FRIDAY, Feb. 27, 2009 - Joe DiPietro (Bygone flag / Co-firing technique used to reduce pollution / Emulates Eve / Producers of sunbows)

Friday, February 27, 2009

FRIDAY, February 27, 2009 – Joe DiPietro ("The Insect Play" playwright / Mammonism / Actress Blakley)

Relative difficulty: Medium/Challenging

Theme: None

Word of the Day: REBURN (40D: Co-firing technique used to reduce pollution from electrical power plants) - No results found! Did you mean Raeburn? (

I’m guessing Rex would rate this a medium, but I had hell with it and in fact didn’t finish it. It took me 33:17 to get down to the last two squares, and then I went in and had some eggplant, which is the only vegetable I’ll eat, and then came back out to the garage (you may recall my dad and I built an office out here last summer) and got sidetracked by some kind of scratching noise that I thought was a mouse, but it was a monster cockroach in a cardboard box. I never minded roaches as much as most people do, but that was before I knew they could make that much noise. One time in Austin I encountered a particularly strong roach in the toilet, and it took me three flushes to get him down the pipe—he just kept swimming faster against the current as the water swirled faster, and each time until the third time he would just pop back up again and start making a scramble up the side of the bowl while I sweated it out waiting for the tank to refill so I could flush him again. Another time I was doing battle with a roach in the normal fashion, and it suddenly launched itself into the air and flew at me vertically, like a little man with a jetpack. It was like watching a sudden leap in evolution. I don’t ever want to see that again. Both of those occasions were pretty traumatizing and seemed outside the scope of what we should be expected to accept from cockroaches, but neither was as disturbing as the noise this one tonight made. I really think he would have managed to start a fire in there if I hadn’t got to him in time.

So I threw in the towel on the last two squares, or really only one square, since I was pretty sure the second letter of R_BURN would be E. I did not know LEPTA (44D: Pennies: dollar :: ____ : drachma) or LEM (44A: 1960s-‘70s touchdown maker) . I don’t know much about sports, but the sport I know best is football, and I probably know more than most non-sports-fanatics about it, but I do not know Lem Barney. He played for Detroit for 11 seasons in the sixties and seventies, back when normal-sized human beings played football, and, as the clue rightly asserts, made some touchdowns. Seems like a reference to Stanislaw Lem would have been perfectly acceptable for Friday cluing, but maybe Joe and Will thought that was too easy. So, big fat F for Wade on this Friday, and I’m calling it medium-challenging. [Make that an F-minus. Of course the touchdown-maker would not have been clued in that fashion if his first name was the answer. Commenters have corrected me that this "LEM" is the abbreviation for "lunar excursion module." All right then, I'm an idiot. But shouldn't there have been a cue in the clue that the answer was an acronym?]

Overall, I don’t feel very rhapsodic about this one. It’s an impressive grid—lots of white spaces, six grid-spanning answers, four nine-letter down answers—but you have to work real hard to fill it, and when you’re done you’re looking at some pretty ordinary words and letters. WENT ASIDE (30D: Withdrew quietly) is not very . . . anything. Neither are HAS TO STOP (2D: Can’t continue), HAVE AN OPINION ON (16A: Think a certain way about), or I’VE NEVER TRIED IT (54A: “This would be a first for me”). Quite generic answers and clues there. And ARCTIC CIR (31A: It’s a little over 65 degrees: Abbr.) is cleverly clued (some people were maybe trying to figure out if “air” made any sense for the last three letters), but that abbreviation is rather unfulfilling.


  • 5D: Pastes in Mideastern cooking (TAHINIS) – First thing I entered and on the first pass. My wife makes a lot of hummus. When I see long across answers and don’t know the first two, I immediately switch to the down clues. It’s depressing to get only a few down answers in those long clues and for them to be far-interior answers.
  • 8D: You might not get paid while working on it (SPEC) – Second thing I entered. There’s a huge liquor store in Houston called Spec's. I don't go there anymore. Because I used to go there so much.
  • 11D: Ladles (DIPPERS) – What do you call snuff where you are? And what is the verb used to refer to employing said habit? Here you dip snuff (and if you’re from a very small town, you don’t know any male who doesn’t dip snuff, unless he smokes, which is just nasty.) I hear that in the Midwest it’s called snuse, and the very ill-informed refer to it as “chew” or as “dip.” Dip is a verb, not a noun, but a person who dips is a dipper. And you don’t chew snuff; you chew chewing tobacco, which is different. “Smokeless tobacco” is a very off-putting euphemism. All tobacco is smokeless until it’s on fire, and when it’s on fire, it is no longer smokeless. That cockroach noise was really disturbing.
  • 26D and 41D: Shrunken (NOT AS BIG) – Man, that reeks, and the fact that it’s spread across two clues/answers makes it reek twice as much.
  • 27D: Yet to be engaged? (BORED) – That’s pretty good.
  • 28D: Early times, for short (AMS) – That’s pretty good, too. I had BC’s at first, and then wanted RYE.
  • 29D: “The Insect Play" playwright (CAPEK) – I wanted ALBEE, then IBSEN, and that pretty much exhausted the five-letter playwrights I knew. CAPEK is the robot guy, isn’t he? The one who’s usually clued for the answer RUR (or something like that.) Or is he the guy who invented the word “robot”? I stopped learning things a long time ago, and I just keep asking the same questions.
  • 34: Things that open and close yearly? (WYE) – I didn’t catch on to this right away, but I did pretty quickly, but then couldn’t figure out if that’s how you’d spell “Y.” I suppose there are accepted ways to spell letters, but doesn’t it seem pointless or at least wrong to have a spelling for a letter, especially when you use that letter in the spelling? Remember when you’d smart off to your teacher when she told you to look up words you can’t spell? (“How can I look it up if I don’t know how to spell it?”)
  • 39D: 1997 Demi Moore flick (GI JANE) – Another one that I didn’t get right away, because when I see words like “1997” and “Demi Moore” and “flick” I just automatically assume I won’t know the answer. But if I’d have thought about it I’d have probably gotten it before moving on. I never saw it, but I remember the trailer for it, and I remember Chrissy Hynde did a very pretty cover of Steve Earle’s “Goodbye” that was used in the movie. Here’s his version (with the goddess Emmylou Harris):

