WEDNESDAY, Feb. 18, 2009 - S Gelfand (Bug-building game / Clark's crush on "Smallville" / Porter's regretful "Miss" / Dickensian cry)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (I feel like I'm saying that a lot)

THEME: Gear shift - theme answers start with PARK, REVERSE, NEUTRAL and DRIVE, respectively, and the whole theme is tied together by the "possible title" "SHIFT / GEARS" (8A: With 61-Across, a possible title for this puzzle)

Word of the Day: FIE - Used to express distaste or disapproval.

A typical "first words related" theme with a nice corner-answer bonus. Not much more to say about that, except that REVERSE SPLIT is a new one to me (28A: Corporate action that increases the par value of its stock). Caused some slowage in the eastern section - where I was happy to see ALACK today (25D: Word of woe), after having tried and failed to force said answer to work in a puzzle last Thursday. But back to the theme - got the first theme answer early when the NW gave me PARK and I somehow remembered that PARK CITY, UTAH is the 19A: Home of the Sundance Film Festival. If you'd simply asked me where it's held, I would have said "uh ... somewhere in Colorado?" Next theme answer was REVERSE SPLIT, which I couldn't see at all, so ... moving on. I think I meandered down to the bottom and Somehow remembered the title "DRIVE ME CRAZY" (50A: 1999 Melissa Joan Hart movie). I doubt anyone here (by which I mean, you) saw it. I sure didn't. Melissa Joan Hart was the star of the long-running "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," and "DRIVE ME CRAZY" was a teen romantic comedy. DRIVE + PARK gave me the theme, which made NEUTRAL SHADE (41A: Bone, for one) easy to pick up. SPLIT in REVERSE SPLIT was probably the last thing I filled in. Somehow I did all that in 6+ minutes. No errors today, though ...

What in the world is COOTIE!? (5D: Bug-building game) - I see that it is a bug-building game, but it's one I have never played, or seen on TV, or seen at other people's homes, or seen in a toy store (that I recall). Are COOTIEs still being produced? It seems so. Been around a while. Missed me entirely. I'm more an "Operation" / "Sorry" / "Hungry Hungry Hippos" kind of guy. Oh, why am I mentioning this? Because the "I" was a Very tentative entry for me. REI (23A: King, in Portugal) was an educated guess based on the fact that (I think) Spanish for "king" is REY. Portuguese is a fine language, I'm sure, but to me it simply signifies "nutso spelling coming up!"

The real problem in this puzzle - the place that caused the most trouble both for me and my wife (and thus, perhaps, for many of you) was the NE, which I am calling "IT CORNER," as in 15A: The Beatles produced it and 12D: Cigarettes have it. The Beatles clue was galling. The Beatles produced BEATLEMANIA. "The Beatles produced MANIA." "These cigarettes have TAX." Don't like when the tricksiness of clues involves forcing the phrasing. Also, FIE = 11D: "For shame!"??? I thought it was much more negative and defiant, not a rough equivalent of "TSK" (which is what I had here at first). Even INS seemed oddly clued (10D: Favored bunch). I think of the folks in Congress or other elected positions as INS. They got elected. I guess that means they're "favored." If this is "IN" in the social sense, then I guess I don't hear people use INS that way enough. A-LIST ... ELITES ... IN CROWD, maybe.

[I tried to find Marshall Crenshaw's "The In Crowd" ... instead, you get this.]


  • 1A: Hits with bug spray (zaps) - rings untrue for me. Bug zappers zap bugs. Raid kills bugs dead, but without electricity.
  • 14A: Ex-politico with a Nobel and an Emmy (Gore) - "Simpsons" tidbit: on a trip to Knoxville with Bart, Nelson, and Millhouse, Martin Prince spends his last remaining money on a Talking Al Gore doll. The doll's one line: "You are hearing me talk."
  • 34A: Sari-clad royal (rani) - lots o' little gimmes to help you get started today. ADLAI also helped a lot (2D: First name in 1950s politics). Same for ALI (46A: Noted convert to Islam in 1964) and OTIS (27D: Porter's regretful "Miss")
  • 36A: Dickensian cry (meh) - just kidding, it's BAH, as in Humbug
  • 7D: Shawnee chief at the Battle of Tippecanoe (Tecumseh) - woo hoo. Fun. Great answer. Got it off the -UM-.
  • 28D: Physician/synonymist (Roget) - I had no idea "synonymist" was a word. That seems a ... pretty narrow field.
  • 35D: Clark's crush on "Smallville" (Lana) - not LOIS. Apparently on "Smallville" LANA now has superpowers, a development which is causing mass nerd hysteria on-line.
  • 36D: From Sucre, say (Bolivian) - love this. Forced me to remember where the hell Sucre is. I was looking for something French here at first.
  • 43D: Shakespearean soliloquist (Hamlet) - I am waiting to see the clue [Soliloquist/synonymist]. Not sure what the answer would be.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Kurisu 8:59 AM  

I have the most erasures at the NE -- I put TAR instead of TAX at first.

I agree with your assessment of ZAPS; it was the first thing I thought of for 1A but I refused to write it in because I don't think it's correct.

NEUTRALSHADE eluded me for a long time because I had PANIC instead of MEDIC (consequentially the E part was the last part I got).

