Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

Hi, everybody. PuzzleGirl here with you again for your Tuesday puzzle fun. I flew through this puzzle with only one really small glitch and Seth reports this was his third fastest puzzle ever, so don't try to talk me out of the "easy" rating. (Wade was too busy watching "The Sopranos" to get an accurate assessment.) The theme? I didn't love it and didn't hate it, but have two minor quibbles with it.

THEME: "Sit Back and Listen" -- Phrases that introduce stories.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Fairy tale's start ("Once upon a time….")
  • 34A: Grandpa's start ("When I was a boy….")
  • 41A: Mom's start ("Back in the day….")
  • 56A: Legend's start ("In years gone by….")
So here's my thing with the theme. These are good theme answers. Fine, fine theme answers. The clues on the other hand are, as a group, a little off. The fact that the clues echo each other (i.e., [something]'s start), to me, indicates that they should be more alike than they are. Fairy tale's start = Start of a fairy tale. Legend's start = Start of a legend. So far, so good. Grandpa's start = Start of a grandpa? Sorry but that doesn't work for me. Similarly, "Back in the day…." isn't the start of a mom. And, even worse, it's not even the start of a mom's story. It's the start of a prison inmate's story. I think the phrase that would actually fit for a "mom's story" (whatever That is) is "In my day…." Of course that doesn't have enough letters. So let's talk about the rest of the puzzle.
  • 1A: Music played by Ravi Shankar at Woodstock (raga). Wikipedia warns that these "melodic modes in classical Indian music" should not be confused with ragga (which is short for "raggamuffin music"). The things you learn.
  • 25A: Thor Heyerdahl craft (Ra I). This one tripped me up because Kon-Tiki wouldn't fit.
  • 51A: Cooke who sang "You Send Me." I know we talked about this song not too long ago, but we were focused on the lyrics, not the artist. Did you get this one?
  • 66A: It produces more than 20 million bricks annually (Lego). Seth suggested the accompanying picture. It's a two-fer, fitting both this answer and the theme: uphill-both-ways Legos!
  • 3D: Ice cream flavor Cherry _____ (Garcia). I've never been tempted to try this particular flavor. Also not a huge Grateful Dead fan. Except for "Casey Jones." And "Friend of the Devil."
  • 9D: Where Schwarzenegger was born (Austria). Is it weird that he's referred to by his last name only?
  • 27D: Pastoral composition (idyl). I think that spelling deserves a "Var."
  • 34D: Chinese cookers (woks). This word -- and virtually any Asian-sounding surname -- reminds me of something that happened once when I was working at a law firm in downtown D.C. When the receptionist would page someone, she would say, for example, "Mr. Parker, please. Mr. Parker." Of course you can't hear the inflection she used, but it was very calm and soothing and it was always the same. So one day, I swear to God, she paged two people right in a row. "Mr. White, please. Mr. White…. Mr. Huang, please. Mr. Huang." I never did find out if she did that on purpose.
  • 36D: Rudiments (ABCs). It's easy as 1-2-3:
  • 37D: Yuri's love in "Dr. Zhivago" (Lara). Let's just consider this our daily shout-out to Omar Sharif.
  • 38D: Curved saber (scimitar). I knew this word but really had no idea how to spell it.
So I want to thank you all again for letting me hang out with you the last couple days. I'm scheduled for tomorrow's post too, but I think I'm going to hand it off to Wade. If I can pry him away from the TV.

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


Barry G. 8:36 AM  

Ayup, easy-peasy puzzle today. I got RA I right off the bat, but got a bit hung up on 15A when I initially put ABADO instead of ARRAU.

Nice write-up, PuzzleGirl!

Doug 8:42 AM  

Barry's better than I. I breezed through this puzzle despite the silly theme clues -- especially the mom one. I got one letter wrong -- Thor's boat. I guessed at Roi for king. And I knew raft or kon-tiki didn't fit. Oh well. At least it woke me up. Right on Williams wave length in getting anaerobe and scimitar right away. Love the idea that IKE is in the middle of the puzzle -- it's an election year! Do we malcontents seek (sikh) IKE?

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

If you like ice cream you owe it to yourself to try Cherry Garcia. It's the only one I buy anymore.

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

I was very glad I wasn't the one blogging today, since I'd have little to say about this boring little puzzle.

The theme was indeed badly clued - I really doubt any current mother would say "Back in the day", and in any case, isn't it "Back in MY day....". Grandma, maybe.

Beyond that, it was just a few minutes worth of mindless fill.

JannieB 9:12 AM  

Couldn't agree more - theme fill was ok, but the cluing was iffy at best. No problems on this puzzle at all - If I could maneuver in Acrosslite faster, I'd have had a really great time. So far this week has been ho-hum puzzle-wise with only the guest commentary to brighten my day. Another fine write-up, PG.

Orange 9:13 AM  

I had a taste of Ben's Cherry Garcia after he rejected the flavor I'd picked out for him (yellow cake with chocolate frosting ice cream!). Yeah, it was good. Cherry ice cream with chocolate in it--chocolate makes everything better. Except, I recently learned on TV, not necessarily carrots or tater tots.

