Sunday, May 18, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium (-Challenging?)

THEME: "Pinball Wizard" - nine theme answers all begin with words related to pinball

This puzzle will feel TILTed to most people, which seems appropriate. We are used to seeing theme answers run predominantly across a puzzle. 7 across, 2 down is a relative common pattern, but here, that pattern is reversed, making the whole solving experience feel quite unconventional, but not in a bad way. Two other things to say about this puzzle: a lot of names I've never encountered (or forgotten), and ... AZAN (92A: Mideast call to prayer). This answer was funny to me (though perhaps not to you) because it was one of the laundry list of Terrible, super-obscure fill that I rattled off when I was criticizing the abysmal Star-Tribune puzzle from a couple weeks back. Here, it doesn't seem so egregious, because most of the rest of the fill is so CLEAN (79A: Drug-free) ... though that "Z" crossing might have thrown some people. I didn't know who SALAZAR (67D: Marathoner Alberto) was, though I think I would haven't guessed that "Z" as the only plausible cross.

Speaking of CLEAN, this puzzle is Loaded with drug references. CLEAN is clued as [Drug-free], and it sits right underneath NARCO (73A: Buster), and then across the grid you have CHECKS INTO (107A: Starts, as rehab). There's also 104A: Dealer's handout (price list) - though I imagine that drug dealers don't really have those (maybe on your fancier street corners, or Amsterdam, they do). This brings up what I think is a huge hypocrisy and contradiction in the rules of the puzzle. Why is it that drunks and addicts of all kinds are fair game - are made fun of, even (I mean SOTS, BOOZEHOUNDS, TOSSPOT, etc ... these are words of mockery and derision, much as I Love them). And yet diseases ... almost nowhere to be found. CANCER's been in the NYT exactly once (from what I can tell) in the past 11 years, even though it's a perfectly good constellation. I understand that omission - CANCER is common and depressing. But last night, as I reworked my own puzzle, I built a fantastic corner that hinged on OCD. It occurred to me that, as a disorder, OCD might be an issue, so I looked it up in the database - zip. Actually, it occurs once, but in a rebus where "O" = "ON." How sensitive is too sensitive. People are sensitive about their weight, but we let OBESE in. It seems like if you "did it to yourself," puzzle thinks it can have at you, but if you are "not responsible" for your condition, then hands off (quotation marks mean that I would never use that language myself). This seems ... wrong. I'm all for sensitivity, but OCD and ADD and ADHD should Totally be allowed in the puzzle. With the move toward categorizing addiction as disease, it seems only fitting that you either bar it from the puzzle, or open the puzzle up to other not-necessarily-fatal disorders.

Theme answers:

  • 22A: Fight imaginary foes (TILT at windmills) - Quixote is back ... this time in a phrase that BEQ used last year in one of the greatest puzzles of the year (the answer ran diagonally through the puzzle from NW to SE)
  • 115A: Former L.A. Ram who holds the N.F.L. record for most receiving yards in a game (336) (FLIPPER Anderson) - uh ... who? Finding this guy must have been the inspiration to go forward with this puzzle.
  • 5D: Test extras (BONUS questions)
  • 15D: Opening track of "The Beatles' Second Album" ("Roll Over Beethoven")
  • 30D: Einstein subject (SPECIAL relativity)
  • 33D: Push for more business orders (RAMP up sales)
  • 39D: Sloping surfaces next to sinks (DRAIN boards)
  • 46D: Good farming results (BUMPER crops)
  • 53D: Awarding of huge settlements to plaintiffs, in modern lingo (JACKPOT justice)

It's late, so I'll just tell you the names I didn't know and that rattle off the rest now. OK? OK.

Mystery (Wo)Men

  • 6A: Ancient pueblo dwellers (Anasazi) - now I know these guys, or at least have seen them in my puzzle, but I had ASHKENAZI and ANASTASIA and ASTANSI (whatever that is) clogging the pipeline, so that "S" ... came late, and it came from guessing...
  • 9D: _____ Phillips, who played Livia in "I, Claudius" (Sian) - I have decided I should not care how obscure the names in my puzzle are any more... if this person can get in ...
  • 13A: Norm of "This Old House" (Abram) - Sure, why not? Don't watch it, but ABRAM's a name. Fine.
  • 27A: Sylph in Pope's "The Rape of the Lock" (Ariel) - wow ... bypassing the more obvious Shakespeare reference in favor of Pope. Fancy.
  • 32A: "Sixteen Tons" singer, 1955 (Ernie Ford) - I have never seen / heard his name NOT preceded by "Tennessee."
  • 49A: "Alice in Wonderland" sister (Lacie) - Have completely forgotten this, if I ever knew it. Ditto...
  • 93D: "Bambi" author (Salten) - what an insidious name. Utterly common letters in completey unholy combination. SALTED, SALTINE, PSALTER, SULTAN ... all so close.
  • 53A: "Lawrence of Arabia" composer (Jarre) - my freshman year roommate, Dave, was into Jean-Michel Jarre ... or at least I learned that name from him. Anyway, Jean-Michel is Maurice Jarre's son. I'm just saying the name JARRE was familiar.
  • 83A: "Pearly Shells" singer (Don Ho) - OK, he's not a mystery, I just love that this guy's entire name has eternal crossword fame. I can't think of many people who can say that.
  • 20D: Oscar-winning Brody (Adrien) - with an "E" ...
  • 23D: Jack of "Eraserhead" (Nance) - this name came to me like a bolt out of the blue. Nothing, nothing, NANCE. Larry NANCE was a forward for the Phoenix Suns when I was a teenager. Jim NANTZ is a sportscaster.
  • 57D: Zoologist Fossey (Dian) - I assume everyone knows her and her name-spelling by now, but you never know...

