THURSDAY, Dec. 4, 2008 - Barry C. Silk (First of a Disney trio / It lies beneath Wayne Manor / Hit 1983 pseudo-documentary / Louis and Carrie)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "CLEAR THE ..." (63A: With 64-Across, words that can precede the starts of 18-, 31-, 38- and 55-Across)

Had a rough time with this one the first time around, for a couple of reasons. First, I made a huge mistake at 27A: Soup or salad ingredient (scallion) and kept that mistake in place for a long time. Off the -ION, I wrote in RED ONION. Now, I had LAIR correct at 28D: Wilderness home, but RED ONION made me change it to NEST (reasonable!) and created a serious, nearly intractable problem - one that was only compounded by my lack of German - had no clue about SIEG (36A: Victory, Viennese-style). Sounds Hitleresque. Anyway, all of this made that NW very hard to get into. Though I've seen the abbrev. AQI before, I didn't remember it, and still don't remember what it means (14A: E.P.A. pollution meas.). Aargh, it's the Air Quality Index and it's that damned color-coded thing that tells you how bad the air is. AQI also stands for Al-Qaeda in Iraq, btw.

Didn't like any of the theme answers except THROAT LOZENGE, which is great (31A: Medicated candy). All the other answers are indeed actual things, but they don't exactly jump off the grid at you. AIR MAIL LETTER (38A: Comparatively quick communication) seems slightly odd. I know you send LETTERs by AIR MAIL, but I can't imagine saying, "Look, ma, I got me an AIR MAIL LETTER all the way from France!" Doesn't most mail travel by air? The phrase "Par Avion" / "Air Mail" is familiar to me as something you see stamped on letters, but the whole thing together feels a little limp. AREA CODE MAP (55A: Verizon reference) ... I guess there's one of those in the front of my phone book. DECK OFFICER (18A: Bridge authority) is generic. Also, it threw me a bit, as I was waiting on DECK OF ... CARDS? DECK OF ... what!?

There were an ungodly number of abbreviations in this puzzle. I won't list them all, but my least favorite were DIMAG (47A: Joltin' Joe) - which is valid but seems desperate and sounds more like a two-part EMAG; ENLS (33D: Big pictures: Abbr.) - ENL is bad enough without that "S" on the end; and ADDL (4D: Like shipping and handling, typically: Abbr.), which, again, is valid, but looks like it's missing its last letter, and looks particular bad in the top of the puzzle, where most of the abbrevs. are living (AQI, SSW, ETC, ARIZ - 10D: Home of Snowflake, which, ironically, gets very little snow: Abbr.). A HEAP of Abbrevs. (4A: Loads).

I LOSE (60A: "You win") is about the SADDEST (1D: Most blue) crossword answer I've ever seen. It's pathetic both in terms of its meaning, and in terms of its not being really crossworthy, not being very strong as a stand-alone phrase. Also, the clue? Pretty uninspired. Sorry I LOSE, but you do in fact lose.

This puzzle features postcards from Europe - featuring VIEWS (24A: Typical postcard attractions) of the VOLGA (24D: One end of the Moscow Canal) and the ELBE (23A: River of Saxony). It also features twin classical obscurities INO (25D: Daughter of Cadmus) and ENYO (37A: Greek war goddess). INO ENYO sounds like an 80s synth pop band. It's also calling up CHICHEN ITZA and SHIBA INU. And Hawaiian senator Daniel INOUYE.

Still, many other answers were great, including my first answer in the grid, the fantastic BAT CAVE (51A: It lies beneath Wayne Manor). Always good to have a longish gimme to start. The tie-in to GOTHAM (35D: Setting for the 51-Across) was particularly nice.

The whole SW was particularly lovely - "I'M BACK and ready to CRUSH KOREA!" (43D: Announcement after being away + 59A: Infatuation + 62A: So-called Hermit Kingdom of old). The NW, despite being hard to get into, was very likable. SQUELCH is a great word (2D: Silence) and it makes a nice contrast to the more sophisticated-sounding WINE BAR (3D: Reception amenity).


  • 16A: Magyar : Hungarian :: Gaelige : _____ (Irish) - should have been a gimme, but my eye scanned it as foreign gibberish I couldn't possibly know and moved quickly on ...
  • 22A: Yahoo! competitor (Net Zero) - how do they compete? I don't pay for Yahoo! Mail. Isn't Net Zero an ISP?
  • 50A: Actor Tamiroff (Akim) - no hope. No hope in hell. That is a last/first name pairing that don't seem to go together at all. AKIM sounds African (-American) to me, but apparently, this guy is (was) Russian. Whoops, sorry: Georgian. Born in Tbilisi (a great crossword town)!
  • 58A: Implement with a collar (oar) - ah, rowing. Where would the puzzle be without you?
  • 5D: First of a Disney trio (Huey) - yay. My first guess, and a correct one. Daughter used to be very into Donald Duck (it's all Archie these days).
  • 8D: Nokia offering (phone) - adverts for Verizon and Nokia today...
  • 12D: Cyberhandle (user ID) - "Cyberhandle"? That sounds like a word some guy would use in the late 90s to impress some chick at a Star Trek convention. "Hey baby, my cyberhandle is picardsux. Look for me."
  • 21D: Hastert's successor as speaker of the House (Pelosi) - my first thought, but then the whole RED ONION incident happened ...
  • 32D: Hit 1983 pseudo-documentary ("Zelig") - Woody Allen's birthday was on Monday. He's 73.
  • 34D: Louis and Carrie (Nyes) - What about Bill?
  • 39D: "_____ Man," top 10 hit of 1967 ("I'm a") - finally, some music.

