WEDNESDAY, Feb. 4, 2009 - P. Gamache (Nereid sister of Galatea / Farrah Fawcett's signature do / Guide for Hillary / Baja boss)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: puns - "-AIR" words in familiar phrases are changed to "-ARE" words, and then clued, "?"-style

Word of the Day: SHERPA - A member of a traditionally Buddhist people of Tibetan descent living on the southern side of the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal and Sikkim. In modern times Sherpas have achieved world renown as expert guides on Himalayan mountaineering expeditions. (

Man, I don't know what's wrong, but I am not feeling the puzzles this week. The problem here wasn't the punniness - I'm not a big pun fan, but these seem fine. No, the problem came when I got a COHAB (19D: Housemate, informally) stuck in my TSLOT (43D: Groove for a letter-shaped bolt), which sent me ALOW (14A: Down from the deck). What in the @#$#!? Am I supposed to believe those are words? I expect to see approx. 1 non-word per puzzle. I know how it is when you just can't escape from some portion of the puzzle without throwing down, say, PFUI. Fine. But I claim that ALOW and COHAB have been uttered in earnest by human beings no more than 6 times in the past century. ALOW? I see it has some history, but mainly as a partial in the phrase "strike _____ blow." To see something this terrible in an innocuous little 4x4 corner ... it's grating. NYT hasn't clued ALOW this way in well over 8 years. Here's to well over 8 more ALOW-free years. TSLOT is the least egregious of these three, but I would still file it under "inadvisable."

Oh, and I still don't get how 9D: Drawn = EVEN. Unless I'm supposed to believe that EVEN here means "TIED," as in a game, in which case I get it, but claim no one has ever said "drawn" to mean EVEN. A game can end in a 13D: Draw, yes (TIE). You might draw even with someone you are racing. But ... maybe there's another meaning of "drawn" I'm missing. Drawn and quartered? The curtains are drawn? Nothing is computing.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: 16th-century Florentine food? (Renaissance fare) - OK
  • 32A: Reason the tortoise won the race? (bad hare day) - OK
  • 46A: Baseballs, footballs and basketballs? (sports ware) - lifeless
  • 59A: Freedom from the requirement of having long sleeves? (right to bare arms) - old and tired

I thought IONE was pretty rough stuff for a Wednesday, though it's about the only part of the puzzle that was challenging, so I'm happy it was there. I wonder if anyone botched the JEFE (10D: Baja boss) / IONE (21A: Nereid sister of Galatea) crossing (opting for JEFA / IONA)? Seems plausible, if you've never heard of or seen the Spanish word. My wife got all up in arms (as only a Kiwi can, probably) about the clue on SHERPA (29D: Guide for Hillary). "GUIDE? He was a lot more than a "guide!" He got to the summit with him. 'Guide' Pffft." I think she found the language somehow diminishing. I was just stunned to learn that SHERPA was a name (for a people) and not just a technical word. Sherpa TENZING (constructors should use That name) and Sir Edmund Hillary reached the summit of Everest in the spring of 1953. BBC news story here.


  • 25A: Supermarket chain (IGA) - the favorite shopping destination of AGAs worldwide (63D: Ottoman V.I.P.). Wife semi-chanted IGA AGA when she finished. Well, she said them together once, at least, and they do go nicely together.
  • 37A: Commonwealth country in Central America (Belize) - I have to confess to a life-long conflation of BELIZE, Benin, and Brunei (the last of which I apparently can't even spell right).
  • 41A: Half of a 45 with more airplay (side A) - wanted A SIDE, since that's the more common phrase, at least as I've heard it. Records have an A SIDE and a B side. SIDE A is fine, though I think there are examples of B sides that (unexpectedly) ended up getting more airplay.
  • 4D: River in a Best Picture title (Kwai) - every time I look at this clue, I see "Little River Band" - why!?

  • 24D: Comedian Yakov Smirnoff, by birth (Odessan) - at what point is this Very 80s comedian going to be retired from the puzzle's consciousness (as he has been from the consciousness of the nation at large)?
  • 25D: Emphatic confirmation of action (I did so) - this is an answer of the "playground retort" variety, despite its non-playground cluing. I had I DID IT at first - if "playground" had been in the clue, I would not have made this error.
  • 34D: Poet who wrote "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" (Eliot) - the basis for "CATS." ELIOT also gives us the most common crossword monogram - TSE.
  • 47D: Freak (wig out) - Love it! I lived in WIG dormitory for one semester in college. My only memory from my time there - being alone in my room watching Kirk Gibson's game-winning home run in the 1988 World Series, and hearing explosions of cheers go up all over the dorm. I had been a big Dodgers fan as a kid, and nearly jumped out of my skin with elation - ran out of my room, and people were coming out into the halls with "Did you just see that!?" expressions of glee (or dismay) on their faces. One of my top five baseball memories.
  • 52D: Farrah Fawcett's signature do (shag) - I did not know her mane had a name.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Music Playlist at


Kurisu 9:00 AM  

I certainly did have JEFA/IONA. Actually I put ACIS in at first (from Handel's Acis and Galatea).

The major screwup for me, though, was BUGOUT instead of WIGOUT. I couldn't figure out what was wrong because the GOUT part was crossing with everything else. Finally I got LINKED and fixed the error.

allan 9:07 AM  

@Rex: Happy to see you finally posted. I was beginning to worry.

I fully agree with your comments. Cohab was probably the worst for me, although I was hoping for an explanation for 3d Policy Wonk. And how is padres sister at 7d tia. I am not fluent in espanol, but tia means aunt, not sister. I thought this clue needed more to make tia work. Maybe padre's sister to his nino?

I entered 17a and 46a as my first theme answers, and therefore thought all the theme answers would end with the "air" play. This slowed me for a while. Other than that, no real problems.

Rex Parker 9:11 AM  

@allan, I appreciate your concern, but please read my last comment on yesterday's puzzle re: when I post the write-up.


JannieB 9:19 AM  

@allan - my father's sister is my aunt - no problemo!

I thought this was an above-average Wednesday - although cohab was highly suspect. Short for "cohabitant"??? Still clunky. And drawn - no way Jose.