OK ... what's left?

  • 1A: Site of campus workstations (PC labs) - not many PCL-starting words out there
  • 18A: Muse with a wreath of myrtle and roses (Erato) - yeah, yeah, you had me at "Muse" ...
  • 21A: Bill formerly of the Rolling Stones (Wyman) - any relation to Jane? I had "Rocks Off" in my head all day yesterday, and now ... yep, it's back.
  • 65A: Surfing spot (crest) - mercifully, not THE NET or THE WEB
  • 31D: Short-billed rail (crake) - whoa. Didn't know this. I think it's in the title of a Margaret Atwood novel: Oryx and CRAKE.
  • 77A: Sure application spot (armpit) - again, why do I have to contemplate ARMPIT and am not allowed to look at OCD? I practically have OCD. Come on!
  • 125A: Explorer of sorts (caver) - huh-orrible. Change it to CAVIL (a great word). OLY is so a word. A great word. Familiar name for a bygone beer. "Ice ... cold ... OLY." And GIL, of course, is the hero of the world's greatest comic strip.
  • 1D: Missal location (pew) - I completely blanked on what a "missal" was, HA ha. Need more sleep.
  • 7D: Match _____ (tie game, in France) (nul) - some of this fill is pretty reachy.
  • 64D: The Nutmeg State: Abbr. (Conn) - could Not think of a state beginning with "C" besides California. It was comical how long it took CONNecticut to come to me.
  • 96D: Sovereign's representative (viceroy) - ooh, I like this word. Fancy.
  • 108D: Old Treasury offering (E bond) - later changed their name to the E Street Bond and went on to great fame backing up Bruce Springston.
  • 112D: Month in which Moses is said to have been born and died (Adar) - You can stop at "Moses," 'cause I know only one Hebraic month. Thankfully, today, it's the right one.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Unknown 9:08 AM  

Major hiccups for me last night. GeneralRELATIVITY fit just fine, thank you....oh what a delay though, relatively speaking. ANION was back in less than a week making me an expert on electrolysis. The ease of the NW gave me two names I didn't really know (RUSSO and WYMAN) and I was feeling good. I knew ABRAMS and SIAN (from I, Claudius) making the TILT phrase and the NE fall quickly also. I knew Alice's sister Edith and didn't recall the anagram sis at all. Oregon and NOCAL was a mess then. Tried enclose for ENCLASP but knew Flipper (well sort of, but it fit the theme). I was able to go FARR until I was JARREd. (That is obscure to me). I remember a Burl Ives version of Pearly Shells, but DONHO wasn't a stretch from there. I haven't counted, but guess we came close to the 17 names from Saturday.

I found lots of pinball words elsewhere in the puzzle, but don't know if the were intentional or just closely related fill outside of the theme. I enjoyed it and the hour it took to fix the false assumptions in the West coast. Funny how pinball is a game where the longer you play the better while a crossword is the opposite. Guess I had the two mixed up.

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

Other than what I feel is an unfair crossing 6A anaSaZi crosses the obscure Sian and what could be W/Z owie, had a good time with this puzzle.

If it helps 49A Lacie is an anagram of Alice.


miriam b 9:16 AM  

I don't have time to check my "Alice" right now, but I clearly remember that there were three sisters, Elsie, LACIE and Tillie, who were tutored by the Mock Turtle in Reeling, Writhing, amd Fainting in Coils. There was some kind of pun involving "tortoise" and "taught us". Before this surfaced, I was trying to remember whether Alice herself had a sister. I guess not. She did have a cat named Dinah, as I do. I am also graciously permitted to live with Dewey, Iris and Lionel.

I share a birthday with DON HO, along with many other luminaries including Fidel Castro, Lucy Stone, Ivan the Terrible, and Kathleen Battle.

As for the puzzle: I found it pretty easy but oddly plodding. Possibly I was in a snarly mood when I solved it yesterday, during a spell of heavy rain which prevented me from shlepping compost into the vegetable garden.

Anonymous 9:17 AM  

I wish the DRAIN BOARDS was closer to the bottom, and that they could have fit a plunger on the right, it would make this look even more like a pinball field...great execution of the theme. Except for the FLIPPER guy (weren't we just saying yesterday, don't cross the two obscure names?)

