Small pellets of noodle dough in Jewish cuisine / SUN 7-27-14 / Pathet old revolutionary group / Longtime baseball union exec Donald / European capital to natives / Exemplar of indecision / Names featured in Al Hirschfeld drawings

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Constructor: Randolph Ross

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: "What's My Line?" — Theme clues are all familiar phrases following the pattern [___ line], and answers are all "lines" in the sense of something someone might say (i.e. unexpected answers, not immediately associated with the apparently context of the clue) (so, for instance, [Fault line] is a line one might utter if one was at fault, and not anything to do with an earthquake)

Theme answers:
  • SORRY WRONG NUMBER (22A: Telephone line)
  • SHOW ME THE MONEY (30A: Cruise line)
  • I'LL GET IT (14D: Help line) 
  • MAY I SEE YOU AGAIN? (15D: Date line)
  • ONCE UPON A TIME (52A: Story line)
  • MIGHT MAKES RIGHT (39D: Power line)
  • THAT'S ALL FOLKS (77A: Finish line)
  • IT'S NOT YOU, IT'S ME (101A: Fault line)
  • EAT FRESH (84D: Subway line) —this struck me as the freshest (!) of the bunch
  • TAKE MY WIFE, PLEASE (111A: Laugh line)

Word of the Day: FARFEL (99A: Small pellets of noodle dough in Jewish cuisine) —
noun, plural far·fel. Jewish Cookery.
a solid foodstuff broken into small pieces: matzo farfel; noodle farfel.
Origin: 
1890–95;  < Yiddish farfl;  compare Middle High German varveln noodles
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014. 
• • •

This was one for people who are a. way, way older than I am, and b. have a very, very different sense of humor than I do. Essentially, if you thought the NYT crossword puzzle had its heyday circa 1980, this was the puzzle for you. You can really taste the Maleska. Almost completely void of any contemporary frame of reference? Check. Cultural center of gravity of roughly 1955? Check. "Humor" (i.e. very very mild guffaws or chuckles that are guaranteed family-friendly and TRITE)? Check. Short fill that is ridiculously, bafflingly arcane, in places where it could easily, with little reworking, be replaced by something reasonable and familiar? Checkity check. I stopped solving within the first minute, at PRAHA, because I couldn't believe it was right. "No way you'd have that in an easy-to-fill corner like that … No way." And yet, way. I mean, that corner's got PSIS and ITGO, so it's not like PRAHA is doing some kind of valiant, Atlas-like labor  and holding the whole area up. Dear lord. HATLO!? "They'll Do It Ever Time"? OK, HATLO's work looks interesting, but that guy's been dead over 50 years and his strip was never terribly major to begin with. Real answers with clever / interesting clues beat obscure proper nouns (especially barely inferable ones like these) Every Single Time. It's construction 101. At this point, we're dealing w/ an editing problem, not a construction one. This theme is so stale, and the fill so mediocre-to-poor (and dated), that I don't know how puzzles like these keep getting published. In 2014. Solving this felt like slightly like punishment. Where was the fun? This was about as fun as filling out a SCHEDULE A (I imagine).


What year is it? Who says "MAY I SEE YOU AGAIN?" No, you may not, and get rid of the bow tie and desperate squeaking voice, and Vote Truman! The fact that the [Laugh line] is TAKE MY WIFE, PLEASE tells you everything you need to know about this puzzle. I want you to walk outside right now and just start exclaiming "FARFEL FEHR!" When people ask "Why are you talking gibberish?" just say "Not Gibberish! It was in my puzzle! FARFEL FEHR!" The whole thing started feeling like a trivia contest—as if the puzzle were made harder by the inclusion of stuff like [Pathet ___ (old revolutionary group)] and [___ de Champlain (founder of Quebec)] and [Astronaut Slayton]. I wanted (much) more stuff like "IN THERE" (which is at least colloquial and has some zing) or DATA FLOW. But mostly all I got was punishing moldy stuff.

"Why are you opposed to learning new things!?" Because I'm a small-minded American. Also, I'm not opposed. I'm opposed to people using lame excuses for why cruddy fill is in their grids. Put it this way: if I put Samuel ETO'O in a grid, your reaction would not be, "Oh, I am so glad to learn of this Cameroonian footballer who is a star striker for Chelsea FC." Your reaction would be "WTF?" or "Not *sports* again [groan]" (yeah, I see you) or "Paging Dr. OOXTEPLERNON!" or some such. And much as I enjoy the names of footballers from around the globe, if my puzzle were a mainstream puzzle (such as the NYT), You Would Be Right To Groan, not because ETO'O is not a great name (it is) but because four-letter answers should not be spent on obscure names unless Absolutely Positively Necessary. See also, five-letter words, six-letter words, etc. And by "obscure" I mean "obscure to the majority of the target audience." To many football fans, ETO'O is not obscure.

Also, where is [Party line]? [Shore line]? [Zip line]? [Panty line]? [Bee line]? There Are So Many Lines, with (one imagines) So Many potential different answers, any number of which might've been entertaining / amusing / clever / fresh.


Had to suspend my Puzzle of the Week feature for a bit because I haven't been keeping up w/ All The Puzzles during my travels. I'll probably do something collective for July. I'm taking nominations if you've got 'em. Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go gas up the ol' LANDAU (44A: Vinyl-roofed car).
The landau description was revived during the 1960s. There was a trend for making "fake convertibles" by applying vinyl roofs on regular cars. Some of these vehicles were called "landaus" by their manufacturers, and many were fitted with landau bars on the rear quarters (faux cabriolet). Some used the term "Town Landau" such as for one of the 1967 models in the Ford Thunderbird line. This generally meant a wider rear pillar with no rear quarter windows, or a partial vinyl roof that was applied only over the rear seat area (and is thus reminiscent of a town car).

A landau roof is also commonly used on the North American hearse; very long closed rear quarters, a vinyl roof, and huge, polished landau bars have been the preferred hearse style since before World War II. (wikipedia) (emph. mine)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

117 comments:

allan 9:40 AM  

And welcome back Rex. ..

Nancy 9:46 AM  

I liked it and found it relatively easy. So I guess that makes me old, Rex?