Orange 9:23 AM  

I overlooked ALOW and COHAB and TSLOT (the latter of which one of my readers singled out as a favorite entry—?!?) because I was so pleased with the slew of good fill that drew my attention. WIG OUT, GAWK and WONK, walking down THE AISLE, JEFE, SHERPA, HAS DIBS, the KIBOSH, BELIZE, SAD TO SAY demoting ["Alas"] to clue level, POTPIE, etc.

Anonymous 9:28 AM  

Hi Rex - "drawn" is a fairly commonly-used British/Australian variant for "tied." In fact, it's pretty much the only descriptor for a cricket Test match that ends without a winner. I actually hadn't heard it used in that context until I moved out to Sydney five years ago, so I understand why you and Jannie are frustrated. But it is a correct usage.

Glitch 9:29 AM  


Maybe 80's comedians will be retired around the same time as 80s sports figures.


Rex Parker 9:33 AM  

THE AISLE made me go off on a litany of "THE" phrases last night, asking whether they would all be legal now. I think I actually said, "I would rather see THE COMMISH in my puzzle," and I barely even know what that means.


PS if you are a legendary comedian (as Kirk Gibson is a legendary baseball figure) then you can stay in the puzzle as long as you want. Yakov ... doesn't qualify.

Rex Parker 9:35 AM  

PPS SHERPA Tenzing is in "The Onion" puzzle today!!! (in the clues, not the answers, but still ...)


treedweller 9:38 AM  

I also raised eyebrows at ALOW, but enjoyed that it crossed ALEE. Neither would sound like a real word if I'd never solved crosswords, or unless I was raised on the briny. But I assume those old tars would know what it meant.

Even though I've heard "A side" more often, I've read SIDEA on every record I've seen that didn't have sides one and two. So my mind went there first.

My biggest struggle was with SHAG, which I'm still associating with BEQ's recent puzzle on his site, so making it a hairstyle was a stretch for awhile. Not that I didn't know a few boys who would have happily paired the other meaning with Farrah Fawcett back in the day (probably now, too, for that matter).

I continue to enjoy my own internal discussion about how much WS manipulates the repeated use of one word or clue, either through editing or forced timing. Today we get a variation on that theme, with yesterday's PEA becoming a whole POTPIE.

In the end, I liked this one fine. I do agree RIGHTTOBAREARMS is a tired old phrase, but at least it wasn't "right to arm bears." BEKIND.

mac 9:39 AM  

Nice Wednesday puzzle with a little bite here and there. I agree with the comments on alow and cohab, and some of the others I just accepted because of crosses. I just don't know IGA, wig out and Jefe (I did know Ione, though). With the Florentine clue I was sure "spinach" would be part of the answer.... Some great fill in vanish, Sherpa, sad to say, has dibs and deep red. All in all a good time, and now what am I going to do during lunch? Maybe I'll read the NYT.

Glitch 9:41 AM  

Given my limited interest, thus knowledge, of sports, until I read it in your blog, I would have said "Kirk Who?" ;-)


elitza 9:41 AM  

Like ORIENT being used with its proper definition, instead of sort-of meaning ASIAN. RIGHTTOBAREARMS brought back fond memories of a teacher who'd bare her arms to prod us into remembering the Bill of Rights. Loved VERDI's ARIA...

yeah, that's all I have. I struggled with this one.

PuzzleGirl 9:45 AM  

I liked this one. Particularly WONK, HAS DIBS, and KIBOSH. BAD HARE DAY was by far the best theme answer. 20A reminded me of my favorite Miss Manners quote: "If you can't be kind, at least be vague."

I recall learning that all those heroic, courageous, larger-than-life, unbelievably driven mountain-climber dudes who make history actually had guides with them that, ya know, carried their stuff and made their food. People who live there and go to the top of Everest the way I would walk around my block. I don't know. Maybe I have that all wrong, and have been enraged all these years for nothing. If PuzzleHusband ever finishes this puzzle (he's having a little trouble with it), he can probably tell us the real story there.

@Jeff in Chicago: Ya know who's probably being observed by DRS today? 174-pound, returning All-American Iowa wrestler Jay Borschel, who recently had his knee scoped. (Go Hawks!)

jubjub 9:57 AM  

I also had the IONa/JEFa. I should have known JEFE, having recently read "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao".

I liked POTPIE cuz I (still) like to go around singing "Chicken pot chicken pot chicken pot pie". I don't know why :).

AYEAYEs are cool: Endangered Aye-Aye In Action.

COHAB is terrible.

HudsonHawk 9:58 AM  

I hesitated before filling in SHERPA, since Tenzing NORGAY was also the right length. I kinda liked the puzzle, especially BAD HARE DAY. My only mis-step was filling in RUSSIAN before ODESSAN. If you want to catch Yakov, I think he still plays two shows a day in Branson, MO.

Thanks for the LRB clip, Rex. I had a bit of a crush on a classmate in Jr. High. She loved that song, and therefore, so did I...

SethG 10:03 AM  

I hear JEFE, I think of this. I assure you I'm not the only one.

The part of the NE that threw me with EVEN/IONE was CDR. I had COL, changed it to COR with the theme entry, and assumed that LE ROI must be some operatic character I didn't remember from Looney Tunes, the source of all my operatic knowledge.

And the part where my domain expertise causes issues: IGA is an (A)lliance of (I)ndependent (G)rocers, not a chain. Most members of the alliance bear the IGA marketing banner, but the stores are independently owned and controlled. I had HEB at first.

Jon 10:05 AM  

The only reason I was able to get JEFE (indeed, I don't know my Nereids) was thanks to the lasting influence of The Three Amigos. "Jefe, what is a plethora?"

Indeed, Yakov still haunts Branson. Once, about ten years ago, I happened to be passing through Branson and was depressed when I saw that he not only was still performing but also had his own theater. He was performing something like seven shows a day, including the soul-numbing "Breakfast with Yakov". What a country.

Jon 10:07 AM  

@SethG: jinx!

fikink 10:17 AM  

@Sethg, Thanks for the plethora of laughs this morning.

Anonymous 10:26 AM  

Let's get this out of the way - this was not easy for me.

