Thursday, July 10, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: S to RY (Level ... or a three-word hint to 20-, 38- and 60-Across) - three common phrases ending in "S" have the "S" changed to an "RY," creating a wacky phrase, which is clued.

This felt easy enough, but my time did not bear that out. Not sure why. Still shocked I got BADE right off the bat (1A: Gave an order to). It's weird to make a guess so outlandish that you can't even take it seriously - only to find out that it's the right answer after all. The spelling of LITCHI (52D: Chinese fruit tree) was once again an issue. Not sure how many "correct" spellings there are, but there are at least two. Had APING instead of APERY, not surprisingly (57D: Copycatting); could not think of the first letter in SUMPS (55D: Water pits); started 20A: Arctic explorer post-flight? with BLACK AND BLUE ... and BLACKENED... before finally hitting on the answer; was shocked and amused that NOT ON was the answer to 32A: Off; loved ROLY POLY (12D: Pudgy); guessed THANE (30D: Shakespearean title) and SERAPE (25A: Possible cover for a siesta) right off the bat(s), while GALACTIC (38D: Enormous) eluded me for a good while; and I did not get 53D: Duke's home (Durham) until just this second.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Arctic explorer post-fight? (black-eyed Peary)
  • 38A: Bows and arrows for Midas? (golden archery)
  • 60A: Storage area for ribbed fabric? (corduroy pantry)

I should say that I hated this theme until I got to STORY, and then I grudgingly acknowledged its cleverness.


  • 14A: Platinum Card offerer, for short (AmEx) - "offerer"; not a word you see a lot outside of xword clues
  • 19A: Alternatives to creams (gels) - I had OILS
  • 33A: "_____ Love," 1975 Jackson 5 hit ("I Am") - this was rougher than it should have been; I have no memory of this song.

  • 46A: 1985 John Malkovich drama ("Eleni") - no recollection of this movie at all. Know it only from xwords
  • 54A: Choice poultry (capons) - I tasted chicken last night; bad vegetarian! Bad vegetarian! (I left my Tofurky brats at home when I went to my neighbor's bbq)
  • 65A: Inspector of crime fiction (Morse) - uh ... who wrote about him? I forget. Colin Dexter? I take it back, I didn't forget. I just didn't know.
  • 69A: Horse-drawn carriage (shay) - I get this and DRAY mixed up
  • 70A: Switch possibilities (AC/DC) - nice ambiguity in the clue ("switch" = verb? noun?)
  • 3D: Presidential middle name (Delano) - had some crosses and literally started counting backwards: Walker, Jefferson, Herbert Walker, Wilson, Earl, Ford's middle name, Milhous (HA ha), Baines, Fitzgerald, David, S., DELANO!
  • 8D: Polo alternative (Izod) - to go with your IPOD (16A: Shuffle or 67-Across, e.g.) - 67A: MINI
  • 10D: Singer of Rossini's "Largo al factotum" (Figaro) - thank you, Looney Toons
  • 11D: Zero personality? (operator) - pretty good cluin' there, STUD (64A: Ladies' man)
  • 39D: Candy box size (one pound) - that's a lot of candy. Not MINI, or SMA (64D: Little, to Robert Burns)
  • 42D: The "I" of Claudius I (ego) - Latin for "I" (first person nominative singular)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Ulrich 9:30 AM  

My proudest moment came when I had actually figured out how "story" was a three-word hint to the theme. I patted myself on the back until it hurt, but the experience was so satisfying that I forgave the puzzle every quibble I had had until then.

Back to the beach, lobster bisque and lobster rolls.

Barry G. 9:31 AM  

Morning, Rex (et al.)!

I thought today's puzzle was relatively easy. Until I hit the SW corner, that is. I originally put NANO for 67A and OFFS for 70A, which really threw me for a loop. I finally figured out the correct answers for those, but only because I put GIGANTIC for 38D (which caused its own set of problems). I eventually had to resort to the Internet Movie Database to get 46A (ELENI), after which GALACTIC fell into place.

So close. Ah well...

Anonymous 9:39 AM  

Thanks for clarifying that Rex,

I got the clued words, and I got STORY, but I couldn't figure out the meaning of the three words

S..T...or Y.

Anonymous 9:47 AM  

Anyone else having trouble seeing the puzzle online?

