Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: RTS (71A: Football linemen, for short, caught in 17-, 28-, 47- and 63-Across)

Wow, you can turn anything into a theme. Awesome. This theme was a little hard to uncover, as I had all of the front end of FREQUENT FLIRTER (through the "I") and almost all of PARTY AS YOU GO (just missing the "GO") and still had no idea what was going on. Eventually I solved the NE corner, saw that "RT" had been added to "FLIER," saw the "RT" in "PARTY," and things took off from there. With such a tiny amount of inserted material, the theme answers were more challenging to uncover than they might have been otherwise, but that's just as it should be on a Wednesday. The second two theme answers are not as scintillating as the first two - I didn't know that "ALPINE SKIS" were ... a thing. I didn't know skis in the Alps were any different from regular old downhill skis. And the change from MAIN CHARACTER to MARTIN CHARACTER ... isn't much of one. The theme eats up a lot of ground (57 squares), and the theme answers are connected to a really high degree (lots of Downs running through multiple theme answers). This is the second day in a row where the grid has had a weird look to it - I often talk about the puzzle in terms of "quadrants," but it's hard to orient yourself that way in this puzzle, which has its black squares arranged in such a scattershot manner. Nice change of pace.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Singles bar habitue? (frequent fliRTer)
  • 28A: Do some barhopping? (paRTy as you go)
  • 47A: Dirndls? (alpine skiRTs)
  • 63A: "Wild and crazy guy" on the old "S.N.L."? (MaRTin character) - what is "the old" S.N.L? The cast changes every year, so "the old" could be any S.N.L. pre-this season.

I'm in love with a few of today's medium and long Downs. I would like the word "NYQUIL" (24D: Vicks brand) to be in every puzzle - unlike the actual NYQUIL, it does not put me to sleep. Quite the opposite. ONE ACROSS was semi-clever, but far too easy - got it instantly off just the "O" in WOO (1A: Send roses, perhaps). This will sound ridiculous, but what's a CARD ROOM (10D: Hold'em venue). Every time I see people playing Texas Hold'em on TV, they aren't in a special room - they're sort of out in the open. And most casinos don't have special rooms for card-playing, do they? Ah, Wikipedia, what would I do without you?:

A cardroom (also spelled card room) is a gambling establishment that exclusively offers card games for play by the public. The term poker room is generally synonymous, since the gambling games played in such establishments are typically, and sometimes exclusively, variations of poker such as Texas hold 'em.

Such rooms typically do not offer slot machines or video poker, or other table games such as craps as found in casinos. However, a casino will often use the term "cardroom" or "poker room" (usually the latter) to refer to a separate room that offers card games where players typically compete against each other, instead of against "the house."

I liked seeing OPERA STAR in the puzzle (36D: Callas or Sills), as I am currently debating whether to put one in one of my puzzles. There's a question of relative fame involved. We'll see what happens. My favorite long Down of the day is easily THANATOS (40D: Death personified, in ancient Greece), which I got instantly. Teach "Great Books" long enough, I guess some of the terms stick. Honestly, I can't tell you in what context I first learned the term THANATOS - I only know that I thought it was such a cool-looking / sounding word, that it never left my brain.


