Saturday, May 17, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Leaving the house shortly for writing group, so short shrift for Mr. Nothnagel today. This puzzle was pitched at almost perfect Saturday level. I stared at blanks, and then a patchy grid, for a while, and then one big gimme (TOWN AND GOWN - 24D: Of a university's relationship with its surroundings) opened up the whole SE section, and I worked my way methodically around the grid from there (in generally clockwise fashion). Overall, I'd say this is very solid, professional work. Nothing AWE-inspiring (52D: It's inspired), but virtually nothing to make you groan or grumble either, and lots of little bits of entertaining fill and twisty clues throughout.

And now, a brief word about proper nouns: I'm not sure there is consensus on the topic of names and how (much) to use them. I love names in my puzzles - keeps things fresh, lively, and (above all) culturally relevant and connected. Dictionaries are lovely (necessary, even), but they are also where words go to die. Names give a puzzle personality and zing, so I am a big fan. I have received letters from readers, however (and criticism on my own puzzles, I should add), indicating that there is such a thing as too many names - that names are a crutch, that they weaken a puzzle, that they turn the puzzle into a kind of trivia game, a kind of "you know it or you don't" enterprise that takes the fun out of solving. I want to open this topic up to you all, because this question - the proper noun question - gets at the heart of why I love crossword puzzles above all other puzzles - they connect with the big, bad messiness of culture (popular and otherwise). And as anyone who lives in this country knows, "culture" is a danger zone (not to be confused with "THE DEAD ZONE" starring Anthony Michael Hall - 5D: 1979 novel, 1983 film and 2002-07 series). This puzzle raises this issue in powerful ways, with (counting conservatively) 17 proper nouns. I don't mind this in the least. What do you think? Do names faze you? Bother you? Inspire you? Is there a limit? An area of knowledge / culture where the puzzle should not go, or should go only sparingly?


  • 1A: Places such as Anatevka in "Fiddler on the Roof" (shtetls) - just revised a puzzle so I wouldn't have to use this word. Not that it's a bad word, exactly. Just very "Help Me Crossword Gods!" Sometimes you need those.
  • 8A: Helper after a crash (techie) - computer crash (thought plane, then - having just watched a doc on FDR's early political career - stock market)
  • 14A: Big syrup maker (Hershey) - Log Cabin wouldn't fit
  • 15A: Designer of a stained-glass window in the U.N. building (Chagall) - had a huge thing for his work when I was in college.
  • 17A: Holy Roman Emperor, 855-75 (Louis II) - yesterday Pete M. gave us YOTP for the random Roman numeral designating something about a pope. I think we need a term for Random Emperor or Pope. Name + Roman numeral Guy. Name and number guy. NANG?
  • 19A: Architectural starting point (plat) - learned from xwords (the actual word in the grid is PLAN ... my brain wanted it to be PLAT so bad that it made it so)
  • 21A: Jacket locales: Abbr. (bks) - don't like "locales" here (but I rarely like "locales)
  • 22A: Dreaded victimizer of Charlie Brown (kite-eating tree) - holy moly this took me forever, even with the EATING firmly in place. CAKE-EATING TIME? I did not know the tree had an official name, and I tried to remember LUCY's last name, because all I could think of was how she would pull the football away at the last second...
  • 28A: Newsman Roger (O'Neil) - I wanted AILES. Is that ... someone?
  • 32A: Moves briskly and easily (waltzes) - I strangely admire this clue. I had GALLOPS at first.
  • 36A: Star of the 1970s detective drama "Harry O" (Janssen) - no idea
  • 37A: _____ Hargreaves, first woman to complete a solo climb of Everest, 1995 (Alison) - no idea
  • 39A: "McSorley's Bar" painter (Sloan) - no idea (no, I'm not kidding, I don't know any of these folks ... not that I recall, anyway)
  • 41A: One of the Bobbsey twins (Nan) - NAN, I know
  • 48A: Site of a much-visited mausoleum (Agra) - kind of a gimme
  • 49A: World of Warcraft participant, e.g. (gamer) - the future of crosswords will be littered with computer and gaming terminology... don't say you weren't warned.
  • 50A: Cardinals' wear (red hats) - the most made-up answer in the whole grid
  • 56A: Grateful person's reply ("I owe you") - nice letter combos in that one - good for when you need a boatload of vowels
  • 58A: Jumper's cables? (tendons) - if this clue were an Achilles TENDON, it would be torn and the puzzle would be on the DL.
  • 1D: Swindlers, in slang (sharks) - also a hockey team
  • 6D: Place for woolgathering? (lea) - so WOOL = sheep. Is that synecdoche or metonymy? I always forget the difference.
  • 10D: Film special effect, for short (CGI) - oft-abused technology
  • 9D: Fontaine contents (eau) - nothing fancy, just French for "water"
  • 13D: "We'll give a long cheer for _____ men" ("Down the Field" lyric) ("Eli's") - nothing fancy, just ELI again
  • 15D: Chuck wagon bell sound (clang) - also, trolley sound
  • 25D: They're stranded in the body (RNAs) - witty if instantly gettable clue. Why don't I like RNAS in the plural?
  • 29D: _____ St. James, first woman to be named Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, 1992 (Lyn)
  • 31D: "Relache" composer (Satie) - my first thought: FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD.
  • 35D: Rimsky-Korsakov's "The Tale of _____ Saltan" ("Tsar") - see also ELIS. Typical late-week stunt: hide the crosswordese in fancy cluing. I'm not complaining. It's entertaining.
  • 38D: Four and four, say (pair) - oddly mystifying
  • 40D: Crime syndicate sobriquet (Bugsy) - never saw this movie. Love Annette Bening.
  • 42D: Photographer who was the inspiration for "Funny Face" (Avedon) - interesting. Now if I only knew what "Funny Face" was ... (AVEDON, I know)
  • 43D: Shape-shifting Greek god (Nereus) - despite decent background in Greek mythology, I had to wait on this one.
  • 45D: Land of Wahhabis (Qatar) - best country name Ever.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Peter Sattler 8:48 AM  

I loved this puzzle -- perhaps because it worked so well for me (as opposed to its qualities as a grid).

As a huge fan of Charles Schulz's masterpiece, "Peanuts," KITE EATING TREE came immediately. UNREQUITED LOVE -- another Peanuts motif (cf. "Little Red Haired Girl") -- came soon after, once I had the final VE in place. Those were great anchors to have.

I actually loved SHTETL. It didn't seems like crossword-ese. Felt, instead, like a common "hard" word, if that makes sense. Maybe I've read too much Isaac Bashevis Singer. (And SHTETL also resonated with Chagall, across the way, whose paintings inspired "Fiddler on the Roof.")

But the very best of the bunch was ALLUDE TO for "Intimate." For a long time, I read the clue as an adjective (like the answer to "More than friends," earlier this week). When it suddenly shifted to its verb form and pronunciation, I had that great rush of crosswordy excitement.

And as someone with just a bit of Spanish in his head, it was still unnerving to find ¡PUTA! staring at me from the middle of this puzzle.

I'm usually pretty bad on Saturdays. This one made me feel smarter than I am.