I played COOTIE; when I saw the clue I knew I had played some bug-building game as a kid but I couldn't remember the name until I got some crosses for it.

fikink 9:00 AM  

It would have been neat if the clue to 5A were "Panther," as opposed to "Jaguar," as TECUMSEH was thought to have been born to the Panther clan, (according to this morning's googling, apropos yesterday's comments). But then we'd not have been potentially misguided by Jaguar to CAR.
INS gets me to IN CROWD, gets me to Ramsey Lewis, who is a nice memory.
Meh thinks it was an enjoyable puzzle.

Tony from Charm City 9:07 AM  

COOTIE brings brings back memories of childhood when we boys simply knew that all girls had COOTIES.

I also had TAR for 12D for a for a bit before finishing up the rest of the puzzle and going back to clean up the NE.

Leon 9:09 AM  

Nice puzzle Ms. Gelfand.

Richard Mentor Johnson's (Martin Van Buren’s vice president) campaign slogan :“Rumpsy dumpsy, Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh!”

jubjub 9:10 AM  

I was surprised when the answer was actually COOTIE -- I remember having friends who had this game when I was a kid, and I was *so* jealous :).

ZAP seemed wrong to me. Also, in my brain, it is "Zap!" in the voice of John Waters.

@Shin Kokin Wakashu, I also had TAR until the end.

Hungry Mother 9:16 AM  

I thought of "Sucret" and then "sugar" before letting the crosses get "Bolivian" for me. Other than that, I thought it was an easy Wednesday.

Orange 9:21 AM  

JubJub, I had my own COOTIE game. It was my game alone, not mine and my sister's. I know the envy is killing you.

Alex S. 9:24 AM  

I too made the TAR mistake and then compounded it with FIRST instead of SHIFT.

FIRST GEARS made sense to me since the gears were the first word in each phrase; even if it isn't something you'd really pluralize.

So it took me as long to untangle the NE corner as it did to do the rest of the puzzle.

HudsonHawk 9:25 AM  

Fun, violent puzzle. ZAPS, A GUN, ROTC, LUNGE, GORE, the battlefield cry of MEDIC, DIE.

I feel sorry for anyone under 30 with the answer for 47D, CAGER. It seemed archaic when it was in my high school yearbook a few decades ago (and I was one). The term derives from the cages that once surrounded basketball courts to protect spectators (years before Ron Artest played).

treedweller 9:30 AM  

I see I was far from alone in trying "tar" for TAX. I don't quite know why I was the only one who left it that way. I admit ESSEX seems like a pretty obvious entry for the UK county, but, then, what do I know about Uk counties, and why couldn't "Esser" be valid, as well? I'm with Rex--cigarettes don't "have" TAX. They are TAXed. Their purchasers pay TAX. In a stretch, they might even be said to earn TAX. But they don't have TAX. They DO have tar.

Okay, I'll get off that now. For awhile, I also had "car" for CAT. That had me scratching my head trying to fill in TECUMSEH, until I finally had about half of the (correct) crosses. I still keep hearing Scooby Doo saying "Recumsah".

When I entered "tsk" for FIE, then MOCKS, it felt a little like a rebuke to me, personally, as I had just slammed anonymous in last night's comments. Sorry, anonymous. I can't resist a good setup sometimes.

But that X spoiled it for me in teh end.

Kurt 9:30 AM  

I liked this puzzle a lot although the theme was a little bland.

The best answer of the day had to be COOTIE. I got it from the "C" and never looked back. Spent hours playing Cootie as a kid. As I recall, when it was your turn you simply rolled a die. The numbers 1-6 corresponded to a body (cootie?) part. And your goal was to be the first to get the cootie fully assembled. I remember that the cootie had six legs and each required you to roll a six. Legs were always the key to victory.

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

Rex, forgive me, but I must make a comment about last night's discussion. I think blogging involves being rather intimate in an open forum and results in lots of problems because people have different aims. Some people want discussion, some want simple conversation, some want approval, some want foofaraw (look it up), some want control, some people even want to know about words! - etc. etc. For the moderator, it must be like herding cats. (Please note that I used at least two words from the puzzle.) As for me, I like it.

Anonymous 9:32 AM  

Fun to see the Mitchel Musso video. Any of us with tweens hears this song a lot. He's pretty funny on Hannah Montana.

Sure, I remember Cootie quite well. In fact, I bought a set for my son when he was a tot. It's sort of like Mr. Potato Head. He always enjoyed building funny bugs rather than actually playing the game. Sort of like Mousetrap.

As for the puzzle, it was rather... blah. (I can't bring myself to saying the M word...I think I'm too old for trendy netspeak!)I've never heard of a reverse split, so that slowed me down. And for some reason I knew Park City instantly. It's always funny when things pop out of my brain that I forgot were there!

deerfencer 9:43 AM  

Took me a while to get into this one but in the end I found it satisfying
and well done, despite some of the dubious clues mentioned by Rex. B+

A reverse stock split is often employed by companies whose stock price has fallen below the $1/share threshold the SEC requires for listed equities in an attempt by the company to prevent their stock from being delisted (and consigned to pink sheet/penny stock hell)--so basically just another Wall Street accounting shenanigan.

joho 9:51 AM  

I thought this puzzle was easy and fun ... a solid Wednesday effort. I liked that the grid contained 1 X, 1 Q, 2 Z's, 3 K's, 3Y's and 6 U's.

Off topic a bit, can somebody tell where to pick up Andrea Carla Michael's puzzle in the Sun? I just subscribed but can't find where to download today's puzzle.

