Highest worship in Catholicism — SUNDAY, Jul. 26 2009 — Onetime MTV animated title character / 1971 peace nobelist from Germany / Bilbao bloom

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Constructor: Kevin G. Der

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Story Circle" — An Arthurian Legend puzzle. Circled squares in the middle of the grid form a kind of ring. Each circled square contains the word "SIR," and collectively those squares signify the KNIGHTS OF / THE ROUND TABLE (14D: With 76-Down, 1953 Ava Gardner film as depicted elsewhere in this puzzle?) [NOTE: apparently the rebus ("SIR") squares were NOT circled in the dead-tree version of the puzzle. Failure to standardize the puzzle appearance across the different formats = tiresome incompetence.]

Word of the Day: LATRIA (122D: Highest form of worship in Catholicism)Latrīa is a Latin term (from the Greek λατρεια) used in Orthodox and Catholic theology to mean adoration, which is the highest form of worship or reverence and is directed only to the Holy Trinity. (wikipedia)

An ambitious puzzle, with two different theme levels (long answers and rebus) an oversized grid (23x23) and L/R (as opposed to the normal rotational) symmetry. With a big, multi-layered production like this, it feels as if Mr. DER is auditioning to become the next Liz Gorski — and doing a pretty fine job of it. I have taught college courses on Arthurian Literature, so this one was about as solidly in my wheelhouse as any puzzle ever will be, but I think that all of the titles involved should be familiar enough to virtually anyone that the theme itself should have posed much of a problem. Further, of all the rebus puzzles I've seen before, this one was probably the easiest to detect and solve. I got the entirety of A CONNECTICUT YANKEE / IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT the first time I looked at the clue, with only a handful of the first two or three letters in place, and I knew instantly that those circled squares in the middle must have something to do with the Round Table. Thankfully, there were enough zigs and zags in the puzzle, enough thorny cluing and odd little words, to keep the solving experience interesting. The grid is a kind of architectural marvel. He stacked 15-letter theme answers right on top of each other. I don't think I've ever seen that done. As with any architectural marvel, there were some compromises in the fill — a few that made me wince a little — but overall, the puzzle gets a very solid thumbs-up.

Theme answers:

  • 137A: 1963 animated film with the song "Higitus Figitus," with "The" ("SWORD IN THE STONE")
  • 143A: 1998 animated film featuring the voice of Pierce Brosnan ("QUEST FOR CAMELOT")
  • 2D: 1984 film in which Helen Mirren plays a sorceress ("EXCALIBUR") — side note: I am watching movies from 1969 right now (arbitrary, yes, but it's leading to some amazing discoveries), and I just finished Michael Powell's "Age of Consent," which was Mirren's first film. She was very young in that film (playing 17, but really in her early 20s, I think). Also brilliant and beautiful. Also quite naked. It's worth watching, is what I'm saying.
  • 4D: With 12-Down, 1889 Twain novel ("A CONNECTICUT YANKEE / IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT")
  • 14D: With 76-Down, 1953 Ava Gardner film as depicted elsewhere in this puzzle? ("KNIGHTS OF / THE ROUND TABLE")
  • 71D: 2001 Anjelica Huston miniseries, with "The" ("MISTS OF AVALON") — here we come to my one quibble with this theme. The puzzle is already heavy on screen versions of stories. I don't know how popular this miniseries was, but I do know that the novel "Mists of Avalon" by Marion Zimmer Bradley was phenomenally popular, and remains in print. I think the book, not the miniseries, should have been the basis of the clue (you could, if you'd really felt the need, added "which was adapted into a 2001 miniseries" or something like that). The very word "miniseries" feels laughable to me in the 21st century. It's not as if "Mists of Avalon" (2001) was "Roots" or "The Thorn Birds."

Kevin Der's love of animated films (ask him about his job at Pixar) is evident in this puzzle. A little too evident for me, as I haven't seen "Wall-E," and thus was perfectly willing to believe that 91A: Wall-E's love in "Wall-E" was something called EVO. The "O" came from AMON RA (78D: Supreme Egyptian deity), which is one of three (3) acceptable ways of spelling this particular god's name (AMON, AMUN, AMEN). It was only after grimacing at that answer (EVO) that I realized it might be something else. Obviously EVE is the only reasonable *human* name that fits the in the "Wall-E" answer, but if your clue is asking for a robot name, then there's no reason EVO might not be perfectly reasonable, esp. when the cross (in this case "O") is rock solid.


