Ballerina of children's lit / WED 12-2-15 / Little name in 1960s pop / Horn-honking brother of old comedy / Calligrapher's purchase

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: astronomical puns — astronomical terms reimagined as non-astronomical phrases via wacky clues

Theme answers:
  • LIGHT YEAR (17A: Easy two semesters at school?)
  • POLESTAR (25A: Lech Walesa, for one?)
  • RADIATION BELT (36A: Attire during an X-ray exam?)
  • RED GIANT (51A: Lenin, say?)
  • SUPERNOVA (61A: Fabulous deli delicacy?)
Word of the Day: RADIATION BELT
A radiation belt is a layer of energetic charged particles that is held in place around a magnetized planet, such as the Earth, by the planet's magnetic field. The Earth has two such belts and sometimes others may be temporarily created. The discovery of the belts is credited to James Van Allen and as a result the Earth's belts bear his name. The main belts extend from an altitude of about 1,000 to 60,000 kilometers above the surface in which region radiation levels vary. Most of the particles that form the belts are thought to come from solar wind and other particles by cosmic rays. The belts are located in the inner region of the Earth's magnetosphere. The belts contain energetic electrons that form the outer belt and a combination of protons and electrons that form the inner belt. The radiation belts additionally contain less amounts of other nuclei, such as alpha particles. The belts endanger satellites, which must protect their sensitive components with adequate shielding if their orbit spends significant time in the radiation belts. In 2013, NASA reported that the Van Allen Probes had discovered a transient, third radiation belt, which was observed for four weeks until destroyed by a powerful, interplanetary shock wave from the Sun. (wikipedia)
• • •

Started out Very easy, but then I couldn't understand what was going on with the theme (this remained the case until near the very end), and so I kind of had to hack my way around the theme answers, causing my pace to slow considerably. I was 80% done and had only one, maybe two theme answers in place, so it was not clear to me exactly how they were related. I have never seen NOVA as salmon (i.e. a "deli delicacy") except in crosswords, so SUPER___ (and that whole SE corner) was oddly tough to get into. Eventually I got the theme and figured it out. At first I thought "oh, they're all stars," but they're only 60% stars. Still, it's a reasonable theme. Theme answers seem pretty arbitrary, but the clues work OK. Turns out I had no idea what a RADIATION BELT was. For a while, as I was solving, I had RADIATION VEST in there (you wear those when you get X-rays at the dentist, right?).

The fill has some clunky parts, but for the most part it's clean, with lots of nice longer Downs to give the grid personality. I had issues with ICE RAIN, which I don't believe exists. I mean, I've seen ICE and I've see RAIN, and I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end, but ICE RAIN? There's a reason it's clued [Sleetlike precipitation]—that's because it's called "sleet." I live in a place that gets this so-called ICE RAIN from time to time. We call it "sleet" (or maybe "freezing rain"). If you google [ice rain], freezing rain and sleet come up. So there. Further, LIE ABOVE and [Rest on] don't seem equivalent. The latter implies touching and the former does Not. If I say something's "on the fridge," it means it's sitting on the fridge. If I say it's "above the fridge," it's probably in a cupboard ... above the fridge. The books in front of me are resting on my desk. They are not "lying above" it. Etc. Also, if you google ["lie above"], the results are reasonably plentiful but All over the map. Math, song lyrics, golf. That's what's on the *first* page of hits. What we have learned here is no one uses "lie above" to mean "rest on."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS somehow OVER (65A) being so near ACROBAT (which was clued [One going head OVER heels?]) (emph. mine) bugged me. A little dupe like that won't normally matter, but when one answer lies above (!) the other, the dupe is in danger of becoming irksomely noticeable.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


George Barany 6:32 AM  

This puzzle by @Alan Arbesfeld, a veteran constructor, was a pleasant solve for me, and it looks like @Rex more or less agrees. There are some real advantages to solving first thing in the morning, when fresh, rather than late at night, when exhausted!

Z 6:45 AM  

My thoughts exactly on ICE RAIN (well, except for the whole James Taylor shout out). Had ---RAIN and thought, "what else do we call sleet?"

I do think this is an example of a puzzle that's not fresh (HARPO Marx and Goodfellas(25 years old)) but still isn't stale. Change the clues for ALLISON, GRANDE and CIA and you could have run this puzzle in 1991. Still, I thought the balance was good in the fill and I never had that "not this again" feeling. I like the science/word play combo of the themes. All in all a competent Wednesday puzzle with a nice theme.

Anonymous 7:07 AM  

What about drunk dial? I know about "dialing while drunk" or "drunk dialing" but never heard the phrase "drunk dial."
For once, I was crankier than Rex. Just didn't like this one.

relicofthe60s 7:43 AM  

Nova is pretty widely used as a synonym for salmon -- or more precisely, lox -- especially by New Yorkers.

