Thursday, July 17, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "SHAPES UP" (42D: Quits misbehaving ... or a literal hint to 4-, 9-, 13-, 49- and 57-Down) - theme answers are shapes, which read from bottom to top

Rex here. I'm back blogging for a couple of days, then gone again, then back, etc., until Aug. 7. You'll pardon my lack of blogging motivation. Or you would pardon it, if you'd ever been here in NZ. I promise that I'll at least *try* to care about the puzzle.

Well, this one took me far longer than it should have. Something about Due North just krushed me. Couldn't remember 5A: Starr of the Old West (Belle), thought LIL (7D: One of TV's Rugrats) was DIL, thought BOLL (5D: Cotton pod) was ARIL, then HULL ... ugh. Plus, the theme took me somewhat longer than usual to figure out. So between (among?) 5A, 5D, 7D, and 9D: Coterie (elcric), I was a mess. The rest of the puzzle - mostly fine, difficulty-wise. I am still on super- slo- mo- mode, though, so nothing I say can be trusted at this point. Need several more days to recalibrate. My set-up here at my brother-in-law's is not optimal, but it'll do. I'm currently having trouble printing from Across Lite, which is making mark-up of the puzzle (an important pre-write-up ritual) impossible. Looks like I'm going to have to do some tinkering, because I canNOT do this properly w/o a printed-out puzzle in front of me. For now ... I'm just going to improvise.

Oh, and NZ is beautiful. I had Manuka honey on toast today, and then vegemite on toast. Both excellent. Hour+-long hike with the families and dog to a lake. Trip to Puzzling World (about which much more later).

Theme answers:

  • 4D: Percussion instrument in an orchestra (elgnairt)
  • 9D: Coterie (elcric)
  • 13D: Headliner (rats)
  • 57D: Racetrack (lavo)
  • 49D: Unhip person (erauqs)

The only other non-theme-related trouble I had was in the name collision in the SE, where LORELAI (57A: One of TV's Gilmore Girls) meets DINAH (52D: Alice's pet cat in "Alice in Wonderland"). Didn't know either, and LORELAI in particular took a while to come together.

The Remaining:

  • 24A: U.N. Secretary General from Ghana (Annan) - Very familiar name I can never remember how to spell. ANAN? ANNAN? KHOFI? KOFFI? KOFI?
  • 33A: Colorful lawn or garden feature (whirligig) - great word, and one which I've never seen in the puzzle (to my knowledge). Much better in my puzzle than in my garden (they seem kinda tacky).
  • 37A: Soundtrack annoyance (lag) - good clue; LAG often happens on embedded youtube videos
  • 44A: Something you might want to get to the heart of? (artichoke) - mmmm. I got spoiled living in California, where these were fresh and plentiful. Delicious. Sidenote on fruit: NZ has the best apples. The Best. I had a Braeburn this morning and I handed it to my wife and said "This. This is what apples are supposed to taste like! This is the apple I look for every time I go shopping! ... This!"
  • 50A: Sale day feeling (mania) - I seriously doubt that anyone actually has this feeling. It's what retailers SAY you have, or SAY they have, but ... come on.
  • 67A: Doha's domain (Qatar) - the Doha / QATAR clue / answer pair can run in either direction. Doha and QATAR are the emirs of Crossworddom's Middle Eastern region.
  • 11D: "The Worst _____ in London" ("Sweeney Todd" song) ("Pies") - misread this at first and thought it was the clue for 21D: Small hill (knoll), so I had "KNIFE"
  • 28D: Tourist city between Jaipur and Lucknow (Agra) - AGRA's wearing fancy clothes today. Sadly, AGRA by any other name smells the same.
  • 48D: Ha-ha, nowadays (LOL) - I prefer HA ha, actually. It's just one more key stroke, and it reminds me of my all-time favorite laugh.

  • 55D: "The Country Girl" playwright, 1950 (Odets) - went through a major Grace Kelly phase in the 90s. Kelly won her Academy Award for her performance in the movie version of this play.
  • 60D: Avant-garde filmmaker Brakhage (Stan) - What the what the what the? Of all the STANs. STAN Laurel. STAN Lee. UzbekiSTAN.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Daryl 5:10 AM  

Interesting one today. Since I do the puzzle in Singapore, now that you're in NZ you're way ahead time-wise!

I got SQUARE, TRIANGLE, and STAR straight up, and then struggled mightily to see how they fit in with ANNAN, PINA, and QATAR. Not too keen on the BELLE/LIL cross, but I suppose BELLE was guessable, even if Lord knows how I would otherwise know a Rugrat's name.

Unknown 5:29 AM  
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Unknown 5:41 AM  

As someone who lives in Hawaii and has to wait until next day to read your comments, I am elated you're in New Zealand!!! Welcome back Rex!
I actually found today's puzzle unusually easy for a Thursday. I struggled infinitely more with yesterday's puzzle. The theme was cute (once I figured it out), but found most of the fill pretty boring (other than whirligig, which was definitely a highlight of the puzzle). Maybe the hitch for you is that you know too much. As a pretty pathetic amateur solver, I went with boll, leapt, and my roommate helped with Belle, which gave Lil, so I didn't get stuck. In fact, for a Thursday, I hardly got stuck at all. I admit, I'm feeling proud for solving the Thursday crossword without hitches.
In any case, have a wonderful trip, welcome back for your cameo appearances, and love the photo!

