Inter European soccer powerhouse / THU 3-12-15 / Pearl S. Buck heroine / Ludd from whom Luddites got their name / Marvel supervillain Norman / British W.W. II plane / Heaven's vault studded with stars unutterably bright Shelley

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Constructor: Ellen Leuschner and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: [FIRE] IN THE HOLE (54A: Warning before a detonation … and a hint to 16 of this puzzle's answers) — "holes" (represented by 2x2 black squares in the grid) stand in for the word FIRE in all the answers to which they are adjacent:

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: Norman OSBORN (47D: Marvel super villain Norman ___ a.k.a. the Green Goblin) —
Norman Osborn is a fictional character, a supervillain who appears in the comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko, and first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #14 (July 1964) as the original and most well-known incarnation of Green Goblin. Originally an amoralindustrialist head of Oscorp and Harry Osborn's father, he took a serum which enhanced his physical abilities and intellect but also drove him to insanity. He adopted a Halloween-themed appearance, dressing in a goblin costume, riding on a bat-shaped "Goblin Glider", and using an arsenal of high-tech weapons, notably grenade-like "Pumpkin Bombs", to terrorize New York City. He is one of Spider-Man's most persistent foes and archenemies, being responsible for numerous tragedies in Spider-Man's life (such as Gwen Stacy's death and the Clone Saga). However, he has also come into conflict with other superheroes in the Marvel Universe, and was the focus of the company-wide Dark Reign storyline as the original version of Iron Patriot.
Norman Osborn was played by Willem Dafoe in the 2002 film Spider-Man, and is portrayed by Chris Cooper in the 2014 film The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
In 2009, Norman Osborn was also ranked as IGN's 13th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time. (wikipedia)
• • •

Dense and dull. Also, those don't register as "holes" to me. Squares or boxes. The whole thing just lacked pizzazz. It's certainly well executed—very theme-dense, relatively clean. But once you get the "Fire" thing, the surrounding answers become very easy. Then there's this jarring contrast with the large, and largely theme-free, NW and SE corners. It was like solving two separate mini-puzzles, neither of which offered much in the way of excitement. Most of the resistance offered by this puzzle came early, when I couldn't get any traction in the NW (can't believe I forgot Kubrick did "LOLITA"…) (1A: 1962 Kubrick film), and then late, when I couldn't get the answers around the second "hole" to work because it never occurred to me that after the first "FIRE" block I'd see Yet Another "FIRE" block in the same puzzle. I was thinking maybe "Fire and Ice," "Fire and Rain," something. But no. Fire and Fire. In the Hole. And then ASLEW of stuff I could do without, like OLAN, ESS, YES YES, ERNE, ORS, ANODES, IOS, EBON, TUM, ASNER, STRADS, REHEARS (which, like HORSY, feels like a word that's missing an "E" …).

Favorite answer, by far, is SEMI-SOFT (38D: Like Havarti cheese). All the other long answers seem dull, which is too bad, 'cause there are a decent number of them. I also liked some of the clues, such as 57A: Goes on Safari, say for BROWSES, or … no, looks like that's the only one I really like. The rest are fine, just not clever. Again, a solid puzzle, but workmanlike, without real character or sparkle.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Clark 12:05 AM  

    "What an unusual grid," I thought to myself. "It's got two holes." One man's semi-soft is another man's semi-hard, I guess.

    I liked it a lot.

    Steve J 12:08 AM  

    Largely agreed with Rex on this one. A perfectly adequate puzzle, but nothing terribly scintillating about it. And definitely quite easy for me. Lots of gimmees in this one.

    Theme was too easy once it was (quickly) figured out. Not sure that big black squares count as holes, but it works well enough.

    Only particularly fun bits were the clues for CD TOWER and SAFARI. Otherwise, meh.

    Steve J 12:08 AM  
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    Greg 12:09 AM  

    I loved it. Very easy once your figure out the theme, but I thought it was a lot of fun. Exactly what I want in a Thursday.

    wreck 12:17 AM  
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    wreck 12:18 AM  

    This was alright, but the NW and SE sections were just too big for having nothing theme related for my taste. There was not a lot to complain about otherwise - it just did not "wow" me.

    Numinous 12:18 AM  

    Say it ain't so, I can't be the first. I really liked the theme once I figured it out. I got IN THE HOLE and that got me all fired up to look for the theme. Fired up? fire IN THE HOLE? What hole. I kept looking and looking for words that could include fire. I reread all the clues, not just the ones I hadn't yet solved. Then I saw BON and it hit me. I changed tAN to MAN and it was all smooth sailing from there. Normally the ESEy glue doesn't bother me and it didn't here. The ESEy bits gave me a lot of traction.

    I got this out of the way quickly, just over half my recent Thursday times. Much of what slowed me was looking for a rebus but all the answers I had were too short to include one. Figuring out the 'fire' trick set me straight.

    It's late for me, I had a long and tiring day at the hospital while they took over six hours discharging my wife. Maybe I'll think of something else to say tomorrow. Good Night, y'all.

    John Child 12:21 AM  

    Very nice puzzle, IMO. Once one finds the missing FIREs those answers are easy, as Rex said, but the relative difficulty of the rest of the puzzle made up for it. I finished a little faster than most Thursdays.

