using the HOR knob to control that TV picture?
And the IPANA commercials with Bucky Beaver? (Brusha brusha brusha)

Norm 9:38 AM  

Too many names. This was more of a trivia quiz than a crossWORD puzzle. Cute theme; mediocre puzzle.

Casco Kid 9:40 AM  

@Z "scrabble twerking"! Brilliant. @LMS asked for a term she could use, and you delivered. Count me in. @Rex?

John V 9:40 AM  

Got the trick which was just fine, but way too many proper names, TV stuff, etc for me to finish.

I thought the NW was a complete horror show; NTH, ORU stack: really? Sticking a 10-slot into a thight corner like that is pretty risky business and, for me, did not work.

pmdm 9:41 AM  

Too many proper nouns for me to like this puzzle, but that isn't my real gripe.

So all the "i" in the theme clues are actually "eye" - except for the "i" in wandering. OK, the "i" in wandering isn't followed by an S, but then the reveler clue is not "is for eyes". This is the type of thing that is often lambasted in the main write-up, sometimes overly so. So why not today, when I am a bit annoyed (because I refused to enter "wandering" for a long time, believing it to be in violation of the theme.

Bob Kerfuffle: (This is an aside about a comment Bob posted on a previous day's.) I get your point, but I think on some of the morning "news" shows (ABC's GMA and NBC's Today for example) have both national forecasts and local forecasts as a matter of course, and that was what I was thinking about. I really don't watch commercial TV, and I think most of the cable news stations also (logically enough) give national forecasts. So I was really thinking of nationally broadcast programs. For locally broadcast news programs, you are absolutely correct.

Hartley70 9:46 AM  

"You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille" but I'm hoping you'll be back tomorrow with another tale of your wily ways darling.
Arlene, from another aging boomer, didn't the horizontal roll make you crazy! I'd forgotten about that.
Really liked this puzzle. Had to furrow my brow a bit to remember the names but they were all in there. I'm a Le Carre fanatic so Karla was a gimme. Mahre cute. Had a thing for Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster. It's a good start for a Thursday.

dk 9:52 AM  

00 (2 moons)

If thy right I offends thee -- feed carmel corn to a rat.

Sigh, gotta agree with Rex on this one..... Although a puzzle with DAVIS in it.

quilter1 9:57 AM  

We've been without internet for five days, but now are connected. OK puzzle for me, although I didn't know the actors. Both Premium and RITZ are crackers, but different kinds. Just a little nit.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:20 AM  

After a quick scan of all the clues, I was intimidated by all the proper names (and faux-proper names, like 55 D), but worked most of the West coast, helped greatly by HUGH LAURIE, filled the SW corner, got the reveal, and finished in easy-medium time for me.

@Z, 8:25 AM - Were you referring specifically to Jill Abramson?

tensace 10:46 AM  

Not to get all Biblical on you, but this is a great opportunity to point out the real misinterpretation of "an eye for an eye". It's most commonly taken to justify revenge, when in fact it was meant to limit revenge… i.e. do no more than was done to you if you must do anything at all.

Revenge in the Bible is still God's purvey, not man's.

Z 11:09 AM  

@CascoKid - Innocent. I think it was the inimitable M&A who coined the term yesterday.

@Bob Kerfuffle - Who? Me? Mention non-puzzle related current issues in a crossword blog? Well, I never... Guilty.

chefbea 11:37 AM  

I agree...too many people that I did not know. Hand up for not knowing that premium is a cracker...guess you could put some paste on it. Loved the clue for soapy!!!!

Master Melvin 11:50 AM  

Howcum the 'I' in DAVIS doesn't violate the theme of changing 'I' to 'Eye'?

Not good fill. Too many obscure proper names and brand names.

jdv 11:53 AM  

Easy-Med. Really liked it. Mostly in my wheelhouse. The only clue I did a double take on was at 60a Aeroengine. I figured out the theme early on and it helped me solve the rest of the puzzle. Just about perfect for a Thursday.

The Help Desk 12:01 PM  

@Master Melvin - The revealer is AN I FOR AN EYE, so every EYE is replaced by the letter I. No letter I's are replaced.

