FRIDAY, May 23, 2008 - Patrick John Duggan (MEMORABLE "MARATHON MAN" QUERY)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

This is a decent puzzle. I don't have strong feelings about it. Beyond LEIBNIZ (51A: Philosopher who coined the phrase "the best of all possible worlds") and perhaps JUJITSU (35A: Literally, "art of softness"), there aren't many memorable parts - I expect Friday and Saturday puzzles to burst with sizzling words and phrases, and there aren't many today. There are, however, a lot of colloquial phrases, which normally I love, but today's felt pretty ordinary and occasionally a little flimsy. I am sure that a "buyer" might in fact say "MAY I SEE?" (26D: Potential buyer's question), but doesn't this just open up anything anyone might say to anyone? Potential donut-eater's question: ANY GLAZED LEFT? Confused manager's question: WHO'S UP? Potential driver's question: AM I TOO DRUNK? Etc. Then there's a phrase like SO THEN ... (15A: "Anyway, after that..."), which also seems to push the limits of phrase solidity. ON LATE (43D: Like postmidnight TV shows) is a common enough expression, but still lacks a certain answer-worthiness - I think you could get away with it in a puzzle without a lot of half-baked phrases, but this one's kind of loaded with them. Then there's the other end of the odd-phrase spectrum - the movie quote from a movie that (while good, and memorable for many reasons) is not iconic enough to quote from in a puzzle: "IS IT SAFE?" (18A: Memorable "Marathon Man" query). I remember the running, and especially the drilling, but not this question. I'm sure it's central to the film, I'm just saying I've *seen* the film and *I* don't remember it. The majority of people solving today will Not have seen this film (that's a guess, but probably not a bad one). I want so badly to love IS IT SAFE?, since I normally dig pop cultury stuff like that - but no luck. The puzzle all fits together fine, nothing about it is terrible or even particularly bad - it just left me a little cold.

Again, I loved LEIBNIZ. I thought that quotation about "the best of all possible" worlds was from Voltaire's "Candide" - maybe something Dr. Pangloss would have said. Took me a while to get LEIBNIZ - needed the "Z" from ZONE (52D: Man-to-man alternative), which is a kind of basketball defense, in case you didn't know. The top of the puzzle has some wonderful whimsical elements (and I rarely use "wonderful" and "whimsical" in such close proximity to each other). WHOVILLE (7A: Dr. Seuss story setting) is where all the WHOS live in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." As for MR. TOAD, whom I've seen in my puzzle before - clued in relation to his WILD RIDE @ Disney World/Land - I loved the clue for him today; if you want to make me happy, just use the word "fop" (17A: Fop in "The Wind in the Willows"). Also loved the clue on HEAP (5D: Bucket of bolts). Perfect.

Crappy TV provided two gimmes for me today. I got IVS for 11D: "Grey's Anatomy" hookups despite my never having seen more than 5 minutes of the show. I guess the clue was trying to be cute about the fact that people on that show have sex indiscriminately (different meaning of "hookup"). I like to think of "Grey's Anatomy" as "E.R. - XTREME!" or "E.R. Nights" or "E.R. Ice" or "Dry" or "One" or some other tag that screams "Ersatz." Patrick Dempsey is handsome, though, I will give you that. He was good in "Enchanted," though not nearly as good as Amy Adams (but then few people are). I know Patrick Dempsey from "Can't Buy Me Love," but I grew up so deep in the 80s that they are only now beginning to extricate me. The other TV clue that saddened me was 30D: Three-time Emmy-winning game show host (Sajak). You get Emmys for that? Wow. Wow. Scorsese has to wait til he's practically dead to win an Oscar, but Sajaks using Emmys for paperweights. OK.

Other considerations:

  • 19A: Réunion, for one (ile) - I guess there's an island named "Réunion" that nobody told me about. Now I know.
  • 20A: One of a French literary trio (Porthos) - sticking with French for a moment ... the other mouseketeers, in case you ever need to know them, are ATHOS and ARAMIS (also a cologne from the 70s/80s, if I remember correctly).
  • 22A: National Do Not Call Registry org. (FTC) - alphabet soup! I had FCC here for a bit.
  • 23A: 1987 Costner role (Ness) - "The Untouchables" might be my favorite Costner film, even over "Bull Durham." Once he hits the 90s, it's all downhill.
  • 25A: Like a wet blanket (no fun) - I wavered on this one, but came down on the side of liking it. It's concise - feels like an actual, self-contained expression.
  • 30A: Reddish-brown gems (sards) - ugliest-sounding gems of them all, which I'm sure I've said before, but here it is again.
  • 31A: "If you shoot at mimes, should you use a silencer?," e.g. (one-liner) - hey, NOT FUNNY fits too.
  • 34A: Celebratory cry ("We did it!") - again, wavered, then decided it was OK. Seems like you could switch out the pronoun for any other pronoun ... but WE DID IT probably comes in second, validity-wise, to I DID IT, so fine.
  • 40A: Popular teen hangout, once (soda shop) - so proud of myself, and happy, in a "Happy Days" kind of way, when I wrote in MALT SHOP! I also had WAVES for TIDES (28D: Destroyers of many castles) and SENS for VETS (10D: Kerry and McCain, e.g.).
  • 49A: Where you can find hammers and anvils (ear) - what is it with ear anatomy and the puzzle? It's got so many parts that are also names for other things (I guess they probably get their names from those other things, e.g. drum).
  • 54A: 1989 film set in an inner-city high school ("Lean On Me") - Morgan Freeman and a baseball bat.
  • 1D: It was shipwrecked in 1964 somewhere in the South Pacific (S.S. Minnow) - Can you clue a fictional shipwreck as if it happened in real time (1964)? I guess you can.
  • 4D: Le Duc _____ (Nobel Peace Prize refuser) (Tho) - I prefer this THO to the abbreviation of "though" THO.
  • 9D: Constellation with the star Betelgeuse (Orion) - You could have stopped this clue at "Constellation" for all the good the rest of the clue did me.
  • 21D: Doctor often seen on writers' bookshelves (Roget) - never owned a thesaurus in my life. Always thought of them as crutches (though I can see how they could be useful in any number of pinches).
  • 35D: Title girl in a 1958 hit by the Playmates (Jo-Ann) - wow, this song is Painful. I listened to "oldies" stations all through high school and never ran into this song.
  • 38D: Popular boxing venue (UPS Store) - Oh, that's right, they have STOREs now. "Boxing venue." Cute.
  • 40D: Military construction crew (Seabees) - I'd like to thank the puzzle for introducing me to these folks. Really helped in the "Oklahoma" portion of the grid, which I had real trouble getting into from the SW. Ended up having to come at it from the SE.
  • 44D: Furniture cover (primer) - at some point in some furniture's lives. . . yes.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 8:38 AM  

I thought it was a lovely puzzle! Congrats to P J Duggan, on this great debut.. "Literally, art of soltness", and genius too! No quare (sic) variant spellings, awkward abbreviations, or "softgees".

