SUNDAY, Jan. 11, 2009 - D. J. Kahn (Green's songwriting partner in old musicals / "Talk of the Nation" airer / Flier to Omsk)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Making History" - An election / inauguration-themed puzzle with a rebus component that includes that state abbreviations of the 28 STATES WON BY BARACK OBAMA / IN THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION (46A: With 90-Across, what the 28 circled squares in this puzzle represent)

Word of the day: ENCHASE -

  1. To set (a gem, for example).
  2. To set with or as if with gems: enchase a brooch.
  3. To decorate or ornament by inlaying or engraving. []

Well, this is super-clever, not to mention super-TIMELY (47D: Opportune). Saw Kahn's name and got a little panicky - he and Bob Klahn (of Saturday's puzzle) and Byron Walden all scare me a little because their puzzles are almost always wickedly, ingeniously tough. Then, as with yesterday's, I sailed through the NW and got the theme early and all that. But then I got significantly slowed down in the N and NW - never heard of WARWICK and had INSIDE for WITHIN at first, even though Obama clearly didn't win Idaho. And ENCHASE (21A: Set, as a gem)? PETE Fountain (13D: Fountain in New Orleans)? No and no. But I worked it out. The rest of the puzzle felt very Sundayish - I like that Kahn managed to make the puzzle a good work-out despite its having a very easily graspable theme.

[Pete Fountain is a guy, not a fountain]

Theme answers:

  • 25A: Song with the lyric "We salute him, one and all" ("HaIL to the CHIef") - I guess they'll just change that "him" to "her" some day.
  • 56A: Patriotic displays (AME RI CAn FLags) - great run of states there
  • 66A: First U.S. chief justice (JOH NJ ay) - I'm counting this as a theme answer, given that the chief justice swears in the president. Nevermind that "chief" is in the clue when it's already part of an answer elsewhere in the puzzle (25A)
  • 84A: White House tour highlight (OVAl Office)
  • 115A: Political insider (CO NVention goer) - damn, he's got this presidential season down from alpha to omega. The Dulles airport has entire stores dedicated to Obama merchandise. It's ... a bit ridiculous. Like some crazy cult took over a store. We have some Obamints hiding somewhere in our kitchen.

There was a good chunk of American info here that just got by me. PETE Fountain was first. Then WARWICK, RI. Then Mike ENZI (31A: Wyoming senator Mike) - the fact that Wyoming and New York have the same number of senators makes me sad if I think about it too hard. Speaking of "numbers," I hope none of you fell for the old "let's use 'numbers' to mean 'things that numb'" trick ... again. That "?" on the end of 84D: Numbers? (opIAtes) should have set bells off. But back to America - MINOT (83A: Seat of Ward County, N.D.)? That's a place? Seems about as famous as NATICK to me, but thankfully all the crosses (with the possible exception of JINNI - 66D: Islamic spirit - and FANJET - 59D: Certain engine) were a breeze.

Highlights (No "bullets" in an inaugural puzzle write-up)

  • 1A: Box in many dens (TiVo) - I had HDTV at first, despite its non-box-like shape
  • 23A: Flier to Omsk (Aeroflot) - "knew" this without really knowing it. Also spelled it "AEROFLAT"
  • 41A: Green's songwriting partner in old musicals (CoMDen) - real guess. Freaked me out almost as much as ENCHASE. Looked it up afterward to confirm.
  • 54A: "The Great Ziegfeld" co-star, 1936 (Loy) - costar of "The Thin Man" movies, along with crossword royalty, ASTA
  • 59A: Record holder? (felon) - this was a poser for me. I had to back this one into a corner and still puzzled over the "F" - considered MELON but couldn't figure out what that meant in context, and also thought MANJET (!) was probably not an engine type.
  • 62A: Jazz Age figure (flapper) - flat-out gimme - if it's not Fitzgerald, it's FLAPPER
  • 65A: White House family of the 1840s (Tylers) - hey, look, another theme answer.
  • 68A: Butterfly's title (Madama) - wrote in MADAME without hesitation, then figured the clue for 73D: Used as a dining surface (ate on) just had the wrong verb tense.
  • 86A: Daly TV role (Lacey) - forgot which one she was. This is quintessential 80s TV. Like a hardboiled "Murder, She Wrote." Whoa, this intro makes it look more like "Perfect Strangers" than a cop show:

  • 89A: Zaragoza's river (Ebro) - probably my favorite of the four-lettered European rivers
  • 99A: Nobel physicist Tamm (IgOR) - well, at least it wasn't his last name in the puzzle.
  • 114A: Old German rocket (VTwo) - me: "they had a word for 'rocket' in Old German?"
  • 124A: "The Simpsons" character whose last name has 18 letters (Apu) - Nahasapeemapetilon!
  • 129A: Citi Field team, starting in 2009 (Mets) - at this point, they'll try anything
  • 4D: First word in Montana's motto (oro) - "Oro y plata" - very important motto to know if you're going to be solving a lot of crosswords
  • 12D: "Sesame Street" tune, with "The" ("O Song") - another theme answer! Well of course I'm going to play it:

  • 18D: Diplomat Annan (Kofi) - I feel like he's in every puzzle I do lately. Probably not true.
  • 33D: Former big name in browsers (NetsCApe) - first browser I ever used
  • 35D: Popular film Web site, briefly (IMDB) - Internet Movie Database. It really is amazing. Thorough.
  • 43D: Like heaven's vault, in a Shelley poem (ebon) - as in black. From Part IV of Shelley's "Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem in 9 parts"
[...] Heaven’s ebon vault,
Studded with stars unutterably bright,
Through which the moon’s unclouded grandeur rolls,
Seems like a canopy which love had spread
To curtain her sleeping world.
  • 45D: With 52-Across, what angels pray for (sMAsh / hits) - "angels" are the financial backers of theater productions. Learned that from crosswords. The NYT crossword still thinks Broadway is the center of the universe. You just have to get used to it. I'm still trying.
  • 51D: Etymologist's concern (root) - misread it as "eNtOmologist," which slowed me down but good
  • 57D: "Talk of the Nation" airer (NPR) - you know whose talk I don't want to hear? The nation's. I find that show unlistentoable. "Hi, I'm random guy from somewhere you don't know, and I have this unsubstantiated theory. Blahbitty blah. I'll take my response off air."
  • 64D: "_____ babbino caro" (Puccini aria) ("O mio" ) - another day, another aria. Take a listen:

