THURSDAY, Sep. 20, 2007 - Alex Boisvert

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "The Old Man and the Sea" - rebus puzzle in which each of the words in that title are positioned, in order, symmetrically throughout the grid; central 15-letter answer is ERNEST HEMINGWAY, clued by way of reference to the title in question (35A: Author of a 1952 novel published in full in Life).

I love this puzzle. Love it. One of the most provocative and ambitious and imaginative Thursday rebuses I've seen in a long time. Maybe it's the English professor in me ... but I doubt it, as I've never actually read "The Old Man and the Sea" (what self-respecting English professor's going to admit that?). Very fortuitous that the title is composed of six three-letter words, all of them rebus-able - also convenient that ERNEST HEMINGWAY is a puzzle-friendly 15 letters long. I had the MAN square in the NE and then, of course, went looking for other squares I could shove MAN into. Worked from the NE down through ERNEST HEMINGWAY to the SW, where I got a little stuck. Then discovered that an entirely different word was shoved into one square down there: AND. At that point my brain went "MAN + ERNEST HEMINGWAY + AND = THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA" - and I was on my way.

Rebus squares:

THE - 1D: Peloponnesian War participant (A[THE]ns) + 14A: Longtime Vicki Lawrence character ([THE]lma) [yesterday, JOEY Lawrence, today, Vicki Lawrence ...]

OLD - 15A: Burn slowly (sm[OLD]er) + 7D: Gave up one's hand (f[OLD]ed)

MAN - 16A: One of the Munsters (Her[MAN]) + 13D: Flow out (e[MAN]ate)

AND - 45D: Odd jobs (err[AND]s) + 58A: Like llamas ([AND]ean)

THE - 59A: Truck stop sign ("Ea[T HE]re") + 50D: Old Testament book (Es[THE]r) - for whatever reason, this was the hardest for me to uncover ...

SEA - 60A: Unpleasant feeling (nau[SEA]) + 53D: Move to first class, e.g. (re-[SEA]t)

Two embarrassing moments. One, I had an error. I thought EYSS sounded way better as a Germanic last name ("EdelwEYSS??") than the correct WYSS at 34D: "The Swiss Family Robinson" author Johann. If I'd only known the relationship between Austin and Dallas better, I'd have been OK (32A: Dallas-to-Austin dir. - SSW). Embarrassing moment two was when my first entry in the grid was Andrew SHUE (10A: Andrew of "Melrose Place"). Didn't know a lot of the highbrow stuff in the puzzle, but the cast of a crappy 90s melodrama? No problem. Oh, and one more bad screw-up on my part: had ROONEY then CARNEY for the (in retrospect, obvious) CAGNEY (43D: Oscar winner for "Yankee Doodle Dandy").

Some things I didn't know:

  • 19A: Baryshnikov's birthplace (Riga)
  • 22A: Pioneer in I.Q. testing (Binet)
  • 26A: Home of Sao Miguel Island (Azores)
  • 11D: German poet who wrote "Don't send a poet to London" (Heine) - I know this guy only from crosswords...
  • 30A: British general in the American Revolution (Howe) - when talk goes to war and generals and what not, my eyes glaze over...
  • 3D: Dr. Skoda of "Law & Order" (Emil) - will Never understand the popularity of this soporific show
  • 6D: Some chain hotels (Omnis) - ??? Oh I see, it's a brand name.
  • 37D: South American monkey (titi) - I think I "know" this in the sense that there's a part of my brain that maintains a store of familiar-sounding 3- and 4-letter words for things one might find in a crossword. I know I've seen TITI before (tee hee).