I worked down the west side, found "bare arms," said aha, and began my trek up the east side. I had "I did to" instead of "so" for the longest time, embarrassing but true, had gear for ware as I did not see the pun there, had never heard of Odessan (I wish that was still true) and I think it should be Aside. Needless to say, I was there for too long.

But the best part was yet to come, I had gape for gawk, had never heard of alow, did not know donna e mobile, and had le roi instead of Verdi for the longest because I could not believe drawn was even.

And I do not think Farrah's hair was a shag. Didn't she have this flip on one side? Have I been wrong about that all these years?

Good grief!

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

I was hoping for an explanation for 3d Policy Wonk.

A Policy WONK is pretty much the standard way to refer to someone in politics who is very very very into the details.

IGA is an (A)lliance of (I)ndependent (G)rocers, not a chain. Most members of the alliance bear the IGA marketing banner, but the stores are independently owned and controlled.

All you are saying is that IGA is a franchise. IGA is a chain, just like McDonalds.

Anonymous 10:47 AM  

In some parts of the world, SHAG does not pass the breakfast test. There were some minor controveries overseas regarding The Spy Who Shagged Me.

santafefran 10:47 AM  

Agree, we should put the KIBOSH on COHAB. Is that short for cohabilitate :-)?

A fun puzzle. Wanted VAPORIZE for VANISH but of course it didn't fit.

TOOT reminded me of my husband saying that his dad used to go off on the occasional toot--a drunken spree. I had never heard that term before but it helped me here.
A new clue for this answer could be the nickname of Obama's grandmother.

SPORTSWARE--a china pattern for sports lovers.

I, too, was looking for spinach in the Florentine clue

Ulrich 10:48 AM  

Too much homophonia lately for my taste--can't it be spread out little more?

For those who are interested: "La donna è mobile" (Woman is fickle) is from Rigoletto, sung by the Duke of Mantua to excuse his own relentless womanizing. It can stand on its own as a song with a very catchy melody that could make into any collection Italian standards--except its message is definitely not pc these days.

ArtLvr 10:53 AM  

I did a double-take at 34D: Poet who wrote "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" (Eliot) - the basis for "CATS", -- because I had a copy of that slim volume of humorous verses at my right hand just before starting the puzzle! I think my favorite is "Gus, The Theater Cat", long-retired, who will "if someone will give him a toothful of gin" relate highlights of his acting career...


santafefran 10:54 AM  


Thanks for reminding me that I wanted to put in the url for La donna mobile. I would embed it but can't seem to figure out how to put links or embeds in this blog.
Luciana Pavarotti sings:

Two Ponies 10:54 AM  

Agree with Rex that the puzzles seem a bit "off" this week. Smog showed up in singular form as it should be. Some fun fill. Asian over Tongs was interesting. Aren't the Tongs some sort of Asian Mafia?
I always feel sorry for the poor toads being clued like that.
I really hated to gawk and gaze at the made-up words that Rex noted. What strangeness awaits for Thursday I wonder.

Rex Parker 10:56 AM  

See the iPod-looking gadget ... the Pavarotti song is Right There. Just Press Play.


fikink 11:03 AM  

@Ulrich, Artlvr - similarly coincidental was my doing a jigsaw puzzle to the opera airing Saturday which was Verdi's "Rigoletto." (Yes, Ulrich, it was interesting to hear what the censors had done to the staging of this opera over the years!)

Alec 11:04 AM  

I, too, briefly had NORGAY for SHERPA.

For what it's worth, the canonical example (as far as I'm concerned) of a B side that unexpectedly became a bigger hit than its own SIDE A is Rod Stewart's "Maggie May." Can't say that I'm a huge Rod Stewart fun, but man, that's a good song.

PlantieBea 11:12 AM  

A medium for me. I filled in A RIGHT TO WEAR ARMS, for my first stab at 59 across. I didn't want to let go of EYE for Clairvoyant's claim. Didn't know PRNDL or Yakov Smirnoff. My hair was cut in a SHAG years ago. ALL resolved, except the error of ... JEFA and IONA.

I liked KIBOSH, HAD DIBS, ORIENT, BELIZE, but did not like COHAB, ALOW (wanted B'LOW).

allan 11:12 AM  

@JannieB: Precisely! Tia is YOUR aunt, which I feel requires some additional cluing. Padre's sister should result in hermana. Now if tia also translated as nun, then it would have been an excellent clue. However, nun translates to monja, at least according to

@william e emba: Thanks for the explanation of wonk. Is it an acronym or a word? I never heard the term used in that context before, just in the way shag is used by BEQ.

fmcgmccllc 11:16 AM  

Anne, I agree. Farrah did not have a shag, she had a layered cut. One of the first with long layers and highlights. Carol Brady had a shag.

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

Kudos to Sandy. The Sherpas led the way, carried, cooked and cleaned, then let the Great White Climber make take the last 10 feet alone and Hillary got the credit?

You sure the Sherpas weren't women?

Hungry Mother 11:20 AM  

I remember that "Hound Dog" was the B Side with "Don't Be Cruel" on the A.

Abu Owlfish 11:20 AM  

The expression "aloft and alow" shows up in Patrick O'Brien books along with an infinite number of other nautical terms, most of which I neither understand nor remember. At least the general idea behind aloft and alow is inferable, so alow seemed reasonable to me.

I know Yakov only from the many billboards around Branson, which I pass through because it is on the direct route between two home towns. I had assumed he was somehow indigenous to the place. Glad to learn he had an earlier existence elsewhere.

@ Urich - In context "la donna è mobile" is altogether ironic, since it's the duke himself who's a flit, not the heroine Gilda.

xyz 11:25 AM  

I guess that I've watched enough bad Spanish speaking drug movie deals that JEFE was actually a starter 'cause my first tries at the first two A's were wrong.

Finally figured out the NE once I got the AIR/ARE switch and agree that TIE = DRAW confused when attacking the clues head on but thought an excellent pair in the end, I just didn't have access to my passport from a COMMONWEALTH nation. :-) I particularly love these shade meanings as my now freshman daughter and I beat to death shaded meanings in vocab. when she was in 5th-8th grade.

In the end I struggled with the entire north third as the bottom 2/3 were pretty quick once I got the lame BARE arms cross in a snap.

SHAG I assume was a snap for the greyhairs as it was the MULLET for the 80's ladies.

