THURSDAY, Jan. 1, 2009 - Alan Arbesfeld (Rear end, anatomically / Novelist Packer or Patchett / Satirist who wrote jokes for J.F.K. / Yakutsk's river)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Terminal "Z" - familiar phrases have a "Z" tacked on the end, creating wacky phrases which are then clued, "?"-style

Hey, 2009 - it's 2008 here (west coast) and I'm just trying to get a little write-up in before the year officially ends for me (and the rest of the non-Alaskan continental U.S.). We just returned from First Night celebrations in Monterey, which was very rag-tag and weird (the last thing I remember seeing was some kind of Chinese dragon drum dance street performance), but still a total blast - largely because of three drinks. Shogun, red wine, Shogun. And some comically misspelled "Biengnets," the sugar from which my 3-yr-old nephew lapped up like a coke-addled dog. He had the stuff on his chin and the brim of his baseball cap when all was said and done. My sister sat next to me at dinner, and she had three Lemon Drops, which were unbelievably good. Like those lemon drop candies I remember from 7-11s and Halloweens of my childhood, only in delicious cold alcoholic drink form. We drank (and ate) at a place in Monterey called Lollapalooza, which was pretty decent. At any rate, we're home, and we've still got 90 minutes of 2008 left, so I gotta polish this puzzle off and get back to family. Happy New Year!

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Do a marathon in Egypt? (run around Suez)
  • 37A: Goes all out at an audition for a sax great? (plays hard to Getz)
  • 55A: Top-secret carpentry tool? (classified adz)

This is about the simplest theme I've ever encountered, and yet something about its simplicity makes me like it. It's sort of elegant. I also like that the phrases aren't puns, but simply absurdities. I like the idea of someone scaring Stan GETZ with a loud audition, or retrieving an ADZ from some C.I.A. storage warehouse. There are a ton of phrases in this puzzle; not all of them are strongly self-sufficient, but three drinks makes me not really care - STEP AWAY (39D: Leave for a bit) reminds me of a Eurythmics song I can't remember the name of right now, and ALL AT ONCE (41A: Suddenly) sounds like the title a hypothetical Patti LaBelle / Michael McDonald ballad from the 80s. Oh awesome, I just found the Eurythmics song in question. It's called "The Walk":

Hmmm, it turns out Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald did sing a duet in the 80s called "On My Own," which is weird, as that phrase nearly appears in this puzzle (ON ONE'S OWN - 17A: Independent). Here's Whitney Houston's "ALL AT ONCE," performed, it seems, in some abandoned embassy building (!?):

My daughter and her cousins are all hopped up on New Year's anticipation - they're shouting "One hour and fifteen minutes!" out there right now. I'm in a bit of a HAZE (14A: Sight blocker), and A DAZE (26D: Stunned, after "in"), both from the alcohol and from the ... let's say, togetherness. Since there's not much to say about the fill, I'll move right on to the wrap-up. But there's one answer that really warrants recognition on this first day of the new year - an answer that embodies a time of important change, a move from one stage of life to another. I am talking, of course, about BOYZ II MEN (11D: Band whose 1994 song "I'll Make Love to You" was #1 for 14 weeks). That is I hell of an anzwer.


  • 5A: Satirist who wrote jokes for J.F.K. (Sahl) - Possibly the only person I know (of) named Mort. Oh, no, forgot Mort Walker
  • 16A: Who opposed George Washington for president in 1792 (No one) - I was just about to say that I am three chapters deep in a G.W. bio right now, but haven't gotten far enough to have heard about this NOONE guy ...
  • 19A: Justin Timberlake's former band (*NSYNC) - he's moved on.

  • 24A: SeƱor chaser? (ita) - thought this was going to be "ITY," which would have irked and rankled.
  • 51A: "_____ Brasco" (1997 Pacino/Depp film) ("Donnie") - just saw a documentary about Terry Gilliam's ill-fated attempt to film "Don Quixote"; it would have featured Johnny Depp.
  • 64A: Yakutsk's river (Lena) - Yakutsk is the new Bannock!
  • 67A: D-Day vessels: Abbr. (LSTS) - learned it from crosswords, though I still have to get the letters from crosses. Today, for instance, I had LRTS, until I saw that NATER made no sense for 52D: Rear end, anatomically. Now, NATES didn't make any sense to me either, but at least it seemed plausibly Latinate.
  • 6D: Diamond family name (Alou) - I feel like they are making a big comeback in recent weeks.
  • 7D: Best Supporting Actress for "Cactus Flower," 1969 (Hawn) - the more I see her early movies, the more I'm convinced she really is an exceptional actress.
  • 9D: Dirty campaign technique (innuendo) - love this word

