Saturday, July 5, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Ah, finally, I feel like the puzzle world has returned to normal. Every puzzle this week has felt off, difficulty-wise, but this one felt just right. Tough but fair. Lots of stuff I didn't know, but all of it gettable. Nice. Also, very Scrabbly, as I expect (and like) from Ms. Tracey.

This morning is my last chance to spend time with my sister and her family before they leave, so this puzzle gets less time than it deserves. Sorry. Ultra-brief recap: The NW was wicked and I did it last. I've probably seen NOVI SAD (19A: Serbian provincial capital on the Danube) before, but if I have, it sure eluded me last night. The nuttiest answer in the puzzle is of course JERBOA (44D: Leaping desert rodent). Needed every single cross for that one. Man, they are scary/ugly-lookin' things. My first answer is the grid, oddly, was START (10D: Possible result of a gunshot) - my brain said "WOUND ... no, that's too easy ... what else do gunshots do? ... START a race?" I then wrote in two wrong answers that were right enough for me to get the traction I needed: STOP (for STEM - 10A: Staunch) and TOMIO (for TONIO - 11D: Fool in "Pagliacci"). Most frustrating moment was not remembering the first word in GALAXY QUEST (24A: 1999 comedy featuring aliens called Thermians). I had QUEST and though I could name at least two members of the cast of the movie, I couldn't remember its name. Oh, and my one flat-out guess was the "B" in SABER SAW (45A: Portable power tool) and BEAME (47D: 1970s Big Apple mayor). I don't know anything about tools, and my knowledge of NYC mayors goes back only as far as Koch (though I'm aware of other, earlier ones, like Fiorello La Guardia).

The placement of UP AND AT 'EM (54A: Morning cry) over SEMI-ERECT (57A: Less than upstanding) is pure beautiful, evil genius.

OK, let's do this list. Divided today into "!?!?!", "hmmm," and "EZ"


  • 34A: Pope during the reign of Charlemagne (Adrian I) - Yo, Adrian, I can't be expected to keep track of your papacy.
  • 39A: Hua succeeded him (Zhou) - this clue reminds me, unpleasantly, of Pacino in "Scent of a Woman": "Hua!"
  • 5D: Domestic breed of chicken (sussex) - I know that word, but not in its chicken-related sense
  • 48D: Keebler's chief elf (Ernie) - I know the Keebler commercials well, but I'm just glad that by the time I actually saw this clue, 60-80% of the answer was already filled in


  • 1A: Spanish conjugation part (estas) - no idea what the clue was going for with "conjugation part"
  • 15A: Opal alternative (moonstone) - guess based on a the sequence of letters I had in the middle of the word
  • 17A: Lemony Snicket's count and one of Snoopy's brothers (Olafs) - in the pop culture confusion, I failed to note (for a while) that the answer was a plural
  • 28A: Zimbalist's violin teacher (Auer) - Leopold (not Mischa)
  • 29A: One of the Obama girls (Sasha) - they are rather adorable, those girls. Not sure how I remembered the name SASHA. Had to change that first letter from a "Z" to an "S" (SHIATZU seemed a reasonable spelling - 16D: Acupuncture alternative)
  • 51A: Earlike organ (auricle) - stumped me. I feel like it's stumped me before. The "AUR-" part helped a lot here.
  • 56A: Puffy hat wearer (baker) - for a while, the only answer I wanted (for reasons even I don't understand) was FAKIR.
  • 58A: A stroke might indicated it (one a.m.) - first thought the stroke was a pen stroke, then got that it was time but ... AM or PM?
  • 60A: Shared bath accommodations, briefly (SROs) - Single-room occupancies (a term I learned ... from crosswords)
  • 1D: Monopoly subj. (econ.) - thought "Monopoly" referred to the game ... or does it?
  • 7D: City near Ben-Gurion airport (Lod) - I know this, but for some reason a series of nonsensical and vaguely Hebrew letter combos kept flooding my head: TOV? LEV? etc.
  • 20D: Nordic (Aryan) - wanted POLAR :(
  • 25D: 2000 musical that won four Emmys ("Aida") - wanted ABBA :( (that's "Mamma Mia") [this clue appears to be in error (should read "TONYS"?), but please don't write me or anyone else an angry letter yet - just wait: an explanation is forthcoming, I'm sure]
  • 43D: Honors for top scorers? (Oscars) - as in "Best Score"
  • 27A: "Glengarry Glen Ross" Tony winner Schreiber (Liev) - knew it, but ... had temporary spelling issues
  • 52D: "A Book of Nonsense" author, 1846 (Lear) - OK, so ONE A.M. - gotcha