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

This one was too dry and literal to spark any real interest. Aside from the mediocre theme, very straightforward Q & A format. I know it's only tuesday, but the cluing could have used some wordplay or something. "Odd?" vs. "Not level" for UNEVEN, e.g. Gimme somethin' here.



Anonymous 9:23 AM  

"When I was your age..." or "When I was a girl..." say the Moms. The only one I hear saying "Back in the Day" is Rachael Ray, referring to something gross in the 1970s that she thinks is cool. Ugh.

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

Took me a few moments to get the David Cook reference! (I blame it on not enough coffee.)

alanrichard 9:38 AM  

So here I am at work listening to the Dead and boom - there is Jerry, oops Cherry Garcia!!! This was one very easy puzzle - but this is Tuesday and sooner or later Friday & Satyrday come! Ha ha Satyrday!!!! PS - are you guys babysitting for the puppy too???

Parshutr 9:41 AM  

Remembering Sam Cooke was the most pleasant moment today.
I remember seeing "Kon-Tiki" as a b&w documentary film BACKINTHEDAY, WHENIWASABOY.
Yes, I am a Grandpa, 7 and counting.
Was it easy? Yes. Worth doing? Of course -- they can't all be challenging.
Cherry Garcia? Never tasted it, don't plan to.
As far as quibbling about the cuing, that's a big HK as far as I'm concerned.
HK = hoo kares?

Unknown 9:59 AM  

Mr. Cook is indeed idle and Mr. I am Legend is now Hancock. I thought the fill was good for an early week puzzle, but it was easier than some of the recent string of Tuesday surprises. I knew SCIMITAR from the novelty song 'Ahab, The Arab' (is that PC now, btw). EVAH was not in my vocabulary, so I did have a slower time in the SE than the rest of the puzzle.

I have a feeling tomorrow's write up is going to start, 'Once upon a time in the nation of Texas...'

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

"Back in the day" is, pardon the term, an inner-city expression which may be starting to gain traction in more standard circles. That's why Puzzle Girl said it sounded like prison slang. The prison population these days is disproportionally from the ghetto, from minority cultures. (Much of mainstream slang started out in the inner city. Just look at the proliferation of "my bad" these days.) I guess cluing it as such was not PC enough for the NYT. So unless mama is from the 'hood, not a good clue.

"In years gone by," on the other hand, is not a good answer. It is just not a fixed expression in the language. A Google search turns up very little related to legends. The most common occurrence is as a translation of the Spanish "En aquel entonces,"
which is the title of a book on Mexican-American history (not legends.) (BTW, small first letters for the second and following words of a Spanish title is correct usage.) ("En aquel entonces" literally means "in that then," which is obviously not good English.)

Cherry Garcia is one of Ben and Jerry's best flavors. Too bad the local B&J's closed here around 10 years ago. Or maybe, better for my waist. However, I would prefer to see a clue like "Jerry or Cherry," where the solver has to find the common bond. These clues used to be seen much more. Let's see them back again.

Not being familiar with Thor Heyerdahl, I never parsed Ra I as two words. I got the answer from crosses, and thought to myself, the Italian TV network would have been less obscure.

Re Chinese cookers: It reminds me of the old joke about Mr. Wong, having just learned that Mrs. Wong had a Caucasian baby, admonished her that "two Wongs don't make a White."

Re scimitar: I have no problem with spelling it. I have a problem trying to keep track of whether it's saber or sabre. I think in Buffalo, it's different.

chefbea 10:24 AM  

Didn't know rai or scimitar. Other thsn that sn easy tuesday puzzle. Did you all know that an oreo has a flower design on it?

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

I love the Grateful Dead, but am more of a Stephen Colbert's AmeriCone Dream fan when it comes to Ben and Jerry's. Yum.

I use the phrase "back in the day" frequently, but I've never been to prison or lived in a the inner city, so I'm not sure where I picked it up. Certainly not from my mom, though, so I agree it was poorly clued.

The only "craft" I could think of was the Kon Tiki -- I didn't know he had another one.

@PuzzleGirl -- didn't I ever loan you my "Reckoning" CD? It turned dad onto the Dead and would have done the same for you, I'm sure.

Anonymous 10:35 AM  

@addie loggins--
Sorry if I implied that everyone who says "back in the day" is from the inner city. It's just where it originated, and if you use it, you may not know where it started out. But I bet you haven't used it for more than, let's say, five or ten years. (You might have said, "back in MY day.")

jae 10:36 AM  

jannieb said it for me again "ok fill", "iffy cluing." This was fast for me but about an hour after I finished and was watching "Amazing Grace" (excellent movie, I've already seen all the Sopranos) it suddenly occurred to me that INDT was not the abbreviation for initial. So, I went back on line and changed DDE to IKE (never even saw SIKH). So, add an hour or so to my time. Odd how that sort of late realization happens.

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

As to Ra I, it's been in the puzzle numerous times. I remember the first time when I was trying to fit Kon Tiki (an account of which I read back in the days when I was a college lad) and could not. Since then I remember there is another answer but always forget what it is and even after I get rai, I forget at first to parse it and finally have that aha moment. This has hapened at least 3 times, to the best of my recollection.

