THURSDAY, Dec. 20, 2007 - Peter A. Collins

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: EVERY ENTRY THAT'S / IN THE GRID HAS THE / SAME FIRST LETTER / AS THE ENTRY'S CLUE (17A: Explanation of this puzzle's theme... - in four parts)

How amazing is it that this explanation breaks down into four 15-letter parts?

I found the theme explanation very easy to fill in as I went along, though I had no idea where it was going til I actually got to the end - which meant that I benefited from knowing the explanation for about six or seven entries in the far SE. But it hardly mattered. This puzzle is ingenious in its conception and execution, with gratuitous Y's and X's aplenty (as if Mr. Collins could see that the long explanation itself wasn't very flash, letter-wise, and that something needed to be done - my kind of constructor). There is a ton of high-end crosswordese here, but then again, I've been up to my ears in crosswordese lately, preparing to revamp the Pantheon (see sidebar), so I'm highly attuned to it right now.

My favorite portion of the grid was the paralleling of TV TRAY (45D: Tube watcher's food holder) and LARYNX (46D: Language organ). So many Scrabbly letters and unexpected consonant combinations. Maybe constructors should pen themselves in, clue-wise, more often, if the result is going to be something as fresh and creative as [Language organ] for LARYNX.

The one rough patch for me - one that held me up for about 20 seconds at the very end trying to figure out what was wrong - was in the WNW, where DAWES (32A: Director of the budget who became U.S. vice president) was entirely unknown to me, as was NANNA (26D: Norse goddess married to Balder) (which crosses DAWES, at a vowel, aargh). I had FREDA for NANNA at first, and spent some time early on undoing that. But when the grid was complete, I had DOWEE where DAWES was supposed to be, and while I know little about U.S. Vice Presidents pre-Mondale, I know that no one named DOWEE has ever held that semi-esteemed office. DAWES was an educated guess.

But first I had to change that final "E" in DOWEE to an "S" - why was it an "E" in the first place? Well, I'll tell you. For 18D: "Yowzer!" ("Yipes!") I had YIPEE. I didn't like my answer, but the correct answer Never occurred to me. And do you know why? Well, let me give you the top definitions at for both YOWZER and YIPES:


Main Entry: yowzer
Part of Speech: interj
Definition: an exclamation of delight or approval; also called yowzah
Etymology: 1932


yipe (yīp) Pronunciation Key
interj. Informal
Used to express surprise, fear, or dismay.

YIPEE, while misspelled (I think), is far closer to "delight or approval" than YIPES is. The prosecution rests.


  • 9A: Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Am I _____" ("Losin'") - that first letter was a bear. Didn't get the (now obvious) cross til late - LATINA (9D: Lady from south of the border) wanted only to be SENORA.
  • 34A: Rapper MC _____ (Ren) - I vaguely know of this guy. Much tougher clue than, say, [Stimpy's sidekick] - once again, restrictions of the theme lead to creativity.
  • 60A: Corleone portrayer (Caan) - CAAN and ALBA (53D: Actress Jessica) are two of the biggest headliners in Bizarro Crossword Land. See also Eric BANA (though not in today's puzzle).
  • 64A: Transmitter of cold war news (Tass) - always want Cold War to be capitalized.
  • 23D: Sinatra tune "_____ Funny That Way" ("She's") - never heard it. Got it easily enough from crosses.
  • 41D: Monument Valley sights (mesas) - if you've watched more than a handful of westerns, you've seen this place a lot. John Ford liked to film here, I think.
  • 43D: Espoused of Ahasuerus, in the Bible (Esther) - I thought "Espoused of" was a weird way to phrase a clue - now I know the reason. ESTHER is one of the most common Biblical names in crossword-land.

Crosswordese roll call!