Parshutr 9:55 AM  

My obvious favorite was FORE! - Tiger is now part of crossworld.
I tried GIGANTIC, but RAN/REC put paid to that.
Two "Ladies man" clues...thought of F***ER for 6Down, but didn't enter it, of course.
@pinky...Three words : S is changed TO RY, PantS to PantRY, etc.

Jeffrey 10:14 AM  

I had APING and put GOLDEN ARCHERS so the theme remained hidden for a while. That led me to BLACKENED PEARS and I thought the theme was colour related.

Switch possbilities starting with A became AMFM.

Also fell for GIGANTIC.

Eventually switched ROLSPOLS to ROLYPOLY and a happy ending resulted.

A good Thursday.

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

I had difficulty with this puzzle, mostly because of the fill. The SE was particularly hard, since I had LYCHEE for 52D originally- I wasn't aware that there was more than one correct spelling. Also had CHAY instead of SHAY for 69A (speaking of alternate spelling). Didn't know who NAST (63D) was, so I didn't know I had a mistake.

The center and center east also threw me for awhile. Had RBS instead of RTS for 29A. Did not know the word THANE, so that was a problem. Also had trouble putting down HIM, SIR, OLD and NOT ON into the grid, since they seemed so stupid to me as answers.

Overall, this puzzle kind of left a bitter taste in my mouth. Several clever clues (really liked OPERATOR and DURHAM) and a moderately clever theme mixed with really terrible fill. After the great puzzles we had earlier in the week, this one seems disappointing.

Ronathan :-)

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

@Parshutr Thanks.... I was stuck on s, t, OR y, and didn't read s TO ry until coming here.

Parshutr 10:52 AM nada

jae 11:00 AM  

Add me to the GIGANTIC list although I erased it almost immediately with RAN. I found this mostly easy with SE being the sticking point. Took a while to get DURHAM and SHAY and to figure out that LITCHI was a legit spelling. Enjoyed the theme and the theme clue and getting it helped with solving.

My only minor quibble is ACDC. If switch is a noun I don't believe there are switches that allow you to change current. There are transformers/adapters that you plug into to wall to change the AC current coming into your house to DC to run certain appliances.

Joon 11:02 AM  

rex, i think peary's black eye is a post-fight, rather than post-flight, souvenir. i've been on some rough flights, but not that rough.

this felt like a perfect thursday--solid theme with good theme phrases, nice STORY "explanatory" clue, plenty of good fill, and good trickeration with some of the clues (OPERATOR, DURHAM, ACDC).

i've seen the motorola RAZR in several puzzles recently, so RAZOR looked awfully misspelled. plus, i wanted the answer to be REED, which obviously wouldn't fit.

ronathan, a THANE is a scottish feudal lord. macbeth was thane of cawdor and glamis (i think) prior to becoming king of scotland. regicide is occasionally a good way to effect upward mobility. but that's not how the STORY ends.

i believe this is the first time i've seen ELENI in a puzzle, but i'm already sick of it. i've seen it over and over in lists of words that might fit into a grid i'm constructing, and i've never been tempted to use it.

so today's formation has the tight END lining up next to the RTS. that's a heavy bunch right formation. it looks like a run to the right, so make sure your linebackers flow in that direction to cut it off. but don't overcommit, lest you be susceptible to the cutback or misdirection.

Shamik 11:16 AM  

@Joon: Eleni turns up too frequently...often combined with Nicolas Cage.

Did NOT like NOTON for Off. Could lead to a whole slew of NOT-whatevers.

Felt like a Wednesday.

Ok...out of curiosity, I'm beginning to time my solving to cross check against my solving times of other puzzles for that day of the week. Don't tell my husband. He thinks I'm compulsive enough.

miriam b 11:32 AM  

Until I caught on to the theme, I had an awful time trying to visualize a BLACKEYEDPEAR. Sounded like the kind of disease or anomaly that attacked my quinces last year. I'm hoping for a normal crop this year. The SMA quinces look all right so far, but the problem is evident only when the quince is cut open.

I thought of STORY as a four-word phrase: S-TO-R-Y. A very clever gimmick, however you parse it.

I'm some kind of a Luddite, I guess, as "shuffle" meant NIL to me, nor did MINI. I got IPOD through crosses.

miriam b 11:32 AM  

Until I caught on to the theme, I had an awful time trying to visualize a BLACKEYEDPEAR. Sounded like the kind of disease or anomaly that attacked my quinces last year. I'm hoping for a normal crop this year. The SMA quinces look all right so far, but the problem is evident only when the quince is cut open.