Nice job PG.


Parshutr 10:44 AM  

There was a very lame movie with Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn (two white chicks) who must have used "Back in the day" over 100 times recalling their exciting past as rock n roll groupies, sort of like the Plaster Casters...
But then, I nevah miss a Sarandon flick, unless it's a Chris.

JannieB 10:46 AM  

For all you would-be constructors - wouldn't Ben & Jerry's make a great theme??? Chunky Monkey, unbaked cookie dough, chubby hubby, etc.

Anonymous 10:47 AM  

Back in the day is an old expression and its source of origination is not the minority or ghetto or jail communities originally. Whether, it has been picked up again and repopularized by said community(ies) may be true but it did not originate with said urban community (ies).

Ulrich 10:52 AM  

I totally agree that "mon's start" is a bad clue. I also got tripped up right away by Ravi Shankar: since ragas is what he played, period, I wracked (or is it wrecked?) my brain trying to remember what was different about his playing at Woodstock--why else would the clue be so specific?

I made my peace with the theme once I realized that the theme answers could be read in sequence as the beginning of a story told by a grandfather prone to rambling and redundancies--not the hardest thing to imagine--I may be too kind...

Two Ponies 10:57 AM  

Easy breezy Tuesday.
Ravi being at Woodstock exposed me to a style of music I had never heard before. I went on to appreciate him and his Mahavishnu Orch. "back in the day" when I was a young hippie. Hippie does not always mean a Dead fan, however. Most of their stuff sounds like country to me. Not that there's anything wrong with that I just never understood the cult fascination.
Loved the way scimitar looked in the grid.
Finally a new clue for Oreo.
Things I didn't know : law school newbies. Is it parsed One L's? Help me out here Wade.
Is Ra I a raft from another adventure after Kon Tiki?
Great job Puzzle Girl.

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

PG: Did she ever page Mister Postman?

Margaret 11:13 AM  

The idea of the theme was good but I agree with the group that neither clues nor answers were executed well. I liked DEIGNED, not one we see often. SCIMITAR was also good -- and a gimme for me. Our deceased afternoon paper was the Memphis Press-Scimitar. How's that for an obscure/ awful newspaper name? But it's better than the paper from the other end of TN with the hyphen in the wrong place: the Chattanooga News-Free Press.

Sam Cooke is one of my all time favorites -- what a voice. And I'm not a Dead fan but a friend gave me a Jerry Garcia / Dave Grisman album called Shady Grove that is fantastic.

Thanks for filling in, PG.! Even though I lurk more than I post, the blog is an important fixture in my day!

@ Pashtur: I would agree with you about Chis Sarandon with one huge exception -- The Princess Bride.

Bill from NJ 11:14 AM  

I had the same thought as Steve I but was too PC to say so. I think the Thor Heyerdahl craft was the "Ra One" but I never saw the clue, same with SAM ESA


I got clobbered by the same Cole Porter clue on a Sunday in the not too distant past and said "Nevah again". When I was in the sixth grade I was hooked on this kind of Ole Blue Eyes jive and was hooked on Der Bingle, too!

This is the kind of Tuesday puzzle we've been looking for the last several weeks. Welcome back, Tuesday

RodeoToad 11:24 AM  
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RodeoToad 11:26 AM  

Crap. The puppy.

"Friend of the Devil" is the only Dead song I know, and of all the songs I sing for my kids, none except maybe "Big Bad John" elicits as many questions from a song. "Why'd he sleep in a cave? Why did the devil give him some money and then take it back? Why does it say the devil has a friend? Who would be the devil's friend? What's prison bait?"

Puzzlegirl, you've been very nice not to disclose that I didn't finish Monday or Tuesday correctly. (Yesterday I had AAK for AUK, thinking of Bill the Cat, I suppose. Last night I couldn't think of what Microsoft Product ended in __ORD. When I went through the alphabet, "word" didn't look like a word. But I was caught up in Vito's drama upstate eating Johnnycakes.)

Two Ponies, yes, it's one L (first year lawy student). Scott Turow's first book, an account of his first year at Harvard Law School, had that title.

jeff in chicago 11:28 AM  

Chunky Monkey ... mmmmmm

Which reminds me....


But maybe not together.

Easy puzzle. Breezed right through it.

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

A small plaint from the 6 Week Later crowd: usually when we go on the blog we can click the "syndication" button and get directly to the puzzle that was in our newspapers today (quickness is helpful so that I won't inadvertently "cheat" by seeing and retaining something from today's puzzle till it comes up in my little universe). This doesn't seem to be happening. Not sure if this is automatic or if it requires daily intervention from the hand of the Master but wonder if something can be done about it? Thanks. DocRuth from syndication land.

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

RE: One L. I was a one L once, but didn't know it. I took one semester of law school before realizing that this was not what I wanted to do with my life. My wife, who was enrolled at the same time and one year ahead of me, finished, and is now a lawyer with 20 years+ experience. I, however, never regretted the decision to abandon ship before it was more than a few miles out of port. My point is, at the time, I never knew I was a one L. This was 1983, and I never heard of the term until it recently appeared in a puzzle. I think it was a Harvard expression which gained national usage with Turow's book. It still looks odd to me and does not ring true.