Fred Romagnolo 1:42 PM  

@tensace: aren't you the one who wont let scribes be prophets? @jberg: not if he has a "Gleem" in his eye. @gregsaid: my first thought, too: but then I knew NYT would never allow it. @r.alph: no problem, just give lots of gifts and money. @Moly Shu: the Lawcode of Hammurabi is written on a stele, you can find it on the lowest level of the Louvre. @Sir H: a problem for me too: Olivier and of Arabia and the (terrific) actor Fox. Two big mistakes for me: didn't know Premium crackers or CRUZ, and went nuts trying to figure the "I" in DAVIS as an eye, while thinking "inker" was a person, like the one who did "Maus." Thinking of "bears" as making tracks did't help.

Melodious Funk 2:04 PM  

It's interesting what the sages, commenting on the Talmud, say about "an eye for an eye." For instance, what if a one-eyed man puts out your eye? Do you make him blind in retribution? Seems quite excessive.

An alternate interpretation of the expression is that it has nothing to do with taking revenge. Rather it has to do with contracts. Repaying debts, etc.

Leave it to them Jewish pipples. Always arguing about one thing or another. After all, how many Jews does it take to make an argument? One.

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

There was a complaint yesterday about the puzzle's expectation that Biblical references were in the ken of solvers. I have a similar complaint about today's puzzle (and the vast majority of contemporary puzzles) and its expectation that pop culture references are in my ken. I hardly ever know any of them, and the heavy reliance on them in the northwest quadrant today killed me in an otherwise interesting puzzle (I caught on to the gimmick early in the game and that helped with a lot of the crosses). 'Tain't fair.

Moly Shu 2:41 PM  

@FredRomagnolo, lawcode, Hammurabi, Louvre, stele, you may as we'll be speaking Venutian to me. Thanks for the info, I'll look that stuff up, maybe learn something.

Lewis 2:43 PM  

Yes, lots of names, but remember, Will spreads out different types of puzzles for different types of solvers, as he told us here one day. This puzzle is geared to those who have a lot of current trivia in their wheelhouses.

I am with Glimmerglass -- I was confused when there were I's in the theme answers that didn't convert. And to @thehelpdesk, the reveal can certainly be interpreted as you did, but it can also be interpreted to mean that all the I's are replaced by EYE.

At BETTEDAVISIS, when I had some of the final letters but not much of the beginning, I thought the answer would end with "eyeseyes" and that held me back. (I know the song but not the artist).

I liked the cluing to this puzzle, which was tough for me, but fair. That is, a lot of clues I didn't get right off, but after a couple of letters filled in, things became clearer.

The theme is fine -- not particularly special, but we will never have particularly special themes every day. Life ain't like that.

Ludyjynn 3:15 PM  

@Anonymous 2:23 pm, my response to your above 'plaint is simply to get over it. (Or as Cher told Nicholas Cage in "Moonstruck", "snap out of It!") Not every clue in every puzzle will be 'in your wheelhouse' or area(s) of interest or experience. This affords you the opportunity to learn something new. What a concept!

Off my soapbox; this one fell medium-challenging for me. Got about 3/4 done first go-round, including the clever theme, but then the trail ran cold. So I engaged my favorite technique of walking away, reading the rest of the NYT (@Z, good article on the Abramson termination) and returning w/ fresh EYES (or Is?). Voila, all the rest magically unfolded. Of course, this method would screw up speed solvers; sorry about that.

Thanks, JL and WS for a nice, crunchy Thursday.

John Lieb 3:34 PM  

Thanks for the thoughts and comments everyone -- fun to hear what you all think, good and bad.

@Rex, all the themes were plurals because I originally had "wacky"-?-cluing for the theme entries, imagining "I" as the letter itself, and plurals fit that scheme better. Will went with the straight-forward cluing which I think made for an easier, more accessible Thurs puzzle.

In case anyone's interested, here's the wacky-cluing I had in order of theme entries:

Distractions on the Sesame Street set?

Incessantly bragging Dumbo?

Final step in making "The Incredibles" supersuits?

1980s song celebrating classic penmanship?


Ludyjynn 3:35 PM  

@Anonymous 2:23, just realized that I threw some more of the dreaded "pop culture" at you in my response. FYI, in case it shows up in a future Xword, the expression, "sorry about that (Chief)" came from the '60s tv show, "Get Smart", uttered by the actor Don Adams in his portrayal of Agent 86, Maxwell Smart. I know, its just useless trivia to you, but to me it evokes a happy time spent w/ family around the tv set together, laughing and admiring the clever satire of the show. Different strokes for different folks, I guess. (Another tv reference, I can't stop). Oh, just shoot me! (Another tv reference, oh dear!)