I have a pin from the Nutmeg Curling Club, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, so that answer was a gimme for me. Nutmegs do not translate well to two-d art.

Put BNAI and SBARRO in the list of words with funny consonant combos at the start.

With Quixote in my crossword brain recently, TILT AT WINDMILLS was easily retrievable.

Wendy Laubach 9:29 AM  

Sian Phillips obscure! I can never forget her thoroughly terrifying "Livia." Now "Flipper Anderson" was obscure, though mercifully possible through crosses. Especially since I missed the theme again. I'm not sure I can even see the theme message when I download these things.

Also obscure, and crossing, were Salazar/Azar. Jarre, not obscure -- his music is all over the big classic movies. Jack Nance, obscure.

I've forgotten what "Upper Volta" is and remembered it as "Upper Volga," so I had "Salgen," which meant every bit as much to me as "Salten." Again, two obscure crossing names. OK, I see "Upper Volta" used to be part of French West Africa. Definitely news to me. My geography is no better than it ought to be.

I enjoyed this puzzle.

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle and it didn't occur to me to consider a theme -- just as well, as I might have been intimidated! I wanted "embrace" where Philly tried "enclose" and left that area until last, when the SPECIAL had to replace "general" on top of RELATIVITY and everything else then came easily.

Meandered around mostly, to start. Some of names were guesses using a cross, but nothing needing a google, though I was glad to know ANASAZI. I would have liked all of SALTEN -- his first name was FELIX as I recall, meaning "happy" in Latin.

I smiled at the EMILY Post clue, laughed at ARMPIT and EELPOT, ANTBEAR, and much more... Fun!


JannieB 9:49 AM  

This was disappointing after the last three days - not that there was anything bad - it just wasn't as enjoyable as the last two days. Finished with the same two mistakes as others have mentioned - anasaaz/wi and Salt/gen - both words unknown and the crosses didn't help clarify. Oh well. If that make it challenging, ok; but I thought the rest of it easy/medium.

As for using diseases as fill, I don't see what the hangup is. If they are clued accurately and tastefully, why not? (Monk's malady would work for OCD.) Is this some sort of written rule or just common practice? If the latter, I say go for it.

Ulrich 10:00 AM  

I plodded through this puzzle and found it just OK--the pinball references seemed a stretch at times.

I hated the clue for Earp. Yes, he appeared in Deadwood in its last season, and yes, Deadwood is my favorite series of the last years. But he plays such an insignificant part that I never figured out why he was introduced in the first place--one of the complaints I have with this last year. I mean, for a Sunday, can't the guys come up with something more Earpish for a clue?

Siân Phillips is a prime example of what I meant in one post yesterday: If you don't know something, that doesn't make it automatically obscure. She can be seen in person--and gloriously--in the current Roundabout Theatre production of Les Liaisons... in New York.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

I thought there were a few too many unfair crosses in this puzzle, e.g. ANASAZI with NUL and SIAN, ITAL with LACIE, SALAZAR with AZAN (CRAKE with YUK was borderline). And the theme answers left me cold; I'm no pinball expert but what is so pin-bally about DRAIN, SPECIAL, ROLL OVER, etc.?

Peter Sattler 10:18 AM  

To Rex: I think that OCD, ADD, etc., are perfectly acceptable entries, depending on the quality of the clue. They are fairly non-judgmental medical labels and shouldn't bother anyone (as answers). Of course, if OCD is clued as "Neat freak-out" or "Plague of tics," folks might have a word to say.

But to the puzzle:

I found this Sunday puzzle surprisingly easy, and I think I have to chalk it up to luck and my first week's use of AcrossLite.

I am finding that, on the computer, I am much more confident, more willing to type in first guesses -- and in this case, those guesses turned out to me right. I don't even have to count out letters; just type in TILT AT WINDMILLS, SPECIAL RELATIVITY, BUMPER CROPS...and hope for the best. My only time-suck of a mistake was putting in DRYING RACKS (instead of DRAIN BOARDS), which matched up with six crosses.

I wonder if it also helped that I DIDN'T have the puzzle's title -- and hence couldn't see the theme at all, even after I completed the grid. Do other people find that using the computer has changed -- perhaps improved -- the way that they do crosswords?

Favorite answers/clues: GO AROUND, ARMPIT, TSAR (for "Early anti-Communist), STU (for a cook's nickname).

But the best was Jack NANCE, for purely personal reasons. "Eraserhead" changed my teenage life. But I didn't think I'd ever see a clue tilted towards that David Lynch nightmare.

Groaners/grumblers: CAVER (I was thinking PAVER was better for "Explorer of sorts"); JIVES (I that really synonymous with "Kids"?); AS IS (because item sold "as is" is almost never "untouched," or else you wouldn't need the caveat).

imsdave1 10:48 AM  

SPACIALRELATIVITY - sure looked good to me for a loooong time. Rex, are you dissing my state? Of course we're not the nutmeg state anymore. We're the constitution state. Our legislature decided years ago to get rid of the stigma of being nutmegger's (peddler's who sold carved wood as the spice nutmeg). Lot's of good stuff in this puzzle. PCLAB seems a bit stilted to me though, and LETSON doesn't really hit me as pretends. Maurice Jarre get's a huge high five from me - watch 'Dead Poets Society' again, and wallow in the brilliance of the bagpipes.