  • 12D: Novelist Packer or Patchett (Ann) - vaguely familiar names. I think the latter wrote "Run," and I think I gave it to my wife, for some reason I can't currently remember.
  • 21D: Worry about, in slang (sweat) - nice colloquial answer; hell of a lot better than THORO (1D: Complete, for short) - in what universe is that "word" acceptable?
  • 33D: More wonderful, to a hip-hopper (iller) - I'm not sure what part of this clue/answer pairing is the funniest - the use of "wonderful" in a clue about hip-hop, the kanga-like phrase "hip-hopper," or the answer, a comparative form that is pretty damned rare.

  • 53D: Birth cert. (ident.) - long abbrevs. always seem a bit comical to me. If you're going to abbrev. this ... there's always ID.

I'm out. Happy 2009.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of Parker


Anonymous 3:02 AM  

Thanks for your blog.

Happy 2009 to everyone.

jae 4:57 AM  

Yep, didn't like ILLER much, thought IDENT was a bit of a stretch, and thought this was pretty easy for a Thurs. with the exception of the NATES/LENA crossing. I also needed the help of my younger generation family members to get the II (vs. TO) in BOYZIIMEN.

Oh, and typical off the wall stuff for me was TENTO for 27a and wondering why TONKIN wouldn't fit for 28d.

Happy new year all.

John Ellis

SethG 5:25 AM  

Happy New Year, folks!

Not sure how many drinks I've had. There appear to be several bottles on the counter...we seemed to drink a fair bit of red wine, then some other stuff. And in my current state, (and I suspect my any state,) NATER seemed just as fine.

And speaking of the bottom: French! I love French! If I didn't, ATOI would be pretty tough. (Or isn't it French--they don't even specify...) And Portuguese! I love Portuguese! Is the 1966 Brazilian book or the 1976 Brazilian movie about Dona FLOR's marriages the one I'm supposed to have heard of? That's a tough cross.

Totally agree about the theme--nice work!

Anonymous 5:54 AM  

There'z something VERY cool about AA puzzlez. Tho a bit e-z for a Thurz.

Even in your lemondrop high, you are totally right on.
Simple addition of a Z was fun, sentencez weren't tortured and all 15z!
Would have been even more fabulouz if they were all namez: SUEZ, GETZ and ??? DR KATZ?

LENA/NATES/LSTS all guessez for me.

I liked that NSYNC crossed with BOYZIIMEN but I fell for "TO" and then bizarrely tried "2".

Visually loved parallelz SOSOON/IDIDIT.

But I don't get INBAD. INBED, yez (where I should be) but INBAD, no.

Oopz, suppozed to be brief in '09.

OK, let me just add back in my standup daze (circa '85) I was sent to pick up Mort Sahl from the airport, a dream come true for me, az I did topical/political humor...and he was a total jerk...or, should I say PUTZ?

Bevin 8:43 AM  

I like how this puzzle is a mix of references to things from the mid-1900s like STAN GETZ and RUNAROUNDSUE, and then very recent phenomena such as DONNIE Brasco, ILLER and BOYZIIMEN. I also thought that BOYZIIMEN fit in to today's puzzle particularly well since it wasn't a theme answer, but still had that unexpected Z in the answer.

mac 9:37 AM  

Happy New Year again.
Yes, elegant is the word for this puzzle, with the z's sprinkled around. Only problem was the BoyzIIMen (nice that they cross NSync) II part, ita I was sure of but I had "engord", sounded fine to me.... Can anyone explain this "Run Around Sue", never heard of it. I too thought Mr. Noone could easily have opposed George Washington.

Nice start to the new year in many ways, crisp bright day in CT.

Orange 9:41 AM  

That Shogun sounds delightfully citrusy. I approve!

My two and a half lime margaritas had me liking this puzzle a lot, too.

Happy New Year!

foodie 9:58 AM  

Happy New Year everyone!

Easy except for the Southeast corner -- LSTS, LENA gave me pause, but I DID IT.

@ Mac, "RUN AROUND SUE" is a song:

"Here's my story, it's sad but true
It's about a girl that I once knew
She took my love, then ran around
With every single guy in town"

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

Happy New Year to you all! Hope the hangovers aren't too bad.

Loved the boy band crossing as well.