I thought of STORY as a four-word phrase: S-TO-R-Y. A very clever gimmick, however you parse it.

I'm some kind of a Luddite, I guess, as "shuffle" meant NIL to me, nor did MINI. I got IPOD through crosses.

Anonymous 11:33 AM  

Although I finished the puzzle, I still don't get ipod for shuffle and mini. I know an ipod is small and one can "shuffle the songs," I'm sure ther's more to it.


Anonymous 11:33 AM  

Although I finished the puzzle, I still don't get ipod for shuffle and mini. I know an ipod is small and one can "shuffle the songs," I'm sure ther's more to it.


Anonymous 11:34 AM  

Although I finished the puzzle, I still don't get ipod for shuffle and mini. I know an ipod is small and one can "shuffle the songs," I'm sure ther's more to it.


Anonymous 11:34 AM  

Although I finished the puzzle, I still don't get ipod for shuffle and mini. I know an ipod is small and one can "shuffle the songs," I'm sure ther's more to it.


Pythia 11:40 AM  

Not such a fan of this theme. The cleverest part for me was the explanation S-TO-RY.

Don't think BLACK-EYED PEARY makes much sense. Not buying that "black eye" as the clue asks for is the same as "black-eyed," which to me is like blue-eyed, brown-eyed, etc. GOLDEN ARCHERY makes a little more sense, but isn't snappy. CORDUROY PANTRY makes lots of sense and is clever, although I wanted there to be a third color-based answer, since the first two were.

Thought the fill was pretty snappy, as were many of the clues, especially "Woods call" and "Zero personality."

Only thing I didn't know was this MORSE, so have just read up on him and his creator. Interesting stuff, including the allegation by some feminist critics that MORSE is a misogynist. Hmm. Other misogynists in this puzzle? Possibly. STUD and PLAYER, both deliberately clued as "Ladies' man." A minitheme!

dk 11:42 AM  

Under the category of “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”

I did not get SMA as I did not think ACDC was a switch until I remember some very old radio or other device that did in fact have an ACDC switch.

Had aping, isn't an APERY where you keep apes.

LOL at OPERATOR as a zero personality after I went through every personality type I could think of.

My TIME was close to the number of that fill.

Way to dumb to get the theme, perhaps we could lock Ari in a XWORDPRISON or at least put him in a hamper. In short, fine puzzle.

Alternative to BLACKEYEDPERRY = Black Keys:

Anonymous 11:51 AM  

"Although I finished the puzzle, I still don't get ipod for shuffle and mini. I know an ipod is small and one can "shuffle the songs," I'm sure ther's more to it.


Shuffle and Mini are both names of specific varieties of iPod.

"Don't think BLACK-EYED PEARY makes much sense. Not buying that "black eye" as the clue asks for is the same as "black-eyed," which to me is like blue-eyed, brown-eyed, etc."

I don't see the problem: to me "black-eyed" means that someone has a black eye (or black eyes). I would use it in conversation: "He showed up bruised and black-eyed." Just out of curiosity, I Googled "bruised and black-eyed": 21 hits for that phrase alone.


Doris 12:04 PM  

I was fond of crusty Inspector Morse, played by the late, lamented John Thaw in the TV series on PBS. I never read the Colin Dexter books, but he got screen credit. I liked Morse (who always hid his first name—with good reason; it was "Endeavour," revealed only in the final episode, I believe) because he was a major opera fan. He once caught a suspect in a lie because the suspect claimed to be hearing "Tosca" at Covent Garden on the night of the murder, and Morse knew that "Tosca" was not on that night. (Egad, I just mentioned the most Xwordy of operas—AND one of the most Xwordy of archaic expressions.) Morse's successor, his former sidekick Lewis, now has a BBC/PBS series of his own. And apparently Morse got him to like classical music.

JannieB 12:19 PM  

Had no real problems with today's fill, except I never could parse S to RY, hence the theme never made any sense. Didn't really need it, and once I learned what it was, it was just okay. Some clever clues for Operator, Fore, Durham, Thanks for explaining the Mini/Shuffle/Ipod connection. I guess after the first three puzzles this week, today was a bit of a let down.

Anonymous 12:27 PM  

Inspector Morse was a crossword puzzle enthusiast, so his inclusion is quite appropriate.