George Barany 9:47 AM  

Ha! Lovely rant, Rex. When you refer to construction 101, that seems to be the number of New York Times published puzzles, mostly edited by Will Shortz, that Randolph Ross has published. By day, he is a principal somewhere in the New York area, so you seem to have nailed that too. I remember the "They'll do it every time" comics, but never did know the name of the artist who drew them.

On the other hand, Donald FEHR, still alive, was a major major figure in major league baseball labor relations. He started out as a lieutenant to the legendary Marvin Miller, and was at the center of the strike that led to cancellation of the 1994 World Series.

This allows me to segue (with thanks to Rex-ites who wrote supportively yesterday, and an apology to an anonymous commentator who called me on it) to three baseball-themed puzzles: They Sure Managed, Chicks Dig the Long Ball, and (ironically) What Do These Great Sluggers Have in Common?. My co-constructors were Jeff Strickler on the first, and Brent Hartzell on the latter two. As you solve them, you will understand why I have chosen today to tell you about them.

And thanks, finally, to Rex for allowing this forum to be used not only to analyze and discuss the New York Times puzzles on a daily basis, but the occasional indie or free puzzle as well.

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

Thank God you found it in your heart to cite Eugene Maleska as what I believed to be an inspiration. See what might happen if you too lived in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Judge Judy does and in the next county up the shore is where The Clintons and both Bushes went to matriculate at (dare I say) Yale?
Welcome back Rex

Anonymous 9:58 AM  

Is It time to take a vacation?

Born in 1934

joho 10:00 AM  

I was surprised to see the clue, "Cruise line" and the answer DOOZIES so soon again. Coincidence? Really?

I thought the concept was cute with some clever wordplay. On the other hand, I do see @Rex's point. But, Will Shortz publishes puzzles for ALL ages, not just his young, hip audience. There is room enough for a variety of puzzles, some of which you may like, some not so much.

Sir Hillary 10:01 AM  

Calling SHOWMETHEMONEY a "Cruise line" is absurd -- it's a Gooding Jr. line. You may as well attribute "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" to Janet Leigh.

Casco Kid 10:01 AM  

Medium challenging, and a real chore. 3 hrs. 6 googles: AAU Sullivan award, MENLO college in Atherton, Polk of NCAR (it was either iowa or ohio here) , "connection" in French, to rule out the 14 ways connection is translated, Transformer CAMARO, Jimmy HATLO who never appeared in WaPo. Then, six errors : CbTL/bROCHE, FLEd/INLAd, LdS/dRMEN.

Whatever charm there may have been in the cliche lines is incidental to the shear pain of the solve. Cluing was Friday hard, and further complicated by the very real possibility of rebuses.

Arlene 10:02 AM  

This puzzle suited me just fine - and according to a recent article, I evidently fit the major demographic of crossword puzzle solvers. I'm going to laugh at "TAKE MY WIFE PLEASE" when it appears in a puzzle - and think that is fun.
And as someone who collects vintage etiquette books, I think "MAY I SEE YOU AGAIN" harks back to a day that hasn't been improved upon by the likes of Miley Cyrus.

jberg 10:06 AM  

I'm 70, and Henny Youngman was before my time, too. I had to dredge for HATLO, but was saved because his way of crediting others who sent him ideas was "Thanks and a tip of the Hatlo hat to ..." -- with an appropriate little drawing of the hat tipping. One of two large single-panels at the top of the comics in the Milwaukee Journals' Green Sheet (the other was Major Hoople in "Our Our Way.") So this one gets nostalgia points, at least.

FARFEL was a stumper, though, and I don't seem to have seen EAT FRESH -- maybe that should be "NY subway line." But, as I've said before, this is the NEW YORK Times, after all.

Why the 'often' in the clue for 56A? Are there alternate lyrics for "Dixie?" Could have been clued as "bar line" if you parse it differently.

So basically I'm with @Rex, but I did appreciate the math practice in the last across.

JFC 10:06 AM  

I'm surprised Rex didn't use ONCE UPON A TIME to make his point.

Thought the puzzle was a tad hard for Sunday and the theme okay. Of course, I am old, so I don't have quite the same perspective on old as Rex does....

JFC

PS. 4th try to read that gibberish to distinguish me from AI.

Maruchka 10:09 AM  


Rex is back and in fine, fierce fettle.

Being of a certain age, I don't think the seeming blandness is strictly due to years on Earth. It's just that white bread of any era is so dull. Visualize future solvers reading ancient Internet and pop reference clues - I can hear the groans.

That said, coulda been sharper clueing.

Appreciated the Phil OCHS ref. PBS on line has been running his bio-pic on American Masters of late...

George Barany 10:15 AM  

@ Sir Hillary: Janet Leigh was in Psycho. You are thinking of Vivien Leigh (no relation) in GWTW. But in principle, your point is very well taken.

chefbea 10:16 AM  

Took me a while and not much fun. Should have known 46 down. Loved the answer for stove cover and a tip of the Hatlo hat goes to our constructor.

mathguy 10:21 AM  

I enjoyed it quite a bit. As it should, the theme helped me over several rough spots.

Also enjoyed Rex's semi-rant even though, as an older guy, I am not bothered by the absence of contemporary references.

Curious that "Cruise" was used again in a cleverly-misdirecting clue. Was it in Friday? But I seem to remember that the line was first used by Cuba Gooding Jr. and later repeated by Cruise in the movie. So not a Cruise line. Incidentally, CUBA was 72A.

Casco Kid 10:23 AM  

I'm football fan, so THROWTO and the recent Bart STARR reference went down relatively easily. I'm not a soccer fan, so ETO'O would indeed be hard. The hallowed target audience makes a distinction between football and soccer, Rex.

Also Paree before PRAHA blocked NE until very end of solve. I ran the European capitals in native languages northwest to Southeast to get it, worrying that I didn't know "Warsaw" in Polish. (2nd time this week knowing/not-knowing Polish was part of a solve!) Chore.

Rex, this Thursday's NYT puzzle PAINTITBLACK deserves special mention.