PuzzleGirl 11:44 AM  

anonymous 11:32: I think Rex must change that manually every day -- I can't find a place to do it automatically. I've fixed it for today and will add that to my list of guest-blogging duties!

Jeffrey 11:46 AM  

Just a whatever (what-evah?) puzzle. Tuesday is my least favorite puzzle day of the week.

I don't even have any witty little thing to say about it. WHEN I WAS A BOY, I would have said - nah, got nothing.

PuzzleGirl, nice job with very little material to work with.

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

STEVE I, B&J is readily available in any supermarket, no need for an actual B&J outlet.

Last year Whole Foods had a clone called Cherry Nation, but it seems to have disappeared.

Ulrich, I agree on the bad cluing for RAGA. I also assumed we were looking for something specific, not what he ALWAYS played.

Anonymous 12:03 PM  

Agree that the puzzle almost ridiculously easy but then again it is Tuesday. I can't tell you how much I hate "back in the day" - what day? And "My bad" - grammatically awful. It's incredible how these expressions creep insidiously into our language and we are powerless to prevent them. Maybe their only saving grace is the increase in available fill for puzzles.

Anonymous 12:11 PM  

Thanks, phillysolver, for connecting the Cook picture and the idyl clue fo me. (Is it bad I know that's his performance of Hello from his clothes?) It's good to see the word nerd show up here. Both me and y Mom liked him, back in the day.

Agreed not to hard a puzzle, but I had a lot of trouble typing correctly for some reason. I hope they never turn the ACPT into a computer contest.

I always like the LEGO clue.

Orange 12:12 PM  

William Safire wrote about "back in the day" last year. Yes, the phrase has roots in popular usage among African-Americans. How on earth Steve L traveled from black to "inner city" and "ghetto," I don't know. They're not equivalent. There are African-Americans in the suburbs, in non-blighted city neighborhoods, and in small towns.

I picked up the phrase 15 years ago from a Northwestern graduate who went on to get a Ph.D. in sociology. Yes, she's African-American. No, she isn't "ghetto" or "inner-city" or "in prison."

dk 12:18 PM  

I was more of a New York Dolls and Velvet Underground Fan, but BACKINTHEDAY I could drive out my crystal infused friends with my live Ravi Shanker Album.

The Dead for me were a great cover band and the live concerts were a "trip." Cherry Garcia, however, is one great treat.

The late great Sam Cooke (in some live shows) did a fine version of Dark End of the Street. But here is the great one:

Did not get the theme in this one, again, but I did solve it a little faster than yesterday. Had fuzz instead of FAZE but that was easy to penify and correct.

@puzzlegirl another great day for you. Maybe if you start calling @wade a fat f#ck (ala Sopranos) he will pay attention. In innovation school we learned that you have to "enter into" ones script (perspective on outcomes) to trigger creativity.

@wade do you see the ducks by the pool...

Anonymous 12:22 PM  

@jim in chicago

the beauty of the Ben & Jerry outlets, though, is that you can get your favorite B&J flavors on a cone, with fudge and sprinkles!! Yum!

WHEN I WAS A BOY, my favorite B&J flavor was chocolate chip cookie dough. Never much cared for Cherry Garcia, much as I don't much care for this puzzle or its theme. Cherry Garcia is tasty, I'm just not a huge fan.

And with all this talk of the Grateful Dead, I now have "Touch of Grey" stuck in my head. Thanks a lot, people!

ronathan ;-p

Pythia 12:22 PM  

Mom's/Grandpa's start = fertilized ovum, yes? I'm confused.

Cherry GARCIA = yummy. My favorite Grateful Dead song EVAH is "Box of Rain."

An OREO has twelve flowers on each side.

Nice work, PuzzeGirl.


Anonymous 12:32 PM  

@Orange--Yes, of course I'm aware that "black" and "ghetto" are not the same thing, but I'm sure you're aware that there's some overlap. I don't have definitive proof that it was the blacks in the ghetto that popularized "back in the day," but generally, the most inventive and unconventional new idioms come from those for whom strict adherence to rules and old formulas is less critical. And as a teacher in such an area, working with lower-class students and middle-class colleagues, many who are nonwhite, anecdotally I can tell you that middle-class blacks tend to speak more like any other middle-class people do, or as the ghetto kids might say, they tend to talk white.

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

@ Orange In defense of Steve L I believe it is a very short leap from black to inner city to ghetto. I think perhaps your daily commute doesn't take you anywhere near a ghetto or you would know.

Joon 12:45 PM  

tintin, you're not going to get much in the way of tricky cluing on a tuesday. also, your example of a tricky clue is the kind i don't often see and am not fond of (and i love tricky clues), where the wordplay is in the answer rather than the clue. using [Uneven?] to clue ODD is fine (in fact, more than fine--it's a very nice clue). the converse? not so much. i think the clue has to indicate the meaning of the answer in some way, and UNEVEN is just not related to "odd" no matter how you interpret "odd."

of course, theme answers are an exception to this. for example, check out this elegant sunday by nancy salomon and lee glickstein.

alanrichard 12:46 PM  

Last night I watched A Night At The Opera and The Everybody Says I Love You, (The Woody Allen parody). And Goldie Hawn was in it but Susan Sarandon wasn't. But every time Bull Durham is I watch it.