The elegance of the long stacks is matched by the neat balance and liveliness of the content: the two fictional crime families, and even the PORTHOS and LEIBNIZ pair have a common quixotic flavor. If there is a mini-theme, it should be IS IT SAFE?, with hints throughout to HUSH UP and HOLE UP or else run various risks such as getting SCALDS or having things LIFTED (stolen)!

Favorite words -- JUJITSU, of course, and the wreck of the SS MINNOW. Actually there were four of those: see if you didn't already check it out. Lots of fun, however silly the show was. Thanks again, Mr. Duggan.


p.s. For an additional day-brightener, see the NYT article "Older Brain Really May be a Wiser Brain"! Hope so, anyway....

RodeoToad 8:52 AM  

"Scorcese's practically dead . . . and Sajak's using Emmys for paperweights."

Again, ditto to Rex. This puzzle is essentially the Friday version of yesterday's puzzle. It's been a week of easy, weak, unmemorable puzzles so far.

I didn't understand HEAP for "bucket of bolts" last night when I did the puzzle. This morning, based on Rex's enthusiasm for it, I figured out (I think) that they are both terms for junky cars. I can't quite share Rex's enthusiasm, however, because "bucket of bolts" isn't a term I've heard with any frequency, if at all.

I also thought the Lebneiz quote was Pangloss's.

What is the deal with thesauri? I have one--two actually, both high school graduation gifts. I'd never looked at them until recently when I read a review, I think in The New York Review of Each Other's Books, about Roget and thesauruses generally. I always assumed they were like a dictionary--that you looked up a word and it would give you a bunch of synonyms for the word. It doesn't work like that at all. Instead there's some goofy kind of Chinese menu organizational scheme going on, based partly on astrology and partly on what kind of soup you want. It convinced me that the things are pretty much worthless.

Peter Sattler 9:01 AM  

Ugh. I had a hold up on HOLE UP, literally. I must admit that, in my mind’s ear, the “lying low” idiom was “HOLD UP” instead of “HOLE UP.” This is probably because I’ve heard it in the past tense (“holed”) and HOLD UP made just enough sense to override its illogic (“it means you have to stay still in that hide-out, to hold up after the hold-up, etc.”).

I wonder if anyone else makes this brain-jerk error. Is HOLD UP (for “hole up”) possibly becoming an EGGCORN -- like the use of “hone in on” (for home in on) or “free reign” (for free rein)? Anyway, after that… it became very hard to see LEAN ON ME, even after most of the letters were in place.

Other initial goof-ups that made this puzzle hard to complete: REGIS for SAJAK, HOW MUCH for MAY I SEE, PEC for LAT, EARP for NESS, and JUJUTSU for JUJITSU (which is defensible – no pun intended).

And by the way, Rex, you’re right: “best of all possible worlds” is, indeed, from Candide. Pangloss’s philosophy (his “metaphysico-theologo-cosmolonigology”) is a direct satire of the arguments and phrases in Gottfried LEIBNIZ’s Theodicy.

strickerstreet 9:04 AM  

He had me a Whoville.

I really loved this puzzle. Most of my initial guesses were correct, but there was enough obscurity to keep me busy. Unlike some question mark clues on other days (this week especially) the solutions to these today were actually clever and made sense. Finishing this puzzle started my holiday weekend off on a very pleasant note.

jubjub 9:11 AM  

I also really liked the puzzle. Probably because I could do it, as opposed to yesterday's -- I am no good with the "famed" people clues.

My favorite part of this puzzle was JUJITSU. Minutes before I got the answer, my boyfriend came home from his Jujitsu class and told me about how he chipped his tooth by clenching his teeth to hard while trying to remove his head from a "Guillotine" -- whatever that is. Art of softness indeed.

I liked ISITSAFE! It is the question that the Nazi dentist keeps asking the Marathon Man while he tortures him. I saw the movie last year for the first time after seeing that clip in a creepiest movie scenes of all time list. Nazi dentist is the ideal bad guy, IMO (sorry if there are any dentists out there. You guys do valuable work! But also, teeth drilling hurts :)).

WEDIDIT seems reasonable to me. I managed to put myself on the Barack Obama email list (oops), and I get all these ridiculously dramatic emails with subjects like "We did it". Let's see what's in the inbox today. "What we just achieved".

I also thought the "Best of all possible worlds" was from Candide, but it makes sense that Voltaire was lampooning someone.

I got LAT from no crosses! That required me knowing both what a pull-down was and what muscles it worked. Course, I think it's usually called a LAT pull down, so that helped ...

The singular CORLEONE and plural SOPRANOS threw me for a while, but I liked that they were both in there.

Yeah, it is weird that Pat SAJAK has emmys. Though I remember last year when I was "forced" to watch Wheel of Fortune (let's pretend it was a Clockwork Orange-type situation), I was surprised at how well he handled the unnaturally excited contestants.

My last mistake was ATTEndED instead of ATTESTED, which gave me NEnS and NOdIT. Didn't know NESS, and NOTIT was a little tricky.

GRANT was good. I didn't think it would be GRANT, since I thought maybe the regular folk don't think about GRANTs all day long (I work in science-related academia, it is all I think about it). Also liked UPSSTORE. These are all over these days.