Parshutr 10:02 AM  

I think the problem with NATES is the cluing...should have been rear end, etymologically. Then you have cogNATES, ordiNATES, origiNATES, etc.
And happy 2009. I have now been sober for one day, 13 hours and 49 minutes. And I don't miss it...yet.
Going thru last nite, ignoring free wine and booze, beer, etc. was [literally] eye-opening.

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

Happy New Year, everyone. The year has already gone from A (constructor AA) to Z (many, both theme and non-theme) so everything else will be in the bonus category. Resolution for 2009: learn and remember more pop-culture names. Seems as though every second or third clue wanted the name of performer, a performance or a performing group. "Boyz II Men" looked too bizarre to be true, but the crosses were indisputable, so I left it in and--lo and behold--IDIDIT.

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

Hi - Like many others, I found this blog while googling and have visited every day since. I love the fact that most everyone is interested in most everything. That's fun to me. I do Sunday through Thursday mostly alone, and Friday and Saturday with lots of help. This blog helps me to improve. So Happy New Year everyone and thanks to Rex for doing all this work.

JoefromMtVernon 10:18 AM  

Well, poor start to '09. The two major blocks was the Boyz II Men (I had to, with tia and engord and irite..ugh) and had to google Lena (never heard of nates), which gave me ident and then LST (which I couldn't remember).

My only recollection of Boys II Men was one of the last Bob Hope Christmas Specials.

Happy New Year...


Jeffrey 10:19 AM  

The 2008 top new word I learned that I wish I hadn’t was NABES. Now NATES grabs the early lead for 2009. I guess “Ottawa deli“ is too obscure for anyone who hasn't eaten there?

Andrea, there’s a theme growing here – NABES, NATES...

This was a great puzzle, both theme and fill despite the one little pain in the NATES.

Happy New Year to all the Yakutskians!

PlantieBea 10:30 AM  

An easy and fun puzzle--EXCEPT for the SE corner where I got stuck on LST, LENA, NATES, and IDENT. I just could not get four or five letters in that corner. And rivers--forget about it. Happy New Year! And yay, no more gray ghost for me.

JC66 10:40 AM  

RUN AROUND SUE...Dion & the Belmonts.

LENA/NATES = NATICK for me (I was too lazy to Google and guessed Lina/Natis).

Happy New Year, all!!!

chefbea 10:46 AM  

A great puzzle and pretty easy. I too had boys to men and engord.

Happy new year to all. Getting ready for new year's day party. Must go re-heat the hoppin john It is sooo good.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:47 AM  

Learned a new word today, NATES.

I also had BOYZIIMEN, said that can't be right, wrote over it, only to come here and find I was right in the first place. (My interest in popular music ended around the time we lost Roy Orbison. But here's Run Around Sue.

Everyone is so happy! I was hoping for a New Year's theme.

evil doug 10:53 AM  

Mort? Goldman, on Family Guy.


Chorister 10:55 AM  

Got myself ENGIRDed in a bit of a mess in that area because I wanted TATTY for shopworn.

I'll accept pretty much anything for hip-hop slang after somebody called my chubby nephew phat and a student told me more recently my shoes were sick.

Didn't know NATES or LENA - well, I know Nates AND Lenas, but not clued this way.

Knew LST because father-in-law once served on one and has a funny story, but it never works when I tell it.

@parshutr - I toast your sobriety with a glass of Martinelli's. Best wishes.

Happy New Year all

Ulrich 11:02 AM  

What I get from the comments above is that to like this puzzle, a considerable amount of alcohol would be helpful. As for me (who wasn't sober either, but where I come from, you get used to drinking from early childhood on), it was not a promising start for the new year--it gave me the zzzzs. I know I'm the wet blanket here, but that's how I feel--about the puzzle, I mean, not life in general--looking out of the window into a glorious winter landscape takes care of that.

Happy New Year everybody!

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

I liked this puzzzzzzle. And it was very cool that I was watching a concert at the China Wall on Palladia (you must catch it sometime, great concerts in HD)and as I was filling in Boyz II Men they were performing ... I love when stuff that like happens!

I also liked the phrases ON ONES OWN and I DID IT ... very positive thoughts for the new year.

Thanks Alan Arbesfeld!

Greene 11:16 AM  

Really enjoyed this puzzle and thought it got things off to a great start for 2009. I normally don't enjoy "add a letter" puzzle construction, but something about all the Zs contained herein just made this a fun solve. The fill also seemed quite lively and engaging. Like others, I got snagged up in the SE corner with the whole NATES, LENA, LSTS crossing (my own private Natick).

@Rex: Yakutsk is the new Bannock! Too funny. Perhaps bannock will one day replace beets as the foodie calling card on the blog? Heresy.

