Drama critic John of New Yorker / SUN 9-21-14 / Glam band with six #1 hits in Britain / Late disc jockey Casey / Posthumous John Donne poem / pioneering song by Sugarhill Gang / Old track holders / Dog for gentleman detective / Germinal novelist

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Constructor: Michael Ashley

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Nascar Rocks!" — "Rock" songs that have been subjected to racing-related puns:

Theme answers:
  • WON'T GET FUELED AGAIN (27A: "Hey, what did you think when you missed that last pit stop?" [The Who, 1971])
  • I KISSED A GRILLE (42A: "Did you do anything for luck before today's race?" [Katy Perry, 2008])
  • MOVES LIKE JAGUAR (65A: "How did that new car handle out there on the track?" [Maroon 5, 2011])
  • BRAKE ON THROUGH (93A: "What did you try to do after the caution flag came out?" [The Doors, 1967])
  • LIVIN' LA VEHICLE LOCA (109A: "Are you enjoying your time out on the Nascar circuit?" [Ricky Martin, 1999])

Word of the Day: John LAHR (19A: Drama critic John of The New Yorker) —
John Henry Lahr (born July 12, 1941) is an American theater critic, and the son of actor Bert Lahr. Since 1992, he has been the senior drama critic at The New Yorker magazine. (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle had its work cut out for it with me, as few things interest me less than "Nascar." Hunting, Dr. Who, "The Bachelor" … these are also possible Sunday theme topics that would hold no interest for me. But today, Nascar. [Deep breath]. OK, let's do this. And … they're off? Is that right? Or is that horse racing? Start your engines!?

So here's the thing. Well, several things. First, puns. Always an uphill battle there. There *is* a pun sweet spot that I do believe exists, somewhere between "obvious/corny" and "ridiculous/nonsensical," but it's so hard to hit. Today's were a mixed bag, with the first three arguably successful, the fourth way too spot-on to be interesting, and the fourth a total train (or today, car) wreck. "Vida" and VEHICLE sound nothing alike, the resulting phrase makes no sense on any level, etc. Total fail. You're supposed to end with your strongest themer. Maybe there's a subtlety to the theme that I'm missing—like, you know how people (allegedly) watch Nascar because they *want* to see crashes!? Maybe this last answer is so terrible because it's trying to give the people what they want: flames; wreckage; car-nage. It's a theory.

And what's up with there being only five themers!? That's absurd. I've seen (many) daily puzzles with more theme answers. You'd think we'd at least get a fascinating, zippy grid as some kind of payoff for the super-low theme answer count, but no. The fill is probably a bit below par, overall, with some notable exceptions in the longer fill: "THE FLEA" (one of the most brilliant poems ever written, I teach it next month, etc etc, though the "posthumous" part is weird—all of Donne's poems appeared in print only after his death, but circulated relatively widely in manuscripts before that … so "posthumous" is correct only where *print* is concerned, and gives a false impression about the poem's public life and popularity during Donne's lifetime … is what I'm saying) … where was I? Oh right, good long stuff: "RAPPER'S Delight …

 DOGGEREL, and the symmetrical, improbable double feature of "ANIMAL HOUSE" and "CITIZEN KANE." Mostly, though, it's EHS and ERS and NEEDER (!?) and on and on with less-than-great stuff. Also, SCOUT MOTTO is a clue, not an answer. I don't even know what WAGNERIANS are? Fans of Wagner are called that?? I'd've gone with "Wag hags" or something at least slightly catchy. Anyway, the theme has some charm, but is less than expertly executed, and inexplicably slight. Fill is so-so at best. I will give the theme credit, however, for having a wide range of "rock" songs, including a couple from this century. Often, with pop culture, constructors tend to favor their own comfort zones. So hurray for breadth (even if that does mean that I'm kind of half-way hurraying for Katy Perry).

Puzzle of the Week this week is a meta puzzle contest puzzle by Neville Fogarty—the guest constructor this week at Matt Gaffney's Weekly Crossword Contest. You should go do it. Still plenty of time to enter. The grid is nicely made, but it's the meta part of the puzzle that's truly impressive, at least to me. It's quite a toughie, though, I should warn you. Many people I know are still struggling to figure it out. This is not uncommon with MGWCC—sometimes the metas are a walk in the park, and other times, less walk more crawl, less park more tundra. Still, if you manage to get the meta, I promise you'll have a nice "aha" moment (as well as a pretty sizable feeling of accomplishment).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:07 AM  

Medium for me.  Aside from a few spelling issues my only erasure was stool before LEDGE.  Knowing all the songs was helpful.

Thought the theme was pretty amusing which offset stuff like NEEDER, IKONS, ERS, EHS, ENESCu with an O, and the assorted crosswordese. 

XKE crossing the JAGUAR answer was kinda neat.

Mostly liked it.

Steve J 12:17 AM  

This was very 55D.

Actually, 55D might be giving it more credit than it deserved. The puns didn't even rise to the level of getting me thinking about how much I don't like puns (except for 109A; agreed that it's awful, and not in a groany way). They were just flat.

