Chair designer Charles / WED 12-10-14 / Greek walkway / Taiwanese PC maker / Street performer in invisible box / Rocker Huey / Land bordering Lake Chad / Title for Tarquinius Superbus /

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Selenium Hinton — authors whose names start with two initials have those initials reimagined as symbols for elements of the periodic table:

Theme answers:
  • THORIUM WHITE (for T.H. White) (20A: "The Sword in the Stone" author, to a chemist?) (couldn't remember dude's name and had to *force* myself not to simply do a 180 and look on my shelf…) (also, this clue really really really should've been ["The Once and Future King" author, to a chemist?]—the "Sword in the Stone" is just one volume in "TOAFK," and is better known, title-wise, as a fairly cruddy animated movie) 
  • CESIUM FORESTER (for C.S. Forester) (34A: "The African Queen," author, to a chemist?) (yes, Lewis would've been better, but Lewis wouldn't have allowed for the all-important theme answer symmetry…)
  • PALLADIUM JAMES (for P.D. James, R.I.P.) (43A: "The Children of Men" author, to a  chemist?)
  • MERCURY WELLS (for H.G. Wells, lover of Margaret Sanger, about whom you can read at length in Jill Lepore's new (fabulous) book, "The Secret History of Wonder Woman") (58A: "The Island of Dr. Moreau" author, to a chemist?)
Word of the Day: Tarquinius Superbus (66D: Title for Tarquinius Superbus => REX) —
Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (died 495 BC) was the legendary seventh and final king of Rome, reigning from 535 BC until the popular uprising in 509 that led to the establishment of the Roman Republic. He is commonly known as Tarquin the Proud, from his cognomen Superbus, a Latin word meaning "proud, arrogant, lofty". (wikipedia) (not a single mention of the word "REX" in the whole wikipedia write-up …)
• • •

I laughed out loud at the very first clue I saw (1A: Rocker Huey), which is always a good sign. I mean, it's not ha-ha funny, but something about those two words next to each other got me.

More solid goodness from Mr. McCoy. There's a hell of a lot of luck here, but you gotta be paying attention to be lucky like this—there just aren't that many well-known authors who go by their first two initials, and whose first two initials are also atomic symbols. Then throw in the fact that the thematic tetrad has to be able to fit into the grid symmetrically once their names have been converted to chemistry form … !? It's incredible that there are four such author names in existence, because there aren't that many author names left on the table, frankly. C.S. Lewis. S.E. Hinton, a few others. SELENIUM HINTON actually would've worked as an answer for this puzzle (theoretically, you could swap it out for Forester or James), but the names in the grid are almost certainly and definitely certainly more famous, respectively.

    The fill is junkiest, predictably, in and around where the "Q" and "Z" (respectively) have been shoehorned into the grid. Most of the fill east of and including STOA is a bit icky as well. Still, I've seen soooo much junkier fill of late that this thing looks absolutely spit-shined by comparison, so I can't complain too much. And actually, on second glance, the fill around "Q" isn't too bad, and it probably seemed a pretty natural choice in that position, given the fixed (thematic) position of the "U" from MERCURY WELLS. MERCURY WELLS, by the way, is my favorite of the theme answers, because it sounds so much like someone's actual name. Like a late-'70s Golden State Warriors point guard or a jazz saxophone player or a beat poet or something. Whereas PALLADIUM JAMES maybe you could pass off as a drag queen, at best, while the others just sound like nonsense. Longer Downs in this one are pretty good, all manly JAWLINEs and ROUND-EYED wonder. High-five to that DRAWERS / DEBRIEFED pairing up there. Maybe they're not close enough to be a real pair. But I see a pair. A pair from which SHIH-TZU should stay far, far away. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, don't worry—I'm not sure I do either). See you.
      Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

      P.S. I get, and applaud, thematic consistency, but I don't really "get" why the book examples in the theme clues are all, also, movies. Feels like it was by design (why "Sword in the Stone" and not the more famous *book* title "The Once and Future King"?), but maybe it's just coincidence. Anyway, that's a kind of "consistency" I would find puzzling, as I do Not see the point.


      jae 12:06 AM  

      Seemed just about right for a Wed. - Medium for me.  Clever science theme, movie titles, light on dreck, liked it. 

      Other than a couple of wrong number entries my only erasure was MEAt before MEAL.

      I'm a big DYLAN fan, especially his early stuff, but I heard on the news tonight he was going to do an album of Sinatra covers...not sure that's a good idea, as I'm also a big Sinatra fan...grew up listening to him in the 50's. 

      retired_chemist 12:09 AM  

      I found this easy, which should not surprise anybody who notices my nom de blog. ZzzS =>ZEES (30A) and noble -=>INERT were my only writeovers.

      Solid fill, solid theme. Thanks, Mr. McCoy.

      Steve J 12:29 AM  

      One of those cases where I admire something, recognize the cleverness of the idea and the attention put into the construction, but it doesn't really grab me. No fault of the puzzle in such a case. Just one of those inexplicable questions of impression and/or taste.

      Got stuck for a bit not remembering how to spell CESIUM (I want two S's in there) and not remembering that PALLADIUM is an element. And spelling 44D LIQUiFY (even though both the I and the E are correct spellings, the E spelling always looks wrong to me).

      Whirred Whacks 12:47 AM  

      Enjoyable puzzle. Medium-easy for me.

      @Steve J
      I agree with you about LIQUIFY/LIQUEFY: the latter looks and feels wrong, but ANIME dictates it here.