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

Had a really tough time with this one. My brain was just on a different wavelength. I was sure, positive, totally convinced, that Charlie Brown's victimizer was none other than LUCILLE VANPELT. I did not want to give that up. In the end, my dogmatism cost me, and I had to resort to some googling before KITE EATING TREE fell. Oh well, lesson learned. Enjoy your Saturday folks!

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

I got the KITE EATING TREE as my first clue. Strange what sticks in the mind.

My favorite error was that I read 47D as 'Holder of bird foot', which had to be claw, not CRAW. I was wondering about cardinals (or StL Cardinals) wandering around in LCD HATS.

Re too many names, this one will bug me. Some names have fallen into crosswordese, like NAN or ELI, and I don't count those. For obscure names in limited (i.e. sports) fields who most have to google, I wouldn't mind a limit of 3-5 for weekday puzzles. That said, I didn't have too much trouble with the crossings on this puzzle, which is probably the bigger issue. Although I don't know what depths I dragged CHAGALL out of. Thanks for a fun puzzle, Mike.

Anonymous 9:12 AM  

Yes, too many lesser-known names make a puzzle less satisfactory, especially if the crosses are equally obscure. How many is too many? It depends on the obscurity factor, I think.

In this one, HERSHEY and CHAGALL both seem fine to me, though some may disagree with the latter! SATIE and AVEDON are borderline, but appear in xwords frequently enough that regular solvers may think of them, depending on the clues. There weren't any in the SW, so that area was easiest to get, but directly above were SLOAN and ALISON, and the first of that pair was okay, the second came through crosses. And so on.

In the NE, I really liked I LIKE IKE, and SWANKY! The names came with some thought.... But I was slow to get the NW, until I googled Charlie Brown's forgotten KITE-EATING TREE. It didn't help that I was thrown off SDS because the clue said "revived in 2006" (?)

HE SAID was one of the neat ones, as was TOWN AND GOWN and UNREQUITED LOVE. I love Mike Nothnagel.


p.s. Do see Jim H's collages of constructors' archived patterns -- great idea!

Anonymous 9:13 AM  

I generally wish to exercise my word-play muscles, rather than my trivia-remembering ones when doing crosswords. I don't mind a few proper names, though, and feel smart when they come from areas I know something about--say, opera.

What I HATE HATE HATE is when two proper names I have no way of knowing intersect. There should be a prohibition against this weakness of construction. (Although I might react differently if LEONTYNE were crossed with MELBA......)

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

*Funny Face* is the 1957 Audry Heburn film --- she plays model, Fred Astaire plays Avedon.

I'm surprised no complaints about cluing of 8D thong. Go-Go dancers don't wear thongs (unless under their shorts)and danced on elevated platforms away from tips. (Oh, so 60's).

Strippers, pole dancers maybe ...


jubjub 9:19 AM  

"the most made-up answer in the whole grid" -- I liked red hats! I think a recent Colbert diatribe related his suspicion of anyone who wears so many red hats ... or something like that.

I liked this puzzle a lot! Had to do some googling for the proper noun clues, but many of the answers gave me an "isn't that clever" response, and none gave me the uncomfortable "*maybe* that fits" response.

Of course, KITEEATINGTREE is awesome. I don't know much about Charlie Brown et al., but I appreciate the silliness of the answer.

I'm also a fan of TECHIE and GAMER; got them almost instantly, somehow (I am neither). Oh, and CGI also. Unlike NETIZEN yesterday, these feel like real tech words.

Other good answers: NOMAYO, SWANKY, IOWEYOU.

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

Someone is bound to ask, so I'll put the query -- what's CGI?

jubjub 9:28 AM  

@artlvr: CGI stands for computer-generated imagery:
In general, it refers to any computer graphics used in movies, tv, etc.

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

Thanks, jubjub -- I was thinking SFX for "special effects"...

Love the very obscure 43D: Shape-shifting Greek god (Nereus)! Seems to relate to wannabe deity now in highest US office.


Ulrich 9:44 AM  

I finished my first week w/o googling. I totally agree with Rex's assessment of this one.

As to more specialized names (I never, ever use the word "obscure" or "arcane" when talking about xword fill b/c it would imply I know everything worth knowing): I agree with artlvr--not when two of those cross each other!

Here's again the scoop on "Nothnagel", which I reported late one evening half a year ago and assume not everyone has read: Notnagel (modern spelling) means "nail in need" or "emergency nail" in German. It is long, sturdy and has a hole at the end. Firefighters used to carry one so that, when trapped on an upper floor, they could break a window, hammer the nail into the wall, run a rope through the hole, and rapel down to safety. The term is used metaphorically to the present day to indicate a last-minute remedy or substitute.

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

Loved this puzzle as it's the first Saturday puzzle in a long time where I didn't have to google a thing.
Got a laugh at my mistake of putting PONDER instead of WONDER for a few minutes there, giving me CRAP as the holder of bird seed as opposed to CRAW. I had the distinct feeling that the NYT wouldn't allow that. LOL.

Shamik 9:52 AM  

Blushing to say that I don't often google an answer. This puzzle went for me like Rex's...SE and clockwise. I did get stuck awhile on townandgown...wanted it to be gownandtown. Who knew? Maybe there were tamers in World of Warcraft. Once I got the Charlie Brown, the reversal came easy.

As to proper's part of what makes a Saturday puzzle. If you want easy, go buy one of those crossword puzzle books at the grocery store. Remember when Maleska edited? There were always obscure country's monetary unit crossed with an obscure fish. Now those were tough!

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

@ Ulrich -- great to know the meanings of the name Nothnagel, thanks! (He's a Nereus of the puzzle-construction ilk).


Doris 10:08 AM  

I have a soft spot for the minor Greek sea deity Nereus because he was the husband of a water nymph, Doris. So this was a gimme for me. Interesting to have "Fiddler on the Roof" references two days in a row. So popular in Japan, as I mentioned yesterday. Guess it is here, as well :).

RodeoToad 10:10 AM  

I'm firmly in the camp that loves this puzzle. Rex (and others) are much more adept than I am at critiquing and appreciating crosswords from an objective standpoint (pointing out inspired stackings, pangrams, number of overall clues, etc.) I just know that when I go through all the acrosses and downs on a first pass and have fewer than a half dozen answers filled in, most of which I'm not certain of, and a scattering of S'es, and stare at that arrangement for ten or fifteen minutes without entering another letter, yet wind up finishing the puzzle in a reasonable time (or an unreasonable time--38 minutes for me on this one) without ever getting frustrated or bored, then it's a puzzle for me. I had to work for it, but I got it, and it was worth it.

KITEEATINGTREE is brilliant as an answer and exemplifies the brilliance of Schultz. Charlie Brown's Lear-like struggle with the kite-eating tree, which ran for several consecutive strips, if I recall correctly, must be one of the greatest set-pieces in comics history.

As for Rex's query about use of proper names, I'm with alexanderteacher on the unfairness of crossing two obscure or not-generally-known proper names; otherwise I think anything's fair. Again, however, from a subjective standpoint, if the proper names are from a field I'm not particularly interested in, or if the names are sort of ugly, I don't much care for them regardless of what proportion of the puzzle they take up. I'm not big on my German physicists, for example, but like learning who painted "McSorley's Bar."