Anonymous 12:32 PM  

And he left behind a puzzle that was a clue in the first Inspector Lewis case.

mac 12:33 PM  

@doris: I loved the Morse series, and the Colin Dexter books are very good, too. Colin, Morse and John Thaw all died in the same year, sadly, or beautifully planned? Lewis's series is quite nice, too, with a few new excellent actors. My regular fare on Sunday evenings.

I fell in some of the same traps as mentioned above: gigantic, spelling of litchi (never saw this one before) and aping. Should have taken a better look at "s to ry", but I often forget to figure out the theme first, just rely on the crosses. One reason I got acdc so easily, had -cd- and couldn't think of anything else to put in.
Loved the Woods clue, bade and Thane, and Eleni I've seen in puzzles quite a lot, just not with Malkovich. I will never know the names for the different ipod versions, don't like anything with earphones..

All in all, I thought the puzzle was clever and I enjoyed it a lot.

Anonymous 12:43 PM  

A rather frustrating puzzle for me as I went awry with BLACKENED, GIGANTIC, APING, and LYCHEE.

Also, I just now finally got OPERATOR (11D: "Zero personality"). Duh.

Joon 12:48 PM  

doris, TOSCA is up there, but it can't hold a candle to AIDA as the most crosswordy of operas. from jimH's xwordinfo site:

AIDA: 82 appearances in the NYT

and just for fun:

ARIA: 223 (egad!)
OPERA: 119

and for more fun:

OTELLO: 31 (this has got to be o
ORFEO: 18 (monteverdi 12, gluck 6)
NORMA: 13 (plus 20 more appearances with a non-opera clue)
LABOHEME: 7 (plus one for BOHEME)
FAUST: 3 (3 gounod, 3 more for goethe)
IPAGLIACCI: 1 (plus one more for PAGLIACCI)

George NYC 12:51 PM  

I thought this was a lot of fun. It helps to anticipate a rebus or some other switcheroo on a Thursday. I got black-eyed peary right away, so was looking for the s for ry early on, which helped.

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

I would challenge that 'S' and 'RY' are not words. However, I can't think how to rephrase the clue either. I couldn't parse the phrase until I saw Rex's blog. I am impressed that all the phrases are mandatory plurals (you can have one black-eyed pea, but I'm not sure what you would do with it).

After GIGANTIC didn't work, I wanted GARGANTUAN, but that doesn't fit.

For a change, the Natick Principle was not violated today.

Doris 12:56 PM  

Heh heh. And they tried to get away from using "Aida" as an opera recently, and look at all of the trouble they ran into! Well, it does have three vowels as opposed to "Tosca" 's two, which would explain its more frequent appearance. They should try cluing Leoncavallo's "Bohème," which has great charm, though eclipsed by Puccini's, at least later in the week. In that one, Marcello is the tenor and Rodolfo the baritone. You really needed to know this.

jubjub 1:05 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle. It was fairly challenging for me, as there were a few answers I didn't know, sometimes crossing some poetry abbreviation. By the way, I think poetry abbreviations as crossword answers are double cheating.

For anyone else who didn't know what a CAPON is:
A capon is a cockerel (a male chicken) whose reproductive organs were removed at a young age.
Read more on Wikipedia.

Another interesting fact to share: ROLYPOLYs (aka pill bugs aka Armadillidiidae) are not insects but crustaceans. They have 14 legs! [Wikipedia]

I don't know this ELENI movie, but ELENI Mandell is pretty cool. Here's a song by her:

Joon 1:06 PM  

oh, my parenthetical comment about OTELLO got clipped. i was going to say "this has got to be one of the top 6-letter words." but actually, it's not it the top ten. ARIA is tied for 5th among 4-letter words, and OPERA itself is 4th among 5s. interestingly, OPERETTA is among the top 8s, with 13 hits.

Bill from NJ 1:11 PM  

I came to ELENI by way of Nicholas Gage's memoir of his mother and was surprised to see it as a movie where I first heard of John Malkovich.

Very strange puzzle full of three letter words, lots of odd fill and a funky theme.

One seldom sees IUM APERY NOTON in a puzzle and GIGANTIC was obviously 38D.

Got the theme entries right away but didn't know what to do with them until I realized what STORY meant this morning.

All in all, an enjoyable puzzle with plenty of erasures (metaphorically speaking)

fergus 1:31 PM  

One little misread in the Fight or Flight clue slowed the whole Dakotas region. I see that I wasn't the only one to stumble with that extra letter.