As was the rest of the fill. It all had a pretty STAGNANT feel. Nothing that was lively or interesting, outside DOGGEREL. Very nice word.

I'll give the puzzle credit for one thing: Its dullness perfectly matched the dullness of watching Nascar drivers turn left, turn left, turn left, turn left, turn left, turn left and then turn left for two and a half hours.

Anonymous 12:18 AM  

The pairing of Oklahoma City - Dallas and Oklahoma - Texas was kind of interesting. Agree with Rex that "la vehicle loca" was a total dud.
I've been doing the NYT puzzle for about 20 years, and lately don't find them as entertaining as I used to. Today's was no exception. I'm going to go back and do some from the archives and see if it's me that's different or the puzzles or both.

Joseph Welling 1:10 AM  

I thought all the themes were pretty lame, but "la vehicle loca" and "grille" were the worst.

ON TILT does not mean "suffer a losing streak." Being on tilt might lead to a losing streak, but a person can be on a losing streak without being on tilt. On tilt usually means to play angry (or otherwise emotionally or irrationally). I've seen people on tilt win despite the horrible play.

Ghost of Andy Rooney 1:42 AM  

I've been blog dormant for a long while, but having wasted a perfectly good hour or so on yet another unamusing Sunday challenge is finally getting to me. First off lots of people like me are clueless when it comes to song lyrics and titles. Have never been able to decipher the words while listening. This mess might have played out well in Billboad, but not here.

The puzzles have gone downhill in a Shortz time. Many later in the week puzzles lack coherence. Often I visualize the puzzler sitting there with the grid, looking desperately through a puzzle word compendium for fill to support the theme.

A return to the Maleska style, at least in part, would be a welcome compromise. Perhaps one week a month without reference to the likes of Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and the performers of Rapper's Delight (my only lookup) could become a reality. Perhaps a no David Steinberg week per month could be added as a sweetener

chefwen 2:57 AM  

Don't listen to a lot of music and have no retention of song names. The only one I didn't struggle with was I KISSED A GRILLE as that Katy Perry song smacked you I the face every time you turned around. Every other title was a struggle. Time consuming and not much fun for MOI.

New week coming up.

paulsfo 4:54 AM  

Hardest for me in a long time though, once I see the answers, I'm not sure why I was so stuck in so many places.

BTW, in case anyone (like me) didn't know one of the original song titles, here they all are:

"Won't Get Fooled Again"
"I Kissed a Girl"
"Moves Like Jagger"
"Break On Through (to the other side)"
"Living La Vida Loca"

And in case anyone (again, like me) couldn't understand the answer to 62A, I looked it up: "GHI are the letters on the number 4 on your phone's keypad."

Loved the clue "Words of retreat".

My favorite Donne poem, for your pleasure:

Thou hast made me, and shall thy work decay?
Repair me now, for now mine end doth haste,
I run to death, and death meets me as fast,
And all my pleasures are like yesterday;
I dare not move my dim eyes any way,
Despair behind, and death before doth cast
Such terror, and my feebled flesh doth waste
By sin in it, which it towards hell doth weigh.
Only thou art above, and when towards thee
By thy leave I can look, I rise again;
But our old subtle foe so tempteth me,
That not one hour I can myself sustain;
Thy grace may wing me to prevent his art,
And thou like adamant draw mine iron heart.

The third and fourth lines brilliantly capture... Well, capture something not good. :)

John Child 5:07 AM  

Crosswordese helped me today because three of the themers were hard to figure. Lots of ESE today. Just in the top tier: AERO, ALOE, ARAL, ONAGER, AYE, ELO, and ENOL.

XKE (sort of) crossing JAGUAR was sweet. CAST A SPELL and MINISTER TO took me a while to parse and were fun to uncover. RILING and NEEDER get my vote for ugliest pair.

I enjoyed this more than many Sundays. Thanks Mr Ashley.

Moly Shu 5:12 AM  

Knew all the theme songs, RAPPERS delight (I probably still know all the words), and am a NASCAR fan. The puzzle was still I big mess. Throw in some poems and authors I'm not interested in, and it added up to a giant slog. Which reminds me, down here in south Fla. we've got these giant slugs that somehow eat concrete. Evidently, they are ruining quite a few homes. They look pretty cool though, in a sluggy way.

Oh, and agree with @JosephWelling 100%. Being ONTILT is not the same as a losing streak. I've been ONTILT many times, usually after a losing streak. Some days, I wake up ONTILT.

mathguy 6:13 AM  

Sorry to pile on, but I agree with all the slams above.

I enjoyed the nostalgia of seeing ILONA again. She appeared often when I started doing this puzzle. A Hungarian actress born in 1910 of no real distinction except a vowel-rich name.