Anonymous 12:58 PM  

Well, its lunch time and I just bought a Cherry Garcia bar. Waistline be damned, I'll just blame it on the NYTimes.

mac 1:03 PM  

Yesterday I registered with the NYT to be able to do the puzzles online, and then couldn't help myself and did today's in the evening....
Never again. I much prefer to have the paper and my favorite Pantel while having lunch. I'll be happy with it when I'm on the ship that doesn't have the NYT in August!

It was a Tuesday puzzle, enough said. Missed 1 letter, the R for RaI. Should have remembered that! Liked voila, faze, scimitar, and had Abato for a minute.

Funny comment about Rachel Ray, I may have seen a few minutes of her show maybe 5 times, and I recall her using (Ulrich!) "back in the day".

Thanks again, puzzlegirl, for a great job.

Anonymous 1:17 PM  

I was bummed that of all the ways to get Jerry Garcia into the puzzle, they used an ice cream clue. How about "Dead guitarist"?
P.S. Wade, you probably know a lot more Dead songs but don't realize it: Truckin', Ripple, Uncle John's Band, Casey Jones, Touch of Gray, Scarlet Begonias, maybe some others. Also, if your kids like lyrics, check out Jerry and David Grisman's "Not for Kids Only," which includes:

As I went walking through the woods
Humming a tune so gaily
The wind come whistling through the trees
And froze my ukelele

jubjub 1:23 PM  

Here I am, posting a cute baby. What-EVAH!

The Lego picture is way cool! Thanks!

miriam b 2:36 PM  

I just saw Thelma and Louise for the first time. Harrowing and truly unforgettable. Does anyone remember Susan Sarandon in Atlantic City? Burt Lancaster was the costar.

About the puzzle: (YAWN).

Anonymous 2:41 PM  

I thought mom's start should have been "how many times..."

mac 3:20 PM  

That's exactly right, anon 2.41!

Bill from NJ 3:28 PM  

@miriam b-

I rememember that movie. Burt watched her wash the fish smell off herself with lemons through a window. A great scene about an aging man yearning for something that - for him - is no longer attainable, both the girl and his lost youth.

Burt Lancaster was one on my favorite actors. His scene on the beach with Deborah Kerr in "From Here to Eternity" makes a nice pair of bookends with his scene with Susan Sarandon. For me, not Burt

Anonymous 3:36 PM  

Nice job covering. Agree totally with the clues/theme. I hate the expression "back in the day" as much as going "old school".

JC66 3:48 PM  


"I picked up the phrase 15 years ago from a Northwestern graduate who went on to get a Ph.D. in sociology. Yes, she's African-American. No, she isn't "ghetto" or "inner-city" or "in prison."

Where'd she she get it from?

Probably from a "Big City" African-American.

JC66 3:51 PM  

I don't know what happened. I posted the above three hours ago (back in the day).

Anonymous 3:52 PM  

@anon 2:41

had there been a "dad's start" clue, it probably would have been: "kids, go ask your. . . (mother/grandmother/teacher/neighbor/anyone but me)".

-ronathan ;-p

Ulrich 4:14 PM  

@mac: Tricky, tricky--but let's not go there again.

@miriam b and bill: Atlantic City is one of my all-time favorites--regretted deeply when it didn't get the Oscar that year (with a French director, it may have been too "European" in outlook). I've been a Susan Sarandon fan ever since. My fondness of Burt Lancaster goes all the way back to Vera Cruz.

Anonymous 4:19 PM  

Along with everyone else I heartily disliked the "Mom start" BACK IN THE DAY. Agree with the afore-mentioned HOW MANT TIMES and would add IF YOU DON'T STOP THAT...(I will stop the car right now!)

As for the puzzle I did like all the science-related terms, especially ORION. Speaking of stars - look for a very bright star in the East that is not a star but a planet - Jupiter. It is quite prominent and beautiful in the night sky right now.

Anonymous 5:07 PM  

It's very easy to go from black to inner city to ghetto. Next time you have access to the US census data, check it out. It's hardly an unknown fact. By FAR the highest concentrations of black people (aka "african american" in the current census lingo) are in "inner city" areas.

Anonymous 5:24 PM  

Why do we all assume that the Mom in question, who said BACK IN THE DAY was a white woman? 'Cause we're all white?

And yes, in my opinion, it is racist to equate, or automatically draw the connection between, blacks and ghetto dwellers.

Puzzle Mom 5:36 PM  

It's PG's Mom again: The first time I ever heard "back in the day" (and several times thereafter) was from a white working class Italian woman from Yonkers, NY; and it was twenty years ago, at a time when blacks and whites were separated, literally, in Yonkers, by a strip of land about 10 yards wide. "60 Minutes" did a piece about that strip of land and its implications for the city and its residents. My friend wasn't racist, but she didn't pick up the phrase in an urban ghetto, or in prison. She and Rachel Raye may have gotten it from the same place, however, as Rachel also comes from Italian stock in southeastern "Upstate" New York.