Leapfinger 10:28 AM  

@Sir Hillary, I had the same reaction, but more specifically, SHOWMETHEMONEY is a CUBA Gooding, Jr line

Norm 10:29 AM  

At 61 and counting, I'm in the right demographic for this puzzle, I guess, but I have to agree with most of what Rex said. As much as dislike many pop culture reference references (but feel free to toss in the names of EPL players any time you want), this one felt very musty -- especially the [laugh] line. Good to have you back, Rex. This one deserved a spanking.

Maruchka 10:32 AM  

And wasn't FARFEL also a puppet's name on 50s TV? I'm beginning to like the theme-ish-ness: LANDAU, PRMEN, Looney Tunes, Henny Youngman, etiquette, etc.

Old Coot 10:36 AM  

Best puzzle ever! Only thing it was missing is a "Lum & Abner" reference!

In case you couldn't tell, I'm being ironic.

Blue Stater 10:43 AM  

Yeah, I'm old, and I do think the heyday of the puzzles was 1980 or so; I do miss Maleska's puzzles, which in my view were infinitely superior to those of the WS era, during which the puzzles have been heading straight downhill for many years. Nevertheless I did have lots of trouble with this one for the same reason I did with yesterday's. Both the cluing and the answers were just *vanishingly* obscure. OILSEEDS? FARFEL? Oh, c'mon. Someone above got it right: Friday level of difficulty. Not on Sunday, please. *Please*.

Blue Stater 10:44 AM  

Yeah, I'm old, and I do think the heyday of the puzzles was 1980 or so; I do miss Maleska's puzzles, which in my view were infinitely superior to those of the WS era, during which the puzzles have been heading straight downhill for many years. Nevertheless I did have lots of trouble with this one for the same reason I did with yesterday's. Both the cluing and the answers were just *vanishingly* obscure. OILSEEDS? FARFEL? Oh, c'mon. Someone above got it right: Friday level of difficulty. Not on Sunday, please. *Please*.

Blue Stater 10:46 AM  

Sorry for the double post. Even the captcha was impossibly difficult.

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

Rex is jet lagged. I loved the puzzle, and especially enjoyed seeing Hatlo (I miss his hat tips). It was a struggle to complete in parts (near-Natick, lucky guess in AAU/LANDAU), but I succeeded. Really liked all the LINE clues.

Sure I'm old but Hooray for the Riff Raff is one of my favorites -- thanks for that clip, Rex. (Check out their St. Roch Blues -- gorgeous and very New Orleans.)

Thanks for a great puzzle, Mr. Ross!

Traceyann 10:56 AM  

Seriousy...ugh.

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

Seriously...ugh.

jdv 11:01 AM  

Challenging w/2 errors. lIGHTMAKESlIGHT. 12 minutes tracking down errors. Painful. Agree with @mathguy on 'Cruise line'. FARFEL? AAU? New definition of PUSS. I think the 2d LARGO clue should have indicated music. The only time I want to think about SCHEDULEAs is on April 14th. Had a hard time parsing INTHERE. Very grateful for the fair crossings of HATLO. Didn't like this puzzle very much.

Zeke 11:03 AM  

You want to know the difference between having a puzzle slanted towards arcana of 50 years ago and arcana of today?

Everyone alive today has been exposed to the arcana of today (unless they take great care not to be, a choice I don't recognize as valid). Not everyone alive today has been exposed to the arcana of 50 years ago, and most under 60 have not.

So, if you're pro HATLO and anti RUNDMC, you're missing a critical point: Unless you're over 60 you've had no chance to experience HATLO first hand (barring of course people who studied early to mid 20th century comics as a vocation or avocation) and have had to work to not hear of RUNDMC.

OISK 11:07 AM  

Very nice Sunday puzzle that was more difficult than average for me. As I have said often, I preferred the Maleska puzzles, and if this was more like a Maleska than a Shortz, so much the better. As someone else noted, the variation in time frame from one puzzle to another is a good thing.

Doris 11:09 AM  

@Maruchka: Yes, Farfel was a puppet dog of the not-as-famous-as-other-ventriloquists, Jimmy Nelson. His "Charlie McCarthy" was "Danny O'Day." As for the puzzle itself, naive fool that I am, I enjoy most puzzles but of course prefer high culture references and abhor pop and sports ones. It's a real challenge for me to figure out the pop and sports clues, but I am generally able to do so out of my incredible cleverness, usually without googling. One hears some of this stuff through sheer osmosis. Can't possibly take it seriously, however. And, yes, I remember Henny Youngman, among others.

loren muse smith 11:14 AM  

This was the hardest Sunday I can remember. I would have had a dnf but I guessed correctly on the LALO/DONAT cross. Lots of stuff that came with a huge struggle: STEEVE, FED ON, EYEFUL, IN THERE, CHUNNEL, HAMLET, DEPICTED, LIE TO, LANDAU ("rag top" first, of course), PR MEN ("ad men" first, of course.

Liked the clue for NOD.

I was going to mention the CUBA/Cruise issue, too.

Bonus answers – for "fault line" IT WAS I and SO AM I, "story line" I BET, "phone line" ANY calls?

I liked that all the themers are in-the-language phrases that are repurposed. Like Rex said, there are many more "lines" to choose from. Without the pesky in-the-language standard, I thought of some more:

Chow line – "Grrrrrr, arf arf."
Fine line – "Hubba hubba!"
Guide line – "This way, please."
Party line – "Toga, toga!"
Poverty line – "Spare change?"
Credit line – "It was all you, seriously."
Fishing line – "This old dress? I've had it for years."
Straight line – "Good night, Gracie."
Foul line – "Who cut the cheese?"
Assembly line – "Why don't you ever read the directions?"
Dedicated line – "Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all…"
Punch line – "This sherbet has all melted."
Water line – "Come on in! It's not cold at all!"
Vaseline – "I'm an authentic Ming, and you're from Target. Get off my mantel."

Thanks for the Sunday work-out, Randolph! (Anyone who's interested, today's Acrostic is a good won.)

Gill I. P. 11:20 AM  

I'm throwing this is the nope, nah file. I pretty got much all the what's my line answers except for that Date line. I had INKED in HAVE WE MET BEFORE? TYCO made me change my mind.
Benny or Henny or whoever it was never made me laugh and I'm real easy to please...TAKE MY WIFE PLEASE...Hahahahahahahahah...yuk, yuk.
My angry dog should have been kept HAPPY and good grief how many proper names are allowed even on a Sunday.
Sorry, not fun except I did like BLTS.
@Rex. Now your write-up was funny!