To ENDON a high note, here are some random dislikes (i.e. things I didn't know): SEABEES, LOAFER, ILE, MAYISEE, JOANN...

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

Re. Kim's comment at 11:32pm 5/21/08 wednesday:

She wrote: "In general people who love crossword puzzles seek to challege their brains and that is a good thing - a very good thing. I wish that everyone were interested in struggling with a concept or idea until they really understood in all its complexities and shades of gray instead of looking for the easy solution. I imagine our world would be in much better shape if that were true."

Kim, a great thought, and one I felt worthy of searching back for, reposting as it were, and disseminating anywhere else i can.

Rex, thanks for keeping it organized and retrievable!

imsdave1 9:41 AM  

Raced through the puzzle counterclockwise until LEIBNIZ. GOP as a league didn't thrill me. I always want to spell SPECTER, SPECTRE, just as I want to spell theater, theatre. Any rules about definite articles re: THE ALAMO (not clued by 'remember__')? MAYISEE reminds me of some harsh and deserved criticism I recently received from an unnamed puzzle reviewer. All in all, an OK effort, that I wish had been a bit more challenging (being off work on a Friday, I'd have prefered to have been able to spend a bit more time with it).

Orange 9:43 AM  

I've never seen Marathon Man, but my husband did. "Is it safe?" is a catchphrase that never fails to amuse us. It probably wouldn't amuse me if I'd seen the movie!

Rex, the hammer, anvil, and stirrup are teeny bones in the ear that look like those items.

I seldom approach it when I'm writing, but I do love my Rodale's Synonym Finder. It's been out of print for years, but if you can score a used copy, it's a fun thesaurus. Those wacky quaint words that nobody much uses (but that are so colorful—think mollycoddle and balderdash, fun to say) are included, whereas a Roget's is just...dull.

I enjoyed this puzzle a lot more than Rex, THO I share the general dissatisfaction with phrases like SO THEN and MAY I SEE. Still, if it's a choice between those and something like REPASSED or SLAVERER, I give a slight edge to the weird phrases.

Wendy Laubach 9:44 AM  

My ignorance of philosophy is deep. I might just barely have pulled Voltaire (secondary source) out of memory, if it had fit, but there was no way I was coming up with Leibniz (primary source). Especially since I wasn't going to cough up "zone" as an alternative for "man-on-man" without help, though I admit I understood it once I Googled Leibniz.

I never did figure out "on late," which now seems obvious. I was looking for a Latin word to begin and end Connecticut's motto, I guess. Who knew Connecticut had a motto? But the NE bias was nicely balanced by the essential Alamo.

On the other hand, "Betelgeuse" struck me as a good clue -- perhaps the only star whose location I know -- and "Is it safe?" was completely fair. I agree with Artlvr: one of the creepiest scenes ever, permanently associating that innocent phrase with extreme dread and panic.

Once again, Patrick O'Brian comes in handy for "Ile de la Reunion." If it weren't for Aubrey and Maturin, I'd know no geography at all. Unfortunately, what I know tends to be 200 years out of date.

I kind of liked the way many of the place-and-people names were fictional, without the clues' specifying it -- sort of an essential confusion between life and art.

The "P" in "PRIMER" and "PEA" came last for me. Seems fair now that I see it.

Orange 9:48 AM  

P.S. Artlvr, in crossword parlance, "mini-theme" refers to a pair of symmetrically placed longish entries (in a themeless crossword) that are related. Here, it's CORLEONE and SOPRANOS. An overall vibe that runs through a puzzle, connecting a handful of entries in (some) people's minds, doesn't have a special name, as far as I know.

Unknown 9:50 AM  

Add me to those who have come to praise young Patrick. I would like my first crossword to have a big X in the middle of it, but maybe I am just a happy netizen of WHOVILLE having fun without the flashing lights. I like the its a family affair stuff crossing random crime characters. ENAMOR is a funny looking word, isn't it? Having the theme song of Gilligan's Isle (island?) isn't so funny.

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

One can almost admire your ability to see only what you want to see -- your students will need to look elsewhere for enlightenment.

janie 9:58 AM  

ditto rex in first and confidently entering "maltshop" and "sens." so glad the latter *was* "vets" because it's specific to these two opposite-side-of-the-aisle sens.

apropos of thesauri... don't disparage 'em so! ;-) no, they shouldn't be used in lieu of thinking, but they can be used to generate ideas about/meanings of words. one of the ways i earn very little money is as a lyricist. i use not only my roget's, but also a rhyming dictionary -- again, not to write the words for me, but to help me think about what i'm trying to say and then to say it in the best of all possible ways. so to speak...

and finally, ditto strickerstreet: "Finishing this puzzle started my holiday weekend off on a very pleasant note."

cheers, all!


Unknown 10:01 AM  

I am waiting for Ulrich to tell me more about Leibniz so I can recall his name a little what does his name actually mean in German...optimist?

I wanted to write something sardonic, but looking at the etymology, sarcastic has nothing to do with reddish-brown gems. Figures

Oh, and SS stands for Steam Ship even though most ships with that designation do not run on steam. Also, I love Wendy's geographic comments as it also relates to nautical knowledge.

janie 10:08 AM  

orange -- roget's "dull"? roget's *"dull"*?!?!? ;-)

okay, not the hippest or most current (especially not the edition i received as a high-school graduation gift in 1966...), but "mollycoddle" and "balderdash" live there, too!



JC66 10:09 AM  

I breezed though this puzzle like a Wed/Thur until I hit the Okla area. But, like wendy laubach, I'm unfamiar with philosphy, and since PRIMER and JOANN eluded me, I had to google to get LEIBNIZ.

Especially liked the crime families, JUJITSU and IS IT SAFE.

Rex, Pat SAJAK won his Emmys as a TV GAME SHOW HOST. Consider the category, for g*d sakes. He may not have any paper on his desk to weigh down.

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

A better quote source for 'Is it safe' might be Gandalf from the Fellowship of the Ring: 'Is it secret? Is it safe?'

I had a hard time looking at 27A answer as NO TIT, and trying to think what was being tagged.