Orange 10:57 AM  

Rex, I don't get your objection to CAVER. It's not a fake "add an -ER" word at all. American Heritage defines it as:

One that caves.
One who explores or studies caves, especially as a sport or recreational pursuit.

Anonymous 11:06 AM  

Somehow I knew CONN went with nutmeg state, but I did not know either ANASAWI or SIAN Phillips, so I put a D there. I think probably Alberto Salazar is pretty obscure unless you live in Eugene, OR (as do I).

Doris 11:10 AM  

Of course, no one really cares, but Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie lived at the bottom of a well in "Alice." The actual Alice Liddell had at least two sisters: Lorina and Edith. Sian Phillips, ex-wife of Peter O'Toole, is a fine Welsh actress who is currently appearing with a miscast Laura Linney (normally I love her) and the terrific Ben Daniels in a Broadway revival of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses." Truly irrelevant: Mamie Gummer, daughter of Meryl Streep, is also in this show.

Doris 11:13 AM  

P.S.: Just because I love the word, "spelunker" (from the Latin "spelunca," for "cave") should have been the clue for "caver." Just more Sunday-morning pedantry! I'll leave you alone now.

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

House of Lancaster symbol:

"A wed wose. How wovewy."

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

House of Lancaster symbol:

"A wed wose. How wovewy."

Anonymous 11:34 AM  

Hey Rex, if it's not ADAR it has to be ELUL, right? The only months I know. Funny how this puzzle had a number of obscure name/word crosses right after your entertaining poll on the subject. Just to demonstrate the vagaries of the issue, ANASAZI was a gimme for me (due to many trips to Bandelier National Monument north of Santa Fe, one of the most beautiful places in the world), so SIAN (never heard of her) merited no more than a shrug.

Anonymous 11:38 AM  

I'm surprised that the responses are not more enthusiastic. I thought this was a great puzzle, with clever cluing and lot of fresh, unfamiliar answers.

As a former New Mexican, I was glad to see the Anasazi. They figure in Tony Hillerman's best novel, A Thief of Time, which I highly recommend. According to Hillerman, "Anasazi" is a Navajo word that means something like "ancestors of our enemies [the Hopi]."

jubjub 11:39 AM  

Perhaps the reason it's okay to have derogatory terms for drunk people and not cancer sufferers is that drunkenness is (usually) inherently funny, while pretty much cancer never is? Of course, you take something to extreme degrees, i.e. my friend who (in the past) would drink a couple beers on his way to work, and it is less funny. Well, that is still a little funny to me, but I am a bit jaded. I'd say OCD is fair game in this sense. There is, after all, an entire TV show based around the quirks of an OCD sufferer, "Monk", that isn't terribly controversial.

I did not notice the theme. I thought FLIPPER was a funny name, particularly for a football player, and it took me forever to put the TILT into TILTATWINDMILLS. So I don't think I've ever player pinball before, maybe that was why this was hard. Oh, except on the computer. I think back in the 80's I may have player pinball on the computer. But I don't associate the words JACKPOT, BONUS, SPECIAL, ROLL, or DRAIN with pinball at all.

My favorite part of this puzzle was when I thought that REDNOSE might be a symbol of the House of Lancaster. In retrospect, it's not so funny, but it was hilarious to me when I first thought of it. I guess I didn't get enough sleep last night :). Oh, also, EELPOT. I'm fairly new to crosswords, so the whole eeler thing is new to me.

There were a lot of names in this puzzle, and some of them were crossing each other. I'm looking at you, ANASAZI and SIAN. Thus, much googling was necessary on my part. By the way, I looked up who LACIE in Alice in Wonderland is. She is apparently one of three sisters the doormouse tells a story about. That's not obscure at all.

Dude, I am glad I don't live in the Nutmeg state. I thought it was bad that Nevada was the Silver state, which is obviously inferior to California, the Golden state. I wonder how far down the list one has to go to get to nutmeg? As I know the song "50 Nifty United States", I can name all the states in alphabetical order, so coming up with CONN from the C was not hard for me. Most useful thing I learned in elementary school. That, and how to read.

My last error in the puzzle was WOWSE instead of ZOWIE, making the random indian tribe ANASAWI instead of ANASAZI, which seems as reasonable.

Things I don't get/am too lazy to look up:
Hosts = ARMIES?
Tell things = ARROWS?
Upper VOLTA? What's that?
There's a Beatles' album called "The Beatles' Second Album"?
EBOND is an Old Treasury offering? I guess the E doesn't stand for electronic...

Ulrich 11:42 AM  

@doris: I totally agree with your statement about the principals in the current production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. And as I've said above, Siân Phillips, IMHO, is the other outstanding actor in it.