Maruchka 11:31 AM  

@ Doris - Thanks! Just googled Jimmy Nelson. I remember Farfel's 'CHAWK-lit (snap)' bit. 'Twas a happy accident, apparently.

@ Loren - Chuckled @ your list, especially vase-line. Here are two (likely gone before):

Tan line: Just wait 'til your father gets home!

Water line: 'And all the boards did shrink'.

Reina Nijinsky 11:45 AM  

I thought 48A Butler's quarters was chuckle-worthy. The rest of the puzzle however...

jae 11:45 AM  

A bit tougher than the average Sun. for me.

I'm over 60 read the comics and have never heard of HALTO.

Let IT be before IT GO for way too long. Never did get around to seeing Frozen.

Though this was OK, but enjoyed Rex's take on it.

Anonymous 11:49 AM  

@Zeke -- I know RUNDMC only from crosswords. Otherwise I've never heard of them.

Lori 11:56 AM  

Okay, admittedly this is a teeny tiny nit to pick. And I loved the clue "Butler's quarters". But I don't think Rhett ever lived there? Wasn't that just Scarlett's family plantation?

Other than that, I had to do an awful lot of Googling to just get a foothold in this puzzle, and I thought the themed answers were kind of one-trick - a clever idea and play on words, but very easy to get once you understood what you were looking for.

Welcome back to our fearless leader!

Anonymous 12:02 PM  

Ha! Usually I dislike Rex's dyspeptic diatribes, but this one really was Maleskan to its core, wasn't it?

What with Sam SNEAD and those ANTIC Marx Brothers, it felt like even Don Draper and his fellow PRMEN would find this one a bit dated.

More crossouts than usual for a Sunday. I would place this as a medium-challenging. It took me about 45 minutes which is longer than Sundays have been for me recently.

Moly Shu 12:03 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
beatrice 12:09 PM  

@jberg

'Eat Fresh' is the ad slogan of the Subway sandwich chain

Moly Shu 12:13 PM  

Now that's the @Rex I've come to know and love. Welcome back!

HATLO who? Never. Got it only via crosses.(hello @LMS) NIN?S and a SCHEDULE of some kind? Lucky guess. And last but certainly not least, LALO/ DONAT, who and who? @OISK, help me out with LALO.

My take -
Consulted Merriam Webster, looked up the word "slog", saw a picture of today's puzzle next to the definition.

@CascoKid, your Paree/PRAHA was brilliant! I never would have gone that way. You're clearly getting the hang of this "think outside the box" thing.

@Gil I.P. Tchaikovsky? Opera, composer, or Rapper? I think you may have hit on a new game I'm going to play

paleolith 12:43 PM  

I guess I'm older than Rex. Pathet LAO and DEKE Slayton were gimmes. (Gray beard? What gray beard?) And if some of the lines were as ancient as me, my reaction to cultural clues is the opposite: those ignorant of history have no right to complain, but current culture is too ephemeral to bother keeping up with.

Still, I had some of the same complaints. And as someone in the IT field (information, not Paint IT Black), I never relate baud and data flow. Data flow is a type of diagram. Baud measures bit rate or bandwidth.

Edward

Leapfinger 1:00 PM  

Started off grumpy with 1A. Sure, you can put a toothpick in a BLT...or a tuna melt, or a PB&J...but the only sandwich that *must* have a toothpick is a CLUB, isn't that so? Went on to rather enjoy the rest, but I do like the occasional stroll down Memory Lane, or as friend Trevor would call it, Mammary Lane.

ThINKED the Marx Bros more MANIC than ANTIC, and pellets of noodle dough were KNEDEL first. Was led astray by the number of Es in STEEVEdore. Further thoughts on FARFEL are in WP, as is the wish for a NOTH-NAGEL axis, in place of the NOTH-DONAT.

@loren, I'll bet you were laughing yourself silly as you typed out your Line of Lines. Thank queue, and to @Maruschka too.

Best Bread Line I can think of, from "Five Easy Pieces", Jack Nicholson's infamous:
"Hold the toast!"

Shall now take ALEVE of you.

Fred Smith 1:04 PM  


@Mr. Barany --

Put me down as one who dislikes having to skip over your gratuitous references to sites that you favor. Please stop doing this.

And I'm not anonymous. I'm Fred Smith.

jae 1:10 PM  

@leapfinger -- Yes that's so! Briefly thought their might be a rebus when club wouldn't work. And yes for manIC before ANTIC

mathguy 1:10 PM  

After reading @Lori, I checked the plot of Gone With The Wind on Wikipedia. Rhett Butler never stayed at Tara. When he married Scarlett, he built a mansion in Atlanta for them. Will Shortz should be embarrassed.

John O'Malley 1:17 PM  

The clue for 64D (PC component) is another example of Will Shortz's incompetent editing. CRTs have been obsolete as computer monitors for at least 10 years. It would have taken Will a minute or two of googling at most to discover that fact. I can think of several better ways to clue CRT.

Andrew Heinegg 1:17 PM  

I found this to be a slog and at age 64, none of the' old ' references were out of reach for me. It just had no zip. As Maruchka mentioned, the white bread of any era is not good. References to entertainers, writers, athletes etc. of any era is fine as long as: 1. There is not too many of them from one particular time, past or present and 2. The name(s) are reasonably deducible from the crosses so as to not shut out a solver without the frame of reference of familiarity. This puzzle failed on both counts.

Leapfinger 1:22 PM  

Another thing.

Rex visualized MAY I SEE YOU AGAIN as reedy and bow-tied, but I found it old-fashioned in a more charming way.

It reminded me of one time when my girl had a bunch of teenagers over after school; when I came home and entered the room, one of the boys stood up. This really impressed me, and coloured my view of the kid for years to come. We'd run into each other intermittently, and a few years ago, this fellow, now a man on his second wife, having run for mayor and with a good produce-farm, finally raised the point and admitted to me that he had only stood up at that moment to get himself a soda-pop.

A MIXUP, but I don't think my good opinion was wasted.

r.alphbunker 1:23 PM  

I like the puzzle. It made me late for a meeting because I wanted to finish it.

