Monday, July 14, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

So Rex is on his way to New Zealand and you're stuck with me, PuzzleGirl, for the next couple days. Wade and SethG will also be filling in and, I tell you what, we were emailing each other like crazy all day yesterday.

At first we were all "This is nerve-wracking." "Rex has a huge following, what if we hose it up?" "What the hell was Rex thinking giving us authority over CrossWorld?" But then we started to get used to the idea. Ya know, "We're college-educated -- certainly we can think of something interesting to say!" "We're smart enough to find funny photos tangentially related to something in the puzzle!" "We know how to post YouTube videos!!!" (Well, that was just Seth and me. Wade is … technologically challenged.) So we're feeling pretty good about ourselves right now and I'm going to go ahead and get this thing rolling. Oh s%*t. It's a boring puzzle. Maybe that's a little harsh. There's nothing really Wrong with the puzzle, it just … well, nothing really jumped out at me as remarkable. And yet, I'm going to remark on it anyway….

THEME: Wetlands -- Theme answers start with a type of wetland.

Theme Answers:

  • 17A: Red Sox stadium (FENway Park)
  • 54A: Seaside community NE of Boston (SWAMPscott)
  • 11D: Peter who directed "The Last Picture Show" (BOGdanovich)
  • 24D: "The Goodbye Girl" actress (MARSHa Mason)
The theme didn't help me at all. In fact, I've been struggling with whether to admit this publicly, but I think I'll just go ahead since we're all friends here. It took me a while to get the theme. With Fenway Park and Swampscott, we clearly had a Boston thing going, right? I'm obviously looking for the next theme answer to be Boston-related. Tip O'Neill maybe. Or Red Auerbach. And I get Marsha Mason? And Peter Bogdanovich? What do they have to do with Boston? Well, nothing actually. So does that mean the theme is shaky? I don't know. Two theme answers clearly linked to Boston, the other two clearly linked to … the film industry. That seems a little broad. Maybe if Marsha Mason and Peter Bogdanovich were married or something. They're not, are they? Hold on while I check…. No indication in their Wikipedia entries. So, yeah, maybe a little shaky. What do you think?

I rated this puzzle easy-medium (instead of straight-up easy) because I breezed through it, looking like I was going to break a record, but then got hung up in the AUK / RUPP / SWAMPSCOTT area. I can assume I'm not alone in initially entering ERN for AUK (46A: Diving seabird). I had to think really hard to come up with RUPP (44D: Coach Adolph in the Basketball Hall of Fame) and, as I've never heard of Swampscott, I thought for a second that SWAMISCOTT(?!) was reasonable.

Other notable stuff:
  • 6A: Massachusetts vacation spot, with "the" (Cape). Continuing with our Cyndi Lauper theme from yesterday, she was on Letterman once and referred to it as "The Cod." I always call it that now.
  • 8A: Make holes in, as for ease of tearing (perforate). Great word.
  • 14A: Like the outfield walls at Wrigley Field (ivied) sitting right on top of Fenway Park. Nice.
  • 20A: Actor Omar (Sharif). I had the Biggest Crush on him when I was in, like, third grade. Wait a minute, it wasn't Omar Sharif, it was Robert Goulet. How did I get those two guys mixed up?
  • NIH (39A: Fed. biomedical research agency) was just in the puzzle yesterday. It helps to pay attention!
  • We've got a religious thing going in the center with PRAYS (30D: Says grace, e.g.) crossing (40A) "O Come, ALL YE Faithful."
  • 48A: Classic Alan Ladd western (Shane). If you can watch the end of this movie without dissolving into a puddle of tears, there's something wrong with you. "Shane! Come back!" I tear up just thinking about it.
  • 54A: "_____ Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (SGT). Classic.
  • And I'll leave you with a video related to 57D: TRA la la (thanks, Seth).

Looking forward to hearing from you in the comments. See you tomorrow.

Signed, PuzzleGirl, on behalf of H.R.H. Rex Parker


Anonymous 9:04 AM  

Woo hoo! Substitute, substitute! Hey, Puzzlegirl, Rex usually lets us have candy if we do the puzzle correctly. And he lets us post as many times as we want.

JannieB 9:05 AM  

Nice job PG, if I may call you that. I did this and said, Where's the theme???? Maybe Massachusetts locales? The Cape (forevermore will be The Cod - lol) added to my confusion. Had a Natick moment at the confluence of Rupp and Swampscott. Lucky Guess. And I agree, a real ho-hummer for a Monday.

I'm sure HRH left his site in good hands. Hope your compadres are equally up to the challenge.

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

PuzzleGirl, I didn't even see the theme until I read your blog. I think you've a done great job today! For me the puzzle was easy ... I have a client in Swampscott so that's not new to me. Did 41D: Takes To before 46A ... so it had to be Auk. Seems to be a typical Monday puzzle to me.

Barry G. 9:09 AM  

Morning, folks! And welcome aboard, PuzzleGirl!

Breezed right through today's puzzle, although I have to also admit that I didn't get what the theme was. I probably would have gotten a bit hung up in the same area as PuzzleGirl, except that I'm from the Boston area and got Swampscott right off the bat. Never heard of Mr. RUPP, but I knew AUK, so it was smooth sailing for me.

JC66 9:15 AM  

Great job puzzle girl.

Wade (at least I think that's you behind the dark sunglasses), you're a pisser.