TonySaratoga 7:49 AM  

Rarely are Wednesdays fun or challenging. This one is both.

AliasZ 8:03 AM  

Wow, today's theme was Out Of This World.

Loved the kooky cluing for the astronomical phenomena, POLE STAR being one concept I was unfamiliar with by that name. But thinking about it (and a little help from Mr. Google) I realized that it's simply a star, visible to the naked eye, that is aligned with Earth's North or South Pole. In the north that is currently the Polaris or North Star, and in the south it is the Sigma Octantis. They don't change their position relative to the earth's rotation, hence they are useful navigation aids to find north. In case you were lost at sea.

I liked the fill as well, like a good cherry pie's. The first thing I noticed was that MOTH appeared just below where MOTH was yesterday, except today it acquired a LUNA. A JAM (a rut?), on A HIGH, ON A TEAR, wasn't pretty, and Odin acquiring a G: O-DING? O-dang! Thank goodness SPARE RIB, JUICE BAR, INDIA INK, TAX HAVEN and a few other juicy entries came to the rescue. MR. HYDE was Jekyll at first, until I remembered that Dr. Jekyll was his real name and Mr. Hyde his alter ego.

The cluster of proper names in the NW was off-putting to say the least: four of them in that small corner, in that prime territory. The SE had its own problems. It occurred to me that when I "Rest on" my bed, I do not LIE ABOVE it. If I did, my sheets would never need to be laundered. A politician lives one floor up from mine. He does LIE ABOVE, but only when his lips are moving. When a raw hamburger patty rests on the hot griddle, it gets cooked. Medium rare is how I like it. If however it lies above it, perhaps on a shelf three feet above, it remains raw, barely warming over room temperature. The politician told me: "If you like your hamburger medium rare, you can keep your hamburger raw." Now it all makes perfect sense.

SOFIA Gubaidulina (b.1931) is a Russian composer. I am taking a chance suggesting her piano composition "Musical Toys" (9-14), a collection of 14 short pieces that often strikingly imitate nature's sounds, from woodpeckers and sleigh bells to a variety of other forest creatures. The more adventurous music lover may find it fascinating to also listen to 1 through 8.

Happy Wednesday.

Aketi 8:18 AM  

@rex, I had never heard of NOVA until I moved to NYC, A good reminder that I can make a breakfast of the leftovers from our annual post Thanksgivng dog walk in Central Park followed by NOVA, bagelss and pie fest with our Quebecis friends. Of course the pointed out that the rabbi chose Montreal bagels over NYC bagels in the blind taste test.

I enjoyed seeing LUNA MOTH accompanying the astronomical theme. And not a single black hole or event horizon.

Casco Kid 8:19 AM  

Fun solve with one exception: Unless you knew your kid-lit ballarinas explicitly, you probably trusted the crosses, as I did, and ended with ANGyLINA/ICyRAIN as ICERAIN is wrong on so many levels. Major black mark in an otherwise shimmering puzzle. Better clue for 20A would have been: [20A Two phases of weather water] ICERAIN. Not great, but sorta-kinda consistent with the overall theme, and at least not a major misdirect.

Hungry Mother 8:20 AM  

The theme finally saved me in this one.

Anonymous 8:24 AM  

Ice rain is definitely a thing here in Portland, OR, only we call it "freezing rain" or "ice storms." Sleet is different - that's more like sloppy, icy snow that isn't going to stick. Freezing rain comes down as rain and immediately turns to a sheet of ice when it hits the ground. We can't even walk on our gravel driveways because they get so treacherous. But yeah, "ice rain" is a weird name.

Casco Kid 8:26 AM  

Any puz w' EATIN is a feast for @M&A. What'r we EATIN today? STEAK, or something bluer on the menu (lookin' at you @EvilDoug)

Hey, @Numinous! May your day match your handle. #HAPBIRT

Anonymous 8:34 AM  

Nice puzzle, nice review. Did HARPO *really* need the "old" stipulation (*sigh*)? Freezing rain is liquid, right? You just know that it's gonna freeze? Once it's done hurtling to earth. I love that LP LP.

NCA President 8:54 AM  

I breezed through this one until I hit the SE and just couldn't get a toe hold. I knew the theme by then and so SUPERNOVA seemed right (and I somehow knew that NOVA was some kind of lox or something fishy), but between not knowing if the file extension was pdf or the old standby, EXE...I stared at that corner for a long time. "Exercise piece" didn't help nor did "Another time." So I bit the bullet and put EXE in there and somehow things started to fall in place.