Anonymous 7:39 AM  

I don't get "headliner" -- "rats" ???


Generally, I thought the cluing on this one pretty easy for a Thursday once the shapes shaped up.


Unknown 7:45 AM  

Choked on artichoke and took awhile to get the trick. First theme to fall was lavo for me. On my way to NYC so nice to get to read your post now instead of late in the day. Good'ay to you.

Unknown 7:46 AM  

Sam. Rats is another shape STAR.

SethG 7:47 AM  

We're all lucky Rex is back--that way I didn't have to follow PuzzleGirl and Wade, and you didn't have to read the analysis in which I completely missed the fact that the theme answers were SHAPEs.

Three tough crossings for me--the LORELA(I)/D(I)NAH coulda been Y, B(O)LL/(O)RIEL coulda been A, and S(P)AR/(P)IES coulda been lotsa stuff but I had L.

I know my UN Secretaries-General, so it's kinda embarrassing that it took me so long to come up with ANNAN when I had ANNxx. For MANIA, I picture that more on the day that the new "it" toy arrives than on sale day. Maybe in this form "WORD(S)" won't confuse Wade again.

Can't wait to see your pictures of the Leaning Tower of Wanaka! (Hopefully, they're better than mine.)

Anonymous 7:48 AM  

@anonymous: STAR is rats backwards, or upwards.

I got stuck in the same places as Rex but not for long. I love the "Aha" moment when I figured out the theme. I do this everytime the letters don't make sense. I think I got it wrong, then realize I need to start from the bottom and go up. Or left to right, whatever direction is necessary to make a word. I loved the puzzle. And it's great to have you back, Rex -- the photos of you and your daughter in NZ are awesome! (But Vegemite: YUK!)

JannieB 8:21 AM  

Welcome back - so glad you're having a great time.

This puzzle was lackluster for me - only fun word was whirligig, I knew all the names, and had no real problems except in the mid-Atlantic where artichoke took a bit too long. Other than that, a let down after yesterday.

Bill D 8:29 AM  


Went thru this one purty quik, but needed 42D (the hint answer) to finally realize what was going on. Originally tried "ESCORT" for 10D:Coterie, but that soon fell to PRAISES, ATILT, & CASABA. Had ELGNAIRT, E_CRIC, RATS, E_e_Q_ (little e means I originally spelled LORELAI the accepted way) and "OVAL" when I got SHAPES UP, and it all fell into place. Like Susan, I wasn't confused by being too smart - BELLE, BOLL, LIL went in right away. Liked WHIRLIGIG (who doesn't!), RATTLER, CRINKLE, and ARTICHOKE, but, like Jannie B, I thought the cluing was a bit too obvious for a Thursday, or maybe I'm just getting more used to crosswordese.

Jeffrey 8:29 AM  

This went quickly for me. I thought it was a dumb theme until the "SHAPES UP" clue which I got to after getting the trick. Then it works.

Barry G. 8:33 AM  

Morning, all!

I really, REALLY hate rebus puzzles. Right up until the moment that I actually realize it's a rebus puzzle, that is....

This one started off extremely easy, even a bit boring. I was blowing through the accrosses like nobody's business, finishing the entire top half of the puzzle in record time before I noticed that 9D spelled out ELCRIC and 4D was spelling out ELGNAI__. At which point I had a major crisis of faith in myself. Something, somewhere, had obviously gone terrible wrong, but the answers seemed to fit together so nicely elsewhere that I was sure they had to be right...

I finally remembered that Thursday is often rebus day and, although I didn't know what the theme was, I decided to forge ahead. Once I got 42D, of course, the light bulb went off and I tore through the rest of the puzzle. Even knowing the theme, however, I ended up scratching my head when I got LAVO for 57D...

So basically, if it weren't for the rebus, this would have been a Monday puzzle for me. With the rebus it briefly became a Saturday nightmare until I figured out the theme.

Orange 8:50 AM  

Barry, hon, it's not a rebus puzzle. I'd call it a gimmick puzzle (and there are those who call Thursday Gimmickday at the NYT forum). I usually reserve the term rebus for any puzzle in which multiple letters/a picture/a color/a word get squeezed into a single square. Backwards action is a gimmick of another color.

So maybe you hate twisty gimmick puzzles in general? Me, I love 'em. Though I concede that it's much harder to type a word backwards from the start than to hand-print it. I have solved easy puzzles in pencil by writing the answers backwards from the SE corner rather than across from the NW corner. Typing wait,, wait, ELGNAIRT is harder.

Anonymous 8:55 AM  

As I live in Doha, Qatar I always enjoy seeing them in the puzzle. It is difficult for people to type Qatar without automatically putting in the u (Quatar). Must be finger memory.

I thought this was going to be a rebus puzzle until I got to oval when all became clear.

