Boy genius of old teen fiction / TUE 5-10-16 / Alsace assents / Broken Tower poet / Former dictator of Panama / Actress Malone of Hunger Games

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Constructor: David Kwong

Relative difficulty: Easy (because of all the proper nouns, your mileage may vary)

THEME: "BIRDMAN" (51A: Best Picture of 2014 ... or what 18-, 23-, 28-, 34-, 46- and 56-Across is) — men whose last name is also a type of bird:

Theme answers:
  • EARL WEAVER (18A: Longtime Orioles manager in the Baseball Hall of Fame)
  • JOHN JAY (23A: Co-author of the Federalist Papers)
  • TONY HAWK (28A: Big name in skateboarding)
  • HART CRANE (34A: "The Broken Tower" poet)
  • TOM SWIFT (46A: Boy genius of old teen fiction) (what's an "old teen"?) (jk)
  • PETER FINCH (56A: "Network" Oscar winner)
Word of the Day: TOM SWIFT 
Tom Swift is the main character of five series of American juvenile science fiction and adventure novels that emphasize science, invention and technology. First published in 1910, the series total more than 100 volumes. The character was created by Edward Stratemeyer, the founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a book-packaging firm. Tom's adventures have been written by various ghostwriters, beginning with Howard Garis. Most of the books are credited to the collective pseudonym "Victor Appleton". The 33 volumes of the second series use the pseudonym Victor Appleton II for the author. For this series, and some of the later series, the main character is "Tom Swift, Jr." New titles have been published as recently as 2007. Most of the various series emphasized Tom's inventions. The books generally describe the effects of science and technology as wholly beneficial, and the role of the inventor in society as admirable and heroic. // Translated into many languages, the books have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. Tom Swift has also been the subject of a board game and a television series. Several famous people, including Steve Wozniak and Isaac Asimov, have cited "Tom Swift" as an inspiration. Several inventions, including the Taser, have been inspired allegedly by Swift's fictional inventions. "TASER" is said to be an acronym for "Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle." (wikipedia)
• • •

Simple theme, smooth grid—remarkably smooth, considering how dense the theme is. When constructors try to cram tons of theme material into a grid, the grid often groans MIGHTY-ly under the pressure, but this one doesn't even sag a little. It's hard to say how difficult this puzzle was, relative to other Tuesdays, because not knowing even one name could slow you down considerably. I was lucky enough to know them all, with my moments of greatest theme answer uncertainty coming with HART CRANE ("The Broken Tower" is not a work I've ever heard of) and TOM SWIFT (whose name I know more from those stupid 'Tom Swifties' than anything else). But with letters already in place before I looked at their clues, even HART and TOM weren't too much trouble. I thought this puzzle was going to have some improbable "county seat" theme, where cities (e.g. SAVANNAH) sat alongside counties of which they were the seat (e.g. CHATHAM). If you start in the NW, as many do, this seems a reasonable first impression.

CHATHAM slowed me down (3D: Georgia county of which [SAVANNAH] is the seat), but after that, I had no more than a second or two's hesitation with any answer until I hit the other side of the grid. Every answer went right in, no problem. Weirdly, it was the revealer that gave me the most trouble. Even with several letters in place, I had no idea what movie could possibly have won Best Picture *just last year* that I couldn't remember *at all*. I had BIR- and still no idea. Also struggled a bit with SAMARIA (43D: Biblical city of Palestine), so that section kept me from what could've been close to a record Tuesday solving time for me. But surrounding answers were easy enough to pick up. Again, I'm really impressed there are so many themers and so little junk (INSO, NSW, CTA, STUF, AHS ... if you wanted to carp, you could carp there, I suppose ... oh INANER; I do genuinely dislike that word, but that's just a matter of (dis)taste, I think). I should probably add that I didn't really know WEAVER or SWIFT was a bird type (well, especially the former). But that hardly mattered, considering I didn't know birds were even in play until the puzzle was over.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Loren Muse Smith 7:33 AM  

Look for me at any zoo, and I have my nose pressed to the glass, wondering if that anaconda can see me, can sense I mean him no harm, while my classier friends are in the aviary. Birding is one of those hobbies I want to have (opera, fine tea, Masterpiece Theater) to seem sophisticated, but I just can't muster up any interest. I've tried. I've been in the woods with my son and some binoculars. We were on a wood-pecker-spotting mission. But I ended up squatting down poking at big ole bugs or looking up weird mushrooms in my little mushroom book. I have a bird book, too. Somewhere.

Early on, I counted Christopher Wren in my fingers. A 15. He's my to-to bird guy. TONY HAWK was a snap because we used to have a grinding rail and lots of Vans lying around the house. Sigh. Where does the time go? Now my son is desperately looking for a job. Degree in petroleum/natural gas engineering. Apparently those guys are not only not hiring right now, they're laying off people! Great.

I think Tom Swifties are brilliant. I could look at a list like that all day and marvel.

Funny that EARL WEAVER was an Oriole. Not a Blue Jay or a Cardinal. . If you do a little digging, you can find people like Rory Sparrow who was actually a Hawk.