      Fun having REX as an (easy) answer.

      Anonymous 12:50 AM  

      P.D. James was the author least familiar to me, as I've read none of her "serious" work. I must say that after watching the recent BBC production of "Death Comes to Pemberly", if the great artistry of that work is due to Dame James, I may have to read them.

      I haven't found any example greater in all of literature about the great difficulties experienced by the landed gentry. Scene after scene where Darcy is presented with events where dueling calls to propriety shake his world to the point where a lesser man would literally lose his mind, but he handled it all with a quiver of his chin. Frequently a mighty quiver, but always constrained to his chin - the mental strength and deep moral courage of that man was astonishing! Take when his sister-in-law showed up uninvited to the dance. A lesser man with similar priviledge would simply have the wench stoned, but no, not he. He quivered his chin, and left it for his wife (perhaps the nascent recognition among men of all ages that women are capable of something, anything?) to deal with. When he perceived an insult from his cousin, did he foolishly challenge him to a duel? Not Darcy! Yes, Darcy was the lesser physical specimen, his cousin was the far better swordsman, but Darcy was still able to overcome his basest desire to duel, and merely tell quiver his chin and tell his cousin to leave. Finally, if anyone needed any more insight into the extraordinary, intrinsic, nobility of the landed gentry, when presented with the bastard grandchild of his coachman, Darcy decided to let the child stay, as he would likely be a useful servant later in his life.

      This is why we need writers. It's too easy to dismiss those with generational, inherited wealth, specifically the British, as being an anachronism that belongs in the trash heap. Dame James showed us a deeper, stronger picture of these people, one we can admire.

      Casco Kid 12:50 AM  

      Fun solve. Clever idea. Delightful execution. 31 min, so a bit longer than Wednesday average, and I had to root around in the attic of my memory for both authors and elements. As I found them all, I can only be tickled.

      Mercury Wells, Cesium Forester, Palladium James, and Thorium White sound like the kühl kidz. Awright!

      jae 1:16 AM  

      @Steve J & WW - Me too on the LIQUEFY spelling, but WW is right, ANIME dictates. Looks like Rex had the same problem, given the red square in his grid.

      Moly Shu 1:29 AM  

      Great. 3 authors I don't know coupled with science. Luckily I have heard of the 3 elements paired with the 3 unknowns, even though I had no clue what the corresponding abbreviations were. This was a " fortunate crosses save the day" solve. In the @Steve J camp, appreciate the effort, not overly excited by it, and LIQUI(e)FY.

      ZenMonkey 1:35 AM  

      Very nice puzzle. Enjoyed the cluing for LIQUEFY and INERT to go with the theme. This felt a bit like a Thursday from Shortz's golden era.

      okanaganer 1:47 AM  

      I gotta start putting more thought into figuring out the theme. I concluded: replace authors' first name and initials with element names that sound similar!! So we have Thor E.M. White, C.S.M. Forester, Paul A.D.M. James, and Mark R.E. Wells, I guess.

      Hey...just occurred to me another famous Well(e)s (Orson) started the Mercury Theater, which did an infamous production of H.G.'s War of the Worlds. Coincidence?

      chefwen 1:53 AM  

      I kept waiting for @retired_chemist to knock on my door and say "do you need some help my friend"? It didn't happen so this little puppy turned into a Googlefest. What I know about chemistry relates only to what happens in the kitchen. Down right impossible for me. I don't even think I took chemistry in high school. If I did I probably got a "D" or worse.

      On to Thursday.

      Jisvan 2:31 AM  

      Liked the TEENYbopper AGE LIQUEFYing ROUNDEYED ANIME character hanging around emoting in the southwest. Confess to the sin of Googling, because Hg was the only element I could remember, and like REX (nice shout out, btw) I thought MERCURY was a way cool name. THORIUM WHITE, not so much, but I guess you could go by THOR for short... In fact, we should all choose an element name for ourself! I shall be Titanium, queen of pricey bicycles. (Carbon is really more highly rated, but doesn't sound as nice.) Seaborgium, anyone?

      George Barany 3:22 AM  

      Writing as a chemist who has read a few books, what's not to like about @Tom McCoy's offering? @REX seems pleased to find his name in the puzzle, and bravo to @okanaganer for his marvelously convoluted observation about Orson Welles and his Hg Theater group. Nobody seems to have pointed out yet that the venerable Palladium James passed away just a few weeks ago; click here for a link to her New York Times obituary.

      Charles Flaster 3:45 AM  

      Easy because of the crosses. The elements were easier to find than the authors as I did not know The Children of Men.
      Liked cluing for ONE A and QED.
      As Rex pointed out the symmetry of theme answers is incredible.
      No real obvious crosswordEASE.
      Thanks TM for a fun puzzle

      Andrea Ojeda 3:52 AM  


      thomas808 3:58 AM  

      CESIUM, THORIUM, and PALLADIUM were elements whose names sort of match their symbols. I got them by crosses in time to get MERCURY, which name does not even come close to its symbol (Latin, right?) only because H.G. Wells is actually the only author I recognize and Mercury has a commonly (?) known symbol.

      I got stuck at ALII for a while because I always think of "et al" as et alia. ALII for me is the word for Hawaiian royalty, not the Latin term. I see now from Google that et alia is the neuter form and et ALII is the masculine form. Et Alia is really the right one to use, right? Any Latin scholars out there? Latin again!

      I also got stuck at the cross of EAMES. Had EAMEr because it worked with rTS, a perfectly good answer. I have not heard of Charles EAMES, but it was one my soft spots and I ran the alphabet. Not quite a NATICK, but close.