FWIW, as someone who lives in an area where we get a lot of sleet and "ICE RAIN," I can say I've never ever heard the term ICE RAIN. It is, as Rex points out, sleet or freezing rain. Sleet is frozen before it hits the ground. You can hear sleet falling outside...tick, tick,'s a very distinct sound.

Freezing rain, OTOH, is rain that freezes when it hits the ground...or your car's windshield.

I follow some weather nerds on Twitter and they're pretty good about educating people in weather speak...ICE RAIN is something that a caveman might say when he points to the sky and tells his wife that the heavens are angry and it's sleeting. Or it might appear on Google when it occurs in a headline as "Snow, Ice, Rain to Hit Area Tomorrow." So no. I'm going to say WS and his fastidious attention to detail dropped the ball on that one.

Anonymous 8:59 AM  

I can attest that Nova does in fact exist outside the vacuum of crossworld, on the menu of many delis (or 'delis' that really only make bagels).

I agree that the themers seem kind of arbitrary - I imagine you could come up with similar wordplay for loads of other astronomical terms. Bothered me a little that lightyear doesn't entirely fit with the rest, in the sense that the others are all physical objects, but I guess it still holds together.

L 9:02 AM  

You have really never seen nova as salmon?!? You need to get downstate more often and stop by Zabars or any deli for that matter. I thought SUPERNOVA was the cleverest answer of the bunch, even if it took me a while to figure out the theme.

Nancy 9:33 AM  

I'm with @Alias Z ad @Tony Saratoga. I thought this was unusually fun and challenging for a Wednesday and I enjoyed it. I chuckled at some of the answers, especially SUPERNOVA.

Nancy 9:35 AM  

Oh, and thanks @Tita, for your kind wishes yesterday. Yes, sadly, it did happen.

Sinestro 9:35 AM  

Maybe I'm just a dummy, but can someone explain what kind of bank account entry 'INT' represents?

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

nota bene, freezing rain is rain that freezes upon contact with the ground; sleet is made of droplets that have already frozen in the atmosphere

ice rain is anyone's guess

quilter1 9:44 AM  

I liked it and agree with most on ICE RAIN. We get that, but call it freezing rain, not my favorite weather. NOVA for salmon was somewhere in my brain, but by that time I had the theme and SUPERNOVA was obvious. Nice cluing, too.

Jill Sullivan 9:50 AM  

My first time commenting. Not sure why today is the day - I've been reading the blog for years.

FWIW - In the catering business I used to work for, we always called smoked salmon NOVA.

Really liked the clue for DIAL. Really hated the clue for ARE.

One last gripe: I was annoyed by the ? clue for acrobat. This was the only non-theme clue that had a ? Bush league!!

Charles Flaster 9:54 AM  

Liked this easy one especially the theme.
Two favorites were LIGHT YEAR and POLE STAR.
Favorite non- themer was NESTS.
Write over-- KOLA for cOLA.
NYC background nurtured me on "salty" lox and NOVA, while being more of a delicacy, is not my cup of tea( or coffee).
Thanks AA- always enjoy your work.

Chuck McGregor 10:01 AM  

As I "live and breathe," a first for me today (and it very well could the last). I FULLY expected to see a relative difficulty: "Easy" from @Rex because I found it quite easy. In fact, I thought he might even say too easy / Mondayish / or something similar. To my utter surprise he grades it "Medium?"

PAR for the course is that I have mighty 'struggles with puzzles'* only to find @Rex took only 4.6875 minutes to finish, and that time included reading a book he just got from Amazon, grading a stack of papers, all while making a breakfast that included some SUPER NOVA.

* Catchy title for the memoirs of a Bletchley Park cryptologist?

Too many clues to mention all that were in my wheelhouse. MAYI mention a few among others?

A few months ago, I performed in the pit orchestra for the musical "Jekyll & HYDE" (ampersand is correct for the musical's title). I'm a space junky so the theme answers were gimmes with only a couple of letters. See a lot of LUNA MOTHs around here. ASHORE for Navy vet. My ex-wife's daughter was an Olympic skier during Phil Mahre's time and knew him well. Just yesterday heard a short history of ADESTE Fideles on the radio. I follow tennis more than enough to immediately know Monica SELES. And then there's Little EVA's Loco-motion, the favorite dance of a high school girlfriend. A more recent one does calligraphy and a TASK has been to pick up INDIA INK for her. When I lived in N.Y.C, my apartment overlooked the terminus of the LIRR.

And so it went. I finished in 5.39 minutes...or rather I might have if didn't take me some 25 minutes -- probably a fast time for me, but I don't keep track of solving times. Sometimes it seems to take a LIGHT YEAR to finish. (Yeah, I know that's distance, not time).