Doug 9:54 AM  

Well, SHAREBUYBACK also fit the the stock clue, how about that. But of course, that doesn't affect par value because the # of shares don't change unless they are cancelled. Financial D'OH. Hey, a synonym for FINANCIAL DOUGH. I'm like ROGET, a synonymist.

Wait, it's a homonym. Guess I'm a homonymist?

Nice Wed. puzzle.

hazel 10:09 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeffrey 10:16 AM  

6+ minutes but made the TAR for TAX mistake; and I'm the tax guy. Sigh.

Another DINKY puzzle.

xyz 10:19 AM  

TAR/TAX - I'll bet a majority did that.

Got the theme pretty quickly as PARKCITYUTAH was fairly obvious but I was thinking it was held outside of Provo, so I wasted time there. The rest of theme came easily but I was looking for LOW_ _ _ _ or something at the bottom.(PRNDL has been in a recent puzzle)

Thought waaay too hard about LUNGE - wanted something more technical, still fairly new to some of this cluing scheme/rules/boundaries stuff.

Did not know ALACK was a proper word and in the end went with BLACK crossing BDO thinking a bdo was a southern thing I'd never heard of .... oh bother

Overall, for my (improving) skill level I had a good time with this one.

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

Enjoyed this puzzle because the theme (for once, for me) helped me get parts of the grid I would have struggled in--PARKCITYUTAH and the SW corner opened the whole thing. I share the posted cavils at ZAPS and TAX, but I generally take all such misfit fill as part of the "they can do anything they want with the language" education in puzzle-doing. Sometimes I lose faith in the puzzle--so sad!--when the clues are so far off, to my ear, that I'm sure I can't finish it. FIE! But this puzzle didn't go so far astray.

I'm not so much in the INS that a righteous Wednesday completed before breakfast isn't satisfying. One day even Thursdays will be do-able.

ArtLvr 10:25 AM  

You're in top form, Rex! However, I had no problem with 1A because if you can use a micrwave that "nukes" something, you can easily use a bug spray that ZAPS.

I wasn't aware of the Sundance locale, so went immediately to REVERSE SPLIT, even though it wasn't a perfect clue. Also, once I saw the E in artist's SMEARS there wasn't any choice but ESSEX. We all have our own wavelengths.

ARTY was amusing near the smears and DALI, as was ROGET crossing QUOTE. And COOTIE was a cutie. Maybe DALI - ALI - ELI can be the new OLE!

Nice lively puzzle, plus it's fun to see so many new participants here lately... Mustn't miss Acme and PB in the Sun today!


Two Ponies 10:38 AM  

I had a Cootie game too but don't remember ever actually playing by the rules, I just loved making the bugs.
Park City has some great skiing and roughly 10 years ago Sundance was a rather rustic ski park with some heart-stopping trails along the edges of very dangerous drop-offs.
I would have liked 39A better with a champagne clue.
Boring week for puzzles so far.

hazel 10:40 AM  

@joho - tried to post a link to cruciverb website, but I don't think it worked right so I deleted it. You can find ACME's puzzle at, though.

chefbea 10:47 AM  

fun puzzle. Had the same mistakes as others.

tar for tax

car for cat...recumseh sounded ok

Cootie was a gimme - My kids favorite game next to Mille Bourne.

Making soup today. Will have to use pearl onions

joho 11:07 AM  

@hazel: thank you! Picked up the puzzle and enjoyed thoroughly! I was trying to get it via Sun not Cruciverb ... now I'm all set.

santafefran 11:15 AM  

I rather liked this puzzle.

Sad to say that I have experienced a reverse split --of the now infamous Thornburg Mortgage Stock. The reverse split only boosted the price temporarily and the stock is now traded on the NASDAQ at $.08/share. :(

Loved the miss OTIS regrets and wanted to post a link to Ella Fitzgerald singing it but couldn't find one so instead you get the version by the dishy Torchwood star

santafefran 11:22 AM  

@Bob Kerfuffle

Thanks for the link with the directions for how to post a link last week.

Now that I switched over from MSN to Internet Explorer I was finally able to make it work! :-)

imsdave 11:29 AM  

Just shoot me. Rex's 'check the puzzle' comments of late should have sunk in by now. Sub five minutes BUT - missed the COOTIE/REI cross with the reasonable REY, but unreasonable COOTYE.

ACPT just aroung the corner. I can't wait to post with the tag line 'I am the 721st best solver in the universe'

Nice puzzle Ms. Gelfand

jeff in chicago 11:38 AM  

Yay! Today's puzzle woke me up. I like this a lot. NEUTRALSHADE was the first theme entry to fall, and I had REVERSE___, but could not see the theme. I had S_I_T in 8A, but kept thinking it would be SPLIT. D'oh! Which kept me from putting SPLIT at the end of REVERSE. Maybe I should take up the coffee habit. Had to parse out DRIVE... and PARK... to finally get it. The G in GEARS was the last letter I entered.

@Kurt: Thanks for reminding me of the rules for COOTIE. I know I had that game, but like Two Ponies, I only recall putting the bugs together and making them walk across the back of the couch or putting them in random places in the kitchen to annoy mom.

I think I have a book called "Groucho, Harpo, Chico and sometimes ZIPPO." Ha!

edith b 11:40 AM  

I avoided the trap in the NE as my first entry there was the HASH/ESSEX cross.

The second trap on the East Coast gave me a little trouble but MEDIC and DINKY straightened me out there.

Two minor glitchs and smooth sailing all the way. Smooth theme. Smooth fill. Smooth everything.