And Dan Quayle can't make this list.

I loved the clue for MY MAN. Spot on.

Pretty easy Tuesday. The reveal is perfect. When I glanced at the clue, I just saw the word "movie," and I tried to fill in The Birds. That movie scared the bejeezus out of me.

Lewis 7:35 AM  

@rex - hand up for having trouble remembering BIRDMAN as well.

I learned WEAVER (as a bird) and can now picture it alit on a branch. I liked the backward ERGO crossing AEGIS, and SPEEDS crossing TOMSWIFT. INANER is indeed itself compared to the other answers, many of which were sterling (ELAPSED, TACIT, MORALE, SEESAWS), and even on a Tuesday, there were some clever clues (ENS, EARDRUMS). A couple of the names were wrested from that hidden vault in my head, which always brings a satisfying aha.

Felt like a Wednesday, so for someone new it might be tough going, but for me it took flight. This was a buoyant Tuesday solve.

Kevin 7:36 AM  

Where is the righteous indignation I have come to expect from this blog? SKED, MIEN, MOOG, NOOR, ILEA, CTA? Maybe I'm just insufficiently steeped in the Crossworld, but the fact that so many proper nouns were crossed with obscure small words like that made this thoroughly unenjoyable for me.

George Barany 7:40 AM  

Today's puzzle by @David Kwong reminded me of The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, from a bit over a year ago. Thanks, @Rex, for pointing out the connection between "Tom Swifties" and the character from teen fiction--I had been wondering about that and you saved me a trip to Google.

imsdave 7:48 AM  

This one had me at Earl Weaver. My favorite Weaver moment:

While heading back to the dugout he screamed, "I'm going to check the rule-book on that" to which the umpire replied, "Here, use mine." Weaver shot back, "That's no good – I can't read Braille."

Z 7:52 AM  

Pop Culture, Product Names, and Proper Nouns Analysis

33% and there are likely to be issues. Today? 34/76 for 45% ON A TUESDAY. My personal prediction for natickville is tertiary founding father JOHN JAY crossing Hunger Games star JENA. Lay or Day are plausible. Look at the first 17 down clues. AHS, LEAKY, SEESAWS, EDDY and 13 PPPs. Yikes.

The List (* means PPP is from the clue):

(I don't count the "Annie" clue because it's about the letters)
URSA Minor

WILD Wild West
NSW (New South Wales))
JIM Brown Rice
Double STUF Oreos
MILO Mindbender

I strongly suspect this, It's hard to say how difficult this puzzle was, relative to other Tuesdays, because not knowing even one name could slow you down considerably, is an understatement.

jberg 7:54 AM  

I'm a birder, and I still needed the revealer to see the theme. I think that was because the whole thing went by quickly. I knew TONY HAWK from a Nick Hornby novel, or I'd have been stuck there; didn't know PETER FINCH, but got it from the theme. I was actually toying with an e-less O'TOOL, as USTINOV wouldn't fit. Dating myself here.

I had no idea what county SAVANNAH was in; I assume it would have been easy if I'd read that Tom Wolfe novel. Hmmm, WOLFE? Could do something with that, I suppose.

I once spent a month in South AFrica just as a WEAVER was building his nest in the garden of our guest house. The mail arrives from migration and builds a nest, a bunch of sticks and other things hanging from a branch. Then the female arrives about a week later, looks the nest over and, nine times out of ten, decides she doesn't like it and tears the whole thing apart, making the male to it all over again.

All for now -- I have to go rearrange the furniture in the living room.

phil phil 7:57 AM  

Disagree with Rex on 'easy', too many misdirects and T in CTA cross was a guess for me.

But especially the later week misdirect EARDRUM. Who had suRffbUM fior catchers of waves.

Anyway, the theme did help me.

I always need crosses with spelling of isaiah or issiah or issac or whatever.

jberg 7:58 AM  

By the way, here's a picture of a weaver nest, and here's one of an oriole nest. You can see why Earl was the right man for that job.

oconomowoc mom 7:58 AM  

I'm not positive, but I think the SWIFT is the only animal that has been clocked at over 100 mph!

Hartley70 8:01 AM  

I am still flummoxed by CTA and adding EI to it doesn't help a bit. That area also wasn't made better by knowing tIM Rice and JIM Brown, but not JIM Rice nor tIMBrown. It was the old Tim/Jim dilemma. JOHNJAY was the last answer in because I didn't know JENA and I had LEAKs before LEAKY. Georgia counties are outside my ken. What day is it? It sure doesn't feel like Tuesday from where I sit.

The puzzle was packed with theme and the theme was easy to grasp but strong. I thought it was on point for a Tuesday. I hadn't heard of a WEAVER, but it was clear from the crosses.

I enjoyed the NW struggle and this is shaping up to be a challenging week.

Z 8:08 AM  

BTW - The constructor notes (at that the theme was done before. Only one shared themer, no BIRDMAN reveal, and done before Rex was Rex. I'd say enough time has passed.