    Some of the feeling that it is easy is explained by the constructor notes: This was submitted as a Thursday, was then reworked for a Monday slot at WS's request, and then ultimately appeared on Thursday.

    I appreciate very much that a number of you took the time to solve my "Look it up" puzzle and to comment. The feedback on two earlier versions of this puzzle from a number of people (you know who you are) was invaluable, and George Barany in particular has been exceedingly generous with his time and advice. Thank you all.

    jae 12:23 AM  

    Caught on to this one pretty quickly so easy-medium for me.  Biggest hang-up was gUt before TUM which I'm still trying to convince myself is legit.  But, I did know tILAN was not a soccer powerhouse. 

    Trivia:  FIRE IN THE HOLE was the Elmore Leonard short story that was the basis for Justified, which is IMHO in the same league as Breaking Bad. 

    Not as tough as I'd prefer, but liked it more than Rex did.

    Moly Shu 12:48 AM  

    First 3 entries were MAWS, GRIP and MALI, which got me WILD and SPIT and I figured all the boxes were FIRE. Turns out they were HOLEs, and agree that it made the solve very easy. Liked the clues for HOMERS and BROWSES. I once unknowingly stepped on a FIREANT mound and was stung probably by a hundred of 'em (although it seemed like a million). Ended up sick in bed for 2 days with both legs below the knee swollen, red and throbbing. Don't know if I'm allergic to those suckers or just caught a particularly lethal colony, but I steer well clear of those dirt piles when I see them.

    okanaganer 12:49 AM  

    Rex, that Spider-man comic looks familiar; it's in my collection of early '70s Marvels. The best investments in history: bought for 20 cents, each worth 50 to 1000 dollars now. (#122, pictured, is about $400 because Green Goblin dies in it). My teenage years were spent trying to keep my Dad from using them as coasters.

    BTW I liked the puzzle, but it was very easy.

    Casco Kid 12:58 AM  

    Happy to have survived. 42 min, the first 25 spent groping for some kind of trick. I finished without an error.

    I got the first fire with the rebus [FIREL]ANE, which played havoc with the cross, so I left it blank _ANE. I kept going, looking for some kind of hint. The revealer did not provide any help, except that it confirmed that a rebus of the type [FIREI]NTHEHOLE was in play. But again FIREI did not cross well. I kept going looking for FIRE-this and FIRE-that. SPI[TFIRE] demonstrated that FIRE could come at the end of a word. Then I figured: isn't this a major violation of the crossword code? That the rebus works one way but not the other. There was no complementing rebus laterally. I figured Rex would have a field day with that. When I finished the puzzle the FIREs were still not making any sense with the crosses. So I chalked it up to the E=MC. Sometimes the rebuses fit with crosses; sometime they don't. You just have to let it go.

    The web app finally clarified it. Correct submissions were met with two little animated gifs burning brightly in the holes. Ahh, ya got me! Clever.

    Anoa Bob 1:19 AM  

    In the Times on-line, when the puzz is solved, those two square holes become little fire pits, complete with animated flames. Nice touch.

    Now I'm off to the shore to see if I can spot an ERNE. Been trying for years without a single sighting. Maybe they're nocturnal.

    wreck 1:26 AM  

    @Anoa Bob
    I'm pretty sure ERNES only eat EELS

    Ellen S 1:55 AM  

    @wreck, I think you're right, but only crossword EELS. I don't think anyone has ever seen an ERN or an ERNE outside of a puzzle. (ALOE, strangely seems to be a real thing, but judging by the varous clues that surround it, it is the most versatile plant in existence.)

    I didn't worry about "holes" or "blocks" or whatever, once I figured out that the word "fire" went imaginarily inside those blocks, up down left and right. Worked for me.

    chefwen 2:50 AM  

    Doc put me on anti anxiety pills which have rendered me more stupid than I was originally was ( I know, hard to believe) Got it pretty well filled in sans the FIRE thing, handed it to Jon who caught on right away. After that it was a cake walk. Thank you Jon, but I was feeling pretty embarrassed. Oh well!

    chefwen 2:55 AM  

    @ Numi, tell Mrs. Numi that I think of her often and wish her all the best.

    Carola 3:23 AM  

    Agree with @John Child - very nice puzzle. And plenty challenging for me. I thought I'd gotten the idea after WILD, SPIT, MIS and BON, but actually I hadn't thought about where the missing [FIRE] was. For that I needed the reveal. And then I realized I'd also accepted SALE, LIT, EXIT, AXE and even MAN as stand-alone answers until I looked over the grid at the end and saw they needed a preceding [FIRE]. So a multi-stage solve to really see and increasingly appreciate the ingenuity of the construction.

    Also struggled a little in the corner chunks - had to erase sockets (for ANODES) and earth DAY.

    @chefwen - Aloha from just down the whale road! It's wonderful to be back in the Islands.

    pfb 5:17 AM  

    Medium for me and a little faster than usual solving time for Thursday. I, too, could not believe I forgot Lolita when I was listing Kubrick films from the 60's.

    Pretty good puzzle.