I'm done, promises, promises...moving on to Broadway. No, I'm really done now!

Masked and Anonymo5Us 4:09 PM  

@muse: Sigh. Ok, here is an easier runtpuz, just for U...

"Aimin to Please, Since 2014"

Z 4:34 PM  

@Ludyjynn - You are welcome, but I only provided the snark, @Bob Kerfuffle provided the link.

@Lewis - Sure, but it can only go one way. Since eye's are being replaced, the intended meaning is clear. Just like this beer label, she's ugly or attractive, but not both.

@John Lieb - I think I like your clues better, although it is hard to be sure because it is hard to know how they would have played in the solve.

Anonymous 4:50 PM  

Rex, it's Chris Pine, the actor who (besides playing Jack Ryan) plays the "young" William Shatner in the new "Star Trek" movies. And he is one handsome guy...

MikeM 5:29 PM  

Ludyjynn, I do the exact same thing of reading the rest of the paper and returning to the puzzle and, magically it seems, finish it. It is very interesting what a fresh set of eyes can see.

Bob Kerfuffle 6:14 PM  

@M&A - I'm so glad that #125 was just for Loren. I tried it and couldn't finish. And sorry to say, even with the full grid revealed, I just didn't fully "get it."

I'll be going on vacation, and off the grid, soon, so maybe I can recuperate!

Benko 6:23 PM  

@M&A: I agree with Bob. that was even more difficult, unsolvable for me too, and there were a couple of things even after revealed I didn't understand either! I think LMS will like the theme, but I don't think she'll find it solvable, unless there's some weird inside jokes between the two of you that explain some of the answers!

M and A Help Desk 6:26 PM  

@BobK: The 7:18am comment by @muse would definitely be a crucial piece of information for that, if U ain't her.
Have a great vacation!

loren muse smith 6:44 PM  

@M&A - Thanks!! Sheesh – I thought that since it was for me, you had the training wheels on. I had to reveal some letters but I finally saw the trick. How do you do these things so fast? And who has the keys to XWord Info? I would try to return the favor, but, ahem, I don't know how to get to that part of the site to make a puzzle. As it stands, suffice it to show theme entries. My masterpiece was to be a 66x66.

No spring chicken, (you're M _ _ _ _ _ A _ _ _ ), you nonetheless applied to several M _ _ _ _ _ _ _ A _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ only to be laughed at by the brass. So instead, you took up M _ _ _ _ _ _ A _ _ _ but wisely retired after learning to count to 10 in Japanese because your M _ _ _ _ _ _ A _ _ _ _ bracelet just didn't match your gi. Then there was that embarrassing flap when you mysteriously landed at M _ _ _ _ A _ _ _ _ _ _after lurching from a cousin's wedding reception in M _ _ _ _ _ A _ _ _ _ _ _. Next you tried your hand at commercials on M _ _ _ _ _ _ A _ _ _ _ _ but were shown the door when you pitched your idea for the name of a laxative, Nudge. So now, you occupy yourself eating cinnamon buns and M _ _ _ _ _ _ A _ _ _ _ _ building M _ _ _ _ A _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _. Hey. Balsa's cheap.

Thanks again! You brought a smile to a rainy day!

Bad Masked and Anonymous 6:44 PM  

@Benko and BobK: Yikes. A stumpy stumper! Sorry.
We'll see if @muse got it...
If not, alas, M&A may have gone over an edge too far.

"A Few Giblets Short of a Turkey?"

Carola 6:52 PM  

Fun to be back after three days in the "we lost our Internet" wilderness. I liked the punny puzzle, as I enjoyed yesterday's PROPHETS groaner. The puzzle was tough for me, even thought I had the reveal early - discouraged by getting nowhere in the northern tier (knew nothing about Vinnie or LAURIE, or how to spell MAher- MAyRE-MAHRE; couldn't get "rovING eye" out of my head), I decamped to the soft underbelly and worked my way up.

I like HANDS UP adjacent to RAZOR SHARP (the whiz kids in class).

@John Lieb, thanks for letting us in on the alternate clues!

M and A Bueno Bandito 6:55 PM  

Yay... She got it.
Pheww. M&A feel better, now. Hasn't gone totally mental. Yet.

@muse: Thanx, lil darlin.


Bob Kerfuffle 7:43 PM  

@M&A - Okay, now I am completely lost. But that's OK.