I hate smooth.

archaeoprof 11:56 AM  

I played COOTIE too. Maybe that's how the AARP found me.

@Rex: I like your comment on PARKCITYUTAH. A crossword can remind us of things we didn't know we knew. This puzzle was loaded with 'em, from Melissa Joan Hart to Dali to Tecumseh. Made it a lot of fun to solve.

Anonymous 12:04 PM  

I played hours of Cootie as a child. That's where I learned the word "probiscus". I had totally forgotten the rules, but now remember that you had to roll the dice and that legs were indeed the hardest to get since there were so many of them. I suspect that Cootie has way too many small parts to make it past the toy-police today.

Our other favorite was Sorry, which we played by the hour.

Anonymous 12:11 PM  

Did not care for the TAX clue.
Furthermore, not all cigarettes are taxed. The cigarettes I buy
from the Native Americans are not taxed.

dsf 12:20 PM  

Cigarettes don't "have" tax. Cigarette smokers will sure be paying a lot more tax with the federal and multiple state cigarette tax increases!

Anonymous 12:25 PM  

Not to mention that after the tax increases, fewer people will be paying those taxes. If you are smart you'll by from the indians or on the black market!

dk 12:30 PM  

PARKCITY is where we go for avalanche rescue training.

COOTIEs, were constructed and put in my sister bed so my brother and I could in all sincerity claim girls have cooties. We also used them at one time to create a sci-fi movie using our Super 8 movie cam and the ever popular stop action.

The rest of the puzzle, outside of the oft mentioned Tar/TAX & MANIA, was a smooth sail down memory lane.

Ladel 12:36 PM  


Deerfencer is spot on regarding the definition of a reverse stock split and why it is used. See for example the recent reverse split of the dying Revlon company. Same dying company but now the stock is more expensive and the gallows avoided...for now.

mac 12:39 PM  

Pretty easy puzzle with some nice fill, as so often nicer than the theme, which I didn't even look for after finishing.

I confidently put in "zilch" at 1D so had to do a little mending there, and after "Park" couldn't get past "Slope" for a bit, needed some crosses to set me straight.
I don't know the game, but thought it might be "Cootyz" as they often mangle common words in gama names. I have a little problem with the clue for 14d: you can grieve without showing it, I expected something related to sobbing or wailing. The zapping didn't faze me, our son used to zap the huge miner bees with a spray can with a powerful stream.

Anonymous 12:50 PM  

Hey @mac - Are you really me, or do I dissociate and post as you? Had the same ZILCH, PARKSLOPE??? issues, Same Grieve issues.

jubjub 12:52 PM  

@jim in chicago, i think you mean proboscis. as a computer scientist working with a lot of fly biologists, i've finally had to stop calling it a tongue myself :).

@orange, omg! you were the luckiest kid ever! i bet you had hungry hungry hippos too. that was the other dream i had, to someday own a game of hungry hungry hippos :).

Anonymous 1:01 PM  

The last square I filled in was the P in the REVERSE SPLIT/PROSE clue. I never heard of the former before; thanks for the pithy explanation, deerfarmer!

Was I the only one who threw down NEUTRAL COLOR instead of SHADE?

Someday I'll learn my car models better. I thought a Jaguar was a type of BMW. (So no, I didn't fall into the CAR trap.) Looks like Jaguar is the make, and two or three random letters including an X are the model.

flagger 1:15 PM  

OK puzzle. For some reason, and despite being a faithful watcher of Entourage, I also thought Sundance was held in Colorado. Isn't there some sort of law that states: "If Rex Parker and one other person believe something to be true, then it is true?"

As so many others, I wanted tar instead of tax, which made me enter Usher.

@Crosscan: Hey, aren't you Canadian? Do they even have taxes there? LOL, funny, eh?

Did fikink even use meh correctly, because according to the Urban Dictionary, it seems to mean indifference, or to be more of a gesture than a word?

George NYC 1:21 PM  

Is it just me or is this about the third auto transmission related puzzle in the past 6 mos or so? Though my early driving days harken back to the three-on-a-tree era, most NYers drive a car only when on vacation or visiting relatives who live in the "real America." How about some clues along the line of "possible last stop on the A train?"

Chip Hilton 1:27 PM  

I too thought that people would struggle with CAGER. I guess it shows up more frequently than I would have guessed. I got used to seeing it on sportspages over the years, along with pucksters or icemen, gridders, and nine (the best I can do for beseball).

Fun puzzle with some neat fill words. I, like @mac, started with ZILCH, but that, and TAR, quickly were found out.

Bob Kerfuffle 1:27 PM  

@santafefran - Thank you for your thanks re: posting links, but I am afraid my conscience is burdened. The real thanks should go to "wendy", who found that information and posted it as a comment following Rex's FAQ's. I had posted it again just to be helpful, never intending to take the credit due to wendy. (The link in the body of Rex's FAQ's is not as clear as wendy's.)

Chip Hilton 1:28 PM  

I need to proofread....beseball? that were? Yikes!

Chip Hilton 1:28 PM  

I need to proofread....beseball? that were? Yikes!

chefwen 1:36 PM  

The first fill I entered was zilch, the second was tsk, fra for dom, but all easily fixable. Knew Essex so I didn't fall into that trap. Played Cootie about a million years ago, I recall the legs never wanted to stay in place.
Thought it was a fun puzzle, but I finished it too quickly, like to kind of make them last a little longer. Thought, now I have nothing until 5pm tomorrow, will have to find acme's puzzle to fill the void.