Finished with Nine stalls and nineteen sputters where I have defined a stall to be a minute or more of staring and a sputter to be from 30 seconds up to a minute with no results. One wrong letter AGITe/DONeN at the end. Not sure what heuristic to apply to turn the e into an A.

@Zeke It appears that the arcana of today includes the names of the Teletubbies. NOONOO was in a recent puzzle I did. It's tough keeping up.

Maruchka 1:42 PM  

@ Lori - By the end of GWTW, she was Scarlett O'Hara-somethin'-somethin'-Butler, and planning a return to TARA. Took me awhile, too.

@ Leap -HaHa. Love that scene.

@ Gill - You are the sandwich solver. Clubs covered in MAYO and BLTS, too. Both need toothpicks, if stacked correctly.

Casco Kid 1:42 PM  

I for one favor cross pollination in the puz world. M&A and cohort are welcome to flog their runts, and Prof. Barany always makes dual contributions: first to the puzzle at hand, and then to our greater puzzicle edification. How else would now what a RuntPuz is? So, please everyone keep posting.

Anonymous 1:45 PM  

I am way, way older than you, and I thought this puzzle stank. I normally don't share your need for modernity and disdain of antiquity, but I agree that this puzzle was horrible.

Just curious why you pointed out all the obscure unknowable crap, but rated the puzzle "medium," I thought it was (too) "challenging" for a Sunday.

Please don't equate age with tastlessness.

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

casco kid: "sheer" misery, not "shear" misery

google "sheer vs shear"

AliasZ 1:52 PM  


Le roi d'Ys is an opera by French composer Édouard LALO (1823-1892) based on the Breton legend of the sunken city of Ys, capital of the kingdom of Cornouaille of Brittany , a cognate of the Cornwall region of Britain. In fact, the two regions spoke a similar Brythonic language which evolved into the Cornish language in Britain, and into a similar language, the Breton language in Brittany.

But who the hell needs to know all this? I agree, any crossword puzzle that is loaded with worthless decades- or centuries- old cultural and historical references and ignores the Kardashians, Linseed Lohan, rap "artists", and other fresh, current, hip stuff, should definitely be relegated to the trash heap. It is inappropriate for the NYT. I am against any effort to contaminate CrossWorld with such useless rubbish. In fact, I am thinking of starting a CAC (Crossword Action Committee), the aim of which is the total eradication of all crossword entries that have not been in the headlines during the past six months. Would you care to join?

Mike the Wino 1:57 PM  

Printed out the puzzle in Across Lite, and have multiple clues spelled out like this:

20a. Jimmy _______ "They'll Do It Every Time" cartoonist

21a. Le Roid'Ys" composer

48a. Butler's quarters?

114a. "I Ain't Marching Anymore" singer/songwriter

It's like this every time the clue uses an apostrophe in a word. Any idea why it is showing up like this?

Casco Kid 1:58 PM  

@anon1:48 Thank you. Still, the sheer misery in question does reflect my stress over this strain. ;)

Mike the Wino 2:01 PM  

Now that's just weird. I'm going nuts. I did NOT type the apostrophes in that post above. I spelled out what I saw in the clues. Let's take "Butler's Quarters" for example. What is printed in the clue I see is "Butler ' s Quarters" without the spaces between "Butler" and the "'" and the final "s". What gives?

r.alphbunker 2:05 PM  

@Mike

Those clues expected to be rendered by HTML not by Across Lite.

Since this blog uses HTML your post shows them correctly.

Use &amp;apos; for the apostrophes.

Mike the Wino 2:06 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike the Wino 2:07 PM  

@r.alphbunker

Thanks!

TimJim 2:10 PM  

Liked it. Yes, the "lines" were old cliches but that's what made the challenging solve doable and rewarding to finish.

Scarlett 2:28 PM  

All thru this painful slog, I hoped Rex would let 'er rip on this one! And he did not disappoint!

Maleskan for sure!

'Cutesy' clues don't make up FEHR TRITE 3 and 4 word CHAFF.

Got the drift of constructor's cluing style, so TARA went in, along with everything else, in the end...but Butler's quarter's? Nope.

Let IT GO, Let IT GO...

Gill I. P. 2:30 PM  

Joe Schmo, whatever your name is, no need to be snide nor rude. There's plenty of room here for all kinds of crossword related topics and references. You can always skip to My Lou...it's a free country.
@Maruchka: I'm with @Leapy. Only a Club should be picked. The end needs to have a little red fluff ball though. Viva mayonesa!
@AliasZ...CAC! Our little pup does that after she wolfs down a treat. I'm in.
@Loren: You need to bottle whatever it is you have inside your brain and sell it. I'll buy!

Anonymous 2:30 PM  

My first DNF in a long time -- and not because it was too hard, but because it was too boring. Just quit half way.

Jeff 2:32 PM  

@Fred: not only is Barany linking to sites he favors, it's his own freaking site! So merely shameless self promotion, and on a near daily basis here. Bothersome to say the least.

I actually made the mistake once of clicking into the site. The puzzles were... Eh, let's just say it's on a par with the USA Today puzzle. Maybe worse.

Just strikes me as bad taste to constantly plug your own site on someone else's site without permission. And though we're crossword fans, it's like an amateur filmmaker plugging his own movie on a critic's blog review of a Hollywood movie.

JFC 2:52 PM  

Leapy, I eat a lot of BLTs. Every single one has a toothpick stuck in it, except the ones I make for myself. Remember, it's a clue, not a definition....

JFC

Anonymous 3:13 PM  

Thank you, Mr. Ross, for the reference to Lalo's Le Roi d'Ys. Went to iTunes to download the ultra beautiful song "vainement, ma bien aimee" to my playlist. Gedda is a fine tenor.

Hear this twice and be hopelessly hooked.

Love,
D and A

Anonymous 3:14 PM  

Loved Rex's rant.
Loved the puzzle. I'm old.
Love all the comments. I'm easy to please.
I especially love AliasZ. A person after my own high-cultured, musical heart.
Tip of the Hatlo Hat to all!