Anonymous 5:37 PM  

@mac: mystery solved. I used to watch Rachael Ray all the time (back in the day, before she went all Hollywood), so I'm sure that's where I picked up the expression.

@jane doh: my favorite Dead song has to be Scarlet Begonias. If you can listen to it without smiling, there is something wrong with you. Although, the first time I saw them live they played Throwing Stones, which was my favorite at the time so I still have a soft spot for it.

@margaret and alanrichard: The Princess Bride and Bull Durham are both on my list of top 10 best movies EVAH. Susan Sarandon was also fun, of course, in Rocky Horror Picture Show. I wonder, if she had actually known she was going to end up being a star, whether she would have taken that role?

SPEC today is in almost the exact same place as ONSPEC was yesterday. Weird.

Bill from NJ 6:03 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
alanrichard 6:04 PM  

I have to listen to the Rocky Horror Show every day at work.

fergus 6:09 PM  

One of the things I love about Obama's candidacy is that it might help people realize that often their biases are related more to class than race. I think that's an improvement of some sorts. ANYHOW, it's interesting to read comments that aren't dancing too delicately around such matters.

As for the puzzle, SCIMITAR is simply a very cool word. Anyone care to render an opinion on FAZE? The word is amusing clued by Disconcert, since it seems like those who would use the one wouldn't use the other.

Puzzlegirl, I was quite baffled by your White and Huang story, and it required some other allusive comment to get me to figure it out. Sort of like doing that Puns and Anagrams puzzle on Sunday. I got all the anagrams first, but was very slow on the puns.

If there's a Venn diagram of puzzle solvers and Deadheads, I would wager the intersecting space is pretty small. It does exist though, because I've witnessed at least once case, though admittedly she retired from the show quite a while before Jerry checked out.

Orange 6:12 PM  

Humorlesswit, marry me. (Yes, I'm taking that extra T out. You rock.) Good call on the role of white privilege and assumptions. There are poor white people in central cities too, just as there are working-class, middle-class, and affluent African-Americans in cities, suburbs, and the country.

To the commenter who thinks I just haven't seen the inner city—my part of the city includes both poverty and affluence, sometimes right next door to each other. My kid's school is 90% non-white and 85% low-income, so don't make ignorant assumptions about what I know. Especially when you're doing so in the defense of apparent racism.

Hey, look! A new NYT crossword will be available online in less than four hours!

Anonymous 6:17 PM  

This thread is getting icky and wish it would fade away, so I hate to add to it, but Steve was not the one who "equated" blacks with ghettos or prisons, and I encourage anyone who thinks otherwise to go back and read his post.

Steve said the expression has origins in the inner city/ghetto. This may be true, who knows? (It may also have parallel origins in Italian upstate New York, who knows?)

Steve also said that the population in those areas (which happens to be disproportionately minority, also true) are over-represented in prisons. This is also true -- a sad truth that I blame on America’s racism and on its housing, education, drug treatment, healthcare, and law enforcement policies -- but that’s just me.

When Steve was accused of "equating" blacks with ghettos, apparently based on a 14-month old William Safire article he may or may not have ever read, he explained (eloquently, I think) that "inventive and unconventional new idioms" tend to come from "those for whom strict adherence to rules and old formulas is less critical." I'm guessing Safire would agree with that assessment; I know I do.

While I would agree that it is racist -- and demonstrably untrue -- to suggest that all blacks live in the ghetto or are in prison, I don't see any benefit in turning a blind eye to the facts that 1) poverty in this country disproportionately affects minorities, and thus poor, inner city neighborhoods are disproportionately minority; 2) the prison population in this country disproportionately comprises poor people, and is, therefore, also disproportionately minority.

Steve said it was an inner city expression; someone else said it was an African-American expression and implied Steve was a racist. I think the implication was uncalled for given Steve’s actual comment.

dk 6:34 PM  

I, for one, am clearly not racist as one of my best puzzle friends is ORANGE.

@alice, I love it that @puzzlegirl's mom weighs in. I did the x-words with my dad (he used a mechanical pencil) when he was alive and except when I spilled the hot cocoa on his lap it was a fine time.

Leon 6:36 PM  

Nice puzzle Mr. Williams.

Great write-up @Puzzlegirl.

Debbie and Iggy sing Well Did You Evah?

After someone yells UNCLE, do you LEGO ?

Anonymous 6:49 PM  

Thank you, Addie. This all goes to show you the climate of race relations in the US. Anytime someone mentions race as a factor in anything these days, someone else screams Racism. Would it be racist to say most of the NBA is black? To say that most of the NHL is white? Tennis? Golf? Football? Watch tonight's All-Star game and draw your own conclusions about baseball.

Addie, your comments were so on my wavelength that I could have written them myself.

Anonymous 7:08 PM  

"Why do we all assume that the Mom in question, who said BACK IN THE DAY was a white woman? 'Cause we're all white?"