  • 16A: Sky Chief company (Texaco) — no idea what Sky Chief is. I see now that it is some olde-timey brand of gasoline. I'm assuming that it couldn't make your car fly.
  • 28A: 2001 headline maker (Enron) — I had ELIAN. Off by a year or so.
  • 33A: Michael of "Juno" and "Superbad" (Cera) — if you are buying stock in crossword answers, I recommend investing in CERA. CERA and MALIA are my Hott Pickz of the Week! (CERA gained fame in the TV show "Arrested Development" and is now something close to a legitimate movie star — very funny).
  • 53A: Tulsa sch. (ORU) — Oral Roberts U.
  • 55A: Subject of a tipster's tip (nag) — my brain died on this one. I had NAG and still couldn't figure out what it meant. I was thinking of someone giving a "tip" in a criminal investigation. NAG is, of course, a horse.
  • 56A: Joe Montana or Jerry Rice, informally (Niner) — as in San Francisco 49er. I was born in SF, so I should have been a fan, but never was. Could've backed a winner. But no. I backed the Seahawks. Still do. So sad.
  • 58A: Additions to a musical staff (bar lines) — these are the vertical lines that separate measures. Other BAR LINES: "Come here often?" and "What's your sign?"
  • 60A: _____ but when (not if) — for some reason, I Love this clue.
  • 69A: Dried seaweed in Japanese cuisine (kombu) — that's a pretty foodie answer. It's familiar, but only vaguely.
  • 100A: Tandoor flatbreads (nans) — I've never seen this pluralized with an "S"; looks about as good as "breads"; "Can we get some more breads, please?" "No, you cannot."
  • 105A: Bones may be found in it (stock) — another great clue. So many possible answers, and this one was dead on.
  • 127A: Island where Sundanese and Madurese are spoken (Java) — Mmm, sundae-nese. I would like to speak that right now (and it's only 7:36 a.m.)
  • 136A: Operatic heroine wooed by Beckmesser (Eva) — no idea. All from crosses. EVE and EVA were clearly out to get me today.
  • 151A: Org. in Clancy's "Red Storm Rising" (NSA) — Never read a Tom Clancy book. I imagine that the Red Storm is something bad and possibly Communist... yes. Tom Clancy is also a big name in video games, and this novel provided the name for Clancy's game development company, Red Storm Entertainment.
  • 3D: Onetime MTV animated title character and others (Darias) — really? There's more than one DARIA? Can you name one?

  • 5D: Weathercast figure (low) — cool, unusual cluing.
  • 17D: Relative of a grapefruit (ugli) — a hybridized grapefruit and tangerine, in case anyone asks.
  • 20D: Bilbao bloom (flor) — took me a few passes. Thought the answer would be a particular kind of FLOR.
  • 37D: River that flows past more than 40 castles (Rhine) — interesting stat. That's a Lot of castles.
  • 63A: "Winnie _____ Pu" ("Ille") — one of my most hated bits of fill. An absolute, hail mary, nothing else will work here answer. Someone should make a robot movie called "Ill-E" so that this answer becomes more legit.
  • 66D: Pot-_____ (French stew) (au feu) — Parlez-VOUS français? (112D). Today, it would help if you did.
  • 69D: Conductor Lockhart and others (Keiths) — no clue. Oh, he's conductor of the Boston Pops. Huh. Interesting. With Fiedler gone, I don't think the Boston Pops are nearly as well known any more (outside Boston) as this clue thinks they are.
  • 108D: 1971 Peace Nobelist from Germany (Brandt) — man, there was a Lot I didn't know today. Why was this puzzle so easy, then?
  • 117D: Heroine in Verdi's "Il Trovatore" (Leonora) — not sure I knew this either, but she's got a very Poe-esque name, so I pieced it together pretty easily.
  • 123D: Antisub weapon (ashcan) — isn't this slang?
  • 133D: What an inflectional ending is added to (stem) — very nice STEM clue.
  • 134D: Certain netizen (AOLer) — up there with ILLE on the answera non grata list.