  • 4A: Polo name (Marco) - this clue threw me badly. What other person could you possibly clue in such a fashion? [DiCaprio name] = LEO? No. I thought the answer would be RALPH (as in Lauren).
  • 14A: "Atonement" author McEwan (Ian) - I've read nothing of his but On Chesil Beach (which I loved).
  • 15A: Harvest bundle (sheaf) - I like the two S---F words so close to each other in this puzzle. See also 9A: Pooh-pooh (scoff). Something about them seems bouncy and amusing.
  • 16A: Physics Nobelist Wolfgang (Pauli) - Linus PAULING called - he wants the first part of his name back. (i.e. I have no idea who this PAULI guy is)
  • 20A: Twin in Genesis (Esau) - here's the thing ... new people are taking up the puzzle every day, so a clue like this is always going to be a mystery to someone out there. I'm routinely surprised by Google searches for what I think are obvious answers - but then I remember that most of what I find "obvious" is "obvious" because I've been doing puzzles with such ridiculous intensity for so many years. We talked a lot about ESAU when I taught the KJV of the bible this year. I want a t-shirt that says "ESAU Was Robbed."
  • 22A: Intimate wear, informally (undies) - this answer really bothered my wife, who complained about it this morning. It's kind of infantilizing ... and thus "intimate wear" is kind of a creepy clue. Me, I'd have changed it to UNDEAD and reworked the NE. Or tried to, anyway.
  • 23A: The Reds, on a scoreboard (CIN) - as in "cinnati"
  • 33A: "Rockaria!" grp. (ELO) - whoa. I know a Lot of ELO songs - not this one.
  • 34A: Bogart role (Queeg) - captain in "The Caine Mutiny" (based on the Wouk novel of the same name)
  • 43A: Unagi or tekka maki (sushi) - you don't really have to know these terms to know the answer, do you?
  • 1D: The "Judy" of Punch and Judy (wife) - At first I thought maybe she had a name or profession I didn't know about. Nope - just a repeatedly pummeled WIFE. Awesome quotation from Wikipedia:
The stereotypical view of Punch casts him as a deformed, child-murdering, wife-beating psychopath who commits appalling acts of violence and cruelty upon all those around him and escapes scot-free – this is greatly enjoyed by small children.
  • 2D: Dinghy movers (oars) - first thought the clue read "dingy" ...?
  • 5D: Call for attention (ahem) - and in case that doesn't work, try PSST (37D: Alternative to "Hey!")
  • 7D: Certain marble (cat's eye) - also a certain Margaret Atwood novel.
  • 11D: Navel designation (outie) - cute clue, but crossing UNDIES ... I declare this section to be just too cutesie (that's my "Var." spelling).
  • 19D: Island shindig (luau) - I wonder how long it will take a word like "shindig" to become meaningless to people...
  • 26D: Two-position switch (toggle) - great word. Sounds like Boggle, to which I was once addicted.
  • 31D: Tended to by the butler, say (seen in) - tend not to like the pluperfect in my answers. Always feels a little too ... stretchy.
  • 32D: "A Life for the Tsar" composer (Glinka) - Yipes. My big "?" of the day. Hasn't seen the light of day for about 7 years, according to the cruciverb database, and every clue ever used references this composition.
  • 58D: Eric of "Munich" (Bana) - he's handsome. And "Munich" is a fascinating meditation on my favorite of all literary topics: revenge.
  • 59D: Santa _____, University of California city (Cruz) - the fact that I puzzled over this for many seconds is hilarious on several levels. Not only do I know the school well (it was the first place that accepted me when I was applying to college), but my stepbrother graduated from there the same year I was applying. Their mascot is, famously, the banana slug.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS this is so great that I couldn't not share it. Please enjoy Bill O'Reilly losing his mind... (warning - there is profanity involved)


janie 8:56 AM  

thanatos... think i learned the word in high school in conjunction with:


and i'm guessin' "old s.n.l" because the characters and sketches in question date back a full generation. a looooong time in tv years!

loved this puzzle!!


janie (who associates cardrooms with country clubs, senior centers, rec centers, etc.)

Rex Parker 9:00 AM  

It's "THE" that's the problem in the SNL clue, not "old SNL." "THE" implies there's one. Not so. There are over 30.


Anonymous 9:09 AM  

Hey Rex. Alpine skis are synonymous with downhill skis and are in fact "a thing". The term is the opposite of cross country skis. The third theme answer is more than valid in my book.

Anonymous 9:10 AM  

Learned Thanatos when I studied Attic Greek in high school.
Despite buying my first car with poker winnings, never played TX holdem.
Nice puzzle, pretty easy for a Wednesday.

Peter Sattler 9:11 AM  

Not sure what makes a puzzle click or not, but this one made me feel grumpy and dumb, maybe because I found myself backspacing over many first guesses ("Ralph," like you, for "Polo name"; "Spade" for "Bogart role"). Or maybe it's just because I had no idea what a "dirndl" or who a "Queeg" is.

High point: "Feet in a meter" (IAMBS), because I couldn't shake the metric connotations at first and got to experience that A-Ha! moment.

Low point: LIKE for "Take a shine to." Seems a bit vague -- as if the real answer should have been LIKE LIKE (as in, "Does she just like me, or does she LIKE LIKE me?").

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

FYI - cross country skis (as well as I think ski jumping) are called nordic skis (as opposed to the alpine skis). The heel part of the boot is not attached to the skis.

Also, I was afraid that 63A would ask for the character name of Georg Festrunk and I had no idea how to spell that (I looked it up for this post.)