Love the dated slang of BOFFO (5A: Terrif), though it took me a while to get. I didn't know that -FER was considered a suffix in the expression "Twofer" (8D: Suffix with "two"). I got it instantly, but if I'd ever used the expression (unlikely) I think I'd have hyphenated it...? Who knows? I always think of a FLASK as a liquor-containing vessel that a drunk / sophisticated gentleman of the west / private eye keeps under his tattered coat / waistcoat / trench coat - not as a 29A: Lab container. You might take a swig from a FLASK while enjoying a CLARO (31A: Light-colored stogie) - wouldn't know, never smoked a cigar in my life. See SITAR in the puzzle a lot but never stopped to give much thought to what shape it is (42A: Pear-shaped instrument).

Clues and answers I love: CHUTES is a very good answer for 43A: Rodeo sights - one that had me baffled for a bit; I wanted CLOWNS. Also loved the clue for AHEM: 26A: Faux cough. Perfect description of that word- which- is- not- a- word- but- more- a- sound. Impressive that the puzzle manages to incorporate both B-SIDES (5D: Elvis's "Hound Dog" and "Anyway You Want Me") and B-GIRL (48D: Old nightclub employee) into the puzzle - both cool retro answers. Great clue on the otherwise unremarkable BISON (22D: Animal on the backs of three state quarters). Lastly, the very familiar GIULIANI is hidden (temporarily) behind one of his (to my mind) lesser-known accomplishments (38D: Politician who wrote the book "Leadership"). His name is freaky-looking, in that vowels unnaturally outnumber consonants 5 to 3. Hmmm, I guess OBAMA's ratio is nearly as bad. Not sure yet how this issue will affect my voting.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 8:26 AM  

I fOLDed on this one. Seemed like too few unsolved answers to suspect a multiple letter solution.

(had MAMA for THELMA)

Binet would have been my shining moment (Sanford Binet), but I even spelled that wrong! (benet).

Good puzzle, though

ScottK 8:36 AM  

I loved this puzzle too, not least because I'm an ardent Hemingway fan. Heck, I even liked True At First Light. Although I confess I didn't know Papa wrote anything for Life that didn't involve bullfighting.

But the cluing on SITAR bugs me. I resisted filling in that first S until the very end. I mean, look at the picture. Does that look like a pear to you? There are plenty of wonderful, obviously pear-shaped instruments -- lutes, old mandolins, ouds.

I think I would have been tempted to clue SITAR "Nora Jones' stepsister's instrument."

Orange 8:39 AM  

Hemingway is overrated by Manly Men™.

For those who like Law and Order, there's now a Hallmark card that plays the theme song. I didn't listen long enough to find out if the "dun dun" sound makes an appearance, but that's far more resonant than the theme song.

wendy 8:45 AM  

OMG it's amazing how far I progressed with this puzzle (more than half filled in) without ever getting into the trouble that a rebus eventually causes one.

Because the rebi were confined to certain areas only, I never suspected it was one EVEN once I could see that something wasn't right in the NE and NW corners. I had HERM and couldn't figure out why we were nicknaming Mr. Munster for no good reason. I too had Mama for the Vicki Lawrence clue so that area was a screwup, I could see that, even with mostly right answers ... but had not one iota of understanding what was happening to me - until I came here.

I had gotten ERNEST HEMINGWAY long before but my synapses were just not firing. Brilliant puzzle.

I thought I knew how to spell GIULIANI but I was wrong. ;)

Doug 9:30 AM  

What a fine puzzle this was, and Will is redeeming himself this week for the lemons of last week.

Got the whole thing (amazingly) through sheer will power to run the alphabet. The rebus was apparent after "Munster" was not LILY and had to be HERMAN from H*R* (had CHINESE and FLASK so the only type of ****NK doctor had to be SHRINK, so now had sHrink + uRges.)

Was held up thinking the rebus was more complicated than it was. Thought CHUTES was CHUTE+MEN and the Swiss author was EYS+MEN, so kept thinking the rebus was a play on OLD MAN/MEN AND THE SEA. Eventually worked it out, but it was a a good hour overall.

No complaints about odd clueing, or is it cluing? RP, you're the English prof....

BOFFOlicious puzzle.