  • 48D: _____ Andric, 1961 Literature Nobelist (Ivo) - IVO, meet INO and ENYO. I'm sure you'll get along swimmingly.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Jeffrey 8:28 AM  

Just a weird puzzle all around. SIEG ENYO in the marquee row says it al.

AIR MAIL LETTER is comparatively quicker to the PONY EXPRESS but if you are reading this on December 4 I'm guessing a quicker method exists. Perhaps this clues works better in syndication - hello everyone out there reading this in January. Have you broken your New Year's resolutions yet? I do see your comments.

Lots of downers in the downs. SADDEST, SQUELCH, TAKE OUT, EPITAPH, REMORSE -- ACK!

Not even the BATCAVE can save this puzzle.

[wow - I can't even post a comment properly today]

Anonymous 8:36 AM  

@rex: I agree with everything you said today except I found it easier than you. I didn't get hung up anywhere. You are right about SIEG relating to Hitler. SIEG HEIL means Hail Victory ... which the crowds shouted at rallies. Ulrich, is this correct?

I hated AHEAP/ADDL and most of all DIMAG.

Let's CLEAR THE DECKS for tomorrow's puzzle!

Unknown 8:52 AM  

Here's the Dean Martin link.

first 2 minutes is all chatter and booze jokes of course.

Unknown 8:54 AM  

DIMAG reeally anoyed me, but nothing in this puzzle got to me like NETZERO.

They are absolutely NOT a competitor of Yahoo!!!!

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

Today I would have agreed if Rex hated the whole thing--Dimag????
That says it all--I'm off to the Batcave for some soup with scallions.

Anonymous 9:00 AM  

Snowflake, AZ does get snow, but it's named for two families: Snow & Flake. One of the Flake descendants is now a Congressman from our Great State. And our Governor is going to WA:-(

Oh, yeah, I gave up on the syndication thing & now play the game online.


gotcookies 9:10 AM  

Like joho, I also thought this was not too bad a puzzle. Got stuck for a couple minutes with AIRMAIL LETTER...the A just wasn't coming, and I completely blanked on LAIR for a while, too. Otherwise, I found this enjoyable and surprisingly quick for a Thursday for me, a relative puzzle newbie.

@rex: loved your comment on cyberhandle. started laughing at work and definitely got several strange looks... :)

RodeoToad 9:44 AM  

Pretty choppy waters. I had a wrong letter--VOLTA/SIET looked fine to me, or at least I wasn't intrigued enough to scout through other choices to get the G. That's what separates me from the pros, I guess.

I'm probably in the unvast minority in that IVO was a gimme for me. I had to read "The Bridge on the Drina" in grad school. In the same class (a historical fiction class taught by a Croation) we read "The Castle of Otranto" by Walpole, which also came in handy recently in a puzzle. I don't remember anything about either novel.

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

Disappointingly easy. I like more bite to my Thursday puzzles. And the theme seemed more of a little Tuesday/Wednesday thingie.

Spencer 9:59 AM  

Both Yahoo and NetZero are ISPs. In fact, my DSL service is AT&T/Yahoo (used to be SBC/Yahoo, and was just SBC when I started.) So it fits. It's just not the first thing you think of when you think of Yahoo.

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

This was hard for me. I have never seen Dimag. Thought it might be some kind of rebus!
Yuck! Too much stuff that is no fun at all.


Orange 10:14 AM  

I introduced Ivo to Enyo and Ino in my Crossword Fiend post, too.

"I LOSE. So I GO no more."

AKIM is the Russian shortening of Joachim. Joaquin is another variant.

I'd never seen ENYO before and was scarcely familiar with INO, but didn't run into any tough crossings. Overall, I thought this one was easier than most Thursday puzzles, and I liked the preponderance of 6- to 8-letter fill.

DJG 10:14 AM  

I usually love Barry Silk's puzzles, but not this one. It's just not very good. The theme is weak, and the fill is clunky (not the usual Silky smoothness). I'm surprised this one was accepted, to be honest.

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

I thought this was kind of tough, for a Thursday, but looking back over it I'm not sure why. I didn't time myself (not that interested in speed-solving), but I'd guess it probably took close to half an hour.

DIMAG is really, really awful. Having been just a tyke (hmm, that's one you don't see in crosswords often) at the time, I kept thinking of Joe Frazier.

Never saw Zelig (is it any good?) and not familiar enough with Batman to recognize Wayne Manor. I was expecting a more folksy answer than THROBS, given the clue.