  • 46D: Producers of sunbows (MISTS) – Good grief.
  • 1A: Bygone flag (THE STARS AND BARS) – I like the answer, but the clue could be a bit spicier, you’d think. Is it really bygone? I thought the flag still sometimes got referred to as “the stars and bars.”
  • 30A: Roll (WAD) – Also what a chew of tobacco can be referred to, though it’s considered derogatory. Also Ro’s opponent in that book written without the letter E.
  • 38A: Time being (NONCE) – Somehow I knew this. Not right away, but with only one or two letters. I don’t know how. I don’t know what “natch” means ordinarily (including right now), but I can usually get it quickly in a crossword puzzle. And then I forget what it means when I’m done with the puzzle.
  • 39A: Mammonism (GREED) – I had GREE_ and put . . . Greek. Which is stupid.
  • 50A: Much of Central America, once (BANANA REPUBLICS) – Do not fear, gentle reader. I will disgust you with tales of cockroaches and chewing tobacco, but I will never inflict a Jimmy Buffet song on you.

Hope everybody's having fun at the tournament.

From Mission Control in Houston,



Bill from NJ 2:14 AM  


Nice to hear from you again. My first thought for LEM was also Mr Barney but it seemed . . . off. No defensive backs will be clued as "touchdown makers" at the New York Times.

No, I finally thought of Moon landing modules for this one and I think it is right.

I'm not sure but . . .

Daryl 2:58 AM  

I'm pretty sure L.E.M. was meant to refer to the Lunar Excursion Module for the Apollo missions. This I know because back in the 80s I keyed in a BASIC program for a game involving trying to land a LEM.

Had UNWED for BORED initially. And frankly, better single than bored, which this puzzle sometimes made me. Thought it was fairly easy - I zipped through the whole south toot sweet. First things I filled in: DEBI (who I love on Entourage), SEIJI, RAITT, and MOET. Yay proper nouns.

Also knew REBURN from my pervious work on energy and environment policy. If you need a link, here's an EPA one.

jae 3:52 AM  

Medium for me. I'm with Daryl on UNWED at first and he is right about LEM and about this one being sort of ho-hum. Nice write up Wade, cockroaches and all!

Orange 7:42 AM  

Wade, hon, you need your own blog just for Texas bug stories. I would subscribe to the RSS feed for that in a second.

joho 8:13 AM  

@Wade: you're the best thing about this puzzle.

I don't think this to be Joe DiPietro's best ... usually I think he's great.

Having to get on with my day I checked a couple of what I thought were answers (cheated). That's when I changed Camus to CAPEK. Getting NAMIBIA really got things going on the bottom. The top of the puzzle was much easier for me.

For the effort put in the payoffs just weren't that great for me. The answers didn't sparkle.

My least favorite: ARCTICCIR

Unknown 8:36 AM  

Yeah I got to LEM through the moon also. I wouldn't think of a defensive back as a touchdown maker. I thought the clue was cute misdirection.

Unknown 8:44 AM  

What an entertaining writeup. My job took me to Houston, TX for a few years. Our house had a large Pecan tree. We moved in in the Fall and one conversation with our new neighbors involved something they called Tree Roaches. They would be out in the Spring, we were told and be ready. Well, I thought the Tree part meant they lived in tress, not that they were the size of trees!

Took me a long time to finish this one, but no errors, unlike yesterday's which was both easier and trickier.

See many of you tonight.

sillygoose 8:59 AM  

I have been doing well on early and mid-week puzzles so I thought I would give this one a shot. I got about 50%, mostly those boring answers, and mostly at the top of the puzzle. I had PREPOST instead of PREMEET which blocked completion of that area.

TAHINI and SPEC were my first answers too, and I never considered CAPEK as an answer but I do remember him clued via R.U.R, which is exciting for me since it proves I am learning something, however slowly. I can also get Ozawa clued via Seiji but I never thought of Seiji as an answer, even with the J in place. Did anybody else start off this way in puzzledom? I hope its not just me.

I haven't heard of sunbow but my son just saw a rainbow and asked me when we could go see a snowbow. :-)

Cockroaches... yuck! Here we have scorpions but they are easy to kill, no resurrections.

Kurt 9:03 AM  

Great write-up, Wade. Years ago I was on business in Houston. Tucked in bed and sound asleep at 4 AM, I was awaken by a "presence" on my body. I opened my eyes to see one of your monster cockroaches crawling across my bare chest. AHHHHH. I swear that I actually levitated -- straight up in the air, perfectly horizontal, a least a foot. Then I engaged in a little mano a roacho combat. After some pretty cool pincer movements, I manuevered the little bas***d into the bathroom and did the same three flush number as you. I think the reason that I now always sleep with one eye open can be traced back to this night in Houston.

I loved the puzzle and finished it in two minutes ........ longer than yesterday. Enjoy the tournament. I hope to be there next year.

SethG 9:08 AM  

I WENT TO THE STORE is fifteen letters, and is in the language, but that wouldn't make it a great entry. How is USE THE TELEPHONE any less random?

The W in WYES was my final letter--I had NYES, which sorta works. I was fooled _again_ by an ATomic N(O)umber clue, that's getting to be like tsars in its always-being-clued-with-trickinessness. Cute clue for GENERAL MANAGERS, but I'm not sure the plural works for "posts". It feels like the subject of a post maybe functions like an adjective or something, though I clearly am not sure what I'm talking about and am not explaining it well.

ROTAL, a plural for TAHINI, RONEE, PREMEET, "WENT" ASIDE, I don't believe any of those actually exist.

