Donizetti's lady of Lammermoor / THU 3-10-16 / John Donne poem with line starting It suck'd me first / It holds 5148 potential flushes / Hawaiian bowlful / French writer who co-founded newspaper Combat / Marxist exhortation to workers of world

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Constructor: Ed Sessa

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: VWS (65D: Bugs, e.g. ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme) — five rebus squares that read "V V" in the Across and "W" in the Down:

Theme answers:
  • FLI VV ER (20A: Old jalopy) / W BA (21D: Ring master's org.)
  • TECH SA VV Y (26A: Proficient, computerwise) / RENE W ER (12D: Longtime subscriber, maybe)
  • HI VV ACCINE (37A: Subject of medical research since the 1980s) / COLESLA W (5D: One side of a diner?)
  • RE VV ING UP (53A: Gunning) / LO W TIDE (42D: When a sandbar may appear above the waterline)
  • CI VV IES (59A: Mufti) / SA W (51D: Perform some millwork)
Word of the Day: ALEC Douglas Home (34A: Former British P.M. Douglas-Home) —
Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel KT PC (/ˈhjuːm/; 2 July 1903 – 9 October 1995) was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister from October 1963 to October 1964. He is notable for being the last Prime Minister to hold office while being a member of the House of Lords, before renouncing his peerage and taking up a seat in the House of Commons for the remainder of his premiership. His reputation, however, rests more on his two spells as the UK's foreign secretary than on his brief premiership. // Within six years of first entering the House of Commons in 1931, Douglas-Home (then called by the courtesy title Lord Dunglass) became parliamentary aide to Neville Chamberlain, witnessing at first hand Chamberlain's efforts as Prime Minister to preserve peace through appeasement in the two years before the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1940 Dunglass was diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis and was immobilised for two years. By the later stages of the war he had recovered enough to resume his political career, but lost his seat in the general election of 1945. He regained it in 1950, but the following year he left the Commons when, on the death of his father, he inherited the earldom of Home and thereby became a member of the House of Lords. Under the premierships of Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan he was appointed to a series of increasingly senior posts, including Leader of the House of Lords and Foreign Secretary. In the latter post, which he held from 1960 to 1963, he supported United States resolve in the Cuban Missile Crisis and was the United Kingdom's signatory of the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in August 1963. (wikipedia)
• • •

I crashed face-first into this theme, which is to say I had no choice *but* to pick it up. Came out of that NW corner very quickly and found myself staring at FLI--- (20A: Old jalopy). Now I know FLIVVER very well because it is among a very elite set of words I know *only* because of crosswords. (Ask me about my extensive old-timey wino-related vocabulary). When an answer in a crossword makes you fall flat on your face, it tends to stick with you (see UKASE, ORIBI, and on and on ...). So the answer was obviously FLIVVER. Only FLIVVER didn't fit. Aaaaaand I got the theme. I did a version of this theme (an excellent one) nearly a decade ago at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, although in that case I think instead of a rebus the Vs were actually in separate squares, which was Really disorienting. I'm not sure VWS is a very good revealer here. It's more W / Vs. The double-V makes the revealer inaccurate. I didn't think this puzzle needed a revealer at all and was surprised to run into one there at the end. For a simple theme, I thought it was very well executed—lots of nice interesting longer answers, reasonably clean fill, and, I mean, come on: "THE FLEA" (2D: John Donne poem with a line starting "It suck'd me first..."):

["It suck'd me first, and now sucks THEE" (14A: Pronoun in "America the Beautiful")]

A very literary poem, with Donne's poem next to AEOLIAN (3D: Wind-blown), a word I know only from Coleridge's "The AEOLIAN Harp" (though in that case, it's spelled EOLIAN ... but nevermind the details). Shelley's "To a Skylark" lurks on the other side of the grid as well (61D). I had a bunch of little errors, all easily corrected:

  • DUMAS for CAMUS (5A: French writer who co-founded the newspaper Combat) — had only the "M" at that point, and jumped at the first French writer I could think of whose letter pattern fit the bill.
  • LEAP AT for LASH AT (55A: Attack) — I guess LEAP AT usually implies a desire to possess rather than a desire to kill. But I had ...
  • SEW for SAW (51D: Perform some millwork) — yes, I know SAW and "mill" really should've gone together easily, but it's Thursday, and I always assume I'm being tricked in some way. I'm sure the number of SEWing terms I don't know are legion.
  • ALEN for ALEC (34A: Former British P.M. Douglas-Home) — I know there's some guy out there named ALEN. I figured this was him. Shrug.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Wednesday's Child 6:25 AM  

Still not sure why there are two Vs and only one W.

Loren Muse Smith 6:33 AM  

I solve in neatly little all caps, so this one filled beautifully.

PEORIA was my first entry, so I smelled a rat very early with "R E W I N G" UP. I didn't realized REVVING had two V's, so I figured it all out at HIV VACCINE. How can you not immediately think of that one Joel Fagliano did a few years ago.

I liked Joel’s because of the sound play on "double U," and I like this one just as much because the side-by-side V's look just like a W. Cool.

And it reminds me that the V/W distinction for ESL guys can be almost as problematic as the L/R one. I had an Austrian friend who regularly told people he lived in a small willage in Steiermark. And once in a chem lab, a coworker asked my husband, “Did you wote yet?” So maybe a wampire could vant to suck your blood. (Like that FLEA in the poem. Sometimes I look at a star and wonder if my daughter at Pitt might be looking at the same star. I never thought to brush a mosquito off my leg and wonder if it already had some other loved-one’s blood on board. Hmm.)