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

I found this one pretty easy. One of a few times I broke the 5-minute mark. I did BOG down a little at SWAMPSCOTT--never heard of it, don't think it sounds like anyplace anyone would want to visit--but I had AUK from the 'k' and had little trouble accepting the truth.

Never saw the theme. I even looked back after I finished to look for it and suspected there was none. Having most of the theme answers turn up as parts of proper names threw me off the track, I think.

Anonymous 9:23 AM  

Too much sports stuff for those of us who don't know the first thing. So, "ivied" for me was hard because I couldn't picture the outfield wall, crossing with Lin didn't help. Same with unknown "Rupp" crossing with "auk". Easy for you sports fans. But good write-up PG. Thanks.

janie 9:25 AM  

smartly done, puzzle girl! count me in as one of those who completed the puzzle sans tears, but struggled to see the theme. d'oh!!

loved the long theme fill -- and as for the rest, was tickled by "perforate." clearly it takes little to amuse me, but this struck me as such a meaty monday word -- and one that doesn't show up all that often (looks to be a first for the nyt). nice!



Arby 9:33 AM  

I had exactly the same experience as you Puzzlegirl, only more slowly, I'm sure. Ran through all the acrosses, then the downs, in 6 minutes (a record for me) but still had blanks near the nexus of Swampscott (???) AsMad (????) and Rupp (?^32). Started with Ern instead of Auk, and the theme completely eluded me (I've never heard of a Fen).

As mad as a wet hen? That's a phrase? Come on....

Anonymous 9:36 AM  

You mean imagining Alan Ladd's character muttering under his breath "Leave me alone you little rug rat! I'm nice to you for 5 minutes and all of a sudden I'm your best friend in the whole friggin world? Just shut up!!" isn't a normal response?

mac 9:50 AM  

Very good job puzzlegirl! A typical quick Monday, with for me also a Natick moment with Rupp/Swampscott (isn't there a coach with a bar in Chicago with a name like Rupa or something?). I had to stare at the Chinese carving clue for a while before the aha moment, find that clue a little broad. Also, thanks for pointing out the theme, I hadn't even looked for it.....

I wonder if Rex has withdrawal symptoms yet; of course he had a little practice last week.

RodeoToad 9:53 AM  

JC66, couldn't be me. I'm too "technologically challenged" to know how to change my name. (Hmmph)

Anonymous 10:07 AM  

Two thumbs up, Puzzlegirl!

I trouble in exactly the same spot as everyone else. A Monday with three squares of Wednesday thrown in.

Does anyone else think that the "S" is unnecessary to pluralize ASPENS? I think of ASPEN as plurual as it stands.

mac 10:15 AM  

@Jim in Chicago: I agree, think aspen is plural.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

Adolph RUPP was legendary basketball coach at the University of Kentucky for decades. Many fans were AS MAD as a wet hen when he retired--an expression heard often in these parts.

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

Yo go, pGirl! Video clips and everything? I guess I am a bit T-C like Wade (sorry, Wade) so I am awed by one's ability to jump in and do such things.

Seemed like standard Monday fare. No major hang-ups, but I always want to spell KLAN with a C.

I wish PG and the rest of the ad hoc NZ blog committee the best of luck, and have fun!


Jeffrey 10:20 AM  

Nice write-up, PuzzleGirl.
Rex lets me rant as long as I want on obscure town names so here I go again.

Swampscott? Swampscott?? Swampscott??? I don't have a client there and have only been to Boston once, many years ago, so strangely enough I have never heard of Swampscott. And as a theme answer??

There was a much better choice - Swamp Thing. A wonderful comic book, especially the Alan Moore issues, and a not so wonderful movie.

Crosscan in obscure Saanich

Pythia 10:27 AM  

Nice work, PuzzleGirl. Snappy analysis and a fine job of capturing the slightly curmudgeonly tone that one might expect of Rex in this case.

I filled in FENWAY PARK(go Sox!) and environs first, then arrived at BOGDANOVICH and saw the theme. Maybe it's not so scintillating, but this is Monday, after all. I liked that all the key words of the theme were consistently part of a longer word, and that they all appeared at the beginning of the answer. Once I passed MARSHA, I was expecting to find a SWAMP, and wondering what longer word or phrase could possibly work .... I'm very familiar with Massachusetts geography, but imagine SWAMPSCOTT could be tricky for those who aren't. Was also looking for a Mass. minitheme in the theme answers, but no dice.

Thought the nontheme fill was solid, as were the clues -- YARN and ASPENS were my faves. Wanted to write BRAINWASHES at 30A "Makes believe." Nice echo for KEATS and ODE.

Pet peeve = clue for C-CUP (Medium bra size). A simple reference would suffice for ?-CUP answers. The opinion expressed by the addition of small/medium/large is a) gratuitous and b) evidence that 4th-grade boys have hijacked the puzzle.


Unknown 10:27 AM  

So, forget the puzzle, now we have to figure out the photos posted by Puzzle Girl. I assume that the musical group is Boston (but it looks like Arrowsmith and confuses me cause I don't get it if it is), the plane is Air New Zealand and the seated guy is a swami close to a SWAMP.

I thought the puzzle by My Early was a good Monday one with a hidden theme and some interesting fill.

ArtLvr 10:31 AM  

Hi all, or HOLA! -- Good job, puzzlegirll... I was thinking Swampsett for some reason, but worked it out. I liked RANCOR, since it helped me remember RUPP from a recent puzzle somewhere. And it was amusing to see "What's the DIF" --though one might have expected two F's? Like riff, miff, sniff -- whatever.