And now, time for the "Puzzle Tweets of the Week" (Twitter chatter about Crosswords):

  • Natron602 I want a gorgeous brunette foreign girl to hang out in bed in her panties while I do crossword puzzles. is this a lame fantasy?
  • Faina_I Doing a crossword in a Starbucks, and a kid is staring at me through the window. Now I feel pressured.
  • thisisdannyg proof of my intelect #489: didn't know crossword clue "'As I Lay Dying' father" but immediately knew "Andy Griffith Show" tyke
  • J_Waite I'm anti-all this french in crossword puzzles.
  • annthewriter holy freaking shit. you'd be amazed how painful it is to drop the NYT supersized book of Sunday crossword puzzles on your bare foot. ow.
  • ikforman I have no idea why I'm trying to hard to hide I'm cheating on the crossword from my train seatmate
  • michelehumes "Ste." is a French abbreviation for a (female) saint, not an English one. No fair. #impeachwillshortz
  • akuban 7 Down ... "Who Let the Dogs Out"? Seriously, Will Shortz? Thanks for putting that shit song in my head.
  • evenerual je "parle" mauvaus francais mais aujuord'hui dans le crossword il y as un phrase francais et i was all over that

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


retired_chemist 8:49 AM  

At least medium for me. Caught on AMON-RA/EVO as RP said. A Natick. EVO is actually a dog food FWIW. Was in the midst of fixing 11A from SILOS, thought I'd stop to check the rest of the puzzle, and forgot to get back to New England. Oh well.

Enjoyable - a good workout. Thank you, Kevin Der.

HudsonHawk 8:52 AM  

The dead-tree version did not have the pre-printed circles, which made the rebuses a little trickier. Especially when it looked like FIREMEN might work for 19D.

Nevertheless, I rolled through most of this puzzle, until getting to the very SW corner. At that point, I had EVA in two different places, which couldn't be right, and STEAK for STOCK in 105A. Didn't believe STEAK, since it was in the clue for 72D, but couldn't get away from it.

I've recently seen Wall-E, and he sounds like he's saying EVA. AMAN RA looked wrong, but I didn't correct it until the SW was cemented. IMDb confirms the character is EVE, but I don't think of EVE having two syllables.

Jim H 9:17 AM  

Each circled square contains the word "SIR,"

As HudsonHawk said, no circles in print. That would have made the rebus a LOT easier. The SIR in FIREM^HSIREN was the last square to fall for me.

JaneB 9:32 AM  

I thought this was a little harder than "easy." No idea about "ashcan," or "latria" or "stem," or merc (an abbreviation for mercenary?), so I got stuck in the southeast. Also, as Rex suggested, took me a long time to get Mists of Avalon, especially since I had no idea what Japanese dried seaweed was.
And "firesiren" did not come easily (Print edition -- no circles). Is that really a term, though?
But it was a good puzzle, liked the theme.

Robert Burns 9:36 AM  

As I Cam Down By YON Castle Wa'

As I cam down by YON castle wa',
And in by YON garden green,
O, there I spied a bonie, bonie lass,
But the flower-borders were us between.

Ruth 9:41 AM  

What about this YEANS? Common crosswordese? I got it from crosses, looked it up, yup it's a word like he says it is, but--never saw it before! (that's the beauty of it all--there continue to be SO MANY things I never saw before!)

Crosscan 9:43 AM  

Lots of stuff going on here. Super-sized, long down answers, long across answers, rebus...Perfect for a Sunday.

LATRIA/YEANS last letter to fall but what else could it be?

fpbear 9:44 AM  

Thought it was hard for a Sunday. Circles might have helped. I fondly remember Winnie ille pu. Harder Latin than 4 years in high school, but I read it and sneered.

HudsonHawk 9:46 AM  

The mistake for me on the rebuses was that I had the lower three SIRs nailed down. Looking at it symmetrically, I assumed that there was only one more SIR, at the start of 49D. This obviously didn't work with OATH, so I went looking elsewhere. It made things a little more challenging, but lots of fun. Nice puzzle, K.G.D.

JaneB 10:10 AM  

@Ruth: Oh, I forgot about YEANS! Had never heard of it. Added to my difficulty.