So, @Z – I finished, but with no idea about FLIVVER (and at that moment, WBA). I actually thought I might have a massive goof somewhere up in the northwest because FLIVVER looks extremely weird to me. I finished, thinking it couldn't possibly be right. It still feels a tad like a dnf.

Singing "America the Beautiful" and checking for *&^% prepositions instead of pronouns held me up forever. Sheesh. Gave up SYD/STEED for CYD/CLIMB, and finally finished that corner.

The only other V and W in the grid is in the reveal, and I agree with Rex – it seems unnecessary.

PEORIA, AEOLIAN, SEA ICE - 19 letters. 13 vowels. Oh, man, that floats my boat for some reason.

I bet all our math-savvy commenters will check that DECK clue. Great clue, by the way. At some point, we're going to be replacing a commode, and I was thinking, "Wow. Who knew they came with this kind of information?"

Fun, well-done Thursday.

Lewis 7:01 AM  

I kept solving on faith that I would figure out why the W equalled two Vs, without seeing the obvious, that a W *is* two Vs. I'm not surprised, as I seem to often miss the obvious. The reveal didn't really explain why there were two Vs for the Ws, so I left with a completed puzzle, but still a bit puzzled. Then it hit me, and that made for a great aha.

I love the clues for OHIO, SLED, DECK, BUNS, and COASTER, and it was cool to see APRIORI in a grid. There's a mini-theme of double E's (5) and another of words that start with I (7). Some areas filled in quickly, and I stuttered through others.

I came away thinking that this is a high quality puzzle (thank you Ed and Will) and that I love this crossword hobby of mine!

Anonymous 7:05 AM  

I parsed the revealer as W's made up of V's, so was fine with it. Enjoyed it a bunch.

Hartley70 7:06 AM  

I believe this was the easiest puzzle of the week, which is very, very odd. COLESLAW to HIVVACCINE gave the rebus away because I had skipped over FLIVVER, the only challenging entry as it happens.

I like the VW theme, despite the fact that the worst car I ever owned was a diesel VW Dasher that we bought due to the enormous gas lines after the crisis. It drove me mad to see the diesel pumps sitting idle. Its pick-up was so slow that after stopping I wanted to stick my foot out the door and and push like an old fashioned scooter. I should have bought a Bug.

The app worked by just entering W. I presume this is because it looks like two Vs, so I didn't need to use the handy rebus key.

Bugs and the Beatles bring back such 60's nostalgia. They were everywhere. Family lore says that my Swiss emigre FIL was offered the initial US distribution of VW but he turned it down. Sigh.

Lobster11 7:22 AM  

Wow. When I saw that Rex rated this as "easy," I had to double-check to make sure I wasn't reading a post from a different day. This was way out of my wheelhouse: WOEs galore, including the themers FLIVVER and CIVVIES (as clued) plus CYD, LUCIA, EPHEDRA, DANS, CAMUS (as clued), ASLAN, etc.

I can see how this might be right in one's wheelhouse if, like OFL, you know a lot of this stuff just from doing crosswords for years. If you can suss out the theme by dropping in FLIVVER right from the get-go, all the power to you. No fun for me, though.

Glimmerglass 7:26 AM  

Does anyone (Rex?) know why the Boston Globe (and perhaps other nespapers who,use a syndicated crossword) has abandonned a usually excellent 15x15 puzzle for a clearly inferior (almost juvenile) 13x13? Is it because of the plagiarism scandal reported by Rex last week?

jberg 7:29 AM  

When I was a little boy I had a kind of pedal car where, instead of pedaling around in a circle as on a bicycle, you pushed your feet back and forth, and somehow that was translated into rotary motion of the wheels. It was very old, I guess it must have been my mother's when she was a child. Anyway, we called it the FLIVVER. But I was unsure enough of the spelling to just let it go with one V, and was considering if CIVVIES could also be spelled differently; so it was only with HIV VACCINE that I finally grasped the theme. That opened up the NE and SW, and (except AstI before BARI) it fell quickly into place.

I especially liked the cluing for DECK and COLESLAW. Nice Thursday!

I rarely do the puzzle in the Boston Globe -- but yesterday I took a look at it to see if it was part of the Timothy Parker empire. There were no identifying syndication tags, but the puzzle was 13X13 and had two 2-letter answers. They don't normally look like that, so I'm wondering if they decided to break ties with the syndicate and were scrambling to fill in the gap.

Glimmerglass 7:32 AM  

The letter W in French is pronounced "doobla vey" (double V), which has always made more sense to me than "double U."

GILL I. 7:53 AM  

The VVW's had me confused as well. Couldn't figure out why the two V's.
Thought it might be fun to see Diesel and Scandal but instead we get ADULATE and IDOLIZED. I had a client who lost over 100 lbs using EPHEDRA. She looked wonderful for a very short time. Thankfully she was young and managed to survive a very nasty heart attack.
THE FLEA was my favorite entry, yes SIREE BOB. Fun puzzle except for the two VV"s.. Viva Vegas!

chefbea 8:01 AM  

Couldn't figure this puzzle out...Got to flivver and then it was easy. Loved the clue for cole slaw and buns. Of course knew son-in-law is from there...and just found out yesterday that he and my oldest granddaughter are coming to visit in April. My daughter was here last week!!!

NCA President 8:19 AM  

I stumbled at CIVVIES since I don't know was a "Mufti" is. I stumbled at FLIVVER since I don't know what a flivver is. I stumbled at BARI since I had nOd to start. I'm still not sure why BUNS are dog rolls. Come to think of it, there were a lot of places that tripped me up. So, yeah...this took longer than normal.

The theme and revealer seemed okay to me. VWs seems to capture the theme well...they're Ws made from Vs. V-Ws. Get it? old friend...good to see you again.