    George Barany 5:38 AM  

    Not much to add to what has already been said by @Rex and the commentariat. If this particular trick has been used before, I'm not aware of it. So kudos to @Ellen Leuschner and @Jeff Chen for this ingenious contribution. Those correctly solving the puzzle online over at the New York Times site were rewarded by a nice animation. Something even more dramatic is on the solution page over at, which also has the inside scoop from both Ellen and Jeff.

    @Hayley Gold has chosen the Leuschner-Chen puzzle as the basis for her webcomic of this week; click on the link and check it out.

    Congratulations again to regular Rexite @John Child for his extraordinarily well received Go Look It Up that I called to your attention yesterday. As experienced constructor @Tom Pepper wrote, "Since when does a person start his constructing career with a themed 72-worder? That’s so hard to do! Really great job." Amen to that!

    GILL I. 6:12 AM  

    Good grief....I didn't get the FIRE at all! I had IN THE HOLE and went around looking for a bunch of little holey places. Totally off whack with this one.
    That upstairs was a disaster. Had LOO for Head, I GUESS SO for the Yep...and my juice comes out of ONOGES (try them...they're on sale).
    CD TOWER? What the hell is that? and why does ROADIE work for Kansas or Alabama?
    Yikes IN THE HOLE for moi.

    chefwen 6:56 AM  

    @Gil I. Think of the bands, Kansas and Alabama.. Yeah, me too on loo before LAV. Mr. Plumber boy had a fit over that trying to explain to me that the LAV was a wash basin and had nothing to do with "the head" toilet.

    RAD2626 7:17 AM  

    Liked the puzzle a lot. Thought it was quite clever and well executed. Treated it as a rebus, typing in the one letter and FIRE in each

    RAD2626 7:21 AM  

    Oops. Sorry. In each box starting with OPEN and FIRE, then looking for sixteen little blazes. Even when I figured out they were all around the holes, I still filled them all in as a rebus. Go figure. And Loo before LAV slowed the NW.

    While I disagree with Rex about the puzzle, I wholeheartedly agree about Safari clue. Really clever.

    Loren Muse Smith 7:31 AM  

    I had fun with this, and like others, I saw the trick very early.

    @jae – me, too, for "gut" first and wondering about TUM. I think I would have to say, "How's your TUM TUM?"

    I keep looking at LOST ARTS. I never learned how to diagram a sentence. Damn.

    LOST ARTS revisited - Hmm. Bartender bender, starting sting, cartoon coon, martini mini. Could be on to something.

    @Numi – sending your wife positive vibes. . . Oh, and that essay you embedded yesterday was hysterical.

    I really liked considering those two big squares to be black HOLES, ("Heaven's EBON vault" anyone?) and I give this an A+ for concept and execution.

    I'm with @Greg -this is just the kind of puzzle I want on a Thursday. Good one, Ellen and Jeff!

    Lewis 8:08 AM  
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    Lewis 8:10 AM  

    I started with Loo and had outlEt instead of ANODES and that held me back. It's nice when a puzzle has extra pizzazz, but not necessary for a puzzle to be very enjoyable, as this one was. There was bite in much of the cluing, and in figuring out the theme. Yes, after the theme was figured out, the puzzle got much easier, but the whole experience was a joy.

    @LMS -- Your LOSTARTS idea is terrific! Go for it!

    Who here has ever said TUM? I did like the clues for ERODED and BROWSES, and Rex, it's Thursday. A square can be a hole, for heavens sake! Come to think of it, isn't there a saying about putting a round peg in a square hole?

    Lewis 8:12 AM  

    Okay, it's square peg in round hole, but wait! Maybe round peg in square hole is okay too --'t+fit+a+round+peg+in+a+square+hole .

    joho 8:17 AM  

    LOVED this concept, very bright idea, Ellen and Jeff!

    I was impressed by the dense theme FIREs and especially how the reveal, (FIRE)INTHEHOLE was connected, not separate from, the theme answers.

    I solve on paper but after hearing about the animated FIREINTHEHOLEs I had to go the NYT site to see for myself. Talk about fun! Then off to xwordinfo to see more FIREINTHEHOLEs ... these visuals added a lot to my solving experience today.

    Cute clue for IDO.

    @Loren, I keep parsing it as LOS TARTS and wonder what that means in Spanish.

    What a magical Thursday puzzle, I'm stoked!

    Generic Solver 8:39 AM  

    Looks like TUM is in the Oxford Dictionary:

    "A person's stomach or abdomen."

    I assumed the clue "belly" had a pejorative connotation, as in "pot belly" so I entered "TUB" as in "tub of lard", but that assumption was obviously wrong.

    Anonymous 8:40 AM  

    It ain't so.

    AliasZ 8:41 AM  

    I am all fired up about today's puzzle. Sixteen theme entries in a 15x15 grid must be a record of sorts, discounting those that I remember using only one vowel (O) in the puzzle, or in which all across entries were theme entries. In those the entire puzzle was the theme.

    I think the two 2x2 blocks should have been blank spaces with heavy borders, giving the impression of a hole, instead of black squares, and entering F | I | R | E into each block would have been a rebus. It would've more accurately demonstrated how clever this puzzle really was.

    True, FIRE is easy word with which to find common phrases. Falling asleep last night I thought of at least fifty more. My favorites were FIREwire, GREEK FIRE, Magic FIRE Music and Mrs. DoubtFIRE. Of the ones in the puzzle, I liked SPITFIRE, FIRE-LIT and SUREFIRE the most. I never liked to PLAYS WITH FIRE.