  • 14A: Oviedo stew (olla) - I thought the OLLA was the pot, not the food product itself. Appears it can be both.
  • 23A: Scharnhorst admiral of W.W. I (Spee) - Graf Spee! Learned it from crosswords.
  • 35A: Enoch's great - great - grandfather (Enos) - like ESTHER, ENOS is also common, but unlike ESTHER, ENOS can be clued as a "Dukes of Hazzard" spin-off.
  • 39A: Anecdotal collection (ana) - learned from crosswords.
  • 10D: Orangish tones (ochres) - didn't learn it from crosswords, but o my god this word won't go away lately. Autumn is over. OCHRE needs a holiday.
  • 2D: An inventor's middle name (Alva) - TAE is a good monogram to remember, btw.
  • 24D: Access for a collier (adit) - for a long time, my paradigmatic example of crosswordese. I love this word; and, of course, I know it only from crosswords.
  • 51D: Site of July 1944 fighting (St. Lo) - Only from crosswords! France's most frequently featured four-letter place name (I think).
  • 16A: Allergic explosion (achoo) - I love the clue. Maybe not fair to include this in "crosswordese," but I'd never really seen the sound spelled out until I saw it in crosswords - and you do see it in the grid a good deal.
Other familiar faces:


That's all.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Drawing by Emily Cureton]


Anonymous 9:14 AM  

Agree completely on Yowzer and Yipes. Contructor was probably forced to the wall on this one by the restrictions of the theme. How about "Yell of dismay"?

Anonymous 9:16 AM  

One general comment for you, Rex. Next to the difficulty level, can you post your time please? I'm not the speed demon that the rest of you are, but I feel like I've accomplished something if my time is less than double your time. It's just a good way to track my progress.

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

Graf, not Graff SPEE

janie 9:24 AM  

hit the same rough patch you did, rex. was trying to make "freya" work, however. "nanna" is completely new to me. ditto "dawes."

and the lynryd skynyrd reference? once again, nupe.

loved this puzzle. a clever concept and execution by peter collins -- with all the "aha" and "omg" moments that make thursday such a treat!



Rex Parker 9:24 AM  

With typos, I'd really appreciate a private email. My address is right there in the sidebar. Thanks to all my careful readers. I appreciate it.


Anonymous 9:29 AM  

Actually solved the theme early, made the puzzle preternaturally easy. Otherwise, I might have given up.

Anonymous 9:36 AM  

Sidelight that I just thought of. The SIRE answer brought to mind an olde Hollywood story about some mogul (not sure who) objecting to the use of slang in a medieval costume drama. The scrip he was reading had "Yes, Sire" many times and he was objecting to "Yessiree"!

Whitey's mom 9:39 AM  

Liked the puzzle today. Love Emily Cureton's drawings. Hope they continue.

Anonymous 10:13 AM  

Does Emily Cureton collect her drawings online? I go to her site, but I don't see them...

This was one of those puzzles where I didn't realize what was going on till about 3/4 of the way through. That's usually frustrating, but I liked it today.

NYTAnonimo 10:25 AM  

So happy to have finished a Thursday puzzle with no googling an in a reasonable period of time-yowzer, yipes, yippee!!!

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

Graf Spee was later a WWII battle cruiser. See it clued either way.

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

Also Graf Spee the dirigible

Anonymous 11:09 AM  

I thought this was a really easy puzzle overall, especially for a Thursday, with the exception of a couple of tough crossings. As soon as I had "EVERY ENTRY" I looked to see what could possibly be the same in every entry, and it was immediately clear what the theme was. Made the rest of the puzzle a breeze.

Tough crossings: YIPES/SPEE (I had YIKES/SKEE) and NANNA/ANA (guessed correctly here).

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

I am late to the blog, but I finally found the NYT in Lansing at a coffee shop. I don't drink coffee (joe, java, cuppa for you guys), so I was a little out of place. I got down to just a few open spaces and just tried to complete the sentence and "viola", I saw that indeed the clues were the same as the entry. However, I did note it on a few occasions as I was going through, but it went over my head.

I traveled to St. Lo during the 50 year anniversary of D-Day. There were no grand old trees and many were the same height because every thing in the town, including the vegetation was destroyed during the battle. When ever I see St. Lo in the crossword I am reminded of the suffering brought by war.


Anonymous 12:02 PM  

A very impressive and enjoyable puzzle. Got the theme a little over half way through so the south was pretty easy. I knew DAWES and YIPES was my first instinct, but had the same problem with LATINA as Rex. An interesting mix of the obscure and the obvious.