DANS...Juuuuuust outside my French vocabulary. I'm guessing that AZUR is French too? I had AZUl to start...I think that's Spanish...and since FLIVVER was unknown to me, -LIVVEl seemed just as likely.

I actually kinda liked this one.

OldCarFudd 8:20 AM  

I've never heard FLIVVER used generically for a jalopy. In the antique car hobby, it means a Model T Ford, regardless of its condition; it can be a rust bucket, a well-preserved survivor, or a pristine restoration. Upton Sinclair wrote a novel about Henry Ford called "The Flivver King". There was an ill-fated experiment with a tiny Ford-built airplane called the Flying Flivver. Flivver was one one many nicknames for the Model T. Possibly the best known was Tin Lizzie. In Mexico they're still called cucarachitas - little cockroaches.

Sir Hillary 8:38 AM  

Good Thursday fun. Played a little hard for me because I have never heard of FLIVVER and only know "mufti" to mean an Islamic scholar. Still, all quite gettable via crosses, so felt much fairer than yesterday's cross which had a number of us feeling dyspEPTic.

-- Agree with @Rex on the revealer. Having a single V and W used as such in an Across answer was a bummer.
-- Loved the "Put on a pedestal" clue dupe, especially since I wanted iDoLizE so badly at 11D. The unclear tense of "put" and verbs like it makes for great clues.
-- EPHEDRA is a great entry. Definitely perked me up.
-- I'm interested in commenters' views on the COASTER. I vote no -- clues should not be written in the first person.
-- ODE and ODED? No SIREE.
-- Good clue for SLED. Makes up for yesterday's.
-- Have an audience with the Lama...SEETHED ALAI.
-- Watch "The Simpsons"...SEETHED OHMAN.
-- I IDOLIZED AGASSI when I SAW him LASHAT incoming serves in his MOC(k)-DENIM CIVVIES.

kitshef 8:47 AM  

Straight up DNF thanks to nARI/nOd/dUNS in the NE. Not that dUNS made good sense, but I was thinking some tortured use of 'roll' as in rolling a drunk, and 'dog' as being a deadbeat. With nOd seeming secure and nARI as good as anything for the Adriatic port, I was never going to fix that area.

Don't like CCED and ODED in the same puzzle. Well, don't want either one of them in a puzzle, so both is particularly bad. Also IDSAYSO and ILIED. One of those, okay, I'll live with it. Both in one puzzle, no.

SIREE seems to be popping up weekly now. I see the appeal for a constructor/editor, but it is becoming overused.

FLIVVER was a WoE,so getting the theme had to wait for TECHSAVVY.

Expected @Rex to note that HIVVACCINE was inconsistent as the Vs are not part of the same word, so not really a double-V. Not an issue for me, but he seems big on the details.

aTT before ITT, ipaD before SLED, AdorATE before ADULATE, Ocean before OZONE.

Nice theme well executed, and lots of good longs and a couple of fun clues (The drinks on me my fave).

Z 8:54 AM  

I didn't fully appreciate the theme because nOd instead of BOB was consuming most of my available processing capacity. I also had a malapop at 11D with iDoLize, but 39D let me know I needed a different pedestal. My lack of Adriatic knowledge really hurt. A painful DNF.

@Pete yesterday - Maybe I showed a little too much frustration, but no. You wrote, "... is a complete address and works every time . (Emphasis added) USPS regs require city and state (with the state coded per regs) to be a "complete address." Maybe you believe in the robot revolution, but I will guarantee you that not even a machine printed Zip+4 gets to the right place every time, even with a complete address. I think I get what you were trying to say (a highly automated modern postal service like the USPS rarely needs more than a street address and a zip code to get your mail where it is going) but that isn't what you wrote. When I read your post I immediately wondered if the DMM had changed, since I can easily imagine bean counters calculating the cost savings to businesses of taking a line of print out of their mailings and lobbying USPS to change the reg. My second thought was, "How many normal people even know the DMM exists?"

Louise Aucott 8:59 AM  

I had an Aeolian harp once. It was like a shoebox with a sound hole on top, strung with strings, that was meant to be placed in a window and the wind would make the strings vibrate. Except, they didn't. Never made a sound. You can look at an image of it here:

Louise Aucott 9:03 AM  

I hit "publish" too quickly. I did have trouble getting rid of the Aeolian harp because it was a gift from my (very brand new at the time) husband. 42 years later with the same man, it would be banished without a twinge of guilt.
The puzzle appealed to me because I really did not get the theme until the final self-evident clue. Not enough coffee on board to see the obvious. Fun.

Nancy 9:12 AM  

I also had SEW before SAW, Rex. And I had to run the alphabet to get FLI(VV)ER, which I never heard of, and THE FLEA, which I also never heard of. (I was wondering if it might be THE PLEA.) I got the trick right off at TECH SA(VV)Y and so was looking for Ws at every opportunity. To me, this was quite a weak rebus as Thursdays go and much too easy. A disappointment, just as yesterday's harder than expected puzzle was a happy surprise.

Tita 9:16 AM  

I liked this. One of those themes that makes me wish I had thought of it. Though I sorta agree on the revealer - Rex specified why it felt a little off.

I did think this got swapped with yesterday - it was way easy (mostly) for a Thursday.

I actually dnfd not knowing STARZ or EDTV or what Muftis are, and a dumb mistake of IDOLatED. Removing wrong squares is how I finally finished.

(@Z from yesterday - in my xword rule book, not grasping the theme counts as a DNF. And it's why I try to avoid seeing revealers before I have.)

