SUNDAY, Jun. 21 2009 — Invader of Europe in 1241 / Scottish hillsides / Pot grabber / McCain residence for 5 1/2 years

Sunday, June 21, 2009

: Matt Ginsberg and Pete Muller

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Famous Last Words" — 12 famous people are clued by their last words

Word of the Day: Exsiccate (56D: PARCH) — intr. & tr.v., -cat·ed, -cat·ing, -cates.

To dry up or cause to dry up.

[Middle English exsiccaten, from Latin exsiccāre, exsiccāt- : ex-, ex- + siccāre, to dry (from siccus, dry).]

A very doable puzzle, but one that took a lot of effort to get through because of the nature of the theme. The clues (the last words) provide only oblique hints as to what famous person they belong to, and even then, those hints are usually only really obvious in retrospect. I mean, is there anything about "I'm going to heaven!" that really screams "BO DIDDLEY?" Not that I didn't enjoy the puzzle; I did. Some of the last words were oddly apt, or funny, though only GROUCHO's last words were easy to attribute to their speaker.

Theme answers:

  • 1A: (With 13-Across) "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has got to go" (Oscar / Wilde)
  • 27A: "Die, my dear? Why, that's the last thing I'll do!" (Groucho Marx)
  • 32A: "That was the best ice cream soda I ever tasted" (Lou Costello)
  • 53A: "Where is my clock?" (Salvador Dali)
  • 71A: "Leave the shower curtain on the inside of the tub" (Conrad Hilton)
  • 87A: "I've had 18 straight whiskies. I think that's the record" (Dylan Thomas)
  • 94A: "Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something" (Pancho Villa)
  • 110A: (With 113-Across) "I've had a hell of a lot of fun and I've enjoyed every minute of it" (Errol / Flynn) — yesterday would have been his 100th birthday. See lovely tribute here.
  • 20D: "I have not told half of what I saw" (Marco Polo)
  • 48D: "Eva is leaving" (Eva Peron)
  • 46D: "I live!" (Caligula)
  • 68D: "I'm going to heaven!" (Bo Diddley)

Biggest struggle was in middle of the puzzle, for three reasons. One, no idea who CONRAD HILTON was, though I could have guessed he had something to do with the Hilton hotel chain. The CONRAD part ... not forthcoming. Add to that the insane-looking and (to my mind) fairly useless abbrev. or James, JAS. (64A: Madison or Monroe: Abbr.), and then throw in my complete inability to recall a movie I actually saw, "JUNO" (64D: 2007 film that won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay). That "J" was the very last letter I filled in. Also had crazy trouble in the NW, where my refusal to believe OMIT was the answer for 1D: Strike out kept me from getting a good toehold. If I leave something out, I have OMITted it. I see that OMIT can mean "remove what has already been set down," but I would use the word CUT, and the puzzle would usually use the editorial word DELE. Bah. Otherwise, it was just bad luck on my part up there. MAORI seemed an improbable answer for 18A: Kapa haka dancer, so I didn't commit to it, and SASH (2D: Tiara go-with), COLE (3D: Porter, for one) and RISE TO (5D: Meet) were all oddly elusive. I wasn't stumped so much as I was stumbling. Feels like I went at that corner several times before it fell. In fact, I'm pretty sure I had to get WILDE in the NE in order to get OSCAR in the NW, which finally broke things open. Oh, and I almost got Naticked by the GANT / NWT crossing (51D: Eugene _____, hero of "Look Homeward, Angel" / 63A: Yellowknife is its cap.). Yikes. NWT = Northwest Territories.


  • 19A: "I, Robot" extras (automata) — so ... robots, then.
  • 30A: Pair in an ellipse (foci) — learned this from crosswords.
  • 47A: Scottish hillsides (braes) — a handy Scotticism to have in your arsenal.
  • 57A: Fleischer and Onassis (Aris) — I keep looking at this answer and wondering what an "ARIS" is.
  • 79A: Pot grabber (narco) — oh, man. Love the clue, though I hate the word NARCO (we say "NARC!").
  • 82A: Ones sharing Durocher's astrological sign (Leo) — I don't get it. His name is LEO. Is he really named for his own astrological sign?
  • 107A: Korean carmaker (Daewoo) — still don't see these much. Hyundai and Kia, I see.
  • 9D: Invader of Europe in 1241 (Mongol) — went looking for a specific person here.
  • 112A: Supreme leader? (Ross) — oddly enough, this was part of a joke on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon just two nights ago (topicality = Iran).
  • 10D: McCain residence for 5 1/2 years (Hanoi) — "Residence?" Really? I gotta say, if I'm being held against my will and tortured, I'm probably not going to think of the place where that's happening as my "residence." Am I getting mail there? No? Ok, not a "residence."
  • 11D: U.S. island occupied by Japan during W.W. II (Attu) — learned it when I learned ATKA (the other crosswordy Alaskan island of note).
  • 21D: 1970 N.F.L. M.V.P. John _____ (Brodie) — no idea. Little worried about that "D" for a few seconds until I figured out the cheesy trick at 31A: Red ball? (edam).
  • 45D: Magician's name suffix (-ini) — this clue seems odd / dated / nuts.
  • 86D: Hipster's persona (Mr. Cool) — :( ... JOE Cool, I know. Mr. Clean, I know. This guy, "???"
  • 97D: Contents of Pandora's box, except for hope (ills) — very nice. And informative.
  • 100D: Ford role, familiarly (Indy) — wrote in CLEO without even thinking, as hers was the only name that came to mind when I got ASPS at 99D: Phobia of 100-Down. INDY here = Indiana Jones. Ford = Harrison.
So I've started using Twitter fairly regularly now, and one of my favorite things to do is troll the Twitterverse for mentions of the word "crossword," just to see how people talk about puzzles. Some things I'm learning: lots of people solve USA Today and People crosswords (sorry, it's true); lots of people do the crossword at work (and apparently have very little "work" to do at work); and Lots of people associate puzzle-solving (fairly or not) with being a. old, b. nerdy, or c. bored/boring. I'll leave you with a small sampling of this week's

"Puzzle Tweets"
  • chimpocalypse I'm so boring I downloaded a crossword app for my iPhone. Now I just need a knitting app and a complaining about the kids of today app
  • KBFina Why am I still doing xwords at 4 am? I think there needs to be an intervention.
  • ThinkSideways Day 12 of Turning 40: I now like doing crossword puzzles. What's next, bingo?
  • OdeToCode Passed a guy on the highway who was clearly holding a crossword puzzle and pen at the steering wheel. HELLO!! 5 letter word. Starts with m.
  • sylviegreen69 I'm sick of living in the sticks, we don't get newspapers and our Town Criers shit. You should hear him trying to cry the crossword.
  • paullemat I'm in the NY Times Crossword Puzzle Today - 6 Down! Yeah!!!! [my favorite by far]
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


CoolPapaD 4:00 AM  

After yesterday's whooping, this was a welcome, and most entertaining, undertaking. PIERRE de Fermet (and NDE) would no doubt have laughed at my error at 71D - after multiplying 365 x 24 on paper, I confidently entered DEC, which threw me for the longest time.

Didn't know it was "legal" to have the answer contained within the clue (EVA PERON), but I guess there was no way around this one.

Favorites - THE BENDS (Concern coming up?), and ATE (Took sides?). I find it perfectly wonderful that Leo Durocher (born July 27, 1905) was, in fact, a LEO! Fantastic!

Rex - thanks so much for doing this, and thanks to all the regulars (and irregulars). This place rocks!

Two Ponies 4:03 AM  

Geez, this is no way to end my weekend. Yesterday was such a fun puzzle. Really the entire week was fun.
What happened?
I hate feeling dumb.
I do love Oscar Wilde, Groucho, Dali, Errol, and one of my dogs is Dylan (Thomas) a cairn terrier.
As for Pancho "We don't need no steekin badges!" (I doubt he really said it it but the movie moment was priceless.)

hazel 6:55 AM  

I loved this puzzle. Groucho Marx was the only “right off the bat”, but thought the rest of them were easily inferrable, provided the right number of crosses were in place, of course.

But, I suppose what was so enjoyable was that each of these answers had a very real, and in many cases, v. poignant AHA moment for me - the quotes were so perfect for the person. I do agree Bo Diddley could have been anyone (James Brown?) and I don't really know too much about Pancho Villa, but all the other ones - seemed so apt.

This puzzle was just sort of touching to me. Also, it seemed wonderfully ironic (and maybe a little creepy, depending on which rumors you believe) that the puzzle was capped by Oscar Wilde and Erroll Flynn, two such raging hedonists.

4 stars, easy-medium.

imsdave 7:50 AM  

This puzzle took me twice as long as Fri/Sat. put together but I absolutely loved it. Some nice aha moments and excellent fill. My last letter in the grid was the T of NWT/GANT which took forever to come to me. Really embarrassing as I was in "Look Homeward Angel" in my college days.

JannieB 7:54 AM  

I liked this one too - much easier for me than yesterday, and a medium as far as Sundays go. No tortured puns or whacky phrases - a nice respite.

I also hestitated over "Eva Peron" because of the clue, liked the clues for "ate" and "the bends". Hated "narco" - that's just wrong.

@Two Ponies - I had a cairn terrier for 16 years - great dog! Now own a Westie and a Havanese.

Happy Father's Day to all!

Leon 8:18 AM  

Thanks Mr. Ginsberg / Mr. Muller.

Happy Solstice and Father's Day !

To put Bo’s Last Words in context -a Gospel song, Walk Around Heaven, was played for Bo right before he died.

sillygoose 8:28 AM  

Gotta love the Groucho Marx quote! This was one of the cooler Sunday themes, IMO.

I had a couple of problem areas. I put URAL for UCAL. I see now it says Abbr. in the clue, and the Ural River probably has 100 branches, but I thought I was being so clever. My husband kept saying "U-Conn for the Huskies' org. and I wondered what sort of athletic org. AKR would be.

American Kennel Club, why does my Golden Retriever look like an Irish Setter?

I haven't heard of automata, or Attu, had blam for wham, and ended up with some blank squares there. Hues, really? Still, I had fun with this puzzle.

@Rex. LOL over the puzzle tweets.

fikink 8:46 AM  

Wanted PATTY HEARST for PONCHO VILLA and was looking for a clip from Radiohead for THE BENDS.

Ah, enjoyable start to the day, nonetheless.

Denise 9:30 AM  

An odd congruence -- McCain's RESIDENCE was the HANOI HILTON.

I liked discovering the speakers of the quotes, but I had a hard time getting them. Are we to assume that Lou Costello had a heart attack after he ate one ice cream soda too many?

Yeah, solstice. Boo, weather.

joho 9:34 AM  

I agree with @rex and @PlantieB, NARCO is just plain wrongo.

But that is a tiny nit in regards to this wonderful Sunday puzzle. Really fresh and fun. Thank you Matt & Pete!

ArtLvr 9:36 AM  

My solving ran about like Rex's -- WEIMAR to WILDE to OSCAR, plus the last fill T at NWT -- and I picked the same Word of the Day too.

Lots of fresh words, from CALIGULA to PAPACIES, and an odd coincidence in that I was listening to music from PEER GYNT as I arrived at that answer. How BESEEMing was that?


Hungry Mother 10:15 AM  

Got this one early today, for me on a Sunday. I guess it's the wind, chill, clouds, and rain.

Dough 10:19 AM  

Messrs. Ginsberg and Muller have triumphed! The triple crossings from Bo Diddley and Marco Polo with the six major entries is a big-time succès d'estime. The fill is just outstanding, with some fresh long entries and good solid clueing. It is a tribute to these great famous people that they left memorable final words, confident that some day their letters would cross! Happy Father's Day, summer solstice, and birthday of crossword celebrities Ron Ely, Lalo Schifrin, and Pope Leo IX.

Karen 10:24 AM  

After watching New Zealand play Iraq in the Confederation Cup game yesterday I confidently threw down a Z for NWZ. Of course, the capital of New Zealand is Wellington. I also still had ALES for pitchersful, so BO DIDLLEY was still in my grid. I'll also note that Bo died just three weeks ago, so this puzzle was not in the queue for long.

Ulrich 10:25 AM  

I, too, had fun discovering one-by-one the famous persons in question. The toughest area for me was N California, where our friend Salvador would just not come into focus.

I have a complaint tough: I do not like that there are other names in the puzzle w/o last word attribution, especially Peer Gynt running smack into the middle into that Hilton guy--which is a theme answer and which is not? Sure, Peer Gynt is fictional, but he's gotta have a last word in the play--no? But then again, we would expect another famous-last-word character in the symmetrical spot--all of this is not really clean, design-wise, in my book.

Another thought: Why only guy persons, except for that Peron woman, who wouldn't be famous were it not for her husband? But before we cry "sexism", let's remember the recent hoopla over the fact that 9 out 10 Chrysler dealerships that were closed in connection with the gov't takeover were owned by Republicans. Hate radio screemed "bias" when in fact, 9 out 10 Chrysler dealers are Republicans in general; i.e. statistically, the closings were as fair as could be. What I'm saying is that ending this life with a famous saying on your lips may be a guy thing--we're known for crazy stuff like that.

BTW The most famous last words by a famous German are those of Goethe: Mehr Licht! (more light!)

retired_chemist 10:50 AM  

Again a nice Sunday outing. Saturday evening, actually.

I was looking for a relationship between my image of the person quoted and the quote, but eventually gave up. So it became pretty much a “What famous dead person fits the length and crosses?” game. With enough crosses each name became clear, and I could see some of the relationships, but it made for a clunky theme. I presume there are more than I saw.

2 Ulrich - Wikipedia gives the presumed last words for PEER GYNT (70A) that are famouser than any in the puzzle.

Not any bad fill, no argument with any of the clues, but not a lot of thrillers. At least I can swallow U. CAL. (34D). However I think crossing YOOHOO with DAEWOO is CUCKOO.

After recent discussion of Huskies as University mascots. I tried to think of conferences for UConn and UW @ 42A. With the K in OKRA (33D) that became impossible. And then – D’oh! – the American Kennel Club! Siberian husky! With Yellowknife NWT @ 63A, kind of a far north subtheme.

Kinda cool that Leo Durocher’s astrological sign was LEO(LEOS – 82A). Or maybe his parents just were astrologically inclined….

Meh double plus. But not memorable.

PuzzleGirl 10:51 AM  

I didn't like this one much, but it's probably just me. I had to Google up in the NE because I couldn't come up with Groucho Marx. ACK — I feel like such an idiot! jeff in chicago will probably never speak to me again! Thanks for bringing up the McCain clue. That really rubbed me the wrong way. If you're looking for a Father's Day theme, you'll find it in Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle today.

retired_chemist 10:55 AM  

sigh - line break I think messed up the url. This should be OK.

Jeffrey 11:06 AM  

I'm with puzzlegirl in the not-like-this-one-much camp. Just found it odd.

Matt Ginsberg 11:10 AM  

The comments on NWT/GANT are interesting. When Pete and I originally put the puzzle together, we had GARI (the ginger that often accompanies sushi) and DOTIME instead of GANT and NOTIME. Will switched it, apparently feeling that GARI was too obscure (it had never been used before). I assume DWI instead of NWT wasn't the problem! No idea if that was a good or bad editorial move on his part ...

slypett 11:26 AM  

Well, I did it without benefit of Google and it was fun. Had one error, had NWN for NWT.

The prison in Hanoi was nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton (for you lovers of irony).

fikink 11:32 AM  

@Matt, Ah! It was Will who made the switch to NOTIME?
That is funny, because using "I'm Late!" as the clue made me think it part of the theme. (Talk about a New Yorker cartoon at the PEARLY GATES!)

p.s. I did not intend to wish Patty Hearst ill. She was just an amusing flash at 94A.

Unknown 11:44 AM  

63d: "I'm late!"

Had Chopin as those were his last words..

Noam D. Elkies 11:56 AM  

iya@11:44 — Do you have a source for that? Perhaps you're thinking of the White Rabbit singing Chopin's "Minute Waltz"?...

Not quite sure how "cloven" = "in two" [91D] — I could see "broken in two" or "in two parts", but can't construct a context where "in two" can actually substitute for "cloven".

The phrase "in two" is also used in music for "in duple time", e.g. a polka is in two (as opposed to a waltz that's in three, or Take Five which is in five).


retired_chemist 11:57 AM  

@ matt & Pete - I changed my mind. Crossing I AM TOO and DAEWOO with MR COOL and YOO HOO is TOO COOL but not TOO-TOO.

Anonymous 11:59 AM  

Agree w/some others. Couldn't get a real feel for this puzzle as some clues were too obscure for moi.
Knew Conrad Hilton but wrong
firealarm screwed up getting the Bo
Diddley clue.
concur w/narco is wrongo!

John 12:04 PM  

Knew OSCAR WILDE. "Either that wallpaper goes or I do!" Slow solving experience. Just not ion their wavelength.
I actually got to use that line from Blazing Saddles. dislocated my sholder whitewater rafting. In the emergency room, a nurse couldnt find any radiation badges to take the xray. My shoulder's killing me so to move it along, I uttered that line "WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN BADGES!" Cracked the ER up!

chefbea 12:05 PM  

Found this very difficult. Had to google a lot and still couldnt finnish. Maybe because I'm jet lagged!!!

I expected a fathers day theme or maybe a first day of summer theme.

Jann 12:36 PM  

@chefbea: I agree. I also expected a Father's Day theme. I would have slated a golf puzzle for today. the U.S. Open is underway in Bethpage . .

Didn't the NYT run a golf puzzle on Mother's Day (!?)

I would have published the golf puzzle today. Our readers (I'm a magazine ed.) expect timely, news peg-related material. Today's puzzle is more appropriate for Halloween.

Shamik 12:43 PM  

Found this to be a medium puzzle and I loved it. Though quite a grimace for McCain's "residence" as others have mentioned. NARCO is fine with me. Got Naticked with NWT/GANT. New Zealand and Ganz made as much sense.

My favorite personal moment was cluing "I have not told half of what I saw" to MARIO PUZO instead of MARCO POLO. If he didn't say it, he should have. It's funnier than MARCO.

DH is working in Denali Nat'l Park this summer and says it's quite a big holiday up there with many parties and social activities. Well, when you've got all night and it's still day!

Thanks to imsdave for help with my off-topic puzzle. Could still use a little more help to fill in some gaps. Looking for someone who can identify arcade video game sounds. Sorry, Rex, for the clutter of this request...It's the last time I'll ask for this help. BTW love the puzzle tweets

Shamik 12:44 PM e-mail address is if you have answers for my off-topic request.

Glitch 1:27 PM  

A few "questionable" clues (mostly covered already), but found the theme per se a bit of a letdown. Kept looking for something more in the clues.

It would have been the same to me if all the theme clues were simply "said something quotable" for all the help they were. Got every name from the crossings.

Granted, some "aha" (or at least "OK") moments when the name appeared, but would have preferred the name as the clue, quote as answer, a very different, albeit easier [to solve] puzzle.

Good grid, good fill, but the theme had me humming Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?


jeff in chicago 1:39 PM  

Anyone care to guess which theme answer I got first? And way early in the puzzle, opening up the gimmick, so that really helped. Liked this puzzle a lot. Would love to comment more, but I'm off to rehearse one of the three - THREE! - shows I'm currently working on.

And PG? You are forgiven.

Lili 1:53 PM  

Lots of fun and relatively easy for me. I knew the Wilde quotation immediately, along with some of the others, so I didn't have too much trouble. Salvador Dali's last words were not inapt, given one of his most famous works, "The Persistence of Memory."

I thought Indiana Jones was afraid of snakes in general, not merely asps.

Joe in Montreal 2:16 PM  

I didn't like 45 D "Magician's name suffix" = INI in the same puzzle as 106A "The Amazing ____ (magician)" = RANDI - which disproves 45D.
I also thought abbreviating hours in 71D as "hrs" would lead to CRY (or anything ending with the last letter of the word).
As a high school teacher I suppose I hear "stop that!" a lot more than "be polite", said by and to the adolescents. According to a certain on-line site, Pele's 'real' first name is Edison, not EDSON, which was what he used (apart from Pele). And one last gripe: is a Chief concerned with tribes or just one?
But I did like the puzzle - a real work out for me.

wayfaring ranger 2:20 PM  

Having lived in NZ for 6 months, Kapa Haka jumped out at me and was my first fill. I guess you need to spend more time there. Like you, I miss the flat white coffees.

mac 2:29 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle a lot, worked it steadily from North to South. I like Oscar Wilde and knew his last words, so I got the theme almost immediately. Groucho's is the best! My husband included another one in a speech (may have been a roast for an Irish person): Brendan Behan, on his deathbed, was nursed by a very sweet nun, and his last words were: "Bless you, Sister, may all your sons be bishops".

I liked the theme, liked the fill, and had no real hold-ups. Just didn't like to read "doggone it", bad memories.

Anonymous 2:31 PM  


Hello again, Dick. From the Wiki you cite (Act V):

Then he asks her: "Where has Peer Gynt been since we last met? Where was I as the one I should have been, whole and true, with the mark of God on my brow?"

Are these "presumed last words for Peer Gynt" really "famouser than any in the puzzle"? I've never heard them before. Granted most of the theme answers aren't famous (GROUCHO MARX possible exception), but this seems really obscure. Also granted "famouser" as a joke. If you really meant it, yechhh!

As for U. CAL: Perhaps you can swallow it, but would you accept U. TEX??? In two decades of close association with CAL people, I have never ever heard U. CAL, so that is a bad answer.

CAL by itself is the nickname of the original UC campus only, the University of California at Berkeley, not of the "10 branches" as a whole -- another problem with this answer.

Larry the Lurker

Ulrich 2:35 PM  

@lurker0: I also read R_C's link, and I understand the last word was "mother"...

chefwen 2:37 PM  

@chefbea - I'm with you, spent way too much time googling/cheating and just not having any fun, it was more of a chore than anything else.

jae 2:40 PM  

Enjoyed this one but it was a bit of a slog as I needed lots of crosses to get the theme answers. I think the fun was in learning who said all of those "famous last words." I too had ALES for a while, tried EVAGABOR, struggled to remember my Canadian provinces and what famous person's name ended in GULA. Medium-Challenging works for me.

Ulrich 2:52 PM  

Soccer alert: Italy vs. Brazil on ESPN right now is just wonderful--no BS in midfield, non-stop action from goal area to goal area.

And Andrea (acme--are you with us?) Pirlo, l'architetto, Italy's no. 10 (although he wears no 21) is in fine form. Our friend Kaka almost scored getting through to a one-on-one with Italy's goalie, the great Buffon (sic)---have to get back!

retired_chemist 2:52 PM  

@ Larry the Lurker -

Those who have seen Peer Gynt, unless Wikipedia lies, have heard the line I quoted. Seems like very few have heard the quotes in the puzzle - many thousands upon thousands worldwide have seen Peer Gynt (not I). That is the sense in which I meant it.

Famouser - in the same genre as curiouser and curiouser. I leave it to you to decide whether my grammar passes muster in general. Should my word usage rise to the standards of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson I will be satisfied.

I guess you missed the UC/Cal discussion which I guess I as an alumnus started a month or so ago, following CAL. U. an answer for UC Berkeley. That one was truly stinkeroo. By comparison, the misnomer today, referring to the University of California System, is at least tolerable. I'm not happy about it either though.

Anonymous 2:54 PM  

@Ulrich said:

@lurker0: I also read R_C's link, and I understand the last word was "mother"...


Oh, funny. That might indeed be a much used "last word," though not at all famous.

From the Wiki: "Peer screams and calls her mother..." and "mother" isn't even in quotes. The actual text doesn't seem to be available on line, at least for free.


George NYC 2:55 PM  

I liked the different nature of this theme. I had never heard any of the quotes before, so it took me a while to understand whether they were actual Last Words or some sort of trick. I think that is to the constructors' credit. Loved Conrad Hilton's final thought, if true. As we (sometimes) say in the newsmag biz, "too good to check."

Anonymous 3:00 PM  

Only slightly off-topic:

For the second week in a row, the New York Times Magazine presents two KenKens (which are indeed wonderfully addictive) at the bottom of the puzzle page. This time, the acrostic puzzle is banished completely; available online to subscribers. I think it will be this way from now on.

I doubt that Will Shortz consulted with the user base before making this decision. His prerogative, though.

Three and out is the expectation, I've learned.

Larry the Lurker

foodie 3:09 PM  

It's amazing to me that these were actually last words. I thought it was metaphorical, but checked it out after the fact and yep... CONRAD HILTON actually spoke about shower curtains on his death bed! It's hilarious. I love OSCAR WILDE's best, but all of them are very interesting to ponder... e.g. why would EVA speak about herself in the third person?

The solving experience was very stop and go for me. An area would feel totally locked up and then I'd get a small break and the whole thing would materialize. It was in part the nature of the theme and may be the pattern of black squares...

Happy Father's Day to all the dads! I'm here to tell you that, for a girl, having a dad who believes in her is the most magical gift in the world (I'm sure it's true for boys too, but no personal experience there : ).

Doug 3:11 PM  

Och, could not get my teeth into this one. The theme answers were a touch too obscure and/or literal to really enjoy, but a couple were fun, e.g. Wilde and Marx.

Happy Father's Day to all of you fathers out there in the x-world.

Stan 3:33 PM  

Somehow I doubt that was Will's decision, Larry. Sad to lose the acrostic, though, if that's going to be a result of the new format.

Anyway, I appreciated this challenging but satisfying puzzle! Additional thanks to Rex, especially for the Bo Diddley clip and the Tweets.

Tony 3:38 PM  

@Ulrich,thx for the soccer alert. love the Italian team.

@Larry . . Mr. Shortz has a personal financial interest in seeing KenKen catch on. carries his KenKen books. KenKen = $$ for Shortz

Campesite 3:55 PM  

Like Foodie, I too find it remarkable that these were all last words. I found this one of the more interesting puzzle themes as the entries were surprising, and, with the exception of perhaps EVA PERON, very difficult to tease out from the actual last words.
Well done!

PlantieBea 4:13 PM  

Slow and steady, but finished with a few errors--sloppy mistakes on my part except for AKC/UCAL for which I had ADM/UMAL. Like Glitch, I got every themed answer from the partially filled crossings. I liked the theme even though I too was looking for more at first. It does make me stop to think about last words.

Happy Father's Day to the dads. My boys are sending my husband and me out for a sushi dinner tonight :-)

Hobbyist 4:39 PM  

Bring back Ben Taub and other cryptic fun. No Ken Ken, no diagramless.

Orange 4:45 PM  

NARCO is in the dictionary. It means a drug dealer or the narcotics officer who pursues the dealer.

Will Shortz reports that the new smaller trim size of the magazine means the second Sunday puzzle will no longer fit below the crossword. So instead Ken-Ken goes there, and the acrostic or other second Sunday puzzle appears elsewhere in the long as the powers-that-be say there are enough ad pages. If there aren't enough ads to go around the acrostic or other puzzle, then it becomes an online-only puzzle that week. There's a recession on, so I wouldn't be surprised if the print magazine skips the other puzzle a lot.

Unknown 5:54 PM  

I found this to be a grind, with cluing deliberately tweaked up to take to take it to a higher difficulty level, in a seemingly artificial way (e.g., exsiccate). Finally finished on GANT (wasn't this also a Brooks Bros. wannabe brand of the 1960s?)