Spencer 9:56 AM  

I struggled in the top until I got A(THE)NS. Once I knew it was a rebus puzzle, OLD and MAN came pretty quickly. Ok, says I, something about an old man. Hmm. Then, when I got down to ERNESTHEMINGWAY, the light went on, and I immediately filled in AND, THE, SEA in their respective squares. Those helped a lot in finishing.

Unfortunately, I had put in BENET, which ended up costing me a couple of minutes finding the error. (Yes, in retrospect, SHRENK is obviously wrong, but my eyes just refused to see it right away.)

JC66 9:59 AM  


Terrific puzzle and a nice write up to go with it.

I had Mama and Herm, too and didn't see the rebus until I worked my way all the way down to the bottom and finally got SEA. A great AHA moment.

Alex S. 10:00 AM  

I like it, but it took me forever to see the rebus-osity of it.

I too fell into the MAMA trap. Didn't like HERM Munster but thought EMATE was a word that roughly matched the clue. Turns out I was thinking of ENATE ("growing outward") but still, that allowed me to feel I had completed the NE corner.

Finally realized 20A had to be SPLENDID which make ATHENS/THEMLA obvious. So I went looking for other empty spots where [THE] would fix the problem. Quickly found it in the ESTHER/EAT HERE cross so was really confident [THE] was the universal rebus. But I finally figured it out with a very nice aha moment.

I am embarrassed by how long it took me to get EMUS. When presented with "Layer of eggs weighing more than a pound" my brain stuck on the image of a "tier" of eggs, the entirety of which weighs more than a pound. An absurd direction for my brain to go, but go it did.

This is the second time this month, I think, that the British general was HOWE and not Gage. I demand equal time.

Momentarily has AMORES instead of AZORES. Both sound like fun vacation destinations.

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

Like many of you, I was sidetracked by MAMA in the NW and failed to doubt myself for a long time. But the real problem was that I got ERNEST HEMINGWAY very quickly and did not suspect a rebus. NAUSEA finally was my clue.

It's fabulous that the rebus is totally symmetrical, unexpectedly one row removed from the corners.

Anonymous 10:31 AM  

Well, Rex, you loved it, I hated it. I guess that's because I was cognizant of a lot of the stuff you didn't know (Riga, Twofer, Heine) and I did read The Old Man and the Sea -- twice -- and saw the film.
And I never watched the Shue show, and can not get enough of "Law and Order."
Horses for courses, chacun a son gout.

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

Wow! That was great. It took me 2-1/2 hours, but I got everything except for the ssw mixup. Yeah, Mama was a killer. It just had to be, right?

After man and sea revealed themselves, the title popped out. Since each word was positioned in the same spot of the same/equivalent line across the grid, it became apparent how to place the rebi (rebuses?).

I wanted to give up several times, but stayed with it. What a reward! Great puzzle.

Anonymous 10:43 AM  

I just wasn't up to the task today and I'm kicking myself. I got Ernest Hemingway and even got the last two rebus bits, which should have clued me in. Furthermore, I'm a Hemingway fanatic--I've read everything he wrote (okay, I didn't make it through "That Dangerous Summer" or the last couple of posthumous books.) Alas, by my myopia I am undone.

The Swiss Family Robinson is one of those books I read probably a half dozen times as a kid. Couldn't get enough of those ostrich races. Always wondered how the dad kept the matches dry when he swam back from the wrecked ship.

My wife and I cancelled cable a few years ago (the "dish" actually) because we kept getting sucked into those endless Law and Order marathons on A & E (and also the VH1 "Behind the Music" stuff.)

Also, I want to clear up the record on my Hamlet soliloquy entry from yesterday. I see that mac (and perhaps others) thought I typed all that from memory. I am flattered that somebody has that confidence in me, but I pasted that speech in from another source. (I do remember the first several lines, up to the "out-Herods Herod" bit, which, modesty aside, ain't bad after 23 years, eh?)