Moly Shu 3:17 PM  

@AliasZ, thanks for the LALO info. I don't necessarily "need" to know anything about that stuff. Perhaps I'm a tad bit better for learning about it, though. I'm in for CAC, can I be VP of reality TV references, please ?????

Carola 3:26 PM  

Late to the party after Internet outage WOES.

I enjoyed the puzzle - thought the double-duty "line" idea was creative and well done. I especially liked the opening ONCE UPON A TIME over the closing THAT'S ALL FOLKS in the grid center. Also the fault line crossing EDEN (favorite medieval Fall depiction includes Adam pointing at Eve and Eve in turn pointing at the serpent).

Another Cruise connection: "Mission Impossible"'s ETHAN and LALO Schifrin, composer of the theme music for the series.

Thanks to @loren, @maruchka, and @Leapfinger for the funny extra lines!

@jberg - I'm with you on the nostalgia points. My dad used to read the funnies to me, and I remember Jimmy Hatlo and the tip of the hat. But I'd forgotten the Green Sheet!

r.alphbunker 3:45 PM  

@AliasZ
I read your CAC post with interest.

I am president of TUS (Toss Unhip Stuff) which is an organization that seems to be very similar to CAC.

Researchers at TUS have found that the word "headline" is problematical.

For example, what exactly is a "headline?" Are you only interested in those that appear in paper newspapers? What font size?

But surely you are not restricting headlines to paper media. TUS believes that the Internet is going to catch on so I think that you should include information obtained from the Internet as well. We are proposing that anything in <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, <h4 tags should be considered a headline.

Finally, this may not restrict crossword content as much as you like because, as @Zeke pointed out in the post that resulted in runtpuzzes being removed from this blog, the Internet is a big place.

TUS has officially classified the Internet as hip.

Since our organizations are so similar in purpose I propose that we merge and form CACTUS. What do you think?

Z 3:48 PM  

Who the hell puts a toothpick in a BLT? If the bacon is cooked correctly you are just going to make a bunch of bacon bits. Someone out there is doing it wrong.**

Hey @AnonymousFredSmith and @Jeff - It's not your lawn. OFL is perfectly capable of telling George or R.alph or anyone else to stop posting on his site. As you may have noticed, most people here either appreciate the links or have mastered the difficult skill of skipping over stuff they don't like.

@Zeke - you are arguing against the wrong point. For example, HATLO or LALO. Complete WOEs for me but I can work out the letters with a little help from the crosses. The vowel/consonant patterns alone help narrow the field. Now consider RUN/DMC. If you don't know them how is one supposed to come up with the D or the M or the C? It is not a hatred of rap or a lack of knowing history that make rappers poor cross fill, it is the alphabetic randomness of their names. They are somewhere below RRN Pontiffs and alphabet letter strings on the list of bad fill.

Not my cuppa. Even the "modern" stuff is dated (BAUD, CRT, IM'ED). Going out now to yell FEHR FARFEL.

**If you think I'm being serious you are taking the commentariat far too seriously.

jburgs 3:48 PM  

@Mike the Wino:
I had the same problem you had with the apostrophes being replaced by "&apos" and it was a long time before I figured this out and realized that it had nothing to do with the puzzle theme. I always have to print out the acrosslite version and have never had this occur before.

Z 3:58 PM  

BTW - Next time Mr. Cruise is used as a misdirect for a movie I'm hoping the answer will be MIIII (Mission Impossible 3). Or maybe even something with the year it was released, MIIIIMMVI. or maybe be really audacious and include a RRN of the actual release date, MIIIIVVMMVI. This would be a vast improvement over yesterday's and today's answers.

Stanzi 3:58 PM  

Rhett did not reside at Tara, as the Yankees had been there, and curtains were gone by that time.

Canola is not a seed, although it is an oil. The name comes from a combination of Canada and Oil (sounds like Mazola, but not made from Cans). It's made from RAPESEED, so you can see the need to find a name that belongs on supermarket shelves. I'm not bad on kitchen matters, so farfel was a piece of cake.

Jeff 4:09 PM  

Never said Barany needs to leave. Just pointing out that it's a douchey move to regularly hijack another site to post self-promoting content. Based on the subpar content of his site, he must not be very self-aware, so I feel it's helpful for him to understand that some folks don't appreciate his offerings or his method of promoting his offerings. And I've been skipping over his stuff for over a year now, and only now was I compelled to post about it. Doubtless I'm not alone.

chefbea 4:12 PM  

I get a trivia question every day delivered to my in box. Today's question was... "what movie is the line Show me the money from?"

Small world

JFC 4:12 PM  

What is even more amazing is if you go to Wordplay and enter apps; as a comment, it appears as a '.

r.alphbunker 4:13 PM  

@Z

I am trying to be a good citizen here. I have spent a lot of time developing a program that animates my solution as I solve the puzzle. I will try to restrict my posts to a brief line or two and a link to the animation.

The criticism leveled at @George Barany is totally unfair. His open arms policy is good for crosswords and we should extend him the same courtesy here.

Fred Romagnolo 4:37 PM  

Born in 1931; loved the puzzle. @AliasZ: your second paragraph was brilliant; we could use more irony like that. Technically, since Scarlett married Rhett, by the laws at that time: He, not She, is the legal owner of TARA, so it is His quarters. SORRY WRONG NUMBER was a good movie with Barbara Stanwyck; Agnes Moorehead created the role on radio brilliantly, but she wasn't nearly the box-office draw. I think it was the old "Suspense" series. To some of you, Maleska is a dirty name; that's too bad. Earlier generations of crossword solvers were a somwewhat more sedate crowd. Try to respect their gentility. You can still listen to rappers spout filth in the privacy of your own home. Unless you're like the ones who have invested in thousands of dollars worth of car radios and insist on the whole world having to listen to it.

Sheila Bell 4:50 PM  

Just because you don't connect with the clue doesn't mean you're old or dated. Shakespeare died a long time ago but one blogger complained about Hatlo being old clue (he only died 50 yrs.ago!)

Leapfinger 4:53 PM  

@r.alph, NOONOO was a Teletubby? That's NOOs to me!

@CascoK, I think 'shear misery' is just fine: the best thing you can do with misery is cut it short. BTW, I also miss M&A and the UsUal suspects, Cletus and Clovis et alii. My keyboard is sadly almost entirely free of cinnamon bun crumbs.