NCA President 8:21 AM  

So weird...I just arrived in CHATHAM, NY yesterday for a 3.5 month stay doing theater. It's like the puzzle knew...

This one was a toughie for me due, in most part, to the proper nouns. I knew a lot of them, but it took some time to drag them out of the cobwebs in my head: EARLWEAVER, TONYHAWK, PETERFINCH. I don't recall JOHNJAY and I don't know very many poets...HARTCRANE would fall in the very large subset of poets I don't know.

I've said this before, but if we're going to allow words like INANER in the English language (which spell check doesn't like in this blog's spell check thing...or Chrome's, maybe?), then we need to allow the much better "worser" or "funner." Lewis Carroll got by with "curiouser," which I think is a fine word, but vis a vis the others INANER seems, well, ineleganter.

pApAS before DADAS, and asiA before URSA (I should know by now it's almost always Ursa), and lAirS before OASES.

Thanks Rex, for the link to the Tom Swifties, because if there's one thing better than a singular one-off pun, it's a list of about 40 of 'em with my morning coffee, said I haltedly.

Nancy 8:22 AM  

I missed the entire theme as I was solving -- didn't notice, didn't need it. The proper names were mostly easy for me, other than TONY HAWK. Still, some of them I didn't get until the crosses started to come in. For example, I was thinking of Madison, not JOHN JAY. Nor did I know that HART CRANE wrote that poem. Furthermore, when I had EARLW----- at 18A, and hadn't looked at the clue yet, I was thinking EARL Warren, not EARL WEAVER. ORR was a gimme, as I hope it has now become for @Hartley 70. (You're welcome, btw.)

Oh, Oreos, say it ain't so! I've never heard of Double STUF Oreos, and I'm happy I haven't. STUF is right up there with Lo; Lite; Glo; Sof -- cutesy product names that are teaching entire generations of children to misspell. So dumb. So unnecessary.

I checked my Webster's and NOSEY is accepted. But NOSY is preferred. Certainly I prefer it. And I expect everyone here to chime in on INANER. So awful as to be INANE.

All in all, not a bad Tuesday. It held my attention.

kitshef 8:36 AM  

Not easy for me, with a lot of not suitable for Tuesday STUF in here: CHATHAM, SAMARIA, MILO, several of the themers, and most of all HARTCRANE crossing JENA, the 'A' being inferrable but both of those names being WoEs.

Also think @Rex was a little lenient on the junk fill, having left out ANO, ILEA, and SEN. But it adds evidence to the idea that a dense and reasonably entertaining theme covers up for a lot of ills.

But INANER? No, sorry, go away.

Random note: both Orioles and WEAVER birds build elaborate nests that hang down from branches.

orangeblossomspecial 9:03 AM  

Here's a cute version of 'Let's all sing like the birdies sing'

SAVANNAH is the birthplace of Johnny Mercer, a great lyricist from the 30s to 60s. Johnny sings with Bing Crosby on 'Mister Meadowlark'

A song about a woman from SAMARIA

Roo Monster 9:06 AM  

Hey All !
Liked the theme density and resulting mostly clean fill. Thought it rather tough for a TuesPuz. PPP gotta be high. NIEN a WOE as clued.


Liked it overall. Not much more to say...


Tita A 9:07 AM  

Ha... Had absolutely no idea what the clue or the answer meant for 20A...made me laugh when I saw he repurposed one of ou xwordese hall-of-farmers as the clue. That wink and nod cancel out the desperation factor.

This did play hard for me. I was glad to learn the additional fact about JOHNJAY. That was one name I could infer with only the O and A, because I often walk at The Marshlands in Rye, the land owned by his parents. It's a beautiful place in any season.
Appropriately, it is a bird sanctuary, and the naturalist tha ran it for many years and just retired was passionate about birds, and had a decidedly appropriate "Get off John Jay's lawn!attitude towards oafs who were in their disrespecting nature.

We have friends who live on the Housatonic flood plain, and used the flat silty area to build a BOCCE court. We're all foodies, so everyone brings fab food and we bbq, drink, and play on summer evenings,
(Only after researching bocce a bit did I learn it's an old mans yes, I'm fficially old! Tho not a man...)

Puzzle was wonderful...
Love that Earl WEAVER managed the ORIOLEs...wasn't that bird in the puzzle yesterday?

Thank you Mr. Kwong.

chefbea 9:12 AM  

Didn't know a lot of these people...and didn't know weaver was a bird
Love tom swifts and love crepes and blintzes...almost forgot double stuff oreos!!!

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

Someone Please explain ens for annie it the N's? That doesn't make sense to me.

QuasiMojo 9:25 AM  

I'm sure some of us oldtimers were waiting for "Walter Pidgeon" to show up. Or Dan Quayle? :)

Charles Flaster 9:27 AM  

Total agreement with Rex.
Really enjoyed this one.
Favorite answer was also a write over--EAR DRUMS for suRfbUMS.
Other write overs were RAP for boP and SLAV for Serb.
CROSSWORDease--the omnipresent ORR, ILEA, and ANO.
PETER FINCH in "NETWORK" is a must see.
Always enjoyed seeing EARL WEAVER kick dust on home plate after umpire cleaned it!
Thanks DK.