The whole Oklahoma section, where LEIBNIZ crossed JOANN, and I thought SEABEES was right but wasn't sure, was the last part I filled in. Took me too long to get GRANT. But for a Friday, it was one of my better times.

Anonymous 10:11 AM  

Chalk me up on the loved it side. This puzzle had me at SS MINNOW. Throw in WHOVILLE and contrast it with the CORLEONE/SOPRANOS and you got a winning combo. MALT SHOP kept it going for me except for the being wrong part.

Perhaps NO FUN subliminally affected you.

Has "subliminal" ever been in a puzzle? I sure it has but I didn't perceive it.

GlennCY 10:15 AM  

Sorry Rex, but you can't have watched Marathon Man with any attention and missed Is it safe? He asks it repeatedly throughout the film. It's was an absolute gimme.

Unknown 10:17 AM  

I enjoyed solving this puzzle and was charmed by WHOVILLE, SSMINNOW,MRTOAD.

Maybe I liked it because the blank puzzle--so much white!--looked intimidating. First clue I got was WHOVILLE and it came together after that.

IS IT SAFE? is a catch phrase in our house, too, so that was a gimme. But I remember staying up very late reading Marathon Man when I should have been cramming for exams. Both the book and the movie are memorable to me.

In fact, this puzzle triggered several amusing memories and "pleased with myself" moments. I hope to see more like it.

They're funny things, crossword puzzles, don't you think?

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

Liked the puzzle, all in all. Only two slip-ups that were quickly corrected: I had Penn. instead of Conn. as well as deport before depose. I had remembered that Voltaire was skewering another philosopher when he created Pangloss, but took a bit to come up with Leibniz. Do feel the Popular boxing venue should have had a "?".

Réunion is a beautiful French island in the Indian Ocean that sits between Madagascar and Mauritius. Given the potential for confusion between proper name and family/alumni gathering, I'm surprised Rex hadn't seen it.

Agree, sards is an ugly word.

@wendy--"All for one and one for all" is the motto of the Three Musketeers.


Ulrich 10:25 AM  

@phillysolver: Leibniz is remembered in Germany foremost for two things: (1) He invented the calculus simultaneously with Newton (his notation survives to the present day), with whom he was subsequently engaged in a never-ending bragging contest; and (2) He is supposed to be the last human to have known everything that could be known (scientifically) at his time; right afterwards, the knowledge explosion, which continues, if not accelerates (a calculus concept!), to the present day, has made this impossible. But perhaps the easiest way to remember the name is via "Leibniz Keks", a very popular brand of crackers in Germany.

@wade: You answered one of my questions about a clue. The other one is: How can "no tit" mean "untagged"?

I thought the clue for IVS was really off: "Grey's anatomy" (note the qotes!) is a book or a TV show--how can you put an IV in it?

A medium for me overall b/c I could finish w/o googling, i.e. get all unknown references through crosses.

Anonymous 10:31 AM  


"IS IT SAFE ?" is the entire movie and would be a scene you could not forget as it is not subtle, as "KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE AND YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER" was in the godfather - you must have went for pop-corn !


klochner 10:31 AM  

loved it. Definitely on the easier side, but charming. I liked scalds/scathes, corleone/soprano, whoville, enamor, sajak . . .

I laughed out loud when "not it" came to me, which is a rare happening.

archaeoprof 10:40 AM  

I too liked this puzzle a lot. Plenty of 6 and 7 letter answers, and everything from Whoville to Corleone. By coincidence, this week I've been watching the Godfather trilogy on dvd. "Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in."

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

I found this to be the easiest Friday puzzle I've completed. This is the first time I didn't have to Google on a Friday in my memory. I've been doing the puzzles for about 5 months now, and I felt like this was more of a Wednesday than a Friday.

I thought overall it was a bit ho-hum... I've never seen the Marathon Man, and was unfamiliar with a few other clues, but was easily able to piece them together from crosses.

I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend. YAY summer!

Anonymous 11:08 AM  

@ ulrich - the answer is "not it" as in the game of tag.
Two Ponies

Peter Sattler 11:11 AM  

@ ulrich

The answer for "untagged" isn't NO TIT; it's NOT IT.

When kids play tag, the person who has to do the tagging is usually called "it." Everyone else is "not it!" (And depending on how you play, when you get tagged, you then become "it" -- usually with the tagger yelling, "You're it!").

Hope it was a real question. If is wasn't, sorry for stepping on your joke! :-)

Unknown 11:13 AM  

@ came through. My wife loves their 'Pick Ups' and I just found a box of Liebniz chocolate covered cookies in the cabinet.

Now I waiting for sethg to enlighten us with his findings. I forgot that I guessed Penn for CONN as well. I guess I should be embarrassed, but at least I don't live in the Nutmeg state.

jae 11:21 AM  

I also liked this one overall. Not spectacular but reasonably interesting and quite doable (perhaps a bit too easy for a Fri.) My hiccups included SENS, DEPORT, MALTSHOP, LOUSEY & LOOTED for LOAFER & LIFTED, and ONE for ALL (couldn't remember the order of the motto, All for one ... or One for all...). ZONE was a gimmie which gave me LEIBNIZ who I remember from math not philosophy.

I saw Marathon Man well over 25 years ago and have no memory of the catch phrase although it was easy to get from the crosses.

Ulrich 11:22 AM  

@peter sattler: No, it was a real question hidden in a (admittedly lame) joke.

Anonymous 11:29 AM  

I thought this puzzle was NOFUN at all...way too fictional. I kept trying Bonanos and other real crime families. For me, ISITSAFE was a gimme, as was PORTHOS and SPECTERS (although I hesitated as to spelling it that way or SPECTRES, which looks better) and DUTYFREE.
Incidentally, the two VETS settled their Nam days differences when they traveled back there together on the MIA project.

Bill from NJ 11:47 AM  

A radical departure from yesterdays puzzle, don't you think?

Others have mentioned how ISITSAFE from the movie Marathon Man is a catchphrase around their house. It comes from, hands down, one of the creepiest scenes in movie history.