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

Wikipedia also mentions the Simpsons in the quotation:

The tale of Punch and Judy varies from puppeteer to puppeteer and has changed over time, but the outline of early 19th century shows is usually still recognizable. It typically involves Punch behaving outrageously, struggling with his wife Judy and the Baby, and then triumphing in a series of encounters with the forces of law and order (and often the supernatural). The classic ending of the show has him upending the Devil himself, exclaiming "Huzzah huzzah, I've killed the Devil!".

All is performed in the spirit of outrageous comedy and is intended to provoke shocked laughter. Whilst the Victorian version of the show drew on the morality of its day, The Punch & Judy College of Professors considers that the 20th and 21st Century versions of the tale have evolved into something more akin to a primitive version of The Simpsons – in which a bizarre family is used as vehicle for grotesque visual comedy and a sideways look at contemporary society.

The stereotypical view of Punch casts him as a deformed, child-murdering, wife-beating psychopath who commits appalling acts of violence and cruelty upon all those around him and escapes scot-free – this is greatly enjoyed by small children. Terry Pratchett draws attention to this apparent paradox in his short story Theatre of Cruelty, the last line of which is "That's not the way to do it." In actual fact, Punch has long since reverted to his origins as a clown figure whose acts of violence are in the same tradition as those to be seen in all classic cartoons. The very stick he uses is a slapstick: the knockabout device which gave its name to a whole genre of broad physical comedy.

While censorious Political Correctness threatened Punch and Judy performances in the UK and other English speaking countries for a time, the show is having one of its cyclical recurrences and can now be seen not only in England, Wales, and Ireland, but also in Canada, the United States (including Puerto Rico) and even Australia and South Africa (see External Links).

Orange 9:28 AM  

Peter Sattler's comment makes me want to go around saying "Dirndl Queeg, Dirndl Queeg" to myself. This is probably a bad idea. Wasn't that part of the lyrics to AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds"? "Dirty deeds in a dirndl, Queeg"?

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

"the", WTF? Pick, pick, pick!

janie 9:34 AM  

>It's "THE" that's the problem in the SNL clue, not "old SNL." "THE" implies there's one. Not so. There are over 30.

simply put, i read it differently. "the old" tells me it's yeeeeeeeears ago -- as if it had been clued "wild and crazy guy from the late '70s."

btw, also loved the cluing of "brook" at 66a -- "put up with." made me rethink -- and perhaps fully understand -- "brook no rivals" for the first time.

yet another reason why i love the puzzles!



Unknown 9:39 AM  

Thanatos wasn't such a bad guy. He accompanied many fallen Greek heroes to Hades (where his brother Chanon rowed the boat) to their specially appointed place called the Elysium Fields. We had that as an answer recently. His brother Hypnos is playing a larger role in my life these days. He represents sleep.

Does Loren Michaels still produce SNL? I think he was the man who made The Old SNL click.

David 9:41 AM  

Loved today's puzzle. As a guy who loves mythologies, I got a real kick out of seeing THANATOS---got it immediately, and love the word. Comes from the same root that gives us Euthanasia, "good death" or "dying well."

The cross of NYQUIL and QUEEG was definitely some quirky fun, and being able to fill in OPERASTAR rather than come up with one's name was a _huge_ relief. And yes, TOGGLE is a great word.

For CARDROOM, the example that automatically pops into my head would be just about any scene from Rounders---big smoky room with card tables. Knew the skiing term already, though, so I liked ALPINE SKIRTS. I do agree that MARTIN CHARACTER was a weak link.

Ulrich 9:44 AM  

Solid puzzle all around. I'm with jls re. the "the" question (of the day). Had opera DIVA for far too long, which turned the puzzle into a medium for me, too.

Robin (IRQ) 9:48 AM  

Since no one has stopped in to say it yet, Wolfgang PAULI is one of the great fathers of quantum mechanics, at least as famous (ok, maybe only to us physicists?) as Schroedinger and Heisenberg, if somewhat easier to shoehorn into a grid :)

(Actually, I would someday love to see ERWIN clued as Schroedinger's first name rather than Rommel's... hey, I can dream, right?)

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

Re the grid: I wouldn't call it weird at all. It has perfect 180 degree rotational symmetry -- spinning on the black square at the very middle. There's a word for that (I took a fun math class in college about the different types of rotations & flips found, for example, in Moorish tilework), but that was way too long ago for me to remember it.

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

As one who spends a disturbing amount of time in cardrooms, I can assure you, Rex, that casinos do, in fact, have special rooms for card-playing.

After getting "Rent" for 6 down, I wrote "Loren" for Polo name, and it took me way too long to find the mistake.