  • 79D: Inauguration recital (oath) - yet another hidden theme answer. This puzzle just keeps on giving.
  • 85D: Frankie with a falsetto (Valli) - Remember, they are saying "PeanuTs" - there's a "T" in there. Because if you take the "T" sound out, well the song gets a little blue:

  • 92D: Where a torpedo may be made (DEli) - heard of a submarine, but not a TORPEDO
  • 96D: "OMG!," quaintly (egads) - very quaintly; now E-gadz ... that would be modern.
  • 102D: Io's guardian, in Greek myth (Argus) - had ARGOS which is a Greek city and also the old dog of Ulysses ... in Greek myth.

The end.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS you might consider watching "I.O.U.S.A." on CNN today (Sunday, 3pm EST); it's a documentary about the national debt, which has nothing to do with crosswords except that it was directed by Patrick Creadon, who directed "Wordplay"; I'm going to go TIVO it right now. (Actually, I don't have TIVO - I have TiFaux)


chefwen 10:39 PM  

Sure had a lot more fun this evening than I did this morning. Had to laugh at myself, in error, as a salute to all the foodies out there I wrote in HAILTOTHECHEF, obviously not thinking and then when I noticed the mistake had a good chuckle, then another when I saw my home state on top of my adoptive state. Kquinckydink or whatever.

Orange 10:48 PM  

I.O.U.S.A. is definitely worth watching, but a pain in the ass to type with all those periods.

I have some college classmates who teach college and high school in MINOT. Talk about your godforsaken climates there in North Dakota, ya. Two of the next four days have subzero highs.

I like Talk of the Nation because I've met Neal Conan at the ACPT. I can't say I actually listen to the nation talking, but I like to hear Neal's familiar voice. (He's been doing color commentary for the ACPT finals.)

Chicago is blanketed with Obama merchandise, too. You want a pink Obama t-shirt? You can get it. No design too tacky.

Pete Fountain used to have a club at a Hilton hotel in New Orleans where I stayed in the mid-'90s. Didn't see him, but Halloween in the French Quarter rocked.

Orange 10:49 PM  

P.S. In the movie Dave, where Kevin Kline doubles as the president, he sings in the shower. Something like "Hail to the chief, he's the one we all say hail to. We all say hail 'cause he keeps himself so clean." I don't know the real lyrics, just these ones.

Greene 11:20 PM  

How nice to be able to solve a NYT puzzle again after the bloodbath that was Saturday morning. As usual, I'm dumb about rebus puzzles, but at least this time I knew there was something afoot pretty early on. My good friend Betty COMDEN (who was one the last of the golden age Broadway lyricists) tipped me off to the state theme and the race was on.

I'm not sure I could have done this puzzle if the rebus squares were not circled. Was that a gift from Will or just mercy from Mr. Kahn? Either way I'm grateful.

Aside from COMDEN, there were lots of little Broadway clues to help me along. SMASH HITS was cleverly clued (what angels pray for). Myrna LOY, of course, portrayed Billie Burk (the real Mrs. Ziegfeld) in the Ziegfeld biopic. The movie is less a biography and more an excuse to showcase some wonderful production numbers. Luise Rainer is exceptional as Anna Held (the first Mrs. Ziegfeld) and won an Academy Award for her efforts.

James Joyce's THE DEAD was recently musicalized on Broadway (1999) featuring, of all people, Christopher Walken and Blair Brown. This may be the most understated musical ever written, content to whisper while the genre, on the whole, tends to shout. And speaking of musicals that shout, Frankie VALLI and the Four Seasons get the jukebox bio treatment in Broadway's Jersey Boys, still doing socko business at the August Wilson Theatre in NY.

All in all, a great puzzle with a timely theme -- and actually solvable too.

jae 11:30 PM  

Fine puzzle that seemed about right for a Sun. Took a little while to catch the them but it was fun once I got going. Not sure I get how elbowroom = SCOPE? The MINOT/JINNI, HALITE area was a little tricky but no real problems other than that. I'm at a point in life where sometimes it takes a while for stuff to surface, e.g. I knew JOHNJAY but his name took a little while to come to mind. Same with Alice's cat. This does not bode well for speed solving.

jae 11:32 PM  

Rats, that should be theme.

Anonymous 11:38 PM  

According to the article below, last year's postings on this RP site was not only good for your mental prowess, but your physical well being.
Headline: The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating
"Maybe you should be eating more beets or chopped cabbage. "
(This post appears on The New York Times’s list of most-viewed stories for 2008.)
1. Beets: Think of beets as red spinach, Dr. Bowden said, because they are a rich source of folate as well as natural red pigments that may be cancer fighters.
How to eat: Fresh, raw and grated to make a salad. Heating decreases the antioxidant power.

I inaugurated this fine puzzle earlier tonight.

travis 1:38 AM  

Was pretty sure DC wasn't kosher, but what about NE? Obama did win one elector in Nebraska.

Anonymous 3:07 AM  

do I love you because you have seventeen things to love about a sentence like "No "bullets" in an inaugural puzzle write up"
(in an in-)
or because you can segue from
"O mio babbino caro" to "PeanuTs"
sans t without batting an eye?

Hungry Bird 3:15 AM  

I'm filing this puzzle under, "Things you shouldn't do just because you can." And none of you can stop me because it's my birthday and I get to do whatever I want.

sillygoose 4:29 AM  

Wow. I am so impressed with this puzzle. aMERICAnFLags is just an amazing answer.