Didn't know Goldie Hawn got an Oscar for Cactus Flower which I only know as a play; of course, there was no way Lauren Bacall or Brenda Vaccaro were going to fit (and neither won an acting award for this effort either).

mac 11:22 AM  

@Chorister: I thought of tatty as well, but I think it's too British. Love the word, too, and the friend in London who uses it all the time. Another word I like is "mumsy" for a dowdy piece of clothing.

Unknown 11:33 AM  

I see after over 200 years of running for office, NOONE has finally one an election to the US Senate from Minnesota.
Crosscan...pain in the NATEs :)
Foodie and parshutr nice to see your posts today.
I was one who tried boyztomen first making me some kind of nut. Frosty here in Philly, but the Mummers are fortified with antifreeze, so off we go.

We have Black-eyed Peas for good luck here...anyone else?

fvigeland 11:36 AM  

Hi all, longtime reader who only posts rarely, but inspired by Rex's encouraging words yesterday I thought I would pop in. The NATES/LENA crossing was definitely Natickish, and not knowing LSTS didn't help. I also fell into the trap of TO instead of II.

I'm curious if anyone wrote CLEF for 36D ("Certain scale starter"). I didn't, but when I got CDEF, I thought it looked a lot like Clef, which you could argue is sort of a scale starter, since it comes before the scale on a staff.

Happy 2009! Looking forward to many more fun crosswords with everyone here.

fvigeland 11:39 AM  

also, Blogger signed me in to my Gmail account, which doesn't show my first name -- which is Finn, what I post on other blogs with. :)

SusanMontauk 11:43 AM  

This puzzle was so easy and then the SE corner. As it turned out I put in all the correct letters, but not only did I not know the river or nates, I didn't know the Pacino movie either. Where was I in 1997? I did remember LST and had my WWII veteran father to affirm it was right but ident for birth cert? Beside the bad abbrev I have a problem with the meaning. I think of a birth certificate as a way to get id. Would my local bar accept a birth certificate as id?

randis mcgee 11:55 AM  

I was so looking forward to 2009. I started in the NE and got THORO (yuck) and then ERTE 20 seconds later. 2009 seems a lot like 2008 so far.

Nice puzzle with a bad start. Gotta have a good 1 down for all of us down-first solvers.

mac 11:59 AM  

@phillysolver: I'm still waiting for the tall, dark and handsome man to cross my threshold, but I guess I had better start looking for the black eyed peas....

Chorister 12:00 PM  

@mac - I have lots of Brit-isms, probably due to reading British crime fiction from between the wars. I seem to think everybody talks like that.

@fvigeland - I had CLEF at first. You have to have the clef before can write out a scale. I thought it was a nice piece of misdirection. It was definitely a nicer clue than usual for a string of letters.

santafefran 12:00 PM  

No New Year' theme?

PSHAW, no SWEAT we RAN UP the clock SO SOON to ENDALL of 2008.
Now we are OPEN TO an ILLER 2009 with no more INNUENDO when we're INBAD and not INSYNC. HEADY stuff and I say RAH and OLAY (sp.)

Cheers to all!

chefbea 12:02 PM  

@phillysolver thats what hoppin john is. Black eyed peas, rice,ham and lots of other stuff and seasonings. Sorta spicy!!

PuzzleGirl 12:11 PM  

I'd just like to apologize to everyone for the SE corner. That whole mess down there was clearly meant to taunt me for resolving to learn my four-letter rivers in 2009. "So, you'll learn your rivers, huh? Well here it is 2009 — take that!" Harsh.

Parshutr 12:19 PM  

Just a quick shout-out to all...may 2009 put you NSYNC for 365 days of enjoying Dr. Rex and all of the regular and irregular bloggers on this site.

Anonymous 12:26 PM  

natis: singular
nates: pleural
"buttocks: the prominences formed by the gluteal muscles on the lower part of the back" (Dorlands Medical Dictionary)
In thirty years of practising medicine I have never seen those words used.

Parshutr 12:26 PM  

Pathetic commentary re Rex's recent celebrity sighting of John Daly. Big John is suspended from the PGA tour for six months. His world ranking is down to #736.

Parshutr 12:29 PM  

@pix...I still think etymologically would have been better, less Naticky (although I've been to Natick countless times, in my youth) than anatomically.
But glad for the clarification. Now I've got to get off my nates and go hit some balls...

fikink 12:31 PM  

ENGIRD, hmmm, I spose, as in "Engird thy loins"?