@JFC, I'll trade those toothpicks for extra rashers of B.

@Zeke, I did not know that direct experience was a prerequisite. That seems to limit to one category of @JTHartley's compendium. Should I be NOTHnagled at emu, nyala and others that anoa only indirectly? Sure, we live in the present, but have little foundation without the past, little perspective if we don't consider the future. What future for xwps are you envisaging?

As often happens, the comments turn out more interesting than the main attraction. Some are ironic, some sarcastic...d'Ys is how it goes.
@Alias, your overture was very LALOesque, of a clarity almost LAL-eke. Something to be PRAHA'd of.

PS. I have plein de CAC-TUS in my garden. Some of it has long, nasty spines, some has tiny hairs that are barely visible but sure do irritate the skin. I like that image for some of the blog replies.

Let me know when you guys get rolling, and where I sign up.

Off to see what the RooMonster hath wrought.

Anonymous 5:11 PM  

This site has some very clever commenters and some very opinionated ones. Some major overlap in subsets.

Am waiting for an puzzle done entirely in RRNs, maybe starting small with a runt. How abaht it, Roo?

@Jeff, a 'douchey' move?? Didn't think we condom that kind of language around here.

wreck 5:13 PM  

It was kind of peaceful here the last couple of weeks - what happened?

Carola 5:28 PM  

Fall setting x Fault line: Depiction of the chain of blame in EDEN. Hildesheim Cathedral doors, ca. 1015.

Anonymous 5:29 PM  

(Full disclosure: I have several puzzles on George Barany's site )

Jeff, regardless of how you feel about George Barany promoting his site, if you bothered to look more closely, you'd see a wide variety of crosswords from lots of constructors... many of them regular NYT contributors. In other words, enough to suit any taste. Also, feel free to tell me why my puzzles on his site are "sub-USA Today" standard. I await your feedback.

-Martin Ashwood-Smith

sanfranman59 6:16 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 5:42, 6:01, 0.95, 24%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:38, 8:14, 1.05, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 8:00, 9:31, 0.84, 14%, Easy
Thu 21:27, 17:28, 1.23, 85%, Challenging
Fri 18:53, 20:33, 0.92, 36%, Easy-Medium
Sat no data
Sun 36:09, 27:38, 1.31, 94%, Challenging (10th highest ratio of 144 Sundays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:57, 3:55, 1.01, 52%, Medium
Tue 5:41, 5:21, 1.06, 67%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 5:21, 5:58, 0.90, 22%, Easy-Medium
Thu 12:49, 10:31, 1.22, 80%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 12:34, 13:48, 0.91, 29%, Easy-Medium
Sat no data
Sun 28:16, 20:26, 1.38, 90%, Challenging

Steve J 6:35 PM  

@Z: I've agreed with people in the past about a gripe with some pop-culture clues - especially with rap/hip-hop acts - being that the spellings are not inferable. I think it's a fair complaint. However, I read your post as implying that that's something unique to that category of clue, when it's not. HATLO looks fine phonetically after the fact, but as you're solving, if you don't know who that is, you have no idea which of any possible number of letters could go in any of those spots.

That applies to many classical names where, if you don't know them, you're just guessing at spellings, too. Shostakovich and the aforementioned Tchaikovsky aren't exactly well-aligned with English's schizophrenic spelling conventions. The way Dvorak is spelled in English (without some key diacriticals that are essential to correct Czech pronunciation) doesn't match the phonetics of the name. Etc.

They important thing is not the names themselves. If it's they're fairly crossed, and if they're well-balanced in a puzzle. An abundance of references to any one genre or subject, or any one era, in a broad-audience puzzle such as the NYT is a flaw in construction. Having a mix thereof is not.

In the end, the carping about obscurity or proper names ultimately strikes me - from all quarters - as people wanting puzzles to be in their wheelhouses and not to be confronted with stuff they don't know. There's a legit gripe to be had when you have uninferable crossed with uninferable, or a puzzle that has an undue proportion of things that are too narrowly focused. And no category has a monopoly on uninferability. Including pop culture and rap.

(Shifting from responding to Z, to a broader rant ...)

Since we seem to have this debate at least once a week now, it would be wonderful if people would acknowledge there are things they don't know so well, but they're going to continue to be in puzzles whether each individual has an interest in learning those things or not. I'm not going to learn more about opera than the little bit I already know; I know opera will always be in the puzzle regardless of that, and I just have to suck it up and accept that that's the case. Others need to realize that no matter how much it doesn't interest them, pop culture and modern things are going to show up in puzzles, and they too need to suck it up and accept that that's the case.

And it would really be dandy if we could all do that without implying or stating that the stuff that doesn't personally interest us isn't of any value whatsoever.

Anyway, today's puzzle? I didn't like it. Found the theme uninteresting (what little joke there was, was over after one instance) and the fill unengaging. Eventual DNF on account of DNC.

Anonymous 7:59 PM  

I guess I'm old too. What's a Google?

RnRGhost57 8:03 PM  

@Carola: wonderful link to Eden's chain of blame art.

@Steve J: agree 100% with your broader rant. Not sure that OFL always writes his critiques accordingly, but if he starts to grate on me too much I always have the option of no longer reading his blog. It's unclear to me why a few people continue to read it day after day if it always amps their blood pressure to unsafe levels.

John Hoffman 8:30 PM  
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jae 8:49 PM  

@Steve J - Well said.

Were not today's classics at one time pop culture?

NCA President 9:49 PM  

Late to the party today, but Rex's review of this puzzle sums up exactly what I feel about David Steinberg puzzles. Exactly.

This puzzle didn't feel Steinbergian to me, and I certainly didn't anticipate this review to cover so much of what I've been screaming about with DS puzzles. Trivia. So much Trivia.

I had to Google a few names here to keep on track, but it wasn't an impossible puzzle.

Sorry to randomly drag DS into this, but @Rex's review might have been a review of one those puzzles.

Steve J 10:41 PM  

@jae: "Were not today's classics at one time pop culture?"