Talk about technically challenged! We've spent days in Michigan waiting for a computer hook-up guy to come back and fix his original incomplete job. We've now given up on the wifi and settled for swapping turns on one cable line. Vacation, hah.


Anonymous 10:33 AM  

Wait, there was theme to this puzzle? Surely you jest. :-p

@jim in chicago

I agree with you re: aspen. I also got thrown by 23D "Like right-slanted type" (ITALIC) because I assumed it should the answer should have been ITALICIZED. . . didn't realize that ITALICS is the noun and ITALIC is an adjective (according to the dictionary I just looked up).

Who is GENA Rowlands? Never heard of her, or of this Adolph RUPP guy. Although I have to say, I feel bad for Mr. RUPP having the name Adolph. That's gotta be rough.

Good job puzzlegirl!!

Ronathan :-)

ArtLvr 10:34 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
chefbea 10:38 AM  

Good work puzzle girl. I had no idea what the theme was til I got here. Think I will go peel some apples and make you an apple pie

Pythia 10:43 AM  

RE plural of aspen

Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged show this:

Main Entry: 2aspen
Function: noun

Inflected Form(s): -s

Etymology: alteration (influenced by 1aspen) of Middle English aspe, from Old English æspe, æpse; akin to Old High German aspa aspen, Old Norse ösp, Latvian apsa, Russian osina
: any of several poplars (especially Populus tremula of Europe and P. tremuloides and P. grandidentata of No. America) the leaves of which flutter in the lightest wind on account of their flattened petioles

jae 10:46 AM  

jannieb pretty much wrote what I have to say about this one including the nice job puzzlegirl. I concur on the Natick intersection. On a positive note some of the fill was interesting for a Mon. e.g. PERFORATE, RANCOR, ALLYE.

dk 10:46 AM  

@sethg and @wade, @puzzlegirl has set a rather high bar. Very fine pictures @puzzlegirl, now if you could TUTOR us on how to put in a YouTube posting to this blog.

Agree the puzzle was easy as poo, but a perfect Monday. Having ern instead of AUK added a few seconds as I have to carefully minipulate my pen so it does not look like I made a mistake.

@smokey joe... you forgeot to mention that REX wants us to always do the puzzles in pen in coffe shops.

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

I think ASPENS is okay, but can see there is cause for debate. Multiple trees can be described as 'a stand of aspen', but it seems like one of those words that could be plural with or without the 's'.

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

I actually live in the small seaside town of Swampscott and can assure you, it's a lovely place to live, without a swamp in sight!

The name actually comes from the native Naumkeag phrase "land of the red rock"...

That said, there are folks in Massachusetts who don't even know about our town, but we kind of like keeping the ocean views to ourselves.

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

Thanks for the retrospective - Hadn't thought about The Banana Splits in years. What were those writers thinking/smoking? Classic 70's psychadelic.

chefbea 11:03 AM  

@ronathan - wasnt gena rowlands in thelma and louise? a great movie

Orange 11:11 AM  

I'm so glad Evad is my Crossword Boyfriend, because SWAMPSCOTT was a gimme with just a few letters.

PuzzleGirl, please tell me you're joking about Robert Goulet! David or Shaun Cassidy, sure, but Robert freakin' Goulet??

At first I thought your swami was perched atop a sesame seed bun, and I said to myself, "Hey, I ordered this sandwich with no mayo, no swami, just lettuce and tomato. What gives?"

Orange 11:12 AM  

Chefbea, Geena Davis was in "Thelma and Louise." Gena Rowlands is older and was nominated for an Oscar in a John Cassevetes movie in the '70s. I'm too lazy to look it up again, but I think it was called "A Woman Under the Influence."

Anonymous 11:13 AM  

Gena Rowlands is best known for her mob-related 1980 movie, Gloria, in which she played the title role. BTW, her first name is pronounced Jenna, not Gina.

Kalisa 11:29 AM  

I didn't get the theme either. In fact, that's why I stopped by. I got the puzzle but was all ...the hell?... on the theme. So thanks for clearing that up.

PS - I loved Gena Rowlnads in "Hope Floats" but most of today's kids probably know her from "The Notebook."

janie 11:37 AM  

here's ms. rowlands's imdb resume. she's a seriously class act(ress):

hope still floats!!

and evad -- i bet you got the now notorious "natick" right off the bat, too! ;-)

ms. doh -- thank you for posting your "-cup" thoughts. yes, those 4th grade boys seem always to be with us..... and so it goes, eh? sometimes i think those kinda clues are retained simply to spark exchanges like this one! if rex were here s'pose he'd say (and he has...) it was one of those that makes him giggle. "boys!"



RodeoToad 11:48 AM  

dk, don't you worry, don't you worry a bit: Sethg and I have a plan, don't we sethg? (What's our plan again, sethg?)

Kalisa, you almost made me tell my "Hope Floats" story. You all should vet your posts to avoid referencing anything that implicates Houston/Austin or you're at risk of one of my Grandpa Simpson moments ("'Cause I remember 'cause we all had an onion on our belts, which was the style in those days . . .") You're getting off this time with a warning.

Anonymous 11:59 AM  

Hey Janie, strangely enough I put in NEWTON first (and I ran the Boston Marathon in 2003...guess I forgot where we were at mile 8!). Never even gave a thought to the fact that NEWTON would never be clued that way on a Sunday...