@Phillysolver: yes, Loren Michels is still producing SNL. The show has had its highs and lows over the years, but with the truly, truly funny women there now (Kristin Wiig and Amy Poehler), I consider this year one of the highs.

Lots of SNL clips on now, but unfortunatly I cannot find my all-time favorite, probably the funniest thing I've ever seen on television: Kristin Wiig and Alec Baldwin carpooling to work, and that's all I'm going to say about it.

Orange 10:22 AM  

Yeah, I think of "the old SNL" as "SNL in the '70s with the original cast that subsequent seasons' casts have mostly failed to equal."

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

I liked this puzzle too -- and it answers yesterday's question as to whether you need to choose between having a theme going and having interesting fill: you can have both!

I toyed with sneer and scorn before getting SCOFF (good word!) but everything else came smoothly including MARCO and THANATOS, except my last cross -- WBC/BANA. "Pugilists" could haver been wrestlers but no, boxers instead. Oh well.

The crosses of GLINKA/GLIMPSE/TOGGLE were fresh, as was NYQUIL/QUEEG, and I enjoyed seeing BROOK as in "Teacher will brook no such excuses as the dog eating your homework"...

ALPINE SKIRTS was nice with MTS higher above, and it recalled the discussion we had about dirndl bodices and skirts vs the whole costume. I also knew CIN for Reds since it was in a puzzle lately.

Amusing comment from Rex, needing to choose a diva from Callas or Sills: both great, but how about another favorite -- Kiri Te Kanawa?


Anonymous 10:40 AM  

UC Santa CRUZ was in the news about two weeks ago. UCSC will host the Greatful Dead archives.

Wolfgang PAULI, like Harold UREY a few weeks ago, is a complete gimme to us science types. Unlike yesterday's "UNITED ARTISTS", say.

Punch and Judy are in Jasper Fforde's novel The Fourth Bear. Word and literature fanatics will probably want to read all of Fforde.

Virtually all crossword puzzles have 180 degree rotational symmetry.

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

I too have no memory of when I first came across THANATOS, but I sure can't forget Thomas Pynchon Vineland having a band named the Thanatoids.

PuzzleGirl 10:48 AM  

Pretty easy Wednesday. I finished the puzzle and didn't bother to spend any time figuring out the theme.

Re card room: When you watch poker on television the players are, indeed, in a card room. It's just a really, really big card room.

I haven't read On Chesil Beach yet, but would like to put in a plug for Saturday and, especially, Enduring Love. Awesome books.

@rm: To this non-physicist, Pauli, Schroedinger and Heisenberg are exactly the same degree of famous.

SethG 11:07 AM  

Addie Loggins, no substitute for the video, but the transcript is here. PuzzleGirl, Saturday was awesome, I'll add EL to my list. Rex, I played ultimate in Santa CRUZ fairly recently, and it still took me many seconds to get.

Erwin Schroedinger? I just assume that physicist first names I don't know are Max. (Pauli I did know, he of THE eponymous Exclusion Principle.) And speaking of my general assumptions, when there's a Greek reference I don't know I play "Name A Greek Island"...didn't work today. It took me a couple minutes to correct my THANiTOS/ALKiLI cross.

Actually, my mind was somehow off the whole time. My thought while doing the puzzle was that the theme was "weird phrases with RT in them"--never noticed that the phrases worked without the RT, too, which they sorta cover in Pun Themes 101.

Anonymous 11:10 AM  

@william e emba - Glad to know that someone else has read Fforde. 1D also brought that book to mind. For all of the bibliophiles out there Fforde's novels will tickle you in the most surprising ways.
Two Ponies
Where's wade today?

Pythia 11:10 AM  

Nice puzzle. No complaints. Snappy fill in all directions and fun theme answers, especially the top two. Liked the grid and all the clues, as well.

Thanks to RP for the heads-up re On Chesil Beach, which I just 1-Clicked on I tore through and loved McEwan's Atonement and Saturday when they were first published, and recommend them (even if you've seen the film Atonement).

JC66 11:11 AM  

I started with INNIE and SNIFF but it didn't take long for me to see the error of my ways. Have to admit that I'm much more familiar with CARDROOMS and ALPINESKIS than I am with PAULI and THANATOS.

PriscillaHowe 11:29 AM  

This one was easier for me than Wednesdays usually are. Maybe I'm getting better at solving. Hmm.

I was happy to find the Punch clue--I've been working up a Punch and Judy show, and have even learned to use a swazzle. Isn't that a lovely word?