Don't make the assumption that since we all read the NYTimes and all do the xword that we are all white. I'm Jewish, therefore I'm only "half white", or if you prefer, "light white". :-p

-ronathan :-)

Pythia 7:10 PM  

Time out

I'm going to assume this is an educated, enlightened group and that there has been an unfortunate miscommunication or two.

As a political junkie who mainlines MSNBC, I see this election year as an opportunity to for individuals to make a difference. It would be great to see all of the energy displayed here channeled to active support of your chosen candidate. I live in a non-contested state and am part of a local group recruiting other like-minded local people to go to nearby battleground states in the fall to help with the campaign. We could use and would welcome this energy and passion!


--Obama Girl

Anonymous 7:27 PM  

Back in the day is such a ubiquitous statement in the sports world and always has been (there was even an ESPN Classic show by that name) that all the speculation--not so much the speculation but the racial, ethnic and class implications associated with it-- about its origin strikes me as incredibly silly. Oldtimers reflecting on some perceived inadequacy of the modern jock--usually related to his toughness, or honoring his contract--have often made comments to the effect that "Back in the day, he wouldn't have gotten away with that.

Michael Chibnik 7:47 PM  

I don't know the origins of "back in the day," but all sorts of people use the expression nowadays.

Luke 8:08 PM  

Hello master crossword puzzlers! I am a newbie to this great land of Crossword puzzles because I got addicted to the puzzle in our campus newspaper. Naturally my mother can whiz through most of the week without breaking a sweat so I got one of those subscriptions to NYTimes crosswords. Jeez it's addicting. I'm slowly building up my crosswordese (I have to look up a lot on Google) but it's fun and I have started to get the hang of it. Well, not actors and actresses 'in years gone by' (like the 70s!).

I liked this theme, partially because I got it quickly, and didn't have any problems with it. To me, 'back in the day' seems like something my grandma would say but not my parents would say. 'In years gone by' I've never heard that one before but can understand how it could be used in legend. Overall I thought this was a pretty good puzzle and took me about 20 minutes which I think is very fair.

fergus 8:24 PM  


I like hearing about how others fall into this vice, if you could call it that. Back when I was 23 and the NY Times started to publish a svelte national edition, I sort of poked around with puzzle, but was more enthusiastic about the satellite photograph next to the weather map. Way back then, I thought of newspapers as one of my vices, along with coffee, spliff and tobacco.

Got the Jones in a bad way now, but it comes and goes, as I've learned in lo these past 27 years.

When you're starting out it's most fun to do it in a group. Contemporaneously, if possible, but leaving a new entry in the grid for others to find and add to (like in the conference/smoking room, as we did at Wells Fargo Bank's HQ in the 80s) has its own little quiver of enchantment, too.

mac 8:55 PM  

This was a very good discussion. What I find most interesting is that we use real words, black instead of African American, which would not be right for many black people anyway. I haven't taken notes reading these comments, but I have to say I'm impressed with a lot of the reasoning. And Humorlesswit, I told you that old name wasn't right for you!

@Fergus: yes we should call a spade a spade. I have always known that I was lucky enough to grow up in a country that (at the time) was not racist at all. I think of Israeli or jewish as just a religion, which anyone should persue as they wish. I actually don't even think about it! Is someone a good person or not? That's what counts.
@Addie: I am so impressed with how you expressed your opinion, and I couldn't agree with you more. We should be doing so much better. Let's leave it at that, at least in this location...

Anonymous 8:56 PM  

As I get older, the memories become a little hazy, a bit less specific. That's why I prefer "Back in the week".

fergus 9:20 PM  


You're a Dutchwoman, are you not (?), and I am very impressed with how you, and my friends of a similar Hollandaise origin acquire a proclivity for quirks of speech, turns of phrase, etc. However, while I might call a spade a spade, I've sort of constrained this usage to card games. Disappointingly, because it rarely comes up in bridge, which is the only game of suits and knaves I can bother with these days.

Maybe there are poker players who emote about the reflexive property of Spades, when discovering a flush?


mac 10:05 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luke 10:26 PM  


Thanks for that suggestion! I do believe it's a vice, but a thinking person's vice.

Alas I'm off from university now but before I returned home I did do some with my friends and was very interesting. I remember a particular clue was "It may end up in the gutter" and I think the second letter was an o and my friend got instantly. I was very impressed. I took a psychology class later term and the people beside me would always be doing the puzzle after I had finished, it was so tempting to tell them the answer. I'm actually quite impressed at my own improvement since I started in April. I used to loathe doing Tuesday puzzles but now I can do them without breaking too much of a sweat. Wednesday is my new goal and I can do some of those.

fergus 10:39 PM  

Your entries will start to slip in easily, I am fairly sure.

Ellen 12:48 AM  

Two Ponies: The Mahavishnu Orchestra was under John McLaughlin and not associated with Ravi Shankar.

foodie 1:23 AM  

Wow... I was traveling for the last couple of days (although managed to sneak in time to do the puzzles) and came back to see what went one here... I expected it be slow, because Rex is gone. Instead I find two great posts from Puzzle Girl, a wild and crazy scene yesterday and a heavy duty discussion about race and racism today! Double wow!