But I can assure you of one thing: Unlike Clark Kent and Superman, Loren Muse Smith and I have been seen in the same place at the same time. We are not the same person, and I, at least, am not Superman. (But maybe LMS is.)

(You're not Tom Pepper, are you?)

OISK 9:07 PM  

Ugh. Horrible. Why use an obscure (to me) product to clue "Ritz"? I got the theme early on, and got got all the theme answers, but then had deal with the proper names that meant nothing to me. Not much fun.

The Ritz-Cruz cross was a lucky guess.

A big boooo from Brooklyn

Charles Flaster 11:13 PM  

Easy, although did not get theme until Bette Davis. Probably only hit ever by Kim Carnes.
Thought Premium must be a hotel name and Ritz followed logically. Ritz cracker makes much more sense.Liked 9 down. Take to the hills.Liked the whole puzzle in general.

Anonymous 11:48 PM  

I don't get why Bette Davis Eyes is more interesting than the other ones?

Anyway, this was a medium-challenging for me, for some reason. Of course, when they're done, they all seem easy, but I distinctly recall struggling with this one for over a half hour all together.


Malsdemare 10:40 AM  

What's up with the 'net? Ours, too, has been down, eight days and counting for us (I'm running off my iphone hotspot.). This is a pretty small population here to have three people down. Conspiracy, anyone?

I'm not good with the pop culture, but since there are days that EVERYTHING almost drops in before I even think, I believe it evens out.

Just came back from vacation where. I got to try out falconry. Flying a hawk and having him return to my fist (for a piece of one day old chick) was goose-bumpy cool. Totally off-topic, but I can't seem to quit talking about it. Now if only he'd been named Lucille.

spacecraft 11:02 AM  

A slam-dunk for me. The first clue I LAYISON (top of second column) is gimme John Dickson CARR: ORCA AVEENO BRIT; then I see the 1981 #1 Kim Carnes hit. Talk about gimmes--BETTEDAVISIS was #1 for the YEAR. A slight w/o occurred when I thought the ending was II instead of IS. II seems somehow more elegant--also more challenging for the constructor. After that, the revealer clue becomes another dead giveaway.

The top was a little harder; it took a while to get HANDSUP, which I don't really associate with "Surrender!" KARLA went in on krosses.

Do I think there's a weak spot here and there? I DOEST. But pretty solid overall. Plus, I killed it, so, thumbs, if not hands, up.

dmast 3:23 PM  

WAY too much pop culture for me! Didn't know or care about so many answers to even get started. But, last time I checked, the world does not revolve around me, so all is good. Looking forward to Friday's puzzle.

Anonymous 4:20 PM  

I'm solving the syndicated puzzle, (late in the day, too). I was certain that the answer to HUMMUS was PUREE. Hummus is basically pureed beans.

rain forest 5:12 PM  

Fun puzzle. Cute theme. Great revealer. Nice fill, though I admit it is easier if you just know the various people. Had to stop myself at 59D (some get them in their teens) from entering a "t", but come on Rainy, this IS the NYT, after all.

BETTEDAVISEYES(IS) is a neat song, but that line about making a "crow blush", ruins it for me.

DMG 5:41 PM  

A lot of names, got most of them but not the NW. Had "inre" for the memo thing, thought the school must be Okla State (what is ORU?), and know nothing about anyone's Cousin Vinnie. Also an unknown ski hero (I should have learned it from previous puzzles), and a Super Bowl hero. Maybe tomorrow, but that's Friday, so, maybe not??

@Z: your last posting works, turns out I needed a /. Thus works, and I'm gonna play with some of what's there. Thanks mightily!

Dirigonzo 5:53 PM  

I wonder what the reaction would be if someone created a theme based on a phrase from a religious text other than the Bible? I'm just sayin'...

Solving in Seattle 7:57 PM  

@DMG, Oral Roberts University. My grandmother turned religious whacko in her dotehood and gave Oral many thousands of dollars. IMHO, all tv evangelists are con men.

Lotsa pop culture here, but was able to suss out with crosses.

Nice thupuz, John.

Love the Mara sisters, Rooney and Kate. Great to LAYISON. For the three people on earth that don't know, they are the scions of the Mara family (own the NY Giants, and the Rooney family (own the Pittsburgh Steelers).

@Rainy, I think you're right, and I hope you're not. Go USA!

spacecraft 9:32 PM  

@Rainy, the line is "...make a PRO blush." Doest that clean, er, clear it up for ya?

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