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

I also loved this extermely clever puzzle. The first thing I entered was SLAP for 2d (see 62a for who usually got slapped) so I never fell into the MAMA trap. I got ERNEST.. from just E*NE. I figured out the rebus early from SMOLDER and HERMAN and filled in the title words in the south before I read the clues. I know where Austin is and HOWE, IAMS, MCAN, EMIL (I am an L&O fan), BINET (I am also a pyschologist) and CAGNEY were gimmies. So, this went very quickly for me. Again, a fantastic puzzle!

Alex, I also had a momentary vision of tiers of eggs.

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

I got the rebus theme from AND and SEA; my problem is that I jammed the THE into the wrong place in the NW... guessed alTHEa instead of THElma. Needless to say, that mucked up that corner pretty bad (who are AANS and ETHEIL, and why haven't I seen them before...).


Campesite 1:07 PM  

Under some pressure completing the grid this morning: was on a very short plane flight, cracked the puzzle open, and I could feel the passengers sizing up my puzzle skills. May explain why nauSEA was the first rebus I got.
An excellent puzzle.

frances 1:20 PM  

This time the theme helped A LOT in completing the grid. I twigged the rebus with "old" filling out "folded" and "smolder" and, having already filled in Ernest Hemingway, I went straight for the other three-letter words in the title. The absolute symmetry of the rebus squares was a bonus. Three cheers for Alex Boisvert.

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

Got ERNESTHEMINGWAY quickly. NAUSEA gave first clue that it was a rebus. Then came ERRANDS and the pattern became clear enough to look for the other words of the title in all the right places.

Rudy "wrote" (does any politician ever write his own book?) LEADERSHIP as a self-congratulatory keynote for his present run at the presidency.

Anonymous 2:25 PM  

Got Ernest Hemingway right away and then was tantalized throughout the puzzle; knew that something was going on. Yeah, fell into the Mama trap; the SE corner drove me crazy--there's no Old Testament book with 4 letters beginning with an E and ending in R; couldn't remember a third Stooge, not that Larry would have helped; had naus. Finally "folded" and went off to play tennis complaining to my husband all the way.

Anonymous 2:29 PM  

PS--great puzzle, however. Exceedingly clever.

Anonymous 2:34 PM  

Not much more to add today. I agree that the clue for SITAR was really bad.

I fell into to MAMA trap like everyone else, and give the author cudos for throwing us all off that way. I then decided that HERMan Munster was just possibly sometimes called HERM, and let it pass.

I missed the rebus until the very very end of the puzzle since, as others have pointed out, you could complete the bulk of the puzzle without figuring it out.

I'd sort of call this one challenging for a Thursday.

fergus 3:04 PM  

I wonder how many times the EGGTIMER would have to have been flipped before that clue and corner completed the puzzle for me?

Had a TIE UP due to caVES instead of GIVES for Buckles (so EcO-TRIP seemed a bit odd, but somehow plausible). And forgot that the gods weren't so prominent in Thucyidides, and stuck with my first spill of ATHENa, which of course delayed a SPLENDID entry.
Also was CAREless when I should have been CAREFREE.

All I remember from TOMATS was the geezer's fascination with the great DiMaggio on the radio, and oh yeah, the battle with the great fish that George parodied on 'Seinfeld.'

Had to cough up for the Erlenmeyer FLASK I broke in 6th Grade science class, and even though I helped a friend find a whisky flask for her 38th birthday last week, the shape of the flask will remain permanently, I fear, reminiscent of the laboratory.

The clue Terrif bugged me, but evidently not some others. On the other hand, I put a little excamation point on the 32D clue End of a fly? ... or the start of one.

voiceofsocietyman 3:18 PM  

I was surprised, initially, that you didn't already know BINET, but then I remembered that you said your daughter went to a hippie school. I guess they didn't demand a Stanford-Binet score for admission. As a father of three, two of whom were initially in private schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn, I know all about IQ tests, for better and worse.