Yes, I first had CLEF and thought it clever.

Thanks for the SNL junk, Rex - I had forgotten about it.

Chip Hilton 12:32 PM  

Having never cooled my rear end in Yakutsk's river, I was at a loss for the NATES/LENA crossing. That and the II in BOYZ.... turned aquick stroll in the park into a slow slog along the eastcoast.

Overall, though, a fun go to start '09.

dk 12:35 PM  

Happy New Year to all of you, welcome aboard @Anne.

Rex, among my many crushes Goldie Hawn is in the top ten (@acme is number 1 of course).

The puzzle was a fun way to start the new year. A little to much of the Verve Clequoit (sp?) or widow C as we learned early this week via the NYT. Our New Years is a neighborhood affair so I just had to avoid falling into snow drifts during the, shall we say ENGIRDing cold as we walked home.

I think we had the same HAZE at 2:30 this morning that Rex "saw."

The II in BOYZ2MEN threw me off and I got FLOR in the crosses.

Now off to catch some more zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzs

jeff in chicago 12:45 PM  

Considering my state of mind this morning (slightly fuzzy) I truly appreciate the ease and elegance of this theme. Too often the "add a letter" thing can result in forced fill, but these are all quote smooth. Nicely done, Alan.

Some great fill as well. IDIDIT is fun to look at. As does SOSOON. Like STEPAWAY and HOLDWATER. I think I just saw BOYZIIMEN spelled out somewhere else, so that was in my brain. (I am of the wrong gender and age to really know the boy band thing. On the other hand I have to admit that I do recall "Motownphilly" as fun ear candy."

@Parshutr: Thanks for spelling out the NATES thing. I was still not getting it, even after reading Rex.

@fvigeland: CDEF is more than "sort of a scale starter." They are the first four notes of the Cmajor scale, probably the first scale any piano player learns.

@acme: Posting at 5:54 am? Still up? Or up early? Either seems extreme on New Years Day!! Get some sleep!! (And put down the bottle. "all 15z"?? Not in my paper!)

A grand welcome to 2009 everyone.

(Oh...sorry...I know the new rule is "keep it short," but what has happened to college football games? Did I really see the "Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl" yesterday? Let's get THAT in a puzzle! Gaylord? I'm waiting for the "Lord Fauntleroy Hello Kitty Bowl" next year.) [/rant off]

jeff in chicago 12:58 PM  

@PIX: Wait! What? there IS a NATES/butt connection? I still like Parshutr's idea better.

@dk: Laugh-In and puberty coincided for me. A painted, bikini-clad, very young Goldie Hawn? You bet your sweet bippy I found that veeeerrrry eenterresting.

Doug 1:02 PM  

Glad that Will did an easy Thursday for the start of the New Year. Filled in SAHL first and LENA last. Still don't know what the hell NATES is, like all the other kvetchers above. Run Around Sue may be the greatest doo-wop song ever recorded. Trivia -- the Belmonts were so named because they used to sing a capella or lived on Belmont Avenue in the Bronx. I think Goldie Hawn was a great actress, rather than

Doug 1:02 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sharon 1:08 PM  

Happy 2009. Yesterday eve I risked ruining that day's puzzle for myself by reading the blog while waiting, on edge, for UPS to deliver candied peel I'd ordered from out of state so I could finish mixing up 5 lbs of ingredients into a Twelvth Night cake.
Started wondering if you would all be here New Years day. Or if the NYT even published on New Years.
Apparently it does. But how do you get it before (scroll back to first post) 3:02 am?
@chefbea and foodie. Any idea why all recipes for making your own candied peel say to scrape off the inner white part of the peel because it's bitter? Have recently done a taste test that confirmed my life experience. It's not. Even when the white stuff is a bit bitter (grapefruit)it is far less so than the outer colored part of the peel.
@ andrea c m
So, it was almost 3 am CA time when you posted?
@ Rex, you have a lot of followers with more stamina than I had at any age.
Enjoyed your mini noir story yesterday eve. The blog did keep me from chewing my nails or calling UPS once again. Thanx

archaeoprof 1:29 PM  

No heavy drinking for me last night, but I still liked this puzzle, even though NATES/LENA bit me on the rear end, anatomically.

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

@fvigeland/Finn: I had clef until I changed it to CDEF, but from what @Jeff in Chicago says, CLEF is really the better answer, no?

@SusanMontauk: why wouldn't a bar accept your birth certificate as prove of age? Seems a little awkward to carry around, but what better proof exists regarding your age?