Oscar 9:29 AM  

ILEA ruins the whole puzzle, IMO (not that it was any great shakes to begin with). Terrible entry that should be an instant puzzle-killer.

pmdm 9:35 AM  

Wow. With forty blanks in the grid, I stopped solving, something I never do. Too too many proper nouns, as many have already pointed out. That a puzzle like this one was published on a Tuesday, a day when most solvers should be able to do with puzzle with a fair amount of ease, is absurd. Shame on you, Will S.

A puzzle like this one demonstrates how sometimes it is meaningless to rate the puzzle's hardness. Depending on one's familiarity with the proper nouns in this puzzle, some solvers may find it baby simple and some impossible. That should not happen on a Monday or Tuesday. Grr.

Joseph Welling 9:49 AM  

Hartley70 said...
"I am still flummoxed by CTA and adding EI to it doesn't help a bit."

The second letter is a lowercase "l" not a capital "I"

The Chicago Transit Authority oversees the Elevated Trains (the "El").

Alec Schwartz 9:59 AM  

Dnf because of Moog Milo cross. Started with "z" and eventually got to "m" after second guessing Jena v. Jene.

GILL I. 10:43 AM  

Lots of proper names...UGH. All about birds...YAY.
Thank you @jberg for the nest postings.
I don't know a lot about birds but I do love to watch them. We have our favorite Towhee's family that wakes us up and bossy boots Hummingbirds practically feeding out of our hands. There is a big old Elm hanging over our patio, and Robins and Sparrows fight for room during the summer months.I know you really don't give a shit, but that's about all I have to say about the puzzle.

Lobster11 10:44 AM  

I'm with @Kevin: I expected a much Rexier review. I guess OFL is just willing to pay a higher price for impressive theme density than I am. Too much junk fill, combined with an outrageous PPP count (thanks for confirming, @Z), means no fun for me.

Y'know, I hadn't really thought about it until now, but I've come to have a strong preference for themeless puzzles, and this is probably why.

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

I see that as a potential 3-way natick: JAY/JENA/HART

Mary 11:00 AM  

As a non-old-white-man, this puzzle was brutal. I knew TONYHAWK off the bat and could get JOHNJAY and TOMSWIFT from the crosses (though TIM works for 23D [Brown or Rice]). Never heard of EARLWEAVER, HARTCRANE, or PETERFINCH. Crossing two themers (TOMSWIFT *and* PETERFINCH) with NORIEGA was a bit cruel. And if I never see ORR again it'll be too soon. Ugh.

Just saw Captain America: Civil War last night. A movie with exactly 3 female characters that have about 10 lines combined (compared to approximately 20 male characters with all the lines minus 10). Then the NYT hits me with this dude-heavy puzzle. Pardon me while I jump off my BALCONY.

I think there could have been some better name choices to make this more appropriate for a Tuesday - ATTICUSFINCH (or JEM), anyone?

Karl Bradley 11:00 AM  

Other than that, OK. I have never heard of Hart Crane, but there must be some literature majors out there who have...

jae 11:02 AM  

On the tough side for me. EARL WEAVER and CHATHAM (as clued) were WOEs and even though I've seen The Hunger Games series, JENA Malone did not surface easily (I had gENA at first).

Yesterday's is a hard act to follow. Did not like this as much as @Rex did.

Tim Pierce 11:05 AM  

I enjoyed seeing SAAB in both yesterday's puzzle and today's, with progressively tougher clues. I'd love to see SAAB in every puzzle this week, just getting harder and harder clues.

* "The most intelligent car ever built," per an ad slogan
* Swedish street-balls?
* European aircraft manufacturer
* James Bond's preferred ride, in some novels
* Venezuelan human rights activist Tarek

Andrew Heinegg 11:05 AM  

This was a decent puzzle but your Earl Weaver story is priceless. The combination of being a great manager and a great character made him a one of a kind that is a rare bird indeed!

old timer 11:13 AM  

@imsdave, great story about EARL WEAVER!

My time was a Tuesdayish 13 minutes. I knew most of the names, though I needed the crosses to spot many of them. Of course as a lawyer and History major I knew JOHN JAY -- he only wrote a few of the Federalist papers, but Washington named him Chief Justice under the new Constitution. As I recall he found he and the Court had very little to do, and resigned after a few years.

I think it would be an amusing challenge to put county seats next to their counties. Cuyahoga and Cleveland for instance, or the crossword standbys Orange and Santa Ana. Seattle and King might be easy, or Tacoma and Pierce. Multnomah and Portland? Could be a challenge.

kitshef 11:20 AM  

@jberg - I toyed with Peter FONDA before I grokked the theme.

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

In my head, the authorship of the Federalist Papers is Hamilton (slightly) < 2/3, Madision (slightly) < 1/3, and a couple of random white guys = two 'slightly's. John Jay is just the first Supreme Court Chief Justice.