Anonymous 10:26 AM  

"arafat" was the key for me. Ah hah...SIR.

Denise 10:31 AM  

All my friends had copies of WINNIE ILLE PU, but --- oh yeah -- it was the classics club! I got this pretty easily, being an Arthurian.

This summer I am not in CAMELOT, where "the rain may never fall 'til after sunset/by 9 p.m. the moonlight must appear." (Or something like that.)

Norm 10:31 AM  

Agree 100% on The Mists of Avalon. Fantastic book that "deserved" the clue over the mini-series. Thought the KOMBU/KEITHS cross was very questionable. Why not Keith Jarrett? Still music -- and someone people might actually have heard of. Anyone think there is any significance to the five rebuses and six theme answers? I vaguely recall something about eleven kings in Arthurian literature.

Karen from the Cape 10:34 AM  

Fun puzzle. I totally agree with the Mists of Avalon rant. And I love the idea of gas to make cars fly.

Wasn't it a similar clue about things with no bones=STOCK that slowed down Tyler at the ACPT this year and made him do the Ali shuffle?

Orange 10:39 AM  

Wow, I've never heard of LATRIA.

I haven't done this or any other Sunday puzzles as I'm taking the day off. But I just laughed to see [SIR] LOINS in the puzzle. Who's he? I'm intrigued.

Ulrich 10:52 AM  

Even if I didn't know some of the long titles and the circles were missing, I had fun doing this puzzle--figured it all out in the end except for the final A in LATRIA (and I was a R.Catholic in a former incarnation!)--YEENS looked good enough for me.

My beef: KAISERS clued as a plural. I do not belief that "kaiser" is in the language to the degree that it can be subjected to English inflections. So, the German plural of Kaiser is--Kaiser! Like many -er nouns, it doesn't change in plural form. Like Wiener (Viennese), to which also an s was slapped on at the end in the ACPT two years ago (note: It was explicitly clued as a German word, not as some form of unspeakable sausages)--I find this unacceptable.

BTW Kaisers IS a legitimate form, as in Des Kaisers neue Kleider (The emperor's new clothes); i.e. it's the genitive singular.

If I have the time today, I'll list the dozen ways in which plurals can be formed in German--that should really discourage people from messing with a language they do not understand.

Michael Leddy 10:54 AM  

I found this puzzle mostly wonderful. I esp. liked "Soap box?" (TVSET) and "Bring up, perhaps" (REHEM). But the deep South -- LATRIA and YEANS -- sheesh.

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

ok.. no Monty Python clues? No clips from RP?
Surely I am not feeling very Beatific about this at all!

pednsg 11:18 AM  

I thought the construction was amazing (as usual), but I had to Google for the first time in months (on a Sunday)to complete the KEITH area. I couldn't understand Temple structure (DORM) until I thought of the university - tricky!. I still have NO idea how ASHCAN is an antisub weapon. Anyone?? Bueller??

@PurpleGuy - Where in the Valley did you get your meat for steak tartare? I've been able to think of little else for the past two days!

Ulrich 11:35 AM  

...oops--make that "believe" in the 2nd para.--when will blogger ever allow editing of a post by its author?

Wart 12:00 PM  

Grail scene

Noam D. Elkies 12:17 PM  

An ambitious and largely successfully and enjoyable supersized puzzle — thanks, KGD & WS!

Yes, stock → bones was the cause of high ACPT drama last February. Count me in the misled-by-STEAK group for the bones → 105A:STOCK clue. I didn't notice that this would clash with the clue for 72D:[SIR]LOINS, even though this entry was what gave me the rebus.

Nor did I notice till later that 136A:EVA helped resolve the ambiguity for 91A:EVE. Coincidentally I saw WALL·E just before solving the puzzle, making this otherwise-mysterious entry an outright gimme. (The robot identifies "her"self as "Eve"; Wall·E has a hard time pronouncing the name, but we later see it spelled out.)