Here are the towns/cities the marathon passes through (in case any others come up in future puzzles):

Newton (Home to Heartbreak Hill)

Anonymous 12:00 PM  

I've loved Gena Rowlands for years. She's an incredible actress and was married to John Cassevettes.

miriam b 12:20 PM  

Ditto on the kudos, Puzzlegirl. I didn't even entertain the possibility of a theme. Keep up the good work.

What's the DIF? I haven't heard anyone say that in ages.

Anonymous 12:31 PM  

Ditto what others have said, PuzzleGirl!

I'm curious about you speed solvers out there (casting no aspersions!). On Mondays I do time myself, so I rush through the puzzle as fast as I can. But by doing that, I never see the theme, since there's never a need to figure things out.

You speedsters, do you see the theme while doing the puzzle or only after completing it?

smokeyjoetheeskimo--you made me laugh out loud!


Scott 12:33 PM  

To all those who had trouble w/ RUPP, it could also be clued as Kentucky's ___ Arena.

Parshutr 12:43 PM  

Way EZ, Puzzlegirl. BTW, Shane had the lines "You talkin to me?" "Well I don't see anyone else here..." that were later parroted by DeNiro in "Taxi Driver."
And Rupp was the moral equivalent of Jesse Helms in re his attitude on race.

Ulrich 1:05 PM  

I did get the theme--after the fact. And then I had this thought: If we change square 37 from K to P, we still have a valid grid with PEATs in the middle, which really ties all the theme words referring to wetlands together--well, the plural is stretching it a bit.

And speaking of wetlands: It's the title of the English translation of the current #1 German bestseller called Feuchtgebiete (wet areas) by Charlotte Roche, and yes, it refers to what you think it refers to--if after Chris Rock, you never look at a tossed salad the same way, you will not encounter wetlands the same way after reading the book (I couldn't get past p.2).

ggirl802 1:06 PM  

i just really wanted to let puzzlegirl know that i, too, thought it might be acceptable to type in "swamiscott." you are not alone.

SethG 1:17 PM  


Without a plan there's no attack. Without attack, no victory.

A plan. Oh, boy, We've got a plan.


ps I'm not sure I agree that calling a C-CUP "medium" is expressing an opinion. CEE is often clued as a grade, and it's often been called Middling, Middle and the like. I don't see those as value judgments, either, I think they just imply it's in the middle of the grading scale... Ach, maybe it's just 'cause I was never a 4th-grade boy.

dk 1:35 PM  

@kathy, While I will not call myself a speedy solver I will say I am a half-fast solver and sometimes I see the theme. Today I did not.

@sethg and @wade, no way you 2 have a plan.

When I got CCUP I thought of a comment I heard when I was 10: Sandra Dee was described as sand dunes in a sweater.

When I googled Liz Phair (Banana Split girl) I got to see an upcupped C.

Now I am a piller of salt.

jubjub 1:36 PM  

I have to say I found this puzzle hard for a Monday. I didn't know many of the proper nouns, etc. in this puzzle (SWAMPSCOTT, MARSHAMASON, SHANE, GENA, LIN, BOGDANOVICH, RUPP, carillon, ONSPEC, ...). Surprised everyone else found it so easy! I expected to read more "Shortz is messing with our minds" commentary :).

As I started this puzzle in the northwest ("like all good-hearted people"), I was thinking to myself, jimminny, these answers all seem like "words" one would put in in desperation at the end of puzzle creation [Now that I am an expert crossword constructor :) (ha ha, I have made ONE puzzle, just for kicks)].

Anyways, I don't want to be too negative. I liked PERFORATE and ICEAGE, and this puzzle certainly felt very original.

Puzzlegirl, your commentary was awesome! I would subscribe to your crossword blog if you had one!

PS I don't know if the Youtube embedding comments were jokes, but just in case: it is super-easy to embed Youtube videos. On any Youtube page, in the box on the right with the description of the movie, there is a field that says "Embed" and below it there is some html code. Just copy and paste that html code into your blog entry, and whammo, it will appear on your blog!

PPS @wade, "in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them. Give me five bees for a quarter, you'd say."

jubjub 1:38 PM  

Oh yeah, I forgot to ask, why are ASPENS "Forest quakers"? I looked up quaker in the dictionary; it does not seem to mean tree.

Barry G. 1:50 PM  


Quakers aren't trees, but aspens are. Trees that quake, in fact. They're called "quaking aspens" because their leaves often tremble ("quake") visibly and audibly in the wind.

Ulrich 1:54 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ulrich 1:55 PM  

@jubjub: I cannot let this rare opportunity pass where I (think I) know the answer to a question like this: Quaking aspens are so-called b/c their leaves shake even when there appears to be no wind. "Trembling like aspen leaves" (in German) is an expression my grandmother used on a regular basis.

Anonymous 2:05 PM  

I usually try to solve the NYT puzzle online using AcrossLite. Where do I look to find the puzzle theme? Is this something obvious in the paper version?

HudsonHawk 2:09 PM  

@dk--I am also half-fast in many of the things I do. ;)

@phillysolver--the band is indeed Aerosmith, which hails from Boston, hence the connection.