TOOT = Spree
ALOW ?? agree Rex!
ALEE for the old salt, ewwww
Policy WONK ?? WANK(ER), oh well
COHAB ?? Yeah, I called my roomies dat all de time at the drug spa

As one of the group of DRS I rarely observe as that would be creepy and even unethical ...

Where was LAME when we needed it? This puzzle was not fulfilled wither its use.

Daryl 11:28 AM  

Like some othrrs but unlike Rex, I thought the fill was generally quite lively today, enough to make me forgive JEFE. But I too had NORGAY. Seems unfair to use a last name and then give SHERPA.

And it's been said before but DRAWN is a perfectly good synonym for tied in the Commonwealth. I would've clued it "Nil-nil, perhaps" to give the sense that it's more common in certain parts of the English speaking world. But it's perfectly legit.

jae 11:31 AM  

Kinda neutral on this one. Thought the theme was too easy but liked most of the fill (ALOW, EVEN, and COHAB being exceptions). My biggest problem was getting 26d and 29d mixed up and wondering how GAZE..? guided Hillary.

Yep, Maggie May is one fine song!

santafefran 11:32 AM  


Doh! Saw the iPod thingy but ignored it since I don't have an Ipod. It's actually pretty cool to have several songs on the playlist. Thx.

edith b 11:36 AM  

I was teaching in the 70s and every other girl, it seemed, wanted a shag "just like Farah." My husband says it reminds him of the just like Mike phenomenon surrounding Michael Jordan a little later.

I am not quite so fond as some others are of constructions like THEAISLE HASDIBS IMOK BEKIND as they smack of something unfinished. Along with all the others that Rex pointed out, this puzzle was kind of unsatisfying.

The theme is pedestrian which doesn't help. At orange's blog, she pointed out a number of sparklers which I think are pearls among the swine. Too little, too late.

Shamik 11:56 AM  

Nope...a shag was definitely Carol Brady. I don't recall Farrah's hair as having a name other than Farrah's hair.

Medium-challenging for me today for no good reason.

@Mac & santafefran: Ditto on the spinach.

Sad to say, Mr. Smirnov also has a "humorous" advice column in the AARP magazine.


foodie 12:04 PM  

I agree with those who like this puzzle in spite of COHAB. As I was solving, I was thinking "Thank you Rex for making me stop to appreciate the freshness of certain answers like WIG OUT and WONK".

I have fun memories of going to RENAISSANCE FAirs during my semi-hippie youth, when I was a grad student in California. Do they still have those?

I was thinking last night about the irony discussion from yesterday's puzzle, and realized that Wade provided us with a great example in his comment: "Long time commenter-first time listener". It made me realize that beyond the issue of intent that we discussed, communicating that there is another layer is important -- in this case by being slightly absurdist. So, just wanted to thank Wade, master of all humorous devices.

Kurisu 12:04 PM  

I guessed ARIA and VERDI just based on the commonness of those in crosswords; I've seen Rigoletto but I didn't remember the name of that aria.

ALEE was another one that I guessed right; I've been burned by misinterpreting "salt" in crosswords so many times that I tend to be wary of the word when it shows up.

chefwen 12:06 PM  

Did really well on the south shore last night but came to a screeching halt on the north shore. Had gape for gawk, asea for alee, never heard of a policy wonk (now I know), and also had Russian for Odessan.

Got up early to make muffins, husbands excessive snoring helped me in that direction, looked at the puzzle and the rest fell into place, finally. Phew!

Off to deliver 2 dozen Wenderful muffins to local smoothie shop.

Shamik 12:07 PM  

@Greene: Belated thank you for "Educating Rita" AND the correction of the quote.'s like how "Play it again, Sam" got started.

Anonymous 12:46 PM  

@jubjub et al...JEFA is a legitimate word in Spanish. It is the feminine of JEFE, and I do indeed have a JEFA, not a JEFE. So it hinges on knowing IONE.

@hudsonhawk--NORGAY was his given name. As is the case with many Asian names, the family name comes first. So the clue would have had to be Sir EDMUND's guide.

@humorless twit--I understand that Sir Edmund gave full co-credit to Tengay from the start.

@allan--Give it up. My "padre's sister" is my TIA, your "padre's sister" is your TIA, anyone's "padre's sister" is that person's TIA.

Re Yakov Smirnoff--I'm sure Yakov, who is still plying his trade in Branson, would not like to be thought of as an 80s comic. After all, we all still remember the phrase "What a country!" (Someone referred to it above.) At least he doesn't prefer to play the banjo like some other comics, which wouldn't be that bad if at least they were able to sing.

Silly parody of the day:

Madonna likes Mobile,
She drives her Chevrolet.
She don't like Texaco,
She don't like Amoco...

mac 12:50 PM  

@ArtLover: Odd that you had that happen, too. Last night, when my laptop was still being fixed, I did a Alfio Micci puzzle from a NYT puzzle book. One of the clues was: "Tobermory" writer, and that little novella by Saki, a cute version with a purple ribbon, was on the counter right next to me!

@Rex: pretty nifty, this iPod gadget!

Parshutr 12:50 PM  

@allan & jannie...since Padre is father, father's sister = aunt = tia.
That said, dictionary lists "turn to the East" as the 12th of 14 definitions for ORIENT. Oriental actually means 'rising' as opposed to 'occidental' or falling, or setting, as the sun.
So, Brits and Europeans coined the phrase "The Orient" as located where the sun rises. For us in the New World, though, Asia is in the Occident.
As Casey Stengel said, "You could look it up."
And SADTOSAY today's puzzle was a colossal bore.

poc 12:53 PM  

Wasn't quite as upset as some by this one, though despite being a big Patrick O'Brien fan I didn't recall ALOW. Had LEROI instead of VERDI for a while (Rigoletto is based on a story called "Le Roi s'Amuse" but was obliged to change the character of the King to the Duke of Mantua). But I digress ..

Re Bad Spanish: "No problemo" would never be used by any Spanish-speaking person (there is no such word as "problemo", and Spanish is less forgiving than English about leaving out the verb). I think we owe this horror to The Governator, or at least to one of his scripts. The correct usage is "no hay problema" (there's no problem).

evil doug 1:00 PM  

"Guide" is not an insult.