      This was on the challenging side, just like Rex called it, but crunchy. A good theme and very solvable!

      Elle54 5:30 AM  

      Obscure authors, (except Wells) obscure elements=FAIL.
      Really? For a Wednesday?

      ZenMonkey 5:40 AM  

      Obscure is in the eye of the beholder, especially given that P.D. James's recent death has spurred a lot of press about her the past couple of weeks.

      Susierah 6:07 AM  

      Not my cup of tea. Never heard of thorium or cesium. I seem to always misspell Orem as Oren. I'm sure a lot of you found this clever and fun, but it was hard for me because of my lack of knowledge in chemistry. And why is hg the symbol for Mercury when the other 3 elements' letters are contained within the word?

      George Barany 6:32 AM  

      @Susierah, I think a little high school chemistry is not out of line for a mid-week NYT puzzle. A few seconds on Google turns up this: "Origin: named after the planet 'Mercury' (the origin of the symbol Hg is the Latin word 'hydrargyrum' meaning 'liquid silver')." So, maybe, not just high school chemistry, but also high school Latin?!

      GILL I. 6:38 AM  

      Good Gallium....! OUCH said I, and although I love to read and I know all about adipose tissue I could not remember one single author's name nor did I know any of the sciency references. I bet all you smarty pants scientist/chemists loved this one...
      How in the world is a JAWLINE remotely important for a male model? Why did our President say DYLAN is a giant in the history of music?...and, ROUND EYE is full of innocent wonder? I need to be DEBRIEFED.
      Total failure....QED notwithstanding!

      Conrad 6:39 AM  

      @Susierah, I'm not a chemist but I studied chemistry in high school and college and I've known for (many, many) years that Hg is the symbol for Mercury. But until I read your question I never thought to ask why. Here, courtesy of Wikipedia, is the answer for both of us:

      Hg is the modern chemical symbol for mercury. It comes from hydrargyrum, a Latinized form of the Greek word ὑδράργυρος (hydrargyros), which is a compound word meaning "water-silver" (from ὑδρ- hydr-, the root of ὕδωρ, "water," and ἄργυρος argyros "silver") – since it is liquid like water and shiny like silver.

      Thank you for asking!

      Danp 6:59 AM  

      Well done. No fun for me.

      RAD2626 7:00 AM  

      Same two mistakes as thomas808: rTS for STS and ALIa for ALII. also threw in aiNT for ISNT for a time but at least got over that.

      Grammarian Librarian 7:14 AM  

      To Anonymous at 12:50: DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLY is as terrible in print as you intimate, but much of James' earlier work is v. good--hard to imagine they're by the same person. You sound like a person who might like LONGBOURN, by Jo Beaton, though. It's an entirely new and salutary look at the Bennets, from the servants' perspective.

      Mohair Sam 7:27 AM  

      Enjoyable and fairly easy Wednesday for us. Might have naticked, but guessed right on the infamous "E" in LIQUEFY (great clue, btw).

      P.D. James a huge favorite in this household, btw. Saddened by her recent passing.

      MERCURY Morris didn't make Rex's MERCURY list. Guess I'm getting old.

      Elephant's Child 7:36 AM  

      @Anon 1250, you made my lips quiver.
      However, I do like PALLADIUM JAMES' Superintendent Dogleash series; there's that interesting poetic sensitivity there, also. Liked 'Children of Men' least of all hers that I've read.

      joho 7:54 AM  

      Loved MERCURY crossing LIQUIFY and DYLAN crossing LAY Lady LAY.

      Not so crazy about DIGUP and ATEUP.

      TEENY and DWARF are nice in opposite corners.

      I know nothing about chemistry but was able to get all the answers through the fair crosses. Well done, Tom McCoy! Excellent theme, beautifully executed in a sparkling pangram!

      Oh, and you have to love that corner with SNIP, EGO, REX!

      Hartley70 7:55 AM  

      Ouch! I knew the authors' last names but I had to guess at the initials except for PD who I adored. When she was writing in her genre she was the very best of British mystery writers. Thankfully we still have Ruth Rendall/Barbara Vine to fill the void. PD will be sorely missed.

      About that puzzle, it was a groaner for me because I did my best to forget what little I knew of HS Chemistry. I was not paying attention to the sweet little old man with the unintelligible accent who tried to teach me back before recorded time. I finished via the crosses with one silly error of rad for DAD. Nascar DADS?

      Anonymous 8:00 AM  

      Best theme I've seen in ... I don't know how long. Combining chemistry and literature. If this were mine, I would've be tempted to publish in CHE.

      Lewis 8:05 AM  

      Got to smile when a puzzle starts with my name, and then later has OFL's as well. I am not versed in chemistry and didn't know all the authors initials, but sussed the theme and the crosses gave them to me. I like the OAT/UTE neighbors and the clue for GENIE.

      I don't understand the clue for DAD. Interesting that DWARF and TEENY are symmetrically placed on the grid. And we have NED two days in a row. I had a good time with this puzzle!

      Seems like as much grid gruel as yesterday, but today it's okay to Rex and yesterday it wasn't. I think it comes down to the puzzle's overall effect on Rex whether iffy fill is forgivable or not.

      ArtO 8:15 AM  

      WOW! What a fantastic theme. Had to come here for the revelation.

      Leapfinger 8:16 AM  

      Author! Author!