This community that has emerged (the Rexites) reminded me of how I feel about my own research group. At one point in my career, I realized that somehow, a micro-culture had emerged that was quite distinctive, self-sustaining and self-perpetuating. I think that's what Rex has created... He should be very proud! But we seem to drift a bit in his absence. So, when he reappears he will, as my dad used to say "tighten the screws" and it will feel a bit less like the wild West. Meanwhile, this is fun and fascinating! Puzzle Girl (and her family) do have a lot to be proud about. Can't wait to hear form Wade tomorrow (no pressure)!


Rex Parker 1:27 AM  

Greetings from Middle Earth - oh man, it's nearly 2 a.m. on Wednesday for you guys. No one's going to read this. I'll check in tomorrow.

I'll just say that Wednesday's puzzle took me 9 min (!?) and I'm thrilled *I*'m not the one who has to blog it. Maybe it was really an easy puzzle and the fact that I only just recently completed a 36+ hour trip had something to do with my relative slowneses. I am punchy from the exhaustion, but elated to be here. It's astonishingly beautiful. OK, more later.


Rex Parker 1:29 AM  

PS Puzzle Girl (I nearly wrote Power Girl ...),

Tomorrow (today), please write a suckier entry so people will miss me more. Thanks,


Rex Parker 1:41 AM  

And jeez louise, can we get a black person up in this @#$!?. Anyone? This whole discussion today is reminding me of the hilarious 60 Minutes (I think) piece I once saw on "Lesbians" where the anchor treated the whole piece like she was doing Animal Planet and was journeying deep into Madagascar. "In searh of ... Lesbians." The best part: said anchor had a haircut that many if not most lesbians not only would be proud of, but actually sport on a regular basis. Where is this going? (I should not be writing without sleep) - it makes me queasy when large groups of white people talk about black people in general terms, like they were a semi-alien form of life. "I knew this black guy once ... and he was totally normal!"

I'm teaching Shakespeare in prison this fall. Prison is very black. This does not mean that blacks are very prison.

Sleeping, now, I promise.


Rex Parker 1:42 AM  

PPPPPPS Apologies to "60 Minutes" - I think the Lesbians piece was on "20/20" (which is like "60 Minutes," only, you know ... more ghetto)


fergus 1:45 AM  

New York \, New York / Sinatra singing victory

at Yankee Stadium, finally in 2008

a great game, but it shouldn't have gone on so long

foodie 1:57 AM  

Hi Rex... Nice to hear from you. And you're right... We need someone to pipe up and say: I know whereof I speak..

Have fun!

Anonymous 2:04 AM  


What, you don't think we read this blog at 2 AM? When am I supposed to do it, at my desk during working hours -- perish the thought! ;) Glad to see you are alive and well. Enjoy yourself!

PG is holding down the fort, and then some.


Anonymous 3:05 AM  

When I was a little girl, my grandpa would take us on his knee and used to start every story the same way...
he'd say,
"When I was a little girl..."

and my sisters and I would say "But grandpa you weren't a little girl, you were a little boy"
and he'd smile and say
"I was a little girl, just like you, and you are going to grow up and be an ugly old man,
just like me"
and we would cry.

That was back in the day...

mac 8:19 AM  

@andrea carla,
Sometime in the last 12 months I read a book that started just like what you wrote. Two little girls playing wild games with grandparents who later bought a sail boat, took of on it and were never heard of again. I'm tearing apart my house looking for it....

mac 8:22 AM  

@andreacarla: found it. Not exactly the same but close: Ali Smith's Girl meets boy. Very nice book.

Anonymous 9:20 PM  

Mr. Parker, sir:
Your 6 week syndication button seems to be off by one day. Gratefully, your humble Seattle Post-Intelligencer puzzle-solving fan.

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

This puzzle had connections with two of my favorite songs: "When I was a boy" by Dar Williams and "Scimitar" is used in "Whole of the Moon" by the Waterboys (only way I got that one).

Anonymous 4:34 PM  

Wow. I didn't expect such a heated debate over what I thought was a rather innocuous clue. For the record, I'm a mom and I have used the phrase "back in the day". I am pretty poor though, so maybe that explains it. But, I'm white and I don't live in the ghetto- so maybe not. But then again, my daughter is half black and I have plenty family that have been in prison, so that could be where I learned it.
Seriously people, it's a phrase. Lots of people say it. Calm down.

Anonymous 4:42 PM  

Of course a better clue would have read Cee-Lo's start.

Anonymous 7:18 PM  

for 39 Across I had DDE as an answer it didn't occur to me to write IKE.

Anonymous 9:58 PM  

I know it's way too late, even in syndicationland but I have to amend my last post. It wasn't Cee-Lo who did the song "Back in the Day", it was Domino. Also known for his one other hit "Sweet Potato Pie". Both were mediocre hits sometime in the nineties I think. I actually think I had him confused with Skee-Lo who has been an answer in the puzzle recently. Anyways, nobody will read this but sometimes it's handy to know random obscure rappers names.

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