Not too many gimmes, except the SW in 1 across, SDS (what would puzzle constructors do if it weren't for them?) and maybe PHONE, although I keep thinking Nokia makes tires. I think that's a different Finnish company though.

IMO, IGO, ENYO, and AQI were mysteries to me.

Pretty fun overall.

Orange 10:32 AM  

Musicals are tolerable when (a) they have well-known stars, (b) they're funny, and (c) they're only 3 minutes long. Behold Prop 8: The Musical.

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

Not knowing much about pop culture, and not being very deep into classical mythology, I found the crossing of 37A and 34D to verge on a Natick. I ran through all the vowels and decided [i] was least implausible, but failed to apply the grade-school rubric that the list of vowels concludes with "...and sometimes [y] and [w]."

Glitch 10:39 AM  


SBC was your original ISP.
Yohoo *partnered* with them, (later switching to AT&T branding) to provide ISP function to get the users to Yahoo's gateway.

In the nit picking world of this blog, that's not quite the same business model as NetZero, thus not a true *competitor*. (But I'm sure others will disagree!)

@mac @jannieB (from yesterday)

The mental gymnastics involved in doing xwords bring to the surface *things* your mind was too busy to pay attention to. It's like when you buy a new car, suddenly there's a lot more of the same model on the road.

Often these *mental jogs* just barely make it to the surface, you're not quite sure where the idea comes from, but it pops up.

Like today, for some reason I have a strange interest in seeing if Verizon offers Nokia phones ;-)

Anonymous 10:40 AM  

Too many GD abbvs. I hate all abbreviations, but I have to single out enls as the worst of the bunch. I realize that they're sometimes necessary, but this one had too damn many. The theme wasn't great, either. Am I supposed to have heard of Louis and/or Carrie Nye? If they'd thrown in Bill Nye (the Science Guy), I'd have had no problem, but who are those other two? That Nyes crossed Enyo wasn't very helpful.

Sbarro makes pretty good pizza, especially for a chain. Much better than the crap you get at Domino's et al. That's about the only good thing I have to say about this puzzle.

Two Ponies 10:41 AM  

Agree with Rex and Z.J. This was not one of Mr. Silk's stronger puzzles. I usually love his work.
Bat cave was fun with Gotham but beyond, whatever.
Scallion in my soup? Only if it's chopped and sprinkled on at serving. They are rarely eaten cooked.
Ah well, on to Friday.

Alec 10:49 AM  

Akim Tamiroff is brilliant in Touch of Evil.

David Thomson's entry on him in The Biographical Dictionary of Filmsays it best: "Tamiroff was a squat, scuttling rogue, ready to sell you a fake icon or a filthy picture; his face slipped as readily into a gloating smile or a contemptuous sneer; he could never escape a hint of sweat and bad breath or the idea of some shabby lodgings from which he emerged every day with implausible spruceness. And yet he managed to be one of the most beguiling men in movies, a connoisseur of the crazy paving life of the supporting actor."

evil doug 10:54 AM  

Hall and Oates are in the Songwriters Hall of Fame....

But Steve Winwood? Nope.

Last February at MSG he and Eric Clapton did (from what I hear; I've only seen excerpts) a brilliant mini-reunion of their Blind Faith days and other music. The body of work---from when he was 16 with the Spencer Davis Group, through Traffic and Blind Faith, then a long and distinguished solo career---includes writing, playing guitar, playing mandolin, playing keyboards and of course singing, and he's still at it today. Highly recommended if you get the chance, especially at a smaller venue.

Maybe he was elected to the Songwriters HOF, but declined when he saw Hall and Oates there. But you'll find him in Cleveland at the Rock and Roll Hall with Traffic.


Anonymous 10:56 AM  

Michigan Pete, all is forgiven. Please come back.

PuzzleGirl 11:09 AM  

Super-easy for me today, which is unusual for a Silk puzzle. I don't like DIMAG, but have seen it before so was ready for it. I don't hate this puzzle, but ... I expect more from my Thursday Times.

poc 11:10 AM  

I can't really agree with this being rated Medium. A few of the answers were obscure for me (AQI, ENYO), and there were a couple of ugly abbrevs (ADDL, ENLS) but they were all easy to get on crosses and there were no gaping holes to get lost in. I kept expecting a rebus to show up, but all we got was a boring theme. More of a Wednesday puzzle I thought.

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

Didn't find DIMAG unfair. Viz:

dk 11:32 AM  

@evil d, I remain a Blind Faith fan. I may have prattled on about them before but Long John Baldry, Delany and Bonnie and The Ginger Baker Allstars all include Mr. Winwood (Small Faces too, I think).

Oh the puzzle! I had encl instead of ADDL for 4D, had Utah instead of ARIZ and I spelled LOZENGE with an s instead of Z. The result a slow day in Lake Woebegone.

No complaints about the puzzle, just the solver.

Anonymous 11:34 AM  

This puzzle was just awful. Too many proper names, abbreviations, and a weak theme combined to make this an unpleasant solving experience. IVO, INO, ENYO?? These kinds of answers make me long for my old buddies ITALO CALVINO and UMBERTO ECO. Mr. Silk must have been checking his 401(k) with one hand while creating this puzzle with the other.