Masked and Anonymous 11:35 AM  

Dang wow. Was M&A ever waaay off, predictin what the @indie009 one would think of this puppy. Part way in, after a slew of obscure names and counties, plus the INANER CTA SKED INSO NSW AHS OUIS-ing STUF, was ready to recoup my Derby losses, by bettin heavily on David Kwong needin to don the flame-retardant gear, while reading the Rex Parker blog.

BIRDMAN was a gimme, mainly because I recently had been amazed to score a copy of its DVD for 25 cents. As a longtime budgie owner, and battler with woodpeckers workin on our house, this theme elicits more of a "well, there's yer trouble" reaction, from M&A. WEAVER's a bird, btw? [Ah … in tropical Africa … so, ok.] All these BIRDdudes are real guys, except SWIFTdude, I reckon.

This here was a tough TuesPuz solve for m&e. Which was welcome. Thanx, Mr. Kwong. How'd U cast that magic spell on @indie009, tho?!? I thought all that STUF was gonna be eliminated by moderation.

Masked & Anonymo2Us


Gina Boonshoft 11:38 AM  

FYI, the 2014 Best Picture winner was 12 Years a Slave. Bridman won in 2015. Threw me off for a second.

Aketi 11:59 AM  

@Nancy, double STUF Oreos are an LFC (learned from crosswords) item for me. Never seen them elsewhere.

Growing up near the San Francisco Bay with a boat and fish loving Dad meant many trips around Alcatraz (and Angel) Island so BIRDMAN was s total gimme even though o was thinking of the wrong movie. JOHN JAY was also a gimme since I was walked past the College of Criminal Justice named after him a bunch of times.

I spent one fall dutifully going on weekly outing as a parent chaperone for my sons second grade teacher who did a fully enriched project on birding for tha fall semester. While I can probably identify all the BIRDs in the puzzle but the WEAVER, I did not retain very much of what the teacher itaught my son and his classmates in Central Park other than there are a lot of species of birds.

Lee Coller 12:00 PM  

I had two errors, The CTA/Chatham cross - I had CIA and had misread the clue as EI Overseeing org and assumed EI stood for enhanced intelligence and Chaiham seemed reasonable as a county name. Also, the Jena/Hart Crane cross, I had Jeni -- I don't most modern actors/actresses and did not know Hart Crane -- and Hart is not a normal first name.

david 12:04 PM  

Like this one cause I'm related to john jay and I drive a Saab!

puzzle hoarder 12:07 PM  

I'm not that familiar with any of the theme names but due the common nature of the fill I didn't have to be. Other than CHATHAM and JENA pretty much everything could be guessed either outright or with one letter. With so much theme though it was still harder than the average Tuesday.
I looked up TONY HAWK and an interesting bit of trivia that wasn't in the first 15 comments is that his nickname is Birdman.
@Hartley70 CTA stands for Chicago Transit Authority we call our trains els because they mostly run on elevated tracks.

da kine 12:10 PM  

This played slow for me for a Tuesday, but I'm not sure why. I caught the theme right away, knew all the themers except HART CRANE, and have been in SAMARIA, yet I finished in about 4:20, which is pretty slow when I'm concentrating on a Tuesday. Maybe I had to hop around some to get the fill right? I don't know. I still enjoyed it a bunch and any puzzle with EARL WEAVER in it is a winner. (Read Ron Luciano's books about umpiring for some funny stuff about Early Weaver.)

AZPETE 12:23 PM  

Not easy for me, either. Had trouble with the Tim / Jim thing.

Leapfinger 12:52 PM  

Perhaps I'm being a nebbish, but some things just SMELT odd in today's grid:
NO RIEGA? That just won't wash
MORALE? A single member of ESAI's family?

As the SE was taking shape, I thought we were headed for an appointment with SAMARRA. As it turned out, SAMARIA was a clever way to avoid riding to that appointment on MR ED.

All in all, this had a truly intriguing theme. However, given Mr. Kwong's wonderful and wide-ranging vocabulary, Sparrow Agnew was a glaring absence, and 55A was a (night)jar since The Byrds don't RAP. Thought for sure that Aristophanes' "The (Other) Birds" would be referenced, or "Junco and the Paycock", or Alcatraz, or at least TACITus. OTOH, MILO Minderbinder was a Major Major delight.

Have to admit to a flicker of unease when I saw where this theme was headed , beakAHS things quickly became hard to swallow. In many ways, it was simply a matter of robin PETER to pay PAW, and ended up as a lot of fuss and feathers with some fowl play. None of this was really 'nests as aerie', not on a Tuesday.

May I retweet, Mr. Kwong? BeakAHS of you, there's a Birdsong in my Heart. No Egrets.

mac 1:02 PM  

Good puzzle with some non-Tuesday areas for me.

Chatham means Cape Cod to me, no idea about the Georgia county. Then the Moog/Milo crossing. That M was a guess, lucky one.

Fun solve!