I have a few minoor nits - 42D clue would have been less weird -- read - normal -- if it had been simply "When a sandbar may appear" without the really odd and awkward "...above the waterline".

And it's unfortunate that a themer had to be the non-word RENEWER.


@Z again - looking forward to today's PPP ratio - I'm guessing it's high.

Thanks Mr. Sessa - clever clever!

Roo Monster 9:20 AM  

Hey All !
Started easy, filling in answers much better than yesterdays debacle. But then got stuck. Couldn't grock the theme, so had to Goog for the Ron Howard film. Once I had EDTV, finally reglanced (is that a word, like IRATER?) at 37 A, and saw the W should be VV across. Which then got me the revealer VWS. Also had to Goog a good chunk of that NW corner. Looked up LEON, DANS, THEFLEA. Never heard of FLIVVER, and I've owned my share of old jalopies! And, in NE corner, had nOd for BOB and iDoLATE for ADULATE, even though I had a sneaky suspicion they were wrong. But the BUNS clue? What in tarnation was that?

So, a DNF on using Google and wrong letters, and having to Goog just to get the theme. OH MAN... I guess a DNF trifecta. One other writeover, tanK for DECK.

ALAS, A TAD on the difficult side, ID SAY SO. Yes SIREE.


Nancy 9:22 AM  

Does anyone else have my talent for missing the morning cut-off by less than 10 minutes, and usually by less than five minutes? Just wondering. There were 0 comments just now as I went to type my unusually brief comment just now, and there were 18 when I finished. As slow a typist as I am, it certainly didn't take me more than two minutes to type the comment above, so I missed the cut-off by less than two minutes. As it's another drop-dead gorgeous day in NYC today, I probably won't see my comment until around 6 p.m. tonight, as happened yesterday. Probably none of you will, either -- at least you won't if you're planning to bask in unusual March warmth and sunshine today.

Tita 9:39 AM  

Forgot to mention how tickled I am to be reminded that the French & Portuiguese call W a doublevee, not a doubleyew.
In German, V is fow (like vow), W is vey.
@Glimmer - many people write W as UU. My guess is that when written in stone, Ws, Vs, and Us all were pointy.

And while I'm on the subject, French and Portuguese call Y a Greek I.

@Hartley - we had a 2002 VW Golf diesel - one of the best cars I ever owned. 25 years made a difference...

Do you think Mr. Sessa was making a comment about VW's bonehead scandal with ILIED?

@Z & friend's job when at Pitney Bowes was to statistically prove to the USPS that their new ultra-fast postage meters could accurately guess the weight of the letter without actually letting it stop to rest on a traditional scale.
Not requiring the letter to stop before being able to print the postage on it dramatically improved the speed of those machines.
My point is, many systems require redundancy to compensate for the kinds of conditions that you point out.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love this blog?

Mohair Sam 9:40 AM  

Easy Rex? Wow. Not if FLIVVER is a new word, Mufti is known to you only as someone important in Islam, APRIORI is not a term you use every day, and you've never been to BARI.

This was a lot of fun however - caught the trick at REVVINGUP, and stumbled home guessing the VV's at FLIVVER and CIVVIES thanks to the crosses.

In the fourth grade I asked my teacher how come the letter is pronounced "double u" when it is written like "double v"? She said u used to look more like v. You English majors out there (and there are lots of you) - was that correct?

Charles Flaster 9:41 AM  

Very easy and smooth. Needed reveal at end to cement the deal.
Writeovers were ADULATE for ADorATE and then iDoLizE ( and IDOLIZED was easy as it appeared later). Also TIE CLIP for TIE tack( wore one in the sixties).
CrosswordEASE--ALAI, ALERO, and EPHEDRA( for its spelling).
Clever cluing for COASTER, COLE SLAW, and I LIED.
Thanks ES.

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

Aren't all Oldsmobiles pretty much "old" by now (36A)? And, relatively speaking, isn't the ALERO frankly one of the newest and most recently introduced of all of them?

Dean 10:00 AM  

Take a pen and Bisect the letter W...

You get V / V

Steve M 10:06 AM  

OK now I know what flivver is 😚

Bob Kerfuffle 10:10 AM  

My experience seems to be the same as many other's: Felt Challenging to Impossible at first go around, then I caught on, finished with a clean grid in Medium Thursday time.

In my first pass, I drew wrong conclusions from THE FLEA, "Rolls for dogs" (hot dog BUNS), and "Bugs . . . "

Didn't put in, but noticed that the space for EPHEDRA could have fit PHEN FEN.

Andrew Heinegg 10:22 AM  

Okay, so I finished this one cleanly but, not without a struggle. Unlike other solvers, I did not like the drink is on me/coaster clue/answer. Anthropomorphized clues are a crossword conceit to me. I suppose you can use them for their purposely misleading nature to get the thinking juices flowing for the solver but, I don't like it. Coincidentally?, it crosses a misleading but 'properly' clued 44a about a deck holding 5,148 flushes, an answer I really like. The two v's making a w for the four corners of the puzzle was reasonably clever if not very elegant.

Warren Howie Hughes 10:24 AM  

Yes! SIREE BOB! AZUR as the sun sets in the West, I was SOLED on this Thursday Xword by Ed Sessa! ITT SEETHED the day...Thus, I cannot tell ALAI!