I think fear of dentists borders on the primal and the thought of one actually drilling into my teeth to deliberatly inflict pain makes me shiver to this day. Coupled with the fact that Laurence Olivier plays the sadistic dentist and Dustin Hoffman plays the hapless victim just adds icing to the cake.

William Goodman, who wrote both the novel and the screenplay, is a hero to a certain kind of impressionable teenager, particularly one from the lower middle class. The movie itself is sort of juvenile and making the dentist a Nazi is a little overkill but, boy, does that scene work!. He wrote the screenplay to The Great Waldo Pepper, also a great teenage boy movie, and indicates my point.

Goldman's first novel Boys and Girls Together rivals Catcher in the Rye, in my opinion, as the Great American Novel of Teenage Angst. I fell in love with that book when I was a senior in high school. Walt and Aaron, Branch and Rudy, and, of course, Jenny were unforgettable characters to me, more so than Holden Caulfield ever was.

This is the second puzzle we have seen recently that was constructed by a teenager and it shows but I liked the Mafia mini-theme and the fact that the made men were fictional. A lot of pop culture on display and some of the fill was definitely minor league, as Rex and others have pointed out, but I enjoyed it. It did, however, seem a little Thursdayish.

miriam b 11:48 AM  

Lots on my mind today, and this puzzle charmed me back into relative sanity. I thought it very prudent of Mr. Duggan to clue two fictitious crime families. I'd hate to see such a brilliant constructor menaced by the real mob for thrusting their names into the limelight.

At first I had LOAD for HEAP (no room for JALOPY), but soon realized that DORTHOS was not one of any kind of trio, literary or not.

I'm from CONN originally, so I had a gimme for that clue.

Have a great weekend, all.

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

p.s. re Dr. Seuss -- David Brooks wrote a NYT column about the etymolgy of "nerd", in which he notes the first printed use of the word in modern English is found in the 1950 book If I Ran the Zoo!

"I'll sail to Ka-troo,
and bring back an It-Kutch, a Preep and a Proo,
A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too!"

Brooks is quoting from psychologist David Anderegg' book called Nerds, and goes on to discuss the relative status of nerds and geeks today, energized by the strain of GOP leader's "disdain for things intellectual". He concludes "... the social structure has flipped. For as it is written, the geek shall inherit the earth." (We'll see...)

Meanwhile, if anyone ever spots a sketch of a seeming precursor of the Cat in the Hat, entitled "For Cornelia -- Here is an Hypothetical Lion, Dr. Seuss", please let me know? Ted Geisel/Seuss was my Dad's best friend in college and drew it for me when visiting us at later date (mid 1940's)-- and it's been stolen. Rex has my email address. Thanks!


dk 11:56 AM  

When Kenneth Grahame, a clerk at the Bank of England and writer of children's stories first approached publishers with his latest manuscript, he was repeatedly rejected. The book was about a group of talking animals, something regarded as just too fantastic. Victorian educators belived in discouraging children from pretending and daydreaming, and a lot of nonsense about a frienship betwen a rat and a mole could only be detrimental to a child's mental and social development. Grahame's book was saved by Teddy Roosevelt, an avid fan of his earlier works.

The "Wind in the Willows" still sells about 80,000 copies a year.

Who sez ones dissertation research never comes in handy.

When I see DUTYFREE I think Seinfeld and just what does dootie-free really mean.

Loved the puzzle for those of you who did not: "maybe we could make an accommodation."

Pete M 12:33 PM  

Hang on a minute! Are you saying that "Gilligan's Island" was fictional?

Bill D 12:53 PM  

I pretty much had Rex's reaction to this puzzle. My dislike of multi-mini-word answers (WE DID IT, eg) should be known around these parts, and this puzzle had too many, including NO FUN, NOT IT, & SO THEN. I did love SODA SHOP, UPS STORE, DUTY FREE & JU JITSU as well as WHOVILLE, SEABEES, & ONE-LINER, although the clue for it stunk.

Philosophy is lost on me, so all I could think of were "Choco LEIBNIZ" cookies when I finally pieced the name together. These are some fabulous cookies, BTW. Had the same two misfires originally as Hudson Hawk - Penn for CONN & Deport for DEPOSE. I also had Looted for LIFTED at 13D until I (finally) realized I had AU REVOIR spelled wrong! - Where is a French ROGET's when I need it?

I did not like the cluing of fictional items without notation - SS MINNOW, CORLEONE, & SOPRANOS needed qualification. I also am suspicious of using the same wording, "[fictional] Crime family", to clue both singular and plural answers.

About "nerd" (why are we talking about that?): I went to college at Renssalaer Polytechnic in the early '70s and each one of us was a knurd, which RPI students claim is a word created at "The Tute". It is drunk spelled backwards (we were also all drunks.) To this day I refuse to acknowledge any other spelling of knurd.

I don't know if any of you have seen the movie The Aristocrats. It is a bunch of comics telling the same [extremely] raunchy joke; the punch line is the film's title. Anyway, Pat SAJAK is in it (to my surprise), and all that smiling and making nice with contestants must cause him to bottle up his true self. His rendition of the joke is absolutely the dirtiest, longest, vilest, most disgusting in the flick; all the while smiling beatifically just like his host persona. If you have the stomach for it, I guarantee it will change your take on Pat SAJAK!

Pete M 1:21 PM  

@bill d: You sure you're not thinking of Bob Saget?

RodeoToad 1:27 PM  

I think you're thinking of Mr. Rogers. Who knew how twisted that dude was?

Rob 1:28 PM  

Sorry, Rex. Count me in the fan of this puzzle camp, too. Mainly because I've only been at this for a couple of months and a Friday completion is pretty rare, and one that sailed for a while before getting tough) like a Wednesday is even rarer.

I'm used to going deep into Friday/Saturday puzzles with absolutely nothing filled in, but last night WHOVILLE dropped in and the whole NE crumbled (avoiding the SENS trap. although, I did briefly have FCC, I knew it was wrong from the moment I entered it.

From there, I moved West and got a great smile with S S MINNOW, and CORLEONE fell easily. I even was really comfortable with WE DID IT when I didn't fit.

Didn't knwo SEABEES/LIEBNIZ, although I was knew it was something like SEABEES, so I got a foothold on it.