I liked TYPE B, SPEC, ALL I ASK, Bonnie RAITT, and the Bill of Rights. And Eve, and right next to Plumb at that--surely that could have been clued together!

Megan P 9:25 AM  

I also think/hope LEM was a nod to the Russian sci-fi writer. He could make space adventures boring in a very entertaining way!

Couldn't finish this puzzle: that drachma thing crossed with the actress I never heard of did me in. So another really hard Friday puzzle for me.

The cockroach tales remind me why I never want to live in the south. NY's pre-Combat Blatella Germanicas were horrifying enough.

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

Hated it.

Glitch 9:35 AM  

Got 1A right off (usually a good sign) --- top 1/3 went well, but went downhill from there (pun intended).

Last to fall was 27D area, refused to go with UNWED as one can get "wedded" w/out being engaged (think Vegas wedding chapel after too many drinks) and it lacked the "perhaps" qualifier. Was pondering something something re: gears for too long.

44A --- Assumed Apollo missions too.


retired_chemist 9:38 AM  

Oh Wow! This one was fun, despite the daunting appearance of two 3-stacks of 15. Made a lot of false starts and recovered. I have NO IDEA where in my subconscious PERU (35A), CAPEK, (29D), NAMIBIA (38D), and RONEE (14D) came from, but I got them with 0, 1, 2, and 2 crosses respectively. Had to get ATNOS (28A – AT. NOS. = abbr. for atomic numbers) totally from crosses as I was hung up on the B & O RR (falling for DiPietro’s/ Shortz’s devilish plot). Some chemist… ☹

It had never occurred to me how important it was to use trial partial answers in the long phrases in themelesses. Thus guessing MANAGERS at the end of 55A and OPINION late in 16A from a few crosses soon made the rest of the phrase clear. One learns….

7D ROTAL was totally new to me but rational; the clue for WENT ASIDE (30D) seems a bit off. Stuck with SONAR for 25A instead of SONIC until the end, then caught it from how silly 6D ANEMIR was, though TAHINIS (5D) could easily have been TAHINAS for all I know.

Plaudits to constructor and editor! A most enjoyable 44 ungoogled min. while wife caught up on TV shows she DVR’ed while out of town.

And continued good wishes to all at ACPT.

RodeoToad 9:42 AM  

Thanks for setting me straight on L.E.M. Since Lem is Lem Barney's first name, I should have known better (but it was very late, and the pyro-roaches were trying to burn me out of the place.) I actually did think of moon stuff when I first read the clue, but was thinking only Apollo-Gemini stuff. I've never heard of L.E.M.

Seth's right--Eve Plumb is a huge missed opportunity. Jan is still getting screwed.

Anonymous 9:45 AM  

Somewhere during the write-up, maybe at the point where I read the word "cockroach," I realized the writer was not Puzzlegirl. So thanks, Wade, for a very offbeat story. Once in a while, I see one of those bugs about the size of a Ford Escort in my basement and I practically die. I call them "water bugs" because that other word is taboo. My two cats play catch with them before dispatching them. I know this may not pass the breakfast test.

I then made my first entry - tahini- and was off. I thought the puzzle was much easier than last Friday's although I had a lot of trouble in the plumb/bored/capek/wye area. I did not know how to spell y for one thing and I kept thinking patek, which is a watch I think. Overall, it seemed kind of blah, which is strange considering how the puzzle was constructed.

retired_chemist 9:58 AM  

In grad school we had cockroaches in the kitchen of an apartment I lived in in one year. They would only come out at night but there were LOTS. :-( Killing them was to no avail, partly because they outnumbered us 100 (1000?) to 1 and were obviously reproducing faster that we could get them, but also because the other apts. were remiss and the slumlord was doing nothing. Oh well, whaddya expect for $29 each a month, utilities included?

Needless to say I didn't eat there much. Actually not at all except for munchies with beer.

At our place now we have NO roaches. Mice, armadillos, squirrels, bunnies, snakes, tons of interesting birds from sparrows to blue heron, but not roaches.

hazel 10:02 AM  

Everything @Seth G said plus @anonymous 9:33.

Anonymous 10:03 AM  

I believe Stars and Bars refers to the first flag of the Confederacy and thus would be "bygone". Putting a "the" in front mucked it up for me. Too much work, too little fun in this one

Frieda 10:13 AM  

I've been one of the anonymous admirers of the blog and all you smart people for a year or so--

My mother is visiting, and we tried our collective wits with today's puzzle, we laughed, we cried, and then I got to show her the blog. That was the best part. She loved WYES. We trolled through ASTI and BRUT instead of MOET, got SEIJI somehow. About the insects, she too thought isn't that the guy who wrote RUR? I said, who? What? We had several "good grief" moments including GENERALMANAGERS? Agreed it looked easy when it was all filled in.

Thanks Wade for a fun write-up. Best wishes to everybody at the ACPT. Wish I could join you.

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

Wade -- wow, hysterical write-up, though I'm sure you didn't find the Roach funny especially at breakfast time... Not my cup of tea, anyway. Note that LEM the lunar lander is an acronym, not abbr.

I knew TAHINIS somehow, even if I never cooked any, but the LEPTA eluded me at first (where did the Obols go?) I also knew SEIJI, but had to look up GIJANE! The bottom went fast after that, and the top line too...

For 2D I thought Has Enough would be great for "Can't continue", though who Bear Men iin NY might be, I don't know. Got that straightened out and finished top and sides, leaving only in impasse in the middle. Not feeling too WYES today. Arrg.


Greene 10:15 AM  

@Wade: That monster roach you thought you flushed away in Austin is probably the same on that was in your garage and he has come seeking his revenge. I live in Florida and we have the same giant bugs and they are pretty unkillable. I think it's punishment from God for living in an area where the sun shines every day.