IOWEYOU was the last answer I filled in. I'll venture into objective puzzle-criticism here and submit that that answer is in fact awe-inspiring. No matter how many letters fewer than all of them you have, the answer is absolutely mysterious until you drop in the final letter.

Orange 10:10 AM  

I love names in my puzzles, the more the merrier, about 98% of the time. Usually I'm good at knowing those, so I can fly through a name-rich crossword. It's that 2% that kills me, though—when two names I don't know intersect and the common letter isn't obvious, it's frustrating.

I don't think the woolgathering clue is synecdoche or metonymy. I think it's talking about where the shearers would gather wool off the sheep...though it's probably not often done out in the lea these days. I need to use the "fanciful daydreaming" sense more often.

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

OK Class: "What do you think? Do names faze you? Bother you? Inspire you? Is there a limit? An area of knowledge / culture where the puzzle should not go, or should go only sparingly?" -- The Prof

JannieB 10:17 AM  

What a nice workout for a Saturday. I stumbled into every quadrant looking for a toe-hold. Had so few gimmes I was in despair. Back in the NW, Hershey finally broke through and I was off and running. Finished up going counter-clockwise - the C in techie the last fill. Was so proud to get through it without a google! Loved the long fill (kite eating tree, unrequited love, town and gown); and lots of other stuff too. David Janssen did Harry-O after The Fugitive. Roger Ailes is a former political pundit who now runs (I think) some major TV news division. As for proper nouns, I agree they are fair game, and that nary the twain shall cross. Let's hope Sunday's outing is a much fun as the Thurs-Sat entries have been.

Anonymous 10:20 AM  

To do a Saturday puzzle confidently, you have to intuitively understand how crossword cluing works, and you have to have a high degree of cultural literacy. In other words, you must know proper names and common terms from both highbrow (Greek gods, opera) and lowbrow (such as sports and entertainment) sources. If the constructor uses obscure names just to see how hard he/she can make the puzzle, the enjoyment of solving the puzzle is lost. However, if a gettable name is clued cleverly, necessitating some thinking, and hopefully, resulting in an "aha moment," a proper name in a more difficult context is welcome. Crossing obscure currencies with obscure fish species, as previously mentioned, is just as bad as cluing proper names no one knows. Also, when you tackle the puzzle matters. I did today's last night at 10:00, and I was tired enough that some of the clues described favorably here seemed overwrought and just a little too-too...

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

Peter Sattler:

If the cluing for Unrequited love had been "22A's feelings a certain Redhead" would that have been a theme and the puzzle therefore not qualified for a Saturday?

(As an aside there was a time when Peanuts was very good but that time passed decades before Sparky did. Why do we loose the Far Side, Calvin & Hobbes, & Pogo but Peanuts not only will not die?)

As a slow late week solver I guess that proper names can be googled more easily. However I am not proud of myself. Like them, but I think today had too many.

Anonymous 10:31 AM  

I had the weird experience of getting three long answers (KITE EATING TREE [A gimme for my g-g-generation], TOWN AND GOWN [I live in Gainesville, FL, after all], and UNREQUITED LOVE) within the first five or so. It was a good thing, too, because I found the rest pretty challenging. I couldn't place any of the proper names right off, except CHAGALL. SATIE was a guess that really helped. Very fun.

Barbara Bolsen 10:39 AM  

In answer to Rex's question, I don't think there's an area of knowledge or culture where the puzzle shouldn't go, but as an oldster scratching out answers in the retirement home I know I'll be frustrated by tech-heavy puzzles.

I always feel like a failure if I have to google, and too many proper names usually cause that to happen. Like others, I really hate when two names I don't know cross. Still, I kind of enjoy names -- I get a kick out of reading here which names eluded people and feel a litle charge when I get a name that seems hard.

My gimmes today were Chagall, Janssen (never watched the show, but just knew this name in the back of the brain), Estee, and Nan ... then Louis II, Avedon, Nereus, O'Neil, and Hershey, which I got once I had a cross or two. Had to google for ALISON, SLOAN, and LYN.

Judgesully 10:53 AM  

Also liked this puzzle (probably because it didn't take forever and a day.) Wanted Cardinal's wear to be "beretta (great word) and smart to be "brainy," but I can live with the alternatives. BTW, David Janssen, aka Richard Kimble and Richard Diamond, is (was) one of the great tv actors of all time, next to James Garner. Absolute natural! Lastly, wouldn't "breezes" be a better fit than "waltzes" for moves briskly and easily? I kind of like proper names for the reasons stated, and fear greatly the onslaught of video game inspired clues. Showing one's age is so depressing!

Leon 11:07 AM  

"Be good or be gone" is a sign at McSorley's Old Ale House.
The Sloan painting is great.
McSorley's is a time capsule, you walk in and you are in a different era. I'm going there right now for Ales and Cheese.

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

Like anonymous 9:44, I had "ponder" in the SW corner but, knowing the NYTs policy on off-color words, I realized that the initial "p" was clearly a non-starter. For 32A, my first thought was "sallies" (as in "sallies forth"), but THE DEAD ZONE killed that one. Cluing BASIN as "a great depression" was an inspired bit of misdirection.

On the question of proper nouns, let's indulge, but in moderation. Today's name-heavy puzzle was great because the names covered the cultural waterfront, and there were no crosses of arcane-meets-arcane. The bottom line, IMHO, is that relatively obscure names are OK as long as they are gettable from non-obscure crosses.

Wendy Laubach 11:20 AM  

Any clue with an answer like "Satie" or "Chagall" or "Avedon" is fair game. I don't even mind "Louis II." As someone said above, there should be an "aha" moment when the name becomes clear, not an "oh, please" or "oh, really?" moment.

The only names I object to are desperation names: "All I can make fit is MYEIRLS; was there once an author who published a single essay in Croatian with that middle name?" It shouldn't feel as though the constructor had to Google an obscure succession of letters to find an improbable clue. He ought to have been familiar with the name before he dropped it into the grid.

"SHTETLS" was a complete gimme, the first word I filled in, and a fine-looking one, too. I am thoroughly in favor of it. "KITE EATING TREE" and "UNREQUITED LOVE" also were immediately apparent. But many of the other long fills took quite a while to occur to me. Once I figured out "THE DEAD ZONE," I tried "WHIZZES" instead of "WALTZES" for a while. I liked "RED HATS" very much. "NEREUS" almost rang a bell; I knew it ended in "-EREUS" but had to run through the alphabet and guess until I got the "N." I'm not so good on the Bobsey Twins.

With all this, a respectable (for me) 22 minutes, and no Googling. The really obscure names (Lyn, Alison, O'Neil, and -- I confess -- Sloan) were at least recognizable from crosses as names of something other than a lesser-known lake in Outer Mongolia or a town in the southwest corner of Penobscot County, South Dakota.

JC66 11:37 AM  

Unfortunately, I confidently filled in GHETTOS and since HESAID,TABOO and SYMPTOMS worked fine, it was all down hill from there. The rest of the puzzle followed accordingly.