Even without using the musical Camelot, this puzzle has lots of music, e.g. 58A:BARLINES, 95A:SAX, and the Rachmaninoff clue for 124A:ÉTUDES. To my shame I didn't know either 136:EVA or 117D:LEONORA (not to be confused with the Leonore of Beethoven's one opera and three overtures), and had to piece them together from crosses. Nor did I get 11D:DOS until just now (or at least I think got it: "way up" as in do, re, mi, etc.). I did, however, know of Keith Lockhart. I have no problem with Jarrett either, especially having heard his recording of Shostakovich's preludes and fugues. Can we compromise on "conductor Lockhart and pianist Jarrett" for the clue to 69D:KEITHS?

63D:ILLE is standard crosswordese, surely no worse than other familiar dodges like 117A:LRON. Not many choices for 75A:U?T?? and 83:R?H??, and the others seem to make 63D and the 77D/78D patch much worse.

Nice to see 60A:NISAN in the puzzle, where often it seems that the Jewish calendar contains only ADAR, ELUL, and IYAR. Still waiting for MARCHESHVAN :-)


Anonymous 12:41 PM  

136A: Operatic heroine wooed by Beckmesser (Eva)

Eva is one of the two female roles in Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

PlantieBea 12:47 PM  

An enjoyable Sunday workout. Thanks Kevin Der.

@Wart, I enjoyed the Monty Python clip. MP and the Holy Grail is a family favorite.

In the end, I messed up LATRIA, didn't know YEANS, have neither read nor seen MISTS OF AVALON. I had to dig deep for some of the themed answers, especially the old animated films, so more of a medium Sunday for me.

Anonymous 1:09 PM  

DARIA Werbowy is a very successful high fashion model- not a household name but a top earner, been in ads for every upscale designer, beloved by Vogue. So at least there's one other Daria out there!

Glitch 1:29 PM  

Had I had the version with the circles this would have been an enjoyable Sunday outing, not a slog.

Ken and DARIA Dolan, Financial Advisors (print/books/radio).


Susan 1:33 PM  

I found this one really hard, actually, with a lot of picky little crosses. Got stuck with Amen-Ra (wanted Aman-Ra) and that wasn't the only one. Ugh. I got "A Connecticut Yankee..." with just the A and thought is was going to be a cake walk. Not so!

@Rex, thanks for photo of dreamy Clive Owen.

Norm 1:36 PM  

@pednsg: ASHCAN was WWII slang for a depth charge. No idea why. I think maybe they kind of looked like a garbage can?

Ruth 1:40 PM  

@pednsg (boy I find your "name" hard to type!)--I haven't looked it up but I believe ashcans is a slang name for depth charges. There were so many submarine movies and TV series when I was a kid--it always got so tense when the depth charges were being dropped and the submarine creeeeaked and somewhere a valve burst and water sprayed all over the place!!!

When my kids were in grade school, there were 2 mothers of their friends named Daria! (kids are now 23 and 25) That was when Daria was on TV and I wondered where on earth this name came from. . . .

chefbea 1:42 PM  

Harder than the usual sunday puzzle . Yes sir clued me in to the rebus.

Lots of food words. Loved the stock and Sir Loin.

Can someone explain 31A=lan

hazel 1:46 PM  

For me, this was NOT EASY. There were way too many questionables. And I solved against the clock with the circles.

Regardless, I loved this puzzle. I saw (and loved) WALL-E a few months ago while in the chemo chair - definitely couldn't recall whether it was EVE/EVA - pre-meds rock! so that was the last letter to fall. But it was still tenuous, as there were plenty of other potential errors - including, but not limited to, STEM/MERC, LATRIA/YEANS, BRANDT/multiple and KOMBU/KEITH. As every Braves fan knows, Keith Lockhart was a career backup infielder with a lifetime batting average around .250. Conductor? Wha?

Even with all the IFFYness - loved the puzzle - and v. much appreciate the constructor's effort.

HudsonHawk 1:46 PM  

@chefbea, LAN=Local Area Network

Lisa in Kingston 2:05 PM  

Fun puzzle, thanks Mr. Der. Great write-up, thanks Dr. Rex.
I'm so sorry to read that you are a Seahawks fan, Rex. So am I. Misery loves company... ; ).

XMAN 2:05 PM  

I may be alone in this: I hate the puzzle. Hate, hate, hate--mostly because of the ungettable animated movies, and the miniseries.

SQIN is what they charge you by when you get a tattoo.