I've had JOBs where what I would "bring home" was a NANO NET.


chefbea 10:03 AM  

Couldn't figure out the puzzle...I love puns but had no idea about astronomical puns. Had up for not liking ice rain....of course, love spare ribs!!

UMGBlue 10:08 AM  

Had Luna moth not moth Luna.
Never heard of nova.
Ah, the Midwest.

thfenn 10:09 AM  

Lots of false starts for me, beginning with ARUT, which left me in AJAM. Convinced myself URSALINA must be ANGELINA's sister, but just couldn't work out from ARUT what kind of bar would serve a smoothie...also had DRHYDE for a long time, forgetting it was Dr Jekyll and MRHYDE, which kept me away from ALMANAC for a long time. Didn't really like ONATEAR for Bingeing - 'on a tear' is much closer to a hot streak than ODING (in fact we could've swapped the cluing with those two). I also just plain don't get OVER as 'Another time'. In the end, the theme here for me was PATIENT. Fell into place eventually, but was a struggle...

Bronxdoc 10:15 AM  


Anonymous 10:17 AM  

Never really thought about the expression before... but shouldn't it actually be heals over head? I'm standing perfectly still, and my head is over my heals.

Tita 10:23 AM  

An astronomy it!
I studied physics at NYU, intending to go on to be an astrophysiscist. But the part-time get-me-through-college job started me on a career in computers, and all I can say is software been berry berry good to me.
So of course, I copped on right away, and those wacky phrases did help me finish.

Really nice to have a theme that is not devoted to pop "celebrities" or sports.
Also liked the LUNA MOTH, and the chemist's clue on NACL. Oh...and the ALMANAC contains lots of astronomical events in it too...

SLO reminds me of driving throug Ireland on our honeymoon. Driving on the left, while encountering livestock in the road, beautiful landmarks/scenery at every twist and turn, a bike race, and ginormous delivery trucks, the full word SLOw was painted on the road surface...but the road was so narrow, that it didn't fit in our lane, so the W bled over into the oncoming lane.
The really ironic thing is that the reason we needed to SLO down was because the road was narrowing...!
To pass over a one-lane medieval bridge, that the oil delivery truck was bearing down on from the other side...

Thanks so much, Asquared...i really enjoyed this!

Cassieopia 10:23 AM  

POLESTAR was awesome. That is all. :)

Bob Kerfuffle 10:27 AM  

Nice puzzle; liked the theme.

But it did put up some resistance, starting with a write-over already noted, 1 A, A RUT >> A JAM.

Anonymous 10:43 AM  

@Sinestro: INTerest

Roo Monster 10:47 AM  

Hey All !
Nice theme. A little out there -- Get it? Out there? Like space. :-P

Liked the open NW and SE corners. Nice long downs. Took a second or two to grock some of the clues. Think today's puz and yesterday's puz should have been swapped.

Had a mess in the N at first. Arut for AJAM, cAnI for MAYI, ace for PAR. So took some wriggling to set everything straight up there. Oh, and POLisheR for POLE STAR! Only other one was cOca->KOLA. (Har, new drink?)

Just a Z and Q from a pangram. Agree with the masses on ICE RAIN. Figured it was ICEsomething, but c'mon. Other than that, good puz!


Paul Rippey 10:54 AM  

I was waiting for anonymous from Portland to mention GRAUPEL, another form of ICyRAIN, and one my wife suggested when I read her "sleetlike precipitation seven letters". The weather people here in Portland understandably have many names for water-falling-from-sky, especially as weather prediction is particularly difficult as we are situated between North and South, and between ocean and high desert; they have to do something to be interesting. Otherwise they would just say "chance of rain" everyday, which we already know. Anyway, graupel, "also called soft hail, snow pellets or "Grail" is precipitation that forms when supercooled droplets of water are collected and freeze on a falling snowflake, forming a 2–5 mm (0.079–0.197 in) ball of rime." The weatherfolk will predict graupel occasionally, and I'm still waiting to see it in a crossword.

Paul Johnson 10:57 AM  

One correction. True there is the expression "the patience of Job". But if you've ever read the Book of Job (I have), nothing could be further from the truth. He kvetched throughout, even railed against God while his friends tried to talk him down. It was God's patience, even humor as He chastises Job, that prevailed in the end.

Tita 11:03 AM  

BTW...I had never heard of NOVA salmon before a few months ago when it was in a puzzle, and some of you Rexvillians pointed out the differences between it and lox.
Yesterday, I actually went into a BJ's. There in the fish department was a package of NOVA salmon, which I never would have even noticed, were it not for that cyber conversation. And then here it is today!