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

Graf originally meant "Count" in Germany (as in nobility). At some point, it got incorporated into the name.
So, Graf Spee was the admiral (clued in today's puzzle) and the battleship (WWII) and dirigible (that I didn't know about) were named after him.

Anonymous 12:22 PM  

Add me to the YIKES list and also to the "wanted SENORA very badly" list. At least I guessed right on NANNA! (BTW, "Balder" is the name of a great rollercoaster in Sweden.)

Fortunately for me, I jumped around the puzzle so when I figured out the theme, that helped me A LOT (esp. in the NE).

Great drawing for Wednesday, Emily!

Onward to the weekend!

Campesite 12:26 PM  

I too loved this puzzle--seems to me that this was no easy construction.
One minor clue/answer that I found quite clever was the "They catch flies"/TROUT combo in both its multiple answer possibilities (something baseball related was my first pursuit) and its plural nature with no S ending.
PS: Another lovely drawing

Anonymous 12:59 PM  

Wonderful puzzle.

My only niggling criticism is the bars , maybe closing at two a.m.

In NYC it is four a.m., it should be that way everywhere.

Anonymous 1:17 PM  

I was ruminating this morning about the attention we've recently been paying to crosswordese, and it occurred to me that we hadn't seen "adit" in a long time...and voila! If magical thinking has anything to do with it, we can expect "awn" and "anil" to show up very soon.

Anonymous 1:23 PM  

Graf was the admiral.

Graf Spee was the ship.

Graf Zeppelin was the dirigible.

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

How does a troot catch flies I asked myself? This question added a minute or so to my time until there was U.

I vote against posting of times. What is fun here is the banter about the clues, bantering about completion times is b, double o, double r, double i, ng.

wendy 1:52 PM  

I often solve the downs first, so after about a minute I noticed that everything I'd filled in at the top had matching first letters. I said, "WTF," thinking it was an odd coincidence, then realized it must be the puzzle construction.

Needless to say, solving the rest of the puzzle was a bizarre breeze for a Thursday, or any other day. The only snag was the same one you had, Rex. Couldn't get those even with the first letters intact. Anyway, loved the AHA moment. As fun, or funner, than a rebus AHA.

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

I figured out he theme with all but the NE and Nw corners completely filled. It therefore helped me with Losin and Latina (which until I got the L from the theme, I wanted to be senora so badly I just left it blank) and Daft, olla and sax. I thought it was great fun and the construction was genious.

Anonymous 3:09 PM  

That was a really fun one! My horrible cross was ANA and NANNA. Lost a couple minutes there...

Commenter who asked for Rex to post his times: I'd love it too, but I somehow doubt that's going to happen.

But Rex, can you tell us your handle in the NYT applet? It's easy to spot other CrossWorld luminaries on the "Fastest" list, but I never see a handle obviously based on either "Rex Parker" or your real name...

(If anyone else knows, don't post it - if Rex wanted to share, he would, and we're kinda prying here. Said the anonymous poster.)

Anonymous 3:09 PM  

fun puzzle and no googling

Chip Ahoy 3:35 PM  


Anonymous 4:23 PM  

I was tired last night as I sat down to the puzzle and figured I would not have a good time at all, but the lively cluing and the terrific theme really invigorated me. I finished the puzzle and had to sit and look back at all the clue and fill combinations. Probably one of the most enjoyable puzzles I've seen for a while.

I too figured out the NANNA/DAWES crossing by sheer probability. Both were entirely new entries to my lexicon.

Unknown 4:41 PM  

I was just so excited to see a Lynyrd Skynyrd clue. As a longtime fan of the band, think it would make an excellent answer (CLUE: Southern Rock band from Jacksonville) with those tricky "y"s.

"Am I Losin'" is one of the great, yet not very well know songs by the band. Of course their popular hits include "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Freebird", but "Am I Losin'" is from their second album "Nuthin' Fancy". It's a great message song about how friendships change.

The original band Lynyrd Skynyrd took their name by tweaking the name of their hated high school gym teacher - Leonard Skinner. A number of the band members, including the lead singer and one of the writers of "Am I Losin'" - Ronnie Van Zant - perished in a plane crash on October 20, 1977.