Clark 2:07 PM  

EVE doesn’t have two syllables, but Wall-E didn’t know that. He just sounded it out as best he -- a garbage compacting robot, not C3PO -- could. That’s how the creator of the movie explained it in an interview with Terry Gross. (This meshes with your observations @NDE.)

@Crosscan. Well how about LATRIN/YENNS? Sr. Bonaventure would be very disappointed with me.

@Ulrich. The counterargument on KAISERS, which I will mention rather than make, is that the word Kaiser got itself firmly enough implanted in English at the time of WWI that it gets to be inflected as an English noun.

@pednsg. ASHCAN is navy slang for depth charge. If you've ever seen one, you know why. (I was a big fan of WWII submarine books when I was a kid.)

I got banged up around ESAI/SABOT/DORM and NISAN/ENVYING/TVSET. Couldn't sort it out.

Semi-Puzzle Partner sees someone trying to pull the sword out of the stone in the grid. I can talk myself into seeing it.

Anonymous 2:09 PM  

Did anyone else put hub for nub, 45 across, "center"? How is a nub a center?

Re: eve in wall-e - She was the first woman, for him, so eve makes good sense.

chefbea 2:10 PM  

@Hudson Hawk thanks

Now can anyone explain gun for hire=merc?

Anonymous 2:11 PM  

merc is a mercenary.

Lisa in Kingston 2:18 PM  

@Clark: if I squint hard enough, I can talk myself into seeing a face-on view of someone on a horse, kind of like a knight on the chessboard.

Hobbyist 2:24 PM  

Dullsville. Bring on Mel Taub whom I ADORE!! Much more fun dealing w him than Arthurian era.

treedweller 2:33 PM  

When I first saw the title, I thought the circle words would actually write a little story. I was a little disappointed when I realized they would all be SIRs. I was a little more disappointed when YESSIR came up--seems cheap when all the others use SIR as part of another word. Unless maybe soldiers are supposed to be saying YESSIR as one word.

I never even bothered to google or guess for SABOT/BRANDT or LATRIA/YEANS. YEANS? Really? I assume my ignorance of SABOT is just me, since I just barely manage to get a shirt and pants on some days, but YEANS? Now I have to brush up on my goat-ranching terminology to complete the puzzle? [insert OATH here]!

fikink 2:35 PM  

Well, Kevin, you didn't earn your "Der Kluge" from Ulrich, owing to your inflection (or not) of KAISER.
Should have gone with the "round, soft bread roll with a crisp crust, made by folding the corners of a square of dough into the center, resulting in a pinwheel shape,"
but that would have been too long...

Enjoyed the puzzle, but I didn't like MERC.


Lili 2:37 PM  

Very easy. The first two answers I filled in added up to "A Connecticut Yankee ...." I was sure there could be only one Twain title with enough letters. Then I filled in "Excalibur," and from there, it was an easy joust.

"Latria" I knew. When you're a specialist in 16th and 17th-century Italian art, you spend a lot of time studying the history, doctrines, and liturgies of Roman Catholicism.

I saw "Wall-E" just a few weeks ago. Otherwise, I would have had trouble with "Eve." A fun film, by the way.

treedweller 2:37 PM  

Oh, and I can kind of see a close-up of a dog's face when I squint at the grid. This could turn into a new sideline on slow puzzle days--grid Rorschach tests. (No, Rex I am not really suggesting that. Maybe someone else wants to start a new blog . . .)

still_learnin 2:47 PM  

A hard one for me. I caught on to the SIR trick right away and filled in several of the long answers early on.

Just when I was starting to think "what an easy puzzle", I lost traction. I had CONOCO for TEXACO, HUB for NUB, LO CAL for LO FAT and several others that I've now forgotten.

By the way, I SLOW DOWN rather than SLOW UP. And, I've never seen LATRIA, EYRIES or KOMBU.

Still in all, I enjoyed the struggle. Thank you sir may I please have another?

Glitch 2:49 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glitch 2:51 PM  

I was bothered by MERC at first feeling it was not clued as an abbreviation.

Then found MERC is a word defined as "slang" for mercenary, but still felt "?" or "slang" was missing.

Finally realized "Gun for hire" is slang too.