      You say THORIUM, I said THALIUM. Who know? Ogden Nash may have had a one-L Thalium. Got that sorted out, and enjoyed the themers immensely, MERCURY WELLS also my favourite.

      "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", TELLURIUM Lawrence: would need a Sunday grid.

      Never doubted LIQUiFY, so scIfi made a mess in the SW. Ditto ZzzS. And [Sodium's car] clue baffled me, so tried rADS for DADS. OUCH.

      Hard to choose favourite pairings, between the DEBRIEFED DRAWERS and TRY SNIP EGO REX. The [SN]IP reminded me of another super puzzle, that included the SNSNabulation of the Bells... and led to:

      Iodine, Claudius -and-
      Ytterbium sad?
      Ruthenium ready for more?
      Tune in on your AM/Fermium radio!

      Did I like today's McCoy? Silicon, Silicon!

      Time now to take a stroll down the SOCIO path. Later.

      NCA President 8:16 AM  

      I do not know how it happened...I didn't know it at the time, but evidently I am the rarest person I know. I made it through HS without ever learning the periodic table. Clearly, (and in no small part due to xwords) I am familiar with a lot of it, but when it comes to some of the elements found in today's puzzle, not so much. I can do Ferris Wheels all day long, but PALLADIUM? I swear to the entertainment gods that I performed at the Palladium once. (Is Pantages an element too?)

      So, that said...coupled with the fact that I am terrible at knowing elements and their respective abbreviations, I am equally terrible with authors. I know of HG Wells. I kinda knew about this FORESTER guy, but wasn't exactly sure of the initials...(he is a guy, right?). I only got it because I think CESIUM is a vitamin brand?

      So yeah, wow. And I'm also getting over the flu so there is the added fun of brain funk.

      I did finish this, but not without just a bit of help from my old pal google.

      I long for the day when a puzzle is centered around composers or prog rock band know, something I might have a chance knowing.

      The good news is that I haven't coughed once since writing this post. Small victories...

      Lewis 8:19 AM  

      Factoid: The term Nascar DAD was often used during the United States presidential election of 2004, particularly in describing the efforts of Democrats to regain the votes of white southern males, a group consisting of an estimated 45 million people in the USA. (Wikipedia)

      Quotoid: "Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo." -- H. G. WELLS

      Elaina 8:22 AM  

      I am currently reading PD James' "fragment of an autobiography" Time To Be In Earnest. She was a gimme anyway although I think Children of Men was her weakest book - perhaps tied with Death Comes to Pemberly.
      II was surprised to see that Forester wrote The African Queen - then realized I was mixing the Lord Hornblower guy up with Forster, the Passage to India guy.
      I think I made all the errors already mentioned: MEAT for MEAL, ET ALIA for ET ALII, LIQUIFY for LIQUEFY.

      Leapfinger 8:36 AM  

      Pleased to learn that Hg derives from 'hydrargyros'= 'silver water'. I remember playing with mercury as a kid -- no idea where we got it, then -- but even in the Yale Med School labs, we'd play with the reagent, pouring it from hand to hand, making drops merge and separate. Ever since having treated a kid with mercury poisoning, I shudder to think how casually we handled the poisonous stuff.

      Anonymous 8:39 AM  

      NIGER? Really, NYT?

      Andrew Morrison 8:39 AM  

      Medium, maybe easy-medium for Wed. Didn't really know the authors but general awareness of them pulled me through. Couldn't understand the Dr Moreau clue, because I didn't think the author's name started with ME...

      DOH! Classic example of turning a gimme into a challenge through sheer stupidity. Forgetting one of the few atomic symbols I (thought I) know?!

      Minor quibble - all the clues relating to draft status are dreadfully dated. I think it's time to reclue ONEA and FOURF. Or retire them.

      AliasZ 8:46 AM  

      This puzzle and I had good chemistry going, too bad it was over too soon. What a neat idea combining literature with chemistry. It contained elements of a genius. And we have not only CESIUM FORESTER, but also CESIUM LEWIS at 1A. How neat is that? Except that I always thought it was "caesium".

      Let's see which authors were not present: Aluminum Kennedy, Helium Bates, Lead Shelley, Radium Lafferty and Selenium Hinton are a few I could find quickly. However if we expanded the theme to other endeavors, we could also include the likes of Tellurium Lawrence, Platinum Barnum, Dubnium Cooper, Germanium Moore, Barium Robertson, Actinium Green, Silver Spalding, Lithium Railroad -- the list is endless.

      LIQUEFY is the correct spelling, liquify is a variant. Even my spellchecker knows it.

      Too bad I have to run, there's so much more I wanted to say. Let me close with the Hg movement of The Planets, Op. 32 by Gustav Holst.

      Copper later!

      Hartley70 8:50 AM  

      @I used to love it when the thermometer broke, oopsies, and I could chase the little silver balls around the pink and black tiled bathroom as a kid. Ugly on both accounts!

      Leapfinger 8:56 AM  

      @LEWIS: Yes, nice lead-in there, fella! I saw Hewis Lewis and the Newis years ago at the Greensboro Coliseum (a birthday present from a friend); they gave good concert.

      I guess Nascar DADS are a parallel to Soccer Moms, but I missed that, somewhere along the line.

      EPOXY both their houses.

      AnnieD 8:59 AM  

      Went easy for me but am so impressed with the theme! Well done! Loved the GENIE clue. Also liked the clue for 47 down...gave me an opportunity to consider all the various parts I like to see in a male model. ;)

      Bird 9:03 AM  

      Ditto @ Steve J's (12:29) first paragraph and "dilemma" with spelling of 44D. I stared at LIQUEFY for a few seconds and as Whirred Whacks pointed out ANIME calls for the E at the crossing.