SethG 1:44 PM  

REI's a store, ALI's The Greatest, and I pretty much have a degree in ALG.

Yup, NE. Feh.

That's what I had for FIE--I had FEH. And TAR. Didn't like the its, hated MANIA. And don't know my French (feh!) composers (feh!), so SMEARS took forever. Worked my way out eventually, but this took me longer than sub-five or 6+ minutes.

HudsonHawk 1:58 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
HudsonHawk 1:59 PM  

@Chip, I think CAGER was fairly easy in today's puzzle based on the crosses. But from what I can tell (and assuming I'm researching this correctly), CAGER has appeared only 6 other times in the NYT puzzle since 1994 and only one other time in the last eight years (Sunday, June 22, 2008).

fikink 2:05 PM  

@ flagger - Uh, sorry to confuse you. It was a play on the word, "Methinks."

treedweller 2:14 PM  

Hate to break it to you, but start learning those two or three random letters.

I can't tell if you're right about CAGER as an answer--you probably are. However, I believe it has occurred as part of a clue a lot more times than that.

Anonymous 2:27 PM  

Oh! Karen! Please don't write stuff like that! ("Is Jaguar a kind of BMW?") It just feeds into the female stereotyping. Though as my husband will happily tell you, I'm basically the kind who, if asked "What kind of car was he driving?" will say "Uh, I dunno--green?" but jeez, Jaguar is pretty distinctive. Are you so young you never watched any James Bond movies of the Sean Connery era? (Oh, and if you were kidding on this, I obviously totally bit)
In other news: I put "mercy" for "battlefield cry." How 18th century of me.

chefbea 2:31 PM  

@jubjub I remember a card game with all the animals - Hungry hippos, entertaining elephants . Don't remember the rest.

George NYC 2:43 PM  

Actually, the classic 007 car was an Aston Martin. In some of the newer movies, he drove Lotus, BMW and other makes that paid for the exposure. I can't think of a Bond film where he drove a Jaguar, but I could be wrong...

Shamik 3:04 PM  

@Anonymous: TAX or TAR on the black market or the reservations...the REALLY smart person would quit smoking.

Loved seeing COOTIE! Loved it! I found this to be one of the easiest Wednesday puzzles since i've been monitoring my time.

The only mis-start I had was BOHEMIAN for BOLIVIAN. Who knew where Sucre was?!?!?! And I agree that ZAPS was truly clued badly.

PlantieBea 3:31 PM  

Kind of fun and easy puzzle except the NE. Funny edge to the write-up, Rex. Raising hand for TAR/TAX CAR/CAT initially. ALACK is new for me.

Also, the combination of Cootie and Dinky has somehow conjured up the old 60's Slinky jingle that won't go away. It's slinky, it's slinky...

I used to walk through Dinkytown every day when I went to grad school. What a name.

HudsonHawk 3:38 PM  

@treedweller, you are correct, and you have a good point. I only counted the times CAGER appeared in the grid. But it has been used more frequently as a clue, which would make the term more familiar to solvers.

Anonymous 3:45 PM  

George NYC: aw crud. Thanks for proving I am in exactly the same state of automotive cluelessness as Karen and should never have opened my *%$#?@ mouth. For some reason the phrase "Jaguar XKE" is associated in my mind with 007. Google tells me the automotive world is atwitter with the news that Daniel Craig MAY drive a Jag in his next movie. Prescience!

chefbea 3:52 PM  

@plantiebea thanks so much for the slinky commercial. I of course had to watch the Oscar Meyer also

Ya know - we really should meet - plants and food. What more do you need??

Eeyore 4:08 PM  

@George NYC I think the only time a jaguar was used in a bond film was Die another Day, but Bond wasn't driving it.

Anonymous 4:15 PM  

Well, Rex, you've done it. You've told everybody their posts are too long, too off-topic, too frequent, too rude, whatever. Now you're left with "I put TAR instead of TAX, too." "Cigarettes have TAR, not TAX." "Do cigarettes have TAX in Canada?" "I buy mine from the Indians, so I don't pay TAX." And the one chick who thinks anyone cares what she's putting in her soup.

Three and out? Why? The great thing about the Internet is you never run out of space.

Thanks for a boring page of 61 boring comments. All short, all following your rules, all totally boring. The only exception is Anne's (9:31 a.m.), who wanted to continue last night's interesting discussion, which I initially missed because I'd stopped to do the new puzzle.

George NYC 4:46 PM  

@Dude! (or Dudette!)
If the blog is full of "boring" comments, wouldn't that reflect on the folks who posted those comments, not Rex? Jeez. Don't shoot the messenger.

green mantis 4:56 PM  

@George NYC: "In Internet terminology, a troll is someone who intentionally posts derogatory or otherwise inflammatory messages in an established online community such as an online discussion forum to bait users into responding."

And I totally had tar for tax.

Two Ponies 4:57 PM  

@Anon 4:15 You're right that the conversation today is boring but so was the puzzle. Come back another day when the puzzle is more lively. At least we are civil, know how to spell, and if we ramble it is usually harmless. If you want something else I suggest you keep searching. There are plenty of blogs to choose from.

Anonymous 4:58 PM  

@George--The boring comments were always there, but many other, more provocative and interesting threads were criticized out of existence by the rules mentioned above. There are plenty of people who have interesting things to say (tangents from the puzzle itself) but they have been ushered away by the previously-mentioned rules (not to mention unexpected deletions). And no one has been so rude or uncivil here.