Mohair Sam 1:10 PM  

Played tough for us because of all the PPPing. But we loved it just the same.

Discovered there was a WEAVER bird today, and learned how it nests too (thanks @kitshef). Surprised it took until 2007 to acknowledge the RAP genre in the Rock and Roll HOF. HARTCRANE good for the mammal category too, constructors take note.

"BIRDMAN" another one of those flicks about actors that Hollywood adores and the rest of us see on a different level. Oh, it's a good movie for sure - terrific acting. But best picture? Nah.

Remember one "small ball" enthusiast announcer asking Earl Weaver how he'd build a rally if he needed three runs. Weaver: "Two walks and a homer."

@Z from yesterday: Very very nice; poetry.

Masked and Anonymous 1:13 PM  

Only other @indie009 comments I could find on INANER was "never-welcome" and "loathsome". Both of them puzs was by non-spellcasters, tho.

@muse: thUmbsUp on yer avatar birdman. Real sorry about yer son's job-hunting woes -- could he maybe use his minor for somethin, in the meantime? Example: M&A majored in math, minored in computer stuf. Went right to work as an ammo humper in an army artillery unit. [drafted]

Almost forgot, fave weeject: ENS. Mostly becuz of its runtpuz-like clue.

CHAT HAM looks like a cool themer seed entry for weirdo phrases that are also obscure county names.
CHAT HAM = {Drama queen who monopolizes the conversations?}.


Teedmn 1:21 PM  

Totally on the easy side and I only have heard of HART CRANE and TOM SWIFT. Knowing JENA Malone helped with the first theme I encountered and after WEAVER, it was just a matter of guessing a first name after seeing the avian. I didn't even read the whole revealer clue since the crosses I had in place were sufficient to tie the theme together as BIRD men. In fact, the Oscar Best Picture might have obfuscated the answer because I pay so little attention from one year to the next as to which movie won.

Comic instead of CLOWN barely slowed me down at 5A since CAESAR made that whole section easy. A brief SuMARIA helped by MORALE also caused little ado. It was my mis-entry at 38D of ETs which made sconE fill in for CREPE but that was the one hitch and it barely registered as SPEEDS barreled the correction along. Perhaps, if I had put in my first guess of SAVANNAH's county, CHArles, I may have had more wreckage but I held on for MY MAN and avoided that mess.

I used to find birds completely uninteresting but somewhere in my twenties I did a 180 and I love seeing them and spotting new species or hearing a call and being able to say, "that's a JAY/CRANE/FINCH", ETC.. Perhaps it was the first time I saw the Flicker Courting Ritual on a telephone pole but ever since, I find birds fascinating.

A fine Tuesday romp, thanks, David Kwong.

Hb 1:26 PM  


Penna Resident 1:36 PM  

i came here fully expecting to read:
"is this really a theme? its just names, with birds in them. there are so many people and so many bird names. i could probably come up with 100 names that fit this theme. and there is nothing connecting these birds, they are just bird names. and there are so many of them in there that we have to deal with MIEN and ILEA and a ton of too-common short crossword names. and don't get me started on obscure proper nouns crossing each other with vowels."

i usually disagree with the panning of puzzles here, but today i didn't like this ppp-fest. not knowing 1 of them could slow you down? how about not knowing 4 of them! you might as well use a christian science clue for EDDY so that Z can have an even longer list. never saw network, so did peter lynch star as a stockbroker and is milo spelled mylo? catch22 was a ska-punk band. i don't time myself but im sure this took a half hour before savannah got me to change serb to slav. longest tuesday ever.

Martín Abresch 1:55 PM  

"This puzzle is for the birds," Tom tweeted.

I'm a little biased here, but I was hoping that one of the theme answers would be STEVE MARTIN. Also, the bird names reminded me of "Person of Interest," which just began its final season last week. (One of the main characters is named Harold Finch, and he frequently uses aliases that involve other small birds.)

Solid puzzle, though once again I got tripped up. It was NOOR/OASES that did me in. I did not know NOOR, and I put in bASES (Havens). NbOR looked funny to me, so I ran the alphabet to see if another letter worked, but I was sloppy and missed OASES. Sigh. That's four straight days with an error.

dmast 2:58 PM  

I agree with Z. Way too many P's. Very hard for a Tuesday.

BTW, when I google "Best Picture of 2014", it comes back with "12 Years a Slave". Google is convinced that "Birdman" is the Best Picture of 2015. What gives?

Devin W 3:21 PM  

MIEN? Barf. Guess I don't know enough 1500s era words that nobody uses to do a NYT crossword.

Anonymous 3:26 PM  

@dmast = see Rex's FAQ, 16A - Birdman came out in 2014, and won the Oscar for movies which came out in 2014, hence "Best Picture of 2014". The awards show is in 2015 which is what you're seeing in Google.

@LMS - Sorry you can't get into birds, for if you were interested you would benefit from their being omnipresent. An interest in birds is the most reliable, cheapest, easiest way of finding beauty in the world there is. But never feel bad or sorry that you don't like birding or opera or Masterpiece Theatre or whatever, or think that you should like them. They're just one option. Bugs are no better or worse than birds.