I found the puzzle very difficult and not much fun.

And I think the idiom is "stop on a DIME" not "turn on a DIME."

George NYC 11:42 AM  

Enjoyed this puzzle.
As for proper nouns, the consensus forming (and I agree) seems to be something like this: Ones that are in the pantheon don't count (Eli) and can be fun for new ways to clue.
Cultural ones are good, even when obscure, as the solver gets to learn something.
Pop cultural names probably fall in the "mind of the beholder" category; I hate Broadway clues as don't know the topic. But I liked "Harry O" today as was a gimme for me.
Finally, really obscure "who cares" names, e.g. "first woman to win Indy 500 Rookie of the year" are annoying if overdone.

jae 11:48 AM  

This was medium-challenging for me. I got KITE... and UNREQU... quickly and SW and NE went pretty smoothly. In NW I didn't know SHTETLS and had GHETTOS for too long. I also had BUNGEES in SE for a while.

I'm pretty much with the majority on names. I like them because I (1)learn something new (e.g. SLOAN, NEREUS), (2) get to dredge something I know from the bowels of memeory (e.g. JANSSEN, THEDEADZONE), or (3) learn a new context for something I know (CHAGALL, AVEDON).

jae 11:51 AM  

Oh, and I really liked this one, another fine Nothnagel.

Unknown 12:02 PM  

Louis II has to be obscure to most people as he isn't going to be covered in a survey history class. Louis the anything as a ruler of the Germanic tribes might be memorable as an oddity, but I think he should have been clued by his nickname, The Stammerer.

I agree with Orange that LEA is neither a metonymy nor a synecdoche. You might say the clue and fill is an example of periphrasis. My second lecture at the ACPT will be on Rhetoric and will argue that Rex is wrong to dislike pananomasia.

I found the puzzle both challenging and rewarding. I did learn a few things, but having to learn a second LYN in a week is a bit much. Oh, btw Penn State has a community website called Town and Gown.

Bill D 12:05 PM  

First off, congrats to Ulrich for his no-Googling milestone; quite remarkable considering his ASC ("American as a Second Culture") background!

I liked this puzzle as, even though I was staring at a lot of white after my first pass, I was able to work it out bit by bit, like Wade. My first three answers were 1A:S__ETLS (I knew SHTETLS but couldn't remember how to spell it), UNREQUITED LOVE, and BUNGEES [a much better answer, IMHO] for 56A:TENDONS, which, despite their only 29% commonality (and half of that the final "S"), was surprisingly helpful. TOWN AND GOWN came soon after, and I was able to plod through from there.

As for the names, I pulled CHAGALL out from my synapses off the "C"; JANNSEN and SATIE (I learned of him via his Variations on a Theme from a BS&T album) almost the same way - in the back of the mind, popped out when enough crossing letters appeared. Tried to fit Fanny BRYCE ("Funny Girl") into the "Funny Face" place, but AVEDON eventually came through. Wanted "Mafia" for BUGSY at 40D, but that would have meant surrendering my UNREQUITED LOVE, and I wasn't about to drop her so quickly. Knew not the Bobbsey Twin nor the Greek God, but between "Nat" and NAN I thankfully went with the latter. The names I never heard of, ALISON Hargreaves, LYN St James (I feel I knew this once), and painter SLOAN were common enough spellings that crosses could help guessing them.

I thought HAS-BEENS, ALLUDED TO, I LIKE IKE, HE SAID and RED HATS were wonderfully original answers. I also like LACED, TECHIE, and WALTZES. End of a great week at the Times puzzle for me. (The Sun, however, kicked my butt twice this week...sigh.)

Anonymous 12:08 PM  

I was happy to see SHTETL too, and I love proper nouns - for the reason Rex mentions. The names in this puzzle were positioned and balanced so well that I didn't notice how many there were. I got all of them because of the crosses (don't like to google.)

Thought "REDHATS" right away and then talked myself out of it for a while - too silly. But now I like it of course.

I thought this puzzle easy (but fun) for a Saturday and yesterday's a bit hard.

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle because it was hard enough to be a genuine Saturday puzzle but I finished it without resorting to Google. On proper nouns: fine if there are enough intersecting words that aren't proper nouns. Contrary to Rex, I dread popular music proper nouns because I stopped listening to popular music in the late '70's. I'm always amused to see that the names that open up a whole puzzle for Rex are the ones I get only from the intersecting words. However, the ones Rex "never heard of" are the ones that I get right off the bat. I'm always delighted when a proper noun I didn't know shows up again and I remember it!

miriam b 1:01 PM  

My first fill was SYMPTOMS, and that immediately gave me pause, as I think signs and symptoms are different animals in med-speak. Symptoms are subjective but signs are observable by others. Someone who knows the real scoop, please correct me if I'm wrong.

Having said that, I loved loved loved the rest of the puzzle. I downloaded AcrossLite for the first time today, as my NYT delivery guy reportedly walked off the job this morning. All I received, for whatever reason, were the Sunday features and the coupons. AcrossLite took some getting used to, but was neat. Access to the puzzles is free of charge for home delivery folks like me, so I have a backup in case of future problems. And there will be problems.

Anonymous 1:10 PM  

Emperor, yes. HOLY Roman emperor, no. Hrumph.

JannieB 1:14 PM  

@miriamb - rashes and fevers are both symptoms - and neither is subjective

Ulrich 1:47 PM  

I posted this 1 hr ago, but can't find it--my apologies if you see this twice.

@phillysolver: LOL--I didn't know THAT Louis. But seriously, if you use the French/English version "Louis" for German "Ludwig", you may as well clue "Louis II" by its more famous incarnation, "mad" King Louis II of Bavaria, he of Neuschwanstein castle, and hence Disneyworld, fame.

@bill d: Thank you very much!

chefbea 1:52 PM  

Didn't have time to do yesterday's puzzle. Did like today's with all the artist's names - Chagall, Sloan, Avedon. And of course the St. louis cardinals wear red hats. Guess the only food related word today is Wonder - Havent had a slice of wonder bread in years.

miriam b 1:55 PM  

jannieb: Yeah, I guess that makes sense, even though I've heard the phrase "signs and symptoms". This puzzle was so terrific, though, that I'm now having pangs of guilt over nitpicking.

Anonymous 1:58 PM  

I'll agree with two others that "LEA" is a much less interesting answer than Rex wanted it to be, but I need to disagree on the particulars: "Woolgathering" is specifically gathering wool - not from sheep - but from the sheep's surroundings, like bushes, where the wool has been snagged and torn off the sheep. When you woolgather, there need be no sheep nearby.

So "Place for woolgathering" is a perfectly straightforward clue, requiring only a familiarity with the old sense of the word. No need for a rhetorical explanation.

Anonymous 2:14 PM  

I am in complete agreement with the general consensus- proper nouns or names are okay as long as they are gettable from crosses for those who do not know them off-the-bat (since one man's "gimme" is another man's "headscratcher").

What does annoy me is bad clue-answer pairing which doesn't make sense. 11D for example, while not hard to get from crosses, was a "huh?" for me. I can understand the pun if it was maybe written as "Faded stars", but "Distant stars" for HAS BEENS. . . it just doesn't jive for me for some reason.