We joined just for the gas - in one year, we've only been inside that store 3 times. I had a cart the size of the Van Allen belts, and walked out with one 10 lb bag of flour and one huge bag of reduced sugar craisins.
I still don't get the popularity of these places...!

Paul Johnson 11:04 AM  

One more addition: NOVA is rarely used to describe salmon in the Midwest. I only know if from NYTimes puzzles and never noticed or heard the word (other than supernova of Nova Scotia) until afterwards on shrink wrapped fish at the supermarket.

old timer 11:30 AM  

Farewell ANGELINA, I'm going ASHORE
The TAXHAVEN's left me a-cryin' for more
I'm FEISTY and can't be as PATIENT as Job,
But it's easy to make up these POEMS like Bob.

(My favorite Joan Baez song, I think).

I thought OFL would hate the puzzle for being so corny. But I liked it, and guess he did too, and perfect for a Wednesday -- not to easy, not too hard. I've certainly heard of ICERAIN, and always look forward to my bagel with cream cheese and NOVA on it, whenever I visit New York. I think NOVA originally meant the salmon came from NOVA Scotia waters, but really these days it is just a grade, or a style, of smoked salmon, and it seems impossible to get the same thing outside of the Big Apple.

Mohair Sam 11:32 AM  

An enjoyable medium Wednesday solve in this household. Do agree with OFL on the bit about clunkiness and ICERAIN (my Syracuse native wife has never heard the term), but small price to pay for the fresh theme and solid long downs.

Never before heard of ANGELINA Ballerina, what a great name for kid lit. Walesa and Lenin should have been placed LIGHTYEARs apart. Wondering how many of us had vEsT before BELT?

@Nancy - Thought your your misadventure yesterday was fictionalized. Good Grief, that's awful - trust you are on the mend. Well feel better fast - we recommend gin.

Joseph Michael 11:34 AM  

Never heard of ICE RAIN either but thought this was a fun and challenging Wednesday puzzle.

The toughest sections were the NE and SE corners. In the NE, had FRISKY before FEISTY which resulted in --ORMS for "Feats of Keats" and POLESKAR for Lech Welesa. Thought briefly that the latter might be a Polish word or title but couldn't figure out what to do about Keats. FORMS? NORMS? WORMS? Finally I saw the LIGHT and all fell into place.

The SE was equally difficult until I got LIE ABOVE which I agree is poorly clued. APIA, CELT, and LIRR didn't help much either, but I especially liked the clue for LEOTARD. Nice work.

@Nancy. Saw your post late last night. Hope you're feeling better!

Anonymous 11:38 AM  

I way overthought this puzzle. I didn't realize that there was a them until I read this webpage, but I was able to get through the proper names because of the cross clues. But the I got into this weird space on 29 Down, Bingeing, and it occurred to me that maybe there was a rebus thing going on with the word "over," as over seemed to show up a lot, so "over eating" would work. then I tried to work that and realized that this wasn't the theme. Sorry, but I don't equate "on a tear" with "bingeing." Its almost as bad as "icerain." I'm from Natick and we have lots of precipitation, but not icerain.

jberg 11:40 AM  

Around here the weather people have given up on predicting precisely when the rain will freeze, and tell us that we will have a "wintry mix." No ICE RAIN though.

I thought POLE STAR was weird when I got it, then I got LIGHT YEAR and saw the theme; liked it after that.

@UMGBlue -- it took me a long while to figure it out, but on cross-referenced clues the phrase starts with the number that has the clue, then goes on to the one where the clue just says "see 14-Across."

@Anonymous 7:07, you hear it mostly in the past tense, as in "I DRUNK DIALed my ex last night. What a mistake." But you can imagine it in the present. "This is the last you'll ever hear from me -- unless I DRUNK DIAL you, of course." It's closely linked to butt dial and pocket dial.

@AliasZ already made the joke about lying above, so I'll sign off here.

jberg 11:45 AM  

@Nancy, just went back and read your story yesterday. My sympathies! That happened to my wife last spring. Her face was covered with blood, so they rushed her to the hospital -- but that was superficial. Only later did they realize that she had several microfractures of bones in her fingers, from trying to break her fall. So if any of the aches are in your arms or hands, you might want to put on a RADIATION BELT and get an X-ray.

Lewis 11:47 AM  

Sometimes, when making love, John lies above Lisa; other times, Lisa lies above John. (And there is a backward LAID crossing that LIEABOVE.)

The puzzle has a LET down, but isn't one. It was a fun and solid solve. All the theme answers refer to real things (including people), and I'm still trying to wrap my brain around what a radiation belt is, during an X-ray exam. Seems like you'd need something wider to protect yourself. (Rex brought this up but didn't resolve it.)