ENYO sounds like a new age rapper. Have you heard her latest, "Unicorns in the 'Hood?"


Ulrich 12:00 PM  

I also found some of the abbreviations groan-inducing and the theme underwhelming. So, I pretty much agree with everybody else.

Re. Sieg: Yes, it was shouted at Nazi rallies, but since it is such a common word and needed in everyday speech, e.g. when you talk about the records of sports teams (where it is used like English "win"), that the Nazi connotation remains weak. The same is not true for Heil: You do not need it in everyday speech, and it therefore has not lost the Nazi connotation (sharing that fate with Adolf as a boy's name, which has disappeared).

jeff in chicago 12:09 PM  

Yes, some odd stuff in the puzzle today. But I got through it below-average time, so I'm a happy camper.

Rex: Loved that Batman illustration. Examined it closely for quite a while. I get most of the images, but what's with the giant penny?

And just so I can practice my new skill I offer this holiday classic: Raging Rudolph

jae 12:09 PM  

Rex pretty much said it. Didn't like DIMAG as it had me briefly looking for a rebus. I found this fairly easy with some tough patches here and there (e.g. NW, middle center), so medium works for me.

Anonymous 12:30 PM  

fairly easy clues, but i got the ENYO / NYES crossing wrong, which isn't obvious imo. i put ENOO / NOES, which seemed plausible. probably would have gotten it right if i'd given it more thought, but i was trying to break my thursday solving record.

Unknown 12:32 PM  

Clear the deck. Clear the air. Clear the area. Ok.

Clear the throat? I don't know. Try to use that in a sentence. Or have I misunderstood?

Unknown 12:40 PM  

I disagree with Rex. This puzzle is medium easy. Misspelled epitaph , epitath. Darn my spelling.

Anonymous 12:41 PM  

@Sarah F,

From the website: Mother Nature

"The safest way to clear the throat is to sharply sniff and then swallow..."

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

So today I learned that Carrie Nye was an actress at the Williamstown summer theater; I don't think she was memorable enough to have a sandwich named after her at the local deli though. And on Guiding Light she drowned in quicksand. Louis Nye was a guest star on a lot of 70's tv (Fantasy Island, Love American Style etc). Both died of lung cancer a couple years ago.

I loved the Batcave picture too. The giant penny usually shows up in animations of the Batcave; per wikipedia, "the penny was originally a trophy from Batman's encounter with a penny-obsessed villain named the Penny Plunderer (World's Finest Comics #30, 1947)."

I couldn't figure out VIEWS for the postcard, and the VOLGA/SIEG cross left me high and dry.

Pythia 12:57 PM  

@evil d: I attended that Winwood/Clapton concert at MSG. It was fabulous. Steve Winwood's voice is still beautiful, unlike today's puzzle, which is tedious and dense and ugh-ly and always will be.


mac 1:20 PM  

I found this one Wednesdayish, no problems but also no spark. Too bad, I usually really like Mr. Silk's work. Of course I like 15A, but not the abbrs discussed. Some good words: dun, salut, 9D sifts, remorse, misshape, winebar and squelch.

Isn't it odd to have two women's name ending in O? I know a Lebanese Akim. Louis Nye rang a bell, so I guessed for the y in enyo.

Anonymous 1:28 PM  

Agree with many about the plethora of obscure abbrevs/names.


Frazier's nickname was Smokin' Joe.

As steve I's link makes clear, DIMAG was mostly a headline thing, as in 'DIMAG streak at 55'.

Had my own near-Natick in the Pacific Northwest. Could not picture in my head whether 1A was going to be SSE or SSW, wanted PPM as the EPA measurement (which seemed like it would work better with SSE), can't recall seeing DUN clued as a dull color before, but it is a valid second meaning after the payment-seeking verb. All three gave me a lot of trouble getting WINEBAR, which does not seem very common, IMHO.

At least it turned out I had everything correct after all, but had to come here for confirmation.



evil doug 1:32 PM  

@dk: I knew Winwood had sat in with many artists, but didn't know he had performed with the groups you name. Delaney and Bonnie and Friends---with Eric Clapton front and center---is an energetic album with soulful vocals. In his autobiography Clapton often spoke of his desire to simply play behind other talent, instead of acting the "Clapton is God" ax hero role that was expected of him. Too bad Blind Faith was so short-lived.

@Jane Doh: I shall be forever envious. I keep hoping an album will arise from that event, but so far I haven't discovered it.


chefbea 1:36 PM  

I agree - pretty easy for a thursday. Didn't know aqi or dun or enyo.

@orange my sister in law sent me Prop8 this morning - a nice short musical

I always put chopped uncooked scallions on many of my cold soups - creamy cucumber and visheysois (sp)

Anonymous 2:02 PM  

I agree with Sarah that "clear the throat" is not a common expression like the other three. Sounds like something a foreign exchange student would say: "Diss honey tea -- it vill clear the throat?"

Glitch 2:08 PM  


Carrie Nye is (was?) married to Dick Cavett.

Worked with both of them in a former life at PBS --- Carrie was a nice person --- opposites attract.