      This was challenging for me as I didn't know all the authors in the grid, the chair designer and learned a new definition for HULL. So wanted OOMPH at 23D.

      Happy Humpday!

      Anonymous 9:09 AM  

      Doesn't round-eyed mean occidental?

      Z 9:13 AM  

      I guess nobody cares about a male model's tAnLINE. Oh well.

      Hand up for LIQUiFY being fixed by ANIME. Hand up for being ignorant of almost all the two-letter elements (He is the only one I can think of off the top of my head), and having reading interests that LAY mostly elsewhere (I imagine a Muse shuddering right about now). Ergo - tough and a DNF in the JAMES region. I know we just had EAMES, and If I had gotten that PALLADIUM JAMES would have appeared, But I didn't remember EAMES, I had that stupid T, and I didn't know that PALLADIUM shortened to PD. Damn.

      @Anon 8:39 - Really? Try putting NIGER in the google machine and reading some of the stuff it spits out.

      Z 9:17 AM  
      This comment has been removed by the author.
      Z 9:17 AM  

      Well, the CIA can do some things right. NIGER

      chefbea 9:29 AM  

      Knowing nothing about chemistry..this was an awful puzzle for me. Didn't understand it al all. Way to hard.
      Maybe tomorrow will be better.

      mathguy 9:36 AM  

      I had a great time with this one even though I had to guess the elements other than MERCURY from the crosses. Or maybe because I was able to guess them correctly.

      Reading her obituary recently prompted me to try P.D. James. I picked one of her early works, Death of an Expert Witness, and am enjoying it immensely. Surprised at the precision and erudition in her writing.

      Ludyjynn 9:39 AM  

      I managed to avoid h.s. chemistry by convincing my guidance counselor that I would take it 'next year' until it was too late to argue about it any more. Instead, I took Latin and French, which served me well at the time on the SAT, later in law school and currently, doing NYTxwords! I did pick up some chemistry jargon, mostly by watching "Jeopardy" and Prof. Alex Trebek for so many years, which came in handy today. Sidebar, I wonder who will replace him when he retires next year???

      I really liked this mid-week medium, cleverly clued and themed puzz. Nice that REX agrees.

      @Thomas808, Look around you and you will see EAMES chairs and ottomans (and knock-offs) everywhere. Charles and his second wife, Ray Eames, designed them and many other mid-century home and industrial applications. An Eames chair and ottoman were featured on the "Frazier" set, in direct contrast to his dad, Marty Crane's, hideously upholstered recliner.

      Thanks, TM and WS.

      dk 9:52 AM  

      🌕🌕 (2 mOONs)

      I just liked this one but I did not love it. Just me. The theme is great.

      2 anecdotes

      Won a badmitten tourney a decade or so back and my opponent's compliment was: You no bad for ROUNDEYE.

      In HS and college I worked on construction crews. One of the games we played was periodic tabling. One would shout out a chemical symbol, atomic weight or whatever and others would respond with the rest of the table information. This would go on until someone was stumped. The ones stumped would have to buy the beer. Needless to say we alienated most others on the crew who would SHIHTZU in their DRAWERS when we would start… but the basics of Chemistry are cemented in my brain like the sections of the NY state thruway we laid.

      Sir Hillary 10:01 AM  

      I'm with @Steve J. There's not a thing objectively wrong with this puzzle, but I just didn't enjoy it.

      Structurally, I am impressed by the two long downs spanning three themers.

      Here's my nitpick: Hg ≠ H.G. Sorry, I am getting hung up on that.

      Don't like TRI/TRY, DIGUP/ATEUP, RANTO/RIDOF. Also, too many cross-referenced clues for my taste.

      LIQUiFY and ALIa? Yep. Also had scIfi instead of ANIME and oTo instead of UTE for a spell.

      Funny how the "better" C.S. is right there at 1A.

      Leapfinger 10:01 AM  

      @Alias, Caesium blue skies on reading your post. Loved the Platinum Barnum and culmination with Lithium RailRoad.

      Tellurium Lawrence does, however, fit the author category [see 0816], I'm Rhodium Positive!

      mac 10:02 AM  

      Very good Wednesday but definitely medium-challenging for me. Plus I had the liquefy stumble as well.

      I envy the people who haven't read P.D. James yet.

      What a great write-up today, Rex!

      Anonymous 10:06 AM  

      Hated chemistry and hated this puzzle.

      Jp 10:08 AM  

      As a retired chemist the theme is simply brilliant. Unfortunately I have no idea who the authors are. So for me it was like a Friday or Saturday.

      Nancy 10:08 AM  

      I also relied on my knowledge of Lit, rather than my knowledge of chemistry (virtually nonexistent) to solve. (Although I did initially think -- no pun intended -- that "The
      Children of Men" was written by the initial-less Margaret Atwood.)
      Misspelling liquefy as liquify at first gave me SCI FI instead of ANIME. Other than that, not too hard, but just hard enough. An unusually satisfying Wednesday!

      quilter1 10:09 AM  

      Learned of P.D. James' death while on vacation a week or so ago. I will miss her, having read everything she wrote. No more Adam Dalgliesh mysteries. No chemist I, but enjoyed the puzzle nonetheless.