  • 18A: Supposed tools of the devil (idle hands) - wish I'd seen this clue first
  • 42A: Duo first seen in "Puss Gets the Boot," 1940 (Tom and Jerry) - in case you missed the "Tom and Jerry" cartoon I posted yesterday (weird coincidence), here's another:

  • 21A: Supermarket suppliers (dairies) - OK, I needed a couple crosses, but still, this came quickly. Our local newspaper recently featured a discussion forum on its website: "What is your family doing to deal with the SKYROCKETing cost of milk?" (31D: Zoom) My thoughts, in order: first - it's SKYROCKETing? more than other products? and second - you could stop drinking it? I mean, how many answers are there to that question? "We started stealing it - so far, so good."
  • 22A: Pulitzer-winning critic Richard (Eder) - crosswordese, by now
  • 41A: "Morning Dance" band Spyro _____ (Gyra) - why I know this band's name I have NO idea
  • 49A: Much-repeated part of binary code (zero) - I could, of course, think only of this:

  • 37D: Invasive Japanese import (kudzu) - lots of Scrabbly power for one little word
  • 46D: Rhone-_____ (French region) (Alpes) - OK, not exactly EZ, but I had the "LP" in place already when I saw the clue, so I got it quickly.

I'm off to enjoy my crazy nephews.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


alanrichard 9:12 AM  

This was one challenging puzzle. I bought the paper at eight and just finished at nine. Ender AND MESSY AND IDLE HANDS came easy. Estas opened up travelers and masts and olafs. I actually knew Tom and Jerry. My mom said watching cartoons alot when I was a kid was a waste but now it paid off!! I got more contexturally. The powers tool was some kind of saw and that gave me Oscars. Thankfully Lindsay and Koch and Dinkins didn't fit - so I got Beame, which gave me the entire SW. Anyways this was a challenging puzzle and, like you, I'm glad Monday didn't resurface again on saturday.

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

The duckling pulling an anvil is amusing...

Doris 9:37 AM  

Re 25D: AIDA, the Broadway musical, won five Tonys, NOT four Emmys. As far as I know, this show (which I purposely did not see because Verdi HAS to be better) was not presented on TV. Or was it? It's not on any list of Emmys. It also won a Grammy for best original Broadway cast album that year.

Whew! Finally vindicated on Mischa/Leopold Auer. I carry grudges forever. Did Will & Co. ever apologize for this? It was a while ago, but not long enough ago.

Dan 9:37 AM  

25D: 2000 musical that won four Emmys ("Aida")

This tripped me up a little while solving... EMMYS?? Broadway musicals win TONYS, and "Aida" won four. That may be the most egregious error I've ever seen in the puzzle...

Orange 10:08 AM  

According to IMDb, AIDA was on TV in December 1989 (as part of "Live from the Metropolitan Opera"), starring Placido Domingo and Aprile Millo. It won a 1990 Emmy for Outstanding Classical Program in the Performing Arts. The Broadway version won five Tonys, according to IBDB.

Five minus one equals the clue is mathematically correct if you change the award name to the Tommy or Enny. Right?

Doris 10:16 AM  

Yeah, but the "real" AIDA is an 1871 musical, not a 2000 musical. The fact-checkers have let Will S. down.