Shamik 2:09 PM  

@Chorister: Good for Janet. Bad for us Arizonans.

@ZJMuldigny: Agree on clunk vs. silk.

@jae: Also considered rebus for DIMAG. After all, Simon and Garfunkel made sure us post-DiMaggio (as a baseball player) folks knew who Joltin' Joe was. Joltin' Joe never batted 1000, so why should we expect Barry Silk to do so. Everyone has a clunker from time to time. I say cut him some slack 'cause of his usually brilliant puzzles.

Found this one to be a medium. Liked BATCAVE and EPITAPH. All the cited abbreviations and IVO/ENLS/INO put me off like they did most everyone who's blogged.

AVATAR for USERID (i got confused)

None of the chains can compete with the little mom & pop Italian restaurants in Connecticut that make pizza....not Greek pizza either...Italian pizza.

Anonymous 2:11 PM  

Sorry for being an idiot, but what the hell is ENLS an abbreviation for? That was my one open space today.

Hungry Bird 2:16 PM  

When I was a kid (1960's) my favorite aunt lived overseas. I remember that making the decision to send letters/packages air mail versus ship was a big deal money-wise.

Never knew ENYO. Long time friend of Ares. Are they ex's?

This puzzle proved once again that being a poor speller can be a handicap. SQUELSH looked good to me. How embarassing. Or embarrassing. Or whatever.

I've had a longstanding CRUSH on Ginger Baker. He reminds me of Animal, the drummer in the Muppets band.

I'm having brain freeze on ENLS. Would someone mind *cluing* me in?

Anonymous 2:16 PM  

In Ireland growing up, I would sometimes recieve letters from my overseas cousins - they were always in the form of a prepaid blue envelope that unfolds into a letter and made of impossibly thin paper - they were called airmail letters ....

Laurence Hunt 2:18 PM  

I didn't think that SIEG or SCALLION were difficult. Not my favourite, but loved the references to BATCAVE and GOTHAM, as well as the Disney trio.

Anonymous 2:20 PM  

@anon 2:11pm and Scotus addict

ENL - Enlargement.


Anonymous 2:34 PM  

NOT smooth at all...Barry may have to change his name due to false advertising

jeff in chicago 2:36 PM  

I originally had UNCLE for "You win."

Anonymous 2:39 PM  

Spencer Davis Group is fine, but I prefer the stylings of Bo Diddley's "I'm A Man"
Is penpoint (in reference to NIB) really one word? I was all on the aim? nail? yahtzee? wavelength. I'm still young and ignorant. (not that there's anything wrong with that...)

Anonymous 2:44 PM  

P.S. "Touch of Evil" has the best single shot opening of any movie ever made thus far. (in my abstract opinion) Also, who knew Charlton Heston was Mexican?

dk 2:45 PM  

@acme, LOL I cuda swallowed a THROATLOZENGE.

@markus, Eric Burton and the Animals did a credible cover as well.

edith b 2:45 PM  


You didn't got back far enough - Louis Nye was a sketch player on the old Steve Allen Tonite show and when I was kid, I got to stay up on Friday nights to watch. Louis Nye was part of team of players that included Don Knotts (Barney Fife), Tom Poston and Bill Dana (Jose Jimenez, the most un-PC character on TV).

It is a shame that all of these guys have been largely forgotten with the possible exception of Don Knotts who had two seperate careers after Steve Allen - Andy Griffith and "Three's Company".

Hi, Ho Steverino!!

Pythia 2:51 PM  

@evil d: I just posted a photo from the concert for you to see. Click on my link and then click on Talk is Cheap.


RodeoToad 3:05 PM  

Edith B, Tom Poston was on Mork & Mindy and Newhart. And don't forget all the Don Knotts and Tim Conway 1970's Disney movies. Well, actually you should forget them. (I may still have the novelization of "Hot Lead and Cold Feet.")

I love the Steve Winwood solo stuff from his eighties resurgence, but I like Warren Zevon's version of "Back in the High Life" better, maybe because it has been cleansed of James Taylor. The Spencer Davis and Traffic stuff has lost its freshness for me due to oversaturation. You could say that about the sixties generally, of course.

"Touch of Evil" arrived via Netflix yesterday, destined to sit on the top of the TV for three or four weeks before we finally send it back unwatched, just like "Annie Hall."

JannieB 3:07 PM  

@edith B - don't forget that Tom Poston co-starred with Bob Newhart on his Vermont-based sitcom as George Utley, the handyman. Coincidentally, he later married Suzanne Pleshette.

@acme - has to be your shortest comment ever! But one of the funniest. And what, no Zelig story?????

As for the puzzle, this bit of silk has a snag - for all the aforementioned reasons.

green mantis 3:17 PM  

I share a brain with Wade today (goes with a nice Port?): had siet/Volta and read Bridge on the Drina last semester. Harrowing and beautiful.

Just came across an amazing piece of furniture on the street while going for coffee; it's one of those tallish Persian looking cabinets all intricately carved and painted, probably Scheherezade had one. Now it's mine if I can get it out of my car and into the garage. I fought with it on the sidewalk (it outweighs me by a good 100 pounds) until a couple of beefy do-gooders came to my rescue and muscled it into my station wagon.