    With such theme density I can entirely forgive ERNE, TUM, HORSY and DIX, because of SEMISOFT, ARACHNID, POOLSIDE, LOST ARTS, ARBOR DAY etc., and my very first entry, LOLITA.

    The choices for musical representation of FIRE, from Handel's "Music for the Royal FIREworks" to Stravinsky's "FIREbird" ballet, are too numerous to list. The following two selections demonstrate what pianos on FIRE can sound like: Ritual FIRE Dance from "El amor brujo" by Manuel de Falla, and "Vers la flamme", Op. 72 by Alexander Scriabin.

    Thank you, Ellen and Jeff.

    PS. As I was searching YouTube, an Alitalia ad popped up: New York to MILAN for $X round trip. Eerie! Maybe I'll go.

    pmdm 9:20 AM  

    To see the "fire in the hole" animation, go to

    bwalker 9:26 AM  

    Wow! The third Thursday in a row that I've completed. I loved this puzzle, but didn't catch the theme until I'd almost finished. Got it on MISFIRE and BONFIRE. Very clever.

    OBIWAN made me risk PLAYSsITH. PeRDUE before PURDUE.

    FIRE ANTS hitchhiked to North America with agricultural products and spread like WILDFIRE across the southern US. Horned lizards once common in Texas are now endangered because FIRE ANTS wiped out their main food source, harvester ants. I haven't seen a horny toad in thirty years. Recently their natural predators, crazy ANTS (so called because of the seemingly insane way they run around), have also hitchhiked to the South. Crazy ANTS don't sting people, but they love electrical wiring. Even so, they are better than their prey. Go crazy ANTS!

    @ joho -- Let's just say if LOS TARTS have apples, they have bananas.

    Leapfinger 9:26 AM  

    #AnoaBob, they are noctERNEal, see?

    I don'tknow about the technical aspects of a themed 72-worder [sounds tough], but I thought @JohnChild's firstborn a great piece of gobsmackery, enjoyed immensely.

    Ditto for Mrs. Numinous.

    Cannot believe that complainANTS about the 'empty' NW and SE want more than 16 themers. Fire them!!

    ComplainANTS about TUM? There's a wHOLE "Era TUM"!!

    Thought this was a gem: a SaFIRE!

    Back later with reinforcements.

    Rex Porker 9:33 AM  

    Rex's critique: "Well, I haven't taken these constructors under my wing, or worse, they know I'm an irrelevant hack, so I'll say I didn't like the puzzle." He should skip doing the puzzle altogether and just use templates for "constructors I like" or "constructors I don't like" and simply fill in the blanks, like Mad Libs. His write-ups would be a bad joke if they weren't so mean-spirited.

    NCA President 9:36 AM  

    Good puzzle.

    I saw Whiplash yesterday and I'm still wrestling with the line, "There are no two words in the English language more harmful than 'good job'." Kind of appropriate here in Rex world where we have the never ending tension between those who love the puzzle and those who find fault with just about every puzzle.

    Maybe Rex is the real-life version of Terence Fletcher? You gotta push and push and push beyond anyone's expectations. Call it tough love, if you like. Call it being an asshole, if you like. Whatever it might be, I think just accepting things as good is indeed a fatal flaw. If you claim to be good, then being good is the need for kudos or applause. But going beyond good, being uniquely good, now you're talkin'.

    Mr. Fletcher is an anti-hero in that it's really hard to accept his POV...but still, that line is going to haunt me for a while...

    Hartley70 9:41 AM  

    I was totally off my Thursday game today. I finished in the usual time but I just didn't get the gimmick. I looked at all the black spaces as holes and the rectangles didn't work. Without a reason for being, the short fill felt off and I really disliked this. Everything would have been forgiven if only the iphone version had the animation. Bummer.

    I echo the above thoughts for Mrs. @Numinous' health. All the best.

    I'm having brain fog today. For the life of me I can't grasp @LMS' LOST ARTS which @Lewis finds so clever. Arrrgh!

    Hi Casco! Whatcha been up too? I've missed you lately.

    OISK 9:50 AM  

    I had Fort Lee before Fort Dix, but otherwise found this one far easier than usual for a Thursday, and much faster than yesterday's Steinberg puzzle. (which I also liked) Very clever gimmick, and pretty good fill, right in my wheelhouse.

    Thanks, guys.

    Questinia 9:51 AM  

    I could watch that fire gif for hours.....

    Rex Porker 9:56 AM  

    Yeah @NCA Pres but Rex is so full of bullshit that his criticisms become meaningless. He is so ridiculously inconsistent that any pretense of "pushing beyond expectations" vanishes. His decision whether or not to make a list of the "bad fill" in a puzzle is worse than arbitrary--it is based solely on whom the constructor is and whether he/she is in rex's good graces. Whether words are "too obscure" or not is based solely on his own (surprisingly narrow) vocabulary and knowledge base. Of course it's his blog and he can cry if he wants to, but those of us who love puzzles also have the right to call him out for the wrong-headed way he goes about insulting constructors and solvers.