Sir Edmund held his friend and colleague Tenzing in high regard. The humble New Zealand beekeeper fully shared credit with the Sherpa for their achievement.

Later Hillary returned to build schools and otherwise enhance the quality of life of the Sherpas, who in turn revered the gentle giant. Hillary also worked to remove much of the junk---oxygen bottles, etc---carelessly left behind on the mountain.

The Sherpas are subjects of many tales of heroism in climbing accounts. I most highly recommend "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer. There you will find the rich and wannabe famous who---if they even survived---reached the summit only because their courageous Sherpas practically carried them to the top. Others among the posers owe their survival to those guides who got them safely down the mountain---often the most difficult part of the climb as exhaustion, altitude sickness and oxygen deprivation set in---even climbing back up Everest in horrible weather conditions to rescue the morons.


Anonymous 1:11 PM  

I had a hard time with this puzzle today, especially along the Eastern seaboard. I wasn't sure if an opera or a composer would go in the space that eventually yielded up VERDI; the EVEN=drawn didn't seem right; and although I'm usually good with spanish, JEFE eluded me for a while. And I couldn't remember if it was cmr or CDR. The bailout clue had me thinking finance. And I haen't seen an IGA recently enought to remember it's TLA. Strangely enough I did guess properly on IONE, and I've read enough about BELIZE to put that in with a few crosses. The HDTV is turning into a gimme clue.

That iPod widget looks neat. Too bad I can't hear it at work.

Anonymous 1:18 PM  

Got Sherpa fine , just had to ignore the Clinton's ! , however found Bad Hare Day really over the top, pun or no pun !!!

Anonymous 1:18 PM  

I will not be cowed into peer pressure today! I thought the fill was super lively and I actually chuckled at RIGHTTOBAREARMS and BADHAREDAY neither of which I'd ever heard.

Also never heard of IGA and had the IDIDIT for a few seconds.

For freak I had WIerdo, even tho I thought, how weird to misspell it!

Daily plug for Scrabble: ALOW and JEFE are used in practically every other game, sort of like our ENYA SMOG.

I also misread "Below the Deck" as "Below the Neck" and thought that sounded risque somehow!
(Then again, I misread my love Ulrich's comment as demanding less homophobia! And I thought, what?
Next folks will be complaining about Anorexia jokes.)

When I first moved to San Francisco in the 80's I ran into the (Asian) mailman a few blocks from my apt who looked at me and said,
I was startled and asked, "Have we met?" and he said, "No, but you only occidental on block".

Bob Kerfuffle 1:34 PM  

My one write-over was 25D, where, like Anne, I had IDIDTO before correcting to IDIDSO. I agree with Rex that this is playground talk, not clearly suggested by the clue. But to delve more deeply, I can remember as a kid saying I DID TO, and it sounds just as right as I DID SO, except that it makes no sense grammatically. I don't believe the expression is I DID TOO, since that makes no sense either. Is this a language quirk shared only by Anne and me, or did others use the expression I DID TO?

@santafefran: For general purposes, I think you will find this the clearest link to creating links.

green mantis 2:02 PM  

@foodie: Yeah, they still have them, and everything's spelled with an "e" on the end. They're mostly an excuse to show lots of cleavage, I think.

For the first theme answer, before I knew what we were dealing with, I confidently wrote in "Renaissance Mana." I think manna probably has two Ns, but not bad, right?

Doc John 2:10 PM  

This one gave me some trouble until I finally said to myself, "Hey, it's only Wednesday. Get with the picture." At that, I excused myself for a break, came back and finished it up. Gotta put things into perspective after all!

I'm pretty much in agreement with everyone else's comments- some interesting fill like WONK offset by the stuff like COHAB.

And speaking of Renaissance Faires, has anyone else been to one where there were groups of Klingons? (Yes, those kind of Star Trek bumpy headed Klingons.) They tried to justify their existence by saying that who knew if there were or weren't Klingons in Renaissance times but I just wasn't buying it.

chefbea 2:21 PM  

This was harder for me than the usual wednesday puzzle. Had to google a few things. Loved aint as it should be and of course pot pie

@mac, Santafefran, Shamik - I too wanted spinach. Guess great cooks think alike

Now to go try the i-pod

fergus 2:22 PM  

Toughest Wednesday in recent memory. Having just read Jack London's Sea-Wolf I was familiar with nautical terms, even if I didn't know precisely what they meant. None of the characters said AYE AYE, however. GAWK took a long time to materialize.

Gazing at ___ND, with the Clue Show compassion, my first thought was PRETEND, so I'm glad that my cynical thought had one too many letters.


Ms. Gamache -- your Sunday Diagramless was such a delightfully confounding puzzle, too. Even though the Clues were pretty easy, it took me forever to place the answers since I didn't use the hint of the first square.

dk 2:31 PM  

Random musings:

I had a severely psychotic patient whose favorite joke was: I wish I was a plumber so I could fix Farah's faucet.

I worked at an IGA as a shelf stocker and box boy. I got fired when a group of my friends came in covered with mud from a motorcycle race and said it was to bad I had to work as it had been a fun day. The ASST store manager took issue with the to bad you have to work comment to which someone responded what a TOAD. I laughed, as he did look like one, so SADTOSAY I was axed.

Mr Quigley has a great cluing for SHAG: f*ck birds?

The term ALOW was new to me and my grandfather owned a fish company. I spent 1 summer working ALOW. We just called it hell.

To steal a phrase: This puzzle may not have made it across the floor.

Doug 2:31 PM  

If your PADRE is your father, then isn't your TIA your aunt? It makes complete sense to me.

Restated just in English:
Clue: "Father's sister"
A: "Aunt"

Link to Entertaint Weekly's article on "the Farrah SHAG" here.

And because we're in the information age, if you want to actually see directions on the Feathered SHAG, please click here.

Speaking of Farrah, I saw her on the William Shatner Roast, and she was pretty ho-hum, but the rest were awesome. Comedy Central has a firm grip on the internet videos, but a few are around if you look hard.

I found this to be on the hard side for a Wednesday, particularly the across cluing in the first several rows. But it all came together in the end.