Had WAFER for the Symbol of thinness; SURE for SOLD; AGORA for PLAZA; considered OIL before TIN, and the possibility of AGONY for the Malkovich drama, but otherwise didn't get far off track.

Oh yeah, there were so many four letter words to consider for What to do on a day off. Once I got to IDLE, LAZE was next in line.

Anonymous 1:41 PM  

Like many others, I initially had "aping" for APERY. On 58A: IUM, I read the clue too quickly -just saw the word chemical- and put in "ene" temporarily. Since lychee has so many variants, and MYEYE, SHAY and DURHAM were slow in coming, it took me a while to straighten that out. DURHAM finally dawned on me, and made me laugh because I was so stuck on the image of nobility rather than blue devils.
At first I was a bit annoyed at the number of 3-letter answers. But then I caught on to the theme and hint to theme -- clever! I am impressed that the constructor could imagine and then execute the puzzle. I wonder whether the hint was dreamed up first or the theme phrases?

alanrichard 1:47 PM  

I like this puzzle - alot. I put in some wrong answers that made it more challenging, briefly. I had ADM for Byrd & Hatch although I should have recognized 1 down as a plural. I hade gigantic initially for 38 down and Capons to verify that. Fore was a clever clue for Woods call. Operator for Zero Personality was good too. The puzzle took me about 15-20 minutes with writing over in 3 or 4 spots.

Anonymous 2:00 PM  

I'm glad to know I wasn't the only one who finished the puzzle and still didn't get the theme. Thank heavens for Rex and everyone here to give the answer.

Unknown 2:11 PM  

Best puzzle in many days! I love a puzzle (STORY) within a puzzle. Got that figured out, then Golden Archery leaped into place; but it was awhile before I saw Black-eyed Peary staring at me!

The simplicity of Off=Not On and THAT guy!=Him provided an elegant contrast.

Maybe the author was thinking of the Wonderful One-Hoss Shay -- that was why I wrote that word instantly in 69A.

Thanks for a fine, fine puzzle today!

chefbea 2:30 PM  

I finished the puzzle but had no idea what story meant til I got here. Had aping also
Can someone explain why ladies mad is player?
@jujub - in connecticut there are a few eateries called rolypoly. They make wraps.

George NYC 2:39 PM  

Has anyone else noticed that the top, completed grid for the last two days is in a thin font and hard to read?

Anonymous 2:42 PM  

I'm with @Karen and call foul on "S to RY" as three words. Matbe one could argue the S, but the RY?? Ari, can you use that in a sentence please?

Also, with the many possibile spelings of LITCHI (leechee, lichee, lychee) shouldn't they throw us a (var.)? When is that invoked?

ELENI should go into that special filing cabinet where the keep HITLER and CANCER.


Anonymous 2:46 PM  

So I've been debating the last, I don't know, five or six years about whether to buy an Ipod, and now you're telling me that it's not that simple, that after I decide to buy one I'll have to decide WHICH Ipod to buy? There's more than one? Why? It just plays songs, right? How many different ways are there to play songs? Screw it, I ain't buying one. I don't even like songs anymore anyway.

Anonymous 2:48 PM  

A "player" is a modern-day usage for a guy who sees several women at once, "plays" the field, etc. A player loves the ladies. Pronounced "play-uh." Something akin to lothario/romeo/casanova.


Unknown 3:28 PM  

Bigger problem is what do you do with the old Ipod after they upgrade it. Had the top Ipod (4000 gig or soemthing) then they sold me an Iphone to add every feature I would ever need, so I moved all that stuff over and the old one collects dust. I now have two emails a day telling me my Iphone is useless and I should buy the new one coming out tomorrow. The new version may solve the NYT crossword for you, but I am stuck with a two year contract with AT&T. Watch Ebay for my sale on Apple products which may include this IMAC I am typing on.

chefbea 3:39 PM  

@tintin thanks for the explanation of play-uh. guess Im too old to know that term

Everyone read the article about the wiffle ball field in greenwich??? Was in the times today. Has been in the greenwich and stamford papers for about a week now.

JC66 3:50 PM  


I couldn't agree more. After completing the puzzle in fairly fast time (for me), I spent much more time trying to parse STORE into three words that made any kind of no avail.

Maybe a better clue would have been: "Level...or hint to 20-, 38-, and 60 Across."