@ronathan and others--Rupp was born in 1901, so his naming preceded the imfamy of the other Adolph. He died in 1977. He played at the University of Kansas for the legendary Phog Allen, who once held the all-time college wins record at 771 games. When Rupp surpassed him with win 772, Allen said something like, "God bless him, if Rupp can count that high, he can have the record." Dean Smith, who also played for Allen at Kansas was the coach that surpassed Rupp's record.

Incidentally, Rupp was also the head coach of the 1972 US Olympic Team that lost the gold medal when the officials dubiously kept putting time back on the clock to allow the Soviets to make a last second basket. The defeat was so bitter, the Americans on that team have still never collected their silver medals.

Joon 2:18 PM  

so, "hope floats," eh? if this discussion had happened last week, a certain new york sun theme would have made (more) sense to me.

evad, i also stuck in NEWTON for NATICK last sunday, and i too should have known better. (both that it is too late in the marathon, and too weird for a way to clue NEWTON in a non-boston newspaper).

i actually liked the theme, and i appreciated that none of the wetlands-y words was its own word in the theme answer. it's true that FENWAYPARK was named for the fenway, which was named for the nearby fens. but that's the only such association. (i didn't realize that SWAMPSCOTT was a native american name, but i probably should have.)

i flew through this puzzle in record time, but that's because all the obscure things happened to be in my wheelhouse. eastern mass geography? check. legendary sports figures? check. GENA freaking rowlands? well, now i know, but last time i certainly didn't, and that pretty well mucked up a tuesday.

Anonymous 2:19 PM  

@carolina newbie
There's never any explicit mention of the clue. Usually on Mon or Tues it just jumps out at you. Today's was very obscure, hence all the comments.

Anonymous 2:27 PM  

Thanks, PG, for subbing in for Rex, and nicely adapting his format (and even his habit of emphasizing a word with Gratuitous capitalization). Oh, and for the respite from the deluge of puppy pictures...

The puzzle's theme was fine for me, and I liked many of the details of the grid, even though I too was misled by the apparent Boston theme. Like Jubjub I didn't feel it was straightforward enough for Monday, let alone easy for a Monday puzzle as PG judged it. I recognized only two of the theme entries, and those (17A and 54A) only because they happen to be in the Boston area. 11D:BOGDANOVICH and 24D.MARSHAMASON were plausible names, but meant nothing to me beyond that, and the clues give me no motivation to learn anything more about them. [BTW I hope PG intended nothing untoward by using the phrase "a little broad" near Marsha Mason's name ;-).] To those and the other obscurities noted by Jubjub, I'd add 1D:DIF -- a fun entry, yes, but not what I think of as Monday 1D fare -- and the untagged variant plural 5D:IDAHOES (9D:EEK!).


P.S. 37:KLAN -- two months ago Rex wrote (about an entry in the May 4 Sunday puzzle): "Is this KLAN as in KU KLUX!?!? I was not aware that they were allowed into the puzzle. Hmmm." I wonder how many punctuation marks and $#%@ imprecations this second instance would provoke.

Unknown 2:33 PM  

The evidence of your qualifications for this job is that you figured out the theme of the puzzle. I breezed through it, even dredging up Bogdanovich and knowing what a fen is from reading British novels, but when I read the blog, the theme was news to me. Maybe I focus too much on the trees and not enough on the forest, er, the swamp!

fergus 2:39 PM  

I seem to recall Marsha Mason being married to Neil Simon ... and what, no references to Peter Bogdanovich's role as Dr. Eliot Kupferberg, Dr. Melfi's shrink, on the Sopranos?

The C-CUP reminded me of one of the most risque clues I've seen in the NYT puzzle. From four or five years ago, D-CUP was Clued as Boulder holder. That took a while to register.

Seems like the substitute trio have made a seamless transition, leaving the main write-up to a singular voice, which while reminiscent of Rex-style carries its own personality. Too bad the puzzle wasn't sparkling, but it wasn't bad either, though a bit too obvious -- even for Monday. I find that really bad subjects, especially restaurants, often make for some very entertaining commentary. Maybe we'll get a real stinker this week, so you guys can have a field day?

HudsonHawk 2:46 PM  

Fergus, you must have seen Frank Bruni's write-up about DeNiro's new restaurant (Ago) a few weeks back in the NYT (speaking of famous movie directors). Classic and brutal...

Edit on my 2:09 post--infamy, not imfamy, duh.

Anonymous 2:57 PM  

Nothing to say about the puzzle. Straight forward Monday fare (with an invisible theme, to me). Just wanted to congratulate Puzzlegirl on a great start.

To lazy to log onto google,


RodeoToad 2:57 PM  

If this keeps up I'll have to tell my "Last Picture Show" story. It involves Duane breaking a beer bottle against my head when he finds out I've been seeing Jacy while he was in Korea and then Jacy and I run off to Oklahoma to get married. Wait, that wasn't me--that was Sonny. But I did go to first grade in Archer City and grew up twenty miles south of there. It still looks just like it looks in the movie, same color and everything. I tried to get Puzzlegirl to post a video of the opening of the movie, which is a highly regarded film and still shows up on highbrow critics' Top Whatever lists, but she went with the Sethg's suggestion of the Banana Splits. So you see what I'm dealing with here.

chefbea 3:08 PM  

@fergus - i read your comment about chimichuri yesterday. I had it for the first time yesterday also and cant wait to make it yummm

Unknown 3:11 PM  

Who left the inmates in charge of the asylum?

JC66 3:20 PM  


I wonder if the positioning of KLAN right across from RUPP is coincidental.