I loved "Man-To-Man Alternative". As a gay man, I loved the shout out even if it may have especially tripped up my less athletic brethren. :)

So, the fill seemed vibrant to me, but that could be just because I'm so used to the pap (Hey, why don't we see more of that?) in the early week.

eliselzer 1:35 PM  

I flew through the top half of today's puzzle and got over-excited that I was going to have a great time. I probably would have if I had known who Leibniz was. As it was (and being very familiar with Candide) I was sure it would be Voltaire or Pangloss that I got a little angry when it wasn't and tried to force it in somehow, slowing me to a grinding halt. With Leibniz, I probably could have kept up my pace.

As for IS IT SAFE, I have only seen Marathon Man once and it was a TOTAL gimmee for me. I say this all the time, even when it's not appropriate (much like Belloq's line "Once again you see there is nothing you possess that I cannot take away" from Raiders of the Lost Ark"). I was so excited to see "Is It Safe" in the puzzle that I was going to mention it on my blog (which isn't really a crossword blog, but the puzzles creep in when there's something I like or dislike).

Rex Parker 1:58 PM  

Hey, Rob, don't apologize to me because you liked the puzzle. It's patronizing. People disagree with me every day, and as long as it's not phrased as an ad hominem attack, the disagreement is more than welcome.

I do, however, like any comment that includes "As a gay man..." I hope more people preface their comments that way, whether it's relevant or not :)


Orange 2:03 PM  

Bill D, one clue was [Crime family] (the plural) and the other was [Crime family name].

JC66 2:08 PM  

@bill d

I, too, thought Mr. Duggan had blown the crime family clues until I double checked them.

Also, I was pleasantly surprised to see The Aristocrats referenced here. :-)

Anonymous 2:09 PM  

This is the week for Dr. Roget. Yesterday's NY Sun puzzle had ROGET in almost the exact same position in the grid, clued as "subject of the book 'The Man Who Made Lists.'" According to this recently published biography by Joshua Kendall, Dr. Roget would seem to be a perfect example of Kim's comment, re-posted by anonymous 9:20, about struggling to understand all the complexities of a concept. Roget spent almost half a century compiling every possible word and trying to impose a taxonomy upon them.

Bill D 2:25 PM  

@Pete - Durn! I am referring to Bob Saget. I got my lame, smiley, whitebread TV show hosts with 3-letter first names and five letter last names beginning with "SA" mixed up - how could that happen? So, anyway, substitute Saget for SAJAK, and my post stands with, of course, no relevance to this puzzle except in my own mixed-up mind. Wait, maybe I originally had Saget for SAJAK in the puzzle...yeah, that's the ticket...

@Orange - you are correct - in the paper Times "name" was on another line and I just missed it. Perhaps I should not try so hard to look for things to criticize.

-50 bonus points for me!

Never saw Marathon Man but the Eric Carmen tune of the same name is superb! I believe it was written, but not used, as the movie's theme.

RodeoToad 2:42 PM  

As someone with disabling halitosis, I think the notion of Pat Sajak (who's such a decent fellow, I must say) telling the
Aristocrats joke is about the funniest thing imaginable.

I'll weigh in on the Marathon Man, too. I saw it once, in 1986, and did not and do not recall the line that was a gimme for almost everybody else who saw the movie.

eliselzer, I guess we all have our favorite lines that we use regardless of whether they make any sense in the context. For me, it's "It sounds crazy . . . but it just might work!" You can use it almost anywhere and annoy almost anyone:

Wife: "Should we get the kids in the bath?"

Me (pondering): "Sounds crazy . . . but it just might work!"

Unknown 2:53 PM  

@ wade,
If your wife has a stout sense of humor, this may sound crazy, but it just might work.

Anonymous 2:54 PM  

Why do some people dislike the multi-word answers? I thought NOT IT was hilarious and the others were all fun for me. Is it considered unprofessional or something? I don't know anything about crossword construction.


Anonymous 2:55 PM  

this was a great puzzle, JUJITSU in particular was really nice. everything except the SE was super easy for me, but then i could not make any headway in this area. the problem was that all those words there start just below the X, so you can never get the first letter of those words without getting one of the words. i'd never heard of SEABEES, didn't know JO-ANN, and blanked on PRIMER. i was eyeing __JIT__ and could only think of FAJITAS and MOJITOS.

Anonymous 3:13 PM  

Whoville was not only the battle zone for How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but the setting for Horton Hears a Who, one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books (the other being Horton Hatches an Egg). "A person's a person, no matter how small." Not Liebniz, but then who is?

I'm with everyone who really liked this puzzle and with those who was highly self-satisfied to get malt shop with no crosses!


Joon 3:22 PM  

i found this puzzle very easy for a friday, but that could just mean i'm getting better at fridays, since i've beaten my friday best time three fridays in a row now. it could also mean that friday constructors have been getting younger and younger for three weeks in a row, and that particular trend is not likely to continue.

LEIBNIZ was a gimme, but i couldn't figure out how to squeeze that into 7 letters. (i wanted LEIBNITZ. bad joon.) ulrich and others have beaten me to the punch, but LEIBNIZ was a fascinating guy. his "best of all possible worlds" philosophy isn't quite as idiotic as it might seem AT FIRST BLUSH, although voltaire certainly thought it was.

i've never even heard of marathon man. am i supposed to have seen it? is this a major catch phrase? i do that thing that wade does, too. except i pick even stupider phrases like "i do not think that means what you think it means" and "let me know as soon as his condition changes." (that one really makes no sense, but it's from my #1 favorite movie of all time, which was coincidentally also referenced here yesterday.)

laurenB, some people love multi-word answers. i think it depends on the answer. certainly, colorful expressions are pretty cool, like KITEEATINGTREE from last saturday or INEEDANAP from yesterday's new york sun can really pep up a grid. but phrases like WAITFOR or MAYISEE are a little bland... just about as bland as boring single-word fill like ATTESTED or REVEALED which orange is always so quick to disparage whenever we have this discussion. (by the way, i liked this puzzle, but it wasn't because of the multi-word answers. it was because of WHOVILLE and JUJITSU and PORTHOS and ONELINER and UPSSTORE and the relative lack of crappy fill i didn't care about.)

i thought the cluing was pretty straightforward for a friday. [Popular boxing venue] was outstanding, and i liked [Destroyers of many castles] and [Art class] and [Study aid?], but there were too many giveaway clues for answers that were just begging for something more colorful, like DUTYFREE or SPECTERS or even SILICON (semiconductors? really? why not just give me the grid with SILICON already filled in?). i was feeling the lack of shortzian cleverness in most of these clues. even WHOVILLE, which is a great answer, had a NO FUN clue.