Cluing was ultra bland except for SEVEN being 14 times ONEHALF.

chefbea 7:53 AM  

Don't follow nascar and didn't know the rock songs...except for Livin La vida Loca. Had a tough time and DVF

Did not like the puzzle - not fun.

charlesr55 8:04 AM  

4 Letters = GHI?

Anonymous 8:12 AM  


Same question - what are we missing on this one? (62 Across)

Anonymous 8:12 AM  


Same question - what are we missing on this one? (62 Across)

Susan McConnell 8:14 AM  

I panicked when I saw Nascar, but it ended up not being so bad. I really wasn't aware of too much dreck while solving. Thankfully I have Rex to point all of it out after the fact. Once I got the theme it came together pretty easily and I found it pleasant enough.

That's the thing about the crossword...you don't know if you are going to enjoy it until after the fact, so you risk spending your time on something that could end up being a dud.

Glimmerglass 8:35 AM  

Is there a NYT policy that ALE must appear in at least half of every week's puzzles?

Anonymous 8:41 AM  

The theme was ok, but most of the fill was terrible.

My biggest problem is that a constructor can't change the spelling of names just to fit the fill. As a musician, I got EnescU right away, and then saw Ming YaO. WTF?

Anonymous 8:44 AM  

to z: Saturday's blog exposes you for who you really are- a self-admired know-it-all who daily strives to be clever. Why can't you admit you are wrong on the SNL thing? Plus you're over the limit.

Elephant's Child 8:45 AM  

@Charles55/ Anon

On your telephone: 4 = GHI

F.O.G. 8:54 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
RAD2626 8:54 AM  

Very disappointing DNF on TI_ANA/O_EL. My geography in that neck of the woods is apparently quite bad. Had difficult time in NE as well. Thought themes were actually cute and all pretty common hit songs although agree with Rex et. al. that final pun is lame and not really a pun at all.

Took a Donne/Yeats seminar as a humanities distributive requirement my freshman year in college. While sadly almost fifty years ago, remember more from that terrific course than any other class I took in college or law school. Great pairing.

F.O.G. 9:06 AM  

Didn't know two of the songs (not a fan of Katy Perry or Maroon 5), but was able to solve with the Down fill.

"Unacceptable to polite society" is "NOTDONE"? Would have preferred "Too rare."

After solving went to Google Maps and sure enough -- "Okla. City-to-Dallas direction" is indeed "SSE" and not "SSW" as I had originally thought.

Carola 9:16 AM  

After scanning the theme clues and seeing that I had no clue about any of the songs, I decided to tackle the puzzle via the Downs and then go back and piece together the Acrosses. Worked out fine except for a wrong guess at MUNoZ, which left me LoVIN' instead of LIVIN'.

I liked DOGGEREL sharing the grid with John Donne but thought the puzzle overdosed on "-ERs": the EMAILER, INKER, NEEDER, and XER along with the STEAMER, RAPPERS and MEYERS.

@paulsfo - Thank you for the titles and the poem.

Gil 9:21 AM  

Good lord. Doesn't anybody else mind that there is an actual ERROR in this puzzle?! The Romanian composer is named ENESCU not ENESCO. WTF???

AliasZ 9:23 AM  

Redneck, meet rocker (no offense).

Not my cuppa, this. I onestly OPED for a better Sunday. A few entries however did manage to rescue it from the jaws of disaster:

ILONA Massey
ZOLA's "Germinal"
WAGNERIANS - "Wagner's music is better than it sounds." - Mark Twain (not related to LIONEL Twain)
THE FLEA by John Donne
and a few others.

Many entries however dragged it down even deeper into the abyss:

DILATOR (or live longer)
31 threes
and a few others.

I have grown tired of ARGUING how many different ways ENESCO, without referring to it as "limited to France", is incorrect. I would have preferred UNESCO in its place. Did the actual name of ENESCU ever appear in a NYT crossword?

Au reservoir.

Andrew Morrison 9:23 AM  

A obvious Who song paired with an obvious pun opportunity set me on the right path immediately. Though I'd have trouble with Katy Perry but I must have absorbed that song title through osmosis. Definitely some sub-par fill (I'm looking at you, NEEDER!) but still a pleasant Sunday morning.

NCA President 9:38 AM  

Yesterday it was "oarers." Today, "NEEDERS." Call me an ugher, but adding -ER to words to make new words ranks up there with random roman numerals or rapper names. Stop it. Just stop.

WAGNERIAN is a legit adjective that refers to the kind of singer that can sing Wagner. Wagnerian sopranos are typically heavier than the more lyric sopranos who sing Mozart. Opera can be a bit unfair in that regard...you can be severely limited by your instrument.

I'm with Rex in that NASCAR is, for me, in another world of caring. I live in a place where the number 3 is prominently displayed in the back of nearly every duallie pick up truck. Making left hand turns for over 3 hours is weird sport to me. IMO, the only kind of racing that makes any sense is Formula-1, because they at least race through actual streets with turns both right and left and with varying angles.

Puzzle was normal for a Sunday. No googles. OREL was the last to fall. Originally had Kiev (because my general Russian geography is terrible), then got the O and changed it all to OMSK (because my general Russian geography is determined by my knowledge of crossword puzzle cities). Then got O-EL and guess on the R. Never heard of TIRIANA.