I'm also a ffan of Fforde.


Anonymous 11:36 AM  

Having read most of McEwan (but not McKuen), I put down On Chesil Beach without finishing it. Not because the title looked like a typo at first, but because I saw where the plot was headed and decided not to accompany it. Just wasn't in the mood that day. Great writer in my unabbreviated opinion.

dk 11:40 AM  

Yeah: Fforde fans here too. This is a great. Tuesday Next woo woo.

I whiped through this puzzle except for when I spelled OUTIES as ooties.

Seeing a lot of WOOing in the puzzles. Must be the impact of spring which (by the by) has finally come to Mpls.

We learned about Thantos in psychology school.

Rex, the O'Reilley clip is disturbing. Perhaps we should make him eat a Banana Slug.

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

I solved it but I still don't know what an "RT" is.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

Seconding rm above, Pauli was the guy who realized that no two electrons in a given atom could have the same quantum states. Sounds complicated, is complicated, yet super important. If you ever hear of electron "spin", that's Pauli in good part.

Also, Rex, how did you write up THANATOS without mentioning THANOS of Marvel fame? You taught me Comics man!

janie 11:54 AM  

only mcewan i've read is saturday. one helluva (recommended) day-in-the-life read.



Anonymous 11:58 AM  

An RT is a right tackle (as opposed to left, not correct). RTS is common crosswordese and that's why I liked this puzzle, it added fresh spin on what usually is boring fill. Still, I forgot the theme and couldn't understand what ALPINE SKITS were. Only after I hesitantly put it in, did I realize I forgot to take out the T, as well.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that Rex does understand 180 symmetrical rotation, but the grid does "look" odd.

bluecloud 12:12 PM  

No, no, no! Alpine SKIRTS. Like St. Pauli Girl wears. Not ski routes.

Anonymous 12:16 PM  

Basically a great puzzle, my only problem was the BROOK running through the SW corner. Maybe 10 years of crosswords isn't long enough to have seen it all, as many of you seem to have even enjoyed this one...

eliselzer 12:29 PM  

Long time reader, first time poster.

I wasn't really down with BROOK, either. I've just never heard it used in the "Put Up With" sense. I accept it, it just gave me trouble.

I also had and issue with "Geog. feature" being MTS. I had MTN for a long time, assuming if it was MTS the clue would have read "Geog. features".

Still, really enjoyed this one.

Anonymous 12:51 PM  

Re: Norm's math class-would it have been called "Group Theory"? That's what we chemists (at least the subset including spectroscopists and crystallographers) took. A very popular and fun class for all the nerds among us (I include myself).

Re:skis-telemarkers use Nordic skis at downhill ski resorts, just to make things even more confusing than they already are. It's really a beautiful thing to see a good telemarker. Boy, does it take strong quad muscles, and I have the scars to prove that mine aren't strong enough...

Doc John 1:29 PM  

I liked this puzzle- Wednesday hard and some interesting fill. I even knew what a dirndl was this time (still didn't help me get the whole answer). I finished the whole thing and didn't realize until coming here that all the theme answers also worked without the RT in them, which is good because I thought it was a lot of work just for RT.

Had the M in the "wild and crazy" clue and was considering "Martin or Aykroyd" for the fill. I think the clue could be better served by "in an" in place of "on the". And yes, Lorne Michaels still runs the show.

"Rockaria!"- a great song off of ELO's "A New World Record". (And a nice tie-in with the opera clue on the other side.)

I do agree with poster Eli Selzer about the MTS answer but I guess upon review it does fit. Mountains (in the plural) are, indeed, a geographic feature.

Of course I can't let any roller coaster tie-in go unnoticed. Santa CRUZ has a great old woodie; one of the last seaside coasters in the US. (Another being right here in San Diego.)

Finally, my fave clue/answer: Polo name = MARCO. Just a fun cluing. Am I the only one who, when shopping with a friend and need to find them in the aisles, shouts "Marco!"?

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

Stretching back to Intro to Psychology for THANATOS -- I think Freud was sort of fond of this guy. And I recall something about the PAULI Exclusion Principle. I want to add de Broglie to the quantum mechanics Hall of Fame; probably a few others who belong too.

It did take a while to see the theme connection -- actually reading the indicating clue does help to make it clear.

Glad to see a shout out for Santa CRUZ. The banana slugs are not going to be happy here for the next few days with an unusual heat wave settling in.

Jesus ALOU neglected again. This time Matty gets ignored as well.