Barry G. 8:58 AM  


Yeah, I realized it wasn't really a "rebus" puzzle right after I posted that. I was kind of hoping nobody would call me on it, but alas, in this my hope was in vain.... ^_^

But yes, it's gimmicky puzzles in general I hate. Until, as I said earlier, I realize that there is, in fact, a gimmick (and figure out what the gimmick actually is). Once I've realized there is a gimmick and figured out what, exactly, the gimmick is, I love them!

Orange 9:05 AM  

P.S. Rex, OMG! It's winter down there! Looking forward to hearing about Puzzling World...and could you bring me two kilos of those Braeburns please? Thanks.

Barry, someone made me do it. :-) Anyway, always be extra-suspicious on Thursday the second something doesn't quite jibe. Alas, nobody has compiled a list of gimmick types and their relative frequency. Backwards...I've seen maybe three or four times in the last 4,000 or so crosswords. Rebuses are easier to find—when you're sure you know some answers but they're too long for the space allotted.

Anonymous 9:24 AM  
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Scott 9:28 AM  

Interesting to see that people had difficulty w/ this puzzle. I absolutely flew through it. I recognized the end of triangle w/o seeing the theme hint clue, so when i did see SHAPESUP, I got it w/ no crosses; I got RATTLER, WHIRLIGIG, ARTICHOKE with few crosses; LORELAI and BOLL were both gimmes for me so clearly that helped but, all in all, I thought the puzzle felt more like a Tuesday and was kinda disappointed by how easy it was.

I guess there are just days when you and the constructor are on the same wavelength. My one stumbling block was misreading 'bounded' as 'bound', but other than that this must have been my smoothest Thursday ever.

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

Rex, welcome back, and how appropriate that you get to blog on an "upside down" puzzle while you yourself are "down under".

Joon 10:00 AM  

awesome puzzle. i loved this theme. somewhat surprisingly, i had all of ELGNAIRT in place via crosses and didn't think too hard about the fact that it obviously wasn't a word, so that when i got to SHAPESUP i had my "aha" moment. then quickly went back and filled in the others. overall, though, i have to agree that this was an easier-than-usual thursday (and miles easier than yesterday's krozel).

seth, i haven't seen sweeney todd (the show or the movie), but it's about a (totally sick) business partnership between a barber and the baker in the next shop over. the barber starts killing his customers and then the baker bakes them into PIES. i don't know if the "worst PIES in london" refer to the ones with people in them, or the ones she was selling before she went all soylent green.

foodie 10:02 AM  

We the Rexites salute you Rex! Great to hear your voice and see the awesome pictures!

Seemed like a perfect Thursday to me. I got the UPside down trick early on, but did not tumble to the SHAPE part of it till very late. But once you get the reversal idea, it can still go pretty quickly.

I thought of ARTICHOKE early on, then dismissed it. In part it's because I want to get to the "bottom" of it more than the "heart" of it. I make many dishes with artichoke bottoms, or we just eat them with oil and vinegar (or oil and lemon) after going through the leaves. Rex, I agree that California has the best freshest artichokes (Watsonville!). Your apple sounds like the original, the one that tempted Adam. How fitting since we've been saying you're in paradise.

DINAH came to me from some very old memory, having read "Alice in Wonderland" as a child in French. I tell you, this is one hard book to translate, because of all the wordplay. Can you imagine figuring this out in a different language:

“Mine is a long and a sad tale!” said the Mouse, turning to Alice, and sighing. “It is a long tail, certainly,” said Alice, looking down with wonder at the Mouse’s tail; “but why do you call it sad?”

So, I've been trying to figure out who, on earth, can access the NY Times puzzle first. Is there a release time that is the same no matter where you are that's locked to New York hours, or do you get it earlier in NZ? If so, when?

SethG 10:15 AM  

Joon, that actually makes me kinda want to see Sweeney Todd. Rex, don't listen to Orange--turns out, dogs attack you when you try to bring apples through customs.

Anonymous 10:24 AM  

@sethg - Yeah, they attack you. But they're usually beagles. 13" of benign love.

@Orange - I'm giving the missing T a try out. Feels wrong.

Two Ponies 10:55 AM  

I loved this puzzle. I knew something fishy was going on as parts of the theme became apparent but I just went with the flow until I figured it out. Originally thought square was going to be sphere for a moment. I thought the fill, for the most part, was fresh. I did wonder about the spelling of Lorelai.
I think we are all becoming better solvers both from constant practice and the daily conversation/dissection that we enjoy from this blog so Thursdays are just not the challenge they once were.
Looking forward to more of your NZ adventures Rex. Your subs are doing a great job.
As for Vegemite....I have tried it and I think I'd rather have a Sweeney Todd pie!

Blanche 10:57 AM  

Easiest Thursday puzzle in recent memory. Definitely a Monday, solved it as fast as I could write. Clever theme!

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

Rex, you think sale day doesn't create MANIA? How about this headline from last week:

NEW YORK - Apple sold 1 million iPhones in the first three days its newest model was on the market.

First release of the product on Canadian carriers was last Tuesday and we couldn't get to the Tim Hortons (our version of Dunkin' Donuts) in the mall for a morning coffee because the lineup outside the phone store was too long.....