Joon 3:23 PM  

quand le chat est parti, les souris dansent, as they say.

re: KLAN, yes, what gives? PEATS would have been a little ugly (though, as ulrich points out, almost theme-uniting), but FEATS/FLAN would be totally fine. i like KEATS as much as the next guy (probably more), but ... whoa. hitler with his BIGLIE and GASOVEN yesterday, and now the KLAN?

Ladel 3:26 PM  

@PuzzleGirl and Company

Kudos, unqualified Kudos. Many great careers have begun when last minute substitutes filled in for an indisposed star. If I were Rex I would keep my computer plugged in turned on and tuned in less the world soon forget. But then again, it's only Monday!!

Ulrich 3:27 PM  

@phillysolver and joon: So far, everybody seems to be on his/her best behavior, but this cannot last for three full weeks. At some point, wade may have to bring out his shotgun, or whatever counts for one in cyberspace. In any case, I'm looking forward to the coming mayhem.

miriam b 3:32 PM  

ASPEN brings to mind Tennyson's Lady of Shalott, which for some obscure reason I once memorized.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle embowers
The Lady of Shalott.

Anonymous 3:34 PM  

@Fergus--According to JimH's database, there was no such clue (Boulder holder) in the NYT puzzle for DCUP.

@anonymous 2:19--Obscure? Even if you don't know that FEN is related to the others, you surely should see the relationship between SWAMP, BOG and MARSH. I only wish they could have had a summary clue/answer, such as: Former pitcher John, or a hint to this puzzle's theme (WETTELAND).

Puzzle Mom 3:39 PM  

Hey Puzzlegirl! Probably if you'd known that your mother completed this puzzle in no time flat, you'd have skipped the hyphenated rating and just called it "Easy." When I read your Dad the clue "MA vacation site" he didn't miss a beat: "The Cod" says he. And, I'll admit, I needed him for Adolph Rupp. Good job. You make us proud.

Anonymous 3:41 PM  

Nice job. I didn't even see the theme until I read your comments.

Anonymous 3:49 PM  

Ulrich: "trembling like aspen leaves." Curious as to the untranslated expression in German.


Bill from NJ 3:51 PM  

I wonder how much a part the theme plays in an early week puzzle? I know, in my case, it is very little as I tend not to have very much in the way of problems on say, a Monday or Tuesday.

In my case speed plays no part in how I approach a puzzle of early week strength as I need little extra help in the solving experience.

I also have little trouble coming up with the names of cities and towns I encounter in the puzzles. It may be because I was an army brat and I lived in so many different states and countries or may be it's a quirk of memory as I tend to have the ability to hold on to certain pieces of information. For instance, I remember every telephone number I ever had and I don't know why.

I don't recall how I remember SWAMPSCOTT but I do. I lived in Massachusetts in the early '50 but I was an infant then.

You did good, PuzzleGirl, congratulations on your first day in the Big Leagues but I read your fill-in stuff for Orange and I had no doubt about your abilities

Parshutr 4:06 PM omitted my ancestral home Brighton from your list. Although technically a part of "Greater Boston" it comes between Newton and Brookline on the BAA route.

Ulrich 4:07 PM  

@profphil: It's zittern wie Espenlaub (actually "to tremble [or shiver] like aspen leaves").

miriam b 4:15 PM  

@ulrich: "Zittern" sounds like a cousin of "jitter", nicht wahr?

Jeffrey 4:29 PM  

The first time I ranted about obscure town names it was SEDALIA, Missouri [May 7, 2008].

Mark your calendars, because the Missouri State Fair starts there on August 7, featuring "Vocal Trash, giving a whole new meaning to tin cans!" and "thrill seekers must seek out the Cannon Lady as she is propelled through the air to a net in front of the Pepsi Grandstand in two shows daily August 14, 15, 16 and 17!" Also Air Supply. No sign of the Banana Splits.

I'll never forget Sedalia again.

Crosscan, no relation to tin cans, who will be on tour this summer from Sedalia to Swampscott.

Anonymous 4:33 PM  

@parshutr, my apologies. How could I forget the home of Boston College and fratboys handing out cups of beers to us thirsty runners?

Anonymous 5:01 PM  

Thanks Ulrich,


Anonymous 5:18 PM  

Bah. The NYT seems to have gotton incapable of publishing puzzles without crossiing proper nouns, usually obscure. SWAMPSCOTT!!!?? Even after all the comments here I'm having trouble believing such a place exists. I ended up with SWAMESCOTT, parsed as SW (South West) Amescott, which with a clue of NE Boston seemed quite reasonable, (Obviously I missed the theme!)

Request to commenters: Would really appreciate people NOT referring to previous puzzles, especially weekend ones, just like Rex never does. I'm often still banging my head on Saturday later the next week, and I'm sure I'm not alone in doing Sunday's later sometimes also!

Doug 5:22 PM  

I'm nowhere near an expert, but this puzzle was boring and easy and I still didn't get the theme until I read PG's blog entry. Got Swampscott because I had a lot of crosses and my wife's family comes from that town. Knew Bogdanovich because that's his only good movie; Marsha Mason filled in from the crosses. I expected more, even for a Monday.

Orange 5:26 PM  

I checked the database, which includes a decade's worth of crossword clues from the NYT, NYS, LAT, WSJ, and several other newspapers. The total count of [Boulder holder] clues is zero. Plus, Fergus, that doesn't even parse. The bra itself is the holder, not the DCUP. My theory? Fergus is solving crosswords and making up clues in his dreams.