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

AIDA Need a proof reader anyone? Typographical error? Misspelling? Good idea for a puzzle.

/Philly on vacances

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

I found this one really challenging. I had MALIA instead of SASHA for a long time. (That's the youngest person to be clued in the NYT in a while, I think.) I finally got down to the crossings of SUSSEX/NOVISAD and JERBOA/ASTRA, and guessed wrong on the first and right on the second. That was one weird way to clue SUSSEX.

Very fun.

Leon 10:21 AM  

Perhaps SCUSI is what is needed.

Real nice puzzle Ms. Tracey.

IMDB lists four Tony wins (one shared) and one nomination which did not win.

Rex Parker 10:27 AM  

RE: "AIDA" - I doubt it's a fact-checker issue. Let's wait for the explanation before we start tsktsking and moaning and "well I Never"-ing. It's a mistake (or so it seems). It's astonishingly obvious, as mistakes go, so it's hard for me to believe it's WS's fault. I have a theory that it's a type-setting / final proof-reading issue. You may have noticed (if you read my write-ups when they first go up) that I occasionally type a completely wrong word in a clue or answer even though I have the right clues / answers right in front of me. I can easily, EASILY, see a typist looking at "Tony" and writing "Emmy." In fact, the first letter I hit just now when attempting to type "Tony" was "E" - just thinking about "Emmy" made me screw up.


Pythia 10:38 AM  

Perhaps the AIDA clue was left over from the Lies puzzle? It did slow me down.

Some fun stuff, but, on the whole, I found this kind of dull. A scattering of Scrabbly letters isn't always enough.

Best part was UP AND AT EM supported by SEMIERECT. SKYROCKET fits the minitheme, yes? GALAXY QUEST, si si! A fun, if stupid, film.

Learned the term bitter-ender.

Too many names, including two plural names, OLAFS and ONEALS, and Pope ADRIAN I = ugh.

Fave clue was "Honors for top scorers" for OSCARS.

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

Well, be careful what you ask for. I wanted difficult and got it. But, of course, loved it. The NW corner did me in. Was watching Wimbledon and got 3 Down: Travelers from a commerical than ran. Since I had "Taskmaster" instead of "Quizmaster" "Galaxy Quest" took forever. In the end, a really solid Saturday puzzle.

Shamik 11:07 AM  

Sorry everyone. I felt like the days were off and it was a Thursday difficulty. No googles.

When we first saw "Galaxy Quest," we were laughing so hard that our daughter came in to see what was so funny. She's too young. She didn't get it.

Oh well, I'm off to see the bank robbery reenactment.

Per yesterday:
@chefbea: Grew up off of Eden Rd. between Newfield Ave. and Hope St. And yes, it is so beautiful there. And so expensive to live there now.

@mac: I'll be at YOUR house next 4th of July. Dinner sounds great. We were living in the Phoenix, AZ area and retired from real estate to go full-timing in the motor home. Now we're in Meeker, CO 'til mid-November. Husband is working as a wrangler for an outfitter...guiding people on horseback into the wilderness to fish and hunt. Physically demanding job, but he is so NOT stressed.

Unknown 11:12 AM  

Just what I wanted, a real Saturday puzzle that would give me an hour of fun -- AND include KUDZU! When I finally turned to Google for the desert rodent, there was Rex, ahead of everyone; so all's right with the cross-world.

JannieB 11:30 AM  

Very nice pangram. And the day/difficulty equilibrium has finally been restored. Liev, Idle hands, and Tom and Jerry gave me some much needed traction. New names included Sasha, Olaf, and Auer (which I'd forgotten from the discussion of a few months ago). Not crazy about skulked for stole, but it works. SROS was the only true WTF for me. NW was the last quadrant to fall. Nice misdirection with Monopoly, and no idea where the Spanish conjugation was going.

Hope you all had a fabulous fourth.