Unknown 2:51 PM  

Add me to the JEFA/IONA list. Other than that and a bad misstart (NOTTODAY for SADTOSAY), I did pretty well and breathed a sigh of relief when I got to the end sans ENGR...

archaeoprof 3:02 PM  

this puzzle made me think of Mr. Mestopheles in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats: "Never oh ever was any so clever..."

allan 3:18 PM  

@Steve I Said re: @allan--Give it up. My "padre's sister" is my TIA, your "padre's sister" is your TIA, anyone's "padre's sister" is that person's TIA.

I did let it go. At 11:12 am to be exact which was more than 90 minutes before you told me to give it up. JannieB didn't even feel compelled to respond to my quibble.

@Parshutr re: @allan & jannie...since Padre is father, father's sister = aunt = tia. See Below

@Doug re: If your PADRE is your father, then isn't your TIA your aunt? It makes complete sense to me. See Below.

Below: "Padre's sister" It is still a bad clue. No matter how many times you were to ask for a translation of father's sister (which btw I did), you will get the response HERMANA. You will never get TIA. My only point is that it is a bad clue. And once again, had it been clued as "Mi padre's sister", or su padre's sister the clue then would make perfect sense.

I get that it's just a quibble, but aren't I entitled?

emrad 3:34 PM  

Rex, did you to Pomona? I'm a freshman, currently in Mudd, but I could how Wig would make you wig out!

Ulrich 3:43 PM  

@joho (from last night): many thanks--I feel understood.

@fikink: "Un Ballo In Maschera" had to undergo a similar defanging to become acceptable to the censor--they obviously had this thing about kings not being shown in an unfavorable light. [Here's a link for those interested in the gory details]. And by all means, listen to Rex's ipod--the Duke was one of Pavarotti's signature roles (which still doesn't explain why PG selected this particular aria as an example)

@acme: I thought someone would fall for it, but never suspected you--scusi!

poc 3:53 PM  

I don't understand the fuss about TIA. If some asks (in English) "what do you call your father's sister?" is there any doubt that the answer is "aunt"? I answered this one without thinking twice about it.

However I think HDTV is questionable. Lots of TVs are digital, not just HDTVs.

allan 4:08 PM  

@ poc: Do you not get all the explanation you have added to get to the point that the answer is tia. I solved the puzzle. Can no one understand that I am just stating that IT IS A BAD CLUE!!! If it were a good clue no one would have to add anything to it to make it clear.

Isn't this blog about discussing the puzzle and its good and bad elements?

Sorry for going over the 3 rule.

foodie 4:23 PM  

@ Puzzle Girl: I had never heard Miss Manners quote: "If you can't be kind, at least be vague." I too love it! Nothing deadlier than very specific harshness.

@green mantis, yeah, same Renaissance I guess, where those on the fluffy side can outshine the leggy but flat chested types.

@dk, your Farah's faucet story is a wonderful example of how literal schizophrenic patients can be. My husband had a schizophrenic patient who explained to him that he only trusts people with big feet, because they have a lot of "under standing"...

Anonymous 4:28 PM  

Allan. Dude. We get it that you think it's a bad clue. Do you get it that we think you're wrong?

Anonymous 4:52 PM  

Renaissancemanna! Love it! Add an na...then come up with three others (SHaNaNaNa doesn't count!)

You could call the puzzle "Na na na na na" or IDIDSO!

I'm all father doesn't have a sister!

Chip Hilton 5:16 PM  

I can't believe it's after 5:00 and no one has commented on the 23-down answer BALE (Maybe I missed it.). Think of the glorious clue that could have been used in light of Christian BALE's epic profanity-laced meltdown on a movie set the other day. 'Cameraman's nightmare' perhaps?

miguel 5:29 PM  

I loved your occidental encounter story. Could you do a change the letter puzzle for:
Occidental Tourist (a to o)
city older man - alderman
object poverty - abject
odds it all up - adds
good for what oils you - ails
Have an ox to grind - ax
ozone defense - a zone defense (basketball)
orc welder - arc


fergus 5:40 PM  

My regional Renaissance Faire has been consigned to the sticks, out by the cow town of Hollister, where the only other draw is a convention of bikers, of the hog variety. Too bad these gatherings don't happen at the same time.

The only one I went to (comped, I wouldn't have paid) was at Black Point, near the mouth of the Petaluma River. Seemed sorta cool for five minutes until you realized how surly all the Elizabethans were. I hurled ye olde softball at the jester who refused to be plonked into the barrel of slime after I hit the triggering target. Twice. His complaints outweighed mine in their primitive form of justice, and I was invited to leave the premises. Could have been worse, I suppose.

treedweller 5:44 PM  

@Allan et al.
I was totally on the "get over it" side until the last couple of rounds of this. If the clue had been "la hermana de mi padre," TIA would be automatic, though maybe non-Spanish speakers would have a reason to gripe. Since it says "Padre's sister", I can see that it is a little vague as to whether it wants "aunt" or "hermana" or TIA. I'm not going to die in this ditch, but it occurs to me that a point is there to be made.

Unknown 5:50 PM  

Since no-one else has mentioned doing this, I thought I'd mention that I ended up with SAD TODAY and I DID DO. I though SAD TODAY was odd, but they're all real phrases!
My excuse is that 'I DID SO' is a very american idiom and it didn't occur to me. It's hard enough remembering to leave half the U's out without these sorts of shenanigans.

green mantis 5:52 PM  

Allan, Allan. Allan.

Have you ever thought something and been really confident about it, and then it turned out you were wrong?

I once was entirely certain that Rick James wrote Brick House. It was really hard to let go.

But, you know, it's just a song.

poc 5:54 PM  

@treedweller: if the clue was "father's sister" it could be "aunt". If it was "Spanish sister" it could be "hermana". I can't see how "Padre's sister" can be anything but TIA. I guess we'll just have to disagree.

Unknown 5:55 PM  

Oh - and while I'm here, I also had the JEFA/IONA thing (never heard of either); and for the record, I think Padre's sister is unambigously TIA. Pedro's sister on the other hand...