Kimberly 10:44 AM  

In France, the letter W is called "double V" instead of "double U" which makes more sense, imo. It also makes more sense for this puzzle, which had me baffled until HIVVACCINE." The whole thing was made trickier for me due to the fact that I had so many mistakes: e.g., STEEDS for mounts, which worked great on my initial fast pass, bacause I was sure Cyd Charisse's name was spelled SYD. Mostly because I've become terminally stupid of late. I was even willing to believe for a while that SAVVY was spelled with only one V and I had been wrong for the last 50 years. I just didn't twig to the VV/W thing until well into the solve. Over-all, though, I still had a faster-than-usual Thursday solve time, so all is well in the world. PS, CAMUS was born in Algeria to a Spanish mother. But dad was Alsatian and those whacky French had occupied Algeria, so in a war-mongering patriarchal world, sure... we can call him French.

jae 10:54 AM  

Easy-medium for me. The tough part was AEOLIAN and THE FLEA crossing CLIMBS and DANS which was a WOE. I've seen AEOLIAN in crosswords before but I was A TAD iffy about it. LUCIA was also a WOE.

@Z et. al. - I too tried nOd briefly

How about ITT again in almost the same spot as last Sat.

Fun solve, liked it.

another bad hair day 10:57 AM  

I, too, am puzzled. Would someone kindly explain how rolls for dogs are BUNS? I did enjoy the puzzle and learned new stuff.

old timer 11:00 AM  

Very easy puzzle. I got the trick at RENEWER/TECH SAVVY. and said to myself, "Why has this not been done before?" Because of course a W is really two V's, or a double-V. The reason we call it 'double u' is that in English, the W makes the same sound a U makes when used as a vowel.

I don't know I've seen DANS in a puzzle before. Probably have, and DANS is a very common French word. But naturally one thinks first of "en" as the French translation of "in".

Amelia 11:02 AM  

Nice puzzle, fun theme. I also got it at cole slaw/hiv. But Jeez, a Thursday so much easier than Wednesday. Felt like a Tuesday. What's going on over there?

mac 11:02 AM  

The flivver caused a DNF for me, but in hindsight I should have read that Donne quote more

Otherwise a nice Thursday, with some beautiful words.

ArtO 11:02 AM  

Very clever clue for DECK. I suspect only a professional poker player would know the number of potential flushes. Basically, exceptionally easy for Thursday.

AliasZ 11:19 AM  

This puzzle went down like a dry pill. After I swallowed it, the sensation of being still stuck in my throat lingered, but a few more swigs of water made it subside.

FLIVVER - the Wikipedia page provides quotes from Upton Sinclair Lewis, Harper Lee, Hemingway and Stephen King, among others. So the word seems not as old as people think. I betcha Homer's ILIED and ODE SEETHED, or Seneca's EPHEDRA did not feature FLIVVER.

ALAS, LASHAT and ASLAN were ATAD monophonic, ODE and ODED, CCED and IDOS were not IDEE-al, and I am no fan of RENEWER, but I liked A-PRIORI, AEOLIAN, TECH SAVVY, and I love COLESLAW almost as much as Ohm slaw.

Speaking of EPHEDRA, let's listen to the cantata "Phaedra" by Benjamin Britten, performed by Janet Baker for whom it was written.

As an encore, we should hear Chopin's opinion on the AEOLIAN harp.

And for a triple play, this is what Modest Mussorgsky had to say about THE FLEA, in "Mephistopheles' Song in Auerbach's Cellar" (or Song of THE FLEA).

Happy Thursday all.

Jon 11:47 AM  

Pretty surprised to see that Rex liked this puzzle. Felt to me like a raft of garbage fill in service of a meh theme.

Trombone Tom 12:02 PM  

Thought about it at FLIV?ER and understood the theme at TECHSAVVY. Easy and enjoyable. Ocean before OZONE and TIEtack before TIECLIP. The rest went quickly and smoothly.

Lois 12:18 PM  

NCA President: Dog buns:

The term defeated me too. I also had NOD for BOB.

Loved the puzzle, though.

Tim 12:23 PM  

Kind of surprised that Rex apparently wasn't bothered by the ALAI KAN ATL AZUR MOC TIO LEA POI fill.

I know FLIVVER, but from old Hardy Boys books and Donald Duck comics, so it didn't leap to mind in a crossword context. I was staring at --W-NG-- for entirely too long, all the while thinking "that seems like it ought to have REV in the answer." H--ACCINE was the clue that tipped it over for me.

Loved the cluing for DECK. Kind of puzzled at the clue for ODED, though: is there supposed to be some other interpretation of "had too much ecstasy"? I don't think that phrase is one that makes sense in a literal context, so the question mark seems bogus here. I refused to fill in ODED for a long time because it seemed entirely too straightforward.

And it looks like I got the NE corner utterly wrong, with NODS and IDOLATE instead of BOB and ADULATE -- which obviously make more sense than mine, but without any idea about the names of Adriatic ports, I was twisting in the wind a little bit.

Carola 12:30 PM  

Easy fun. I was mulling how to rebus-ize TECH SAvvY when I suddenly realized what was afoot with FLIvvER (word learned from some long-ago novel). Loved getting CIvvIES after thinking, "No way is 'civilian clothes' going to fit."

When my daughter was in college (90s), EPHEDRA was the keep-you-awake study drug of choice. She called me one night to say that after taking some and then drinking a 20 oz. bottle of Coke she wasn't feeling very well and her heart was beating in a funny way. She survived just fine, but the memory of that "How could you?!?" phone call has stayed with me.

Anonymous 12:31 PM  

So now Rex is just trying to rub our noses in it. Okay, you are a genius. We get it. Everything is easy for you...
Bari, Flivver (which he admitted he knows only because of one old puzzle he did when he didn't know it). So how could a puzzle with a word in it that even Rex didn't used to know be "Easy"?
There were other tough spots, but that one right there was enough to get it beyond an "Easy" ranking. Come on Rex. Get off your Ivory Horse.