Rex Parker 1:42 PM  

I can't believe how many times people today have written privately (and now publicly) to say that the "real" answer is ALPINE SKIRTS not ALPINE SKIS ... I don't even know how to begin to respond to that.


ps @eliselzer, nice Simpsons avatar!

opustwotoo 2:22 PM  

Re which physicists are famous....

I think I read a book once about Heisenberg, but I'm uncertain.

Anonymous 2:31 PM  

It is a bonus after reviewing the blog this morning to come back and read the comments and see two of my favorite authors mentioned, Jasper Fforde and the amazing Terry Pratchett - Terry is supposed to be the second most popular author in the UK (after JK Rowling) and the author most likely to be shoplifted :-).

dk 2:37 PM  

@Rex, on the skis/skirts issue tell then to schuss-up.

@Doc John, now I am thinking of the worlds most annoying game to play in a pool: Marco Polo.

Back to work.

dk 2:39 PM  

actually, tell them to...

crikey, I cannot work and blog at the same time.

Anonymous 3:45 PM  

@DocJohn - For the love of God, I hope so!

Barbara Bolsen 4:09 PM  

dk, me neither. So I guess I'm not working.

For all who wanted RALPH or the misspelled LOREN in response to the Marco clue, I was thinking about the fashionistas who frequently appear in the puzzle. There's Kenneth (COLE) and ocasionally Calvin (KLEIN), Christian (DIOR) and occasionally KATE (Spade) or sometimes Kate (SPADE). ESTEE (Lauder) seems to be fading. But what about MANOLO? I don't think I've ever seen Mr. Blahnik's name in the puzzle, despite its plethora of vowels and potential for great cluing (clueing?).

Joon 4:33 PM  

loved this puzzle! great fill, great clues, excellent theme. i also solved it in wednesday-record time, although after i saw 3D i had a twinge that there was going to be some sort of self-referential theme. not today. some great longish fill in this puzzle: CARDROOM, THANATOS, CATSEYE, ONAWHIM, GLIMPSE (love that word). it's a very impressive piece of construction.

i can't believe nobody has mentioned niels bohr yet in the discussion of quantum pioneers. way more important than de broglie, and right up there with heisenberg and schrodinger. as for pauli, yeah, he's important, but he's also got a lot going for him that isn't explicitly just quantum mechanics. for example, he theorized the existence of the neutrino to explain the missing energy and momentum in beta decays. that turned out to be huge. i'd put pauli on a level with fermi and dirac and born--very important, but not in the Big Three of quantum mechanics. still, he's one of the 10 or so greatest 20th-century physicists--not bad.

somewhat strangely, i filled in WBA for [Pugilist's org.] and then didn't check the crosses when i got to santa ARUZ. that was dumb, especially since i know WBA isn't one of the big boxing organizations (WBC and WBF). santa FRUZ would probably have made me think twice; i'm not sure why santa ARUZ didn't. i must've had west bromwich albion on the brain.

Unknown 4:52 PM  

@ joon

Are you fan of The Baggies?

mac 4:55 PM  

My favorite word of the day wasn't even in the puzzle, it was in Rex's blog: scattershot. Never heard it before but I love it.

As so often I didn't notice the theme until I got 71A through the crosses. I had an easy time today, with only slight hesitations, like Ralph/Marco, diva/star, and I liked brook, glimpse, queeg sheaf and toggle (I use these a lot in jewelry making, it is also a clasp). I learned thanatos in Greek class in Highschool, and it is one of those words that you come upon quite a bit.

@Ulrich, didn't you think of St. Pauli Girl, as well? Funny how she does wear a dirndl, although she is from (non-Alpine) Hamburg.

@vlad the recarver: I completely agree with you. I have read all McEwan's books, like them a lot but found "On Chesil Beach" disappointing.

P.S. How old is Doug Peterson?

Bill from NJ 5:13 PM  

I had more than a little trouble with this one. Every time I thought I was making headway, I would run into a roadblock. In the NE, I didn't know 16A and had INNIE at 11D which kept me from getting the first theme answer. In the North, 7D CATSEYE escaped me and I didn't have 28D PEPS which prevented me from getting the second theme answer.

The whole northern part was sketchy at best and it didn't help that I had DIPOLE at 26D which completely screwed up the Midlands. So I went to bed.

This morning my clearer eyes helped me gradually get the problems straightened out. I got the pillars of the South THANATOS OPERASTAR and spread out from there and the last two theme answers did not present any problems for me.