Paul Horan 11:45 AM  

Once I figured out the theme, Flipper Anderson was a gimme...
I'm a marathoner myself, so Alberto SALAZAR came easily.

I also had "General" Relativity for a while, but couldn't figure out what 'relativity' had to do with pinball! Then I remembered "Special" relativity, and it all fell into place.

Oh, and btw, not to pick nits or anything, but the sportscaster is Jim NANTZ, not Jim NANCE.

SethG 11:48 AM  

Can we throw foreign words in with proper names as answers that shouldn't cross unless really well known? For a while I had AxAxAxI for the Pueblo dwellers, and I'm lucky my recesses worked for that as I had no clue about NUL or SIAN.

Knew AZAN from the STrib, but if not I'd have been okay with the crosses. Though for one who didn't know it, I think M could be plausible, too. Also knew FLIPPER ANDERSON, though FLIPPER's just a nickname--should the clue have hinted at that somehow? (Or did it and I missed it?)

Finished up in ?Indiana? with RAMP UP SALES--I'd put EDDIE FORD, and then I had ICES, IN CASE, which almost barely makes sense, had trouble getting TSAR, the whole area was a mess.

Yesterday Norm ABRAM said to "take a SKOSH off the edge", SYZYGY lost to UCLA in the quarterfinals, and Carleton men's team, CUT, lost to FLA in semis.

imsdave1 11:49 AM  


hosts = heavenly armies, great hordes

Tell = William

Volta = river

Ebond = E-series

JC66 11:59 AM  

Yesterday someone pointed out how terrific it is that ulrich (and another commenter who's name I can't recall), might initially have been at a disadvantage in doing the NY Times puzzles because they were not native born, and therefore were not familiar with certain "esoteric Americanisms." (They've obviously done a fantastic job of overcoming that handicap).

It seems some others may suffer the same type of disadvantage, from time to time, by not living in New York. Today's example is Alberto Salazar. This is the guy won the NY City Marathon three times and who had the world record taken away from him when the course was remeasured and found to be about 30 seconds short. All three wins and the dust up that followed were big headlines which appereared on the front page of the New York Times.

I understand some people may know more about opera and others more about literature, but is it being chauvinistic to expect people doing a puzzle in NY Times to be familiar with the city's culture?

JC66 12:02 PM  

Or at least not complain that it's an unfair cross.

jae 12:06 PM  

I found this a bit tougher than the average Sun. with the exception of most of the theme answers which seemed pretty easy. That said, this was my first error free week in over a month. Stumbles included trying at least two tribes starting with "A" before recalling ANASAZI, EMBRACE, SPATIALRELATIVITY, BACKLOTJUSTICE (don't ask), three ways of spelling SBARRO, and ESAU for TSAR (I attribute that to a crossword biblical reflex). Liked the puzzle. BEQ usually gives you a good run for your money.

Bill from NJ 12:07 PM  

As a football fan, I knew FLIPPERANDERSON would rear his head. Beyond his name, I know nothing about him.

At the other end of the name scale, I think SALAZAR is a perfect example of yesterday's dicussion of context vs knowledge. Both parts of this gentleman's name are common enough to guess through crosses and a rudimentery knowledge of Spanish shoud be enough to see one through.

As to the puzzle, it was a typical Sunday that presented me with one knot in Iowa that took a while to unsnarl. Until 19D:"No problem!" ITSEASY presented itself, the mistakes at the CRAKE/YUK cross (I had CRANE/WTF?)prevented me from finishing.

Peter Sattler 12:10 PM  


"The Beatles Second Album" was the band's imaginatively titled 2nd US release on Capitol Records. Their second British LP was "With the Beatles."

Also, I forgot to note that my un-PC-OCD clue, "Plague of tics," was swiped from David Sedaris.

Anonymous 12:10 PM  

Nice puzzle, and not as easy as I expected after filling in 22A:TILTATWINDMILLS from just the puzzle title and the definition... Didn't recognize DRAIN in 39D as part of the theme (though its place in the grid indicated it should be one); found it here.

28D:ITAL -- wanted STET at first for "galley marking", and 36A:TOP seemed to confirm so took a while to fix.

53A:JARRE -- the clue actually included the composer's first name Maurice, and might have been the first time that this clued a composer's 5-letter name that's not RAVEL.

92A:AZAN -- what a MUEZZIN does, I suppose (though "azan" isn't among the three transliterations in the Wikipedia article). My troublesome cross here was not 67D:SALAZAR but 74:CAAN, though I suppose CAA? could hardly be anything else even though I didn't remember the name.


Michael Chibnik 12:27 PM  

After recovering from from my fear of a BEQ construction, I managed to get through this enjoyable puzzle in about average Sunday time. Probably because I'm an anthropologist, Anasazi was easy for me (the reasons for the "dissppearance" of this people takes up a whole chapter in Jared Diamond's Collapse and was also the topic of a recent article in the NYT Science section). There were were, however, an unusual number of other names in the puzzle that I was unfamiliar with.