Masked and Anonymous 12:35 PM  

Each themed puz this week has been grrreat, and this one's the gvvveatest, im&ao. Fun stuff.

TECH SAWY. har. Looks weird, desperate, and possible to be somethin. 3 hints of mint, in one.
HIWACCINE is also primo. Looks like a shot U get, before gettin on the road behind a VW diesel.

fave weeject: VWS. It's …
1. The "hint" revealer for the whole rodeo. (Rebus squares are both V's and W, so fits like a glovve.)
2. The requisite 3-letters long.
3. Abbr.
4. Plural.

The upper half fought back pretty tough, in the M&A solvequest. FLIVVER is *now* somethin I knows only from crosswords, but not during the solve. CAMUS and LUCIA were also unknown. French abounded (AZUR, which I had as AZUL. DANS.) Misspelt CYD as SYD. Never heard of THEFLEA. Had NOD for BOB, and BARI is a Port of Mystery. Plus, hadn't figured out the theme. VVas really svvimmin upstream.

Like that SAW cuts back in, at 51-D. So sawy, dude.

Masked & Anonymo3Us


Joe Bleaux 1:04 PM  

Buns: "Rolls" in which hot "dogs" are cradled, smeared with mustard, and ... relished:)

Teedmn 1:21 PM  

Double DNF today on a puzzle I didn't otherwise find hard. I had THE _LEA and plopped in the first word I could think of without closely reading the clue, which became THE pLEA crossing pLIVVER, which is apparently a poetic or Scottish version of plover. And in the NE, I forgot to go back and figure out why dUNS were rolls for dogs since nARI didn't set any alarm bells off at 10A. nOd is a head motion, got that part at least :-).

TIE tack, starting to write in arctIC at 9D and @Rex's SeW vs. SAW added to the IN INK errors though I fixed all of those. I liked the crazy clues for DECK and COASTER. Nice VW theme. Overall, a fun Thursday. Thanks, Mr. Sessa.

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

People of a certain age (like me) remember flivver from Disney's The Absent-Minded Professor in 1961. Fred MacMurray (Prof. Brainard) had a flying flubber-powered flivver. And yes, @oldcarfudd, it was a Model T!

Lois 1:52 PM  

Regarding my comment regarding dog buns, it was pointed out to me by Judith Speer and later Bruce Morton at the Crossword Fiend column that the clue probably simply means rolls for hot dogs: buns.

puzzle hoarder 1:59 PM  

My main peeve with this puzzle was the A in 51D, but first I want to discuss dyslexia. Solving puzzles forces me to confront my own. After finishing (almost) this puzzle I finally looked the word up. Interestingly Webster's defines it as "A disturbance of the ability to read." Disturbing is a succinct choice of words. Many years ago I was an art major. I painted a landscape based on a photo which included a restaurant sign. However in the painting it was spelled "restaruant". The painting was photographically real it took untold hours to render it. I couldn't tell you how many times I looked at the photo and back at the painting to complete that sign and I never once noticed the difference. Like the dictionary says, disturbing. Pardon my TMI but I just want you to have some idea of how hard it is for me to see a double V in a word. My poor spelling is largely a result of my poor reading. For the theme entries I wound up using a V/W rebus. I literally put a / across the square and wrote the little letters on either side. The reveal only reinforced this. I knew for sure that 37A and 53A required two Vs but I just wrote it off as a play on non-English speakers interchanging the two sounds.
Anyway I didn't think that much about the theme. What I concentrated on was the incorrectness of SAW for 51D. Millwork is molding. It's made with routers not saws. Maybe I'm just to rigid in my thinking I just don't want to engage in the thinking that equates "ept" with capable. That's the corny square aspect of puzzles that I have to tolerate. I went with SEW because that's something a milliner would do. Calling millinery millwork is better than calling the product of a sawmill millwork, it just ain't. Millwork is a particular word which BTW doesn't even appear in m Webster's. That's just a whole 'nother mystery.
After yesterday's EPT and today's 51D clue I think I'm becoming crankier than @Rex.

Hungry Mother 2:02 PM  

Very cute theme. No problem once I saw it.

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

Easy? Definitely not. Lots of obscure fill here.

Dick Swart 2:27 PM  

An easy Thursday entertainment. "Flivver", "civvies" ... these words are not, alas, learned from the crossword but from having actually used them in the course of a long life-time. The xword-learned-words for me are from current musical styles and artists and actors/characters/reallife personas in "hot" tv/internet series.

What is a a Kardashian?

Alby 2:41 PM  

Longer-than-usual solve for me. Not especially difficult but annoying. No rotational symmetry to the placement of the rebus squares, far as I can tell. And the revealer basically contradicts the theme -- reminds me of BYOBB/BBBQ from The Simpsons. Never heard LASHAT, only "lash out" and "rush at." DENIM isn't necessarily blue. Matter of fact, I was hoping the answer would be something along the lines of SMUT or PORN or RAUNCH. (Why waste the word "blue" in a clue?)

Cassieopia 2:45 PM  

Easy for me too, and FLIVVER was the give-away for me as well,the word resurrected from my ancient memory reading Robert McCloskey's Homer Price series. (To be honest, I am not sure if the word "flivver" appears in any of his books, but if it doesn't, it should.)

Once I got FLIVVER, the other trouble spots were resolved and I was One Happy Puzzler.

Martín Abresch 2:46 PM  

I memorized "The Flea" back in college ("Mark but this flea, and mark in this / How little that which thou deniest me is ..."). Just tried to recite it, and apparently I have forgotten the third verse.

FLIVVER always reminds me of Gershwin's "Fascinating Rhythm:

Fascinating Rhythm,
You've got me on the go!
Fascinating Rhythm,
I'm all a-quiver.