Was it perhaps the inclusion of Karel and Josef Capek's The Insect Play (1922) that brought on all this roach speak? You are correct that Rossums's Universal Robots or R.U.R. (1921) is from the same author (well, Karel anyway). The Insect Play is an allegory in which an Everyman character known as The Tramp has a series of hallucinogenic encounters with a variety of anthropromorphized insects which are used to comment on various aspects of the human condition. The lifestyles and morality of these "insects" are, sadly, all too human. Thus the flitting butterflies of Act I are sexually promiscuous, the dung beetles of Act II are the materialistic middle class, and the unthinking mechanized ants of the Act III are the mindless militants who had recently dragged Europe into World War I. It was all very expressionistic and rather daring in 1922.

I was excited when I opened this puzzle because of those 15 letter stacks at the top and bottom. Solving it provided less pleasure than anticipated, however, largely because there was so little sizzle in any of the fill. It all seemed very ordinary.

I did get thrown by 24D "emulates Eve." I had SINS for the longest time. Totally did not know about the rapper Eve, so SINS went in and out as I tried all manner of solutions. But it all came together in the end.

I trust all my blog pals are heavily into competition at this very moment. Good luck to all. I'm rooting for ya.

@imsdave: I wish I could have been in that bar with you last night. I'll bet that after a few drinks you're all over any available piano with "The Ballad of the Sad Young Men." :)

Parshutr 10:20 AM  

Lem Barney was indeed a touchdown maker as a punt returner as well as a db who intercepted and returned for TD quite a few...and "when normal size people played football", uh no, they were bigger than normal even then, but since the beginning of the steroid era (which actually started in what was East Germany, remember the "girl" swimmers and track athletes in the 1960ff Olympics) we've had athletes in most sports who are chemically enhanced.
Even Bill Toomey (U.S. Decathlete, 1968 Gold Medal in the Decathlon) was quoted as saying "Anabolic Steroids were not banned until 1972."
No, he has not come out and admitted usage...yet.
And now even the USPGA has [belatedly] begun testing...

Unknown 10:21 AM  

Normally I am a BIG Joe DiPietro fan, but I gotta tell yah - I HATED this puzzle. Okay, okay - so I hated it because I couldn't finish it - BUT - some of these clues and answers are just difficult, they are arcane! and for my money, oddly misleading. Ugh. Oh Joe! What hast thou wrought?

cookielady 10:21 AM  

Eggplant is the only vegetable you eat??

And thanks for the cockroach tales. Combined with yesterday's news story about bed bugs, I expect to be twitchy all day.

Regarding 41A (all I ask), in my experience, this never precedes a "simple request." More like an introduction to the guilt trip of a lifetime.

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

Short dog = Rat Dog, IMO. Hence, 21A = Rat, short for Short Dog.
Good a foothold in the Carolinas, then 31D was ARCT_____, and I'm guessing 65 degrees = ARCTANTWO? ARCTANSIX? Would 65 degrees NORTH (N.) have runied the puzzle? By making some friggin sense?

deerfencer 10:42 AM  

Wade's comments were far more entertaining to me than the puzzle, which I abandoned pretty quickly after a token effort. I've only been puzzling a couple years and am usually good into Thursday, but will at least give Friday a try. No go. (Somehow I nailed a Saturday puzzle months ago, but that must have been a freak accident.)

In any case, today's puzzle had me running to the WSJ Friday puzzle within minutes. Looks like I didn't miss much. NR

jeff in chicago 10:45 AM  

Oh how I thought this was going to be a great Friday puzzle for me. I got all three of the top acrosses and was zipping through. The NW downs all fell. Then everything stopped. Ultimately this is a non-finish for me as I had to Google twice. But I've just fairly recently made it into the world of getting anywhere in Fridays. (Saturdays still kill me most of the time.)

I hate the spelled out letters. Except for "eye" they always contain the letter they're spelling. Hate those clues!

I lived in FL for a while, and when I first moved there I thought this apartment by the park with the pond would be great. Turns out you don't really want to live by mostly stagnant water in FL. Yes, there was a cockroach problem. "Palmetto bug" my @$$, these were cockroaches. You learn to spray weekly and deal with that smell. But one morning I was making my ritual cup of tea, and as I tilted the tea kettle, a cockroach came out with the water. That kettle and cup were thrown away, and I've had a clear glass tea kettle ever since.

@Greene: I love what I learn about theater and plays from your posts. Keep it up.

Enjoy the tournament everyone! Shall we take bets on Rex's future rank? I'll go with 39th fastest solver in the universe. (I just noticed that "55th" isn't at the top of the blog anymore. Did that go away a while ago? Or just pre-ACPT?)

Two Ponies 11:12 AM  

Always happy when Wade steps in. The write-up was much more fun than this tedious puzzle. Too much work for so little reward.
We did get our *Banana* Republic today that was a guess from earlier this week.
Leaping roaches??!! Yikes. I remember seeing a "Palmetto bug" (yeah, right) in Florida that was as big as a mouse. He didn't even flinch when I threw a shoe at it.
Anxious to hear about the tourney.
Wade, my husband agrees with you about Emmy Lou.

Anonymous 11:34 AM  

on my way to the ACPT, worked on the puzzle off and on from Reno to Denver. ugh GI Jane was first. Got the "_a_an" in "banana republics" and was thinking Mayan...something. spent way too long on that, but got it eventually. Finally broke down at the Denver airport and looked up "stars and bars" and got the rest myself except for LEM.

Not a very auspicous start to the weekend

edith b 11:44 AM  

I had more trouble with this one that others seems to have had. I got started in the SW with the GIJANE/GREED cross and swung into Flyover country but couldn't gain any traction.

I chipped away in the NE and the Rebel flag was the first long one to fall, followed by USETHETELEPHONE, bringing me to 24d:Emulates Eve, my bete noir in this puzzle. I've always found you can't go more than two degrees of separation away from the clue - it is almost invariably not going to work but I couldn't for the life of me parse this clue. I went all the way to RIBS, tearing out my hair along the way.