Anonymous 4:22 PM  

Isn't an APERY a place one would keep bees?

(it's a joke Carnegie Hall, please don't PLAYER hate...)

George NYC 4:27 PM  

My favorite answer was "My eye," an expression I don't believe I have uttered in about 22 years. It seems to have been replaced with the much inferiors "Get out of here!"

alanrichard 4:59 PM  

So hours after I finished this puzzle, I went back to look at the word "STORY" and realized it was s to ry duh!!!!

alanrichard 5:01 PM  

"Apeary" is a place where Jane Goodall keeps her chimps andwhereyou can follow the footsteps of an artic explorer - just hire a Sherpa, SHERPA - aword I learned doing the Times crossword!

abnorma 5:02 PM  

Litchi? Give me a break! I have never seen that before. That threw me off as well.

CY 6:49 PM  

I think I've only seen "litchi" spelled out a couple of times in my life, and I can't remember how it was spelled, so I guess for me, ignorance was bliss. I still had to get it from crosses, though.

The one square I got wrong was the A of ELENA (sic). I had never heard of the movie, and I couldn't figure out 48-down. Can anyone explain how Ind. = "not the party type?: abbr."?

miriam b 7:08 PM  

@Cy: IND = Independent; i. e., not affiliated with a political party.

Jeff 7:15 PM  

I really enjoyed this one. The theme was clever. The fill was tough but fair. I had tons of errors (A RAIL > RAZOR, GIGANTIC > GALACTIC, ALPINE > NORDIC, APING > APERY, AGO > OLD, etc.), but was able to fix everything by puzzing real hard-- no Googling required. Those 3 things pretty much define a good, fun puzzle for me.

I thought, in the context of the clue, PLAYER was spelled PLAYA or PLAYAH, though.

Doc John 8:16 PM  

I echo everyone's comments.
I had a wrong letter, though. Had SAA instead of SAG, thinking that SAA was the name of a big Hollywood talent agency (it's really CAA). So I had EAO for "The 'I' of Claudius I" and figured, hey why not? Still not quite sure why EGO fits.

fergus 10:13 PM  

For 44 Across the natural answer was coffee beans. That didn't fit, yet it got me to wondering how many other coffee drinkers share my preference for the Indonesian product. Raised on Peet's as an undergraduate at Berkeley, and later living close to Walnut and Vine, I learned how to discern the essential flavor and stimulant effect, whether it came from Sumatra or Java. Confused by the same effect from Celebes and Sulawesi, I discovered more than a simple transliteration.

mac 11:13 PM  

@doc john: Claudius spoke Latin, in Latin I is ego. I know, Claudius I made me fill in "uno".....

Doc John 11:30 PM  

Thanks Mac. I'll try to remember that for the next time.

Anonymous 11:59 PM  

I think Inspector Morse revealed his first name before the last episode - toward the end of the series, to one of the many women he was always falling in love with. Loved John Thaw and the show.

Michael Chibnik 12:02 AM  

Writing in lichee messed me up for quite a while.

I didn't understand the theme until I saw the blog.

Still, I got it all right.

ArtLvr 12:51 AM  

@ doc john -- as Mac said, EGO is the Latin word for "I", and Claudius (the Roman Emperor) is supposed to clue you in to the fact that classical Latin is being required... Did you see the PBS serialization of the BBC's "I, Claudius" some years ago? Top notch, and should get a re-airing!


p.s. We've been having much trouble with the cable provider in Michigan, but after three frustrating days they showed up again and fixed it.

ArtLvr 1:08 AM  

p.p.s. "I, Claudius" the original novel by English author Robert Graves was first published in 1934. It was adapted for TV in 1976, with Derek Jacobi in the title role. Jacobi also played the title role in the TV version of the Brother Cadfael medieval mystery series, adapted fron the books by Ellis Peters. Another excellent series!

Anonymous 1:32 AM  

@doris -- I read the Colin Dexters. ALways had a dictionary handy. Excellent. Whenever I hear the name Lewis, I get John Thaw's wonderful, frustrated pronunciation.

@fergus -- Had many a cuppa at the original Peet's myself. Right up Vine from the Artifacterie.

fergus 2:24 AM  

some of my most vivid recollections from 1981 are contoured up Vine Street -- i'm peculiarly at at loss

ari 5:51 AM  

Hello all! It's great to read your comments on the puzzle! This is my 2nd published puzzle, the first being about a year and a half ago. It's really late after most of you have posted, but I just got home from work in Bogota, Colombia. I'll be here until November, so I wasn't even able to get a copy of the NYT today. :( A coworker of mine says she knows a place here that gets the NYT a day later, so she's going to pick up a copy for me tomorrow.