    Anonymous 9:57 AM  

    @OISK I first thought of Fort Lee also, what with its being in the news so much last year for it's TIEUPS thanks to a certain corpulent governor with a corpulent ego.

    John V 10:03 AM  

    Good one. Nice new approach to Thursday. Fun conceit. SW last to fall; OSBORN/NED cross was hard for me. Wide open NW and SE were pretty easy here.

    jberg 10:06 AM  

    I got up before dawn to take an early-morning drive through the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge; saw 18 species, so I was delighted to come to the puzzle and find the return of the ERNE, giving me 19 for the morning! I don't think it's an American bird, though, so I may not be able to count it.OBSOLETE

    Like others, I thought of FIRE LANE, but couldn't make it work with OLAN, so I didn't get the theme until I saw the revealer. After that my only problem was knowing that it is OBSOLETE to write letters or diagram sentences (people tell me that all the time; none of them think those were ARTS at all!) PLAYS WITH FIRE finally made that impossible and let to the solution.

    One PEEP--VASSALS were subordinate nobles, not lowly workers. Or is that the modern usage?

    What I learned: there's a band named KANSAS.

    What I already knew, and wrote it before noticing that 10D was a theme answer: there was an old plane called the SPAD. (Didn't know it was French, though.)

    RnRGhost57 10:07 AM  

    @Jae: good linkage to "Justified," which regrettably is in its final season.

    Arlene 10:14 AM  

    Well - I'm one of those who didn't see the FIRE theme right away. All the theme words could sort of reasonably work without the FIRE - except MIS and BON. So I had a DNF and when I took a look at those two answers, it became apparent what the theme was.
    Thursdays are always an adventure!

    mathguy 10:16 AM  

    I didn't know the expression "Fire in the hole." The Closer knew it. Where have I been?

    Liked the puzzle a lot, mainly because of the theme. Having the upper left and lower right isolated was a negative, however.

    Horace S. Patoot 10:17 AM  

    Loved the puzzle, disliked the review. Rex, what's the complaint about ANODES? It's a valid word with a reasonably entertaining clue. I was happy to see AXON as well.

    Roo Monster 10:22 AM  

    Hey All !
    Disagree with the Rexster on this one. I thought it was an awesome puz! Solved online, had enough downs to see INTHEHOLE, but tried to rebus in FIRE in the first square. Online version wouldn't let me open the square to put in a rebus, realized I only had _NTHEHOLE, so put in the I. Figured the FIRE must be the block, so looked at the symetrical block, had beeS for Stining insects, said Aha!, and changed to ANTS. Them reread revealer clue, said 16 (!) answers, then figured out the whole block of 4 was FIRE! Neat. The best part? When I finished, the 4-blocks went away, and little FIREs were burning in their stead! Awesome!

    Put me in the gUt catagory, actually had a nit over gUt crossing GUN, but the g was screwing me up. Then after I figured GUN FIRE, and knowing gUt was wrong, all was ok. OLAf->OLAv->OLAN, atASLANT-iNASLaNT-ONASLANT, Fort Lee before DIX, HORSe first.

    Are LO STARTS opposite of quick ones? And does it invole LO LITA? Were people in the early 2000's OS BORN? We are in the throes of SEMIS OFT this time of year. Ennui= AR BORD, AY. Roadkill flung into your car= RO DENT. I know, bad, ID SAY SO!

    RUE for ROO

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:27 AM  

    Very impressive puzzle.

    On Thursdays, I always spend time trying crossings mentally before committing to paper, in order to avoid rebus traps. Today took longer; some unusual words like VASSAL ("Lowly worker" - that's got to be PEON or ESNE, but they don't fit!) or A SLEW ("Loads" - must end in "S", or maybe OCEAN?), or maybe there was some kind of numerical rebus: How could there be a British plane in four letters (10 D), or a sci-fi fighter in three (16 A)?

    But once I did find the trick, agree, the rest was pretty easy! And I could fill it with no write-overs.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:32 AM  

    PS to @Hartley70 - LMS's idea is to remove the letter string ART from words, getting new words, as: STARTING STING.

    Steve J 10:45 AM  

    @Gill: CD TOWER - a vertical rack for storing CDs.

    AliasZ 10:52 AM  


    Here is more fuel to your LOST ARTS fire:
    parties, pies; Spartan, span; partita, pita; tartan, tan or tartar, tar; darting, ding or parting, ping; partisan, Pisan;

    Two outliers:
    start-up ID, stupid;
    Mother Earth, "Mother, eh?"

    Enough here for a crossword theme, eh?

    Bartender/bender would be a great seed. Go for it!

    Leapfinger 11:13 AM  

    Couldn't tell for a while what on Earth was going on. Water the odds that all the themers Air "Fire"? Like @Rex, I expected the upper set would be a Firehole, the lower one a Waterhole.

    I STARED alot at this fine puzzle in the beginning, wondering about Fine ARTS, was it maybe -TARTS or -STARTS? Only later found the ARTS, LOST. (@lms, there isn't much you can do with a diagrammed sentence, except diagram another.)