If I was doing this on paper I would have erased a hole in the middle of the puzzle.

I went back to Texas, getting the short ones AVA REL DERM before BANANAREPUBLICS fell and I was able to piece together the other 15s by working down the East Coast, MISTS being the key to finishing the South.

I went back to Eve and finally got away from the Garden of Eden to Little Eve, not Big Eve and PLUMB/TYPEB was my last entry.

This was not a typical DePietro as it had a lot of snap and crackle but no pop. None of the 15s, with the exception of BANANAREPUBLICS, had any energy, and energy was what I expended alot of with little in the way of payoff.

Shamik 12:12 PM  

Great write-up, Wade!

Who are you people?!?!? I feel like I'm talking to aliens who tout Hulu. Medium? Medium-challenging?

Bah! It was freakin' CHALLENGING!!! Took me almost 52 minutes of painstaking effort. Must be me, I guess. That whole center was done letter by gruesome letter. And LEM/LEPTA is a Natick if ever I saw one.

The best thing I can say about this puzzle is that I finished it correctly. I got up twice to tell my husband that this was a stinker. I'd almost prefer to be studying. Ok, well not quite that.

Envious of those in Brooklyn.....

Medium? (Grumbling and shaking my head as I walk away.)

nanpilla 12:16 PM  

Just getting ready to drive up to Brooklyn. I finished this one, but it took me 45 minutes. I think we only get 15 miinutes at the tournament. What was I thinking?! Hope I don't finish 8across (BEQ's friday puzzle - couldn't believe he put that in - was he thinking of me?) See you all tonight!

Rex Parker 12:29 PM  

LEM Barney, HA ha.

This puzzle was objectively ungood and I'm thrilled that Wade (and then SethG) covered pretty much all of the criticisms I would have made.

Cockroach ... see, that's why I "hire" you.

I'm in my hotel room in Brooklyn. I tried to type this comment using my TV ... but the connection was horrible and the remote keyboard sticky and the readout distorted, etc. etc. I'm gonna go spy on early-arrivers now and then maybe get lunch and do some light shopping. For sundries. I'm not sure what "sundries" are, but I think it covers what I'm after. "Sundries" or "notions," one of those.

I'm in a big room which you could not find even if I gave you the number. I think I had to go through a magic portal / wardrobe to get here. I might be in another borough. It was a long walk, is what I'm saying. A long circuitous walk. But the room is a nice corner room with lots of light.

Updates from the tournament as I (and others) have time to provide them.


Margaret 12:30 PM  

I know very little about football so I never even questioned the LEM answer when the crosses worked. I just assumed it was some player I didn't know.

Kansas and Nebraska gave me the most trouble. I was sure the playwright was MAMET and the brilliant moves were MATES, so obviously got nowhere there. I still don't know what WYES are; I'll have to google it. Also had IPOD for IMAC for the longest time.

Too little payoff for the effort here -- except for the blog! Wade, your cockroach story had me laughing out loud and @Greene, thanks for the synopsis of the Insect play. Now I've got Kafka on the brain....

RodeoToad 12:30 PM  

@Shamik, I try to scale my rating to what I think Rex's rating for a puzzle would be. If I can finish a Friday or Saturday correctly in, say, under half an hour, it's usually not harder than a medium under Rex's system and is often easy/medium. A challenging Friday or Saturday puzzle would be one that had multiple blank squares or even whole sections left blank when I finally give up (after more than an hour or over multiple sittings.)

It would be interesting to see a graphic showing the frequency of Rex's various ratings over time. This one was more difficult than most Fridays for me, going past the half-hour mark to get all but one letter that I couldn't even narrow down to a range of consonants. I think that makes it a medium, but it felt harder than that, so I nudged it up a notch.

Rex Parker 12:34 PM  

And for the record, I concur with the rating. Took me somewhat longer than usual ... For A Friday.


evil doug 12:55 PM  

I'm always pleased when Rex allows Wade to sit in. Each has his own strengths. Rex has his edge, his mean streak; Wade's bigger on the lightness and humor. Kind of like Wally Pipp letting Lou Gehrig get in the game, though....

I got stung by a scorpion in Big Spring, TX. Wife and I enjoyed a few cocktails at the Officers Club and saw the vermin on the flocked ceiling of our apartment.

Not wanting to make a huge mess, I decided a one-inch-thick wad of Kleenex would serve to capture and crush the varmint. Either I missed or it stung my finger right through the tissues. After calling the base hospital and icing my injury---now drunk, tired and stung---I just wanted to get into bed. My wife: "But where's the scorpion?"

A quick search and we discovered it had fallen into bed and was cocked under the covers planning its second strike. My courageous bride captured it in a Tupperware bowl and I smashed it into a foot-wide monolayer on the front porch.


Shamik 12:55 PM  

Thanks Wade and rating of challenging is always against what I've done in the past. Of all the Friday puzzles I've kept track of, this is the one that took the longest that I filled in correctly.

Rex...when was the last time a puzzle was just plain challenging for you? Not being "in your face," just curious.

Anonymous 1:05 PM  

This puzzle was a bore. The only part I liked was HAVE AN OPINION ON...not because it's a cool phrase, but I like the way OPINIONON looks in the grid.

You can't throw pre- in front of an event and call it a new word. Premeet is epic fail.

When I was a little kid, I was walking to school with my mom and brother (a littler kid at that point) when I noticed a lump in my shoe. I said to my mom, "Hey, I have this uncomfortable lump in my shoe; can we stop so I can take it off and see what's up?" Evidently we were in some great hurry and mom said no for whatever reason, and we kept on walking. I kept complaining, we kept walking, and finally after a few more blocks we got to school, and I pulled off my shoe to find a gigantic cockroach under my heel. Nasty. This was probably 20 years ago, and my brother and I still tease my mom about it.

chefbea 1:12 PM  

This puzzle was horrendous!!! Thank goodness the write up was fun and hilarious.