I got the whole "states won by barack obama in the presidential election" thing so quickly I thought the whole puzzle would be easy, but then I ran into my gaping lack of knowledge of... well, lots of things.

I had to look up WArWIck, and of course I had eNClasp and had to look up the fountain to straighten that out, and then there is jOHNJay (who?) and Minot (what?) and I had sPAce for sCOpe which made piPAge difficult to uncover. I held on to a loop instead of a loss for too long. VTWO? If you say so.

I second Greene in thanking the person who decided to circle the rebus squares. Can you imagine this puzzle without that? On the other hand, it might have been fun to have a "challenging" option and an "easy" option, in case you felt like getting out your red and blue map of the USA and counting up your squares.

At least I knew my state would be in there. :-)

Parshutr 8:07 AM  

I agree with Greene and Sillygoose, and have to say this was a very welcome respite from the Wrath of Klahn yesterday.
And RP...I'm with you all the way on EN PEE ARRGH. Random guy from somewhere, indeed.

Anonymous 8:29 AM  

I thought today's puzzle was challenging for a Sunday while yesterday's I'd rate medium-challenging for a Saturday.

Like Rex I got the NW quickly as well as the theme but bogged down in too many places to rate this as only Medium.

I drew a blank in the LA section of the W as well as the Carolina section of the E so the ATTHEPRESIDENTIALELECTION part of the theme took a while.

While I knew WARWICK (since I live in the NE) and have heard of MINOT, I never heard of ENCHASE. And HAH seemed as good as HEH as a snicker sound. Natick-ish to me.

And although I entered OPIATES correctly I didn't know why until I read this blog; just never thought about the other meaning of Numbers.

All in all I found this surprisingly tough for a Sunday -- even after getting the theme immediately.

JoefromMtVernon 8:54 AM  

Had the theme early, but still slower than normal.

Enzi/Chez (can we have a puzzle without any french words? Can we? Huh?)


After getting Valli, I wrote Tomei for Lahti
Inside for within (caught when I found Clint (78D)... and thought "A political trick? They counted Indiana twice???").

Enough already clue: 67D "Ohto" be in England...saw it within the week; please don't make it common fill.

Brain Freeze: Wanted (John) Marshall for John Jay.

These must be wrong moments: Enchase (Rex's word of the day) and Pipage...anyone make a call, ever, saying "there's something wrong with the pipage." Is this a British term?

My problem with Jinni is that it wasn't taught that way in school (Genie?). Why no VAR in the clue?

Drove by Shea the other day, as demolision continues...I know it's only a place to many, but still, a lot of memories being torn down.

Have a 75D - up week.


ArtLvr 9:09 AM  

Funny, I just threw out my tally of the election results yesterday, part of my belated clean-up. I'm glad Travis mentioned the one vote from NE, HEH! Otherwise, we'll assume Mr. Kahn had it right...

The commentary from Rex and comments from the Group here are more fun than the puzzle -- Thanks to Greene especially for the musical notes on Betty COMDEN et al. My one goof was the last letter of the crossing VALLI/LAHTI, where I had E. I guess I was preparing a Latte to take off the chill, with nine inches of snow piled up outside and still counting. Will we get another power outage? Can it affect the PIPAGE? I think I'll get the FIRELIT.

Thanks also to Chefwen too, for "Hail to the Chef", and Happy B'day to Scotus Addict -- hope you get your choice of gems to ENCHASE!


Rex Parker 9:14 AM  

To be clear(er), I love NPR. I give them money and listen to some part of their programming nearly every day. It's specifically "Talk of the Nation" that I can't listen to. Call-in shows just make me angry / nauseous. Unless I'm watching QVC for some mysterious reason. There, I find callers very entertaining.


Anonymous 9:35 AM  


I found this theme to be spectacular. For me, it unfolded in the best way: with an "aha!" moment followed by the satisfying puzzle-within-a-puzzle of trying to figure out what the 28 states were and where they fit--not to mention what their postal abbreviations are. The joke was on me when it turned out that Hawaii is not HA!


Jeffrey 9:55 AM  

Great puzzle, great writeup, great clips.

Notice after the last 3 days we're no longer hearing from the "it's time to replace Will as NYT editor" crowd?

Anonymous 10:07 AM  

I absolutely loved solving this puzzle! I got the theme pretty quickly which made it easier as I wrote down the states BO won and just crossed them off as I entered them (I'm a bit of a political junkie). I loved finding both IL and HI within HAIL TO THE CHIEF and CO in CONVENTIONGOER. So clever!

I was stumped by the ENCHASE/PETE area until the very end and wanted John Marshall for JOHN JAY.

Great theme and fill plus the enjoyment factor was high. Thanks David Kahn!


DONALD 10:11 AM  


JannieB 10:29 AM  

Very nice Sunday outing. I knew Minot (husband spent a year in the AF there), and Pete Fountain. But "enchase" was the last word to fall. I agree - "hah" works equally well and kept me from seeing the obvious.

What I really admire about this puzzle is that even though I got the rebus immediately, and knew where it was going, there was still enough of a challenge to keep it interesting. Too often once I have my "aha" moment, the rest of the puzzle is just a Monday - not today, by any stretch.

Well done!

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

I got Minot, ND right away, but only because family lore has it that my great-grandfather was an itinerant rabbi there in in the 1910's. Always wondered what possible demand there would have been for a rabbi in Minot, ND...then I realized it must have had something to do with fur traders from NY. Anyway, a shout-out to my great-zayde for helping me finish this one.

PlantieBea 10:55 AM  

Super puzzle! I got stuck for a bit in the SW since I was positive that Elbowroom had to be SPACE instead of SCOPE. However, I worked that out and filled in the last squares in the center with NJ--never heard of FANJET and not familiar with John Jay, but it all makes sense. I puzzled over numbers for a long time after so wanting OPIATES. I was able to force the NUMBERS clue in the end. Whew! RECHASE is a new word for me. Oops, also had a temporary ALUMNUS until ALUMNAE was correctly placed. Good thing I have a DD at a women's college...