Anonymous 12:10 PM  

That's my favorite Conchords song/video, and the binary solo flashed through my mind, too. Thanks Rex.
- Tom in Pittsburgh

Anonymous 12:15 PM  

Even google couldn't help with the pope clue. I found Hadrian I, but none of the links I saw could offer ADRIANI. St. Paul I fit, but not with any of the crosses I had. Only Rex could save me today. Which is pretty typical for a Sat.

Blanche 12:18 PM  

This isn't a theme? MOONstone, GALAXY, ASTRA, ASTRide, SOLo, SOLdiers on, STARt, SKYrocket. Or am I just trying too hard to find one?

George NYC 12:55 PM  

Agree with Rex re Aida clue. I myself read right through it. The mistake is exacerbated by the fact that ABBA seems the obvious answer.

George NYC 1:02 PM  

Not sure what to make of Rex's comment re "semi-erect" and "up and at em." Too much information?

Anonymous 1:33 PM  

Yes, finally we're in the right day of the week. Curiously I did recognize 18A:NOVISAD, the setting for at least one famous chess tournament, and 44D:JERBOA, from having sung Irving Fine's setting of David McCord's poem of this name (look for the word in this program; it's cognate with the Hebrew word Yarboa for the same animal) -- though naturally I needed some crosses from each word to get 10D:STARTed. No crosses needed for 7D:LOD, an airport I've gone through many times (Rex's alternatives TOV and LEV are perfectly good Hebrew words but not for this clue). Had no idea about 22A:EDER (tried Richard DYER, the Boston-area music critic) and 27A:LIEV (looks like YAPope -- no, that's LEOV). For 26D I had ...ZMA...., and was wondering how RAZZMATAZZ would fit the clue, until the U from 28A:AUER forced me to try something else.

1A:ESTAS is indeed part of a conjugation one learns in beginning Spanish, estoy/estás/está, as one learns amo/amas/amat in Latin. Not sure I believe 54A:UPANDATEM -- if we use the colloquial spelling 'EM for "them", shouldn't it be "up'n'at'em"? Still onlly a minor blemish, if it is a blemish at all...


Doug 1:51 PM  

As usual I was clobbered by Saturday. I actually got most of the NW after stumbling with RENT and not ECON. OLAF was in the puzzle not long ago? The rest, I'd rather not speak.

Typical misstep was CLOWN not TONIO because the only thing I know about Pagliacci is from the briliant Seinfeld episode when they all have tickets to the opera that evening. Elaine (Nedda) discovers her psycho boyfriend (Tonio) has plastered his walls with her picture, and leaves him. He is also Jerry's (Canio) arch enemy from the comedy circuit and plots revenge on them both by accosting them at the opera. He pumps iron while crying to a Pagliacci recording and dresses in a clown disguise. Now a clown, he is attacked by a gang in Central Park and tears them apart! He runs into Kramer, who has a childhood fear of clowns! And so on...I have to say I like prime time TV more than the opera. I'm ready for the darts...

Maineman 2:29 PM  

Adrian I - the answer to 34A "Pope during the reign of Charlemagne" -is an error. Adrian I was Pope from 772 to 795, and Charlemagne ruled from 800 to 814. The only Pope during his reign was St. Leo III. The clue should have been "Pope prior to Charlemagne's reign" - or during his lifetime (742-814).

mac 2:35 PM  

Good to see a Saturday puzzle on a Saturday. I ended in the NE, had a lot of problems there: bitter-ender???, dilatory and idle hands. Kept bitter-sweet in far too long, and had "fast", then "firm" instead of stem. Lots of erasing.
I also had fakir instead of baker for a moment, and taskmaster for 26D. For the bird I had Russet (I know, that's a potato), and I never saw Galaxy Quest.

By the way, enjoyed the cartoon, hadn't seen an old one like that for a long time and forgot how much fun they are.
SROs stumped me, I thought that stood for Standing Room Only!

@shamik: what an adventure! Great to be able to do that.

archaeoprof 2:51 PM  

This puzzle beat me up big time.