What a mess you're making!
The neighbors want to know
Why I'm always shaking
Just like a FLIVVER.

Despite this, I did not particularly enjoy this puzzle.

With the notable exceptions of THE FLEA and COLE SLAW, I thought that the fill was run-of-the-mill. AEOLIAN may remind me of the wind-played instrument, but in this case the tune I hear is "needed some vowels." ADULATE, RENEWER, I'D SAY SO, A PRIORI, SEETHED, LOW TIDE, COASTER, IDOLIZED, AGASSI, SEA ICE, PEORIA, EMOTES, ALERO, ASLAN. Ho-hum.

I'm not sure if I can explain this well, but why I disliked the puzzle may be illustrated by ADULATE and IDOLIZED. Usually when a phrase is repeated in two different clues, that phrase is understood in two different ways. The clue "Put on" might have the answers HOAX and APPLY, or AIR and WORE. Here, the clue "Put on a pedestal" means, outside of the tense switch, the same thing for ADULATE and IDOLIZED. They are rather dull synonyms that share half of the same letters, and their chief feature seems to be crossword-friendly vowel-consonant alternation. Again, I'm not sure if I'm explaining this well.

Speaking of repetitions, this puzzle has CCED and ODED; I LIED, I DOS, I'D SAY SO; ALEC above ALAI and crossed by ALAS.

I liked CAMUS but not the rest of the French entries: AZUR, DANS, IDEE fixe. DANS was particularly difficult with its crossing of two proper names, CYD Charisse and SHARI Lewis. I suspect that that's going to be a spot that is easy for those who know their crosswordese but hard for people at large.

I also had a nonsensical mess in the NE corner with nOd instead of BOB. That was hard to suss out. I didn't know BARI from nARI, but I should have spotted BUNS instead of dUNS. Submitted an incorrect grid.

So it wasn't for me. Perhaps it's just a matter of THE FLEA being my first entry and everything else seeming like a letdown after that.

the redanman 3:41 PM  

I'm a bit ambivalent. Parts were stupid easy, but a word like aeolian, didn't fit the overall difficulty and the dogs buns rolls remains a mystery to me.

Sometimes puzzles are just too clever at times with these gross inconsistencies, I nailed the V VV thing really quickly (revving up) and lost interest in finishing. Oh well ...

Z 4:19 PM  

@Kimberly - When I was on foreign study I was housed with a woman who was born in Algeria. In her mind Algeria was still France (I imagine she'd be a Le Pen follower these days). Her thoughts on CAMUS remained unexplored.

@ArtO - I'm mildly surprised that some anonymouse hasn't shown up to dispute the number.

@Anon12:31 - The ratings are relative to the day. I DNFed, so hardly easy in my book, but there have been plenty of Thursday puzzles where a trick has eluded me quite longer than today's did.

PPP Analysis
25/78, a highish 32%. Looking at the list, a fair amount of the PPP is also crosswordese, making it play easier than the 32% would suggest for me. ATL, ARI, Jai ALAI, REDD Foxx, ASLAN, ALERO, all frequent fill that are inflating the PPP count.

PPP explanation
PPP are clue/answer pairs involving Pop Culture, Product Names, or other Proper nouns. The math is the number of these types of answers divided by the answer count of the puzzle. Anything in the 25% range is not going to generate much hate. At 33%+ there is a high likelihood that some subset of solvers are going to dislike the puzzle. Which subset will depend on lots of other factors. Early week (easier) puzzles seem less likely to generate hard feelings.

JMajers 4:22 PM  

I'm absolutely with you. This was my first DNF, of any day of the week, in months. The "easy" rating left me gobsmacked, and I see that someone else commented that this was the easiest of the week so far. As you began: wow.

Hartley70 4:34 PM  

This puzzle and one earlier this week has given me a memory today of a trip to Italy in the early 1990s. We were picked up at Malpensa in Milan by a business friend Alberto who lived in BARI. As we drove north to Como on the AUTOSTRADA, Alberto told us all about his lovely home on the Adriatic. As he talked he kept the gas pedal pressed all the way to the floor and he gestured wildly with his hands. I was in the back seat, sure I was about to die and saying a mental rosary. Those two puzzle answers are irrevocably linked in my mind and how strange they've appeared in the puzzle together. Perhaps Alberto, long gone, is saying hello.

Z 6:13 PM  

@Leapfinger Wednesday - Do you really want a retired educator to go all pedogical in a crossword blog? T/F tests aren't very good for measuring understanding. At best a T/F test will let a teacher know if the student got most of the basic facts down,p (John Donne wrote THE FLEA) but doesn't let the teacher know if the student gets that THE FLEA has the same basic theme as Lady Marmalade. No, that requires an essay question.

GILL I. 6:16 PM  

@Nancy...Not to worry. We West COASTERs (I think) check in late in the day but I do wish I didn't have to wait until just before my nap time....
@Dean: Thanks for the W VV and I thought a young fox was a cub.

foxaroni 7:47 PM  

Just FYI--as with French, in Spanish, "v" is pronounced "veh." "W" is pronounced "doble veh," or "two v's."

R.I.P. Beatles producer George Martin. There are several excellent articles about him in today's NYTimes. We never would have heard of the Beatles without him (most likely).

Nancy 8:03 PM  

@Hartley -- I also knew BARI for similar reasons to yours. Let's trade handsome Italian men from BARI stories soon. (My Italian didn't almost get me killed, though perhaps he would have if we'd been on dry land.)

@GILL -- I'm appreciative, of course, and shall try to always be worthy of delaying your nap time.