It its funny, though, that I had more trouble with the easiest part of the puzzle than I had with the relatively more difficult section

miriam b 5:27 PM  

Yay for Margaret Atwood,who IMHO can do no wrong! CAT'S EYE is a great book.

GLINKA's A Life for the Czar was known as Ivan Susanin during the Soviet era. Good listening, whichever.

My second favorite Russian opera is Pique Dame. It has everything -gambling, a ghost, suicide, sex and violence, Pushkin and Tchaikowsky. The favorite: Evgenii Onegin, especially when performed by the incomparable team of Fleming and Hvorostovsky.

One of my (well, my cats') veterinarians is a nice young man named Dr. Glinka. On our first meeting, I startled him slightly with the query, "Any relation to the composer?" He said that his mother was tryng to track down any possible connection.

I've observed that it's often the women in a family who delve into genealogies, even when they're related only by marriage to the subject of the research. A relative of my late husband's compiled am exhaustive, and no doubt exhausting, book tracing the family back to the English farmer who came to Massachusetts in the 1600's. This woman is a distant cousin - by marriage. I used to refer to my husband as an Early American, as distinct from my own parvenu status as a person whose American roots are still shallow, having been in the soil for only 100 years.

Some of my own relatives - mostly men, in this case - have been assiduously digging into my mother's mother's family history. This has involved some serious efforts by people sufficiently well-heeled to make a trip from Melbourne, Australia to Panevezys, Lithuania, just to check out the old stamping grounds. Even as I write this, I'm feeling guilty over the fact that I owe a second cousin some info I've accumulated.

To atone for having gone wildly off-topic, let me add that I thought of Ralph too and had to ignore that part of the very nice puzzle until MARCO percolated up.

imsdave1 5:32 PM  

QUEEG is a great clue, maybe Bogarts best role. Loved seeing GLINKA - truly the father of Russian music and the inspiration for 'The Five' (Cui, Borodin, Balakirev, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov - sp?). Super Wednesday, made me work a little, and fair.

Anonymous 5:51 PM  

This puzzle was amazing! One of my favorite things to do is to listen to ELO in my undies and pretend I am a pin-up. Was this puzzle made for me? GOOOOOOOOOOOO REEEEEEEXXXXXX!!!!!

Ulrich 5:56 PM  

@mac: Why a girl from Hamburg (St. Pauli, no less--for those not familiar with that city, St. Pauli has the Reeperbahn, a red light district that used to be legendary with sailors) would wear a dirndl is one of the mysteries of the universe I probably will never be able to solve.

Anonymous 6:12 PM  

I wrote in FREQUENTFLINGER with such confidence and then NG (nose guard on defense) as the theme that I got all flustered with the theme clues. It was kind of funny how extreme my answer was after I figured out the FLIRTER.

Joon 6:20 PM  


no, not really. liverpool for me. i'm not a scouser, i've never lived in england, and i have no particular connection to any city, but there you have it. i do have a major mancrush on steven gerrard, but that's an effect of my liverpool fandom, not a cause.

still, i've always liked the name west bromwich albion and am excited that they'll be back in the premiership next year, as it will give me more opportunities to say "west bromwich albion." maybe they can make it stick this time. they certainly had a hell of a year in the championship.

jae 6:40 PM  

Did this quickly and didn't really get the whole theme until reading Rex which greatly improved my opinion of the puzzle, although I liked yesterday's better. My only hang up was holding on the SCORN for way too long.

Guess I should start keeping a list of famous physicists.

Anonymous 7:31 PM  

Was I the only one who wanted "non-PC purchase" to be porn? Probably. Can you get that into your puzzle Rex?

Anonymous 7:35 PM  

Freud called the sex drive Eros. He didn't name the agressive drive but some of his followers wanted Thanatos.

Anonymous 7:49 PM  

Talk about something sensuous, I forgot to mention that, early on, I wanted the answer for "Certain marble" coming down from MARCO and SHEAF to be Carrera -- the beautiful white marble from Italy beloved of sculptors through the ages. It fit with "H" being ETA, but nothing else... I wasn't too disappointed when it became the evocative CATSEYE instead, but I predict that one day we'll see a clue such as "Michelangelo's Pietà medium" or "choice stone for carving"?


Doc John 8:19 PM  

@ artlvr- Or for recarving? ;)

Ulrich 8:19 PM  

@artlvr: I predict that we'll see "choice Porsche" first:-)

Anonymous 8:27 PM  

geez louise quite an uproar over articles today. maybe its the football theme, but im less than inspired by this puzzle... maybe ill quit on a whim.