@Rex: good advice -- we should wait and see about the cluing mistake.

Tomorrow I leave for this year's dig season, so no puzzles for me for the next six weeks. See you all when I get back.

chefbea 3:56 PM  

most difficult puzzle I have ever tried to do and could not finnish it til I came here for help.But it's good to be back in the crossword swing of things. Looking forward to tomorrow. Sunday puzzle is always fun

dk 4:20 PM  

Had Abba for AIDA and guessed at the ra in ASTRA.

Spiro GYRA represents 3-4 CDs in my attic as I made the mistake of telling an cousin I like jazz and did not specify what I meant by jazz and then every Xmas and B-Day brought forth Kenny G and Spiro G.

Lame comment section>

UPANDATEM over SEMIERECT is a Viagra ad if I am not mistaken,

Isn't Dick Channy a JERBOA by birth?

And, I am sure AURICLE is a wise person from Delphi.

A tough and fun puzzle. Left overs today and more Croquet. I will have to get the stain out of my white suit however.

ArtLvr 5:02 PM  

Well, back to AIDA, the original Verdi opera does not receive Tony Awards, no matter how often it is performed at the Met or elsewhere! The original 2000 musical of the same name was an Elton John/Tim Rice creation, directed by my son-in-law Robert Falls, and it received five 2000 Tony Award nominations -- winning four.

Broadway productions can receive other awards besides Tonys, but not Emmys. The year before, in 1999, Bob's production of Death of a Salesman won four 1999 Tony Awards, including Best Direction of a Play and Best Revival of a Play, as well as four 1999 Joseph Jefferson Awards, including Best Direction of a Play and Best Production of a Play.

His Broadway production of Long Day's Journey Into Night received three 2003 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Play, and three 2003 Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding Director of a Play and Outstanding Revival of a Play.

So yes, we were disappointed that AIDA didn't garner more Tony nominations in 2000, especially since Bob had taken over direction of the musical after other directors had not been successful with it. Bob's reworked production was a major hit though -- playing on Broadway for five years and followed by several popular touring companies' versions throughout the US, Europe and Japan.

Hope that helps clear up the confusion....


chefbea 5:32 PM  

@artlvr - Bravo to your son-in-law Bob. and thanks for clearing up the confusion

poc 6:11 PM  

Did no-one else think 23D DUE (for "Exactly") was suspect? I still don't get it.

I also thought ARYAN for Nordic was pretty iffy. The original Aryans had nothing to do with Scandinavia.

@Maineman: Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768, before he became Emperor in 800, and did overlap with Adrian (or Hadrian). It seems they were good friends.

Joon 6:31 PM  

i had the same problem with the ADRIANI clue, wanting only LEOIII. but i suppose charlemagne "reigned" as king of the franks before he was HRE, so it's okay. just ... tough. awfully tough. much like the rest of this puzzle. wow.

mac 6:43 PM  

@patrick: I also thought "due" was a little off, but I think its use in for instance "due South" clears it. Nordicism developed in the early 20th century at the same time that Aryanism got a more racist connotation, and had a lot of the same traits contributed to it.
We've been nibbling on leftovers all day, Chinese for dinner though!

Bill from NJ 6:49 PM  

GALAXYQUEST was my first answer. I got all of the West Coast and moved into the NW. I had the same Wimbledon/TRAVELERS moment as others had. I got the NW by way of OLAFS SUSSEX AFFIDAVIT and guessed at ESTAS.

I had remarkably few guesses but they were all correct. I was particularly proud of DILATORY and MOONSTONE which broke open the entire puzzle for me. I ended in the SW because of a mistake at UPANDATIT. The AURICLE/AMTS cross was my last entry. I had all the names and actually own a SABERSAW!

I spent a pleasurable hour on this one and my faith is restored in Will Shortz. The planets are back in alignment.