Exactly. Every era has its new things that previous generations dismiss as fleeting, superficial and low. Most of it, in fact, is. But some of it hangs on and later becomes classics. It'll happen to things from today, too, no matter how much people dismiss them. Just as it happened with artists who were dismissed as crude, offensive, scandalous and/or unimportant, like Sinatra, Stravnisky, Picasso, Manet and countless others.

WA 12:00 AM  

Rex, the etymology of the word Rex is early 1600's just when Maleska was hitting his prime.

And he would have never allowed Aleve or any brand name.

What's the problem with throwing the old dogs a bone? Arf. Arf. Yelp. Yap.

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

And speaking of GWTW, Rhett Butler never lived at Tara. That was Scarlett's family's place.

Anonymous 5:57 PM  

I agree completely with Rex's comments: if, like Rex, you think a crossword puzzle is a pop culture trivia contest, then this puzzle was not for you. If you want to exercise your brain with lateral thinking and deceptive clues, it was for you. I loved it! No Googling required, even the proper nouns that I didn't know just filled themselves in. Lots of clues that when I got the answer, I admired the clue that threw me off at first. No complaints at all. A true crossword puzzle!

ghkozen 10:26 PM  

I agree with everything except your comments about Samuel Eto'o. I'm not in any way a soccer fan, but even despite that I've heard enough about him that I think he'd be a gimme.

Otherwise I couldn't agree more. This was unquestionably the worst Sunday since November.

uncle john 6:26 PM  

OK, I'm late again but I feel a need to comment. I liked this puzzle and you can guess my age. Maleska would not allow abbr. when not clued as such either.
BLT had me stumped for quite a while until I decided to save half of my lunchtime sandwich (cold cuts w/ lettuce & tomato. It was falling apart while trying to put it in a plastic bag. Aha it needed a toothpick! That's the truth.

uncle john 6:33 PM  

One more thing; I didn't see any comments re 29D. Isn't Arizona a southern state?

Anonymous 11:33 PM  

still don't understand point of &apostrophe; stuff--if it had nothing to do with the puzzle, what WAS the point

Anonymous 11:33 PM  

still don't understand point of &apostrophe; stuff--if it had nothing to do with the puzzle, what WAS the point

Anonymous 2:52 PM  

@uncle john
I fell into the same trap thinking that Arizona is a southern state (and I hail from Texas). The true south would just be Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, etc. (states in the southeast). Even though Arizona is in the south, I think it would more appropriately be considered as in the southwest.

Anonymous 6:14 PM  

Great rant and commentary. Puzzle was a DNF for me. First in a long while. I never google until I have thrown in the towel. Can someone *help* me by explaining why "I'll get it" is a "Help line"? Because it seems a helpful thing to say? That's lame. I would have preferred the answer "Oh, why don't you chop it off, Ringo?" but that would have had to be "HELP line."
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059260/quotes

Kevin 1:39 PM  

I consider myself avery good crossword puzzle solver, usually getting the Sunday NYT in 50 min. or so. I couldn't find an inroads into this for over a half hour. I guessed at "take my wife..." and got a good start I thought, but then I had to go to the internet. About two hrs. doing it that way. Not exactly a fun time.

ecanarensis 1:53 PM  

weeks behind as usual from the hinterlands, but I gotta agree w/Rex. Miserable Sunday, despite having read extensively on WWII, Thurber, & things 30s & 40s.
Al Hirschfeld; who he (to quote Harold Ross). Born 1903, sez Wikipedia, almost the century before last. I recall seeing his caricatures in old stories about older New Yorkers, but dunno nothin' bout no NINAS.

Well, gotta go put on my corset & draw a line up the backs of my legs, hop the trolley down to the canteen for a soda pop rickey, maybe dance with some fellows in spats and zoot suits, or something.

spacecraft 3:36 PM  

DNF. Worked on it all morning and simply am not willing to devote any more time to it. Got about the bottom half done, and was stalled in no fewer than six different places trying to go north. I'm not saying I couldn't eventually get it, but it just became too time-intensive. I have stuff to do today!

I guess I can't grade it today; I'd have to give myself an incomplete on this one.

5391 works out to 9; it's an ill wind, etc.

r 4:06 PM  

I attacked this one in between two trips to the airport taking first, girlfriend, and then son. Thus, I decided to stay the course, and I did, finishing with a DNF in the CARATS/RACE/TROCHE section, which I see now I should have got.

I liked this better than some solvers, and thought the theme was well-executed. I don't mind the older stuff, nor pop culture, though rap artists sometimes defeat me. I gather this guy Maleska was a previous editor of the NYT crossword. Since I never experienced his work, I can't comment. I think Shortz does a good job, though.

Didn't enjoy OFL's rant. But, @Rex, it's not you, it's me.

9265. Junk, I believe, but if I was dealt this hand one card at a time, I would've stopped after the first one.

Dirigonzo 4:49 PM  

I wrestled it into submission after what seemed like a little longer than usual time. Yes, there were a lot of old-timey names I didn't know but as usually happens the xwords came to the rescue. Looking back over my completed grid (the parts I can read, anyway) I don't see any squares that required a flat-out guess, although a couple were somewhat "shaky" in terms of certainty.

Today's Premier Crossword by Frank Longo had the clue "Convertible carriage used to transport popes?" with the answer THE HOLY LANDAU.

17360 - looks like spacy is going to take home the prize again.

Anonymous 5:43 PM  

Bleh! agree, very dated and very specific. gave up about half way thru...... and I'm 60.

16 proper names/geographic locations across in 121 clues; better on the down with only 6. but if you need those crosses, as someone said here a few weeks ago, you either know the person or you don't.

Anonymous 7:49 PM  

A good Sunday, perfectly ruined!
Not even a 4th cup of brew could save me! Had to give up, and am now suffering word rage, dammit!

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

Tough puzzle for this old guy. While I generally don't try to analyze puzzles, and just try to solve them,I have to agree with Rex about this one. Not fun at all.

Anonymous 10:20 AM  

Dear Rex, Shame on you for alienating, and worse, minimalizing a group of people who not only know the new stuff but the stuff, too.

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

just posted, and should have said "the old stuff, too."

Anonymous 10:27 AM  

Just posted and should have said "the old stuff, too."

Bob Kerfuffle 5:53 PM  

Something of a relief to see that I was not the only one who struggled with this!

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