This puzzle only has three double letters, which is extremely low -- hasn't happened in many months. I inexplicably track this feature, and anything below five is highly unusual (as is anything above 20). Only one Shortz-era themed puzzle (and maybe before) has zero double letters, and there has never been one on a themeless. Never! Did you hear that, you envelope-pushing constructors out there?

Carola 11:48 AM  

I liked this one very much. Truly a stellar theme, with so many other pleasures, too - this one left me on A HIGH. I saw the astronomy theme after LIGHT YEAR and POLE STAR, which helped me a lot with RADIATION BELT. I lost track of theme answer positions for Lenin, so laughed when he turned out to be a RED GIANT. I've consumed plenty of NOVA in crosswords, so SUPER NOVA went in off the V before I looked at the clue.

Love how the PATIENT has a RADIATION BELT at his waist.

@Nancy - Sorry about your fall! I hope you're feeling better today

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

"Another time" for "over"---how does that make any sense, except perhaps in radio lingo.

cwf 11:59 AM  

Anyone who (like me) solved this in the actual newspaper, saw, on the front page of the Arts section, a picture of ALLISON Janney captioned 'Allison Janney as a mother in the CBS series "Mom".' So 1D was kind of a gimme.

NeilD 12:00 PM  

I loved the theme. Fill was pretty good apart from LIE ABOVE, LIRR, and APIA.

The Old Philosopher 12:03 PM  

But, Lewis, if a constructor set out to make a themeless puzzle with no double letters, . . . wouldn't that constitute a theme?

Anoa Bob 12:09 PM  

O, DING! Four of first eight downs are names with a fifth crossing the first three? Bit of an inauspicious beginning.


POLE STAR can be a real cynosure.

POCs are stock-in-trade for getting grids filled, but its cousin, the SOC (singular of convenience) is rarer, today's SPARE RIB notwithstanding. First google hit for that is the name of a restaurant in Commack, NY. Second hit is a wiki article on SPARE RIBS. I'd rather be EATIN' STEAK.

kitshef 12:27 PM  

ICERAIN is part of the standard vocabulary of our local (Northern Virginia) weatherpeople, trotted out when they want to convince us the region is going to be shut down due to ... whatever ... ICERAIN, 17' of snow, flash flooding, etc.

I've been making a concerted effort this week to solve quickly, just to see what it's like. I find I do not enjoy the experience. In fact it has made me wonder whether @rex's often negative reviews result from his need for speed. Solving quickly makes clunky cluing or green paint really stand out, as they hold you up. In a leisurely solve, it's just another area you work around and come back to.

I really liked POLESTAR.

Canis Nebula 12:47 PM  

Got Naticked on MAHRE/SELES and had to run the vowels to get that 'E' -- otherwise similar experience to Rex.

I have seen NOVA on menus referring to salmon, both in California and Michigan.

Jon88 12:57 PM  

Re ice rain: It's a dictionary entry (Random House Unabridged). Complain to them.

Masked and Anonymous 1:06 PM  

yep. We got one of them eatin' kitchens, at our place. (yo, @Casco Kid)
Fun with astronomy! Looks a-ok to me. Wide open space grid, so lots of long stuff to orbit around and explore and crash land on.

fave weeject: UAW. Sports half of the puz's total oUtpUt.

least fave A-word: A-JAM. Wanted A-RUT. (yo, @BobK.) Lost precious nanoseconds. Thought 3-D was gonna be (TH)UMBELINA, with some sorta premature WedPuz rebus.
Got A-HIGH and A-VIA and A-PIA much faster. Also A-SHORE.

Was IDAHO already a goin concern, when Lewis & Clark visited them parts? Was the name derived from "I Dunno"? M&A always wonders about goofy sh**t like this, while solvin. [See that? Wrote it in, right there in the margin.] Just ain't ever gonna amount to no tournament speed-solvin whiz.

Conspiracy theory bonus themers: LIEABOVE. OVER. EVA. HARPO (star). (@009: Nice treatise on LIEABOVE, btw. har)

Thanx, Mr. Arbesfeld. U do good work.



cwf 1:13 PM  

@Anonymous 11:50:

Doing something over === doing something another time.

Arlene 1:14 PM  

Nice Wednesday - got the theme - and loved the lox.
It was my understanding that NOVA refers to NOVA SCOTIA LOX - which is the more expensive variety - the plain old lox is much saltier.

chefbea 1:15 PM  

@Nancy..I too went back to yesterday and read your post...Hope you are on the mend

Teedmn 1:21 PM  

I enjoyed watching this theme unfold. I fell into A rut at 1A and had to orbit around the puzzle to get back up to fix that.. Had wOw for OOH, misspelled 11D as FieSTY (maybe thinking Fiery?) and I started 37D with INk so my Starbucks order ended with ANkE for a while. I agree with @Rex on the freezing RAIN and LIE ABOVE quibbles but otherwise, no complaints and a successful solve.