This puzzle, however, made me feel like mine was about 20 points lower. I LOVE rebuses, and I always try to sniff them out except, it seems, today.

I guessed OMNIS, but that's a fake answer, like NEWSWEEKS or PANAMS. When would anyone conceivably write or say "Omnis"? Actually, I liked the old OMNI magazine, so perhaps I could say that I have saved some old Omnis (I haven't).

I would have prefered more of a gimme for the rebus (like a THELMA and LOUISE reference), but that's just because I'm fairly weak in the Xword domain.

Anonymous 3:24 PM  

Yes, the body of a sitar looks pear-shaped to me. Rather like a pear half. It's often described as pear-shaped, as in this Britannica article.

Anonymous 4:17 PM  

Could someone please explain the MAS answer for 39A fill-in-the-blank "No ___!"? My one error among a lot of guesses in this puzzle. Hated this puzzle, almost gave up, then it started to come together and I fell in love. Well, almost. Still dislike all the crossing proper names like Shue, Herman, Riga and Binet all together crossing Heine.

Campesite: Re. doing the puzzle on your short flight - I hope my mental picture is wrong. I see you as the captain on a small commuter airliner (where the passengers can still see the crew).
COPILOT: Errr...Captain, visibility down to 200 feet in freezing rain, don't you think it's time to put the puzzle away and shoot the instrument approach?
CPTN. Campesite: No! Wait! It's a Rebus!!!

Anonymous 4:29 PM  

Did nobody else want LSD-trip for ego trip? The clue seems to imply some sort of expansive experience, no? Now that I say that, I guess an egotrip is an expansion of the "I," in that your ego balloons, but still...

I will also admit to staring at the "layers of eggs..." clue for way too long, thinking, "How could I never have heard of this unit, this more-than-a-pound-in-one-layer measure? How?" So, great clue.

My only grimace came at the crossroads of Heine and Binet, both of whom are unknown to me.

For this puzzle, my surreal vision of the day involves an old Chinese man sitting in a little rowboat in the middle of the ocean, on acid, staring at an egg timer and tripping out on the meaninglessness of the concept of time.

Kman23 4:30 PM  

No mas! means "no more" in Spanish, like "I can't take it any more, No mas!", thats what I figure...i had No way! at first

Anonymous 4:45 PM  

Is "No ___!"=MAS considered "legal" then? I thought that a foriegn language answer had to be indicated some way, even on a Thursday.

fergus 5:05 PM  

I don't think anyone mentioned the write-up from yesterday's Arts Section about Merv Griffin's "Crosswords." No where near "Jeopardy" and possibly beneath "Wheel of Fortune" the review implied. And cheapskate prizes, as well.


... and intruding in another boat on the Mantis vision are a dancer, two orders of TV star and some guy who wants to measure his altered intelligence. Elvis sings in the background.

Rex Parker 5:17 PM  

"No MAS" is most famous to non-Spanish speakers as the phrase uttered by Roberto Duran after he had gotten himself well and truly beaten around by Sugar Ray Leonard.

Anonymous 5:18 PM  

No mas! became "legal" and "in the language" (at least to me) when Roberto Duran screamed it at the end of one of his boxing matches with Sugar Ray Leonard, sometime in the '80s.

Anonymous 5:34 PM  

Ahem. This was cinchy but I like "Law and Order" because of the late Jerry Orbach and for its soporific effect. As an unwinding mechanism, this program can't be beaten. I have it on authority that Sam Waterston is a snob but c'est la vie. So what if he snubbed my friend in Connecticut. I still like his persona on the show.

PuzzleGirl 6:06 PM  

Clever puzzle -- I loved it too! I kept thinking "Burn slowly should be 'smolder' but there aren't enough letters!" "Truck stop sign should be 'eat here' but there aren't enough letters!" D'OH! Filled in EAT HERE first and then went looking for more THEs. Like others, was tripped up for a while with MAMA in the NW. And, oh my God, didn't understand "layers of eggs" as birds that lays eggs until I read the comments here.