Me: "Can I buy you a gelato?" (wink to Fergus)

Guy: "No, but the next time you see someone who needs help, give it to them."

These things give me the watery eyes. That and dander.

SethG 3:29 PM  

It should clearly be 'clear ONE'S throat'.

Approx 3.9994% of the first 100 results if you search for DIMAG relate to baseball. In the future be prepared for GRETZ and SAMP and ROETH and the like...

Is "air mail" really two words? I guess it can be, though the USPS seems to use "airmail". And no one clears the or one's airmail.

Got Ham? could be a great parody. Er, been there, done that.

Never heard of ENYO or either of those NYES. Do know my Volga from my Volta. And my favorite IVO is another Croation, Karlovic, who makes me feel short.

fikink 3:42 PM  

@SethG, did you see that you were in Dave's crossword puzzle yesterday (in Orange's forum), clued as some sax player?
I thought it was pretty clever.

@ZJ, I had the same reaction. I saw Barry Silk and looked forward to something much more enjoyable
@Sancho, Zelig was pretty good at the time, but I imagine with today's technology not many would be very impressed.
@dk, it sounds like we have the same record collection. Got any Traffic?
@tintin, "Unicorns in the Hood" - good one!

Anonymous 3:43 PM  

Never heard of Snowflake, AZ - could think only of Snowflake the orphan German polar bear who was in the news yesterday.

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

@SethG--What percentage does it go up to on the DIMAG Google hits if you eliminate the ones that aren't in English?

Sorry, I thought it was gettable, maybe because I remember him referred to that way (now and then.)

imsdave 4:03 PM  

Late sovling for me today due to that dreaded 'work thing'. NW slowed me down a ton as I was absolutely married to PPM for AQI, and also stalled in the SW by IAM for ISM. I cannot bring myself to criticize this puzzle because Mr. Silk is usually 'smooth as'. Let's just say it's a little hiccup.

ArtLvr 4:09 PM  

I rather liked this puzzle, no problems! I can see where others might go wrong, but I had OFFICER before getting DECK, so the game-of-bridge idea didn't distract me. Also wrote in THROATLOZENGE early on, giving me VOLGA and VIEWS, though the latter might have been Vista...

We'd seen SBARRO recently, so the SW corner was a quick one -- loved BATCAVE and GOTHAM, also Kit carrier MEDIC and the WINEBAR, DUTCH and IRISH, SIEG and DACHA.

Last fills were the M to get AKIM and the G for the ends of ZELIG and DIMAG. I thought the theme was CLEAR and quite clever... Very good Thursday!

Orange 4:19 PM  

You know...I'm just putting myself in Barry Silk's shoes here. And I'm thinking that reading something like Jane Doh's "today's puzzle, which is tedious and dense and ugh-ly and always will be" might hurt his feelings. And acme's "not smooth at all"—pfft! If this puzzle weren't at least a little smooth, could I have blown through it in 3:34? I liked the theme structure, I liked the longer fill, I liked the Q and Z's and K's. The assorted NYES have been in crosswords enough to ease the ENYO crossing, and while ENYO and ENLS ain't pretty, they're sandwiched between two theme entries as well as the cool ZELIG and GOTHAM. Are there other Barry Silk puzzles I've enjoyed more? Oh, sure. But this one didn't stink, so I don't quite get the invective being cast its way.

There. I feel better. Sometimes I just have to say these things.

PuzzleGirl 4:30 PM  

Amen, sistah! I didn't love DIMAG but it's not like Barry made it up and stuck it in there. I also didn't love CLEAR THE THROAT (while I was solving, I actually thought, I bet SethG thinks it should be clear one's throat), but other than that ... Like Orange, I breezed through it in much less than my usual Thursday time, so it couldn't have been that clunky. The only real complaint I would make is that I'm always looking forward to something a little zippier on Thursday. This is a fine, fine Wednesday puzzle IMOO.

mac 4:33 PM  

@Orange: amen, ditto.

Chip Hilton 5:05 PM  

Yankee fan from way back here and DIMAG is fine with me. Often used by Yankee broadcasters when referring to Number 5.

@edith b
I share your affectionate memories of the old Steve Allen gang. Later, his late night talk show that was based in LA in the mid-60's kept me up way after bedtime.

Blind Faith appeared at my high school stadium in Bridgeport, CT on July 13, 1969 (a warm-up gig for their tour). Delaney, Bonnie and Friends opened. I was there, standing next to a young woman who was enjoying a bottle of (I believe it was) Southern Comfort as she watched. Name of Janis Joplin.

Anonymous 5:11 PM  

Wells said Orange. I thought even RP came at him a little hard and no let up here.
Not my favorite puzzle and I still give props to the constructor.
God I think I'm getting soft.

fergus 5:41 PM  

I thought the polar bear was called Knut? And Snowflake was an albino gorilla?

GM, maybe there's a magic lamp to be found as well?

RodeoToad 5:44 PM  

Janis Joplin
Hide 'n Seek World Champion
1970 . . .