Anonymous 11:07 AM  

Wow Barry, you and I seem to have had almost identical experiences solving this thing. This puzzle was a bear for me at first too. I started off in the NW/N area and also scratched my head at ELGNAIRT and ELCRIC, then moved along the West Coast down to the SW, where I was confronted by ERAUQS (it was actually ERA_Q_ at that point). Once I hesitatingly filled in the "U" in UNITY, I remembered the "U follows Q" rule (permanently cemented in my brain from years of playing Scrabble) and then had a glorious "AHA!" moment when I figured out the clue.

But, Barry, I have to say that I agree with orange about my overall verdict for the puzzle. I did enjoy it a lot. Once I got the theme I chuckled to myself while shaking my head in disbelief at not having gotten it sooner. This went on for several minutes. I admit that the fill is mostly ho-hum, but I did like CRINKLE, WHIRLIGIG, EPISTLE (which you don't see very often) and ARTICHOKE.

Rex, have fun in NZ, but watch out for Black Riders. I hear they can be very annoying, in a destroy-the-world kind of way. :-p

Ronathan ;-)

jae 11:11 AM  

I also found this pretty easy for a Thurs. 42d explained the funny looking entries and I knew BOLL (think boll weevil), LORELIA, and QATAR. My only slip up was PANIC for MANIA (think stock market sell off). Not as much fun or as interesting as yesterday's.

RodeoToad 11:31 AM  

Sethg, in fact, the W in WORDS was the third to last letter I filled in (the EE in TWEETS were the last two.) I though the answer was FORDS at first (cross a river, ford a river, that sort of thing.) The problem is, when I go through the alphabet, I usually (unconsciously) stop at T. The rest of the letters sort of all into the "honorable mention" category.

Joon 11:32 AM  

seth, here is a link to the one song i know from that show. (it begins around the 1:00 mark.) it is totally twisted, and contains many of the most disturbing puns you will ever encounter. (begins around the 1 minute mark.) you'll never think of angela lansbury (sweet little mrs. potts from beauty and the beast!) the same way again.

alanrichard 11:44 AM  

I had the entire top going across before I even realized that this was a shapes up puzzle. When I looked at elgnairt and thought, "Whats This", I realized the theme. I liked this one. It wasn't hard but it was clever. Between Qantas and Qatar, I'm getting used to Q followed by A.

Orange 11:58 AM  

Foodie, the online release of the NYT puzzle is simultaneous everywhere. But the Europeans can get the puzzle a little earlier in the International Herald Tribune, I think. And New Yorkers can buy the Sunday paper on Saturday.

Rex, leftover half sandwiches also attract Customs dogs.

Shamik 12:02 PM  

@joon...Mrs. Lovett sings this one before she's using the barber's customers as filling.

@Rex...envious of your trip to NZ. Enjoy!

Doris 12:18 PM  
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Doris 12:18 PM  
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dk 12:21 PM  


"There's nothing so tragic as seeing a family pulled apart by something as simple as a pack of wolves."

@sethg, you dodged a bullet.

On the puzzle my only complaint is with LAG. "A hum is a sound track problem, a LAG is a replay annoyance!" stewed Tom stereophonically.

Got all the clues and then the hint. Stumbled around BELLE as I do not know any of the Rugrats, much less LIL. The rest was early week and not the tipsy mother of Thursday.

TGIF tomorrow

Doris 12:24 PM  

The song "Ya Gotta Have a Gimmick" from "Gypsy" expresses my personal preference in puzzles. The bottom-to-top gimmick has been used on several occasions. The one I remember most fondly was from "New York, New York" from the fabulous Bernstein, Comden, and Green show "On the Town." It has "The Bronx is up" going from bottom to top and, on the other side, "Battery's down," going from top to bottom. I guess that "and the" was somewhere in the middle of the grid.

Anonymous 12:39 PM  

Wow, what an international crew we have commenting today! I am usually in Boston but on vacation in Wyoming this week--does that count as a far-away place?!

Probably because I am on vaca, I never got the theme and just thought I was a complete dunce because I didn't recognize a bunch of words.

Brought a pile of about 50 puzzles with me and am alarmed to see my supply dwindling with four days to go and a long trip home. Working on the 50-year puzzles--one from 1973 now--Will Weng as editor. Has anyone tried them (forgive me if you are someone who did them back in the day--I mean no disrespect.)


Jeffrey 12:45 PM  

@doris, the puzzle you refer to is from April 30, 1998.

Credit to Jim H's magic database.

foodie 12:53 PM  

On the other hand, I've brought all kinds of opium pipes and similar gadgets from various parts of the world, and those were usually previously used (I collect them for fun, but they're related to my research). Every time, I'd be quaking in my shoes that the custom dogs would sniff them out. But they're apparently too busy sniffing apples and half-eaten sandwiches.. I'm not recommending anyone try the real stuff. But it's remarkable.

Thanks Orange for the info about the online posting. Makes sense. I mentioned in the past that my friend completed the Sunday puzzle in Paris on Friday our time, because the Herald Tribune publishes a weekend copy on Friday night/Saturday am, London time. Presumably, they can also get the weekday paper a few hours ahead of us. I wonder if they are the earliest possible solvers of the puzzle?

fergus 12:56 PM  

Foodie, you were probably thinking of Castroville, just down the road a few miles, though in between it's all chokes and strawberries. They have that gaudy 20-foot high artichoke right on the main drag, the festival with the Artichoke Queen, etc. Further to the north (and west, technically) all our fields are strictly Brussels sprouts -- not quite as nice, but they're fun to harvest, and taste better brought straight home.