A couple of quibbles/comments:

(1) Upper Volta has been Burkina Faso since 1984. Perhaps this is irrelevant, but my knowing this (not the exact date!) led me to be reluctant to write in "Volta."

(2) Dian Fossey was professionally trained as an occupational therapist before working (first for Leakey and later on her own) as a gorilla-observer. Does this make her (and I am no way disputing her scientific credentials) a "zoologist"? I'd feel better with "primatologist."

Doug 12:52 PM  

Stayed with Brit friends recently and in the room I was given was essentially the Dummies Guide to Henry the Eighth. I read interestingly that the current English Rose symbol was an accommodation offered by H8, after his House of Lancaster (red rose) beat the House of York (white rose) in, you guessed it...the War of the Roses. Note the current symbol is a red rose on top of a white rose, something I had never known, but known to any Brit who stayed awake during history class.

Upshot--> House of Lancaster clue was a gimmee.

The theme was satisfactory, but unless you spent a lot of bar time in the 70s/80s cranking Evel Knievel and the Harlem Globetrotter pinball machines with your 50-cent Schlitz tappers it would have been less satisfying. Unlike the cold, frothy Schlitz that James Coburn was always drinking!

Doug 12:56 PM  

Apologies for my grammar, coffee hasn't kicked in and I'm trying to stop my 2-year old from doing what he's good at: Somehow bashing my keyboard and hitting a magical combination of keystrokes that closes my open browser, resets the online puzzle I spent an hour doing, and toggles the numeric keypad so that U=4, I=5, O=6 etc.

Pythia 1:00 PM  

Jim Nantz.

Knowing zip about pinball, I found this a pleasant solve of a themeless puzzle on steroids. The top-to-bottom orientation of seven theme answers is a nice pinballish touch, and the interlocking of the longest of the theme answers is impressive.

A pleasure to see Richard RUSSO, rather than the usual Rene clue.

Anonymous 1:22 PM  

One note about pinball. Evidently, BEQ (like the Who in "Tommy") had in mind the familiar flipper machines. Back in the day, however, I used to play the less well known bingo-style machines, which were a type of gambling device. No flippers; you controlled the ball by the shot and by banging the machine. You could get better odds and features by pressing off games or pouring in more money. You could then (illegally, of course) trade in games that you won for money.

jae 1:25 PM  

@NDE -- I also had STET confirmed by TOP for too long. It took INSISTENCE to fix it.

Anonymous 1:50 PM  

I've always disliked BEQ's puzzles, and this one was no exception, full of unfair crosses and far-out minutiae that others have already pointed out, as well as a great many stretches. One is PCLAB for "site of campus workstations." No campus I was ever on once the computer revolution had begun ever called it that -- the screams from Mac heads would have been deafening --, and I've never heard the term anywhere else. Another may be SPECIALRELATIVITY, although I have no expertise in theoretical physics. Einstein did work on a theory of *general* relativity, of course; perhaps the scientists among us could enlighten the assembly on whether SPECIALRELATIVITY could be considered out of bounds.

Leon 1:59 PM  

I enjoyed the puzzle and SPECIALRELATIVITY was not a problem since Special (1905) preceded General(1915/1916) and had more relevance to pinball.

@ Noam D. Elkies: Thanks for the Glossary. I never heard of DRAIN but it now makes sense. As does SPECIAL, a pinballese which escaped me. We used to call them free games which was usually accompanied by a loud “Knock.”

Pinball trivia: DIPSY DOODLE(Williams)is a pinball game as is Vegas( premier) , Alice in Wonderland (Gottlieb),and Rolling Stones( Bally.) Atari used to be a manufacturer.

chefbea 2:14 PM  

@imsdave when did conn become the constitution state? I have lived here since the early 70's and have always thought it was the nutmeg state. Greenwich even had a magazine called the nutmegger.
I really didnt like the puzzle. Guess I never played enough pinball to know all the terms

Michael Chibnik 2:25 PM  

@bill from fla

I initially thought you were writing about pachinko machines and perhaps you were. But I see from some desultory searching (aka Wikipedia) that there is quite a bit of variability in what is called pachinko.

chefbea 2:31 PM  

@jubjub I learned the states starting with Maine, New Hampshire etc etc and ending with California.

I have been in retail most of my life and I have never heard the term "ramp up sales"

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the 125th birthday of Walter Gropius. Thank you Google

Anonymous 2:37 PM  

re OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (not in my dictionaries) --Note that nobody here had to ask what that is! Maybe because we're a cohort of Overly Crosswording Devotees?


dk 2:44 PM  

I wanted Sartre to have authored Bambi it would have linked with TSAR as both were early anti-communists.

ANASAZI was a gimme for me and the start of much clucking after yesterdays proper nouns and names discussion.

The muses clues are now easy for me as they are street names (occurring in a cluster) in New Orleans and I cross them on my way from "the quarter" to my son's and sister's separate but not equal homes. I digress as The Cafe DuMonde early in the AM is (next to a sunny bench in Santa Fe's plaza) is a fine place to complete the NYT Xword.