This page lists the volume measurement for the four single-letter cup sizes. Who knew?

Anonymous 5:29 PM  

And don't tell me who shot JR. I'm only up to season five on the boxed set of "Dallas."

Jeffrey 5:46 PM  

Now Dallas I've heard of.

JR was shot at the end of season two, with the reveal in season three (well duh). You are busted, smoky joe.

Jeffrey 5:46 PM  

Now Dallas I've heard of.

JR was shot at the end of season two, with the reveal in season three (well duh). You are busted, smoky joe.

Anonymous 5:52 PM  

Crosscan! I'm watching them in reverse order! I live at the freakin' South Pole where everything moves backwards and the toilets flush counterclockwise!

Okay, none of that makes any sense.

How's President Kennedy?

Ulrich 5:58 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ellen 6:04 PM  

I'm a speed solver (well, fairly speedy. I can't sprint like the young 'uns) and almost always make sure I understand the theme - otherwise, I could be missing a punny variation on a phrase I might have wrong. Having said that, in this year's ACPT puzzle 5, I handed in the puzzle without figuring out the theme. It wasn't immediately obvious and everything seemed right. Luckily, everything WAS right.

Joon 6:10 PM  


rex often refers to the previous day's puzzle. i'd cite an example, but it would require referring to this weekend's puzzles. suffice it to say that the same unusual word surfaced two days in a row and he duly made a note of it. that's happened before, too, most famously with NABES on a friday and then again on the following monday.

i think rex is pretty careful not to do this on sundays, because the syndication people are six weeks behind on other days but only one week behind on sundays, so for them it would be referencing a future puzzle (admittedly one they'll do five weeks from now, probably long enough to forget). but on other days, he (and i) don't really see anything wrong with talking about recent puzzles.

and if you haven't read the dictionary, let me spoil that for you too: the zyzzyva did it.

Jeffrey 6:11 PM  

Smokey Joe, wait until you get to the episode where Bobby dreams he is from Atlantis.

Ulrich 6:33 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ulrich 6:35 PM  

@miriam b: I won't be the first to start with bad behavior, so all further comments on this and related stuff will be here.

Michael Chibnik 6:55 PM  

hey, hometown girl (or have you moved?),

Nice job! I didn't get the theme until I came to the blog. In fact, the only theme answers I saw were Swampscott and Fenway Park.

Anonymous 7:04 PM  

Should not the clue have been:

Boston bandbox seldom used in October. (Until recently, I mean)

PuzzleGirl 7:06 PM  

Hi, everybody. I've been following the comments all day but haven't been able to participate because I've been busy staving off financial ruin. (Long story. Not interesting.) Thanks for all the kind words -- this is a great gig.

Just to clarify, you won't be seeing us second-stringers the whole three weeks Rex is gone. We're here for sure today, tomorrow, and Wednesday; then again August 5-7. I'm under the impression His Majesty will be making frequent appearances in between those two times though. We're just on standby in case his vacation gets to be too much fun.

I'm scheduled to do Wednesday's post, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to hand it off to Wade. I shouldn't make you guys wait for that.

fergus 7:08 PM  

Well, it has been said that memories are susceptible to some alteration, but I do have a fairly distinct memory of that Boulder / CUP pairing, and even of its location down in the SW corner of a puzzle. I can't argue with the research done by Steve I and Orange, though I would dispute her interpretation of my Clue fantasies ... . Something like what I came up with did appear somewhere, so I am now just a little too curious to see what possible clues for D-CUP there may have been.

And yes, Hudson Hawk, that Ago review was fresh in my mind, though that wasn't the worst skewering I had even seen. The absolute best was a critique of Thomas Kinkaide's art ("the Painter of Light" tm) in one of the local Santa Cruz free papers. This was also about five years ago, around about the same time that The New Yorker did a nice hatchet job on him, though that effort was nowhere near as deliciously poisonous, since it wasn't as alluringly satirical.

Chimichuri (!) with freshly chopped ingredients, though my host did use a bit of dried oregano.

PuzzleGirl 7:10 PM  

Oh shoot. And I meant to say, can you believe my mom showed up? Thanks, mom! :-)

Leon 7:16 PM  

Nice puzzle Mr. Early. Just what my Monday needed.

Your write-up was a thing of beauty, a joy for ever.It will never pass into nothingness.(Paraphrasing Keats in ENDYMION which was influenced by Ovid's Metamorphoses.)

Anonymous 7:50 PM  

@fergus --in her write-up of the 9/1/07 puzzle, Orange used the phrase "over-the-shoulder boulder holder" in describing a puzzle which contained both CCUP (size in a lingerie shop) and the clue "holders of shoulders: Abbr.". Perhaps perhaps?

A memorable puzzle as it marked the first appearance of Myron Poindexter in the XWord blogosphere.

chefbea 7:59 PM  

@puzzle girl nice to meet your mom

alanrichard 8:32 PM  

The puzzle wass typical easy Monday but I see you posted at 1:27AM. Is that Eastern Time? You are so dedicated to get up early - or stay up late for a Monday puzzle.. This is the most comments I've ever seen on this site! Anyway tonight is A Night At The Opera movie. I was expecting some Marx Brothers in today's theme but no such luck. Anyway, why not a duck in today's puzzle!