Stumbling upon the upside down TRIANGLE right off made this pretty much a breeze. Much easier than yesterday, but then I never saw to ZIP note. Putting in CLIQUE for the Coterie did cause a bit of a mess, however. Don't think I've ever seen CRINKLE in a puzzle before. And now that I think about it, GET A Life, might have been a warning for inveterate puzzlers, but that never crossed my mind while solving, so comfortable in my own SQUAREness.

dk 12:59 PM  

@kathy, as one who just had a birthday and who is not at all touchy about age.... 1973 IS NOT 50YEARS AGO :0

miriam b 1:14 PM  

I found this puzzle extremely easy, even though I'e never seen either Rugrats or The Gilmore Girls. The STAR of the puzzle was DINAH, my most accomplished levitating cat. I just took a photo of her, Iris and Dewey peering wistfully out through a screen door. They're not allowed outdoors, though Lionel is, as he's 16 and too old to retrain for indoor status.

Speaking of STAR, I was a little taken aback to find that all the other shapes can be considered geometric, but STAR cannot. Or am I wrong? Not sure about OVAL.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

Rex - glad to hear that you enjoyed the vegemite. It's good stuff, but I always thought it must have been an acquired taste. Most Americans that I've spoken with who've tried it for the first time as adults have said that they hated it - 'too salty' is the common complaint.

I have a huge jar of it in my cupboard that my sister brought to me years ago during her travels (I live in Buffalo and I don't know where to get it from - I heard once that you can buy it in stores in California but I don't know if that's true or not.) I was just tucking into it last weekend, matter of fact! The expiration date is May 2002 but it's as good as if it were made yesterday.

Try putting it on a cheese sandwich - mmmmmmmmm.....

Doris 1:18 PM  

@Crosscan: Hey, thanks! I thought it must have been longer ago than that, since most things seem to be longer ago than they used to be.

jubjub 1:22 PM  

I liked the theme a lot. I think that is because I just enjoy reading/saying words backwards. I have no explanation for it, I am just weird. Maybe it's cuz I used to live near the intersection of Nobel and Lebon Drs. I read the "Racetrack" clue after fixing AMIE but before reading the theme clue, and thought, too bad I'm not filling in answers backwards, cuz then the OVAL would fit. Like I said, I am weird. I got a T-shirt at a track meet once that said "My world is an oval". I used to wear it a lot cuz I set both my PRs at that meet. Okay, enough sharing :). Well, maybe one more. Somehow, I got ARTICHOKE right off the bat with no crosses. Weird, weird.

The north was the last section for me as well. It took me forever to parse the LEAPT definition of "Bounded". Kept trying to fit something like rapt or trapped in there. Overall, fairly easy for me (no Googling! woohoo!).

Rex: "Epidermis means your hair, so technically it's true. That's what makes it so funny" is funny on many levels :). That, and "Go banana!"

alanrichard 1:36 PM  

With all the cool videos you put in, this was a golden opportunity to put in Rocky & Bullwinkle and Boris & Natasha vying for the UPSIDASIUM!!!! You were down under in New Zealand & should have thought of that!!

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

Rex: You're from upstate New York where we have some of the most wonderful apples in the fall and winter (the season in New Zealand where you are now). Next Autumn go to Wegmans (no apostrophe) and get a fresh Gala or Macoun apple and you'll find as much pleasure from our apples as you're getting now. Love the blog!

alanrichard 1:40 PM  

The only time I got the puzzles very early is when I was on cruises

Unknown 1:41 PM  

With ELGNAIRT in place, I stared at it, and then Googled it. Lo, Elgnairt is a musical group. I eschewed listening for sounds of percussion because in typing elgnairt for Google, I realized that it is (duh) TRIANGLE spelled backwards. Then I saw STAR, and the puzzle more or less finished itself.

Back to my childhood game of reading signs backwards on road trips.

Now I'll try to GETA life, or at least my lunch.

Arby 2:03 PM  

Ugh. Very hard for me. Yesterday's, while also difficult, was mild by comparison. Never did fully grok the "shape" part of the theme until coming here, as I didn't solve the hint to the theme until I had already solved all the upside down clues, and hadn't noticed (somehow) that they were all shapes.

Never did get "LEAPT", for some reason (seems easy in hindsight), and never heard of an Oriel. Didn't know Alice's cat, or any Gilmores other than David (and he's a Gilmour). Had to Google ODETS, and STAN, but at least I got AGEE.

Poor instincts today initially gave me BALL for BOLL, PANIC for MANIA, APOSTLE for EPISTLE (duh), CRUMPLE for CRINKLE, GHALI for ANNAN, PESTER for NETTLE, and WAIT for BALK. Combine that with being on an all-week conference call, and it was pretty much curtains for me...

imsdave 2:11 PM  

Joon - actually the meat pies were the worst in London until she started making them with people. They became a hot item after that.

Speaking of meat pies, I think they should make meatamite. Vegemite makes me gag.

Enjoyed the puzzle, even though I couldn't solve it until the 42D hint.