Best answer, IMO, was A ME RI CA N FL AGS, with my state. Yep, huge NPR fan here, too, although I don't listen to Talk of the Nation.

HudsonHawk 10:59 AM  

Count me among those that got my ass kicked yesterday. I would post in yesterday's comment section, but I didn't finish it until I had a bout of insomnia at 5 this morning.

Today's puzzle was much more pleasant for me. As an Air Force brat, I knew MINOT (pronounced MY-NOT) right away. And yes, it's as cold as it sounds. The only messy part of my grid is in the Great Lakes, where I had Dr. DRE before I found the rebus, and HAH instead of HEH.

SCOPE for elbowroom is new to me also. Initially I had SPACE...

Glitch 11:07 AM  


I believe Genie is the var. for the (as clued) ISLAMIC spirit. (unless you meant you went to an Islamic school ;-))


Thnx for the clarification re NPR. I was concerned you obtained ALL your *social relevence* from The Simpsons.


It seems those calling for Will's ouster are relative newcomers (newer than my 40 yrs of NYT solving), who think they've seen it all.

Some also complain about not enjoying a Wednesday offering because it "felt like a Tuesday", and no other reason.

Takes a puzzle like yesterday's to whomp them upside the head and bring them back to the reality.

(No offense to them tho, I enjoy the laughs)


Anonymous 11:10 AM  

Wow! This was, by far, the hardest Sunday puzzle I've had the pleasure to do for a very long time. I'm amazed others found it so easy.

Sunday puzzles were what prompted me to subscribe to the online crosswords, but lately I've found them to be generally walks in the park: certainly something to look forward to, but perhaps primarily for a size that ensures more than just a few moments of pleasant pastime. I've come to anticipate Friday and Saturday puzzles as the real brain-benders.

The NW square come very easily, so I figured this one would end up being typical for a Sunday. But even after getting the theme clue, I found it really rough going. Looking back,I suppose it was just a few answers that really stumped me, but they were enough to make the center and SW corner tough!

Numbers = opiates? Can someone help me here? I've heard of marijuana cigarettes being referred thusly, but obviously ganja is not an opiate, so this left me stumped even after it became the obvious answer.

FANJET? Never heard of it, and I consider myself a bit of a gearhead. Never heard of John Jay either, so that was a real stumper.

CONVENTIONGOER also was a real slog. It didn't help that I entered CaesarIAN, and was left wondering what possibly French word ended in OIR, but putting SPACE instead of SCOPE and ELISE instead of ELYSE left me scratching my head for ages. Only when I realized that nothing else but REPAY would fit did I recognize my dead end.

I finally finished without committing any grave sins (looking stuff up). I'd like to see more Sunday puzzles as challenging as this.

(The other Sunday puzzle, "Going too far" was also quite satisfying. I ended up solving that one to clear my head before I was able to finish this one.)

Anonymous 11:10 AM  

Just learning Across Lite and did not notice the edit -> insert -> multiple letter option until I finished. That made it harder that it should have been to keep track of the states. Had to write the 27 I had to get NC in enchase, and my first shot was enchain @ 21A. That left O Song (12D) and Pete (13D) in a bit of a mess. Also I had Alyse instead of Elyse @ 126A - which crashed the SW as well for a long time. Incidentally my spell checker thinks enchase is not a word. But WE know better.....

Ulrich 11:53 AM  

I also used the theme to fill in the last two circles left open, NJ and MD. Went over the famous red/blue map in my head to find the two states not yet referenced and bingo, I got them--which goes where wasn't so difficult to guess after that.

Agree with those who question PIPAGE--waiting for Joe or other plumbers who may be lurking in the background to step forward and enlighten us.

I never got around to correcting a mistake: Had UPPED instead of AMPED, which gave me PINOT, which looked fine to me as I'm not really familiar with N.D., and HULITE, which I knew was wrong, but then I forgot until I came here.

Which was fine by me as I really enjoyed the puzzle with its expansive theme and its consistent symmetry

Anonymous 11:53 AM  

kind of agree with SCOTUS. found this more of a tiresome exercise than a pleasure.

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

@Ulrich, I kinda doubt that Joe the Plumber has heard of PIPAGE. I doubt even more that he'd be doing this crossword.

Anonymous 12:07 PM  

Loved this puzzle. Seriously wanted Dr. EVIL for Dr. Phil.

Re: "The NYT crossword still thinks Broadway is the center of the universe. You just have to get used to it. I'm still trying." What, it's not? ;) It seems to me that for every Betty COMDEN that's a gimme for me there's a DONSHULA or some other sports figure/team/coach/record holder that's a gimme for someone else. Props to the NYT for covering all their bases (lame attempt at sports metaphor....).

Shamik 12:12 PM  

@SCOTUS addict: Happy Birthday

@sillygoose: Ditto on ALOOP being the last to fall.

This was a solid medium for me and got the idea that there were states immediately...later on got that they were 2008 blue states. Still some challenges despite knowing the theme.

@Ulrich: Agree that Joe should come forward and explain PIPAGE.


IMDB: We just used it this morning to find out the name of the DA on Perry Mason who always lost: Hamilton Burger. Shouldn't they have fired the DA if he always lost?

evil doug 12:15 PM  


Count me as a long-time NYT solver for whom the jury is still out on Will. This (non-Sunday---waaaay too expensive) week there were four days' worth of too-easies, followed by two worthy puzzles---a situation I'm willing to accept as a fair balance for all solvers. But if we get back to easy puzzles at my end of the week, impeachment proceedings will follow....

My intensity on this has been tempered somewhat by the BEQ puzzles. His Wednesday and Friday puzzles last week were among the best I've done recently. It used to be that if I missed a Times puzzle---ice-storm, delivery problem, whatever---I'd suffer withdrawal. Now I shrug my shoulders and go have a good time at Quigley's.

In other puzzle news for you "four minutes and give up" types: One of the jumbles in "Jumble" this week was: 'jumble'. Glad to help you out.


chefbea 12:30 PM  

Got the theme right off the bat with american flags. But had to google to finish. Had sPAce and rePAy and knew one had to be wrong.