Anonymous 8:39 PM  

Nice job, PuzzleGirl.

I can confirm that yes, it was indeed Robert Goulet on whom PuzzleGirl had a crush (he was really very good on the Carol Burnett show).

It was our mother who had a crush on Omar Sharif. (I had a crush on Leif Garrett -- who hasn't aged particularly well, I'm sorry to say.)

I just learned about quaking aspens a couple of weeks ago as we were planning out our landscaping. As it turns out, they are "invasive" trees and no longer allowed in our area -- but the landscaper came up with a good alternative (though I don't remember what it was).

The Cod! My very first thought as well. Quick family story: I once stood in line to get Dave Barry to sign a copy of his new book for our dad for father's day. When it was my turn, I told him that he was our family's favorite humorist. Without missing a beat, he said "you must have a very sick family." true, that.

As for what passes for average these days, I will just note that I stared at the puzzle for quite awhile trying to figure out what "onspeb" meant.

Anonymous 8:48 PM  


You're right to be confused, because the picture is indeed Aerosmith. While the world might have anticipated a photo of Boston right about there, I just assume PuzzleGirl is taking any opportunity she can find to post pictures of Joe Perry.

fergus 8:59 PM  

I'll await the verdict on the brassiere vigil, but I didn't care to have the impression left that volume makes any difference.

Meanwhile, I found the exemplary article of a good slagging-off, with apologies that I can't do the HTML to make it an easy click.

chefbea 9:35 PM  

@addie loggins I love Dave Barry as did my mother

Anonymous 9:52 PM  

Forgot to mention: Rex would surely note another inelegance in the theme answers (besides the unconsummated Boston connection): when the theme elements are only parts of the theme answers, usually we'd like either all or (preferably) none of them to have their literal meaning in the answers; but here we have a mix: FENway is literally a way of fens, whereas the other wetlands arise accidentally (BOGdanovich from a Slavic word Bog=God; MARSHamason from a variant spelling of Marcia, ultimately from the Roman god Mars; and surprisingly SWAMPscott from a native American name, not an actual swamp).

Unfortunately the best alternative to FENWAYPARK would have been FENESTRATE, which on a Monday grid would get the puzzle (if not its author) thrown out the window.


fergus 10:30 PM  

NDE - even on a Saturday that would be tough, though with the prefix DE, FESENTRATE would resound with my crowd.

Do I clue you in as a Harvard Math professor? Or is that yet another of my roundabout conclusions gone awry today?

Ladel 10:54 PM  

@The class

so this is what throwing spit balls around the classroom looks like all grown up. Be careful, we all want to get works and plays well with others when teach gets back.

Joon 11:23 PM  

FENERBAHCE ... okay, this would be a gimme for me (unless it has the same number of letters as GALATASARAY... nope, 11), but maybe not anybody else. the others seem okay. for a monday, i guess FENRISWOLF would be pretty tough, but boy do i love me some norse mythology.

fergus 11:54 PM  

What the hell, the possibilities are limitless ...

Daryl 12:36 AM  

Yeah, no problem with the puzzle but I didn't get the theme until I read the blog - it helps that I went to college in Boston, but I thought this was a vacation-in-Mass theme, what with SWAMPSCOTT, FENWAY PARK, CAPE(with CODA nearby)...

fergus 1:02 AM  

another interpretation
of Keats' Autumn Ode:

yes, that season of misty
recollection bode a

view of a Nightengale,
a Gecian Urn, and
some other heavy stuff

because I love classic poetry,
and it doesn't seem to matter to anyone else.

fergus 4:11 AM  

or that much

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

@Steve I
The theme was Obscure? Absolutely. I cite PGirl's write up, and all the comments here that the theme was not apparent until they came here.

Obscure: Definition #1: not clear or plain; ambiguous, vague, or uncertain

Today's puzzle had to set a record for the number of people who didn't get it. So yeah, obscure. Not impossibly arcane, just obscure.

Anonymous 7:58 PM  

Semi-obscure theme, but self-evident if you take the time to look...
that's why I always wish there were a title to every day's puzzle, like on Sunday...
A nice title can tip off the theme and add such an extra clever layer to the puzzle and might make a ho-hum theme suddenly burn bright.

Like if this were called Swamp Thing (well, it couldn't have swamp in the title, but you get the idea)...or how about
"For Peat's sake?!"
then it would be cooler.

And there did seem to be reasons that Will might have rejected the whole thing, all mentioned already: Fen's literal meaning, Swampscott's obscurity, Marsha Mason being a whole name, Bogdanovich just a last name, etc.
But what it had going for it is four (the new three!), the lengths of all the theme answers, the word being in the beginning letters, etc...

Good job, B-team...or let's see, in crossword-speak, "fill-ins"?

retired_chemist 12:37 PM  

Can someone enlighten me? is the theme not provided with the syndicated puzzle? It is NEVER in the Dallas Morning News, except on Sundays. I had thought only Sunday puzzles had themes. Apparently not so....

Anonymous 7:23 PM  

52 Down gave me some trouble.

It was nice to have a feminine touch for a change. At least you knew that C CUP was a middle bra size. Being a man I would have never gotten that question otherwise.

thefogman 5:10 PM  

Voice of the Future aka The Fog Man here on July 20, 2020. The theme escaped me. Now that I see it, I am underwhelmed. Best not to theme than theme blandly I say. Ciao for now.

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