Orange 9:02 PM  

Mac: I met Doug Peterson at the ACPT. I'd say he's...somewhere between 35 and 55. Here's a picture.

mac 9:19 PM  

Thank you so much, Orange, I'm happy to see he is not 15......

Anonymous 9:50 PM  

I thought that in psychological terms the Thanatos persuasion was not so an much aggressive urge but a peculiar neurotic wish for self-annihilation. Perhaps someone in the profession could clarify this issue?

Anonymous 10:17 PM  

The aggressive drive, seeking destruction, is equivalent to the death instinct, quoth Freud.
I don't agree with this, FWIW.

Anonymous 10:20 PM  

@ Doc John -- recarving too! Knew someone would pick up on that!

@Ulrich -- please forwarn me, what would a choice Porsche be? Can one be fore-armed?

@Fergus -- I was trying to think of the name British group advising those with terminal illness on how to end their lives with least pain and difficulty, but I don't think it was Thanatos, or Morpheus either... Their literature was hard to find in the US, maybe banned.

JannieB 10:24 PM  

@artlvr, do you mean the Hemlock Society?

And the Porsche model is the Carrera. But I'm betting that would be clued something like "actress tia"

mac 10:27 PM  

The Porsche is called Carrera.

Is the British group called the Hemlock Society? That's an international group helping people to commit suicide, as supposed to having euthanasia performed by medical doctors.

mac 10:29 PM  

jannieb, I guess we're on the same page!

JannieB 10:34 PM  

@mac - great minds....

Doc John 11:12 PM  

Tia spells her name with an E at the end. But there is Bond girl Barbara Carrera.

Anonymous 11:35 PM  

Thanks, all -- it was the Hemlock Society. Never did get hold of that, when my mother was interested. Fortunately she was able to spend her last weeks in an excellent hospice in '89, both fully alert and pain-free.

However, when we later were cleaning out her condo, we found a nightmarish secret stash of various medications she'd collected over the years "just in case". Some were from the 1940's and 1950's, most with no label clues except "Mr. C -- take four times a day", etc. She always had tremendous courage, but did like to feel in control as much as possible! Belated Mother's Day salute.....


miriam b 11:49 PM  

But isn't the marble spelled carrara?

Anonymous 3:41 AM  

When my name was still Eisenberg I went to a college Halloween party with a big question mark on my chest and tried to change every situation I came upon and when asked what I was, i responded "I'm the Eisenberg Uncertainty Principle!"
No one knew what the hell I was talking about and that was my first and last brush with physics...

"Linus Pauling called and wants the first part of his name back!"
hee hee crack me up, even after all these years... (I mean weeks)

Anonymous 7:38 AM  

@Fergus...Thanatos is the Greek word for death, the root of our English word euTHANasia, a good death.

miriam b 8:16 AM  

@ andrea carla michaels:

I can relate to the experience described in your post. The topic of discussion at a long-ago party turned to optimal ways of dressing for outside activities in cold weather. I said, "My husband has lots of experience with this. He was with the British Thermal Unit during the war, you know." No one got it, but everybody seemed duly impressed.

A character in a novel - wish I could remember which one - by the incomparable Peter DeVries goes to a party armed with a bon mot which he plans to use when the opportunity presents itself. After a while it becomes clear that this is just not going to happen, and the man is so devastated by the loss of the chance to make his reputatipn as a wit that he leaves the party, slinking home in a black nood.

Anonymous 8:48 PM  

I knew of thanatopsis from high school English class, but it is cemented in my head by a later game of hangman in which NONE of the common letters were found in the answer, until I figured out that the word was thanatopsis using greek letters. What a couple of nerds.

Anonymous 1:41 PM  

I am on the 6 week delay for the nyt crossword puzzle, so this post will probably not be seen. My eyes have trouble with rn's (RN) in some font. I see them as m's (M). I took dirndl as dimdl and in google got 791 hits and I saw the key word 'skirt'. I knew I was on the right track then.

Anonymous 4:05 PM  

Although I managed to complete this puzzle, including "rts", which seemed to fit, but I had no idea what it meant, so thanks for the explanation, I did not pick up on the RT, due to dodgy eye sight, just did a simple solve. Does anyone know of a book so that I can educate myself, or, even better, a way of identifying the theme in a puzzle such as this? I would be really grateful for some advice.

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