      RooMonster 10:12 AM  

      Hey All !
      First, nicely filled puz, lots of threes, but somehow they don't seem forced. Only preb was STS. (Had rTS, EAMEr sounded plausible. )

      Second, a pangram! With nearly dreck-less fill! (Save for ONEA.)

      Third, cool idea, long downs nice, even not knowing the elements/ authors was okay, as I got most through crosses. (Filled in what sounded like authors' last names!)

      Did get taught the Elements table in HS, but with my wonderful memory (read:CRS) I really don't remember many of them. Isn't there a whole bunch of newer ones?

      Couple confusing clues, Voila relative, QED seems a might stretchy, Bonsai as DWARF (?), and Ground up fare for MEAL was also iffy. Nice clues, though, for DRAWERS and TRI, as cluing that as a sound-alike lessened the identical complaints (as a matter of fact, no one's said anything about it.)

      So, very good, Mr. McCoy. WedPuz difficulty level, overall approved! (Like my approval means something! )

      SHIHTZU. (Bless You!)

      Fred Smith 10:20 AM  

      Ludy --

      I took four years of HS Latin, huge mistake for someone with no foreign language aptitude. I spent more time studying and doing Latin homework than for the other 4 subjects combined. Got all A's in the other four, barely (but not always) escaped C's (honor roll disqualifiers) in Latin. Ditto on taking Russian in college!

      DK ---- you play badminton better than you spell it. ;-)

      -- Fred

      Bob Kerfuffle 10:21 AM  

      Very good puzzle; Medium-Challenging for me.

      Would have been easier if the authors' names hadn't been at such a far remove from the tip of my tongue.

      Aside to @George Barany - You say, "Nobody seems to have pointed out yet that the venerable Palladium James passed away just a few weeks ago." I don't know what happens in the wee hours of the morning, so maybe there was an edit, but when I read Rex's post, one of his bullet points included: "PALLADIUM JAMES (for P.D. James, R.I.P.)" I would call that recognition!

      Andrew Gordon 10:28 AM  

      @Leapfinger and @Hartley70 - Playing with Hg would make an interesting age test. I have hazy, happy recollections of playing with quicksilver(in school?!), something my kids will never experience (not a bad thing). Apparently my chemistry teacher was not mad as a hatter. I just learned something. Elemental Hg (ie. quicksilver) is 'relatively' safe as it is very difficult for the body to adsorb. Who knew?

      - 45 and counting

      Benko 10:40 AM  

      I was never that good at chemistry beyond the basics. But the periodic table isn't essential information only for chemists. It is essential for virtually every hard science I can think of. Physics, astronomy, medicine, biology, engineering...
      As for the authors, you would think the scientists would at the very least love a bit of HG Wells!

      Josh 10:46 AM  

      Knew all the authors, didn't know all of the elements, but when I put in the last letter (the H in WHITE), Arms-Akimbo Pencil Guy popped up.

      Toughest part for me was the NE corner. The clues for DWARF and RIVAL were nicely misleading.

      But I'm with some of the others who have written that, despite the flawless execution of this theme--Rex is spot-on in his analysis of how difficult it must have been to come up with the authors AND have them fit symmetrically AND build clean fill around them--I didn't really enjoy the solve. But that's probably just an ego thing: I want to breeze through a Wednesday without little hesitation, and because I didn't know all the elements, there was lots of little stops along the way.

      What are the odds on a puzzle tomorrow with either a rebus or clues that are just dashes?

      wreck 11:08 AM  
      This comment has been removed by the author.
      Arlene 11:17 AM  

      How interesting to find this chemistry-author themed puzzle a day after a graphic. What diversity!

      This really was a creative masterpiece, weaving all the theme material together. So masterful, in fact, that I'm sure that REX in the puzzle was no accident.

      Remember the Hirschfeld drawings that contained NINAs? Well this may herald a new era where every puzzle contains a REX. You heard it here first!

      Melodious Funk 11:19 AM  

      During my salad days I was also a chemist. Tom Lehrer amazed me with his rendition of "The Elements." For fans of a certain age, try it again:

      Z 11:28 AM  

      Follow the OED onTwitter, learn words like, "Onolatry: worship of the donkey. Also in extended use: excessive admiration for or devotion to foolishness or a foolish thing." Special Kudos to the constructor who uses it first.

      Also, for your consideration.

      Cuisinart blender 11:59 AM  

      I have buttons, lots of buttons... put some strawberries, a banana and some O.J. in me then press my LIQUEFY button for a tasty treat.

      Oster and KitchenAid, do you have a Liquefy button too?

      p.s. Please don't put gallium in me - it's corrosive to my blades.

      Carola 11:59 AM  

      Challenging! I either didn't know the author (JAMES and FORESTER) or had to DIG UP the name from memory recesses square by square (WELLS, WHITE). Was happy when I caught on to the chemistry angle when I got T. HelIUM WHITE (SIC). I enjoyed figuring it all out, but it's a good thing I had a leisurely morning to do it.

      old timer 12:04 PM  

      I'm surprised it took so long for someone to link to "The Elements". Which is the showstopper whenever they revive "Tomfoolery" which we saw in San Francisco years ago.

      It was the "JAMES" that clued me in to the theme. I knew P.D. had written "The Children of Men", which is not her best effort. AHA, I said, these will be abbreviations for elements, and palladium was easy to guess.