@green mantis--We all had TAR for TAX. So what?

jae 4:59 PM  

Easy and enjoyable. Had ZILCH like mac and others but that was my only hiccup. Put in ESSEX first so missed the TAR problem. Getting the theme helped with DRIVE as I'd never heard of the movie.

Two Ponies 4:59 PM  

Oops, I guess I fell for the bait.

Anonymous 5:00 PM  

@Two Ponies--The blog is good, the people are good. Yes, sometimes the comments can be boring, but it's the micromanagement recently--totally unnecessary and even counterproductive in my opinion--that I'm criticizing.

Anonymous 5:06 PM  

I sent you one privately, thanks for asking! And it's really a Patrick Blindauer/ACME puzzle as we all know I ride on his coattails! ;)

I think you have to be a Sun subscriber to download it from the cruciverb site, which is why I was urging folks who can afford it pay Peter (to rob Paul?) the $12.50 and for that you get like 100 puzzles, I think!

Lovin' the cootie discussion! Yay Rex for finding that image.

I liked how CAB was another nod to the theme...
altho could have gotten rid of the dreaded BYNOW/ AGUN partials by making the SE corner:

with the downs being

Anonymous 5:13 PM  

I tend to agree with much of what Anonymous said. (And what Evil Doug posted last night.) I almost always read these posts but rarely post myself. Why? There seems to be an "in crowd" (apt for today's puzzle!) of posters who talk amongst themselves and ignore new posters or someone bringing up a different topic. Kind of cliquish. And yes, Anon, I too, cringe when I read the daily meal updates! Sheesh.

I read the comments from last night this morning. They were a bit livelier than normal, but I felt a little sorry for the anonymous poster who got pounded on for a rather tame question. Seemed like a fair question for word bloggers to me. Definitely a pack mentality.

I'll keep reading the comments, and of course Rex's commentary, but I think it's safer to lurk for the most part!

Anonymous 5:35 PM  

As one Anon. to another, I also agree. This could be more fun with a little looser leash. The clique can be stand-offish and I have noticed that there is some pouncing on the innocents. So I lurk (and try not to be a troll.) That being said, acme (usually very pleasant) is beginning to repeat herself with the name-dropping and orange cannot allow even the smallest slip of the tongue/keyboard.

HudsonHawk 5:42 PM  

ACME, please please please keep posting your stories. Love them! And Orange rocks. Four and out.

treedweller 5:44 PM  

@anon 4:15
You may be shocked to learn that there was a time when these sorts of discussions happened on "Usenet". People got slammed for quoting more of a previous post than necessary because it used too much bandwidth. It's not as big an issue anymore, but the internet does have limits.

But, more to the point, Rex gets a copy of every comment in his email box. I don't think he's asking too much that people might try to stay on topic and limit the chitchat.

three and out. guess that makes me one of the sheep.

hazel 5:45 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rex Parker 5:49 PM  


I'm going to ask that the "criticize the commenters" thing stop. It's mean-spirited, and, ironically, boring. Lashing out at people by name is only confirming my wise reader's allegations last night that this is an unfriendly place.

If you want a more interesting comments section, make it so. Metacommentary isn't cutting it.


Anonymous 5:58 PM  

OK Rex. 'Nuff said. I wasn't trying to be mean, just one person's opinion.

Anonymous 6:22 PM  

My original comment (4:15) is not directed as a criticism of the commenters, per se, only an observation that an abundance of rules has sent the Comments section into a morass of repetitive, dull patter (I put CAR instead of CAT for JAGUAR; ZILCH instead of ZIPPO), mixed in with things that are totally unrelated (and are not targeted), while interesting threads are targeted for going off on a tangent. Anonymous 5:35, who is someone else, says that the leash shouldn't be so short. I'm with him/her. There is no reason for such arbitrary rules (3 and out, keep it short--I'd rather it be keep it interesting.) No one ever seriously abused their privilege to comment before (at least that wasn't swiftly dealt with by deletion).

@Treedweller--I don't think bandwidth is such a problem anymore. I don't think my comments window opens any slower at the end of the day when there are 100 posts than at the beginning, when there are three. So basically, you never run out of space on the Internet.

Rex Parker 6:30 PM  

For the record, I have never strictly enforced the 3-and-out rule, and the only time I even bring it up is when someone is being decidedly, painfully uninteresting.

Also haven't deleted a comment in Forever (except for one where this guy, forget his name, gave away info about another puzzle)


Orange 6:39 PM  

Hang on, everyone! Quit posting new comments for an hour! I need time to ferret out everyone's mistakes. Someone is wrong on the internet.

(That last bit is an allusion to this xkcd webcomic.)

Will report back later with a rundown of your errors.

joho 6:40 PM  

@Anon.4:15: you are so full of yourself. The "dull patter" you mention is talk about the puzzle, the whole point of why we all come here in the first place. If you're coming here to have an animated conversion about something else, then go somewhere else. Rex makes the rules because it's his blog and he can. Why don't you go create your own blog where you make the rules? Quite frankly you know who I think is totally boring?