ARROWS was my favorite groaner. And, I cannot get "16 Tons" out of my head... perhaps if I hum "Its a small world."

Lastly, considering yesterday had THONG I think diseases are fine. Think of it: Lepers in a hot tub: OLIO.

Anonymous 3:19 PM  


Pachinko bears some similarities--especially the gambling dimension. But it's played on a vertical board and the balls are small, like ball bearings.

Bingo pinball machines are physically similar to flipper machines. Here's a picture of one:

And here's a great description of the playing experience:

Ben 3:38 PM  

A decent puzzle overall, but with a title referring to one of my very favorite albums, I was rather disappointed to have two rock and roll clues, but no reference to The Who. It also added a degree of trickery to include a song The Beatles covered, but why can't we give Chuck Berry his proper due?

It had never crossed my mind, but thinking of the Pinball Wizard has me wondering if there's any way for a blind person to to do a crossword. Anyone have any thoughts?

imsdave1 3:54 PM  

@chefbea - we become the constitition state in 1959, per the general assembly. Nutmeg sits much better with me though (Nutmegger off and on since 1965).

Anonymous 4:26 PM  

This was interesting because I totally sailed through 3/4 of this puzzle, and then got hung up in various patches and had to set it down before I could untangle my messes. I had STEPUPSALES, EMBRACE (rather than enclasp), ANASASI with an S, etc. But in spite of this, and of knowing nothing about pinball playing, I really enjoyed this puzzle. It was gettable with some patience. And I too chuckled at EMILY and ARROWS and laughed at ARMPIT.

@Ulrich: I never saw the TV show, I made the connection between Deadwood and Earp from the real history of Earp visiting Deadwood. But I think you're right, when I look at the clue now, it is referring to the TV show!

Rex, if you open up the puzzle to brain-related disorders, you could have a blast. Not only with abbreviations (add MDD for Major Depressive Disorder) along with well-known names (e.g. bipolar, autistic) but with interesting neurological disorders-- see Oliver Sacks' "The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat". A treasure TROVE!

Ellen 4:41 PM  

There's an article on BEQ in the Boston Globe.

Anonymous 5:29 PM  

Could someone please explain the "special" "drain" and "rollover" pinball terms, none of which meant a thing to me?

Doug 5:53 PM  


Special: Free game or something else the game gives you like a ball etc. Pinball's cool because who actually know what all the clanging and flashing really is?

Drain: When the ball rolls down the middle into the DRAIN hole.

Rollover: A part of the playfield that gives you points when the ball rolls over it.

Barbara Bolsen 6:26 PM  

@jubjub, take heart at living in the Silver State and pity on those of us who live in the Corrupt Politician state.

I have no objection to seeing neurological disorders in the puzzle and love foodie's idea of such a themed puzzle. I know that crosswording, for me, stems from subclinical OCD. I'd never really thought about the fact that that diseases don't appear in the puzzle and had never heard of the "breakfast test" before visiting here.

I didn't notice this puzzle's theme til getting here to the board. It was relatively easy for me (meaning I finished in one sitting with no googles ...) except after getting a bunch of hard names like SALAZAR and ANASAZI right off the bat, I blanked on 74d, Actor James, and left an inadvertent blank at the intersection of CAAN and AZAN.

@bill in fl, I love Tony Hillerman, too, especially listening to him read his own books on tape.

Anonymous 7:30 PM  

If anyone is still reading these comments, do have a look at the Boston Globe puzzle for today! It can be downloaded at the website:
and has a huge number of theme answers relating to (OCD?) collectors and their specialized collections! Just reading the clues is hysterical...


Anonymous 8:24 PM  

@barb in chicago --

THillerman's great mysteries have an added bonus for me: they slow me down to a certain pace, like when reading a Leaphorn conversation. Once I settle in, it's a good feeling.

Peter Sattler 8:36 PM  

@ artlvr:

Thanks for leading me to the Globe puzzle. It was fun, although I kept waiting for the $10 hint for comic book collector ("panelogist"?). Still, it referenced Al Capp's SHMOO, so I was pretty happy.

(Not Jack Nance happy, but still...)

mac 8:55 PM  

Sorry to be so late, planted the annuals in the pots (lots of them) and had a lot of other summerizing jobs to do.
I wasn't crazy about this puzzle, maybe because I did read the theme and knew absolutely nothing about it. There were a couple of great clues (Tell, armpit, etc.; don't have the puzzle in front of me), but some of the fill seemed a stretch. It didn't sparkle.

Barb in Chicago: which politician are you talking about?

I love nutmeg, had some on my broccolini this evening, and am happy to live in the nutmeg state.

I think we all suffer (maybe sub-clinical) from a form of OCD - and good for us!

Joon 8:55 PM  

loved this puzzle, perhaps because none of the crazy name crossings did me in.

ANASAZI--this might be obscure, but they are incredibly important to the history of this continent so i'm glad it's in the puzzle.

AZAN--didn't know this until my wife, who studied arabic in college, played it through a triple-word score against me (ouch). but i have not forgotten!