Now I'm going to elcric back to the den to practice my elgnairt. Hope the coterie of rats don't get me.

p.s. kudos to wade and PG for their work the last couple of days. Looking forward the sethg on the hot seat.

p.s.s. Rex, enjoy the weather - it's miserable hot here.

mac 2:20 PM  

Ditto to a lot of the comments above. Bottom line is that the puzzle was good but a little easy for a Thursday.

@Foodie: the problem with the Herald Tribune is that it never prints the Saturday puzzle, my favorite. P.S. In Italy you can buy the fresh bottoms completely cleaned, uncooked and stored in a bucket with water and lemon juice.

@John Reid: try your marmite/vegimite on wholewheat toast with peanut butter!

After Orange someone called gnarbles commented: I thought it such a strange name that I tried to read it backward......

Ulrich 2:28 PM  

Count me among those who liked the puzzle b/c its gimmick was unexpected--when things didn't work out, I looked desperately for a rebus. Needed the hint at 42D to see the light, but had still 1/2 to go and could use the theme to complete the south.

@miriam b: A star is defintely a shape b/c one can say that something is "star-shaped". However, stars (and ovals) differ from triangles, squares and circles in that the latter belong to the elements classical geometry deals with, whereas ovals and stars are too losely defined to offer much for mathematical analysis. It's this unbalance in the nature of the shapes that one could criticize, if one is so inclined--I'm not, at least not today, with the weather being so good [sic!]

Geof 2:38 PM  

There is a meatamite - it is called Marmite.

Probably the ealiest solvers of the Sunday puzzle would be Kiwis and Aussies who get the IHT as they are 12 hours ahead of US and 6 ahead of Europe.

chefbea 2:47 PM  

i agree - very easy for a thursday. I got all the upside down words but didnt realize they were all shapes til I got here.

Love artichokes especially with home made hollandaise sauce (and mine does not curdle)

btw my roasted beets last night were delicious - also sauted the beet tops. yummm

Bill from NJ 2:54 PM  

Maybe someone can answer a question: How in the world are we supposed to recognize a variant spelling LORELAI from what is a visual medium when the word itself is spoken and rarely written down?

Just askin'

Jeez, here I am in Joisey talking to a bunch of globetrtters. Kinda humbles one, don't it.

When I finally saw SHAPESUP at 42D, I went back to the clues it pointed at and realized I didn't.
have any of them and I knew I was in trouble. I commonly solve by skipping words I don't recognize and moving on.

I had the puzzle solved except the words I skipped when I realized ERAUQS was backwards and there was
my AHA moment and I quickly finished.

ARTICHOKE broke this puzzle's back for me

Anonymous 3:04 PM  

My Vegemite source out here on the left coast has dried up. According to the manager of the market that used to carry it, it doesn't meet FDA requirements. I think it might be from the lack of info on the label about ingredients which Vegimite/Kraft Foods deigns to supply, but also might be from the ingredients per se. I tried Marmite, but it is not as good.

mac 3:06 PM  

@Ulrich: I'm surprised you didn't comment on the spelling of Lorelai. I have certainly never seen it this way.

It was so odd to see Rex and (very pretty) daughter with coats on when the sparrows are falling from the roof in Connecticut.

PuzzleGirl 3:12 PM  

@bill from nj: I guess you would know the spelling of Lorelai if you were completely addicted to the Gilmore Girls, read the recaps weekly on Television Without Pity, participated in discussion groups about the show, and owned the DVDs so you could go back and watch the old ones (pausing sometimes to write down a particularly funny line that you wanted to remember). Not that I know anyone who ever did that.

Barry G. 3:12 PM  

Maybe someone can answer a question: How in the world are we supposed to recognize a variant spelling LORELAI from what is a visual medium when the word itself is spoken and rarely written down?

Offhand, I'd say:

1. I guess this is what makes it a Thursday puzzle instead of a Monday one after all, and/or

2. Once the theme was figured out, it was extremely easy to get LORELAI from the crosses.

dk 3:50 PM  

@puzzlegirl, stepson's and I just got through doing your Gilmore thing (excuse, the thing someone you know did but not you) for Invader Zim. There is a character named Gir (constructors take note) who has sayings that we pour over and work into conversations whenever we can.

@chefbea1, beet salad with grilled chicken tonight, tryin out sum-a-dem yeller beets as well.

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

Belle Sarr was a gimme for me because of an album I picked up a while back with Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris. This song will now be stuck in my head the entire day.

My mamma and my daddy
Told me that love is a two-way street
But lately baby, you've been finding
New ways of dragging yout feet
So come on, make your best shot
You don't have to take the blame
I'll be your belle star
You can be my Jesse James

Bill from NJ 4:16 PM  


Thank you, maam, that was precisely my point, even if the question itself was at least half rhetorical, three-quarters facetious and totally insipid.

By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed your write-ups, both here and at Orange's

green mantis 4:31 PM  

Easy puzzle.

I think you can get vegemite at Faletti's in San Francisco, but I guess it's just a local store. They pride themselves, I think, on carrying rare and wonderful food items from around the world for a mere seven, eight times what they're worth. I get around vegemite cravings by mainlining salted salt.