Rex Parker 6:45 PM  

Changing the subject ... I got interviewed by the Chicago Tribune today. Wanna know why? Three words:




Two Ponies 6:53 PM  

Congrats on the interview Rex. John Lennon's aftermath certainly was a day for the books.
The other day you said the La Brea Tar Pits were probably not so interesting. It seems that all of the really cool stuff was buried under the parking lot!(According to AOL news)

Anonymous 6:58 PM  

Carefull Rex, you might get flagged again. I can wait to read the article though...

edith b 7:10 PM  


Is there a link to this interview?
Would love to read more about John Lennon's peanuts.

Please advise

jubjub 7:20 PM  

Rex, that is totally and completely awesome! You are on your way to becoming a martyr of censorship :). No, it is an interesting story, both on the side of outrageous censorship, as well as the quick response by blogger getting the warning removed.

Various anonymi, not to hurt anyone's feelings, but one potential reason to keep posts short is just to get people to read them. There was an interesting article about this in Slate a while back: How we read online.

Rex Parker 7:23 PM  

The woman who interviewed me is writing a piece on the flagging policy of different blogging platforms, as I understand it. No idea when the article will see print.

Nice to do an interview that was about an issue and not just about me, personally. Plus I got to gush about how helpful my readers were in setting things straight again.


Shamik 7:30 PM  

@edith b: are you talking food?

Bravo on being interviewed about John Lennon's penis. Bet when you were a little boy, you never said: "Gee. I want to grow up and become controversial because of a Beatle's willy." WILLY, of course, being a Brit term for penis. ; )

IMHO, there will always be people perceive an "in" crowd in any situation. Hang in. Jump in. Join. Play nice. I've been right on here. I've been wrong on here. It is what it is...a entertainment.

There are enough sturm und drang blogs on the 'net.

mac 7:36 PM  

@anonymouse 4.15: you don't like it here? Goodbye. I think it's perfectly fine for Rex to establish rules in his own blog. In fact, I think it's perfectly fine for him to delete boring and borish comments. This is the most civilized blog I've ever come upon.

@Steve in CA: to tell you the truth, it's uncomfortable to me to comment to an anonymous poster. The one above was loud enough and here frequently enough to give him some sort of ID. New posters who identify themselves have been welcomed heartily, by the regulars and by Rex. I wouldn't be opposed to Rex stating as a rule that anonymous commenters can't be responded to.
And for you to complain about the regular posters as a clique: yeah, some of us actually know each other, feel very strongly about the puzzles, get into many different subjects, and enjoy learning from each other.

In fact, on a totally different subject, how do we meet up in Brooklyn? Do we have special avatar pictures on our nametags on Friday? Please, Rex, advise.

Ulrich 7:46 PM  

@mac: I'm with you. To identify readers by name and telling them that they suck is really a low we haven't reached before. Believe me, there have been some commenters as of late I want to tell "shut the @@#$% up!" But one does not do this on this blog, and that is one of its charms.

Orange 7:54 PM  

Uh, Ulrich, you've got a misspelling there. It should be "@#$%" with just a single "@." Common mistake. I see that all the time.

Anonymous 8:03 PM  

Mac: (if that's your real name!) I am no more anonymous than you. My name is Steve and I live in California. What more identity do you require to post? Register with Blogger? Is that some sort of background check? I see nothing on your page but a list of "interests". Therefore, I would consider that pretty anonymous.

Anonymous 8:05 PM  

Actually, I am Spartacus!

Anonymous 8:08 PM  

I Am a Camera

SethG 8:12 PM  

Billy Joel sang about [British] BeatleMANIA. King Missile sang about a Detachable PENIS.

The latter was better. Welcome, Spartacus! and A Camera! I am SethG.

mac 8:30 PM  

Steve in CA: the only reason I mentioned you is because you agreed with this anonymous person. Of course I know you, you are Steve in CA! You're in the in crowd!

Anonymous 8:33 PM  

I am I said.

Anonymous 8:47 PM  

Goo goo g'joob.

Anonymous 8:48 PM  

I am the walrus.

Anonymous 8:51 PM  

I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

Anonymous 8:55 PM  

I read this blog for the "I had tar rather than tax" comments (which I did too, by the way). It's a crossword blog, isn't it?

edith b 8:56 PM  


No ma'am just trying (and failing) to make a funny so, maybe, you know, I can get into the In crowd.

Anonymous 9:13 PM  

@Anon 5:35pm
I get what you're saying...
and I'm a bit embarrassed.
I actually felt bad someone was pounced on! Hate the idea of an in-crowd...never was in one in highschool, don't want to be now, but I do feel uncommonly attached to some folks on this blog whom I've yet to meet in person.

I usually post a warning before I repeat a story...sniff! And it's almost always puzzle-related!

It's more to do with my mind deteriorating than with anything else! (if we were married, you'd be used to my repeating a story! You'd just roll your eyes and politely laugh and then kick me later in private.
(No, DK, not in the privates)

And I've been so good! :(
There are tons of stories every day I DON'T tell, mindful that it's, um, not my blog...but I do live for this space, it has re-activated me in ways I thought long dormant...

I only repeated the Mel Torme story bec he appeared in the grid again...and I wanted to make a joke about ice fog/velvet fog.

Feel free to skim over me, most folks do!

fergus 9:45 PM  

Oddly enough, it took me a while to figure out the five-letter word for what The Beatles, not just one member of the group, produced.

That, along with confidently filling in NOX (various Nitrogen and Oxygen compounds) for What cigarettes have, and wondering about MUSH for the Beanery fare, made for some rough going in that corner.