The use of LACED is also wrong, IMHO. To LACE something is to add a hint of something (usually alcohol) to a drink or a meal, not to make it "potent".

I agree with the previous poster who said that THONG was more appropriately paired with strippers than Go-Go dancers.

And I still don’t understand 21A “Jacket locales” = BKS? Don’t get it.
Also, does Estee Lauder actually make a perfume called ESTEE? Clinique I know, but ESTEE?

Fortunately, these were minor gripes at best. I too loved the Charlie Brown clue, as well as REDHATS and UNREQUITTED LOVE. Overall a good puzzle, but it needed some editing (looking at YOU, Shortz!!).

ronathan :-)

Unknown 2:15 PM  

BKS = Books which have Book Jackets with notes and photos.

Anonymous 2:17 PM  


While you're correct about the St. Louis Cardinals wearing RED HATS, I think (though I could be wrong) that the clue was referring to "Cardinals" in the sense of the Catholic Church (who also were RED HATS).

ronathan :-)

Anonymous 2:19 PM  


Thanks for the explanation. Although, I have to say, that totally escaped my brain for some reason. I feel dumb now. Apparently its time for my third cup of coffee.

-ronathan :-)

Joon 2:25 PM  

LOUISII was so much better (and more gettable) than year-of-the-pope. for one thing, there just aren't that many HREs; if you remember that charlemagne's coronation was christmas day of AD 800, then the chronology sort of fits together. charlemagne's son and successor was louis I (the pious); LOUISII wasn't much of a stretch from there from the years given in the clue. if memory serves, the 843 treaty of verdun divided charlemagne's territory between louis I's three sons... louis the german was one of them (along with lothair and charles the bald), and i guess he became LOUISII. and no, i'm not a historian, just somebody who remembers some of this stuff from high school/college.

similarly, there are ways to clue (some) popes which actually refer to something interesting about those popes. nobody remembers papal chronologies (why would you?), so it's a lot worse doing it by year than it is for somebody like a king or emperor of a major western european kingdom. i guess most of the time it's just a crutch, but it's still frustrating. LEOI and LEOX are notable popes; but random numerals like LEOII and LEOIV, not so much.

(end lengthy tangent)

this puzzle? loved it. i didn't even notice that it had "too many" names, although i had No Idea on any of ONEIL, JANSSEN, ALISON, SLOAN, NAN, or LYN--those were all crosses. SATIE and CHAGALL and AVEDON--no problem. never heard of AVEDON before crosswords, but he's come up a bunch of times now, and he seems pretty legit.

one gripe: i don't think i've ever seen RNA in the plural before, and i don't like it. i guess if you were talking about different kinds of RNA (tRNA, mRNA, rRNA), i would buy it... except that only mRNA is really "stranded." so that gets a thumbs-down.

REDHATS i liked. i thought it wasn't as made-up an answer as NOMAYO.


clues i loved: LACED, DIME (jc66, you can turn or stop on a dime), WALTZES, BASIN, LINE, HAD/SHARKS (after seeing these, i checked for my wallet!).

either these are getting easier or i am getting better. after getting utterly beaten down by brad wilbur a few weeks ago, the last three saturdays have been my three fastest ever.

miriam b 2:27 PM  

Yes, ronathan, there is a fragrance called ESTEE. I'm not sure whether it's still being produced, though.

BTW, this is a test. I haven't received followups after posting a couple of messages earlier today, and I hope they'll appear after I post this.

Ulrich 2:39 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ulrich 2:45 PM  

@joon: I'm deeply impressed about your recollections. I must confess, I had to google Charlemagne's successors (after solving the puzzle!). I only remembered his son Lothar, and only b/c his name survives in the province called Lorraine in French and Lothringen in German.

@anonymous at 1:10 (since we're at it): the "holy" makes it clear that we are not referring to a Roman emperor (like Marcus Aurelius) but to an emperor of the so-called Holy Roman Empire of German Nation--to use its full name.

Anonymous 2:50 PM  

I remember a time long ago when it might be feared that weed might be LACED with PCP, or Paraquat, but I still think this Clue ANSWER pair is a grammatical stretch.

My Cardinals' wear was a UNIFORM, and my Swindlers were SHARPS, not SHARKS, which led to a long period of confusion.

Wondering about the THONG on a Go-go dancer? I thought they were characterized mostly by very tall boots and more underwear than a thong? But I've never actually witnessed such a dancer. I did once go to a "Gentleman's Club" in Los Angeles, out of anthropological curiosity as much as prurience, and saw quite a few thongs there.

Art History classes were a big surprise for me in college. Turned out to be one of my favorite electives. Which brings me to whether I like to see John SLOAN in a crossword puzzle? Well, I like being tested on obscure stuff, but overall prefer imaginative word play to name recall.

So I seem to have the opposite to Rex's puzzle preference. Puns and groaners appeal to me, while having more than a few odd, factual nouns doesn't. Today's puzzle, while very solid and enjoyable, had JUST A BIT more of these than I generally care to see.

Bill from NJ 3:02 PM  

Information comes at you from all directions. For instance, I like to read mystery novels - John Sanford, for example - and in a novel called The Devil's Code there was reference to The Old Man of the Sea NEREUS in an incedental way. The name and information stuck

In the late 50s I read an article
in LIFE Magazine about the movie Funny Face with Fred Astaire whose character was based on Richard Avedon. The article was about how he fell in love with the image of Audrey Hepburn.

In this instance, mystery novels and an article in LIFE helped me on this puzzle.

We constantly find information in our heads that we didn't know was there. One wouldn't think there was a correlation between mystery novels and Greek mythology.

In the 70s I read MS Magazine and found Lyn St James.

I agree with others here that what matters with proper names is how they cross not with them intrinsically.

Joon 3:06 PM

re: "holy" roman emperor, one of voltaire's great witticisms was that the holy roman empire was neither holy, nor roman, nor an empire (technically it was still around in voltaire's day, by which time it was certainly much less of an empire and never really had all that much claim to being holy or roman). at some point, this quip even made it into an SNL "coffee talk" skit.

i'll admit that i surprised myself at how much of that carolingian history i remembered. i'll further admit that off the LO i attempted to put in LOTHAIR and then LOTHARI (were there subsequent LOTHARs? no idea) into the grid until LOUISII asserted himself.

Doc John 3:11 PM  

I did this one in under 40 minutes, what must be a Saturday record for me! I did have a mistake, though- had TRACTa instead of TRACTS and forgot to check the cross.

Miriam, you stole my thunder! I was about to bluster on about the error of the "Signs" clue but you beat me to it. Medically speaking, a sign is objective: what is observed on physical exam, i.e. diminished reflexes. A SYMPTOM is subjective: what the patient reports, i.e. numbness of an extremity. This clue did not lead to the answer, which I had to get via crosses.

I also agree with another poster about RNAs. It just doesn't look right but I guess since there are more than one strand of RNA in a body that the answer is correct.

Oh yes, one last nit- BKS. I hate it when short words like book are abbreviated! How about "Homes of the Wppr?" instead?

None of these impeded my enjoyment of this puzzle, though.