Anonymous 5:05 PM  

Having no idea what vegemite is, I did the usual searches. Seems harmless enough. Then I vaguely remembered it actually being used in song - vegemite sandwiches. For all who're interested, here's the (adult) definition

So, only on toast, and only one piece of toast at a time Rex. Don't want you walking around NZ waxing poetic about the vegemite sandwich you had for breakfast.

foodie 5:15 PM  

@fergus, oh yeah, you're right, I meant Castroville, the Artichoke Capital of the World! You live near there, how cool!

These acquired tastes are a mystery-- marmite, vegemite, and for me, even peanut butter! Before I tasted any of them, I'd met various expats who'd talk about them with deep yearning. Then I'd taste them and think: This is the object of their affection? But when we spent time in Italy with my typically American 3 year-old son, he became miserable without his peanut butter. We canvassed the whole Lake Garda area for it with no success, and they looked at us like we were tetched. So, for years I wound up traveling overseas with a jar of the stuff, and in the process introduced all kinds of people to the magic of peanut butter.

Rex, it sounds like there might be a market for Vegemite here. And I bet the customs dogs will have NO CLUE...

Joon 5:21 PM  

first tossed salad, now vegemite sandwich. this is shaping up to be one hell of a crossword theme.

Anonymous 5:24 PM  

How could I have left out the Tossed Salad tie in? How?

Anonymous 5:26 PM  

can somebody explain to me 10 across boom = spar

Anonymous 5:33 PM  

@Anonymous 5:26 - I'm surprised this hasn't raised more eyebrows. Here you go:
BOOM (n)
1. Nautical. any of various more or less horizontal spars or poles for extending the feet of sails, esp. fore-and-aft sails, for handling cargo, suspending mooring lines alongside a vessel, pushing a vessel away from wharves, etc.

Doc John 5:38 PM  

I'm glad I'm not the only one who had problems with this puzzle. Had to pick my way through it like it was a Friday. Especially had trouble in Texas, as I didn't know DINAH. Finally got it all done but had Dil instead of Lil and thus ended up with Bedle. Got the theme fairly early on but didn't realize that all the answers were shapes- duh! Or, in honor of the Simpsons clip- D'oh! Speaking of The Simpsons, we were at Universal Studios Tuesday and rode their new Simpsons ride. Really, really fun. They rethemed the whole Back to the Future area as Krustyland (although interestingly enough, kept Doc Brown's Chicken restaurant).

@ Jubjub- Interesting that you mention Nobel and Lebon Drives. I was just in that area yesterday (took Lebon off of LJ Village Dr to get to Nobel) and actually lived near there years ago. Not until now did I realize that one is the reverse of the other. Gimme another Duh!

Jeffrey 5:47 PM  

There is an Adanac street near me and it took me years to realize what that was backwards.


Anonymous 6:39 PM  

I used to go to the horse races in Omaha at Aksarben Track.

jae 7:35 PM  

@bill from nj -- the other way to get the spelling is to be enough of a geezer to watch the show with the subtitles on.

Bill D 7:42 PM  

@DannyB - That Mark Knofler/Emmylou Harris album, All The Roadrunning, is fabulous - great tunes and great vocal give and take! Although all the songs were newly written for the album the duet makes them sound like old standards.

Knofler's solo album Sailing to Philadelphia is also a winner - check out What It Is and Silvertown Blues in addition to the title tune.

Michael Chibnik 7:56 PM  

Once I figured out elgnairt, I zoomed through this puzzle. For me, this week we had Thursday on Wednesday and Wednesday on Thursday.

Maybe this is appropriate -- much of Rex's Thursday was my Wednesday.

JC66 8:47 PM  


If you want to make Rex giggle, drop the "W."

fergus 10:10 PM  

I wonder if there is any deep connection between accentuated food consciousness and the solution of puzzles? Since my psychologist friends tend to refer rather frequently to the reptilian brain, I am wondering whether there's some physiologically complex response association with food gratification and messing around with letters in a grid, since I don't think that early reptiles had much need for our communal form of distraction. And this is said from just coming back from a visit with a pair of tortoises,a snapping turtle, two pythons, a bearded lizard, or was it a dragon?; plus a litter of kittens, a hedgehog, the dog I took care of for a year, plus a new puppy. Am I forgetting anyone? Oh yeah, a bunch of fathers and sons coming back from the beach, ripe with interpretations from the more natural world.

What I'm getting at is that maybe this effete recreational form does have a pleasure center not far from some of our more basic human instincts. Or, if you prefer another interpretation, our fussiness over language corresponds to an enthusiasm for food in a measured gradation of the raison d'etre.

Anonymous 10:23 PM  

Am surprised none of the Gilmore fans has pointed out that Lorelai is not ONE of the Gilmore Girls - it is both of them. Lorelai named her daughter after herself, and Rory is the young one's nickname.

Also wanted to let you know about the Scottsdale(AZ) Community College team mascot: the Artichokes. Seems the original student body didn't like the administrators allocating so much money for athletics, and when given the option to vote for the new mascot all the brainy kids organized and got enough votes to overrun "Dovers" with the now-beloved Artichokes.