Never mind.

Anonymous 6:02 PM  

After slogging my way through today's puzle I realised why I disliked it; the thematic phrases were lifeless. An "area code map" is dull. So is "air mail letter."

i don't share Orange's interpretation of the comments posted here. I see no invective . . . just folks expressing their opinions. And yes, I've put myself in the compiler's shoes; I'm a newspaper man. You have to be tough and take the good with the bad.

foodie 6:26 PM  

Came here late, because of that work thing that imsdave mentioned...Still not done with work, but you can only have so much self-discipline.

I often wonder about the constructors and how they will take the feedback about their puzzles. As someone who publishes papers and writes grants that get critiqued, I had to work hard to learn not to read it too personally, yet take it to heart and learn from it. I'm impressed by the constructors as a group, since they obviously do this for the love of it all, and do it very publicly. They take the risk, the criticism or the acclaim and keep on being creative. Inspirational!

@green mantis, speaking of which, I loved your story about the muscled dude with soul. That and your other cool find! You must have done something good...

Anonymous 6:29 PM  

@Orange @PuzzleGirl @mac @rafaelthatmf -- I was going post my feelings about the "attack" on Barry Silk, but didn't have to thanks to you all. My Goodness. This guy knows what he's doing and creates one puzzle that isn't perfect and he's like toast. Or rather he's gone from silk to burlap. Geez, give the man a break.

Jeffrey 6:49 PM  

I think it is ok to state our feelings about whether we like a particular puzzle or not without it reflecting on the constructor.

Reviewing my list of favorite puzzles of 2008, Barry Silk has 6 entries, third only to Patrick Berry and Mike Nothnagel. This puzzle won't add to that list, but I obviously like most of Barry's puzzles and hope for more.

The ability to create puzzles for very little money, no residuals, and virutally no recognition (excluding puzzle-nerds like us)is an uncommon talent that we should remember to appreciate. I'll bet we wouldn't think twice about this one if it wasn't for the extremely high quality level we expect (and nearly always obtain) from Will and the New York Times.

Anonymous 6:52 PM  

I fought the ENYO/NYES battle and won (by luck). I'm finally remembering this SBARRO thing, though I've still never seen one, so I needed a few crosses to get it. I winced at DIMAG, but figured it was probably in the language. I groaned at ADDL, then I think I might have cursed ENLS. But I got them all right in the end.

My mistake was to try AREAWIDEMAP. DAwHA seemed wrong, but I thought it was DAsHA at first, so nothing was working for me there. IVO was a mystery, and ivi seemed plausible enough. Finding this mistake (after checking first on ENYO and a couple of other iffy ones) took me a long time, to the point that I finally cheated off Orange's paper. I'd say this was an easy puzzle with one or two naticky spots, which I'm guessing is what pushed it to Thursday. Of course, I'm talking out my ACK now, so I'll just be DUN.

Chip Hilton 6:56 PM  

This time, I'm laughing.

Chip Hilton 6:56 PM  

This time, I'm laughing.

foodie 6:58 PM  

@ Crosscan, you keep a list? I'm very impressed...

I agree that our expectations are extremely high, and that in a way is the greatest compliment. Once in a while, in desperation, I solve another puzzle in a newspaper and it feels like the difference between eating at, say, Chez Panisse and Wendy's.

Chip Hilton 6:59 PM  

Apparently, twice.

Jeffrey 7:08 PM  

@foodie - I'm going for Rex's Dorkfest title.

chefbea 7:34 PM  

@crosscan speaking of creating puzzles for very little bout the great puzzle that IMSDave created for us and reaped nary a penny...just lots of praise.

edith b 8:10 PM  

How am I clunky, let me count the ways. CLEAR THE THROAT sounds off to me and so does WINE BAR. Never did like answers in the form of A HEAP. The relationship between Egad! and ACK seems flimsy at best and so does Hurts like heck and THROBS. There's something slightly . . . off between the last two.

I never liked directional clues in the first place, particularly when they open the puzzle.

And all those abbreviations! I especially disliked ADDL and ENLS and the aforementioned SSE.

Daughter of Cadmus? Come on.

This was not one of Barry Silk's finest days.

Hungry Bird 8:22 PM  

A good constructor believes that if the puzzle is not well received it is the fault of the editor.

green mantis 8:33 PM  

@foodie: Maybe it's the apprentice mantis whose life I've been sparing, keeping under the bed, terrifying each eve with the promise, "Good night, sleep well, most likely eat you in the morning." Or maybe that's not so much a good deed as an example of profound sadism. I get the two mixed up.

@fergus: The only lamps on SF streets are those deeply awful tall skinny guys with flying saucer tops, known for being very bright, very cheap. They are perpetually, inexplicably popular and despised at the same time by all college kids and other poors. The one standing lonely on my block of Capp St. has been keeping homely watch for at least two weeks. One day it was gone; the next day it was back in the same spot. Maybe you could call that magic, but I rather think it's like the lamp version of a bad date--you know it's bad for you but you take it home anyway, then in the sober morning cast it out and give yourself a good long talking to in the bathroom mirror. Not that I would know.