ArtLvr 6:06 PM  

@ Donald, re yesterday's post -- I enjoyed the link you provided on the looong history of the Curling Iron! I wasn't around in all those earlier centuries, not that I recall anyway, and in this present life I tried a permanent wave exactly once -- and hated it! Please forgive my undoubted ignorance, but now feel most fully enlightened. Many thanks!

The trouble with catching up on prior posts is that later commenters come up with all sorts of responses that prompt one to go back even further... (Hardly time left for anything else, but lots of fun.)

@ mac -- I loved Saki's "Tobermory" too...


poc 6:15 PM  

@Adrian: JEFA would actually work (it just means "female boss"), but IONA is a Scottish island, not a Greek mythological figure. Easy to confuse the two, I know :-)

treedweller 6:28 PM  

I yield. Certainly I never blinked when I wrote in TIA. But all that rehashing made me lose sight of the clear, standard puzzle conventions.

Anonymous 6:29 PM  

Have an OX to grind!!!!!!!!! How timely! Gung Hay Fat Choi!

JUST was reading about the whole Bale meltdown and the blogs about that! Much spicier rants there!

Btw, What has happened to Mexican Girl?
(or her niece for that matter)

Leon 6:45 PM  

Real nice puzzle Ms. Gamache.

R.P.: Your I-Pod widget is a great addition. I hope you keep it. It is great to listen to music while reading the comments and to have it relate to the clues or answers is exhilarating.

mac 7:02 PM  

@allan: you would be right if Paula meant her priest's sister....;-)

Anonymous 7:24 PM  

Well, I for one am glad Allan spoke up to tirelessly criticize that clue. It may be that almost everyone got it right off the bat, but a clue that doesn't instantly give everyone (even Allan) the answer may be out of place in a Wednesday puzzle, or at least a Monday. Thursday will be fair game though.

dk 7:33 PM  

@emrad, went to Claremont Grad School and during an interesting evening we reenacted the Cheever story The Swimmer using the campus pools at about 2AM. More than one of your professors (then grad students) participated. Chutney on the eggs and Afgan fries at Walters.... yum.

fergus 8:06 PM  

Glad to be reminded of The Swimmer. That the story gets reinterpreted is a testament to its worth. Cheever and Updike were kindred souls, yet in many ways they weren't.

SethG 8:17 PM  

@william e emba, I am specifically not saying that IGA is a franchise. It isn't. For a number of reasons--most significantly, IGA "[does] not control pricing, procedures or policies in any store." I'm maybe being overly technical, but I'm (well, I used to be) a bit of a grocery wonk.

And now, I'm over it.

Other notes: I chose CC over HMC, I tried but failed to find the video of Yakov Smirnoff and my Tio Fred, and I see SAD TO SAY as sorta Seussical.

Jeffrey 8:31 PM  

Below freezing in Orlando? Its not my fault, I swear. Its my aunt TIA, the grocery wonk.

Tough to comment last if your name isn't Andrea.

Greene 8:39 PM  

I too love the addition of the iPod to the the blog. It's great to listen while working through all these posts.

"Memory" is a lovely song and certainly the best known piece to emerge from Cats. Pity the lyric is not by T.S. Eliot, but by director Trevor Nunn. I understand the Eliot poems "Preludes" and "Rhapsody on a Windy Night" were used as source material.

Dear God, Pavoratti is truly the "King of The High C" isn't he?

This whole business about TIA reminds me of one of my favorite phrases attributable to @Fikink (with apologies): "parsing lint." She and I are famous for this, but mercifully do most of it off-blog.

jeff in chicago 8:42 PM  

I'm too late to the party to add anything useful/humorous, so I'll just thank PuzzleGirl for the giggle.

fikink 8:51 PM  

Okay, I must "chime" in...I did my doctorate on "flea spit on small dogs in Alaska" and still maintain that lint is a product of mechanism, not nature, and should NEVER be likened to snow. So there, Stephen Sondheim!
And, Allan, you have not taken into consideration that the abysmal clue was for a word of only three letters, fCs!

Bill from NJ 8:56 PM  

The history of La donna e mobile is a fascinating story in its own right.

Verdi was so concerned that it would be stolen that he rehearsed it under the tightest of security prior to the opening night of Rigoletto. He was convinced that every gondolier in Venice would be singing it before opening night if he didn't take extraordinary measures.

And he turned out to be right.

Anonymous 8:58 PM  

I knew that my year long ago in Belize (then called British Honduras) would come in handy some day!

I'm with the group that initially thought that padre's sister = tia was just fine. But suppose the clue was "father's hermana." Would sister be the obvious answer? But then again the puzzle is in English and not in Spanish.

I didn't like the alee/alow crossing, but otherwise mildly enjoyed the puzzle.

allan 9:06 PM  

@treedweller: You gave up too easy.

@fikink: Yes I have, and I still think it's a *@$!!&^%$ clue. :O;

@sethg: You still have time to disown me as your cousin!

Anonymous 9:11 PM  

@mac--Despite that in English, PADRE frequently means a priest, in Spanish, PADRE as priest is about as frequent as its English counterpart, FATHER, is in that context. In other words, unless you are specifically talking about or to a priest, in Spanish, PADRE is the guy you ask to borrow the car. And may I reiterate here, his sister is your Aunt TIA.

Anonymous 9:21 PM  

In general: I'd just like to take the opportunity to say that lately, I've noticed that some of the commenters have gripes about things where there's nothing there. I'm just tired of reading posts that take a perfectly normal clue and answer and pontificate about what's wrong with it. In the thirty or so years I've been doing the puzzles regularly, I've seen just about everything twenty-five times, sometimes twice in the same week. So it's rare that a puzzle appears that blows me away (the CLINTON/BOBDOLE puzzle of that Election Day is one of those). You can't reasonably expect that every puzzle will. But I gotta tell you. The Times is the gold standard of puzzles.

Constructors who get some of their puzzles accepted, and not others, must realize, that the ones accepted are their better ones. (I realized that after doing one constructor's non-Times puzzles on his website.) So, solvers, you have the best out there in the old gray (and on some pages, color) lady. Stop carping on whether or not your father's sister is your uncle if you speak Spanish!

liquid el lay 9:28 PM  

My grid is a little messy in the area of.. the chesapeake bay. BELIZE, BADHAREDAY, IDIDSO went through a few iterations before they correctly fell into place.