As for the names, I felt this puzzle hid them well. Usually I get bothered by a plethora of names but it wasn't until I got to the blog that I found out that there were so many of them in today's puzzle.

My take on names in puzzles is that sometimes they're cheating, others can be just lucky for the constructor and others can be good, clean trickery.

No real examples of cheating but NAN comes close. "Random pope name" probably falls into this category, too. (I would never accuse the esteemed Mr. Nothnagel of cheating, though! Missed cluing yes, but cheating no.)
In the luck column I'll give NEREUS as an example.
In the trickery column I'll give HERSHEY.

I also have no problem with names that are familiar, even if the cluing is not. For example, those that were unfamiliar with Harry O probably were able to pick JANSSEN out of the reaches of their mind.

Finally, as a huge childhood Peanuts fan, I got KITE EATING TREE easily enough. It's well-known enough that there was a ride at the former Knott's (now Nickelodeon) park at Mall of America named after it. I can't believe I missed the Little Red Haired Girl/UNREQUITED LOVE parallel until I came here. There was a real red haired girl in Schulz's life, too.

Fave clue: [20D: Prompt delivery] = LINE. At first I hated it, then I got it.

Ulrich 3:19 PM  

@joon: If we can go on on this blog ad infinitum about the right and wrong way to refer to Texas University (or was it University of Texas?--I forget), we may tolerate one more post about the HRE. It officially ended in 1807, when the Emperor of Austria/Hungary abdicated as Holy Roman Emperor after his defeat by Napoleon in the battle of Austerlitz.

The modern relevance is this: The HRE thus lasted--if only on paper--for ca. 1000 years, and this provided Hitler with the inspiration to found a second 1000-year empire (of the German Nation), which lasted, as we all know, for 12 years--and 12 years too many.

David 3:22 PM  

Had fun with the puzzle over all, but there were a couples spots where I couldn't make it. Most of the proper names in this one were gettable from crosses, like people have said---over around Delaware (I guess?), the intersection of LYN, JANNSEN and ONEIL just killed me. Never heard of any of them, and so nothing came to me. Especially since I was strongly resisting putting in RNAS; I can deal with it as singular fill, but I felt wrong pluralizing it.

PAIR confounded me the whole time---I wanted GET A hold on crossing it, which led me to try GAIT, on some bizarre theory that it was a type of gallop. When that bombed, I tried to get clever and made it VIII, or 8. I was really proud of that one, while also looking around and realizing it was _clearly_ not going to work. That said, it led me to try out a depressing ASIA for the mausoleum clue...definitely not my best moment.

KITE-EATING TREE took me a little while, and I kept coming up with Charlie Brown theories that didn't quite fit. Including Lucille Van Pelt, which thankfully conflicted with something I'd put in already. The cluing, and how perfectly it came together, combined with my being a sucker for Charlie Brown, made this one of my favorite answers in a long time.

Michael Chibnik 3:23 PM  

Could some explain why "int. generators" are cds? I got this, but still don't understand it. I wanted it to be qbs (quarterbacks-interceptions)

I had a little trouble with this one at the outset, but felt confident that I could do a Nothnagel (he's a constructor that usually is not hard for me) and ended up finishing in reasonable time for a Saturday.

I really like names in a puzzle, but that is completely because I have a good memory for them -- though I have to admit that Alison Hargreaves and Sloan and Louis II (I had Pius III for a while) were new to me.

I thought cardinals' wear -- red hats was a great clue-answer combo.

chefbea 3:31 PM  

@michael certificates of deposit (cd's) generate interest (int)

Anonymous 3:32 PM  

I felt about this puzzle exactly the way Wade did: It seemed impossible at first, yet wound up being highly gettable and enjoyable.

I loved some clue/answer pairings, such as "distant stars" for HASBEENS and "one of 2 sides of the story" HESAID. Brocade made me happy to see in the grid because it's the specialty of Damascus, my hometown (so Damascus Specialty would have been a cool clue). For some reason the clue for RNA's "stranded in the body" felt really wrong to me. I put DNAs and that would work because DNA is indeed stranded-- in the sense that two strands are intertwined. However, RNA is a single strand, so the verb "stranded" means to me that it should be intertwined, which feels wrong. May be too picky-- just how my brain worked.

I wanted to add my congratulations to Ulrich. As a fellow non-native, it's something I aspire to. But my kids make an interesting point-- they tell me I've been in the US longer than they been on earth, so why should I have any more leeway that say a 25 year old who can solve the Saturday puzzle without googling (not that they can)... But I do feel that there's something about not being raised here that leaves permanent holes in one's knowledge.

As to Rex's interesting question re proper nouns, it triggered my neuroscience think... I feel that the enjoyment of puzzle solving derives from having some balance between the challenge and the reward that comes from overcoming it. Part of the reward is not only feeling smart, but also getting an answer that's valuable in its own right (e.g. Oh there's a Chagall window in the UN building-- I'd love to see that!). This of course is different for each of us --what is challenging to me is a walk in the park for Rex or Orange. However, at the extremes (too many crossing ones, very obscure, and not memorable answers) the challenge can turn into real frustration and the reward does not seem worth it. Then most of us will hate it. I would imagine that, as a constructor, you'd want to avoid that extreme.

Anonymous 3:50 PM  

Well, having gone on a minor rant at Orange's about REDHATS, I thank Ronathan and company for the tip about Catholic headwear - and rescind my only complaint about the puzzle, from a baseball standpoint!

Bring on the names! Most of the justifying points have been made here, gettable crossings being the main one for me.

I think what is often the tacit point in a non-name-fan solver's argument is when the name is sports, TV or movie related. Names from science, politics, classics, opera etc. seem to be tolerated. I think it should all be fair game in this letter stew we have to work with. You know, I bet Mike could have reworked the NE here starting with ERASERS in the JANSSEN slot - would have been exciting, no?

Unknown 3:52 PM  

Some historical and probably boring nitpicking...

Louis II of the HRE as mentioned should have been called Ludwig II, but he was known elsewhere as Louis the Bavarian (sometimes translated as the German, but since there was no Germany, that is a stretch). He was one of three grandsons of Charlemagne and wasn't crowned as an heir until 872. The name HRE was not popularized until the end of the 1000 year Reich which ended in 1806, with the abdication of Fredrick II, although the empire had been taken away earlier.

Anonymous 3:54 PM  

Agree that crossing obscure names (admittedly lies in the eye of the beholder) are ix-nay. I'm not a trivia person or a movie person or an opera person or ... anyway, I'm at a disadvantage when it comes to names. I read enough reviews to know the movies, plays, etc.; the actors/actresses I can't be bothered to learn, so I have to trust to "honest" crosses. If the constructor tosses in name crosses, I Google without shame. My rules.

Rex Parker 4:06 PM  

I am hereby forming a secret constructors (and wannabe constructors) club called "ERASERS" Thanks for the idea, Tony.


Barbara Bolsen 4:07 PM  

@chefbea, thanks. I couldn't figure that one out either (CDs & INT).

@ronathan, I had to get laced from the crosses. But I do think the clue is fair. Mystery novels often speak of food or drink being laced with poison.