Got hooked on L&O after my first child was born and I was up every hour and half through the night. At that time, L&O was on, I believe, four times a day. (Many years previous to that, I lived in the same building as Jerry Orbach!)

I wanted 39A to be NO S**T, but there weren't enough letters and a rebus wouldn't help. NO MAS was clued sometime in the last year as "Spanish uncle" -- my Favorite Crossword Clue of All Time.

Anonymous 7:34 PM  

Twofer???? WTF. Otherwise a great puzzle.

Norrin2 7:40 PM  

A very enjoyable cramalot.
: )

Michael Chibnik 8:42 PM  

This is a wonderful puzzle. I thought that it was at an appropriate level for a Thursday and finished it fairly quickly. I did stare a bit at HERM crossing EMATE until I figured out where the missing "man" had to go. This was the very last thing I filled in.

Unknown 9:11 PM  

Green Mantis, I put it LSD TRIP too (in pen, unfortunately, that's how sure I was).

This was incredible. I'm really kicking myself that I got the entire middle section, and parts of the top and bottom, and then came here to see what it was I had been missing. I should have known. Thursday is tough-ish for me, but never this tough. Damn. I love "The Old Man and the Sea", too.

Orange 9:19 PM  

Hey, Puzzlegirl—did you know Jerry Orbach's kids at all? Tony O. is a crossword constructor who teams up a lot with Patrick Blindauer.

Kristen F 10:48 PM  

I loved this puzzle! I did half the puzzle last night and didn't get any of the rebuses. Then at first glance this morning, the whole rebus layout hit me -- a satisfying moment.

wendy 10:50 PM  

Since there's some interest here in Jerry Orbach, I want to make sure you know about a little-known film in which he starred with Al Pacino called Chinese Coffee. (At least I *think* it's little-known.) It just became available on netflix and I wanted to see it specifically because of Orbach. Worth checking into if you've not seen it. Interesting that Tony Orbach is his son.

Anonymous 11:13 PM  

For some reason I got Ernest Hemingway with only about 3 letters in place, and that made the puzzle pretty easy. HERman broke the code for me, and then it all filled in easily. Some odd words, though, like boffo? and claro.
I seem to be the last person to finish the NYT puzzle. I save it for dessert.....

Anonymous 2:05 AM  

Three more cheers! Like others, I had Hemingway early on, then NAUSEA tipped me off to The Old Man and the Sea. To Green Mantis and Aaron, I also had LSD-TRIP (although my first thought was THERAPY); EGO-TRIP doesn't really seem like an "opening" experience but that's a minor quibble. Like Alex and Green Mantis, I also pictured the tiers of layered eggs initially. Loved the puzzle - congrats to the creator!

PuzzleGirl 9:50 AM  

orange: Nope. Didn't know his kids. (Didn't even know HIM really. Just saw him in the elevator occasionally. I also used to see Abe Vigoda -- another crossword fave -- in the neighborhood all the time.)

Anonymous 3:00 PM  

The "No ___ !" should have been preceded by an inverted exclamation mark to indicate its foreignishness. And BTW, Pre-rebus aware, I had 58A *Like llamas* as MEAN. (Don't they spit and stuff?) Otherwise, a SPLENDID/"Jolly good" puzzle indeed!

Anonymous 4:06 PM  

excellent hook - usually I bash these out in the 25 min. bus ride to work, but only figured out the gaff as I stepped off the bus in front of the office.

NO MAS was for me the most obscure, and not being a rodeo fan, not sure what function a CHUTE has there.

Waxy in Montreal 8:53 PM  

From 6-weeks on:

Having eagerly devoured The Old Man and The Sea from Life Magazine in 1952 as a 7-year old (amazingly easy for a kid to follow, although the symbolism was lost on me), it was great 55 years later to be rewarded with a 15-letter gimme to start this brilliant puzzle.

Maximum kudos to Alex Boisvert.

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