Anonymous 5:16 PM  

Wowee wow wow (yipes)! This puzzle was the most fun! I loved that it took me three-quarters of the way to get it and then I got to use the theme to help me get the answers I didn't have. Very cool. And very much fun.

Rex, your write up was also superswell and I'm continuing to be bowled over by Emily's art.

Anonymous 6:22 PM  

Oh, this one was a hoot! I didn't figure out the theme until about 3/4 of the way through, and then it just flew. I was wondering about the somewhat stilted phrasing of some of the clues...

My last letter was the intersection of NANNA and ANA. The only female I associate with Balder is Karnilla Frost, from the old THOR comics. I know I've seen ANA before, but it just wasnt coming to me until I did the brute force thing (trying every letter).

Casey, I'm stunned that it's been THIRTY YEARS since the plane crash that ended Lynyrd Skynyrd.

"She's Funny Way That Way" is a bit condescending in that way Sinatra could be, but it's a great vocal performance.

fergus 7:02 PM  

Well, I thought this was a most insipid puzzle, with a tedious theme and a pattern pf dull, dull clues. The worst Thurdsday gimmick in a long time, except when there wasn't one. Maybe I grouse about this puzzle because I did it as a passenger in a car going over to San Jose -- that means a lot of lurching, so perhaps this is just transferred car sickness.

Michael Chibnik 7:51 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle a lot after I figured out the theme. But I was about two-thirds through before I figured it out. After that, of course, I finished very quickly.

This must have been fun to construct.

Anonymous 8:03 PM  


Graf never commanded the Scharnhorst. The Graf Spee was a different ship. In fact there were two different Graf Soees, one of which was never completed.

Rex Parker 8:14 PM  

Clue doesn't say "commanded."

According to this, the SMS Scharnhorst was "Admiral Maximilian von Spee's flagship in the German East Asian Cruiser Squadron."

For god's sake, do you honestly think this stuff hasn't been vetted? Think (or at least Google) before you speak.


Orange 9:00 PM  

Rex, that link you just posted—the next paragraph includes the most implausible name, Vice Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee. If you ever tire of the Rex Parker pseudonym, Sir Doveton Sturdee stands at the ready.

fergus 9:49 PM  

Reckon I stand alone in finding this a very disappointing puzzle. In retrospect, it's mostly from the clue standpoint. Three or four obscurities, and the rest pedestrian. Exit's opposite, Aid in crime, e.g.? These are too drab for a Thursday, regardless of the novelty of the conceit.

Rex Parker 9:50 PM  

You already said you didn't like it once. I reckon that's enough.


Anonymous 10:21 PM  

brilliant construction. very impressive to me

Anonymous 10:29 PM  

perfect construction.
extra credit for four 15-letter clues.
terrific idea
excellently executed
rating: 10!

clever cluing of theme entries
one of a kind
level of cluing was just right
liked the yowzer part as well
initially confounded
nice work!
silly me for trying to be cute!


Anonymous 10:42 PM  

parshutr: Graf is still a title in German. It was a fun puzzle, but easy for a Thursday. Learned about Dawes and Nanna!

janie 11:50 PM  

nifty crostic, nit!



JoeMama 2:13 AM  

Love this clue.

They catch flies = TROUT.

Loved this puzzle. Bravo, Peter.

Jason 12:34 PM  

DAWES was in the news lately because he's one of two vice-presidents to win the Nobel peace prize. The other you know.

Anonymous 5:07 PM  


What a duh! moment: "Beginning for metric - BARO" (49D). Got it from crosses and looked at it and googled it and looked at it again and read this whole collection of comments. And then looked at it one more time and finally got it. Whoa...

Pleased to be completing Thursday puzzles and liked this one.

- - Robert

Anonymous 7:51 PM  

34 A: MC______ REN

Remember the rap group NWA
(Niggaz With Attitude) that did the song F___ THA POLICE!

Read more about them here:

Anonymous 12:32 AM  

After getting the theme as far as "same first letter", I figured where it was going without the exact last phrase. It sure was fun to race through all my unfinished entries in the lower third and fill in the first letter from the clue!

Maybe "ye gods!" could have been a clue for "yipes!".

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