Anonymous 3:42 PM  

I don't want to quibble but I think the Musketeer's motto (50A) is "one for all, One for all", not the other way around. The latin is "unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno"

Ulrich 3:55 PM  

One more comment re. Leibniz (he is, after all, one of the giants in the history of German science): People seem to be about 50-50 divided over how his name is spelled (Liebniz vs. Leibniz), which suggest to me that many also do not know how to pronounce the name--so here goes: The "ei" in Leibniz is a diphthong pronounved like "eye" or like the i in "lilac". Furthermore, the ending "z" is voiceless or very sharp--as if it were written "tz". As a matter of fact, I was ready to spell the name Leibnitz, but got it right only b/c the "t" wouldn't fit.

SethG 4:11 PM  

Wow, circles upon circles today. We got from WHOVILLE -> Seuss -> nerd -> (/Tommy Flanagan, the Pathological Liar) -> Ed Grimley -> Pat SAJAK -> The Aristocrats -> Billy The Mime -> ONE LINER.

Speaking of TV characters, I bet ROMANO started with a TV clue, too. And Rex (and I) even briefly entered FCC, and the chairman of the FCC once called television a "a vast wasteland"!

I really liked this puzzle too, especially in comparison to those of the last couple days. The only downer: following Rex's link to JO-ANN. Who knew that had three syllables?

janie 4:13 PM  

anon 3:42 -- don't forget that dumas was french...

not just a candy bar



PuzzleGirl 5:43 PM  

I liked this puzzle. But Google-free Fridays put me in a good mood no matter what.

I loved NOT IT and even SO THEN (you have to say it with the emphasis on the THEN to make it amusing).

The few (very few) times I've ever watched Wheel of Fortune, I have been impressed with Pat Sajak. He has a great sense of humor and is Very Nice to those crazy people.

WE DID IT: Anyone else have a Dora the Explorer song stuck in their head?

I had to laugh at myself on the "boxing venue" clue. First I tried to think of a casino name that would fit. Once I got the UPS I kept thinking "UPS Center? UPS Arena?" D'oh.

Unknown 6:09 PM  

@ sethg

Thanks for coming through and letting us know with your link that the SS Minnow was named after the former FCC chairman who dared criticize the substance of network Television and shows like Gilligan's Island. So, now we know why they went off course and sunk the Minnow. It maybe the funniest thing about the show, little buddy.

JannieB 6:11 PM  

Hi all - late to the party today. Didn't have a really good time with this one, Oklahoma/Texas did me in. Leibniz was unknown, and even after seeing "primer", I still don't like it. Wood cover maybe, but furniture?? I don't really think so. Didn't find a lot to love here - with a few exceptions: SSMinnow, UPSStore (that was tricky with only PSS in place), not it, Whoville, ju jitsu - and that's about it. Too bad we didn't get a longer string of Nothnagels - the week sort of whimpered along after Monday. Hope the weekend brings more fun - and memorable solving experiences.

Anonymous 6:31 PM  

Loved it. I thought the many lively entries more than made up for the few bits of iffy fill. Finished without looking anything up which is rare for me on a Friday, so yeah maybe a bit too easy.

Got LEIBNIZ from just the BN. I know as much about philosophy as Wendy L, but learned much about Leibniz from Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, in which he plays a major role. Highly recommended reading.

Last entry was the G in GRANT/GENRE, nice clues. Took a while to sort that region after making the SPECTRE goof.

Anonymous 6:33 PM  

anon 6:31 was me

Anonymous 7:06 PM  

I think "Is it safe" is eminently quotable and a very good clue. Defining creepy line for anyone who has seen the film; I can't believe Rex didn't see it (hear it?) this way. Obscure, but not too much so for those of a certain age (I'm mid 40's).

If you haven't seen Marathon Man, rent it. Hoffman at his best: ensure you will never forget the line.

Also, fictional crime families almost qualifies as its own theme. Are the Howells a crime family?


Michael Chibnik 7:11 PM  

I was zipping along until I slowed down around soda shop (I had malt shop for too long), jujitsu (I had the last letter as an e for a while), and especially Liebniz. I knew the guy, but thought it was "Liebnitz" for some reason.

A nice puzzle, I thought.

Anonymous 7:33 PM  

Total game show freak here, been on like six (over 25 years, lest you alert the FCC/FTC), since I see no point in making money and feel like you might as well just win it!
Having won a motorhome on "Wheel of Fortune" (highlight of my life till the ACPT this year!) I have to weigh in on Pat SAJAK.

When I went on WOF, it was semi-early in his career (1989?) and I thought he was like a watered-down Letterman wannabe...but once on, I thought he was genuinely funny, really on top of things, not creepy nor pretentious (like Alex T) nor flat out dumb (Regis couldn't read a question right no matter how many times they went over it...he actually pronounced Sacagewea as "sacky-wacky" and wasn't kidding nor chagrinned)

ANYWAY, loved Pat and had to do a Vanna-rethink as well, as she was incredibly sweet and good at what she did (seriously, at run-thrus the producers couldn't even turn over the right letters even WITH light cues)
However, Pat pulled a total Lincoln/Douglas debate kind of move on me.
When I won the $50,000 motorhome, I inadvertently laughed and said "Oh no!"
Most folks who have viewed it thought I meant
"Oh no! I can't believe I won a motorhome!!!!" but my close friends knew I meant "OH no! What am I gonna do with a motorhome?!!??? I'm not 70, white trash plus I have an apt and a dog!"
(Now of course I'd kill to have it, even tho even back then it would have cost $400 to fill up the tank)
Anyway, when I appeared the next week (in those days if you won, you got to come back and I had won on a Monday and then had to actually fly to Chicago on my own dime for the Monday show, but that's another story)
Pat announced I had won $68,000 and then said "So, Andrea, have you dumped the motorhome yet?"
totally rendering me into a giggling idiot, not wanting to say "yes" and appear ungrateful, nor "no" and seem desperate...