FLIPPERANDERSON--omg, how happy did this answer make me? i can still remember the game in which he broke the record. he wasn't even the #1 WR for the rams either (that would be henry ellard). according to, flipper finished his career with a 20.1 yards/catch average. you don't see that any more.

i had some trouble with some of the other theme answers, namely JACKPOTJUSTICE (never heard of it), and SPECIALRELATIVITY (paralyzed by knowledge on that one... had to wait for some crosses, as i wasn't about to sit there and count out letters for the two theories of relativity, BROWNIANMOTION, STIMULATEDEMISSION, or PHOTOELECTRICEFFECT. einstein was rather a prolific physicist! and no, most of those don't make any sense with the pinball theme, but then again, i didn't know what SPECIAL had to do with pinball either). SPATIALRELATIVITY, by the way, is actually a bit of an oxymoron, as the whole point of einstein's theory of relativity is that the three dimensions of spac and the one of time cannot be considered independently of each other--there is only four-dimensional space-time.

like noam, i held onto STET instead of ITAL for way too long, until INSISTENCE finally ... uh, insisted that i change it. didn't like changing DRAKE to CRAKE, either, for that C. EMBRACE at 66D had me staring at nothing in the california area for a while, too.

overall, this puzzle was a terrifically enjoyable solve. bravo!

Barbara Bolsen 10:09 PM  

Mac, well we have a long history of crooked politicians, most recently the former governor (convicted), and the current one has a scandal swirling around him ... though he has not been indicted.

Orange 11:44 PM  

...not to mention assorted scandals involving City Hall in Chicago—the Hired Trucks scandal, other lucrative contracts tilted to favored parties, and the traditional nepotism. And the Cook County government, where Todd Stroger's cousin has a high-paid job she wasn't necessarily qualified for. And former Illinois Congressman Dan Rostenkowski did time in federal prison. And in the '80s, there was a big judicial corruption scandal in Chicagoland.

Louisiana politics may be sleazier than Illinois politics, but I'll bet Illinois is in a strong second place nationwide.

Anonymous 3:15 AM  

I always get here so late, don't know if this has been mentioned or not, but ANASAZI (I always want to say/write: AS A NAZI) might be more familiar to those who know Kokopelli, you know that humpbacked character playing a flute? You see it printed on all sorts of things (like my downstairs neighbor's welcome mat)
Google it and you'll recognize it...anyway, he's an anasazi symbol.

Anonymous 5:02 AM  


As far as I know, Atari did not make Defender; it was Williams. I checked what I could of the company, but apparently Williams was not a subsidiary of Atari, nor was it ever bought out.

I spent many a youthful hour at Defender, which was a great game (if a bit too intense).

Anonymous 5:02 AM  


As far as I know, Atari did not make Defender; it was Williams. I checked what I could of the company, but apparently Williams was not a subsidiary of Atari, nor was it ever bought out.

I spent many a youthful hour at Defender, which was a great game (if a bit too intense).

mellocat 9:59 AM  

OCD appeared in the 12/23/2005 Wall Street Journal puzzle clued "Condition for TV's Monk: Abbr." Personally I think it suffers more from the "if you don't know it it's going to be very difficult to guess what the letters mean" problem than the reference to unpleasant disease/syndrome problem, but actually neither would entirely stop me from using it.

Anonymous 7:01 AM  


Yes, Atari did not make Defender it was Williams.

You could make the case that Atari came out with a home version of the game on their old Atari home machine, but that would be stretching it.

For the real Arcade game, it was Williams.

Anonymous 2:45 PM  

Only thing I didn't like was the Tell reference for arrow.

Anyone with any knowledge of the William Tell story knows that he used a crossbolt, as the Swiss were
among the elite of crossbowmen, and as such he shot a bolt at the apple on his son's head. Bolts and arrows are similar, but they are NOT interchangeable.

Julie 5:34 PM  

Well, the pinball wizard thing just whizzed right by me - I just thought they were nice long words with no theme! No wonder I am my own worst enemy while doing these puzzles, but I persevere...

The only problem I ended up with was "would you like to see Amadu?" Sure, why not? hahahaha

Anonymous 5:41 AM  

For what it's worth: Earp not only visited Deadwood, he was killed there while playing poker in Saloon #8, shot in the back of his head while holding what has become known as "the dead man's hand," or aces and eights. He's also buried there, along with Calamity Jane, in the Moriah cemetary, a lovely final resting place on a steep hill side with a plenitude of Ponderosa pine (from which the Black Hills derive the name: the Hills, when approached from the vast prairie to the east, have a black appearance from the pine forest cloak).

Anonymous 5:54 AM  

My abject apologies. It was not Earp who was killed in Deadwood, it was Wild Bill Hickock. No excuse, except the hour.

Anonymous 2:39 PM  

I was out of town and didn't get to finish this one in time for all of the comments but thought I'd throw one in antway. A perfect (and obscure) theme answer would have been Michael Pinball Clemons

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP