WEDNESDAY, Mar. 11, 2009 - Caleb Madison (Proto-matter from which universe was made / Sitcom father of Mearth / 1957 Fats Domino hit)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Four people walk into a BAR ... (58D: Judging by their names, where the answers to the four starred clues might be found?) - four theme answers all have alcoholic beverages in their names

Word of the Day: YLEM - A form of matter hypothesized by proponents of the big bang theory to have existed before the formation of the chemical elements. (

This puzzle has a fantastic NW corner. Perhaps that seems an odd place to start, but ... well, no, that's probably where most people start, actually, but I doubt most people knocked it out perfectly on the first go round. It's not (at all) common to see "X" as the first (i.e. far NW) letter in a grid. I had heard of both XENIA (1A: Ohio town called the Bicycle Capital of the Midwest) and X & Y (1D: 2005 #1 album for Coldplay) before, but they did not leap to mind, and so I had to hack at the easier answers up there until they gave way. The whole top half of the puzzle is lovely, actually. OK, maybe not FGH (22D: String after E), but the rest of the upper half is quite good. It's the bottom, specifically everything abutting and including WALLACE BEERY, that gave me trouble, and that got a little ugly in parts.

Let's start with the fact that the only version of "The Champ" I know is from 1979 and stars Jon Voight, Faye Dunaway, and Rick(y) Schroder. I've barely even heard of WALLACE BEERY, but he won an Oscar and I got the BEER part from the theme, so fine. He sticks out a bit in this group (e.g. he's the only dead one), but he's valid. My main problem is the horrid little growths that protrude from him. There's the tiny but irksome ANA / UNU crossing (46D: Tennis's Ivanovic / 49A: First P.M. of Burma). I love palindromes as much as the next guy, but I don't like weird proper nouns crossing like this. Plus they just look silly married together like that. Reminds me of Letterman hosting the Oscars back in the 90s: "ANA ... UNU ... UNU ... ANA."

The bigger problem was the WTF-ery of YLEM (50A: Proto-matter from which the universe was made), insofar as it crosses the rarely seen "W.B." version of YEATS (43D: "The Second Coming" poet), and, especially, EEO (48D: Want ad abbr.), which is one of those nasty little abbrevs. that seems like a shapeshifter - I know I've seen EOE in "want ads" too, and probably other abbrevs. as well. I had seen YLEM once before, I think, probably in a puzzle, so the "E" seemed the only plausible thing to go in the third position (the last square I filled in), but the whole area made me grimace a bit.

But then I noticed OSCULATE / TITS (37D: Kiss / 62A: Small songbirds), and all was forgiven. More than forgiven. How can someone who could probably still get away with ordering a KID'S MEAL (9D: Restaurant offering that might come with a toy) and isn't even old enough to have lived in a DORM ROOM yet (40D: Stereotypically messy digs) pull this kind of stuff off?

Theme answers:

  • 20A: *Bush cabinet member who resigned in 2006 (Donald RUMsfeld) - did you ever notice that RESIGNED and RE-SIGNED are spelled identically, but mean, essentially, opposite things?
  • 26A: *Her "Rehab" won a Grammy for Song of the Year (Amy WINEhouse) - not sure it's cool to implicate an addict in a BAR-related puzzle.
  • 45A: *Best Actor winner for "The Champ," 1931 (Wallace BEERy)
  • 54A: *"Star Wars" actress who's a Harvard grad (Natalie PORTman) - I hate seeing "Star Wars" used (without qualification) to clue anything but the 1977 movie, even though that version has been renamed "The Last Hope" or "The Final Countdown" or "Temple of Doom" or some such nonsense.

  • 6A: Sitcom father of Mearth (Mork) - I had No idea that "Mearth" was spelled that way.
  • 10A: Longest-serving senator in U.S. history (Byrd) - I knew he was the longest-serving senator in today's Senate. I did not know he had served longer than any Senator ever. Wow. He beat Thurmond and everything.
  • 18A: Librarian's imperative (read) - wait, does that mean the it is imperative for him/her to READ, or that he/she commands you to READ? I'm not sure either one is right. I was expecting some version of "SHHH" here.
  • 39A: Friend from way, way back (old dear) - I claim this is made up, or else it's from a time way, way, way back, so far back that of all living people, only Senator BYRD has heard it used in everyday speech.
  • 51A: Real ending? (ize) - I had ISM, then IST
  • 59A: Simple quatrain form (ABAA) - aargh. This seems less simple (and less common) to me than ABBA or ABAB. ABAA is the FGH of the bottom half of the puzzle.
  • 66A: Livia, to Tiberius (mater) - Latin for "mother." I barely recognize the names involved here.
  • 44A: Places for hops (oasts) - just one letter off from OASIS (60A: Al-Qatif, for one).
  • 6D: Rob of "Numb3rs" (Morrow) - I like to pronounce the "3" when I say it (which, admittedly, is not often)
  • 10D: 1957 Fats Domino hit ("Blue Monday") - great answer, one that I thought was a theme answer at first, and so went on the lookout for colors. Or days of the week. FAT TUESDAY?

  • 12D: Pretoria money (rand) - is that South Africa? It is. OK. Good. Just checking.
  • 27D: Prefix with liberal (neo-) - have not heard anyone called a NEO-liberal. NEO-conservative, all the time.
  • 28D: 180's (uies) - ouch. I say that only because I wanted what I consider to be the preferred spelling: UEYS.
  • 56D: Relative of a stork (ibis) - took me a bit, mainly because my image of an IBIS involves wading, while my image of a stork involves flying, preferably with a blanket and baby in its mouth.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 8:58 AM  

Is YLEM related to XYLEM? Is XYLEM related to XENIA? Mater mia, this was one tough puzzle for me.

p.s. Enjoyed meeting you at the tournament, where I fulfilled my wish to not come in last.

Anonymous 9:02 AM  

Amazing work, Caleb.

Megan P 9:11 AM  

Even Sen Byrd has never heard/said "old dear." It sounds Wodehousian and something that could be applied to anyone of any age.

The palindromic crossing crushed me - "ana" could have easily been "ada" or "ava" - and I had to GOOGLE "ylem." Google directed me straight to Rex's blog, back to January of 2007 on a Tuesday - and only in the extremely entertaining comments section did the discussion of that late-weekish word come up.

However, I love to have James Ensor in any puzzle, even a Wednesday one I could not finish.

Doug 9:15 AM  

Orange blogged that the constructor is a high school kid, wow. He can join the army, be a father, drive a car and fly a plane, yet legally is 5 years away from having a BEER, WINE etc.. Go figure...

I was initially going to rant about the impossibility of getting BEERY, until I read Rex's intro and was reminded that it was easy fill IF I REMEMBER to USE THE THEME. Doh!

Alex S. 9:17 AM  

Two and a half Naticks for me.

Never heard of Xenia, OH, and barely know who Coldplay is let alone the name of any album so SENIA/SANDY, MENIA/MANDY, RENIA/RANDY, DENIA/DANDY, etc., all seemed equally likely as XENIA/X AND Y (more so since those didn't require parsing into multiple words).

Then in the SE I know neither the counties of New Mexico nor the poetry of Robert ENSOR so that cross was just a guess.

Then the ANA/UNU crossing. N was my first guess but we're talking about Russian and Burnese names here, that doesn't help rule out odder possibilities.

But other than that I liked it.

Parshutr 9:19 AM  

A most enjoyable puzzle, OLD DEAR. Some of the cleverest fill and cluing (opening for outside - ECTO; out - ALIBI). But the E in YLEM was just a WAG that turned out right. That was my only WTF moment. And the puzzle really spanned several generations, from Nita Naldi and Wallace Beery to Amy Wassername.

Kurisu 9:20 AM  

YLEM appears in the "PFUI controversy" post.

I know I'm getting into the crossword mindset when OASTS clued as "places for hops" is a gimme.

Anonymous 9:25 AM  

I found this very difficult for a Wednesday. I had one error; since I never heard of NITA Naldi, when I changed UEYS I only changed the Y to an E and wound up with NETA and UEES. Also, YLEM was new to me but got it through crosses.

joho 9:29 AM  

Fantastic puzzle! Even though I had two mistakes. While I easily got "Livin' La Vida LOCA" because I own it and love it ... I did not know XANDY ... guessed XANDO. Thought OTD sounded like it could be something. Also I had a Natick at UNE/ANA. Guessed V ... this was a Natick, right?

I was surprised to see ONEUNIT/ONEI ... anybody else?

Regardless ... cool puzzle.

Thanks, Caleb!!!

janie 9:33 AM  

XENIA has shown up before -- but somehow it still feels like the first time. nuthin' "hospitable" about that! and i never seem to remember if it's Xenia or Zenia..... of course not knowing (off-hand) the coldplay title didn't do me much good either!

yes, there's still that odd "cultural mix" in caleb's puzzles -- and that's what makes 'em so chewy!

YLEM? yjeepers!


PuzzleGirl 9:35 AM  

That NW corner gave me fits! Enjoyed this one but couldn't finish it. Damn you, Caleb!

I think it's okay to "implicate an addict in a BAR-related puzzle" when said addict is world-renowned for a song about refusing to go to rehab.

Oh, and he said tits. heh heh

edith b 9:39 AM  

Every time I see a puzzle by Caleb Madison it spans several generations and, since he is a teenager, that makes him a reader, the same as me.

I had a very weird experience with this puzzle. I didn't have any problem with the usual suspects, YLEM, the UNU/ANA cross, OLDDEAR. My mistakes were in the NW where I just knew that AKRON was the answer to IA and FROST was 2D. Unfortunately, mutually exclusive and both wrong. I took out the whole corner and reconstructed and ended up with **NIA at IA and I had an AHA moment with XENIA and guessed XANDY for ID.

I'm past 60 and am on the same wavelength as a 16 year old which I discovered when we had Teen Week.

I love this young gentleman's puzzles because I suspect our knowledge comes from the same place.

sillygoose 9:54 AM  

@Alex, LOL.
I ran through the alphabet a few times and guessed the X there, but I failed at OSCULATE/SOW at that s. I kept pronouncing sow to rhyme with cow and rejected it, and wondered orculate, onculate, etc.

I also crashed and burned in the SE corner when I couldn't let go of IMOUT where IMSET was supposed to go. As in, "I'm getting crushed in this poker game, no more for me, I'm out!" That gave me OAOI_ for the foreign thingy, and artist/county wasn't up my alley.

Looking at it now, I'm thinking I shouldn't have been solving this at 4 in the morning. Osculate looks more normal in the light of day, and I think oasis would have come into view.

I was sad not to finish because I was impressing myself with all the stuff I knew (UNU, YLEM, OASTS, EEO, AMYWINEHOUSE), some of it very recently learned. I liked all of the long downs, and I enjoyed seeing all the poets.

janie 10:00 AM  

btw -- drinking age in ny *usta be* 18.....


fikink 10:02 AM  

Loved OSCULATE...nice.

Kurt 10:11 AM  

I really liked everything down to WALLACE BERRY. Then, not so much. I thought that ANA/UNA, YLEM/EEO, ABAS/ARAL & OTERO/ENSOR kinda took the luster off of the rest of an otherwise outstanding puzzle.

All of this notwithstanding, this was a solid effort. Thanks Caleb.

treedweller 10:21 AM  

This si the first Wed. in a long time that I had to google, and google I did. XANDY, UNU, WBYEATS which allowed me to skip YLEM), NITA.

Other than all that, my big sticking point was NATALIEPORTMAN. Since, as Rex points out, she was in those crappy prequels, not "Star Wars." The theme finally broke it open for me there.

Not sure whether to be impressed (yes), annoyed (fraid so), humbled (yes), or just indifferent (tournament lag). But a nice effort overall. I think it was more Thursdayish, but that might just be me.

addie loggins 10:21 AM  

Mostly excellent puzzle, Caleb! Tripped me up in a few places: had the wrong spelling for "UIES", had no clue on ANA/UNA, and had never heard of Wallace Berry or YLEM, so I guessed Keats instead of YEATS (and EOO instead of EEO, which also fit, as Equal Opportunity Office). Still, lots of fun clues and answers.

I was wondering if ABSOLUTELY was a quasi-theme answer, but the corresponding BLUE MONDAY doesn't seem to reference booze (though I have certainly had my share of blue Mondays after a few boozy Sundays).

Just right for a Wednesday.

Addie (aka PuzzleSister)

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

@7D: this clue is simply wrong. Medicine, including blood banks, in the USA runs on the metric system. All units of blood are in the metric system. No one in this (or probably any other country) will use the unit of "pint" for anything to do with blood or a blood bank.

As if i didnt have enough problems with this puzzle.

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

On my count, there are 6 Y's. That's the most I've seen in a midweek puzzle. A very nice one too!
Also, if Caleb wanted to annoy some senior solvers (and others not so much) with very recent pop culture, he could have clued MATER as "scruffy friend in the Pixar movie CARS". Well, in any case, that's what first popped into my head when I saw it on the grid.
Good Wednesday every one!

Jeffrey 10:31 AM  

Hmm, first experience doing a puzzle by someone I have actually met. Caleb and I were at the same table at the Awards luncheon, along with Rex and Orange among others - clearly I was the interloper.

Loved most of this, including the theme answers, the starting X, KIDS MEAL. Didn't love ANA/

Overall, a solid B+. Keep 'em coming, Caleb.

Unknown 10:41 AM  

From my particular perspective, Donald Rumsefeld doesn't pass the breakfast test.


Anonymous 10:45 AM  

I love reading your commentary! i totally agree w/ the "old dear" and the "abaa" observation. and as a librarian, i was embarrassed to be stumped by the librarian's imperative!

retired_chemist 10:52 AM  

Very nice puzzle. OTERO/ENSOR in the SW was a Natick moment for me as well as for Alex. Could have been OTERI/ENSIR as far as I knew. OTERI (cf. Cheri) is a name I have heard of but a NM county is more likely to end in an O. Blind guess for me.

I could believe UIES @ 28D but isn't UEYS the usual spelling?

Started @ 39A with OLD CHUM - a la Cabaret - which is indeed a neologism compared to OLD DEAR. But the latter is fine.

I realize ABAA is a possible quatrain form but I think it is rare. AABA is more common, right? Some of you poetry savants enlighten please...

Two Ponies 10:52 AM  

I always remember Xenia from 1974 when I used to live in Tornado Alley and Xenia was literally wiped off the map.
Top half was fun but the bottom...not so much.
I know Wallace Beery (love his work) much more than the two female theme answers. I only got them from knowing the theme.
Tough Wed. Caleb, you are pretty clever.

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

@PIX: I've spent 30 years working in hospital blood banks, and I can tell you that older doctors still occasionally use the term "pint" instead of the more correct term "unit" (which contains about 450 ml, just under a pint). The general public also tends to use the term "pint".

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

@Crosscan: Interloper? You were one of the people at the table who actually got to go up on the stage and get a trophy. I think you're in. (Although I intially thought Will S. was calling you up for the "porn" category. Turns out he was saying "foreign." You can see how that might confuse me, once having been foreign myself)

@Addie: poets schmoets. I can't tell the difference between Yeats and Keats either, which I'm sure shocks some people.

Generally had same naticky crossing problems as others, but still enjoyed the workout that the puzzle gave.

Bill from NJ 11:03 AM  

I am always amazed by people who say something was "before their time." All of history was before our time, for God's sake.

You didn't have to live in the 20s to know about silent movies.

I agree with edith about Caleb Madison. I also remember him from Teen Week and I remember all the comments about his being aware of things he had no direct knowldge of. I guess that's why God gave us books.

The stuff of this puzzle was right up my alley and, like edith, I am beyond 60 and I find myself on the same wave length as a 16 year old. I suppose it's all about having similar interests, regardless of age.

Hated OLDDEAR, however.

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

Haha - "Simple Quatrain form" is the definition Caleb gave for ABBA when he was playing "Crossword Clued Family Feud" (for the Blackberry Family) at the Crossword Tournament.

Nice puzzle, Caleb.

Rex Parker 11:11 AM  

@Bill NJ, come on, "before my time" is totally valid as a way of referring to stuff that ONCE was in the air / common knowledge but no longer is (e.g. WALLACE BEERY). It's especially handy for referring to pop culture with a shortish life span. Yes, NERO and ZENO and TORQUEMADA were all "before my time," technically, but they never stopped being terms of general knowledge.

If someone were to say of today's puzzle that "Mork & Mindy" was "before my time," I would understand completely. I doubt 2% of the population could correctly define "Mearth." Google: "Did you mean 'earth?'" No, I did not.


Jeffrey 11:13 AM  

@Sandy: Now I'm wondering who got first in the porn category. We'll find out in "Wordplay 2: After Hours".

jae 11:23 AM  

Is it possible to have an easy-challenging rating? Thats what this was for me. The theme answers were gimmies but I was pretty tentative about all the areas discussed. Plus, I had to ask family how to spell XENIA (wasn't sure if it was X or Z). A fine and very interesting puzzle with an odd mix of very easy and very tough.

Oh, and I really didn't like OLDDEAR.

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

Speaking of Pints not really being Pints, back in my drinking days I was outraged to learn that the "Pints" I was buying daily were not pints at all, but one half of a fifth.

So outraged was I that I switched to quarts, the only volumetric measurement I had any faith in. Still did it daily.

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

I really loved this one, especially the wide variety of clues. Xenia came from somewhere, so I got through that area, but was stopped at osculate. I finally looked it up in the dictionary and then googled Unu/Ana. I would like to whine about that one, but I'll spare you that.

I loved Rob Morrow in Northern Exposure and still miss that show, but I can't get into Numb3ers.

And the first time I saw an Ibis flying out of a swamp in New Jersey, I freaked. It looked like something before my time. Way before.

All in all, this was one of better Wednesdays.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

Of course you spell it MEARTH...Its Mork from Ork, and Mearth from Earth!!

Great puzzle, Caleb. Kept looking at 1-down...what was their album? Mandy, Sandy, Dandy?? Also had SHHH for the librarian.

Off to a 'hot' lunch date now...hopefully I will OSCULATE some songbirds!!!

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

Nice puzzle but a little inconsistent in theme entries.
WINE is a general term and PORT is a type of wine.

PlantieBea 11:45 AM  

Some definite blind spots for me, as others have mentioned. Didn't know UNU/ANA, ENSOR/OTERO. OSCULATE is a new word for me. The theme popped out quickly, and I needed it to get BEERY. Nicely done, but seemed more like a Thursday.

jeff in chicago 11:46 AM  

I grew up in Ohio and was a junior in high school when Xenia was practically wiped off the map by a tornado. The city was hit by another tornado in 2000, but with far less damage.

In Sunday's NYT there was an article on neo-liberalism. The piece was about how the term is barely in the language. Funny, then to see it in a puzzle!

I found this a difficult puzzle. Took much longer than my usual Wednesday. happens. When I look back at it I see an excellent puzzle. Nicely done, Caleb.

davidb 11:49 AM  

Aargh! All the pride and self-confidence built up through making it through last Fri and Sat unscathed (sorry to boast about that yet again) came undone after being thoroughly whipped around today. By far my worst Wed performance ever. It all started at square one. Never heard of XENIA or XANDY; I considered the X but sadly guessed a different letter.

My biggest problem was that for some reason I thought AMY WINEHOUSE was WINEHEART or -HARTE, which my mind could never let go of in spite of it making the crosses make no sense, and it dominoed into an absurd string of errors. I also never heard of BLUE MONDAY (but probably would have come up with it if not for the aforementioned error), and kept irrationally wanting to squeeze in BLUEBERRY HILL. So I ended up with AMY WINEHARTE, BLUE MAMBAS, WALLACE BEERS, OLD BEAR, etc, etc…

Then there was ENSOR/OTERO/MATER and OSCULATE/SOW, which I also messed up. I agree that it was a fantastic puzzle that I did thoroughly appreciate and enjoy even as I clumsily stumbled through. I guess it just wasn’t my day.

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

It's WALLACE BEERY, not Berry, as at least two posters have misspelled. Think theme!

YLEM is a term I know, solely because I read George Gamow as a kid and the word stuck. It is not used in any scientific circles whatsoever, except perhaps as a passing mention. It has gained currency in some science fiction writing, but nothing particularly memorable.

The Urban dictionary lists both UEY and UIE. I would never have guessed.

I loved all the poetry gimmes. OK, ABAA was not a gimme, and it is not lovable.

U NU is top-of-the-line standard crosswordese. We even discussed it a few weeks back, where we all learned the U is a Burmese term of respect.

I agree, "Star Wars" actress is wrong. It should be Star Wars actress. I once sent a correction to WS on this issue before. He allowed the erroneous "Popeye" cartoonist as a clue for SEGAR, when it should have been either "Thimble Theatre" cartoonist or Popeye cartoonist.

I find it interesting that no one is criticizing the cross of the French A BAS with the Spanish BEBE. Of course, we just had BEBE the other day.

Anonymous 12:08 PM  

I couldn't remember the X AND __ album, and threw in an O, remembering the Xando bars from a few weeks ago. And I missed the UNU/ANA crossing too.

The Boston Crossword tournament site now has information up, but is still working on online registration. They're going to have a pairs category as well as singles, and some prizes. The last time I tried to pair solve a crossword my partner (not you, Mom) completely messed up my grid. Does anyone here team solve?

miriam b 12:09 PM  

Lovely puzzle! Wonderful mix of clues. The lit'ry references made it possible for me to suss the pop clues. Oddly, my first fill was OTERO, as in another life I lived in Bernalillo County; and evidently certain NM geographic data remained stuck in a remote corner of my brain, just in case I ever got into crosswording.

I'm afraid that the idea of Mork and Mindy having offspring in the form of Jonathan Winters always made me a bit queasy.

My one complaint: UIES - pfui.

Anonymous 12:10 PM  

Wow! First time in memory that I couldn't finish a Wednesday. Natick principle totally applies to Unu/Ana and X and Y/Xenia. I didn't appreciate Old Dear and the many varieties of spelling and/or abbreviations used for U turns and Equal Employment Opportunity. Otherwise, it's a very impressive puzzle.


Anonymous 12:15 PM  

Don't throw the BEBE out with the BAS water.

ArtLvr 12:27 PM  

I agree with Eileen: didn't like EEO being a Want ad abbr., since I think the norm is EOE for Equal Opportunity Employer.

XENIA and YTD (year-to-date) made the NW easy, but I was hung up awhile in the SE with I'M OUT like some others. It was especially tough because I wanted a person like an Omani for "Al-Qatif" -- is this a Famous OASIS???

Talk about an unngrateful child -- didn't Livia do everything including murder to make sure her son became emperor, and didn't Tiberius slay her in turn anyway? No OLD DEAR here!

Kudos to Caleb....


ArtLvr 12:27 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 12:28 PM  

Lots of Naticks today for me - all mentioned before.

My dowfall in the NW was filling in "ASONG" for Sing___

as it "sing, sing a song, keep it simple, to last the whole day long, don't worry if its not good enough......"

This, of course, worked for everyhing except the poet, and not having xenia, I sat with a poet by the name of _siot for waaay too long.

Shamik 12:46 PM  

Did I go to sleep and wake up on Friday? Interesting cluing and varied fill. Brilliant puzzle except for the noted Naticks. Of course, one person's Natick is another person's gimme. Guessed rightly on ENSOR/OTERO. I also get the KEATS/YEATS poets confused and KLEM seemed as reasonable as YLEM.

Fell into the UNU/ANA pit easily. Looking forward to Thursday. My self esteem has taken a blow today!

George NYC 12:49 PM  

A strong Wednesday overall, IMO.
Nice to see OLDDEARS like Amy Winehouse, Natalie Portman and Wallace Beery sharing the grid with fellow artists (TS) Eliot and WBYeats (too bad no initial symmetry but that’s OK, IMB). Terms like ESSO, OSCULATE and TITS (stacked no less!) evoke the salad days, before I was wearing the bottoms of my trousers rolled and hearing the mermaids singing, each to each.
ECTO, OASTS and YLEM curdled some eggs around the breakfast nook, evoking bodily fluids perhaps better ousted to the WASTELAND that is the NATICK mall, where OTERA + ENSAR and UNU + ANA tread. Softly, I hope, because they tread on my dreams...

Anonymous 12:50 PM  

ANA/UNU reminds me of Meehan's Yma Dream.

Shamik 1:00 PM  

Self-esteem restored having been successful with BEQ's puzzle today.

Unknown 1:07 PM  

Natick factor to the nth. Talk about pop culture trivia!!! Send Mr. Madison back to his Scrabble board.

mccoll 1:21 PM  

Rats! I couldn't do a Wednesday without a google. I had to look up Coldplay's X and Y. Yeats and El Paso were gimmies so YLEM fell, but I've read extensively on Big Bang Theory and ylem is never mentioned?
"Old Dear" is a British expression, by the way. I remember Blue Monday and Wallace Beery quite well and loved these clues. Speaking of osculate and tits, how do you titillate an Ocelot? On balance,
this was a good puzzle.

HudsonHawk 1:27 PM  

I liked the puzzle, but was surprised to come here and find out I didn't have any errors. Based on RP's write-up and the comments so far, it was closer to challenging than medium, IMO.

YLEM, ABAS, OTERO, OLD DEAR, ABAA, UIES, UNU, NITA, OSCULATE, and W.B. YEATS are not the usual Wednesday fare, no matter how they're clued. All in the same grid? Wow. I also would have liked to see the theme extended to 10D. Just seems off.

WALLACE BEERY is familiar to me, but primarily because of his nephew, Noah Beery, Jr., who played Rockford's dad on the Rockford Files.

Anonymous 1:33 PM  

I am afraid I'm going to become Simon Cowell with this puzzle. This puzzle was horrid for several reasons. One of which was that it's only Wednesday. If we are going to be baffled by "HUH?" moments, it should be Saturday. Second reason is the specific clues and answers. To wit:

OLD DEAR is just not an expression that means friend from long ago. The Internet backs this up. This might be better as a fill-in-the-blank, but the expression really still would be DEAR OLD friend.

YLEM and EEO crossing. Here I guessed right, but as ARtLvr said above, the normal abbrev. is EOE. And YLEM is too obscure for a Sat., much less a Wed.

ONE crossing ONE? Eh.

NEO-liberal? Not really in the language, although inferable, but still left a "HUH" on the brain.

AGE LIMIT? Rides usually have height limits, not age limits. Who carries a birth certificate to an amusement park?

Now some things I didn't really mind: Pint = ONE UNIT. A unit of blood is informally called a pint, and it's pretty close to an actual pint. And it's in the language. Google bears this out, too.

XENIA crossing XANDY. A good crossworder should know or if not, to learn XENIA, if for no other reason than the tornado, which was big news. XANDY is inferable, because YTD is on anyone's pay stub.

U NU and ANA - these are, respectively, an important world leader from the past and a currently high-ranking tennis star.

WBYEATS - Yes, he's William Butler Yeats, and WB sounds like FD Roosevelt or LB Johnson, but it got me the Y and avoided KEATS.

And he said TITS.

I know Will Shortz loves nurturing teen talent, and it's great that Caleb Madison can, at his age, produce a puzzle as good as this, but I think it needed some reworking.

Anonymous 1:38 PM  

I had to Google for YLEM as well.
Is anyone else having a problem getting the puzzle at 10pm? Mine haven't been switching over until midnight, despite restarting my computer. I think something must have happened with the time change because this a new problem this week.

Anonymous 1:42 PM  

"Al-Qatif" -- is this a Famous OASIS???

For an OASIS, it's pretty famous!!!

It has its own Wikipedia entry: Al-Qatif.

To be honest, I was unaware of how many notable oases there are: Oases by country.

Anonymous 1:45 PM  

Totally crushed by this puzzle, but had no problem with OLDDEAR, possibly because someone was introduced to me recently as an "old, dear friend of mine."

Bob Kerfuffle 1:49 PM  

I liked this puzzle a lot! Good, hard thinking (OK, maybe more than we expect from a Wednesday) and one or two good guesses were enough to finish it correctly and have a good time doing so.

But my very last fill was the crosssing of 28D and 35A, so I was very surprised to see not a word from Rex. Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, we present Nita Naldi.

chefbea 1:56 PM  

I agree - a tough puzzle for a wednesday. I googled, looked up words in my Film Book and still couldnt finnish. I figured 10 down would be the name of a scotch, bourbon or gin to go along with absolute.

fergus 1:57 PM  

Liked how the two cited poems are related, in a sort of apocalyptic way. And OSCULATE is such a great word to use in a poem -- in a kind of sensual onomatopoeia. (Had to look up how to spell that.)

Stanley Fish was just writing about NEO-Liberals in the Times over the weekend.

retired_chemist 2:02 PM  

@anon 1:38 - nope. I am getting them at 9 CDT.

EEO cs EOE - equal employment opportunity vs equal opportunity employer. I have seen both ways.

I still think it was a fun puzzle, but I agree it was substantially more challenging than usual for a Wednesday.

Well done, Caleb!

Anonymous 2:03 PM  

@ Bob Kerfuffle. Thanks for the Nita Naldi video; she kind of makes me think of Marisa Tomei.

@Rex. Ah, Fats! "I just got to get my res' -- cause Monday's a mess!"

mac 2:07 PM  

A brilliant puzzle. Insert Crosscan's second paragraph. I think Caleb was thinking of Miss Marple, the old dear, one of my favorite literary characters.

I could only come up with "Blueberry Hill" by fats Domino, so the Monday had to come from crosses.

@Shamik: I need to get that BEQ puzzle right, too.

joho 3:01 PM  

@steve l ... UNU but I didn't. Natick!

chefwen 3:37 PM  

I had no problem with this puzzle except for sing a song instead of ALONG and xandu instead of XANDY. That corner never really got fixed correctly until much later. Threw in shoe for IRON, fixed that right away and really had a head scratching time trying to decipher YLEM, shoot, I don't even know how to pronounce that. Overall, thought this was a stellar puzzle.
Spending 5 years in Scotland as a child, had no problem with OLD DEAR. "You remember Edith, that old dear"

Anonymous 3:40 PM  

Put that Chinese guy from the Bush parody of "Who's on First" in the mix, and you might get

Hu Nu.

Hu cares?

joho 3:45 PM  

@steve l ...

obviously, Hu does.

Anonymous 3:53 PM  

@ joho--But is Hu sane?

Anonymous 3:57 PM  

I hadn't heard neoliberal either until this:
Stanley Fish in the March 8 NYT
"Neoliberalism and Higher Education"

"I’ve been asking colleagues in several departments and disciplines whether they’ve ever come across the term “neoliberalism” and whether they know what it means. A small number acknowledged having heard the word; a very much smaller number ventured a tentative definition."

Jay Livingston 4:34 PM  

"Letterman hosting the Oscars back in the 90s: "ANA ... UNU ... UNU ... ANA."

"Yma Dream" by Thomas Meehan in the New Yorker, 1962, long before Letterman -- a piece about a dream in which he's a host at a party and has to introduce people -- Ava Gardner to Oona Chaplin, for example: "Ava Oona, Oona Ava." Others arrive -- Yma Sumac, Abba Eban, Eva Gabor, and so on.

Leon 4:35 PM  

Great puzzle Mr. Madison.

Blue Monday V. Stormy Monday. I go with T-Bone Walker.

They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday's just as bad
They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday's just as bad
Wednesday's worse, and Thursday's also sad

Yes the eagle flies on Friday, and Saturday I go out to play
Eagle flies on Friday, and Saturday I go out to play
Sunday I go to church, then I kneel down and pray

Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy on me
Lord have mercy, my heart's in misery
Crazy about my baby, yes, send her back to me

Blue Monday how I hate Blue Monday
Got to work like a slave all day
Here come Tuesday, oh hard Tuesday
I'm so tired got no time to play

Here come Wednesday, I'm beat to my socks
My gal calls, got to tell her that I'm out
'Cause Thursday is a hard workin' day
And Friday I get my pay

Saturday mornin', oh Saturday mornin'
All my tiredness has gone away
Got my money and my honey
And I'm out on the stand to play

Sunday mornin' my head is bad
But it's worth it for the time that I had
But I've got to get my rest
'Cause Monday is a mess

Anonymous 5:28 PM  

Neoliberalism is a word I've heard a lot from my social geographer wife. My understanding is that while our geopolitical situation of late has been dominated by "neoconservative" ideas, the global economic situation of the last several decades is all neoliberalism (think World Bank, IMF, austerity plans, free trade, etc etc).

Anonymous 6:16 PM  

Thanks for all the feedback, everyone. I'm glad you liked the puzzle. I had originally submitted it to Will as a Thursday because of the low word count, but I think the simplicity of the theme demoted it.

Hope you guys had fun with it.


SethG 6:20 PM  

Of course there's a way to fit BLUEBERRY HILL--I entered it with a HILL rebus. That...took a while to unwind. Turns out, Fats sang BLUE MONDAY, Blueberry Hill, and My Blue Heaven, all within about a year of each other. At least my knowledge of US counties saved me from making davidb's other mistakes.

Megan P was right on about OLD DEAR sounding Wodehousian. And BLUE MONDAY is also both Vonnegutian and New Orderish.

For those (i.e., both of you) who miss my vacation pictures, here's a not-great shot of an ibis with some storks and other birds.

I had fun with it. Nice work, CRM!

AV 6:32 PM  

Caleb - It was quite gnarly in places (for me, an average solver) but loved the theme, and was a good way to finish the workday and head out to the bar!

Keep 'em coming!


Anonymous 6:48 PM  

hey Young Caleb!
Great job!!! I totally had theme-envy.

(Tho it is interesting that anonymous 11:39am pointed out that thing about PORT as a kind of WINE...
but I thought fabulous, anyway, cheers!)

I did not know XANDY...first I tried XANDO (like hugs and kisses, after all you had OSCULATE) then I tried XANDU, thinking Xanadu...
Maybe if Coldplay ever teams up with Olivia Newton-John they can call their album XANDU?

I knew YLEM from...Scrabble!
(Very few four letter words start with Y, much less freaky-looking ones!) You should play, you'd be great at it!

And I'm not sure, but I think Edith just called you a BOOKMAN!

As for Natalie Portman being a Harvard graduate, didn't know that and kept trying to think of STOCKARD CHANNING's name (who went to Radcliffe whom I conflated with Carrie Fisher!) Weird, hunh?

As for TITS, all I can say is, you sneaky little bastard! Write on!

Anonymous 7:15 PM  

ps @crosscan
what am I, chopped liver? you did my puzzle (#4) after meeting me!


allan 7:15 PM  

I think jae said it best by calling this an easy/challenging puzzle. I warped through about 95%, but got my ass kicked by all the "natrickery".

I guessed correctly at the cross in otero/ensor, but never resolved unu/osculate. I had to google to get that. BTW, the google ol dictionary considers osculate to be a semi archaic word.

@ janie: Ah yes I remember it well. Many Jerseyites and Pennsylvanians hate the year 1982, when New York raised the age to 21. From 1973 to 1982 I worked in a camp in Pennsylvania, and all the counselors used to cross the Delaware into Narrowsburg, NY on Saturday nights. By that time, I was well past any age to care about the change.

@ sethg: the rebus was my first thought for 10d. Ah the fabulous fat man, as he was affectionately known back in the day.

Finally, here's a nice pair of tits.

Anonymous 7:25 PM  

oh, and one other thing, Young Caleb...since when is having a Wednesday puzzle considered a "demotion"!?!

David 7:30 PM  

Ugh, I had a lot of problems with this one.

1A/1D hurt me a lot. I don't know that I've ever really been exposed to YTD, so I had _AND_. On the bright side, seeing "and" like that opened me up to the possibility that 1D wasn't a word, but that didn't give me any insight into which letters were being and-ed. If I'd known YTD, I'm sure I would still have had the same dilemma that so many others did (Sandy, Randy, etc.) I finally guessed the X, all the while thinking that XENIA is Famke Janssen in Goldeneye. I went with X-AND-O and OTD, seemed just as likely.

Then I had some sort of meltdown in Kansas. I resisted putting in YEATS (or even kEATS) for a long time because I really didn't want the answer to rely on initials, and also because there were a lot of quatrains higher on my list than ABAA---even ABCA seemed more likely. I couldn't for the life of me call up OSCULATE, which left me trying to find ALE in the theme answer rather than BEER. And since I'd initially put in the regrettable answer DOGHOUSE for 40D, the really obscure 45A and 50A just got harder to see.

And I didn't spend time staring at it, but apparently my 63A/53D crossing was wrong, too. It was an utter toss-up between a couple vowels for two proper names I've never heard of, but was still the least frustrating of my problem crossings today. At least it didn't taunt me like the others.

There were definitely nice aspects of the puzzle too, but I got buried under problems. There were way too many crossings that I had no way to infer, even granting that I can only blame myself for my midwestern meltdown.

Btw, has anyone tried re-working the SE or NW? I'm not a constructor, but I'm curious whether either one can be fixed to avoid the crosses that have been causing problems for so many of us.

I might have really enjoyed this puzzle if it were later in the week, or if a few particularly tough spots had been clued differently. Thursday-Saturday, I expect to struggle, sometimes quite a bit, in order to finish. But I agree with everyone who's said that certain spots were just too baffling for a Wednesday. I'm glad to hear it was intended for later in the week, Caleb, thanks for that insight. I'll be looking forward to your next puzzle...nervously, but still.

fikink 7:31 PM  

@acme! You got me! I thought JaBMToG sounded like you and I bit!

retired_chemist 7:36 PM  

@ Allan - pair of tits! LOL!

@ ACME - YIPE, YIKE, YOKE, YEWS, YAWL, YAWN, and MORE! (anyone for YUTZ?)

@ Caleb - Thursday was the right call. Totally fun either way.

janie 7:44 PM  

lol, allan -- in the mid-'60s, i went to camp in western mass., and for many of our counselors, too, crossing over into ny state on an infrequent day off was a major objective! thx for jogging my memory on that one --


edith b 8:48 PM  

There was a lot of talk today about the tornadoes that flattened Xenia OH ond other places in 1974.

Ironically, Bill from NJ lived through those tornadoes and wrote about them in his blog last week.

Rex has Bill's blog listed in his sidebar "Friends of the Show" if you want to check it out.

Anonymous 8:51 PM  

Usually my views about the relative difficulty of a puzzle are similar to those of most of the commentators. Not this time...I found this really easy for a Wednesday. My very first entry was Natalie Portman and I breezed through the puzzle. But I did mess up the nita/uies crossing. I had neta/uees. I thought that the preferred spelling (if there is one for this word) was ueys anyhow.

Anonymous 8:56 PM  

In case anyone is wondering why someone used the handle "anonymous" to make the innocuous 8:51 comment, it's because I spaced out and forgot to enter my name.

Glitch 9:19 PM  

Was away for most of the day but some comments on the comments:

1) I'm always amused that a puzzle is critized only because it was published on the wrong day. Operative word only.

2) If Caleb can generate a puzzle spanning Wallace Beery thru Merth to Amy Winehouse, solvers have no basis for "before my time" or "too contemporary" complaints.

The fact that he's younger than most of us on this blog is even more reason to make the above complaints "sour grapes"

3) Kudos Caleb


Glitch 9:27 PM  

@Steve I said

Glad you deceided to return --- and under the same blog ID.


Jeffrey 9:58 PM  

@acme, andrea carla michaels, 3rd runner up in that porn thing, Just a Blue Monday type of gal and creator of the brilliant, fantastic, stunning, memorable puzzle 4 - sigh. Between you and Sandy, I can't lie anymore.

I would like to sing the praises of puzzle 4 in detail but my comment is sealed in a freezer bag to prevent spoilage, until the day some famous blogger (who shall remain nameless) decides to talk about it.

Anonymous 10:22 PM  

I agree with everyone who thought this was a "challenging" puzzle for a Wednesday...quite a few Saturday level answers in my opinion.

allan 10:51 PM  

@retired_chemist: You dirty old man you. What else were you expecting?

allan 10:57 PM  

OLT. Check out the bling on Fats in the video. One more way he was ahead of his time.

Anonymous 11:11 PM  

Can someone explain "ABAS" ?

mac 11:19 PM  

@ndoug: it means "down with" in French, a bas. Good night.

retired_chemist 11:19 PM  

@ Nebraska Doug - French, meaning exactly what is clued. bas - low/below, a - to => a bas = down (with)

@ Allan - I resemble that remark!

Orange 11:24 PM  

NE Doug: The French phrase à bas means "down with."

Crosscan, it may take me a few more days to make it to Andrea and Myles' puzzle #4, but I promise to leave plenty of space in the comments for you to empty out your baggie of remarks.

liquid el lay 12:39 AM  

OK-- the 3-square off 6? SYMETRICALMATRIX!

Difficult, not pretty. Lots of hard to read write-overs as I had expected wednesday to be kinda easy and wrote too quickly.

"the ONE I love" is sung by The Mamas and The Papas.

ASONG, as I had it at 14a (Carpenters) was sung ALONG when I remembered the lines of the poem belong to TSE, and was cramming his name in rebus-style until it occured to me that NEICE is spelled NIECE, and then it all fit.... except factor X. X=Natick here, I had CENIA x CANDY.

Also Natik (varied spellings re-enforce the point) was MORK x MORROW.

Also, who is AMYWINEHOUSE?

I pulled a UEY (Not really, I put it there and kept it) , and lived with OLDDYAR. That's a way WAY back way of saying it. Or so I claim.

Had it been "Sweetheart of yore", I'd have got it right and written UEYS all wacky, instead.

How can you people accept OASTS and deny WALLACEBEERY? [,%20Wallace/Annex/Annex%20-%20Beery,%20Wallace%20(Champ,%20The)_02.jpg] I tried to put JACKIECOOPER in that spot, and couldnt remember WALLACEBEERY but was glad to be reminded.

YLEM is a weirdness I've never seen, but had WBYEATS, and so everything but the E.. and it reminded me of something from the mystical Wm Blake - Ulem or something so trusting mystical, I put that in.

The Theme knowledge was actually necessary for me to get the SW, BAR correcting NINE and URAL.. so that was kind of neat.

ROSY T*S MAtTER? Yes, and not just to teenagers.

Oh, and it really bugs me that a fifth is 3/4 of a liter, a pint is 3/8 of a liter.. I call Natick (or something)! They tried this when I was in grade school, and just won't give up! Leave the metrics over-seas where they belong. Americans measure their blood and their whiskey in pints!

retired_chemist 12:51 AM  

@ liquid: 1 pint = 0.473 liter.

liquid el lay 1:06 AM  

retired chemist-

You're right, I goofed.

Although the standard bottle size which used to be a fifth (of a gallon) is now 3/4 of a liter-

The half size of that is .375 liters, which is not close to a pint. I guess it's close to a tenth. I don't know it that's an old time standard for liquor.. and if it was, what it was called. Half fifth, probably.

Shanti11 1:12 AM  

Rex, I bet you never thought you'd use "The bigger problem was the WTF-ery of YLEM" in a sentence.

liquid el lay 1:19 AM  

@ retired chemist

The point was that the stuff used to be sold in true fifths, and other American measurements.

Sorry to go off topic, All, and for the clunky url, too.

Doc John 1:31 AM  

I guess I'd better commit UNU to memory and be done with it.

fergus 1:39 AM  

Liquid LA, your dispatch is a lot of fun to reckon with.

Do you present yourself as a writer in another life?

liquid el lay 2:01 AM  

Fergus, I think we share a west coast exuberance.

Yeah. It bugs me, though, that you think I write like a girl (reference to the ms. liquid address of last night).. Either there's something about me I don't get, or my voice is less than true!

Maybe I should rant more.

fergus 3:10 AM  

In the blog comments I thought you had declared yourself female. Sorry if I'm wrong. At this stage, it hardly matters. I at first thought the Green Mantis was a 60 year-old gay man, but I was quite in error about that.

+wordphan 3:24 AM  

Didn't Wallace have a bebe named Noah who was in a lot of westerns? Rawhide?
This puzzle was all over the map; don't get me started.
"Rehab" won a Grammy, go figure.

+wordphan 3:34 AM  

Oops!! Uncle, not pater. Close but no cigar.
There were a few Beerys in Hollywood, related as well.

xyz 1:36 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
xyz 1:38 PM  

I came to this puzzle a day late as I was busy alllll day yesterday. It was terribly annoying with all its crap little three letter words and way too cutsie cluing. ANNOYING sort of like listening to YANI.

I got tired of it and threw in after about an hour as the top half was fine and even fun but the bottom half was SKUNKY - real SMELLY/STINKY take your pick.

On top of that, teh theme answers were way too easy and WALLACEBEERY didn't even help.

YUCK I need to go wash my hands.

Ben 8:27 AM  

@RP: Re resigned/re-signed, I've noticed the same. Hence headlines like "Cubs Hurler Zambrano Re-Signs" routinely in the sports section.

@Opus2: I was there for "Crossword Clued Family Feud" and didn't know Caleb was in the room, much less on the stage... still getting up to speed on my constructors. Nice puzzle, Caleb.

Ben 8:31 AM  

p.s. Rex, (Livia, to Tony) could be WOULD-BE KILLER in the context of "The Sopranos."

MATER also works, but in that show's vernacular, would probably be something more like MUDDA.

Unknown 6:27 PM  

If anyone is still reading - from out here in syndicationland: I can't believe that so many of you were calling Natick on U NU (who has been discussed on this blog not too long ago) and ANA (who won last year's French Open and was, until recently, ranked as the number 1 female tennis player in the World)!

Waxy in Montreal 11:11 PM  

What I still don't get about the construction of this puzzle is that two poets known by initials instead of first names - TS ELIOT and WB YEATS - are answers yet Eliot does not carry his initials into the grid whilst Yeats does. Shouldn't there be some consistency of approach?

Otherwise, kudos to young Caleb. Quite the Wednesday effort. And this senior even learnt a new word, yclept ylem!

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