@Martin Abresch -- Thank you. I've known that lyric all my life, while never having the faintest idea what FLIVVER meant. I always assumed it was a term from the 20's, and meant flapper. So, like @Teedmn, I almost put in pLIVVER today, since I didn't know FLIVVER had anything to do with cars.

Anonymous 8:52 PM  

Some puzzles are just easier if you are old and had old parents.

My WWII vet Dad used the phrases "in mufti" and "civvies" interchangeably to mean "out of uniform."

I believe "flivver" for jalopy is 1920s-era slang.

I DNF due to NE -had nod instead of bob & didn't get hot dog buns until checking here.

I'd agree with medium rather than easy.

Leah712 9:36 PM  

Can anyone explain why CIVVIES is the answer for Mufti? The first one is civilian clothing and the second is an Islamic scholar.

jae 12:09 AM
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@Leah712 - From

Mufti noun, plural muftis.
civilian clothes, in contrast with military or other uniforms, or as worn by a person who usually wears a uniform.
a Muslim jurist expert in the religious law.
(in the Ottoman Empire) a deputy of the chief Muslim legal adviser to the Sultan.
(initial capital letter) Grand Mufti.

Z 12:14 AM  

@Leah712 - Because English

Leapfinger 12:18 AM  

As is often the case for me, triangulation pins down the ploy:
(i) "Hey, aren't there 2 V's in 'flivver'?"
(ii) Changing the awkward TECHwise ("But it fits!") to TECHSAWY, thanks to RENEWER
(iii) A commenter whose nom de blogue, VV (from Boston) always looked to me like "W"

Nothing wrong with RENEWER, btw, cuz RENEW is what they do. What would be weird would be to call a first-time subscriber a NEWER.

Only write-over worth mentioning is REVVING IT >> UP, noticed only for the mess it made of the TIE_CLIP.

Liked the trick, the fill, the mix of clues, and thought that squeezing in the VWS at the end was adorable. Such POIs! I KANnot tell ALAI: Ed Sessa, Him be the Love Bug!

Chronic dnfer 10:12 AM  

It wasn't easy. Flivver? I past muster with spell check anyhow.

Burma Shave 9:04 AM  


it’s so APRIORI – she ADULATEs Albert CAMUS.


spacecraft 11:39 AM  

This week reminds me of a classic line from that most excellent thriller "Wait Until Dark," when Roat (Alan Arkin in a role that DEFINES "creepy") is explaining to Susy (ultimate yeah baby Audrey Hepburn) what happened to his henchmen:

"Then things went all topsy-turvy. Me topsy--and them turvy."

And whay a topsy-turvy week this has been! This puzzle belongs solidly in a Wednesday slot. It has a sort of half-rebus, enough to take it past Monday and Tuesday--but it's just not tough enough for today. Gimmes abound; in the SW, for example, ASLAN, PEORIA and (by that time) REVVINGUP plunked themselves down. I call it easy-medium only for a bit of brow-wrinkling in the SE, where it was hard to come up with LASHAT for "Attack" and even harder to characterize SIEGE as "Wait-'em out strategy." To me, SIEGE carries a much more active connotation than the passive waiting out.

One writeover: HIVViruses instead of the VACCINE. I guess that's my fault; there's only one virus. God, I hope so.

A serviceable puzzle; one of Sessa's better efforts. EDTV might want him for a guest! B.

rondo 11:40 AM  

OHMAN! Some of the words this week, including today’s AEOLIAL and APRIORI. And say APRIORI PEORIA three times fast. One write-over at nOd for BOB, not much of a prob. Both ODED and ODE?

As a one-time American Studies major I must have read enough old timey lit to not have to think too much about the word FLIVVER. Probably from old movies and other sources too. Those A words were more trouble than a jalopy.

1987. Las Vegas Strip. REDD Foxx up close and in person. And blue as can be. Funny as hell? IDSAYSO.

I guess it’s just FLEA without THE playing for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

1950’s yeah baby CYD Charisse makes a cameo appearance.

If this is the week for tough words I KAN only imagine the next two days. Especially as I do the puzzles ININK.

leftcoastTAM 1:26 PM  

Tricky Thursday, as it ought to be, but medium rather than easy, IMO.

Got the trick at the SAVVY/RENEWER crossing, but the NW and SW were the last to go, with FLIVVER (never heard of it) and SAW/CIVVIES. Other crosses helped reveal both.

Liked the consistent follow-through with VWS at the end.

Diana,LIW 6:03 PM  

Instead of crosswords it seems I'm playing horse shoes this week. Close, but no cigar, which only counts in Horse Shoes.

Did the usual errors in the NW and NE corners.

Otherwise, pretty easy. Got the rebus early (!) and the revealer only confirmed it.

Had a boss many, many years ago - an architect whose job it was to sell our firm to major projects. He knew the phrase, "Will it play in Peoria?" and believed in it firmly. So, he had me read the weekly Peoria paper to look for happenings in that mid-west city. I kid you not. Same boss used to use, over and over, the phrase, "Your project is pregnant with potential." I snorted every time I typed it. We office assistants referred to it as the PWP phrase.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rain forest 6:25 PM  

Excellent puzzle, cute theme, nice but unnecessary revealer, some neat words and clues, medium.

So Donne wrote THE FLEA, Burns wrote "To a Louse". Has there been a poem written about a gnat, a mosquito, scabies?

I currently drive a VW Jetta TDI which, despite the company's skulduggery with emissions testing, is a great car. Huge mileage, decent pep, well-made, and contrary to public opinion, is very quiet on the highway.

Longbeachlee 3:52 PM  

Math bugs not complaining because 4*13!/(8!5!) = 5148. I was ready to complain, because it seems like there should be a lot more.

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