Only eggplant?? why not know what!!

Good luck everyone. Have fun tonight. See you Sunday

Anonymous 1:17 PM  

Anyone old enough to remember Neil Youngs fine album "American Stars n' Bars"? It includes Like a Hurricane. Came out in 1977. Mike

fikink 1:22 PM  

Like Margaret, all this talk of insects makes me think of Kafka and as I was reading your (very creative) write-up, Wade, I was increasingly hoping that when you got to BANANA REPUBLIC, you wouldn't be talking about tarantulas. Thank you for not going there.
(Nature Girl, here, cannot even do June bugs.)

The puzzle did not animate me with its "turn of phrase," although I agree with you, chris: OPINIONON is a thing of beauty.

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

Sorry, L.E.M. could never be a Natick. It's way too famous, even if it was before your time. I certainly remember 1969, and building a model L.E.M., and all that.

And for what it's worth, LEPTA is cognate with lepton, which all science geeks know means "light". Normal people might have heard of Leptovox or Leptopril, the diet pills.

Wade: try Googling REBURNing. It'll turn up lots of stuff you don't want to read.

Ha, CAPEK as author of The Insect Play was a surprise personal gimme, and really helped me get the center, which was otherwise slow and painful.

PRE-MEET interviews are all over the Internet, so get used to it.

I had GI---- for the Demi Moore movie, thought GI JANE, rethought, no, that was the Goldie Hawn movie, drat, and left it blank for the longest time. OK, I did not like the looks of conductor ---JI either. And I had MAYIASK instead of ALLIASK, so that corner was a jam for quite a while.

The Walvis Bay clue for NAMIBIA was kind of boring. More crosswordy is its coat of arms, which has two oryxes and a non-erne sea eagle. The greenery on the bottom is the freaking bizarre welwitschia, the world's most ridiculous tree. I mention this since I didn't remember where Walvis Bay is--I kept thinking of Australia--but when I relaxed Walvis mutated into welwitsch and I got it. (The two words are etymologically unrelated.)

Sometimes the tertiary thinking works, sometimes it doesn't.

Bob Kerfuffle 1:47 PM  

I found this puzzle challenging, but I thought I had completely solved my pen and paper version until I checked here. I had SEIGI crossing GIGANE, instead of SEIJI and GIJANE. And what would GIGANE be? To me it sounded like some obscure European language's word for gypsy, and when it comes to movie titles, anything goes, right?

And speaking of obscure European languages, I'm glad Margaret and fikink also entertained the name of Kafka for the five-letter author of The Insect Play. (But I don't recall that Kafka wrote plays, though his short stories have been adapted.)

Finally, I had correctly entered ATNOS and gone on before parsing it; had to come here to be made aware of the meaning.

Anonymous 1:51 PM  

@ william e emba

I'm perfectly happy with lepton meaning "light" (think "leptomeninges" the two light membranes over the brain, in contrast to the thicker, tougher "dura mater"), but what does that have to do with fractions of a drachma?

Anonymous 2:06 PM  

Your comment about Stars and Bars still being used may be true if you are from The South. Stars and Bare refers to the early flag of the Confederacy States. Hence, bygone flag.

SethG 2:08 PM  

Pre-Super Bowl and pre-St Patrick's Day are all over the Internet, too. Premeet is in a dictionary, though.

Rex, I left my a lot of alliteration comment for you, but you didn't make it. Can't continue. Hardly hearty. Emulates Eve. Maui mouthful. Chambermaid's charge. Skin: Suffix. Enough's enough. And I'm not sure why suffix is capitalized.

PlantieBea 2:09 PM  

Okay puzzle--thought it would be easier than it turned out to be. I hated some of the answers--especially WENT ASIDE. I'm glad LEM was explained--thought it was just another sports guy unknown to only me. Had trouple with WARMS--wanted EASES which messed up WYES/BORED/PLUMB.

Had a face-to-face encounter with a large palmetto bug who curled up in my washcloth once. Blech. And supposedly they don't "like" to live inside. Right. And what about those walking logs that spray an acidic substance to defend themselves. The joys of tropical entomology.

Shamik 2:26 PM  

Aha moment. L.E.M. Jeez.

Anonymous 2:41 PM  

Frances: When I saw LEPTA in the grid as fraction of a drachma, my reaction was aha! that makes sense. Because, obviously, the original small change were lightweights, and that's what they ended up being called.

I got LEPTA from the crosses, including the L from LEM. But I'm confident that had I been puzzling over -EPTA, the above etymology would have enabled me to get the missing letter. What else? SEPTA?

I'm not going so far as to say lepton is all that famous. But if you know it, you almost certainly know its etymology, and the above kind of thinking should occur to you and get you the missing letter.

joho 2:42 PM  

@jeff in chicago: I'm betting on Rex being the 23rd fastest solver in the universe.

All this talk about bugs is making my skin crawl!

mac 3:11 PM  

Why did I try and do this puzzle just before going to Brooklyn? I'm taking the subway in 15 minutes and I'm in a panic.

Thanks Wade, your write-up made me feel a little better.

Chip Hilton 3:13 PM  

With all the misdirection in the clues, I'm somewhat stunned to find that I solved it without errors. Also guessed on a boatload of words (NONCE, LEPTA, CAPEK to name a few) so, go figure.

Emmylou.....just so good. Stepping outside of her usual genre, she did my two favorite Beatles covers of all time: 'For No One' and 'Here, There, and Everywhere'.

All that work trying to think of NFL running backs with three letter last names (I dismissed Lem Barney early on...the NYT just wouldn't do that!)...the only one I came up with was Billy Joe. Don't think he scored too often anyway.

Good luck in Brooklyn, everybody.

Anonymous 3:16 PM  

Arctic Cir?
etc; etc; etc;
This is a work in progress...Mr. D
can do, and has done much better.