Leapfinger 9:41 AM  

That's funny, a HEAP of this puzzle didn't look NEWISH.

Not really. I did like the coping SAWS, the OMish words of retreat, the dial-up GHI, and the SEVEN and ONE-HALF/ SCENT solution wasn't CLOYing.

The theme? Shall just say I liked the memory-jog from WONT GET FUELED AGAIN, even more from BRAKE ON THROUGH. The worst thing is, around this neck of the woods, you're likely to hear LIVIN LA vee-HICK-le LOCA...EKE!

I probably wasn't alone with TOAFLEA, and also had SLIDE preSLADE. Was hopeful @72D, but it's NEEDER here nor there to keep ARGUING over ENESCU; can we maybe compromise with ENESCOO?

For reasons severed by two divorces (neither of them mine), I once went to a stock-car race. The noise, even with ear-plugs, was enough to burst the average skull, and ONEHALF of the spectators were ALE-filled to the clavicles. My immune system kicked right in, and I haven't suffered a relapse since. It's kind of like watching golf, except a *HEAP* louder.

Compare and contrast:
Emile ZOLA - ZOLA Neale Hurston
the MIDI - the LIDO

Now I'm going to have a SMOKY IDYLL, light up a TIRANA, and enjoy some of @paulsfo's fine VERS. Better Donne than NOT DONE.

A fine Sunday to all.

noreen 9:44 AM  

I am not interested in Nascar and I am hopelessly out of date on rock songs! However, I slogged through and got all correctly with help of crosses.Still, nothing made me smile which I usually do on a Sunday puzzle.

NCA President 9:45 AM  

@Gil: ENESCO/U has been debated here before. Turns out there are many ways to spell his name. Which is not all that unusual...I've seen Tchaikovsky spelled lots of ways: either an "i" at the end, or a "w" in place of the "v."

I'm guessing it a lot to do with what language you spell it in...?

Carole Shmurak 10:10 AM  

Why is ONEG (a blood type) " normal for NASA"?

Charles Flaster 10:11 AM  

DNF. Agreed wholeheartedly with Rex(unusual).
Learned RESECT.
Make sure u know your NOH.
Thanks MA.

JenCT 10:19 AM  

Sorry, Nascar fans; racing just seems to be a terrible waste of resources.

I thought the puzzle was cute, but agree w/Rex on the theme answers not all adding up.

Know what NASCAR stands for?



billocohoes 10:23 AM  

Carole Shmurak
ONEG = One G (earth's gravity)

quilter1 10:34 AM  

Like others I saw NASCAR and wondered if I even had a chance. But I finished. Did not know any of the songs but got them anyway. I mostly listen to the classical station. Loved the Donne reference as he is a favorite. He has the coolest and most amazing tomb. I wish he could have seen it.

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

Bland, uninteresting theme, annoying contemporary pop references, irritating crosswordese, puns on a grade-school level, faulty cluing: this puzzle had it all.

John Child 10:39 AM  

@carole, try one G! One gravity.

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

Somebody help me here. Words of retreat = oms? Is om a variaion of um? Or does it stand for something? Oh my, on me, oh maybe? What?

Elephant's Child 10:43 AM  


Goethe say that's the faust time I've heard THE FLEA Donne that way!

"It is to laugh"

Arlene 10:45 AM  

I felt like a spectator here - pop songs are not my thing, and to make puns about them is stretching things even further. So I made this a research project, filling in what I could.

As for Nascar - did you ever actually go to an event? The least fun part is the actual race (boring and loud) - but the food and vendors is quite entertaining! Everyone should do it at least once - like any life experience.

And, yes - I did it once.

Horace S. Patoot 10:46 AM  

ONAGER crossing REAR END. Yuk, yuk.

JP 10:47 AM  

@Carole Shmurak. One g is the acceleration due to gravity on the earth's surface.

Anonymous 10:47 AM  

The first four themers were really cute and worked well in this puzzle- funniest being MOVES LIKE JAGUAR.

But agree with @Rex that the last one is a fail- VIDA = VEHICLE somehow? NOH!!

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

Hated everything about this puzzle. No interest in NASCAR. Not a fan of many of the featured performers. So-so puns. Obscure fill. Not a fun one to do.

mitchs 11:02 AM  

Rex was touting Karen Tracy the other day. There's a nice puzzle of hers over at the Post Puzzler.

Anonymous 11:03 AM  

@anonymous 10:42: "om" is said as a mantra in Buddhist retreats, as they contemplate. At least in a stereotyped view of Buddhism - never been to one so don't know for sure.

Maruchka 11:07 AM  

Well, shame on me for not knowing more about NASCAR nor ROCKS. Did intuit most, tho. Liked FUELED AGAIN and the XKE/JAGUAR cross, not liked (everyone?) LA VEHICLE LOCA. Didn't mind SCOUT MOTTO, works as an answer, nor GRILLE (a hee-hee for the visual). BRAKE ON THROUGH not quite spot-on. Or is it Nascar-ese..