Happy birthday Scottus

I owned a jewelry store way back when..and I never heard our jeweler say "I think I'll enchase this diamond"..Never heard of the word.

And again we have that reliable kitchen tool - the icer. Now it has a tube??

Anonymous 12:45 PM  

I'm really not sure why, but I found the whole puzzle a bit annoying as I went through it. Maybe just little things like THR for 94D - I've never seen that used, MADAMA where I wanted MADAME, ENCHASE crossing OSONG even though nothing else would fit, etc. I just didn't like it a whole lot. I found yesterday to be tough but doable , and thought it to be a very good puzzle.

jeff in chicago 12:58 PM  

Fun, slightly tough, puzzle. Got that it was state abbreviations with O(NH)ER, and with the B of I(MD)B in, tried to get the word "abbrevation" in 46A. STATES was already there, so that wasn't going to work. Figured out the actual theme shortly thereafter.

Of course Joe the Plumber doesn't do the NYT puzzle. He would never even touch this pinko rag! And everyone knows the puzzle especially skews left. HA!

Orange 1:26 PM  

Joe the Plumber is much too busy being a war correspondent covering Gaza right now to do crosswords. (You've all heard about this, right? If only I were joking.)

Is it just me, or does everyone else think Obama looks so strikingly presidential when he addresses press conferences or gives speeches? The Bushes have never looked too presidential to me. Clinton looked young and fun at the beginning of his term, not presidential. Reagan never looked presidential—it was the shiny Grecian Formula hair. Carter blew it with his cardigans. Ford bumbled, Nixon sweated and swore. I missed Johnson because I was more of a Sesame Street viewer then. But Obama? He just looks commanding and serious.

Anonymous 1:28 PM  

My Oxford classical dictionary identifies "ArgOs" not "ArgUs;" I'm not really a classics guy, but are this a valid alternate spelling, or a "var?"

"Jinni" was familiar to me somehow, and then I remembered: "The Doper's Dream" from Gravity's Rainbow...

Finally, re: Joe the Plumber, was I hallucinating when I heard that he is to be a correspondent for someone, reporting on the war in Gaza? I'll take my response off air....

JannieB 1:30 PM  

@orange - the word I think of is "gravitas". Obama has it, the others not so much.

And yes, Joe is covering the war. What must Christiane Amanpour be thinking?

JannieB 1:30 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 1:59 PM  

Overall an interesting puzzle, with all the theme-related clues. Had some problems -- thought an etymologist's interest was a "word", which fit with "Loy" (which I checked on IMDB) and "I did so" as acrosses, but when I switched to it "root," I still had "ex-con" instead of "felon" for a while.

Most mortifying, I knew "opiates" had to be right, but I didn't get the clue until I read Rex. (Why embarrassing? Because I've used opiates professionally to numb pain!)

For those who are doing the puzzle in the Sunday Magazine, didn't it bother anyone that 7D in Making History (Some Security Council vetoes) and 6D in Going Too Far (Duma denials) were BOTH "nyets"?

P. S. Happy Birthday, Scotus!

Anonymous 2:20 PM  

There's an interesting interview with the constructor on the Wordplay blog today. He's the same guy who did the YSL crossword so quickly last year.


mac 2:38 PM  

@Anonymouse 1.59: you're going to hear from some people who hadn't done the second puzzle yet.....

@Scotus (or should I say Scota): happy birthday.

To me this was a real, slightly too big, Sunday puzzle with some hard nuggets in it. The Jinni-Minot-halite area was one, and the Comden/IMDB as well. American Flags is stunning with its 4 rebus circles (thank Will for the circles). I find elbowroom/scope odd, as well as Thrown for a loss, wanted loop of course, but I just found out it is yet another sports term. I actually didn't know rap and hip hop were the same, thought that rap was harsher. So pretty to cross the opera and the aria! Everybody happy? French for Seth, Broadway and opera for Rex, lots of sports for lots of you, and some Naticky locations for the locals.

NPR is my Saturday in the car radio. Especially in the afternoon, when they read short stories, I sometimes park my car and listen 'til it's finished. But now they sent me a little gadget that I click when I hear something I like, which I then stick into my laptop to find the item back!

@Orange: Joe is apparently not even a licenced plummer.... And about Obama, yes, he has gravitas, but he has also been speaking to us from behind a desk with a flag next to it.

@evil doug: you find the NYT on Sunday too expensive? I find the beverages at Starbucks too expensive.

Anonymous 2:44 PM  

Just an incredibly clever puzzle that was fun to solve as well. I saw that the rebus was abbrev states right off, but it was still fun to uncover all of the president/history-related clues. AMERICANFLAGS,incorporating four state abbrevs was awesome. (Hmm...awesome--don't often use that word.)

Too bad about NE (Nebraska, that is), though, my home state. We actually did split our electoral vote this year; first time ever. Now the knucklehead R's in the legislature want to change the law so that it can never happen again. Yeah, there's a good idea: let's have less democracy!

Anybody else like FELON for [Record holder] and SMASH HITS for [What angels pray for]? Maybe I amuse too easily.

PIPAGE, sure, why not?

Greene 2:53 PM  

@anonymous 1:59: Speaking as someone who has prescribed a great deal of opiates over the years and taken a few as well for post-operative pain, I have a quibble with the clue "numbers."

First off, let me say it is an extremely clever and intentionally misleading clue. Second, it is a valid clue since most people think of opiates as medications that numb pain.

To me, numb means "devoid of sensation" as you might experience when a topical anesthestic is used or ice is applied to a wound. My personal experience with opiates (and this has been corroborated by many of my patients) is that they don't do as much to relieve pain as to create an emotional disconnect from pain. In effect, you still experience the sensation of pain, but you don't much care about it. The drugs render you emotionally indifferent to pain which is not quite the same thing as numbing.

Checking the dictionary, I see that a secondary definition for numb is "devoid of emotion." Hmm...perhaps the clue is not so very far off after all.