Is there a new rule--or repeal of an old rule--that now allows the answer to have a direct lift from the clue (EVA Peron)? Knew it was right, but seemed wrong.

chefbea 6:11 PM  

@william I remember gant. that was the name of a polo shirt?? Like La Coste??

Unknown 6:29 PM  

I am devastated at the loss of acrostics and cryptic puzzles. (Diagramless no loss). Also, seems to me an acrostic could fit where there are two kenkens, especially with a small adjustment in type size if necessary. New York Times, this is NOT in your economical best interest! I just know it. Hex are the best! So so unhappy about this.

Glitch 6:53 PM  

@Joe in Montreal

Although chief was singular, concerns was plural, so tribes works (for me).

Moving the acrostic to the internet moves me one step closer to cancelling my dead tree subscription. "On Line" is not only cheaper (for me and the NYT), but has a lot more options (for me NOT the NYT).


If you send me your email address (see my profile) I have a response to your shout out a while back (haven't seen you lately).


bobby 6:54 PM  

KenKen is a computer-generated puzzle, mass-produced, and touted as "addictive" by the website

the Cox/Rathvon acrostic was the last literate corner of the NY Times. today I'm asked to believe that KenKen (the lutefisk of puzzles) is the only puzzle on Earth that fits the new space, and not a word puzzle? now we learn that the editor has a financial interest in KenKen. well, I'll be!

our NYT subscription included an acrostic written by literate HUMAN BEINGS.

we voted with our wallets today and cancelled our NYT subscription (after 21 years), citing KenKen as the reason in our letter to the Times. we're not interested in computer-generated puzzles

Anne 6:56 PM  

This puzzle felt more like Saturday than Sunday - I put it together piece by piece and worked on it off and on all day - exactly like Saturday. And actually I thought many of the last words were apt - Wilde, Hilton, Marx, Polo, Flynn - so I liked the theme. Costello's thought was really sweet - I hope it's true. All in all, it was quite challenging and very enjoyable with no googling and two mistakes. That is not like Saturday, of course.

Anne 7:11 PM  

Re twittering - I thought the comment about the town crier crying the crossword was really funny.

And I've been following the twittering out of Iran - it's really sobering and I'm so glad this technology is available for them.

Amelie 7:19 PM  

I thought it was cute that DESPOT and DEPOTS crossed ;-)

Stan 7:25 PM  

I have had any number of Gant shirts. Probably purchased at Hathaway Outlet stores. Remember those, @dk?

Anonymous 8:06 PM  

I wrote an angry letter to the Times about the acrostic (and diagramless, pun/anagram, etc.) puzzle disappearing except at a cost. If they want to save money, let them fire that gasbag Tom Friedman.

Anonymous 8:34 PM  

Just finished the puzzle a minute ago (very late start) and haven't had time to read everyone else's remarks but I had to jump in with my immediate reaction to the answer to 10D. I'm absolutely offended at the idea that John McCain's "residence" was Hanoi. He was a prisoner and horribly tortured. It was his hell and couldn't possibly be described with a benign word such as residence. That's my screed for the day and I had to get it off my chest. Alice in S.F.

HudsonHawk 10:13 PM  

Count me among those offended by the HANOI clue. I tried to interpret it as a recognition of what Senator McCain endured in the service of his country, but the word "residence" just doesn't work in that manner.

George NYC 10:30 PM  

I took the McCain clue as a misdirect (I wrote in TEMPE). Given that McCain himself, whom I respect, used his "residency" in Hanoi as a campaign line, (using that same language for humor) I didn't take offense. He opened the door, as it were.

Joe in Montreal 10:31 PM  

I agree with negative comments about KenKen. The creator has confused 'difficult' with 'tedious'.

rob 11:40 PM  

If anyone from the Times reads this...please, lose the KenKen. These arithmetic puzzles may have applications for 6th graders, to make math fun. The KenKen in today's magazine is better suited for "Boy's Life"

The acrostic is for literate adults who love to read. I'm 41 years old, with another 50 years of purchasing power. Don't lose me as a customer.

treedweller 11:55 PM  

Has this site been co opted by the Times? I thought it was an individual's blog, said individual being independent from and powerless over the newspaper. I'd be willing to bet there's ready access online to email addresses (or, dare I sat it, physical addresses) for complaints about the newspaper.