    Had to hang FIRE till SPIT[FIRE] broke it all wide open, and set me to fixing
    BAR --> BON (though a party with a BAR is not to be sneezed at)
    Ft LEE --> Ft DIX (at least I knew it wasn't ORD)
    Also thought [i] an old-style FIREWALL helped building safety, esp since FIREESCAPE didn't fit.
    (ii) 'Act like an amateur' would be ENJOY before EMOTE
    (iii) Sayin' ILE de Rome would work in place of RUE de Rome, and
    (iv) Ella before ETTA.

    Just as yesterday we had BART STAR but no Brenda STAR, today we're missing ALOU ETTA. To moi [and Mlle Eartha Kitt], that clearly "says EBON". To others, it may say "Honi soi qui MALII DO".
    As one can plainly see, this was not just another ROADIE- Oh.

    Was anyone else intrigued by the suggestion that TERROR TEARS...tares? Or the idea of FIRE AXES while an AXON FIRES?

    Only one small grouse to date: yesterday's MISSPENT youth is compounded by today's MISFIRE. In the interests of gender sensitivity, I propose that future references stick with MS PENT and MS FIRE.

    Loved this firecracker Leuschner-Chen collab -- a puzzle that keeps on giving!

    old timer 11:14 AM  

    I suspect Rex wrote that writeup after is second glass of Irish whiskey. There were parts of today's blog I found incomprehensible.

    How I solved the puzzle:

    I looked around for stuff I knew, and that turned out to be in the SE, where I immediately knew "Fire in the hole!" But how to put "fire" in the middle? Once I had INTHEHOLE, I figured the "fire" was just something to be assumed. I completed the entire puzzle without realizing those big black boxes were *holes*

    Once I came here, and then went on the NYT blog, I realized this puzzle was much more awesome than I had thought.

    Anonymous 11:23 AM  

    @Gill Kansas and Alabama are bands, hence ROADIE

    AZPETE 11:46 AM  


    Lewis 12:03 PM  

    Factoid: In 2011, a STRAD sold for $15.9 million, more than four times the previous auction record for a violin.

    Quotoid: "Truth is, I'll never know all there is to know about you just as you will never know all there is to know about me. Humans are by nature too complicated to be understood fully. So, we can choose either to approach our fellow human beings with suspicion or to approach them with an OPEN mind, a dash of optimism and a great deal of candour." -- Tom Hanks

    Ludyjynn 12:06 PM  

    The Rolling Stones' 1965 B-side recording, PLAYWITHFIRE, has been in my head since the solve; a wonderful ear worm to have.

    As most of you have pointed out, there was some terrific cluing in this puzzle, esp. the long Downs, on top of very nice execution of this densely packed theme. No PEEPs from me, despite Rex's carping and RUEful review.

    @Berg, I am SOOO jealous of how you spent this morning. Did you happen to come across any horseshoe crabs mating? On one of my visits to Ding Darling, my Mom and I had gotten out of the car and were walking along when we saw this particular, peculiar sight in the shallow water alongside the roadway. She had to explain to her grown daughter what we were witnessing!

    I, for one, never tire of seeing Ed ASNER's name in a puzz. He is currently in a recurring role on "The Good Wife", playing an unlikable but potentially valuable campaign contributor to Alicia's State's Attorney run.

    @Numi, best wishes to Mrs. N. on her continuing recovery.

    Thanks, EL, JC and WS. for a fine collaboration. IDO look forward to more from you.

    Leapfinger 12:12 PM  

    @chefwen, I'll bet that Mr. Plumbr-boy is thinking of 'LAVabo', a device used for the washing of hands' per wiki. [see images] Just STARE (or LOOk) him in the eye and say "LAVatory".

    Looks asif @lms is onto an ARTlessly great theme.

    Per photogs, 'cheese' makes you smile. @Clark's cheese made me laugh. As did most of @Roo's oeuvre.

    Some stray sparks from the fireplace:

    Une Banque Czech STORES a cache, while STORES bank on cash and checks. ODD that.

    I've also heard about an arsonist artist who painted fire 'scapes.

    Then there's the breakfast cook's order to the scullery maid. A gun and a gun he said:
    "Fire gets the griddle ready, so fire when you see the whites of their eggs."

    Absolutely no re-embersment is ashed or expected. As an amateur, this is all done purely for the love of it.


    Joseph Michael 12:13 PM  

    YES YES. Fun idea and Impressive construction with 16 themers to offset the junk fill.

    Had a hard time in the NW trying to grok how juice comes out of A NODES. Wanted LOO before LAV so couldn't see VASSAL or A SLEW.

    Liked LOST ARTS and SEMI-SOFT and POOLSIDE and both clues with RINGS.

    Kudos to the constructors.

    Anonymous 12:49 PM  

    While waiting for today's puzzle to get posted, I downloaded the Sunday March 25 2005 puzzle to kill some time. 47A was "Original Luddite _____ Ludd".

    What a coinkydink. (That comes from a Fudd-not-Ludd contemporary)

    Numinous 1:03 PM  

    LOLITA went in first for me. I liked the book but didn't like the movie. I confess, Dr. Strangelovewas the first movie that came to mind but it obviously didn't fit.
    OLAN always gives me pause. I've never read Pearl S. Buck so I probably only know OLAN from crosswords. It usually takes me a cross or two to remember her. Or him, I really don't know.