The science of pain perception and the subsequent emotional responses is completely fascinating. I'll wager foodie understands the complex neurochemistry involved and could explain this phenomenon far better than I.

hazel 2:54 PM  

Sadly, my state GA wasn't a part of this puzzle....which was premised on such a cool concept. I'll admit that completing it for me was a bit of a slog - but, the view of the forest definitely made up for a few not-so-interesting trees. All in all, I thought this was a very impressive puzzle - and I wish my state would have been represented!! I think we still have a bunch of Dixiecrats here, though.

Anonymous 2:57 PM  

MANJET would be a great name for a gay bar ...

fikink 3:20 PM  

My favorite part of the puzzle was finding IOWA amidst PRESIDENTIAL OPIATES.
Thanks for the I.O.U.S.A. heads up, Rex, watching it now.

Anonymous 3:28 PM  

I suppose confessions are the first order of business, so I googled Comden and Minot. That said, I was filling in here and there and wrote in oval office, saw VA, my home state, and somehow knew what was up. A civics/history lesson then followed: Hail to the Chief, american flags, Tylers, John Jay, PLO, Convention goer, pollers, Cong, oath, and I would argue (Laisse) faire, jinni, coal and lies. A good time was had by me, especially after yesterday when I felt like a complete dunce.

Bill from NJ 3:31 PM  


As an Air Force brat in the 50s, my family was stationed at Minot AFB and attended Temple Beth Israel there. You would be surprised at the Jewish community in that area.


One of the first movies I remembered seeing on TV was The Great Ziegfeld.(It may have been in Minot, now that I think of it). It ended up marrying two my interests later in life as William Powell and Myrna Loy were also in The Thin Man.

It sure surprises me how many things conincide in a crossworld puzzle. It may be the only thing that recommends this slog as I agree with SCOTTUS about this one.

Anonymous 3:34 PM  

I had a hard time with this puzzle, although I figured out the theme fairly quickly. People I don't know: PETE Fountain (I thought it was a water fountain), CAMDEN and Green, Myrna LOY, MADAMA butterfly (can anyone explain why it's not Madame?), JOHNJAY (crossing FANJET which also left me at a loss), LAHTI (and I even saw the darn movie). I think this one would have been easier to do on paper than on the computer, to keep track of the different states.

Happy bday Scotus!

I like TotN. The callers have much more smarts than certain other call in shows do. Although I do wish they would use the mute button a bit more sometimes. I'm in awe of radio people who can take a rambling call from someone and still pull out an interesting idea.

PuzzleGirl 3:47 PM  

Agree with everyone who said it was more difficult than a typical Sunday, but fun after discovering the theme. I started out the year caucusing in IA and ended up doing my part to turn VA blue.

In "My Fellow Americans," James Garner and Jack Lemmon play former presidents (? - I think that's right) and there's a scene where they admit to each other that they've made up words to "Hail to the Chief." The ones I remember are "Hail to the Chief, I'm the Chief and I need hailing."

"Running on Empty" is an outstanding movie. And Christine Lahti is also wonderful in "Leaving Normal."

North Dakotans actually pronounce Minot MY-NUT, with the accent on the first syllable.

I'm pretty sure there's no symbolism going on in that Pete Fountain album cover.

Anonymous 3:49 PM  

Rex - why are you sad that NY and WY have the same amount of senators? You get 29 reps and they only get one. That system has been working pretty well for 230, hasn't it or is your East Coast bias showing? NY is not the center of the universe and we yokels in flyover country do know how to read, write and solve crossword puzzles.

mac 3:52 PM  

@Karen: Madama is probably Madame in Italian (Puccini). And I used to like Christine Lahti a lot in "Chicago Hope".

Rex Parker 4:10 PM  

O yokel,

My entire family is from yokel country. Idaho, to be specific. And I grew up in Fresno, CA. Glamorous!

AND, though I do live in NY, I live in the sticks, not New York City.

The House of Reps? That's what you're giving me? The House is useless. They spend all their time running for office.

230 years ago, no one could have imagined Wyoming.

If Wyoming gets senators, then DC for Sure should have senators.

I didn't mean any insult to Wyoming or any of its 19 residents.


Unknown 4:14 PM  

hi, all. I read you all the time, never posted before. But it seems nobody brought up my peeve...I think exhaustive means "thorough," not "tiring." I seldom see actual errors in the puzzle, but this qualifies in my book.

Happy new year and love to all from Ithaca NY, not too far from Rex himself...

Big City. Small Planet. 4:17 PM  

So even after hearing Rex's broadway explanation, I still like my reasoning for SMASH HITS, which is that I thought they were talking about the baseball Angels.

great puzzle, even if it took me the better part of the morning to get it.

Ulrich 4:30 PM  

@Karen: I'm backing up mac--Lucy of Lammermoor becomes Lucia di Lammermoor when she makes the shift to Italian opera, and, come to think of it, Anne Boleyn becomes Anna Bolena--another fantastic mad scene BTW.

joho 4:41 PM  

@David J. Kahn: thanks for a very enjoyable Sunday puzzle.

I thought it was easy but that's probably because I'm still recovering from King Klahn's Krushing Saturday puzzle.

What a difference an "L" makes!

I resist believing in PIPAGE.

Happy Birthday Scotus Addict!

Chip Hilton 4:47 PM  

19-A and 20-A told me it was a rebus in the circles and WARWICK gave me the state theme. Counted 28 of them, and, poof!, the electoral count came to mind.

I'd love to talk to David J. Kahn and ask how he came up with the string of state abbreviations in AMERICANFLAGS. I continue to be amazed by the remarkable word skills of these puzzle designers.

ENCHASE? PIPAGE? Otherwise, fair enough.

Agree - NYT on Sunday definitely worth it. Triple Jamocha Latte-Fusion Sippers? Nuh-uh.

Anonymous 5:05 PM  

Terra - if they had meant baseball Angels, "angels" would have been capitalized. It's a law of crosswords.