George NYC 12:06 AM  

Sure everyone can email the Times to who knows what effect. But I can attest that in this shaky economic environment, people at the Times and elsewhere pay very much attention to Internet buzz in all forms. For one thing, it's cheap research. For another, as the Iran situation shows, you can learn a lot more by following blogs etc than reading your mail. I totally think the complaints here will be heard by the Times with more impact thyan a few, probably misdirected emails.

treedweller 12:16 AM  

@George NYC

My concern was less over whether the NYT hears the complaints than over whether the rest of us have to hear them. I believe Rex set this site up as a venue to talk about the crossword puzzle. With all due respect to previous commenters, I really don't care to hear your opinions about the Magazine. I acknowledge that the comments here tend to range away from the puzzle, but they usually start from that baseline.

treedweller 12:28 AM  


My guess is that the rule is the same, but this was an exception. If the theme is to clue people's names by their last words, and one of them happens to include her name in her last words, what is a puzzle editor to do? I was frankly glad for that one, as it was my first theme answer and helped me to solidify what I was looking for in the others. But, I admit, I had a second where I wondered if it could be true, based on the rule.

George NYC 12:51 AM  

You are exactly right: the comments start at a baseline that closely adheres to the puzzle itself.
Later, topics tend to veer off. To me, that's the best aspect of the blog. After a while, I really don't need to read another solver's step-by-step account of their "solving experience." Almost always, Rex's concise and frothy exegesis takes care of that. So I enjoy the clue/answer controversies, the anecdotes, the odd remembrances evoked, the twisted logic, the insanely PC objections, the picayune dictionary disputes. IMO, the changes in the Sunday Times puzzle page strike to the heart of what we care about on this blog. Apart from the loathsome inclusion of the Can-Can, or whatever they call this graphically horrendous infestation of the nation's premier puzzle venue, the exile of the acrostic and other oddball sidebar enigmas (which, to be honest, I rarely engage) is a subject worthy of discussion. If not here, where?

rob 1:28 AM  

@treedweller...this is Rex's living room and I am his guest. I respect that.It's his call, his decision.

a crostic michaels 3:38 AM  

Just checking in now...Thanks for the Italian heads up, but I don't have cable, wouldn't watch sports if I did and I don't even DO the Sunday puzzle...
ironically I live for the acrostic once a month!
This is baaaaaaad news.
(esp bec I'm not an online subscriber)
But folks are right, Will loves Ken Ken and has a stake in it. And, as true to this puzzle's theme, has the last word on to speak.

I imagine Will more likely to read complaints if on the Wordplay blog than this one.

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

I have to believe the "Eva is leaving" clue is an error. If it isn't, then one of the cardinal rules of crossword solving (i.e., the answer cannot contain any word found in the clue), has no meaning. I feel like a child who suffers from PTSD as the result of an earthquake; if I can't depend on a Sunday NYT crossword puzzle, then like the child who now feels that she can no longer depend on the very ground she walks on, is there NOTHING that I can count on?

Susan 11:30 AM  

Andrea,thanks.I didn't know that the editor had a financial stake in KenKen.The Wordplay blog didn't provide that info..

Why are acrostics important?

One day I'll open up the acrostic to find a quote from a book written by Amy or Rex.

(..wrote to the address provided on Wordplay, still waiting for an answer...)

william e emba 3:02 PM  

Sorry for this late comment, it may help someone anyway. I just printed the Cox/Rathvon acrostic. I am not a subscriber, I just fished around on the NYT puzzle page and found it, along with Will Shortz' explanation. I assume the rest of the comments on that page are spoilers, but I didn't look. And even though I am currently in a library with a subscription to the NYT, the Sunday/Daily puzzles are unavailable to me on-line.

I do some part time math teaching at a Yeshiva (Orthodox secondary/post-secondary) and we just finished a unit on calculating solar noon, sunrise, sunset and the like from scratch, using spherical trigonometry. To keep things simple I stuck to the four continental US time zones. To show what odd things happen as you get closer to the poles, I had them do Whitehorse and Yellowknife. So NWT was a complete gimme.

I'm quite certain I would have gotten it anyway. I was really really into maps as a kid. I suppose as a word freak I ought to welcome the name Iqaluit, capital of Nunavut, but I still prefer the old name Frobisher Bay. It reminds me of Don Martin, probably for all the wrong reasons.

slypett 5:21 PM  

@wte--if you're checking: That was a lovely post. Thank you.

nurturing 10:46 PM  

jae: "struggled to remember my Canadian provinces"

The Northwest Territories (NWT) is not a Canadian province. Neither are the Yukon (formerly, until 2003, Yukon Territory) nor Nunavut (officially separated from the NWT in 1999).

They are, all three, federal territories of Canada.

PIX 9:22 AM  

It is Saturday morning. I doubt anyone will ever read this. But, for the record: the theme answers where they actually relate to the person (Dali: clock....Hilton: Shower Curtain....Dylan Thomas: drinking...) were great fun. The other theme answers,less so, but still good. Great puzzle.

slypett 2:57 PM  

I read it!

slypett 2:58 PM  

I read it!

Tyler James Young 9:45 AM  

This puzzle is not aging well... Neither people nor pot are illegal!

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