In regards to the "3-word" aspect of the theme hint, my original submission clue did not contain that. It was ultimately changed.

But to give Will Shortz major credit, he came up with the Zero personality clue, which I thought was brilliant!

In any case, it seemed like most of you enjoyed it, which thrills me! If you didn't enjoy it, that's okay too. I know I've done puzzles which I didn't enjoy.

When I sent the puzzle in for submission, my major qualm about it was the amount of 3-letter words. I thought it would be shot down based on that alone. I was shocked that it was accepted. I also tried to get rid of ELENI, but ultimately stuck with it because losing it was creating major issues.

Interesting about Litchi...I think that's the only way I've ever seen it spelled.


Tom Allen 9:44 AM  

I had many of the same roadblocks already commented on: 18 across was A RAIL for quite a while before, after lots of crossing, it became RAZOR. The middle-north region in general had me stumped for quite a while. Eventually got IZOD, BLACK-EYED PEARY, and SPREE, after which the rest fell.

I had far too much trouble with 42-Down. At first I thought, well, it's Claudius ONE, of course. That made (51: Convinced) into HELD (?), but HASTA made that SELD -- what, some strange past tense of SOLD? Ah -- change in to ONO (Yoko?) -- then got GOLDEN ARCHERY to make it ENO. Perhaps Claudius is Spanish or Portuguese or something and it's a foreign word I don't know. But Hollywood's not in SAN Francisco or anything, and I really thought we were talking about the I, Claudius Claudius. Hey -- that's not a Roman numeral at all! (This is the second time I've fallen for this particular trick in this sort of clue.)

I thought of GIGANTIC for (38-Down: Enormous) but I already had RAN and couldn't see changing it, so I left it open for later. Nice bit of misdirection in the cluing.

I had the --ORY of STORY early on, before I had any of the theme entries, and thought the three-word hint would be - FOR Y, or maybe EM OR Y or IV OR Y. An EMORY might level one's cuticles -- but that's EMERY, isn't it? And 55-Down is plural, so SFORY? Is that some obscure musical term related to SFORZANDO? How is that level? D'oh! Level isn't a verb at all. It's S TO RY, and now GOLDEN ARCHERY makes sense.

Never heard of EAN Night or the drama ELENI, but I can see where they'd be helpful. NOT ON makes me cringe whenever I see it clued as "Off" rather than "___ your life!" or something. I loved ROLY-POLY and the "Zero personality?" clue (which I only understood after enough crosses gave me OPERATOR.)

Overall: the theme made me chuckle each time I got an answer. A few too many three-letter words for my taste, though. A decent midweek puzzle.

Anonymous 11:41 AM  

I appreciated the clever wordplay in such a minor clue as "Hatch or Byrd: Abbr." I guess I shouldn't SQUAWK that no one else mentioned it, FEATHER or not they noticed it...

Anonymous 12:11 PM  

Thanks for inspector Morse and rolypoly.
Due to not proofreading the SE, prior to the blog.
Curious about the player and stud.
And then then 70 across, hmmm

Anonymous 5:27 PM  

Juliebee-Thanks for the head up on Descartes. I really feel dumb for not seeing it, but I was really thinking math-disappearing series or something?

embien 7:38 PM  

I've usually seen it as LITCHI around here (West Coast), and that makes sense because it is the fruit of the Litchi chinensis tree. I'd say that LICHEE, LYCHEE, etc. spellings would be the variants.

A clever and fun (for me) puzzle.

Anonymous 8:31 PM  

Feeling a bit dense, because many commentators remark on the cleverness of the "zero personality" clue for "operator". While I finished the puzzle, I don't get how these two connect--

Anonymous 8:36 PM  

John - operator is the personality you get by dialing zero

Rex Parker 9:59 PM  

Whoa, Crosscan, what are you doing in five-weeks-ago land? Slumming? (Just kidding, guys)


Jeffrey 10:07 PM  

It's that darned follow-up comments email box. It follows me everywhere.

I like it in five-weeks-ago land. I find the puzzles easier, kind of a deja-vu feel. The conversations stay on topic and the weather is better.

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