ArtLvr 7:37 PM  

@ chefbea -- thanks! A more recent big one for Bob was King LEAR with Stacy Keach in the title role, which opened in Chicago and then moved to DC. We're hoping it will get to B'way next year!

And kudos to bill from nj and all those who did today's puzzle without help... I was able to enter a few answers like LEAR and IDLE HANDS, then persevered by looking up some unknowns before all finally fell into place. I enjoyed learning new words, though where I can use JERBOA (or even a SUSSEX chicken) is a good question!


foodie 8:19 PM  

Well, I did not shine on this one, to put it charitably.. And I had spent the last few days, while driving across country searching for the NY Times, so I can do the puzzle (I know could do it on line, but I don't usually). This became a quest and an adventure, and between Wyoming and Illinois it led us off the main highway for brief forays into various towns, or whenever we saw a Starbucks sign (they're often in Safeways and such). In a couple of places, I asked for the NY Times and I got a blank stare, and once: "Is this a paper? What would we want with a NY paper?" Finally got home to Michigan today and here it was waiting! Sadly, without googling, I'd be nowhere near completing it.

But it's great to be back and hear from this group! And now that I'm back on Eastern time after 6 mo out west, I can at least get going a bit earlier...

@ Chef Bea, Welcome Back.

@ Mac, we're having a belated 4th of July celebration tomorrow, so I'm going to check back and see what you came up with!

Bill from NJ 9:08 PM  


I have come to the conclusion that if I am ever going to be able to compete in the ACPT, I had better get used to doing the puzzle without help. I use Google only after the fact to cement whatever I can glean in my mind.
I plan to compete next year (health permitting) and at 61 years old, I'm running out of time.

Besides, I really want to meet the incredible folks that comment here!

miriam b 9:17 PM  

I think I once saw a JERBOA on the J page of a kid's alphabet book.

I'd heard of SPIROGYRA, but wondered why they named themselves after an alga.

Recalling another Japanese invasion, I tried in vain to squeeze BEETLE into the space allotted to KUDZU.

I had NOVYSAD (New Garden) until common sense dictated that the Y should be an I. I suppose I could fuss over the issue of transliteration, but I don't know what the conventions are when dealing with the Serbian variation of Cyrillic.

Leopold AUER, at last.

Doc John 9:44 PM  

This is Tuesday and nobody will read this but... this puzzle killed me!
The SE and NW in particular. Guessed the A in JERBOA and google-checked it.
Forgot to fill in the D in DUE
Missed the H in ZHOU (had an I). Why do they yell HAW? Guess I should have guessed the H, though.
NW- totally missed SUSSEX- got the EX right and that was it!
Worst performance in a puzzle in a LONG time!

quidnunc108 12:14 PM  

Lawsy! Drank too much wine last night, and entered estar instead of estas. Which left me with something like rufsex for the chicken breed. Where is my mind today???

Anonymous 3:24 PM  


You didn't mention whether Will Shortz had either explained or apologized for the cluing of AIDA as an Emmy winner. However, here in (now) 5-week-later land, the clue was written as "2000 musical that won four Tonys".


Anonymous 3:49 PM  

As another 5 week after sort -- the "Emmys" didn't get changed to "Tonys" in St. Louis. Of course it didn't make a difference one way or the other to me as I never heard of the musical. Actually with is puzzle I can say that I have heard of very little. I believe the only answer I got prior to extensive googling, etc. was "idle hands".

blatant_beast 5:52 PM  

Thanks to six months of following Rex's play-by-play on the NYT crossword, I've gone from struggling through a Monday puzzle to coming just shy of untangling the Saturday on a regular basis. Reading this blog and all the commentary represent one of the highlights of my day! :)

Anonymous 2:19 AM  

Here in Honolulu it is still Emmys.
I also enjoy this blog.

thefogman 5:09 PM  

Voice of the Future here again aka The Fogman July 9, 2020. Quarantinewhile, the SUSSEX is a domestic chicken, but only in the U.K. - not in the U.S. What a dreadful pity!

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