I don't listen to TOTN because it's not on at a time when I'm listening... I'm a Morning Edition/All Things Considered addict. But Saturday afternoons I always make time for Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me - very entertaining! My experience is that people who call in to NPR express themselves much more intelligently than do those who call in to sports talk shows. (e.g., "They SUCK!")

santafefran 5:13 PM  

A fun, challenging puzzle for me.

If you think PIPAGE is arcane, try PIPAGO--had TOE for Kicker's aid until I checked here. :)

Also, kept trying to figure out how STATESVOTINGDEMOCRATIC could work!

Welcome from another newbie until last month. I agree with you on the exhaustive clue which kept me from getting it for a long time--wanted BORING.

Before I caught on to the theme I tried MONTAUCK (which I don't know from WARWICK) and so kept wondering whether Quaker Oats had bought Clairol since NICENEASY fits where RICEARONI finally ended up.

Orange 5:47 PM  

Back to Wyoming—This page has various maps that illustrate the U.S.'s electoral profile. The second and third maps on the page show that low-population states like Wyoming shrink when the map reflects population size rather than geographic borders, but when the map's redrawn to reflect electoral votes, Wyoming doubles its impact.

qv 6:08 PM  

Well, like most everyone else on the planet I'm feeling pretty relieved and grateful that you big, cheery, lovable Americans have elected a president the rest of us might be able to get along with too - but the harsh undeniable fact is that I just don't like rebus puzzles. Five minutes in, as soon as I figured it was a rebus (19 ac) I skipped. Even though it was a James Bond clue. I'm hoping Obama will use his veto power to veto rebus crosswords from the New York Times. He can do that, right?

PurpleGuy 6:16 PM  

@SCOTUS Addict- A VERY Happy Birthday !

@Rex- Thank you, thank you,, thank you -for the clip of Maria Callas. One of my favorite arias, performed by my very favorite soprano.

@Anonymous 2:47- I agree.Ithink Manjet is a fantastic name for a gay bar. Want to join forces and open one ?

@Ulrich- still wairting for the instructions to get my avatar up.

Yes, all this is by way of avoiding my total dislike of this puzzle. Not a pleasant Sunday experience for me.
I didn't find it hard, just not fun.
Sorry, Mr.Kahn.

Anonymous 6:30 PM  

Awesome puzzle. Challenging but doable w/o Googling. Great theme.

Cool answers. Lively fill. Bravo to the constructor.

Anonymous 7:34 PM  

Impressive puzzle, probably a bit too tough for Sunday on account of the ambitious theme density, but still nice to find all the inauguration-related fill.

A[ME][RI][CA]N is neat but not a new discovery; see e.g. John Updike's parody on America the Beautiful that incorporates all 50 state abbreviations in just two verses (and uses A[ME][RI][CA] to dispose of three of them at once).

Is somebody trying too hard for bipartisanship/inclusiveness by cluing good old 60D:ERA as "Reagan-___"?

106D:NOADS, my foot. Yes that's their policy, but these days this means they recite commercial slogans for money and call their advertisers "sponsors" or "underwriters". I still remember when this was controversial. An ad by any other name, etc...


foodie 8:02 PM  

well, I guess I'm back to suspending disbelief and thinking that I might still make it in the (not so big) leagues. I did this on the plane to the west coast, and I felt about it pretty much like mac did, with the same rough spots. "Throw for ALOSS" threw me for ALOOP, and messed up that whole nabe for me.

@greene, I totally agree with you about "NUMBERS", it bothers me too. I started my scientific life in the opiates and endorphin area and worked on the neurobiology of pain for many years. Actually, I'm always amazed by what people project onto the endorphins (and the opiates), evidence or no evidence. In a moment of weird convergence between my foodie side and my neuroscience side, I was recently asked to comment on whether the capsaicin in hot pepper releases endorphins, as claimed by the Chile Pepper Institute (!). I said the evidence is meager, and now I might get hate mail from chile pepper growers (as I did for a while from runners about the meager evidence for endorphins in runners' high.. But now they like me because last year, there was finally a good study that showed that connection and I said so in the NYTimes, no less). Anyhow, OPIATES took a while, but Rex, I will try to get over myself and not fall for the trick or seek other meanings. We all have our crosses (crosswords?) to bear.

@Louise, I was getting ready to agree with you but I checked the definition of "exhaustive" and the second meaning was "Tending to exhaust"!

Ulrich 8:16 PM  

@purple guy: I sent my e-mail on Jan 8--I'll resend it. Please respond by e-mail if you got it or not--one way or other.

Anonymous 8:23 PM  

This is weird. I'm sending a comment into the future. Anyways, I just wanted to remind everyone that on Sundays, the syndicated puzzles are only one week behind, not five. So, comments on past puzzles are in fact, spoilers to thousands of us living in the past.

Anonymous 8:52 PM  

lovely that IL and HI were in HAILTOTHECHIEF

Glitch 8:54 PM  

@nde re: 106D NoAds

Was with PBS when "Underwriting Credits" were first authorized (by congress) as an experiment (circa 1960). They were limited to 15 seconds, fore and aft, plain letters (no logos) on black, of the company name, audio to match.

THAT was a major controversy, and for once, the dire prediction of a slippery slope was true.

AND, they have picked up on the annoying promos down in the corner during the shows... and getting larger / longer (another slippery slope, perhaps)


edith b 10:08 PM  

Everytime that Numbers clue comes up, I fall for it and it's really starting to irritate me.

I saw the rebus at 19A - the second answer I entered - and confirmed it on my third entry. I went rebus-clue-hunting, found it and a few minutes later saw the significance of the two-letter state codes.

This was the quickest turn around for me on a rebus puzzle and because there were so many rebus entries, I proceeded normally through the puzzle, marvelling at some spots, groaning at others and, to paraphrase Lewis Caroll, started at the begining, went to the end, then stopped.

Less of a slog then most Sundays and, because of the theme, I enjoyed it.