Thanks, Alan Arbesfeld, for the space-y theme.

@Nancy, if your tale of woe from yesterday caused actual damage to your nose, you have all my sympathy and best wishes for a speedy recovery.

@Numinous, if I interpret @Casco's comment correctly, birthday greetings are due. Have a great one!

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

There's no such thing as ice rain. Not here, not in La La Land.

big steve 46 1:34 PM  

If you are not a fellow geezer, it might be reasonable to wonder what INT(erest) is in a bank account. Not much of it these days, and often nothing in a basic account, without a ton of money in it.

Lewis 1:35 PM  

@theoldphilosopher -- Good question. I don't think it would be a theme, however, it would just be a quality of the puzzle. A constructor can set out to make a pangram and succeed, but that won't be the theme.

Numinous 2:53 PM  

I have never seen salmon referred to as NOVA. Not sure when it was that I got the spacey theme but after seeing SUPER, NOVA became apparent. I've never heard of ICE RAIN either but when the clue fits, wear it. The real problem with this puzzle was, for me, the NE with all the proper nouns. I finally had to google to get MAHRE of whom I'd never heard. Finally seeing ANGELINA Ballerina rang a few vague bells for me. I've also never heard of Monica SELES but what had to be ALLISON settled that hash. This one took me a tad longer than average so I'd have to rate this as Medium. as well.

@Nancy, I was sorry to realize, last night, that your tale of woe was an actual event. I'm glad to see that, even at this late hour, you're getting the requested SPECks of sympathy and well-wishes. If I had a well, I'd toss a silver dollar into it for you.

Speaking of well-wishes, thank you @Casco! I never expected to become the septugenarian I am today. In Georgia, it is unusual for it to rain all day long the way it can in the SF Bay Area where I grew up. Today, that's exactly what's happening; reminding of ther rainy birthdays of my childhood. I suppose there''s some evidence that I'm not senile as none of that seems like "it was only yesterday." It all seems so very long ago with so many rivers crossed since then.

jae 3:18 PM  

@Chuck McGregor - Easy for me too. Lots of stuff in my wheelhouse also including ALLISON Janney who is a Kenyon grad. The SE was probably the toughest section but not tough enough to overcome an easy rating from me.

The clue for RADIATION BELT seems odd. I've had a few Xrays and my bride has had lot of them and I don't remember ever seeing or wearing any type of BELT.

I could say this one was heavenly, but I'll stick to liked it.

Nancy 3:28 PM  

Many thanks to @jberg, @Joseph Michael, @Mohair and @Carola for your good wishes. After feeling like bloody hell yesterday, I feel considerably better today. The repercussions of the fall are 1)two sore arms, which hurt when I take off or put on clothes, open windows or reach into a cupboard and 2) a slightly swollen nose (the swelling's gone down),with a small scratch on it, which hurts only when I blow it; and what appears to be something of a black eye, though my eye never touched the ground. Had my reflexes been a tad slower, I'd be in the hospital with a smashed-in face; but had they been a tad faster, I might have kept my nose off the pavement entirely. Intellectually, I know that I should be grateful: that I dodged a bullet and am exceptionally lucky. Viscerally, I find myself feeling the way the man who was tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail felt: "If it weren't for the honor of the occasion, I could have skipped it."

@Mohair: Great minds think alike. To paraphrase the email I sent to a friend under the headline: ICE: Its Many Uses. "When I came home just now, I took an ice tray from the freezer. Half the ice went into an ice bag for my swollen nose. The other half went into my vodka martini cocktail shaker -- actually an old bottle -- for my shaken nerves. Let's see which remedy works more quickly."

I only heard from two people yesterday -- @ludyjynn offline and @Tita online. But as I told @Hartley 70 on the phone today (who had missed my post, too): "It's my own damn fault, you know. I buried the lead."

Thanks again, everyone, for your kind wishes.

Paul 3:34 PM  

Whattsamattah you Rex? No nova salmon on bagels in Vestal?

Martín Abresch 4:32 PM  

TEAR appears in both the clue for 68-Across (Tear apart) and the answer to 29-Down (ON A TEAR). Unlike with OVER, the repetition appears in different areas of the grid, but the repetition is entirely unnecessary: REND could just have easily been clued "Pull apart."