    @LMS, Hartley 70, Leapy, Ludy, and everyone else who has expressed or thought good wishes for my better half. She just spent 10 days in the hospital to clear up an infection which the previous outpatient debridement didn't quite eliminate. This time they were able to identify the exact cause of the infection and to prescribe the best antibiotic for it. Sadly, she heals very slowly due to deep tissue damage from radiation treatment some nine years ago.

    Anonymous 1:14 PM  

    Lolita plays with semisoft wild ape man poolside? Spit, grip, in the hole!? Sure, Lo's tarts ran. Yes yes, homers stared. Odd life.

    What was the theme again?

    Masked and Anonymo3Us 1:44 PM  

    @muse: Might make a heckuva runtpuz, if U would ever like to collab-o-tate.

    @63: Sympathize with yer deep, abidin concern, about what shape of holes people go startin fires in. We'all is round peg dudes. (yo, @lewis!)
    I, for one, plan on writin a letter to Iran, tellin em not to make no "square hole" deals with anybody, ever ...
    Just don't cotton to it, Iowatollas. snort.

    fave weeject: TUM. Solid desperation. tUmsUp.

    Took m&e waaaay too long, to see the hole day-um theme. It's only rock & roll, but I like it.


    ** gruntz. One of em shown on film at the ACPT tournament site. **

    mac 1:50 PM  

    Quick and easy, but I didn't look for the boxes/holes. Maybe because I didn't know the term "fire in the hole".

    Semi-hard for semi-shoft slowed me down a bit. Tum?

    mac 1:51 PM  

    Hayley's comic is fantastic today!

    Tita 2:18 PM  

    Liked this just fine! Plenty of theme answers helped with the solve.

    Liked the 'nice ring' and the 'things with rings...
    Maybe all you chrono-anarchists that spoiled Wednesday for me - your EARS are ringing?

    I bet the fur industry doesn't talk much about chinchillas being RODENTs.
    Once the marketers for ARACHNID crabs (aka spider crabs) changed their name to King Crabs, sales sure did take off!

    After a bad storm on Cape Cod, you'll see plenty of these critters washed up in the bay.
    @Ludy - plenty of the HORSY crabs too...

    Thanks Ms. Leuschner & Mr. Chen!

    Big Steve46 2:24 PM  

    I know that there are various views as to what constitutes a "NATICK." To me, it is the cross of 2 clues that are obscure or that come out of the same narrow area that someone might not be knowledgeable of. This puzzle had one, in my opinion at BOT and OBIWAN. (I guessed wrong with an E not an O, thinking ER made as much sense as OR.) Anyway, I just don't like sci-fi and tend to get hung up on sci-fi clues. They are totally legit, of course, but shouldn't cross one another. (Actually, having spent a lot of time hanging around Mass., I found NATICK a perfectly reasonable answer.)

    mathguy 2:52 PM  

    Seeing OLAN brought me back to the distant past when I first started doing The Puzzle. It was used quite often. It might even have been in the crosswordese lexicon.

    AnonyMumble 3:20 PM  

    Not knowing the term "fire in the hole" --- that's a miner thing.

    Charles Flaster 3:54 PM  

    Liked this medium puz.
    PLAYS WITH gave me the theme.
    HOMERS is shaky at best.
    Yesterday Rex was spot on but not today.
    Liked cluing for DIG,BROWSES and ROADIE.
    Had Spad for SPIT.
    Thanks EL and JC.

    Mary Stevens 4:51 PM  

    Was anybody able to get this one right using the App?? All my answers are correct but it says I have "at least one error". What is the Rebus supposed to have in it?

    Mary Stevens 4:57 PM  

    I just answered my own question. We aren't supposed to do a Rebus. On this one.
    Instead all the FIREs are in the two square firepits.

    small MA towns 5:24 PM  

    Big Steve46@ 1424: A Natick is the crossing of 2 proper nouns. Any other definition just ends up meaning "two words I don't know crossing each other" and "Natick" becomes meaningless.

    bwalker 5:32 PM  

    @leapy, @chefwen -- I did not know that a LAVabo was also a sink. Literally, it is Latin for "I will wash." I thought it was the bowl catching the holy water when the priest washed his hands after preparing the eucharist. Too many years as the ONLY altar boy at a rural Episcopal church!

    Whatever, I know that when my New England cousins went to the LAV, they did not go to the ladies room to pee in the sink. That ol' English language with its multiple definitions and regional dialects! Psshh!

    Hartley70 6:15 PM  

    That is GREAT! Thanks also.

    Hartley70 6:46 PM  

    Thanks @Bob. Duh! I need a good head slap.

    GILL I. 7:50 PM  

    @chefwen et al...thanks for the ROADIE explanation I wish I could do a head slap or maybe a TUM TUM dance...but, I've never heard of either group...@OISK...Do you know them?
    @Steve J. OK, I know Jewel and I like her music but really, I wanted to fit a carat or something in there. We always stuck our CD's in a drawer.

    Z 10:12 PM  

    Got the theme earlyish, thought it was a fine puzzle. I always like an inverse rebus. I did this last night on the iPad, but have been too busy to stop by.

    @smallMAtown - Actually, "NATICK PRINCIPLE — 'If you include a proper noun in your grid that you cannot reasonably expect more than 1/4 of the solving public to have heard of, you must cross that noun with reasonably common words and phrases or very common names.' " Amazing what looking at the FAQ page can do for you.