I thought the big honking punning answers were kind of ugly and uninteresting, but I warmed very well to the odd-ball hipsterish smaller words.
and I liked POTPIE

Lots of color and action.

Doc John 9:32 PM  

Re: the IGA argument:
Click here for their website and the real explanation.

I hate to add to the TIA thing but...
It was a Wednesday so the clue was made to be a bit misleading. I went for TIA quickly but I did stop briefly to think of the padre/priest connection. As Allan mentioned (sort of), nun, with 3 letters, could have fit, too, giving it an added dimension.
I actually think the cluing was spot-on. "Father's sister"=aunt. Using the word "padre" gives a hint that it may be in Español. Cluing it as "la hermana de su padre" is just too clunky.

We've all seen A LOT worse cluing than this!

allan 9:44 PM  

@Steve I said: As I stated earlier, I gave it up at 11:12 am. If you are so tired "of reading posts that take a perfectly normal clue and answer and pontificate about what's wrong with it", then why carp about it. I suggest that you take your own advice, and let it go! Unless, of course, you are the type who has to have the last word. In that case, feel free to carp one more time, and I promise not to comment back. <:O)

BTW, I've been doing the NYT puzzle for more than 40 years, and realize what gems they are.

mac 9:45 PM  

@steve l: I think I used an emoticon, something I very rarely do, because I just wanted to stop this discussion over a clue and answer I got immediately, no second thoughts, and one of the easy ones in the puzzle.....

Anonymous 9:46 PM  

I wrote:

I'm with the group that initially thought that padre's sister = tia was just fine. But suppose the clue was "father's hermana." Would sister be the obvious answer? But then again the puzzle is in English and not in Spanish.

I should have said "Would aunt have been the obvious answer?"

sorry, Steve I., but worrying about this sort of silly thing is just what I like about this blog.

fergus 9:52 PM  

Steve I,

Quite frequently I get as cranky as you in my initial thoughts unless the issue is as clear-cut as grammar. In many cases there may be an opinion regarding usage ...

Rex Parker 10:09 PM  

You know what I love? Comments about comments about comments. Especially comments that pontificate at length about the fact that other commenters pontificate at length. Genius. Ironic? Maybe.


liquid el lay 10:19 PM  


fikink 10:24 PM  

Me bum's numb!

Orange 10:52 PM  

Yes, Rex. It's so ironic! And so Tuesday's theme brings Wednesday's dead-horse flogging to a close.

(Mind you, I asked my husband what the answer to Padre's sister should be, and he said NUN. Which is so wrong! Everyone knows that nuns are Christ's sisters. No, wait, they're his bride. Is that right? I don't know. But I do know that priests and nuns aren't siblings unless they happen to have the same parents.)

allan 11:03 PM  

@everyone, esp Rex: Sorry, but sometimes I get carried away. On the bright side, we went over 100 again, and that's always nice.

@Orange: Your husband was only wrong because he gave an answer in English. LOL and tomorrow is another day.

Rex, please get up early manana.

Anonymous 1:59 AM  

it doesn't count as going over 100 if 23 comments are from the same person ;)
You may have to take a one day vow of silence as penance.
And, BAD idea to suggest Rex do anything! Believe me, I know.

Parshutr 6:27 AM  

@orange (I'm posting late becz Rex hasn't done Thursday yet...I'm with your husband on NUN.
They are Brides of Christ, but all sisters!

Anonymous 12:36 PM  

I can't see how "Padre's sister" can be anything but TIA.

It can happen by applying standard cluing tricks.

What if the clue were "Juan's sister"? Or "Alonzo's sister"? Or "Pedro's sister", as someone suggested? Or, rather slyly, "Jesus's sister"? You'd quickly figure out that what is being asked for is what "sister" translates to in Spanish, because the name is stereotypically a Spanish speaker's.

So if a clue came along that was "Jefe's sister", you'd also figure out that what is being asked for is "sister" in Spanish. This is just a minor variant of the above.

And so, I hope it's obvious now, one can respond to "Padre's sister" by asking for what your stereotypical person known as a "padre" says in his native language when he means "sister": HERMANA.

This is just logic. You really cannot agree to disagree with logic. Now, whether this sort of ambiguity and unintended misdirection makes for a bad clue, or merely bad-for-Wednesday clue, you and everyone else can have any opinion in the world.

poc 1:26 PM  

@william: at the risk of flogging a dead horse, the whole point is that "padre" expresses a familial relationship. It's not at all the same as saying "Juan's sister", to which the answer unambiguously would be HERMANA (except of course that it wouldn't fit). I can (barely) see a justification for NUN, but it's a real stretch, firstly because Padre in the sense of priest is mostly military usage and refers to a chaplain, and secondly because though nuns are called "sisters", they aren't any more sisters of priests than they are of anyone else.

liquid el lay 2:19 PM  

Of Padre, sister, and Tia:

Padre is something a child might call his father.

Assume the child. What does he call Padre's sister?

The child's appellations are as he speaks them.

sister is in English, because the puzzle is in English, and uncapitalized because it is a relationship, not a name.

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

@poc: My point is that before you couldn't see HERMANA whatsoever. Now you can. Before you were saying it was impossible to read HERMANA. Now you are saying it is mistaken to do so.

You have adopted the commonsense view that says this kind of clue is implicitly written as a possessive. The clue, in other words, is really "[Juan's] padre's sister" which of course can only be "[Juan's] TIA".

But without that hidden assumption, padre becomes a standalone word, a cluing stand-in for "Spanish speaker", at which point sister is seen to be 'sister', and HERMANA is the answer. The true fact that padre implies a relationship doesn't mean we are obligated to include that relationship as part of our reading of the clue!

The trickiness here is standard cluing trickery: misdirection as you the solver are irresistably pulled, tractor-beamed, locked, and finally straitjacketed into one obvious parsing.

Anonymous 4:20 PM  

What was happening on Feb. 4th? I think everyone could have done with a Tia Maria (or several) to calm down. Sheesh!

Unknown 8:42 PM  

your theme is not quite right - the last two final clues take "-ear" words to "-are" words

Anonymous 12:48 AM  

Wow. Good point. Hard to believe it took over 100 posts for someone to point that out!

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