Glitch 3:54 PM  

Just lost a (IMHO) great post; too much cut 'n paste to recreate.

So, recapping only two points:

1) It's LEM not L.E.M. (as has beent pointed out previously, but I'm leaving out my twist)

2) Yesterday Rex admitted that beets (now can it be spelled out?) aren't all that bad.

Next, his equally unfounded opinion of the "Simpsons" being all that "good" ;-)

There is hope.


miriam b 4:07 PM  

"Robota" = "work" in Russian, and probably there's a Czech cognate. I once heard that Karel Čapek credited his brother Josef with coining the word. I've never read The Insect Play, BTW, but now I'm intrigued. Karel Čapek wrote a wonderful allegorical novel called The War with the Newts. Stupidly, I lent my copy to a colleague who never returned it, and now I'm retired.

@retired chemist: Cockroaches like beer, and maybe also munchies.

You reminded me of a long-ago experience. A water bath in a lab where I was working went berserk and couldn't be regulated. We discovered that a cockraoch had apparently shorted it.

@wade: Lovely writeup; thanks.
Giant cockroaches made their way north many years ago. I was living in Manhattan in my early youth (never mind when) and had a traumatic experience with one of the beasts. A friend and I were chatting in my walk-up apartment when we saw a huge roach sitting on a shelf and apparently waving at us. We screamed operatically in unison. A neighbor happened to be coming up the stairs at that point, and hearing our cries, knocked on the door. He swiftly dispatched the bug with his umbrella. This man (name-dropping alert) was a well-known Life photographer named Ted Castle. Well-known at the time, that is (never mind when).

I was once on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Tblisi when I saw a standard-issue cockroach crawling up the back of the seat in front of me. I had just enjoyed a snack consisting of a delicious and apparently homemade cookie and a glass of mineral water, and I tried not to think of the provenance of these items. Oddly, my spotty knowledge of Russian actually includes the word for cockroach - tarakan (accent on the KAN.

Good luck to all in Brooklyn.

Anonymous 4:16 PM  

Well, I liked the bottom half of the puzzle, which is as far as I got before having to come here for help.
But mostly, I loved the way Wade makes such a horrific story sound so every-day like. Thanks to you and Wall-e's pet cockroach I can now manage to look at those.... interesting creatures in a different light.
Good luck to our king of crossworld and fellow solvers!

chefbea 4:22 PM  

@Rex so glad you enjoyed the heirloom beets - I know they are delicious. Hope to see you Sunday. - and everyone else

Two Ponies 4:34 PM  

I was unfamiliar with nonce in this usage but while in England I heard people say "Don't be a nonce!" as in Don't be silly. Can't say I ever saw it in print.

retired_chemist 4:38 PM  

@ miriam b - as I recall the beer and munchies did not typically last long enough for the roaches to locate them...

Your water bath cockroach reminds me that ants and mice love electric wire insulation (or at least they try to eat it). We have had to do repairs on thermostats and A/C exterior controllers here as a consequence. So far the armadillos just root around in our meadow and leave divots.

I feel like I have been rereading Kafka's "The Metamorphosis." Any of these giant insects answer to the name Gregor Samsa? :-)

retired_chemist 4:52 PM  

@ two ponies re nonce - Wikipedia says that its meaning in British slang is chiefly "child molester," with idiot being derivative. Its rhyme, ponce, is also derogatory. It was used several times as an epithet on Monty Python.

fikink 5:01 PM  

@retired chemist, I can confirm the penchant of field mice for electric wires. Before we knew better, if the tractors were idle for too many days, the mice would take up residency under the hoods, lickety-split, build nests and sever wires. We learned very quickly to leave the engines open and put mothballs on the engine blocks.
(Mice, I can do!)

Anonymous 5:03 PM  


Thanks for the ATomic NOmberS comment. That was my sticking point. Got it from the crosses, but had to come to Rex's comments to find someone who knew.


Anonymous 5:04 PM  

Speaking of wildlife encroaching on technology: a few years ago, the start of a performance at Santa Fe's outdoor opera was seriously delayed because the lights didn't work. Turned out a snake had attempted to enjoy the cozy confines of the electrical box, much to the detriment of both opera and snake.

Anonymous 5:07 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle, took me a good half hour to wrestle it into submission. Those stacks of 15 are pretty impressive.

I grew up in Cocoa Beach, dad was a rocket scientist who actually worked on the guidance system for the L.E.M. The computer that they used for the moon missions had roughly the computing power of a Commodore 64, and took up a whole room.

I certainly remember those nasty palmetto bugs. Big as a mouse and they'd emit a horrible stink when threatened.

edith b 5:21 PM  

@jeff in chicago-

I don't know if you are aware or not, but Greene has started a blog on theater called Everything the Traffic will Allow.

Check it out if you haven't already - as you know from his comments, it is well worth your time.

fergus 7:58 PM  

I was thinking about TAJINES or TAGINES, but maybe that's more Moroccan? That Kentucky/Tennessee region stymied me long enough that had I not been on a bus I probably would have conceded. Took a long while to give up on the Eve emulations being SINS. And for the British reasons stated above, didn't want to enter NONCE. I remember hearing that on Ziggy Stardust. The light was bad enough that Ladles appeared as Ladies, and figured maybe some poker slang for Queens was at work? PLUMB is a cool word that I reckon is more often (mis)spelled without the B, even though that makes way less sense.

Envious of those in Brooklyn. I can only imagine what the big time would be like -- how far can one extrapolate from Alameda?

jae 8:28 PM  

@wade -- I think the "-70s" in the LEM clue means you might be looking for an abbreviation or acronym.

Greene 8:58 PM  

@EdithB: You are very kind. I did a post today on The Insect Play and the brothers Capek on my blog if anyone is interested in more information about this somewhat strange play. We've had quite enough insect discussion at this site for one day.

retired_chemist 9:22 PM  

@ Greene re insect discussion- can't resist - are you getting bugged? :-)

joho 9:31 PM  

@Greene: hear hear! I'll probably dream I'm being trampled by cockroaches tonight. Or stung by scorpions. Or blasted by stinkbugs. Or bitten by bedbugs or ... you get my drift.