@Doug: Goldie Hawn isn't dead!!!

edith b 1:31 PM  

Funny you should say that about the bowls - my husband has said "What's next, the Hello Kitty Bowl?" when he is ranting about the names of the bowl games

My 40 years of doing crosswords came in handy with abbreviations. IDENT and THORO may not have been standard but I've seen them before. Almost anything goes when it comes to abbrevs and I learned that lesson the hard way over the years.

And my older brother rode "to the beachs" on an LST. He was part of the second wave at Normandy.

I was able to build NATES by way of crosses and I knew LENA, God knows how, so that SE corner was not a problem at all for me.

I knew how to spell BOYZIIMEN from my daughter's record collection and my husband owns a lot of Stan Getz and I remember Dion and the Belmonts from my schoolgirl days.

I guess I'm the perfect age for today's music clues and, to coin a phrase, I went through this puzzle like a warm knife through butter.

A perfect start to the new year!

JannieB 1:33 PM  

Happy New Year, one and all. ACME - you are even better than I thought - who else but you had a shout out in the Rose Parade???? Seriously, your agent needs a bonus.

Sharon, I think the early posters get their puzzles online. It is posted around 10 PM weekdays, 6PM on Sunday - or there abouts.

Very elegant start to the New Year, puzzle-wise. The Lena/Nates crossing was the last for me - a lucky guess. Bodes well.

Anonymous 1:36 PM  


Meant to post this yesterday, but never too late -- thanks, Rex, for this great blog. I do the puzzle online in the evening, and then read your always interesting thoughts in the morning! A great start to the day.

Happy 2009 to all!

RodeoToad 1:48 PM  

Goldie Hawn is adorable. I watched "Almost Famous" on the plane to Heathrow and was smitten with her daughter, Kate Hudson, who looks a whole lot like her. This puzzle was closer to a medium for me, though. I didn't really get snagged too hard anywhere, but when I got Runaround Sue I thought the other theme answers would be songs, so neither of them came to me quickly. I knew OZONE immediately only because I was just reading the Bill Bryson book that came out a few years ago, "A Short History of Nearly Everything," which starts with the beginning of the universe and goes on from there (as I suppose it would have to), and he spends some time explaining the periodic table. Anyhoo, Bill Bryson's schtick isn't for everybody, but it's a pretty compelling book if you're interested in the universe, which I somewhat am since I quit drinking. A sober New Year's Eve isn't so bad if you have a harmonica. I'm finding lots of things bearable with a harmonica.

Orange 1:57 PM  

LENA Horne and NATES Archibald and Berkus wish they'd had their moment in the sun in today's puzzle.

Is Mort Zuckerman still the publisher of U.S. News and World Report?

Doc John 2:02 PM  

Well, I ended the year with one missed square and started the year the same way. I had a U in that LENA/NATick crossing. Natus sounded sufficiently anatomic to me and I've obviously never heard of the LENA river so Luna seemed OK, too.

The fill was fun but I really would have loved to see a Z in 34D to complete the symmetry.

I also clef'd before I CDEF'd.

imsdave 2:05 PM  

With apologies to the non-"Risk" players...

acme needs to define what its called when one sees Yakut in the morning, wins a game of "Risk" ending on Yakutsk at night, and then sees it as a clue the next day.

Happy New Year!

evil doug 2:09 PM  

"Innuendo": Great punch line to a dirty joke. Hmmm. That plus some of the other answers makes me wonder:

"Nates"? "Engird"? "Open to?" "Endall"? "I did it"? "Spasm"? I'm starting to see a questionable theme here....

"Big Bottom", by Spinal Tap, should be in this puzzle somewhere...."Talkin' 'bout mudflaps, my baby's got 'em...."

Unknown 2:12 PM  

Orange...Mortimer still rules

Doc John 2:19 PM  

And Acme, while you're at it, what about the name for the phenomenon of someone posting a link to a photo of a Risk board and that photo ending up as someone else's avatar? ;)

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

@Jeff in Chicago

C) Busted!!! Not even CLOSE to three 15z! Theme was 13 x 15 x 13!
Yes, I blame it on the time!


D) It was 2 am when I got home and got the bright idea to do the puzzle/ see what Rex was up to before getting INBED... bec I hear the way you spend New Year's Eve will reflect how you spend the entire year!

Back II @Jeff in Chicago

E) Here in Yakut it shows the East Coast time +3 hours

F) 2 a.m. is my regular bedtime more or less (I still keep comics' hours)

I don't drink, never have...
(How could I look this good at 73?)


So yes, congrats!
How appropriate the New Year's puzzle was brought to you by AA!