This puzzle was fine. I recently found out that someone whose opinion I value HATES my writing--my writing being the most important thing in my entire world and the thing I invest my whole soul in as the make-or-break repository of any potential meaning for my existence. What are you going to do? Carry on, I guess... (What's this salty discharge? Must be some dander in my eye.)

edith b 8:39 PM  

I never feel bad about expressing my feelings for a particular puzzle and I don't feel bad about it now.

My expectations are high when it comes to Barry Silk and when I am disappointed, I don't think I should pull my punches when, in my opinion, he misses the mark.

I still like the guy just not this puzzle.

Anonymous 8:41 PM  


I'm familiar with those thin blue airmails from WWll — they were called V-mail (Victory mail).


foodie 9:45 PM  

@green mantis, "What are you going to do?" you ask. Investigate, I say.

Here's what I've discovered: I might get dander in my eyes if someone whose opinion I greatly value is completely INDIFFERENT to something I pour my soul into. But if they really HATE it, now that's a reaction that peaks my interest...what button am I pushing? Why is it so sensitive? There's always a story behind hate...

janie 9:57 PM  

you won't find the clapton/winwood concert here, but you will find clapton and winwood and tons of others.

fire up the speakers and enjoy!


Anonymous 10:10 PM  

"ENLS" an abbr for enlargements? Wow is that lame.

fikink 10:16 PM  

professor, lover, mother, God
The only one who must value your writing is you.

Orange 10:23 PM  

@Green Mantis: You are the second best insect writer in the world. (My friend Flea is an amazing writer.)

@joho: Well, dang it, now I'm going to think of him as Barry Burlap if one of his puzzles isn't up to his usual standards of smoothness.

mac 10:34 PM  

@green mantis: Oh Green Mantis.... Listen to Foodie.
You are back in great form.

@J of Manchester: I think you brought up the word of the day: "compiler". Let's call them that from now on.

@Joho: I'm not sure if you being funny or cruel with your "silk to burlap"!

mac 10:37 PM  

@Orange: I just had the loudest LOL after reading your burlap comment. I had thought the same thing.....

Anonymous 11:18 PM  

And it is pique (not peak or peek) one's interest - that may be important to know sometime midpuzzle.

foodie 12:10 AM  

@anonymous, thank you!!!!! it's been driving me crazy... as I posted it I felt it was wrong, but could not come up with the right spelling and thought I must look it up--but never did. Now, who are you? You've piqued my interest (and caused me to post a fourth time and pique Rex).

fergus 12:24 AM  

... but subconsciously, by peaking it was raised to the highest level?

Now I'm reading too closely between the lines.

green mantis 2:14 AM  


Bill from NJ 7:57 AM  

@green mantis-

What a hard thing to hear - that someone you respect hates your writing. If it's any consolation, judging by what I read here, I love your style.

Last week, someone posted a pseudo-Latin expression - Illegitimati non carborundum - and you would do well to bear it in mind.

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

If the puzzle was bad, I didn't really notice.

The only reason I don't know ENYO is because DC Comics have not yet put her in as a villain for Wonder Woman. But googling around, I see people have been proposing her for that purpose.

The one thing I didn't like was being reminded that I've had IVO Andric on my bookshelves for twentysome years now, and still haven't read him. A gimme that I haven't earned yet.

Anonymous 1:03 PM  

I look forward to a battle of wits with the constructor in solving Thursday fare. This one is flaccid, Tuesday fare at best.

Barry, we expect much better from you!!

Anonymous 1:16 PM  

Since Bill was nice enough to solicit a comment from the 5 weeks behind people like me, I thought this puzzle exceedingly easy, and that always produces good feelings and forgiveness of tiny faults. I am old enough that AKIM was a gimme. The only letter I had to leave open was the cross of ENYO and ENLS as I never heard of the first and couldn't see the second until I opened the blog this morning.
As for New Year's resolutions, I don't do those, I wait a couple of months for Lent and pack them all in there - only have to hold on for six weeks. --Chris in LA

Anonymous 1:21 PM  

Ooops - faulty short term memory, it was Crosscan who invited the comments of January readers. Sorry.

Jeffrey 2:13 PM  

Yeah, that was me. Welcome to the party, syndi-land.

CindyLou 4:07 AM  

I'm just glad for BATCAVE, which made my day for this puzzle. I got such a mess in the NW corner that I am not even sure what I ended up with there in the end. The top of my WINEBAR is particularly cluttered.

@ crosscan: Glad to know someone reads our posts from syndi-land. It does get lonely out here! I always figured if I posted, I would be talking to myself. I didn't make any NY resolutions. I like my vices just the way they are, thank you very much.

The only time being in syndi-land gets confusing is on Sundays because the puzzle is only a week behind. When I get here, sometimes y'all refer to "yesterday's puzzle" or a comment somebody made "yesterday." On Sundays, your yesterday is a month from now for me.

@orange: thanks for the link to the Prop 8 musical - hysterical! Jack Black as JC, love it.

@jeff in chicago: thanks for the Raging Rudolph link, that was also pretty hysterical.

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