Someone asked about roger Ailes, Rex I think. He now runs Fox News. Back in the day, he was a media svengali for Repubs like Nixon and Reagan.

Anonymous 4:09 PM  

Rex, add BUGSY to your Nitflix queue! Besides the fact that Annette Benning is gorgeous in it, it has a terrific screenplay.

My favorite scene is the first time Beatty and Benning meet. He holds out a light for her unlit cigarette and says, "May I...?" She looks at him and says, "If you want more than a yes or no answer, you're going to have to finish that question." And it runs from there.

Anyway - names don't bother me particularly. In fact, until I read your blog, it didn't register that there were 17 names in this puzzle.

Maybe it's me, but (with the significant exception of the SW, in which I just couldn't come up with CRAW for the longest time) this seemed rather easy for a Saturday, just as yesterday seemed rather easy for a Friday, for the most part.

Yes, I was positive that LUCY had something to do with the Charlie Brown clue. You can't hold on to these ideas too long, especially on a Saturday.

Now TOMORROW's puzzle has a couple of crosses that I can easily picture generating A LOT of discussion here - but that's all I have to say about that.

Anonymous 4:10 PM  

I'm glad ULrich mentioned Mad Ludwig of Bavaria... I think I read a Sherlock Holmes pastiche of the great detective trying to get the delusional Ludwig safely off to a relative before he was "deep-sixed" -- or else it was on TV?

Does that ring a bell with anyone?


JC66 4:12 PM  


If only turn on a DIME were the only answer I was unfamiliar with today. :-)

Bill D 4:38 PM  

@foodie - kudos to you as well, working these culturally heavy puzzles from a bit of a disadvantage.

One comment I was going to make a while ago, re: walks in the park for the likes of Orange and Rex. My take is that the super expert may get frustrated with a "poor" puzzle more rapidly than the likes of you and I. They are used to solving even the most challenging grids in under ten minutes, it would seem. The rest of us, not having that talent, just assume it was our failing - something we might have known, should have remembered, or could have figured out if only were better at solving. I just don't see them taking an hour or more to crack a clue. Maybe one of the aces could address this and tell me if I'm full of it or not.

About Pope years, etc - I don't really think the cluers expect us to know these things. I think it is just a variation on a clue that would otherwise read "Random Roman numeral". Some logic is often involved - in the four space one we had recently, a "V" showed up in the third position. That means you can only have an "I" in the fourth spot, and you're halfway there. If the clue gives you the feel for the order of magnitude of the rest of the answer, it has done it's job.

Chris Laurel 4:57 PM  

About an average Saturday for me with one big problem in the upper right. I live in the Pacific Northwest where the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly is ubiquitous. Note the very unfortunate fact that it shares three letters with CHAGALL. Ouch.

dk 4:57 PM  

Doc John covered any ranting I might do about signs and symptoms.

Got LOUISII and SHTETLS only on crosses.

I had lp (album) instead of BKS for jackets. And, I am sure it is the same age thing that gave me CDS on a DIME.

PUTA & THONG tart-up the puzzle.

I remember go-go dancers from the Peppermint Lounge and the shows Shindig and Hullabloo (sp?). I only saw dresses with spangles and on rare wardrobe malfunction occurrences I saw only industrial strength under-ware.

I am fine with names in general, even the obscure ones. When I get them it is a fun gotcha on the part of the constructor.

Anonymous 5:11 PM  

Hey folks.

I'm in Florida at a conference this weekend (one that provided free copies of the Times last year...this year, not so much) -- thanks to my $15 "resort fee", I'm able to get online in my hotel room, and thus, read all the nice comments about today's puzzle.

I remember arguing with myself over the number of proper nouns in this puzzle, but I ultimately won that argument, so in they stayed.

Thanks, as usual. See you next time.


Anonymous 5:16 PM  


I usually win my arguments with myself too. Doesn't mean I'm right. (Sorry. Just couldn't resist. BTW, use lots and lots of sunscreen.)

Orange 5:17 PM  

Tony's point about names' role in the colorful fill vs. dry fill battle is a good one. Yes, name clues can be a trivia quiz, but if the alternative to using names is to end up with more words like SETTEE and REASSESS, with common, boring letters and flat meanings, I will opt for the names.

I can't believe Rex hasn't pulled out his trusty ferule to thwack artlvr and Ulrich for exceeding the three-a-day cap. :-)

Anonymous 5:22 PM  

I mean Louis II was Carolingian; some consider the HRE to have started with Charlemagne, but he- I think- was only "reviving" the Roman Empire. Otto I was the first Holy Roman Emperor (962).

Anonymous 5:23 PM  


One of the great things about this blog is that I have started to pay attention to the constructors and their unique styles. Your puzzles are always a treat-- challenging and rewarding. (I forgot to mention what a cool clue the Wahabi/Qatar one is. I always associate that religion with Saudi Arabia, but Qatar made sense once I figure it out and gave me that aha! I shall remember that! feeling). Thank you!

@Bill d, thank you as well for the kudos. Glad to know I am not the only one stumbling in that park...

Anonymous 5:25 PM  

I really hate obscure religious terminology that can only be familiar to devotees of a particular sect. REDHATS indeed!

Anonymous 5:36 PM  

barb in chicago wrote:
"@ronathan, I had to get laced from the crosses. But I do think the clue is fair. Mystery novels often speak of food or drink being laced with poison."

You are absolutely correct, however if you were going to poison someone's drink you would think that you would not put so much, say, arsenic in it that it would become "potent". The whole point of lacing someone's drink is to have just enough poison to kill them, but not enough that they can taste the poison in the drink. I would think that putting enough arsenic in a drink to make it "potent" would also make it taste funny.

Yes, yes, I know, there are some poisons that have no taste whatsoever, but you still get my point. The words "LACED" and "potent" seem to me to not be synonymous with each other, which the clue/answer pairing would imply.

Apologies for being over the 3 post max.

-ronathan :-)


Rex Parker 5:39 PM  

The St. Louis Cardinals baseball club has red hats, and despite the "St." in their name, their mascot is a (so far as I know) non-religious bird. Speaking of birds, one just fell from the sky and landed not two feet from me while I was playing fetch with my dog on the deck. It was ... plague-like. Scared the @#$# out of me. I managed to prevent the dog from eating it. It gasped a couple time but (mercifully) died very quickly.


Anonymous 5:54 PM  

I nominate KITE-EATING TREE for best answer of 2008. Great puzzle.

miriam b 6:09 PM  

Still not getting email followups. Was gibt?

matty lite 6:09 PM  

I was watching the Cards play in their home red hats while I did the puzzle, so I loved that clue. Also as a huge Cardinals fan I can tell you that they were named first for the color of red in their uniforms, which is in turn named for the religious Cardinals, who of course must be named after the same thing that the 'cardinal directions' are named after (sorry, too lazy to actually research this better, I don't remember how this got in my brain). Then later on they had the birds added to their look. I think the lady who sewed the first birds-on-bat insignia is still alive or just died or something, she is the sort of person who shows up on those rain-out fill-in programs.

I am fine with proper nouns.