    Nancy 10:18 PM  

    I'm so late posting that I know no one will read this. But it's not my fault. My NY Times arrived on my doorstep this morning WITHOUT THE ARTS SECTION! On a Thursday, my very favorite puzzle day! Oh, horrors! I called Times delivery and they promised me a replacement paper, but it didn't arrive until 6:30 p.m. But at least it arrived. Finally got to the puzzle, after dinner, and was rewarded with a good one. I solved it, but it wasn't easy--

    Like mathguy, I've never heard the expression FIRE IN THE HOLE to warn of a detonation. Like jae and lms, I had gUt instead of TUM. Saw some of the "FIRE" answers in their entirety, but for some I thought my half-answer was correct. After finishing, however, I figured out that the two big squares were the "holes", and re-visited some of my half-answers, realizing that FIRE EXIT was better than just EXIT; FIRELIT was better than just LIT and FIRE AXE was better than just AXE. The whole puzzle came together at that point and I said "aha!"

    Thank you NY Times for getting this puzzle to me, albeit it late. It was worth waiting for.

    Anonymous 12:35 AM  

    Just to keep in tune with your ad hominem attack on Rex, you are an idiot.

    aging soprano 3:44 AM  

    Be careful not to step on any fireANT hills. And have a good time.

    aging soprano 3:55 AM  

    Wow! You can go to a game, and catch an opera at La Scala. Sounds good.

    aging soprano 4:17 AM  

    Be careful not to step on any fireANT hills. And have a good time.

    Anonymous 12:14 PM  

    Oh my.

    Burma Shave 11:30 AM  


    LOLITA PLAYSWITH the ROADIE in her loft,
    that SPITFIRE struck TERROR through his soul,
    so much that the WILD MAN’s now SEMISOFT
    and can’t be SUREFIREINTHEHOLE.

    --- ERNE DIX

    spacecraft 11:35 AM  

    Like OFL, I, staunch Kubrick fan that I am, forgot all about LOLITA. I was convinced his 1962 film was "Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb." Have I mentioned how terrible I am at timelines? That, with or without the extended phrase, wasn't about to fit into six squares. Ergo, [I thought] we had a rebus to deal with. Well, we did, but not one I envisioned.

    My friend Sarah N. Dipity to the rescue! I went hunting for a revealer clue, found it at 54a, and began work there. Soon I had


    and thus my only w/o. Soon after, I had INTHEHOLE and that gave away the STORE. Had all the acrosses around the southern "hole," and wondered if it went vertical, too. MAN, that would be a prodigious feat. Turns out it did, and with jaw-droppingly great execution. Here's where @Rex and I part ways. Dull? DULL?? OK, if you look up "jaded" in the dictionary, you should find a picture of you-know-who.

    For a Thursday, this one turned out fairly easy, once the trick is found. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it immensely. Some iffy fill in such a theme-dense grid--with so many 3's--is inevitable, but Ellen and Jeff did as well as they could minimizing it. I kowtow to them, and award them an A-.

    rondo 11:50 AM  

    Since I started with MAWS and GRIP I had the beginning of the plane with SP, thought perhaps a misprint for WWII because someone had a WWI plane the SPAD, right? But MALI axed that idea and I figured something’s up with FIRE when I realized LANE. That 4square black spot looked so curious .That’s when I got the FIREINTHEHOLE bit going in all directions, before going to the other FIRE hole and doing those. Then just a matter of fill , but the NW proved the toughest for me, mostly because of having atASLANT gumming it up. I actually liked this gimmick, so not a bad Thursday considering my usual Thursday plaints.

    Would “Nabakov novel” make LOLITA easier? Or harder? Probably easier, at least for me. Can’t or don’t remember all of Kubrick’s work.

    Obviously I enjoyed this puz more than OFL. I didn’t exactly find this dull.

    rain forest 1:38 PM  

    Strange days indeed when most of the commentariat praise a puzzle that OFL finds...dull. Shakes head. Bites tongue.

    Of course holes can be square. If you are embedding setts in your lawn for a walkway, you must dig square holes, for example.

    I got the gig insanely early with MAWS my first entry and thinking WILDFIRE, and then SPITFIRE, and wondering whether that would work in the across answers, etc.

    Same thing with the bottom "hole". And the revealer was terrific.

    A lot of fun today. @Spacey-I know you are a tough grader, but I'd drop the minus from your A-. This was anything but...dull.

    DMG 4:38 PM  

    Without the revealer I'd still be working on this fun puzzle, where the assortment of fires helped make sense of a number of answers, My troubles were in the NW. I clung to guessSO far too long,. Didn't abandon it unril LOLITA slowly emerged. Ended with a single Natick in the lower left where the unknown supervillian met the equally unknown to me Mr Ludd. Luddite that I am, you"d think I know his name!

    2651 Yuk!

    leftcoastTAM 7:05 PM  

    Just for the record: @Burma Shave is very funny, sometimes outrageously so, like today! (Something like Arthur Miller's Salesman, attention must be paid.)

    sdcheezhd 9:41 PM  

    ORGANA for OBIWAN messed up the NE. LEE for DIX messed up that part. Had to do it from the bottom up and fortunately had heard of FIREINTHEHOLE.

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