Proud Mamma 3:40 PM  


Proud Mamma 3:44 PM  

Exactly. I didnt' know 2/3. Left jena a blank. I thougjt of u as i sligged tjrough ppps.

oldbizmark 4:07 PM  

JENA/HART cross is bogus. I had JENi/HiRT. Natick central.

Roo Monster 4:35 PM  

We've had this Best Picture discussion before, but to clarify, one years awards are awards for the entire previous years movies. Example: all the movies from 2014 have to come out before awards can be given. So even new movies that came out in December 2014 have to be considered. So the awards for 2014 movies are held in 2015. Which means 2014s Best Picture is awarded in 2015. Make sense?


Roo Monster 4:38 PM  

Oh, and how can you never have heard of Double Stuf Oreos? If you've never eaten a Regular Oreo, or especially a Double Stuf Oreo, you're not living!


Hartley70 5:15 PM  

@JosephWelling, Bless you! It's after 5pm and that's been irritating me all day. I did think it was a capital i, but even if I'd known it was a lower case L, I wouldn't have come up with Chicago Transit Authority I'm afraid.

Hartley70 5:33 PM  

To pass on the good deed done for me today, I believe the BIRDMAN entry exploits the distinction between the year of release and the year the Oscar is awarded. A 2014 film will be a 2015 Oscar winner.

Z 6:06 PM  

@Gina Boonshoft & @dmast - See Question 16a here. Lots of other good info to be found along the way like the "official" definition of the Natick Principle.

@Penna Resident - Even though Mary Baker would have been a gimme for me, no thanks. My fingers are still tired from typing out that list.

kitshef 6:20 PM  

@Lobster 11 - or anyone, really - what is the meaning of OFL, used to mean Rex?

thursdaysd 7:08 PM  

Agree with Penna Resident. I finished this one clean thanks to the crosses, but despised it with a passion. Fully expected a worse review. What on earth is clever about a crossword with a bunch of names?

Alysia 7:28 PM  


Z 8:47 PM  

@kitshef - Our Fearless Leader. Said with love and irony while fondly remembering Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Airymom 8:59 PM  

@Loren Muse Smith---I have a friend who has worked as an accountant for Baltimore Gas and Electric (an Exelon company) for decades. Would you like me to ask her about openings for petroleum engineers, or has your son already checked out BG & E.?

I always enjoy your comments on Rex's blog.

Hartley70 9:53 PM  

@puzzlehoarder, my previous post disappeared, so I'll say Bless You, again! That entry irritated me all day. That EI read as ei to me, but in any case I'm not sure I would have considered Chicago Transit Authority.

@Nancy, if you are ever held captive and forced to eat an Oreo, I sincerely hope you're offered a Double Stuf. They're much better, especially if there's no milk around to wash it down. If you escape, head over to Greenberg's and order anything else.

Lewis 10:10 PM  

@kitshef -- Our Fearless Leader

Anonymous 11:02 PM  

@kitshef OFL = our fearless leader. It is meant to be read not pronounced since that would be offal or awful, neither a compliment.

kitshef 9:48 AM  

Thanks, @Z, @Lewis, and @Anon 11:02 - thanks!

That did occur to me as a possibility, but it seemed to me I sometimes see people say "the OFL", which doesn't go. Or maybe I'm mis-remembering.

Burma Shave 10:21 AM  


ORR else JIM had a MIGHTY gift,
but this one WILD CLOWN was INANER,
and MYMAN couldn’t make TOMSWIFT.


spacecraft 11:40 AM  

Easy? EASY?? Let me quote 56-across:


"Your mileage may vary." Yeah, mine varied to near-DNF. At first I knew absolutely nothing in the entire NW. Only when I turned to sports for the Brown-Rice connection to discover JIM did things break open there. (Yes, yet again this is where I wound up.) I've never seen The Hunger Games--read a thumbnail premise and didn't like the whole idea--so I don't know from JENA, or even if she deserves DOD status. In pretty much of a vacuum otherwise, I guess she's it.

Thanks to @Joseph Welling for the CTA explanation. Remember now: today is TUESDAY. "Annie characters"--without even a "?"-- for ENS?? You're gonna throw me this pitch on a TUESDAY? I'll never make the Mendoza line at that rate. And yet it's "easy." Grrr-rr...

Like @M&A, I can't fathom OFL's embrace of this. Kwong has got to be a crony. Seldom have I seen an INANER grid. See what I mean? But I did finish it--I must be a masochist. Not SADO, though. Double-bogey.

rondo 12:01 PM  

“I got my arm caught in the corn picker”, said the farmer offhandedly. Oh, let’s not go on another TOMSWIFTy roll. I think BIRDMAN won the award because it pandered to all the acting and entertainment crowd, who are coincidentally the folks who vote on that STUF. I might have given it an award for effects or something, but not best flick. So this puz has probably been in the queue since the award show.