4 googles, 1 do-over, ho-hum.

Fav of the day - DOCILITY. Rhymes with futility.. sorta.

@paulsfo - Teared up, his lines are killers. Did you happen to see 'W;t', Margaret Edson's lovely play about Donne's punctuation, academia, dying, and love? It was also made into a film BUT - they did not cast the original and amazing Kathleen Chalfant in the lead. We LOVE her in NYC!

VROOM on to next Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

Elephant's Child 11:18 AM  

ILONA Massey with Harpo Marx, as a femme fatale, she was the model for Steve Canyon's comic strip dangerous ladies.

Norm 11:22 AM  

I liked this one. The puns made me smile. Would have liked more of them. Can't agree with Rex's criticism of LIVINLAVEHICLELOCA. I solved this one in a rather meandering way, and that was actually the first one I got. Seemed perfectly acceptable as a pun, which doesn't have to be an exact sound match.

Carole Shmurak 11:35 AM  

Thanks @JP and @John Child! Never thought to read it as One G. Too many medical dramas on TV, I guess.

OISK 11:37 AM  

I think Ilona Massey was in "The Balalaika" with Nelson Eddy. The Enesco-Enescu argument has occurred here before! My old vinyl recording of the two Rhapsodies has "Enesco," although Enescu seems to be preferred by those more familiar with Romanian (Rumanian?) names. Made it my business at one time to learn all the World capitals (there were fewer countries then…) so Tirana was no problem. What is "Trane"? If I called this puzzle a "trane wreck" that would make sense...
Since I don't know any of the songs that were being punned, although I have heard the phrase "La Via Loca" or something like that, this was little fun for me. Also never heard of Frankie Muniz, The Sugerhill gang, or Slade, if you are going to construct a rock-based theme puzzle, you should omit rock trivia from the rest of the fill. Amazed that I managed to finish this one, but "@Ghost of Andy Rooney" is on my wave length. Disliked this one a lot.

Z 11:43 AM  

The puzzle doesn't actually require any NASCAR knowledge, which would be pretty far out of knowledge base except for one or two names, so that helped. The songs are all pretty familiar after the fact, but Won't get Fooled Again was the only one that I got easily. Hence, a slog. Also, lots of learned from crosswords today, TIRANA, ENESCO(u), OREL, ASTA (learned so long ago that it is easy to forget that I only know this dog from doing puzzles), ENOL. Hand up for shaking my head as I finished writing NEEDERS.

I think Sundays are the hardest day of the week to do a puzzle that will get high marks from frequent solvers. That is my impression for this year at least.

@anonyhater - I have a solution for you. When you see that "Z" at the top of the comment just skip the comment. Why anyone bothers with reading a self admiring know-it-all is beyond me.

LHS 888 11:50 AM  

DNF for me, although I was close. I couldn't see MINISTERTO at all. TIRANA = Natick and ILaNA vs. ILONA.

Hand up for loving SEVEN = 14 x ONEHALF
Hand up for really disliking NEEDER. Kept wanting NEEDy, but VEyS made no sense.

A challenge for me with very few aha moments to make it enjoyable.

Anonymous 11:59 AM  

A Wagner enthusiast is called a "Wagnerite". A Wagnerian is someone who sings Wagner.

Carola 12:09 PM  

@Elephant's Child - Awesome clip, thanks.

Mohair Sam 12:25 PM  

@Carola - Had your experience exactly, right down to the natick on the "O" for "I" in MUNIZ. Otherwise we were able to complete the grid. Did not recognize any of the song titles (nor the group Maroon 5) although the Katy Perry song rang a bell after it filled.

Don't understand why anyone complains about WAGNERIAN, we got it off the W and thought it made perfect sense - clever clue (and we're not serious opera buffs).

Agree with Rex and many that the last pun (109A) was terrible.

One of the few NYT puzzles we couldn't find a way to appreciate or enjoy. Felt like a homework assignment.

jberg 12:37 PM  

Got to the puzzle late, attempting unsuccessfully to bike the 30-mile loop in "Hub on Wheels." Now somewhat recovered, and have to say I kinda liked vida/VEHICLE. You just have to say it fast; only I didn't know the song, nor that Frankie person, so I went with Munoz/lovin' (the first like the old Governor of Puerto Rico).

As for the SCOUT MOTTO, somebody has to post this song, so here it is.

Anonymous 12:56 PM  

I kind of object to "Normal for NASA" as a clue for ONE G. Most of what NASA does involves putting things in orbit, or into the far reaches of the solar system. I'd say normal for NASA is more like Zero Gs.

RooMonster 1:12 PM  

Hey All!
Crazy real life keeps getting in the way of me doing the puz! At work today, hence. I do have the S all filled, the N is giving me some trouble. Thw Katy Perry song doesn't help, as I think I've only heard one of her songs, that annoying one where she just sings (?) on and on and on... Don't know any of her song titles.

So, going to keep on keeping on, and finish!


wreck 1:22 PM  

It wasn't particularly difficult, just irritatingly boring and a slog.
I'm with the naysayers on this one.