      Like some others, I really wanted "Forster" instead of "Forester". E.M. Forster was a brilliant writer, and I think his biography of his (great?) aunt Marianne Thornton was a masterpiece. Forster lived on to 1970, and that means there are many people alive today who are just a few friends removed from Wilberforce, Macaulay, Lord John Russell, and everyone you have ever heard of in the Victorian era, for Marianne Thornton grew up in Clapham with the Wilberforces and the Macaulays and the entire crowd of Evangelicals who managed to abolish slavery in the U.K. and its colonies.

      But I should have remembered Forester, whose Horatio Hornblower sea stories were incredibly popular -- and whose hero led to the famous faux pas where the person who put Humphrey's name in nomination referred to the Next President of the United States as "HUBERT HORATIO HORNBLOWER"

      Masked and Anonymo8Us 12:31 PM  

      Elementary, my dear Thorium.

      I knew three of the four authors (not personally, tho) and one of the elements' initials. MERCURYWELLS was my one total jackpot yep/yep fill-that-puppy-right-in themer. So, quite a bit of OUCH and DIGUP went into grindin out a final solution. Had fun, doin that.

      fave weejecta:
      * TRI/TRY - They referenced each other in their clues! Saves me the trouble.
      * QED. It's like I have a twin, in the constructioneer business.
      * STS. Plural abbr with a clue that meant nothin to me. Trifecta.
      * REX. Primo sacrificial offerin to the @63 gods.

      LIQUIFY is a great word. SHIHTZU is a real dog.
      Argon was A until 1957; then it changed its name to Ar. Sorta the Snoop Dogg of the periodic table. 'ar.

      ThUmbs8Up. Watch it, McCoy dude... U are in mortal danger of becomin a fave constructioneer of the M&A.

      Manganese Argon*

      * Mn A.

      NeilD 12:40 PM  

      I am APPALLED that one could call "The Sword in the Stone" cruddy.

      Joseph Michael 12:50 PM  

      OUCH. Clever construction, but I had no fun solving it. Felt like an INERT DWARF looking at all those chemistry terms I never learned.

      wurd-buoy 1:12 PM  

      Well done, but I can never remember how to spell SHIT SUE

      Guy who reads what's actually written 1:24 PM  

      @NeilD - Well, then you'll be relieved that no one called "The Sword in the Stone" cruddy. Now you can sleep well tonight. Someone did call the animated movie based on it "fairly cruddy", but that's a different matter all together.

      jberg 1:24 PM  

      I loved this. Biggest challenge was not the theme, but for some reason thinking the rocker was Huey Newton! Sure sign of senility, as I know quite a bit about the Black Panther Party and undoubtedly shouted "Free Huey!" myself a few times back then. But there is a certain logic in Newton ... News. I want a new drug to make my memory work better.

      Fortunately, EB isn't in the periodic table, as I was also stuck on the wrong White for awhile; actually considered there might be a transuranic I hadn't heard of.

      Part of the challenge was that Forester and James were clued with less characteristic works, White with part of a work, and Wells with a lesser known one. Mention eloi and his name would have leaped off (or onto) the page. Same with Hornblower and Dagliesh.

      I was going to explain NASCAR DADs at about 10 AM EST, but had to leave suddently and I see it's been done already. They were Gallium Tungsten Bush's answer to the soccer moms.

      I've said it before but will again -- the great thing about crosswords is that you don't actually have to know anythings. E.g., I didn't know the symbol for PALLADIUM, but once I had a few crosses that was what it had to be -- enough to know I was looking for an element.

      Wait, am I right about what G means? Or is it germanium?

      Anyway, nice to see @Tex making excuses for the pangram!

      Countryboy 41 2:16 PM  

      Isn't part of the pattern the fact that all four elements are silvery and metallic and easy to "liquefy?"

      Benko 2:37 PM  

      It is my belief that @NeilD was referring to the movie, not the novel. Therefore he was right that it was called "cruddy". Though some don't like it, for certain people (myself included) it is one of the more underrated classics of the Disney oeuvre.

      M and Alzo 2:52 PM  

      "If at first U don't succeed, TRY TRI again."

      -- Old Norse (Thor-ium) Sayin.

      p.p.s.s to @63's p.s.
      @63: Maybe they used the book titles that had been made into movies in themers, with the strategy that more solvers mighta heard of them, thataway. The solvers still wouldn't necessarily know the original authors, but the clues might have more credibility and eresogo be more likely to drive the solvers nuts. QED.

      Top of the listers, for new elements & abbrs. ...
      * Cc (Sabathia): Carbclonium: carbon copy.
      * Ee (Cummings): Electricbillium: scatological content of what they say whenever utility rates go up.
      * Bb (King): Bananaramium: that material that those long strings in yer banana are made of.
      * Ew (Scripps): Earwaxium: name & abbr say it all.
      * Ss (Titanic): Spamazium: Meat-like substance used in Spam.
      * Fu (Manchu): Frackusallium: Secret ingredient that makes fracking chemicals work so day-um good.


      RooMonster 3:12 PM  

      M & A
      Marvelousium & Awesium

      Truly a mind to be envied.


      Anonymous 3:13 PM  

      Either I'm slipping [not out of the question] or these mid-week editions are getting more difficult. Today's was a complete failure since I don't know my elements and of course failed to see the cuteness of it all.. Then there was stuff like ECOwarrior [?], NascarDAD [never heard the term--and I follow NASCAR!], ANIME as a TV genre[?], STS as a Garmin display abbr., and QED as a relative of 'viola'. Total baloney and IMHO unfair. Bless those who found the thing 'easy'.

      Casco Kid 3:30 PM  

      Anonymous 9:09 "Round-eyed" may mean "occidental" in the Occident. I have it on good authority that "big nose" means "occidental" in the Orient.