By the way, the erroneous entries people cite make for one of the most entertaining aspects of this here blog. That those often have rich connotations or citations makes them just as interesting as the correct entries. I'm thinking of Yesterday's TROW and how that could have lead to a discussion about the wisdom of Lear's Fool, but I guess it got too late in the day ... .

JannieB 9:45 PM  

The whole tone of the conversation today really saddens me. I have always found this group to be welcoming, courteous, caring and interesting. Let's not let those who choose to post under the veil of anonymity spoil it for the rest of us. I love being able to share what was once a solitary experience with others of like mind. We all got sucked into the tar/tax vortex. Brava to the constructor and thanks to all the bloggers for sharing their humanity. Boring to hear that 60+ times? Probably, but I read fast and eventually I find posts from ACME, Greene, Bill from NJ, Crosscan, EvilDoug and others that make me smile, educate me, or let me know I'm not alone in my stupidity.

green mantis 10:00 PM  

1. Pouncing on Innocents is my next album.

2. See #1.

dk 10:02 PM  

@acme there are lots of things I would like to do with you in private and they (note plural) do not involve kicking ;).

@plantieBea, Al's Breakfast.

@Rex, you are being interviewed about John Lennon's pennys... nevermind.

Anonymous 10:05 PM  

I am a lineman for the county, and I drive the main road.

mac 10:09 PM  


Anonymous 10:32 PM  

What does SHIFT have to do with anything? Each gear name is in the appropriate spot for its answer. There's no wordplay placing the theme word in a funny-ha-ha spot, somehow altering the meaning of a familiar phrase.

Like say, (Confession of a NYC cab driver?) MEDRIVECRAZY. Dumb, sure, but at least the gear is shifted, not just - um - FIRST.

Almost seems like constructor wanted FIRST up there but it wouldn't materialize. That remnant T seems suspicious...

allan 10:38 PM  

@ JannieB: I'm not quite sure how to put this without seeming to attack you, because it is said in sincerity, but you probably feel that way because you are a very upbeat, nice person. So you may not realize how negative things can get around here.

But from someone who has been on both sides of the coin (attacked and defended) believe me, this group can be harsh.

@ those starting with Spartacus, and ending with Gilbert & Sullivan (you all may be the same person for all I know) thanks for the laughs.

@ Wichita Lineman: Sorry, you missed it by meh.

flagger 10:42 PM  

@ Rex: Sorry to do this but you've been warned for the last time. No more references to penis, or I'll have to shut you down.

green mantis 12:52 AM  

Late night style! (Sort of.) Allan points to an interesting thing, which is not revolutionary but still: people perceive through/by how they are.

Happy open people see openness. And so on for other kinds of personalities, wink. I, for instance, see lunch.

Not trying particularly to call anybody out, but if you are prone in some way to feeling alienation, you'll find it.

The "reality" is not pin-down-able. But I do think there is a convincing majority opinion that this blog is populated by kind, smart folks and, although the majority is by no means always right, I have a hunch this may be one of those times when it is.

Anonymous 12:29 PM  

Shamik ....
You assumed I smoke. I do not.
I said I buy my cigarettes from the
Native Americans ... (for others of
limited means.) In the long run I suppose I am not doing them any favors.

liquid el lay 1:43 PM  

I wasn't going to comment on this puzzle but I see another late late poster so I will.

I did it in the morning which is out of my usual, and didn't find it very interesting and so didn't have much to say.

But this column runs more prickle than puzzle today, so I thought I'd try to add to the puzzle side.

I was thinking MEDICALSHADE for NEUTRALSHADE "bone, for one" but thought it was probably too lame an answer, though maybe not. But the D in MEDICAL.. tripped my mind to UNDUE for "Excessive, as force" which I otherwise could not see. The D was in the wrong place for MEDICAL but UNDUE was obviously right. That's how I got to NEUTRAL.

I actually went from PARK.. (Know the town..) to NEUTRAL... looked at GEARS... tried to cram in SWITCH for SHIFT but anyway glommed on to the key and then found DRIVE and REVERSE, in that order.

Trouble in s dakota- insisted on USMA (ROTC) for a long time. GORE x GRIEVE was basically the last part of my solve.

Anonymous 2:23 AM  

Southern Maam better keep your head.
Speaking of head, The Lennon Thing turned out to be a tad positive, a little exposure, if you catch my drift for our Rex.
Haven't seen one comment on the "Porter's....Ms. Otis."
Maybe I'm Cole Porter challenged, but could one of y'all
clue me in?
I am curious yellow.

Jan C 11:33 AM  

Four weeks later...

For some reason I thought general shape for bone. Seemed reasonable at the time until the theme and crosses disabused me of the notion.

Anonamoose who resent not being part of a perceived "in" crowd: If you don't like it here, go somewhere else. That is the wonder of the internet. No one is forced to be here. It is a choice.

I love Rex's blog and always learn something from fellow solvers even if my participation is limited because of lag time.

Anonymous 2:47 PM  

Five weeks later -- unless I have totally forgotten my finance and economics courses, the par value of a stock doesn't change with a reverse split. The current value of the stock certainly does, however. I am somewhat surprised the there weren't more comments on that aspect of the clue. That said, I was still able to get the reverse split after a few crosses

Anonymous 3:10 PM  

Kath said:
I had vailcolorado for the longst time for the sundance clue and refused to give it up, until forced.
And as for the incrowd and all that, what a load of crap. I am here for the puzzles, okay, okay weeks later, but I still show up.
I enjoy the comments and actually crack up laughing on more than a few occasions.

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