LHS 888 1:58 PM  

2nd try to leave a comment today...

DNF because of mid southwest. I couldn't see MINISTERTO and TIRIANA = Natick for me.
Hand up for disliking NEEDER.
Hand also up for liking SEVEN = 14 x ONEHALF
In the end there were too few aha moments to make this puzzle really enjoyable.

Andrew Heinegg 2:03 PM  

This puzzle should be no. 1 on the meh list for next Sunday's NYT magazine. I like puns but only if they are real groaners. Otherwise, what is the point?

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

Re: 65-A. Do Jaguars race in NASCAR?

paulsfo 2:49 PM  

@Maruchka : thanks, I see that Wit is on netflix, so i'll get it.

Z 2:50 PM  

@Anon2:40 - I don't know but the answer is MOVES LIKE JAGUAR so I think it's okay.

Masked and Anonymo5Us 3:56 PM  

Don't know much about NASCAR. Or current pop music. Ergofore, it was real nice for m&e that there were only five themers to piece together. Number of U's = number of themers = :(, tho.

Only 136 words and slightly larger than average word sizes. Always makes it harder to get toeholds, here and there -- which I tend to enjoy. Also cuts down on the eligible weejects for one to love. YAO, NOH, EDA!

fave helpings of superb desperation:
* XOXO and YOYO in the bottom corners. If only we had a JOJO and KOKO. And if only QOQO and ZOZO were any kind of fair game. Wow-o.
* NEEDER. Well snarked on by @63. I'd award it at least ONE G.
* IKONS. Always eat up them VARMints with a spoon.
* VERS and ERS. Let's toss in EHS, while we're here, gruntin.
* ENOL. Better clue: {Lone word to be returned??}
* ILONA. This pup also deserves a more rousin clue. Gotta make yer vowel-ly gibberish really sing. Somethin like: {Cool name for the gal at the Hertz counter?}

This puz had lots of fill that was fun to parse out...

All in all, many nice puzzling qualities. Plus, as an added bonus, NASCAR ROCKS anagrams into A CROSS CRANK. Rodeo. sUnpUzthUmbsUp.

Happy day of rest, to the rest of y'all.
"Runt-HOF Wannabe"

**gruntz lulupuzoolala**
(@r.alph needs to update the M&A list, tho)

Anonymous 4:16 PM  

Orly is the old Paris airport and is mainly short haul.I doubt an SST ever landed threre.

Z 4:33 PM  

@anon 4:16 - "once" is the escape hatch in that clue. According to Wikipedia one of the prototypes is on display at Orly. Shortz errs, but very rarely.

Anonymous 4:38 PM  

The Concorde did fly from Orly on at least a few occasions. See for instance this page.

Fred Romagnolo 5:30 PM  

@Mathguy: "no real distinction?" she acted with the Marx Bros, in a "Frankenstein" movie, with Nelson Eddy, Basil Rathbone; you do the (extremely beautiful) lady an injustice. Also she was Schubert's girl-friend in "New Wine" (altho a lot of people doubt that he ever had one), had Albert Basserman playing Beethoven. @anon8:49: stop name calling, especially a day later. Follow @z's advice and skip his comments. @Gil: you probably missed it, but the whole Enesco-u thing has been tirelessly thrashed out in this blog. To all: "ecole" for LYCEE dnf'ed for me , googling MEYERS cleared the path. I guessed at the song titles, none of which I knew, so I couldn't get GRILLE & JAGUAR, and didn't know TRANE. All because of "ecole." I also didn't know TANGO, so didn't get THROUGH. Again, generation gap. Thought it might be Tahoe, which would have been clever following Sierra.

Elephant's Child 5:43 PM  

@FredR, There's a clip of your beautiful lady at 11:18. Go enjo.

@Carola, glad you liked it. My Mom had a number of friends who were a lot like that, kind of Marlene Dietrich types, only with high-heeled cleats.

Martin 6:06 PM  


No, all references from the Maleska and Weng eras use ENESCO as well.

I know you're not convinced that ENESCO on his headstone helps, but Enescu spent so much of his life in Paris that "answering" to Georges Enesco was second nature.

He studied at the Paris Conservatory from age 13, and spent as much of his adult life in Paris as Bucharest. I'm sure you know he spent the entire Soviet period in Paris.

The Times isn't the only authority to use his French name, as you know. The 38 occurrences in NYT puzzles (with none using his Romanian name) may be vexing, but it's obviously done knowingly.

A. Roumanian 7:23 PM  


Is it safe to assume that Enescu did not himself carve the name on the tomb? That the name at the burial site in Paris was carved by someone else? Someone... French?

Joe Dipinto 7:30 PM  

As a pun, the last one would have worked marginally better-- and made more sense -- as DRIVIN' LA VEHICLE LOCA. (Except it changes two words in the song title instead of one, and doesn't fit letter-countwise.)

pmdm 7:33 PM  

Z; you are absolutely correct. This puzzle is not about NASCAR; it's about the generic activity of car racing. I would think that most who aren't interested in NASCAR have a similar disinterest in car racing, so it matters little.