These are the first 2 words I put into the puzzle.

mac 10:25 PM  

@fergus: are you talking about Foodie, chefbea and me? The way I see it, food and cooking is just another way to be creative. I also think (and I have actually met chefbea and think I have a good idea about Foodie) that we are all three perfectionists.
I just ate a perfect black apricot.

miriam b 10:56 PM  

@mac: Count me in. I'm a perfectionist too, and I just cut up the perfect mango!

mac 11:05 PM  

Good for you, Miriam!

fergus 11:34 PM  

You will recognize, I hope, that I've been rather passionate about food, ever since about 1978, when the Berkeley crowd I was associated with found a new form of social revolution. Alice Waters was the guiding light, but there were many others, as well, and I felt like I was along for a ride on a very nice trip. The richness of sensation among us was in part a reaction to the devastation we felt the rest of the country was embracing with Ronald Reagan as president, which now seems not quite so bad.

I was lauding the foodie enthusiasm, just in case that theme didn't come through.

fergus 12:13 AM  

And here in Santa Cruz, thirty years later, you might find a current expression with and and number of others, cited on that wesite, who are striving to bring about delivering the best sustainable produce in most rational way.

Anonymous 12:39 AM  

Wow, dk, you are right--I was 7 in 1973, which means the 50-year thing is off the mark. I know the puzzles, in their original set, went back 50 years, but I must have everything prior to 1973 printed out somewhere else (not finished, to be sure).

Guess this goes right along with thinking that I didn't know the word for something that was actually triangle spelled backwards!

Ugh--should I even start Friday's puzzle, just because I can?


qv 1:43 AM  

Picked ARTICHOKE without any crosses so thought 'we're on a roll' ...after that, every single choice was wrong: LUCKY not BELLE, GHALI not ANNAN (Egyptian not Ghanain, so dopy) MAUVE not LILAC, SERPENT not RATTLER, HERO not HARE, NEEDLE not NETTLE, ROADS not WORDS. So, totally burnt and crashed with a dozen blank squares ...but youse were getting irritated with all those smartalec success stories, right?

mac 8:08 AM  

@fergus: you came through loud and clear. Come to think of it, most of the NYT puzzlers I know personally are foodies, and have many interests they persue actively.
Alice Waters was very influential in my cooking, using fresh ingredients and staying away from canned, packaged and prepared foods.

miriam b 10:10 AM  

@mac: Don't you agree that those unfortunates whho have a narrow range of interests and enthusiasms are probably the same ones who find crosswords frustrating/boring/pointlss?

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

Did anyone else feel like Thursday's puzzle should have been Wednesday's? I found Thursday exponentially easier--I feel that the structure of Wednesday's should've been later week puzzle.

Arby 11:10 AM  

According to the FAQ:

Does Marmite have any meat in it?
Absolutely not - Marmite is a meat-free product and always has been. It is perfectly suitable for vegetarians.

According to Wikipedia:
Marmite is made from yeast extract, a by-product of beer brewing, and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans... Bovril is a similar-looking spread made from beef extract.

So, perhaps marmite is not meatmite after all.

Anonymous 12:11 PM  

Too late for anyone to read this probably, but here goes: Am I wrong in thinking that theme answers are almost always solvable on their own (theoretically, at least), even without reference to a theme? Nothing in the clues to the theme answers themselves (which did not refer to the "literal hint" in 42D) suggested backwardness. I call foul. I liked the theme and the puzzle, but I wish there had been a way to overcome this problem.

Anonymous 1:04 PM  

I first did a NYT crossword (a Sunday) back in the mid 70s, when I was in high school. I have no memory of the puzzle other than I did it in my bedroom. The second one I did was in the late 70s, again a Sunday.

That one I remember particularly well, because it had an "Alice in Wonderland" theme, which turned out to be, and which I only figured out with great difficulty, was all sorts of Lewis Carroll notions spelled backwards. The puzzle was about 50% filled, the theme answers were just not gelling (hah, today's DINAH was a gimme) and in the end, the southeast down partial entry YKCOWREBBA- finally made sense.

Of course, when I started mentioning the puzzle to a certain friend afterwards, he guessed instantly what trick would be so interesting that it was worth commenting on. How deflationary.

In the years since, I've browsed through the NYT crossword books trying to find it. I've looked at every single puzzle in the relevant years reprint books, but no luck. Anyone know a date/reference?

Tom Allen 9:24 AM  

@korova: While it's sometimes the case that the gimmick is implicit in each clue, I don't see why that has to be the rule. After all, the gimmick is very straightforwardly spelled out at 42-Down.

I started the puzzle in the NE corner with ___ colada (a gimme), PIES, and LENT. I had SPA- for boom and -ATS for headliner. Running through the possibilities, I saw that boom should be SPAR, but RATS for a headliner? Like those rats on the Muppet Show, or something?

Then I thought, Oh, RISING STAR. So when I got to ELCRIC for coterie I tried out UP CIRCLE, HIGH CIRCLE, hmm. Eventually I realized it was SHAPES UP -- a cute gimmick for an otherwise easy Thurdsay.


Anonymous 7:49 PM  

How is it that 5 weeks later Thursday appears to have fallen on a Monday? This is the simplest puzzle of the week to date.

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