I do think AA/WS might have considered rewriting the SE corner, (altho hats off to your brother and other LST heroes), I think it's going to give men everywhere named NATE a complex!

(Not to mention women named NATE!)

Happy New Yearz!

miriam b 2:30 PM  

@Sharon: I made some candied pommelo peel recently. It's crucial when uaing pommelo to include the very thick pith (say THAT three times). I like the slight bitter edge, which reminds me of marmalade.

The puzzle? A breeZe, very EZ, especially for a ThurZ.

Happy New Year, all.

Sharon 2:46 PM  

Thanks. I had suspected they were doing them on-line. But the day before the paper is published?!! That just feels SO WRONG.

Anonymous 2:59 PM  

Happy New Year, Rex and Co!
New Year's Resolution #47-Do the New York Times crossword puzzle daily!
I must admit this puzzle was (relatively) easy and easer to digest on my second Mimosa (it is Noon somewhere...). However, I too was fooled by engird and BoysIIMen. Also, the anatomical "nates."
Can't wait for tomorrow and what the new day-and new puzzle-will bring.
Best wishes to all!

Doug 3:08 PM  

So many new faces here, that's great. It reminds me of my MBA program which was graded for 30% class participation. On the last day of each section all the quiet folks started raising their hands.

Great puzzle, only hangup was BOYZ TO (II) MEN, so my ITA became TTA and that whole block was impossible. The theme is likeable because the answer actually makes sense and the base phrase is well known.

Watching the Winter Classic hockey game, live on TV from the outdoor, custom-built rink at Wrigley Field. Chicago v Detroit and what a game. It's freezing there, and good to see it's not snowing.

Happy 2009 to of you, and again many thanks to our host Mr. Parker for his efforts this year. It's been a pleasure interacting with everyone here and I look forward to more in 2009.

foodie 3:31 PM  

@Phillysolver: Thanks for noticing! Been babysitting my 17mo old granddaughter, among other holiday activities. Not for the faint of heart.

@chefbea: I love the new avatar!

@wade: what a great conversion, from drinking to an interest in the universe. And a harmonica for accompaniment. Sounds perfect!

Bill from NJ 3:35 PM  


Congratulations! As a Friend of Bill W for the past 24 years, if you need anything, please contact me offline at


Simon and Francesca 3:42 PM  

THORO is disgusting, but we too loved INNUENDO. Let's hope we're done with that kind of politics...

Now we're off to watch sexy Italian films and read the new P.D. James aloud.

Perhaps we'll try a few Shoguns.

Happy New Year!

jeff in chicago 3:43 PM  

@joho (and others)

Clef: A symbol placed at the beginning of the staff to denote which notes are indicated by the lines and spaces.

Staff: A set of five, equidistant, horizontal lines, joined together by a brace, and used to clearly communicate musical notation.

Scale: A series of notes in ascending or descending order that presents the pitches of a key or mode, beginning and ending on the tonic of that key or mode.

So only CDEF can be correct. A CLEF can begin a staff, but not a scale.

@acme: The only 73 you've ever seen came in - what? - 6th grade? (I was a sophomore in HS!)

that's 3 and out! 'til tomorrow...

Glenn 3:47 PM  

I once heard a WWII veteran say that the troops said LST stood for Large, Slow Target.

Anonymous 3:51 PM  

Something has been driving me nuts. Can anybody explain why some of us have dull gray/black lead-ins to our comments and others are bright orange & blue? Once when I signed in the same as I always do, mine was also orange & blue ... but that was once and now I'm back to boring gray. Anybody?

JannieB 4:02 PM  

@joho - I think you have to sign up for a (free) google/blogger account. Then you can use an avatar and show up in orange and blue (GO GATORS!!!!)

Anonymous 4:10 PM  

I did some detective work, as I was fascinated by the cheapness of the Whitney Houston video you posted.
It's not an abandoned French Embassy, it's the Museum of the City of New York
(1220 Fifth Ave @ 103rd St)

(And it's free if you are from the 'hood or work in East Harlem!)

The French flag and the Statue of Liberty stuff is from an exhibit they did in 1996 celebrating the centennial of France's gift to US!

Watch the video again and you can see it actually says the Museum's name when she goes outside and that the exterior matches the one at the museum's website. Looks like a beautiful building.

Speaking of coke-addled dogs,
(Have I told you this year how much I love your write ups???!!)
I have NO Whitney stories...
but c'mon, there must be SOMEONE else out there who has a mean
Mort Sahl one!