By the way, given how ACME was hounded out of this forum by comments made by people who just should have ignored her comments, I doubt your advice will be followed.

Gil: I side with you. For composers whose name should be spelled with the Cyrillic alphabet (like Tchaikovsky) the spelling is just a phonetic transliteration (is that the word?) so you would expect the existence of multiple spellings. But in Enescu's case, I would prefer the original spelling. Insterestingly enough, some other classical composers changed their names after emigrating to other countries (no time to go into that).

For me, this puzzle was one of the worst I've come across. The only song I had a chance of knowing was the Door's song, so the puns meant absolutely nothing to me. And the number of proper nouns in the puzzle immediately put me off. (No time to count them, but I'd love to know how many there are.) Because of extra church services I had to attend this weekend, I knew I only had very limited time to solve the puzzle, and I knew I had no clue about the theme entries (except theDoor's song), and I knew I didn't know many of the proper nouns. So after a very short period of time, I had no choice but to start researching the answers. But I'm happy I has to do that: it saved me a lot of time working on a puzzle that I would have found dreadful. Nice to read in these comments that others appreciated it a bit more than I did.

Martin 7:37 PM  

@A Roumanian

Yes, his tombstone was presumably prepared by a Frenchman. You seem to be missing the point. Enescu has no English name. He has a French name and a Romanian name. The Times uses his French name.

Notsofast 7:58 PM  

Enough with the TIRANAs already.

Michael Stack 10:14 PM  

Au contraire, pmdm: lots of people love car racing (Formula 1, road courses of any kind, rally racing) and pooh pooh NASCAR as "the left-turn crowd." Lots. Like, everyone I know. But agreed that this has zero to do with NASCAR, and required exactly no knowledge of either NASCAR or car racing. Just a tolerance for utter tedium.

pmdm 11:28 PM  

Michael Stack: I only said that because all of the people I know who don't like NASCAR don't like car racing in general. Nice to learn that my experience fooled me into making an inaccurate assumption.

As it turns out, I visit Watkins Glen twice a year on a wine hunting expedition. (I guess that means when I'b driving there from NYC four weeks from now I will pass by, at at least be close to, the residence of the author of this site.) Of course, they do a bit of NASCAR racing there, so I've met very many car racing fans. I've never driven on the course (which you can do for I think $20, although at way too slow a speed), but I know a lot of people who have. And I have visited the course. And it does have some interesting right turns. So much for generalities.

Tita 12:12 AM  

Hi @Jen - nice to see you here! And I agree with you re: NASCAR. I don't consider driving fast to be a particularly interesting spectator sport. Now - *actually* driving fast, oh yes - I am a fan of that. Especially on the ESSES. Especially on the Autobahn, where a) it's allowed, and b) most people are really good at it.

I loved this puzzle, in spite of that weirdo "vehicle loca" thing.

Jaguar crossing XKE - say what you will about British engineering (Lucas, Prince of Darkness, and all that...), the XKE is one of the most beautiful cars ever designed.
I am also currently courting Jaguar as a prospective client, so will be delighted to ask them if they value the significance of this shout-out.

But mostly, it's because the central answer is a hit song from the kid I used to babysit for... And whose grandma introduced me to the NYT puzzles, and continues to do them every day.

Thanks Mr. Ashley.

Virginia 1:55 AM  

Um... I liked it! Enjoyed both the goofy puns and the mild earworms they induced. Thought the rest of the fill was just fine, except for the TIRANA/OPEL cross. Had to get that one from the resident crossword puzzle expert. At least I wasn't reduced to googling it.

Thanks to those who explained how GHI was the answer to "4 letters." I just could not figure that one out.

A. Roumanian 8:03 AM  


Rest assured that I don't comment with everything I have in mind, which makes it erroneous to think I missed that point. It's simply illogical to choose a conferred over an intrinsic name.

However, I recognize that no behaviors mor minds will be changed, so will not wax TIRANAcal over this, but will Bucharest for a while. Do Oradea right?

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

I didn't think it was possible for me to agree with Rex on any subject in this world (especially "Dr. Who."), but we're in agreement that this puzzles stinks. Total boring cluing, no "aha" moments. "Wagnerian" is certainly wrong as so many of you pointed out, although that's not too important since it was obvious what Ashley was getting at in his mistaken way. It's very interesting that this puzzle got panned by all segments of the demographic.

sanfranman59 4:57 PM  

Mon 6:03, 6:03, 1.00, 49%, Medium
Tue 7:06, 7:50, 0.91, 22%, Easy-Medium
Wed 8:54, 9:30, 0.94, 35%, Easy-Medium
Thu 14:54, 16:57, 0.88, 26%, Easy-Medium
Fri 17:00, 19:38, 0.87, 26%, Easy-Medium
Sat 19:03, 25:49, 0.74, 6%, Easy
Sun 27:31, 28:03, 0.98, 47%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:48, 3:57, 0.96, 24%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:50, 5:21, 0.90, 15%, Easy
Wed 6:01, 6:08, 0.98, 43%, Medium
Thu 9:31, 10:29, 0.92, 31%, Easy-Medium
Fri 10:49, 12:34, 0.86, 26%, Easy-Medium
Sat 12:55, 17:17, 0.75, 7%, Easy
Sun 20:46, 21:12, 0.98, 41%, Medium

Fred Smith 5:31 PM  

This was one of the least satisfying NYT Sunday puzzles ever for me.