Michael Leddy 10:31 PM  

Thanks for explaining "Numbers?" — I had OPIATES (so to speak), but didn't get the point.

I liked seeing EGADS and NOADS in the same puzzle.

Does IMDB turn up with any frequency?

dsf 10:44 PM  

Great puzzle DJ Kahn! But as a Republican cross-worder, a few too many painful memories of election night and news from the coasts (e.g., NC, VA, FL). I would have preferred a puzzle on the states won by Mondale in 84. I'm hoping PLO and Aeroflot weren't themed answers!

fergus 10:58 PM  

Felt the same about Exhaustive, but I know there's going to be a later definition that ends up taking all the precision out of a distinct word. The most annoying style of Clue.

"The Dead" as a musical? I didn't even want to see the movie. And even though I did, my memory is still of how I pictured the written story. Several of us got together and read it aloud a year or two ago, and that was even more memorable.

In the closing stages of this puzzle I had to make a list of all 28 so I could fill in the last four circles. Had nearly forgotten that MT went for Obama. The WA WI combo was the trickiest for me.

Anonymous 11:05 PM  

I had to finish this puzzle by listing (from memory) the states that Obama won. Somehow I'd guess that I'm hardly the only person on this list who did this...Seems like the same sort of "skill" (surely the wrong word) that leads one to do crosswords.

Anonymous 11:15 PM  

@Fergus MT went for McCain and wasn't in the puzzle...

fergus 11:36 PM  

Oh yes. I realize now that's why I had listed 29 and didn't use that one ...

mac 11:41 PM  

@fergus: don't feel bad, good try!

Anonymous 2:14 AM  

Happy Birthday, still is, here in SF

I wanted to write an article about the names of the old gay bars in San Francisco.
WHen i first moved here in '84 there were so many more, the most outrageous of which was "The White Swallow".

Thanks to you I used Apu's last name as a trivia question tonight on "Minds Over Matter", you can hear the podcast

poc 9:20 AM  

@Louise: I agree about TIRING. In fact it's so obviously wrong that it blocked that area of the puzzle for hours until I just gave up and used it anyway. A sad lapse in an otherwise very clever puzzle.

I also had trouble with the JINNI/ HALITE/MINOT/PEN disaster. Take one unusual spelling (not Djinn or Genie), one brand name (Pilot), one obscure county seat (MINOT) and one recondite scientific term and mix. This Threw Me For A LOOP (not a LOSS, which I've never heard used this way).

And whoever heard of EGADS (plural)?

Anonymous 11:53 PM  

I took "thrown for a loss" to be a football term, when a runner is tackled behind the line of scrimmage... would have guessed "loop" except for the cross-clues...warwick and wale in NE corner were the ones that caused me the most consternation... perhaps "wale" is a homonym for the people whose thighs rub together to make that erstwhile zipping sound while wearing corduroys? on the plus side, i was able to write down every 2 letter state abbreviation on the sheet, although to no avail (no "awale"?)... had "space" for elbow room, not sure what "scope" has to do with elbow room... miss the good old netscape days, before AOL bought them and microsloth ubiquitized the browser market... my Dad was a big music fan, and i was well aware of one Pete Fountain... great music name, great musician... peace...

Anonymous 3:20 PM  

I get the puzzle in syndication here in ND (not Minot) so I get to see a lot of comments before I do the puzzle. A disadvantage is not being part of the camaraderie, if you will.

It was a fun puzzle. The most fun for me, though, was reading the comments. I was laughing my head off about the Minot comments, especially. They range from snobby to curiously ignorant to ordinary. My wife was born near Minot and by all I can tell she is still a normal person (?) in spite of the 90 below temps. Actually, the people there are tough and hardly, mostly of Scandanavian descent but like someone else noted there are some other small groups of people, including the Jewish, which you may not expect.

Minot is a few miles from the geographic center of North America. The shape of the continent is responsible for the cold we get in the winter. Kind of like Siberia in Asia. Remember, there is a large country to the north of Minot. It is called Canada. ;) Not heavily populated of course. Many who have lived or stayed here and have left are sensitive to cold. I lived in Phoenix and found myself sensitive to heat . . . Minot is at about the 47th parallel, placing it slightly closer to the north pole than to the equator.

Wyoming gets lots of disrespect as well. If you see the state, it is spectacular. Spectacularly beautiful and spectacularly ugly. The semi-arid desert areas are virtually unpopulated and if you saw them you could understand why. Take a trip to Yellowstone or the Tetons or the Wind River range and you will have a better appreciation for the state, perhaps . . .

Unknown 10:04 PM  

I agree with slash02. I thought a lot of the comments about Minot and Wyoming said more about the people who made them than about the places themselves.

Also, I'd like to confirm that what Puccini wrote was Madama Butterfly. Madame is the English translation.

Finally, sure I get ticked when the constructor uses a word that doesn't show up in my dictionary. And if I go to One Look and the word gets just 2-3 cites, I may cry foul. But "enchase" is in almost all of the online dictionaries, so I don't think anyone ought to be complaining. (And I had to get it from the crosses like everyone else.)

Anonymous 2:27 PM  

Ultimately doable with only couple of look-ups, but I do not understand 110A: Kitchen tool with a tube, as being "icer". Baster, yes, but not icer.


poc 2:49 PM  

@jpChris: an icer is for decorating cakes with frosting (also called icing).

Anonymous 1:09 PM  

@ poc: Thanks, I'd forgotten about that. And here I used to help my Mom decorate cakes lo these many aeons ago, too.

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

Could someone, anyone, please explain how you get "opiates" from the clue "numbers" (84D). This one really gets my goat...

Anonymous 11:34 AM  

Very good puzzle. 19A gave away the theme even to a Canadian like me who lives much farther south than residents of Minot.

Nice to see ALUMNAE (female version of ALUMNI) but what the heck is UNMOOR? We don't have Citizenship Day (whatever that means) and we've never heard of John Jay.

I didn't notice anyone explaining VTWO (for the V2 rocket developed in WWII).

Norm in Canada

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