RodeoToad 4:24 PM  

Mort Sahl means "dead soul" in a language I invented when I used to pretend to be a Bronte sister.

fikink 4:44 PM  

@No, Wade, "Mort Sahl" was a bastardized version of "More Salt" which was the original line in "Don't Crush that Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers," before it was replaced with "More sugar!"

See what trivia a knowledge of unwritten musicals affords you! ;-)

Anonymous 4:46 PM  

@JannieB -- thanks! I thought that was what I did ... hopefully I'll get this figured out. My avatar is my dog, too!

AV 6:21 PM  

Happy 2009 to all - and special thanks to Rex for creating this special place for all cruciverbalists!

See you at ACPT!


Erica Kain 6:23 PM  

So embarrassing when you rate a puzzle as "Easy," Rex, when I can't finish it on account of not knowing my LENA from my own NATES.

Anonymous 7:48 PM  

@Sharon--The dead tree edition is available by 10:00 pm the night before at most newsstands in the city.

foodie 7:53 PM  

@joho, try signing into blogger first, and then come back to this site and make sure that under "choose an identity" you have clicked on Google/Blooger. Hope it works. To sign in, go to

@sharon, we might get in trouble for talking food here, but may be we will be forgiven in the spirit of the holidays. I'm not sure I have a perfect answer for you, but I think some people taste bitterness more than others, and also some fruits are more bitter than others (e.g. one orange pith comapred to another). Also, the process of cooking can make things worse unless you actually blanch and draw out the bitterness. I would experiment with oranges before graduating to grapefruits, which if done wrong can come out really tasting bad. Chefbea may have other ideas. Good luck!

joho 9:29 PM  

@Foodie: thanks!

Parshutr 9:51 PM  

@billfrom NJ
Thanks for your concern.

Hungry Bird 10:00 PM  

Thoro. Feh.

I had "natal" at first for "nates." I remembered "natal cleft" (aka "plumber's crack") from anatomy. But the crosses blew it out. Add me to the MD's who never heard of nates before.

Baltic Sea reminded me of Monopoly and how my (retired at age 36) brother used to total up the value of all of his assets at the end of every game and write it with the date on the inside of the box cover. This was in second grade. He never bought Baltic, always waited until the right turn at the jail to start shelling out for property. I was more focused on "Should I be the shoe or the dog?" I'll never be able to affort to retire either.

mac 10:44 PM  

Roger, @SCOTUS Addict: you're getting brave later in the evening!
Funny you mentioned the plumber's crack, just this morning on NBC they showed a garment that will prevent it from showing.... It was basically a stretch band, lacy, to put around or just underneath your waist to prevent the crack. There's another one for the upper region, called a boob tube.

@Ashish: just signed up for the tournament, so no more dilly-dallying for me.... Even got my husband a ticket for the final on Sunday - not that I expect to be anywhere near that stage!

@Simon and Francesca: let us know what you think of this lates P.D. James book; two of my friends and I were not sure about the end.

@Wade: it's sweet that you find solace in the harmonica. My grandfather in Holland was brilliant at playing it when I was a little girl. He also whistled very beautifully, which seems sort of a Dutch trait. I can't remember her name, but there was an elderly Dutch lady whistling with Pablo Casals. All children learn how to whistle in the Netherlands, there is even a saying about it: Meisjes die fluiten krijgen jongens met duiten: Girls who whistle get rich boyfriends.

@Foodie: I am glad you are back; we were getting worried about you!

liquid el lay 1:43 AM  

Rex- Thanks for the invitation to write- I really enjoy your commentary and the point-and-click exhibits.

Noone annoyed me, but I felt much relieved of ill feeling by your innocent query about the candidate.

Iller wrought a wry smile, but only later your comment broke the clouds and provoked barking laughter.

You're the Illest. Thanks, and Happy New Year to all.

Anonymous 11:52 AM  

We've had a rash of sightings of Dragon Dances here in Vancouver, because its just past Lunar New Year in syndicationland.

Gung hay fat choy!

Rick 11:52 AM  

I'm surprised so many people had trouble with LENA. It's one of those crossword rivers that appears often, along with OISE, YSER, ELBE and the like.

Add me to the list who thought NOONE was a name. I just figured my early American history knowledge was deficient. And it is.

I am a huge Eurthymics fan but had never seen that video, so thanks, Rex for pulling that one out of the archives. I used to also like Whitney Houston, until the drugs got to her.

A belated HNY to all; I'm in the 5 week later crowd. Just made my rezzies for the ACPT, although it may be my last year as it's getting so expensive.

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