      To underscore the point, ever notice how round-eyed ANIME characters are? I understand the origin of that is Walt Disney's depiction of Bambi, which utterly transformed the Japanese notion of drawn eyes.

      As always, I am wiling to be corrected by people who actually go to ComicCon. For years when I lived in San Diego, I'd drive my Anime-specialist girl friend to ComicCon, but not go in myself. Sorry. I may have missed some good fun.

      Wire Palladium, San Francisco 3:31 PM  

      @Roo: Mind to be approached with caution, the lovely PuzEatinSpouse would counter-offer.
      (That's mostly why the M&A runtpuz menu entry is in fire alarm red, over at that there site.)


      ***gruntz Christmas Truce. (Time for folks to get caught-up)***

      american idiot 4:06 PM  

      Well, anon at 3:14, nobody expects anyone who follows NASCAR to be able to read, much less complete a NY Times crossword puzzle. Go drink some Budweiser, turn on Fox news, and tell your wife to get dinner on the table.

      undomielregina 4:35 PM  

      The Sword in the Stone was originally published as a stand-alone volume, and you can still find copies of that version in print today. It's distinct from the one in The Once and Future King, which is more clearly focussed on White's themes about pacifism and antiauthoritarianism.

      wreck 5:27 PM  

      I deleted my earlier post (........... as intro-music from "Curb Your Enthusiasm" plays in background)

      retired_chemist 6:11 PM  

      @ leapfinger - that would be an americium/fermium radio.

      Don't underestimate the toxicity of elemental mercury. While the liquid if ingested is not particularly toxic due to very low solubility, the vapor is indeed toxic because it gets into the body viainhalation.

      mathguy 6:52 PM  

      @Casco Kid: I took my grandson to see Big Hero 6 a month or so ago. I enjoyed it very much. But I was struck at how enormous the eyes of the characters were.

      michael 7:28 PM  

      Studied chemistry in high school and college a long time ago and knew the authors. Palladium was a stretch anyhow. Took me too long to get the theme and my time was slow for a Wednesday. Thought it was a fine puzzle anyhow. A little surprised by the Mrs. answer...

      Teedmn 7:38 PM  

      Loved this puzzle. The theme was elegantly done and the pangram was painlessly executed for the most part. It helps that I knew the elements and three of the authors, the three who wrote in my favorite sci- fi genre, natch. It's true that "The Children of Men" wasn't a great book but I liked the movie, thought Clive Owen did a great job as the lead.

      Anon 3:13, not to laugh at your pain, but I did LOL at the idea of QED clued as "viola". A typo, I'm sure, but funny.

      Thanks, Mr. McCoy, for the awesome puzzle!

      (And a numerical captcha to boot!)

      OISK 9:32 PM  

      I am a chemist, so I enjoyed the elements, and knew the authors, and enjoyed the puzzle. BUT, I get a big, fat, DNF because I stubbornly refused to change liquify to liquefy, even though anime looked right, and animi looked wrong. I have probably typed out the word "Liquify" thousands of times. (incorrectly! I could quote Herrick "Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows, the liquefaction of her clothes." (I typed "liquifaction" and it was auto-fixed!!) Just amazing to be so wrong, for so long!

      Anonymous 1:29 AM  

      Finished without knowing either the authors or the periodic tables - merely by recognizing the aha hook.

      Child Recliners 1:33 PM  

      PALLADIUM JAMES (for P.D. James, R.I.P.) (43A: "The Children of Men" ...

      spacecraft 11:00 AM  

      Ah yes, as @George Baranay pointed out, THAT's why OFL did not harp on the pannie: McCoy paid his dues at 66d! Let me hasten to add, however, that the BIG tiles blend in rather nicely in this one.

      It would have rated easy for me if I'd known some of those authors; the only initialed WHITE I know is E.B., and though I knew several JAMESes I didn't know P.D.

      My first theme fill was at 58a; it was only then that I knew what was going on. Him I knew, and Forester. Crosses took care of the rest--plus knowing that -IUM is far and away the most popular element ending.

      I have to go along WITH (actually, am pleased to) all who praised the clean fill. If nitpick I must, maybe there's one too many UPs (DIGUP, ATEUP), or the fact that the two centerpiece entries are both prefixes. That's barely enough to take the + off the A. Tom, you're the real McCoy!

      658; oh WELLs.

      rondo 1:36 PM  

      @Spacey - agree that the two UPs were not called out due to 66d. Chuckled when I got there and again after OFL's review.
      Once had my photo taken in front of the PALLADIUM in London, think it's shuttered now.
      Was also once DEBRIEFED (DRAWERS removed)in front of a Girl Scout troop. Comments included "What's that?", "It's so big", "It's so small". Age dependent I suppose.

      Let's see about no.s today:

      rain forest 1:39 PM  

      Nice puzzle, and a piece of cake for this dude with a Masters Degree in Chemistry who loves reading.

      I would have loved to see Oxygen Henry in there, though.

      Funny about LIQUEFY. There's solidIfy and gasIfy, and liquidate.

      Didn't notice the pangram until it was mentioned. Maybe that's the way it's supposed to be.

      Almost illegible words, again.

      DMG 5:24 PM  

      Not all that easy for me-too little chemistry too long ago. Managed most of it, mOondEYES was my downfall. Didn't even notice that extra "d" in the middle that made the thing senseless. Should have worked harder on the chemistry-first name connection, but just didn't make it work. On to tomorrow!

      621 not bad!

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