I hated RNAS, not because of the pluralization, but because I think it stretches that rule in which an abbreviated answer needs to have an abbreviation in the clue (DNA and RNA seem to break that rule a lot; how come?)

Anonymous 6:12 PM  

Spring can be hard on young birds just leaving the nest -- I've had a new youngster challenging my front window on and off all day. At least he hasn't managed to get up any speed. Last week another swooped in from the back yard, straight through to a hard crash against the same front expanse from the inside -- I took that one back outside, but he didn't recuperate. So don't panic yet that it's bird flu!


Bill from NJ 6:13 PM  

I started at 1A SHTETLS and skipped into the SE for AVEDON which was a gimme for me. And from just that v I had a flash of crossword insight and came up with UNREQUITEDLOVE at 44A out of thin air. Added NAN NEREUS AGRA and skipped, counterclockwise, into the Midwest where I finally figured out that the name of the kite-eating tree I was looking for at 22A:Dreaded victimizer of Charlie Brown was . . .


I moved into the NE where the CLANG /CHAGALL cross helped me piece together the whole quadrant

Altogether an agreeable solve in about half an hour with no Googles.

I don't know if I was on Nothnagel's wavelength or if I'm getting smarter but this is the second Saturday puzzle in a row I have easily solved.

Nothnagel's wave length, I think

Wendy Laubach 7:16 PM  

@Treedweller: that's a little harsh, isn't it? It's not as though Catholicism were obscure. I'm not a Catholic myself (Episcopalian, meaning Catholic-lite), but merely watching "The Three Musketeers" or even Monty Python skits about Cardinal Richelieu ("nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition") should be enough to remind us of the funny red hats. Heavens, it was easier than that "PYX" clue the other day.

Anonymous 7:28 PM  

I think if we know a word its use is likely to be okay with us.

Anonymous 8:01 PM  

You do these puzzles so handily, yet you know so little of the culture. I do them at a moderate pace, but the clues and answers are not all that alien to me.

Anonymous 8:38 PM  

the last comment was # 86

mac 11:08 PM  

This one was tough for me, and I do think the many names were the reason, as well as the Charlie Brown clue (I don't know anything about it). On the other hand, Unrequit(e)d love I got from that one e......
I was looking for something more respectful for the cardinal's wear, like mitre or miter, but of course it is red.

I had ponder as well, but it didn't create anything filthy because I had TDs above it: bird food in a trap.

@Rex: you may want to turn in this bird if it is mature; do you have West Nile in your area?

Bill from NJ 12:18 AM  


I just read your post referencing obscure and arcane proper nouns. I didn't notice it earlier. I found it most refreshing and certainly to the point..

I guess, when it comes right down to it, it all depends on whose ox is being gored.

Anonymous 3:53 AM  

Got SHTETLS as my first answer and paused for a moment wondering if that answer would be much harder for non-Jews than those of us who were brought up with "Fiddler on the Roof" as practically a home-movie (if they had had cameras back then)!
SO maybe the one who complained about the obscurity of the REDHATS this was meant to be a balancing word?
Knowing nothing about baseball and even less about Catholicism, I thought it must be some sort of Stanford ref. (Where I believe young Kevin Der from yesterday attended)

As for names, I love putting names in my puzzles, having cut my teeth as a TV Guide constructor. But then people accuse me of being like a...TV Guide constructor, as tho that is the worst insult they can imagine. (I can only dream about coming up with fill like KITEEATINGTREE, bravo, Mike!)

Yesterday I was making a puzzle and had SHAR and wanted to clue it as KFed's ex, but then decided that was too National Enquire-y (and 'sides, they may be on -again) and so finally decided on "___-Pei (Wrinkly Chinese dog)"

But it's been my experience that any names that can be clued as non-people (like SHAR or ROD) that seems to be the editors' preference.

Most of the time tho, it's REALLY just a matter of make a puzzle and go, "hmmm, I hope there is someone somewhat accomplished who spells LYNN with only one N so I don't have to change it to LYS or LYE".

And if there does happen to be a random Roman numeral, why not link it to some historical piece of information that won't necessarily be associated in the future with that date (as it was just used as convenient fill), yet might trigger some new knowledge about something else entirely.

Same goes for Google...I don't want to google WHILE I'm solving, but I've taken to googling afterwards, to learn what a NARWHAL is, for example, or read a bit more about NEREUS. Or find out what the heck Wahhabis are.

Anonymous 7:40 AM  

Hate it all you like, but RED HATS as a metaphor for cardinals is as "obscure" as an entry in the RHUD! It has existed since the 17th century, and has many hits on Google.
You don't have to be Catholic to have heard it in the news in modern times.

Wendy Laubach 8:22 AM  

I hope it's not that obscure! I just had to Google "RHUD" to find out that it's short for "Random House Unabridged Dictionary." If that had been a xword clue, I'd have been toast.

Anonymous 3:40 PM  

um, sorry. it was a joke. I won't resort to smileys, so I'll just take my lumps.

Joon 1:11 AM  

anon 7:40 am:

metaphor? not sure about that. metonym? yeah, okay. [Cardinals, metonymically] would have been a fun clue. [Cardinals' wear] isn't awful, but i can understand why it makes people think REDHATS is a made-up phrase.

mac: miter (or mitre) is the name of the hat worn by bishops. it doesn't have to be red. in practice, all cardinals are bishops, and not all bishops are cardinals. technically, though, cardinals do not have to be bishops or even ordained priests. i think. i'm not a canon lawyer (or anything like it), though.

ACM: i think kevin went to MIT, though that does not rule out his having gone to stanford. it wasn't that long ago that kevin perpetrated BRASSRAT, clued as [MIT's class ring, familiarly], in a friday puzzle.

ah, google says he's currently a stanford grad student. i, uh, ... know the feeling. stanford's great and all, but i hope he likes grad school more than i did.

specman 2:47 PM  

Love the commentary and appreciate any connection to the crossword cosmos!

Anonymous 4:42 PM  

Probably a little late to be commenting on the Proper Noun thing, but to add my two cents I'm inclined to agree with Fergus as I prefer wordplay to proper names. The names I don't like are the those where you are sure the constructor used Google or whatever to find anyone, no matter how obscure, with a name that could fit the grid. Better to use names that are known enough to conceiveably be used again.
If the only thing that will work is some 8th century earl of somewhere, then the crosses ought to spell it out for you.

Anonymous 6:04 PM  

Weighing in from Syn City on proper names -

When fair, it's a most enjoyable challenge and one from which I learn a lot. This one (May 17) was indeed fair. By which I mean:

No wholly obscure clues (Etruscan crypt architect) crossing other(s) of its ilk (Lithuanian poet of the 16th century) - OK, I am making these hypotheticals up.

You learn something from the answer: Chagall in the UN building? Who knew?

If the name itself is common it leads to a fun guessing opportunity. ALISON Hargreaves? Again, who knew? However, ALISON was gettable from a few crosses and thus seems perfectly fair to me.

NANGs are interesting, even exciting. Answers like Louis xx etc. are mostly gettable from crosses, and it is interesting to learn WHICH Louis it was.

All said, I thought MN/s puzzle was terrific - all proper names fit the criteria I mention.

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