EARLWEAVER and PETERFINCH both gimmes since apparently I am an OWM, but I also knew TONYHAWK. HARTCRANE by far the toughest.

Once more, we miss a chance at the clue for “Packer Clinton-Dix”. HAHA.

I’ve got a professional grade set of BOCCE balls, but don’t get around to using them much due to my aversion to cutting grass. Maybe if I just built a court out there and let everything else go.

There’s only one name I’d get solely for Hunger Games and it’s not yeah baby JENA Malone. Have not seen a Hunger Games flick, yet somehow I’ve managed to see Donnie Darko.

INANER is just that. Aren’t multisyllabic words supposed to get the “more” instead of the “er”? My Russian wife pointed out this rule, amongst others. Like the rule of when to use “less” or “fewer”, which advertisers always mangle, and sports interviews, well . . .

Not bad for a Tues-puz, and when the theme is full of names can we be surprised at the total PPP?

leftcoastTAM 1:15 PM  

Clever theme with some crunch in it. TONYHAWK and HARTCRANE were the last to go in.

So it was the middle that was something of a struggle. STUF also gummed things up a bit, and at first I looked for German assents instead of the French OUIS.

Bothered by use of MORALE as a meaning of "Team esteem." Esteem is the regard that others may hold for it, but MORALE is how the team may feel about itself and each other, their loyalties, expectations, prospects, etc.

I did check Merriam-Webster, and it reinforced my concern about this clue-answer. Am I missing something here?

rain forest 1:19 PM  

So, I had what I thought were all the themers in the bank, got the revealer (which was great), and all the fill, and then--then I did NOT realize that 23A was another themer. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure that JAY would have occurred to me. However, I guessed "D" (hey, John Day is a fine name, and Dena seems possible as well). So DNF with OWS, Hi @Dirigonzo.

But I'm not bitter, really. I thought this was a good puzzle, despite all the names, and I should have sussed JOHN JAY because of symmetry. I found it easy-medium and very entertaining. Good one!

Sailor 2:35 PM  

Enjoyable theme for a Tuesday, I thought, but I’m also in total agreement that this one would play hard if it’s not in your wheel house. Deciphered BIRDMAN from the names, rather than the other way ’round, since I am another one of those rare birds who pay no attention to the Oscars.

A dense theme like this in a 15x15 grid will inevitably require some dreck in the fill. INANER, however, is sub-dreck.

I was held up briefly in the SE because I know bocce as a game played on a bare soil court, so it did not immediately occur to me as a “lawn game.”

Diana,LIW 8:01 PM  

Another 92% completed fantastic DNF. So proud. Yes, the PPPs were my WOEs. I did complete Monday. Still working on Sunday.

But I must say, I'm catching up with my life and a bit jet-lagged after getting home to Spokaloo at 1 am yesterday (oh no, that's today!) from the Minn. X-word Tourney.

What a blast! (But not from the past, where I usually dwell.) Had a great time with Rondo and Teedmn toddling around St. Paul's beautiful treasures. The Landmark Center (home of the tourney), St. P's Cathedral, Summit Avenue, parks and the river - wow. What a lovely city - they just need more people. It was like the rapture. Everyone was gone, and we were left.......

Teedmn did a commendable job, and did not appear to have any "first-timer" nerves. But she was gracious enough to allow a few others to "win." Rondo and I were spectators. On the timed puzzles, Rondo was "helpful" by counting down the last few seconds for me, whilst I was still scratching my head for answers. But then on our "hardest" puzzle, which had 20 instead of 15 minutes, I had 5 minutes to spare! Me! Little fourth grader!

My only disappointment was not getting to meet Kathy of the Tower. I had a crossword sign with the words "KATHY OF THE TOWER" crossing in a grid, and walked around with it, but did not come aCROSS her. We searched for "Kathy" on nametags, but no luck. So, Kathy, please know we were looking for you, and hope you had fun! You were sorely missed.

Oh, by the by (or is it bye?) - in Philadelphia, BOCCE is played in an alley or schoolyard. The way it should be. Lawn bowling is a grass sport. Or cricket. Just saying.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

kathy of the tower 2:35 AM  

@Diana, @rondo and @teedmn. I was there, and competed in the amateur
I came in at 38, I couldn't remember the Broncos in the first puzzle. All that would come to me was the Patriots. I finished the second two puzzles with time to spare.

I looked for you too. I really didn't scope out the spectators too closely, I thought all of you were competing. I read many nametags and asked several groups of two women and one man about you. Better luck next time.Diana, don't you think the Landmark Center looks like Hogwarts? I agree, St Paul is a beautiful city.

cedichou 1:57 PM  

All theme answers are name I had never heard of. And it's not like I'm not aware of what's going on. But a pro skateboarder (ok, it's a thing), an actor dead in the 70s, the forgotten founding Father, and a baseball manager from the (mostly) 70s as well. Oh, and an obscure poet.

What I don't get is why it doesn't get Rex's ire. It's right down his alley: obscure and dated references. He should go on an epic rant (and for once I'd agree), but he doesn't.

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