I'm not at all into pop songs. Never heard of ANY of the songs, and only 2 of the performers. I suspect that a significant numbers are pretty much in the same place with me.

Hey, it's perfectly OK to include some "blind spots" in a puzzle. But to choose a theme where most or all of the entries are in the blind spot of a significant number of solvers is just poor, poor judgment by Shortz.

Nancy 8:47 PM  

I threw this against the wall two days ago, came back to it today, and found it just as difficult and irritating -- though as I look at it, I only have 11 letters unfilled, so I didn't do all THAT badly. There are no two things I know less about nor care less about than NASCAR and rock music. An awful combination -- and the puns were feeble as well. Haven't read the other comments yet, but I'm sure there will be many, many who hate this puzzle for the same reasons I did. Alas, no one will read this -- I'm posting much too late. Wouldn't have bothered to post at all, but I needed to say how much I hated this.

Anonymous 10:09 PM  

If ENESCO crossing OREL isn't NATICK-SQUARED then I don't live within ten miles of the real NATICK Massachusetts. Sorry folks, crossing two extremely obscure proper nouns is just plain hostile.

(And sorry for the abuse their town name takes to the fine folks of NATICK who are incredibly supportive at Mile 10 every Patriot's Day!)

Ed 2:58 PM  


rain forest 3:10 PM  

I hate NASCAR and Katy Perry, and don't know Maroon, but I'm one of the few who liked this puzzle, even the VEHICLE LOCA answer. I'm half Romanian (Roumanian, Rumanian, however the French spell it) and ENESCO is fine with me. Gosh, I'm easy to please, although NEEDER indicated the constructor was a little needy there.

I guess I'd call it 'medium', but it took me a while to finish. Nice to have The Who and The Doors in there. Ms. Perry, not so much.

426 NOT nice.

Dirigonzo 4:35 PM  

Who knew it was possible to make so many wrong turns on an oval race track? But still I managed to limp across the finish line well behind the rest of the pack, with help from The Who and The Doors - I've heard of the other songs so I managed to get them in with a lot of crosswords. I like @Rex's theory that the last one was the metaphoric "crash and burn" that seems to be the only allure of NASCAR races. My only "aha!" moment came at figuring out the cross-referenced clues for ONEHALF and SEVEN (97d - 94-Down x 14) - that had me scratching my head for a while.

493 - maybe good enough unless someone who's not ONTILT shows up.

Anonymous 6:20 PM  

Agreed. No NASCAR knowledge needed here. I was a big NASCAR fan for a long time, then NASCAR dumped its roots for the hip-and-cool crowd who found it a fad, and faded after a year or so. But, they lost this old timer in the process. But, I dirgress.......

I first thought they were trying to cross NASCAR cars/logos/etc. with songs, and I was a bit worried since I no longer really follow the sport, but but then it became apparent, it was just bad puns of songs.

I think I filled about half this puzzle before tossing it in the recycle bin and coming here to see what it was all about.

spacecraft 6:35 PM  

Drive fast, turn left, chew a straw--and wind up having gone 500 miles to...the place you started from. What a waste of fuel! Oh well, it is what it is.

Took one look at the puzzle's title and the clue for 27a, and immediately wrote in WONTGETFUELEDAGAIN. Some of the others weren't so familiar, so a straight "easy" is off the table. I agree that though gettable, 109a stinks up the joint. Vida to VEHICLE? Nah. NOTDONE.

I also agree that much of the fill is DOGGEREL (but not THAT fine word!), and that we might expect more from such a thin theme.

I'm also with @Joseph Welling that ONTILT does not necessarily mean a losing streak, though the tilt was doubtless instigated by a bad beat. What I like is that PHIL intersects it! [I'm lookin' at you, Hellmuth!]

Some mild fun, but let's go with a C+. 71/85 natick troubled me, too, but I correctly guessed the R.

9128, a couple laps too many.

Anonymous 9:40 PM  

On a phone

Carl 10:22 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carl 10:25 PM  

For 68 Down "Actress Massey," I came up with Edith Massey. I figure since Dame Edna was in the puzzle Edith Massey should be as well.

Bananafish 9:47 PM  

All the complaints in the comments, and noone panned the title using the word "rocks" for songs like Livin' La Vida Loca, Moves Like Jaguar and I Kissed a Girl?!? I guess it's up to me then, so ...

I object to the title. Greatly. Nascar Pops! would have been fine, but not Nascar Rocks!, not for that set of songs.

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