Z 4:40 PM  

@Anonymous11:50 - If you fail your final I'm sure Prof Rex will let you do it another time. ...let you do it over.

@Old Philosopher - No. That's a feature not a theme.

@Jon88 - I was curious so I popped ICE RAIN definition into two search engines. Notice the results? So yeah, ICE RAIN is a thing, a thing called "freezing rain" which at least is something different than sleet (one is crystallized as it falls, the other as it hits the ground).

@kitshef - Many non-speed solvers have floated this conjecture. I don't think it is true. Check out Monday's review, for example.

Robert Landman 6:28 PM  

the minute we saw ICERAIN , we knew you would be all over it......and btw us dentists call it a LEAD SHIELD, though im sure with 200K of us someone must call it a radiation vest..

the flick 11:49 PM  

I agree LIE ABOVE was totally convoluted. But, what about ON A TEAR for bingeing? And ARE for live and breathe? Those are pretty weak too.

+wordphan 1:13 AM  

Nova Scotia Lox, super nova!

Laurence Hunt 2:37 PM  

"On a tear" for bingeing? You had best visit Newfoundland, my son.

MBActress 7:47 PM  

Was I the only one who put "Nets" for the "Knick rival" clue??

Burma Shave 10:09 AM  


OOH, she’s shaking her TAIL, OVER at the BAR.
Not PATIENT, her LEOTARD is off like that,
with no SHRED of evidence, she’s AHIGH POLESTAR.


rondo 10:32 AM  

@spacey – the themers are all in your realm.
Didn’t have much trouble with it, though I might have clued SUPERNOVA as a hot rod Chevy.

Gotta like a puz that has HARPO in it. That was his nickname from grade school until the day he died. I had to put “HARPO” in his obituary because I thought that a lot of folks didn’t realize or recognize what his real first name was.

And a wealth of yeah babies in ALLISON, ANGELINA, EVA and Ms. SELES, most all in the upper regions.

OFL could have had a more current SUPERNOVA link withRay LaMontagne. Though Ray’s previous album with the Pariah Dogs was much superior.

Not a bad little weds-puz. MAYI say even easy.

spacecraft 11:31 AM  

SUPERNOVA would have had me in AJAM if I hadn't recalled at least two other appearances of the deli NOVA in previous NYT puzzles. Strange that OFL hasn't seen it outside of that venue. However, I do agree with him on the LIEABOVE issue. That SE corner provided what little resistance there was today, causing a shift from easy to easy-medium.

The theme, of course, is right up my alley. The fill is FEISTY in spots, but those weird partials (AJAM, AHIGH) distract. Is the Appian Way AVIA? Is Ms. Zadora APIA? I'd better row this boat ASHORE; at least this one's legitimate.

Loved the NESTS clue. And: "It smelled like turpentine and looked like INDIAINK! I held my nose, I closed my eyes, I took a drink! I didn't know if it was day or night; I started kissing everything in sight--but when I kissed a cop on 34th and Vine he took my little bottle of Love Potion #9." Man, they don't make songs like that any more. Music used to be fun.

The clue for POLESTAR could have gone a whole nother way; perhaps we could ask luscious SOFIA Vergara to demonstrate...OOH! B+.

Diana,LIW 11:43 AM  

To Spacecraft from yesterday - hands up for ICICLES before ICEDAMS. I too experienced the awful difference between the two some years ago. We had a snowy winter, ice dams formed on the edges of our roof, and formed, and formed, and we had to have a room replastered when the water leaked in. Now we have ice guards, sheets of metal on the edges of the roof that keep the dams from forming.
I agree with Rex that having four long lines devoted to the song made it too easy - like it was something other than a crossword. But I enjoyed the song memories and the rest of the solve, so agree with your B+
Diana, Lady in Waiting for Crosswords

centralscrewtinizer 1:26 PM  

I was in 'a rut' with 'graupel' for a long time. And having gone to an Ursaline Academy as a kid in Cincinnati, Ursalina looked ok to me. Working back up off the theme, 'light year' saved me, but it took almost that long.

rondo 5:25 PM  

@centralscrewtinizer - you must e a Zappa fan??

BTW HARPO was my dad's nickname. I need to proofread, I guess.

leftcoastTAM 5:55 PM  

What Rex said about the theme entries, LIEABOVE, and the medium rating. Which about covers it.

Teedmn 10:30 PM  

@rondo, that makes sense now. I was wondering why you were writing an obit for HARPO Marx. Sorry to hear about your Dad, no matter how long ago it might have been.

BTW, regarding Ray LaMontagne, are you referring to the "God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise' release? I have that one but only a couple tracks do anything for me. But he does have a kind of Johnny Lang vibe going on the more up-tempo tracks..

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