(I had to sell it just to pay the taxes on it)

Anyway, all this to say, I'm surprised he's only won THREE emmys!

JannieB 7:57 PM  

@andrea - you've been dropping all these fascinating bio-bits onto the blog of late - Dating Game chaperone, WOF winner, etc. No wonder you love pop culture - to paraphrase Pogo "Them is You"! You really need to start your own blog and fill us in on all the "deets". I'm sure it would help us appreciate your puzzles all the more.

Anonymous 8:43 PM  

Thanks, jannieb!
I am too old and computer-illiterate to blog, but I have gotten friends to transfer all my stand-up/gameshow videos to dvds to mp3s (?) so other friends' kids can one day post them to YouTube!
And as soon as I sort out my life, I will have them linked to my website ( and then I won't have to bother Rex's readers no mo'!
(But I'm sure it's gonna take a LOT more than that to appreciate my puzzles, esp after all my little digs here and there of others'!
I'll be lucky if Will ever even prints another!) ;)
at least I ain't one of them anonymice.
BTW, my guess about that horrible mime one-liner was it was supposed to be a "silent" nod to CORLEONE and SOPRANOS.
But yes, maybe a old boyfriend used to say I had to constantly meet new people just so I'd have someone to tell my chaperone stories to! (But I'll have to wait till Chuck Barris is in the puzzle).

Anonymous 8:55 PM  

As a gay man, I find you awesome, Andrea. I want to be you when I grow up, I think. How can I get on the game show circuit? I fear I do not possess the requisite peppiness. What other shows did you do? What other fabulous prizes did you win? Was there an Early American-style living room set involved? Talk to me about buzzer problems. I need details.

Bill D 8:56 PM  

Did any one else try "Is it soup" for Memorable Marathon Man query?

I couldn't find a link to the Eric Carmen "marathon Man" song - very under-rated songwriter, I think. The man could certainly write a hook!

PuzzleGirl 8:58 PM  

green mantis on the game-show circuit? Sound crazy ... but it just might work!

Anonymous 9:38 PM  

Yes! I'll take delusions of grandeur for a thousand, Alex!

Anonymous 9:48 PM  

as a gay man, trapped in a heterosexual woman's body, I'm totally willing to pass on all my gameshow knowledge young grasshopper...I mean, mantis.
But write to me directly lest we annoy Rex with off-topic-ness.
(as I move towards understanding this whole blogdom, from now on, I'm posting as acme)

Anonymous 10:33 PM  

Bill D - Yep, flirted with "Is it soup?". I never watched MM and probably never will, but I knew there was a dental torture scene. So initially I wanted the answer to be something like "Does this hurt?" or better yet, "Can you hear me now?"

mac 11:17 PM  

I just lost the comment I wrote and I'm too tired to do it again.
I love all of your comments, and even more, I like the fun we are having with the outing of..... who again? Why is it even necessary to bring it up? Oh, forget it. I was going to get serious, but it is too late and I had fun with this puzzle.

mac 11:38 PM  

Green Mantis and Andrea Carla, you just woke me up again!
I just can't wait to meet hopefully many of these commenters next February. It's freaky to my husband and some of my friends that I talk about people I've never met, laugh out loud about their jokes and admissions to mistakes. I have a great excuse: I'm learning something new every day. Also, the thing in the news helped a lot, too: apparently, when you do a crossword puzzle 3-4 times a week, you have a 40 percent
smaller chance of contracting Alzheimers.

Anonymous 4:19 AM  

by the way, I know the constructors are purportedly getting younger and younger, but I think Patrick John Duggan is suspiciously similar to Neil Patrick Doogie...and he's really just some old geezer pretending to be the youngest ever?
I mean, JoAnn/Soda Shop?

Jeffrey 3:53 PM  

AM I TOO DRUNK--{Loaded question?}

Anonymous 9:04 AM  

Rex must have awakened on the wrong side of the bed this morning. I thought the 2D "shipwreck" clue was delightful, as was the 31A clue "If you shoot mimes...". And "is it safe" (18A) is one of the best movie lines ever. This was a rarity...a fun (stead arcane) Friday puzzle.

Chrisvb 12:58 PM  

4th of July here in 6 Weeks land, not Memorial Day. It is always a good puzzle if I can only get a few at first and have to build slowly but finish without Google.

See, the thing about Toots Shor being a "famed restauranteur" is that he was always called that every time his name was in the newspaper, which it was a lot because he was Sinatra's buddy. Sometimes a phrase just gets attached to someone's name, like Senator Gary Hart was always "disgraced presidential hopeful Gary Hart" after he was photographed with a call girl on his lap on a sailboat outing. Or that guy who was caught trying to get laid in the men's room, "disgraced Senator Larry (something) from Idaho." He will always be known as "disgraced". Toots Shor was always "famed". Every time.

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

Six weeks later - ignorant of Leibniz and never saw Marathon Man, but still managed to plod my way through the puzzle with no external aids. That makes is a good Friday for me.

Anonymous 3:03 PM  

Chrisvb: influential Georgia senator Sam Nunn--never saw his name without the prefixes! (sometimes it was "powerful chairman of the Ways and Means Committee") Docruth

Anonymous 8:00 PM  

One thing I really hate in puzzles is inaccuracy. Often with math or physics, e.g., today with military history. The actual name of the "military construction crew" is CEEBEES. It is an official part of the U S Navy, and was originally called the Construction Battalion, or CB's for short.

Rex Parker 12:22 AM  

What I really hate is when someone comes here and says something's wrong when the simplest google search proves otherwise. Sheesh.

If I had a dime for every time someone got indignant at an inaccuracy that wasn't one, I'd be many dimes richer.

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