I'd love to know what's going on in Brooklyn ... hopefully some updates soon.

Greene 9:36 PM  

@retired_chemist: And how! I blame Wade, of course, because he started all this insect talk in the first place. Who knew so many people had a bug up their #@#? :)

@joho: Amen, sister!

Three and way, way out.

Anonymous 12:12 AM  

Wade man, you ought to live in Georgia. We have cockroaches as big as busses. I mean. They're called palmetto bugs even tho there are no palmetto bushes near.
They hiss.
Great job on this puzzle; I truly disliked this puzzle intensely. Wonder what Rex is having for dinner. Bugs, eggplant, interesting; hey! Non sequitur city!

Anonymous 12:50 AM  

Fun puzzle, only because of my kooky mental digressions and YOU guys (The Write-up and ensuing blogomments). I couldn't ever expunge the mental reflex of "Kafka" as the answer for that playwright even though I knew it was wrong -- glad to know others struggled likewise. All the giant cockroach vignettes made me chuckle. I knew them as "oak bugs" in the Florida panhandle and as "palmetto bugs" in coastal South Carolina. Don't remember their name in the Piedmont of Georgia but I certainly DO recall one of those hugeass b*st*rds WAVING obscenely at me and my husband from over the rim of the ceiling light fixture as we enjoyed breakfast in bed on Christmas morning. Thanks MiriamB for that image of WAVING. Yes, absolutely, horrifyingly -- that's what they do, so nonchalantly -- and I come undone.

So I also chuckled at my impulse to enter SIBERIA where NAMIBIA should have been -- how more exceedingly wrong could I have been?!?! I looked up 3 or 4 answers and still gave up. Well, and finally I must admit that I chuckled most at my mental image of what THIS would have looked like in the grid -- HAVEANOPINIONONONIONS. Yep, I know. I'm a wordwonk. Thanks, Wade, for your fun writeup, and HAVE FUN, all you ACPTers! Someday I'll meetcha there, Rockrabbit.

mac 1:09 AM  

First report from Brooklyn: We had some mini reunions (in the bar), dinner in a nice Italian restaurant, then panels and games in a huge room with bad accoustics, and then party time where we met all the big names in crossword art. Byron and Mike (Nothnagel) are handsome and young and very, very bright,Tyler Hinman was there and glad to talk about his move to SF, Kevin Der was happy to find out how Kluge was pronounced and what it meant, and he is even younger; Andrea is beautiful and lively, Patrick Blindauer is young and charming, and I could go on, and I probably will tomorrow, but I need a good night's rest to be able to do a little bit of those puzzles tomorrow.......
O by the way, Rex's wife is beautiful and slim, and a lot of fun as well. Angela and her sister (who basically threw the party, it was their room) are smart and warm and most enjoyable to meet. I just want to say, I was soooooo happy to be invited.

chefbea 7:13 AM  

@mac sounds great!! keep having fun and good luck

liquid el lay 11:36 AM  

Wow. It was a hard puzzle and I thought it was pretty good.

I thought the long answers were fine, particularly the colorful (THE)STARSANDBARS - though the THE threw me a bit..

Had such trouble on the west banks of the mississippi.. had something like T o j E B lightly penned in there- looking a bit like INJUN JOE hunting after Tom and Becky in that cave.. couldn't figure a word ending in ..EB - WYE I didn't think of TYPEB I do not know.

But there was a problem upstream as well.. Eve had me on apples, pears, innocence and the fall of man.. I couldn't get from there to some potty-mouthed rapper go by lil'Eve (is there someone by that name? I don't know.) so COUPS had to become ROUTS ("Brilliant moves") so that Eve's verb could be EATS not RAPS. (PREMEET which I had was messy enough with the ink that I did not notice it was now PEEMEETS) Oh well PEEMEET, TOJEB, RAJEK.

LEM is a fine answer. I had it, but didn't get the Techness of it. Really cool. If I remember correctly, Touchdown was in the language- NASA talk- Blast-Off, later, Lift-Off; Splash-Down (Earth); Touch-Down (Moon).

Got ATNOS through crosses only. I have an issue with the cluing. "figures" implies a variability or transience and its sense as "numbers" comes from the idea "how big is that figure (thing)". Atomic Number is the essence of an element. It's itness. I'd replace "figures" with identifyers, determinants, distinctions, signifyers- something like that. Or, I'd answer with ATWTS (Atomic weights), which actually vary within an element.

um... we don't have cockroaches out here; we have sharks.

to e emba-
Dude, good comments!

walthery 11:48 AM  

Wade: totally agree Friday's puzzle - too many answers are awkward expressions or unsatisfying answers for puzzlers.

But one tiny note of interest: the term "Stars and Bars" refers to the Confederate Flag. US flag is the Stars and Stripes.

So aside from a few fringe kooks & bikers, crossword is correct: Stars and Bars is a bygone flag.

liquid el lay 12:30 PM  

(I may have gotten carried away with the Figure thing- in the sense of numeral, obviously, it works.. though I still don't like it much..)

Pre-race PEEMEETs brings to mind, now that I look at it, Bukowski's splendid "the angel and the a__hole" from Septaugenarian Stew. It's about a rant, too!

shrub5 2:21 AM  

I got all of this puzzle except for a little mess in the middle. I had SNORE for 27A Bit of noise pollution and, as did others, had Eve sinning, not rapping. Eventually solved 28A B and O figures (Abbr.) from the crosses but, like retired_chemist, tried to come up with something related to railroads, then perhaps blood types.
@Evil: the scorpion story was disgusting and hilarious and spine-chilling to this entomophobe. Fortunately for me, most of the bugs mentioned in the posts seem relatively rare out here in CA.....(i hope).

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