I also recall a while back complaining about too many circles in puzzles.

Guess I should be careful what I ask for.


(or "for what I ask")

acme 2:55 PM  

you were born in SF???!!!
Love those Sunday crossword tweets.

George NYC 3:28 PM  

I feel bad for Mr. Der. The Times' screwup in the print edition, for me at least, turned a very clever, complicated Sunday into a somewhat tiresome slog. I don't expect a rebus when there is another major theme going on (hence the circles I would guess). It didn't help that the large grid, combined with the Times' new trim size, made the squares pretty tiny--not that that should matter. I'm just saying...

Rex Parker 3:40 PM  

Just to be clear, the puzzle was never supposed to have circles. The ones that appeared in the computer versions of the puzzle were included accidentally (an annotation misunderstanding).


George NYC 3:47 PM  

So in other words, I shouldn't feel bad for Kevin Der, just for myself :)

Anonymous 3:53 PM  

I agree with George NYC--The International Herald Tribune (print edition) did not have the "sir" circles. The squares of the grid are also tiny, so it was a slog for me too.
Cheers, Sally in France

poc 3:54 PM  

Not having the circles would have made this a lot harder.

The otherwise excellent theme fill is marred by the fact that 14D and 76D form a single title, whereas 2D and 71D don't.

I must confess that I couldn't finish The Mists of Avalon (the book). I much preferred Mary Stewart's Arthurian tetralogy, told from the point of view of Merlin.

The Sword in The Stone was one of my favourite childhood movies, and I've tried to like Excalibur (honest) but Hollywood's record on Arthurian stories is not a happy one. See the appalling First Knight for a typical example.

joeyshapiro 4:05 PM  

didn't like the puzzle at all. too many obscure films or tv series, even if they were arthurian legend themed.

and latria? really? good latin based word, but f'in' difficult for us non-catholics.

plus, as soon as i figured out the theme, i had the "knights of the round table"? song from "quest for the holy grail" stuck in my head. i have to push the pram a lot, indeed.

Z.J. Mugildny 4:08 PM  

Ambitious puzzle indeed, but not very enjoyable for me. It's mainly personal as I'm not into Arthurian history at all, so the payoff wasn't that great.

I second Clark's counter for Ulrich's quibble with KAISERS. Kaiser is a perfectly cromulent English word, and in English it can be pluralized by adding an S.

Kevin Der 4:08 PM  

@Rex: I clued 104-Across just for you because everyone knows that the table around which the knights sat was RTUND.

Ulrich 4:10 PM  

@Clark: I'm not exactly the expert in English usage and can't argue with you.

BTW "Kaiser" derives from Latin "Caesar". It was a major piece of evidence cited by our Latin teachers when they made us pronounce every c like a k--with sometimes hilarious results, like when the great orator became Kikero.

@fikink: Can you really get those rolls with a crisp crust?

poc 4:27 PM  

@joeyshapiro: LATRIA was the last one I got and I've been a Catholic all my life, i.e. it's by no means an everyday word. I suppose "idolatry" must derive from the same root in Greek.

joho 5:12 PM  

Easy? Well, of course, that's easy for you to say, Rex, you Arthurian literature teacher, you.

I struggled through this puzzle and I even had the circles to help with the rebuses, which I love.

I applaud the scope of the theme. And I applaud Kevin G. Der for his exceptional Sunday puzzle.

Oh, I have to agree with others before me, YEANS???? LATRIA????

pednsg 5:16 PM  

@ Ruth, Norm, and Clark--Thanks!

PIX 5:34 PM  

Did not like the puzzle. Too many references to movies and mini-series that are of no interest to me.Perhaps the circles would have made it at least a bit more interesting. Also, 12 years of Catholic School(including doing the mass in Latin as an altar boy) and now I find out about the highest form of worship? Also, if Montana and Rice are retired are they still Niners? aren't they ex-Niners or former-Niners?

mac 5:46 PM  

......and I see a guy with a cape, a pointy head and little boots coming through a doorway....

This was a medium for me, and probably not solely because I had no circles in my grid. I think I got the "sir" rebus because of sirocca, or maybe Yassir, then it all made a lot of sense and I had fun looking for the related titles. I remember "The Mists of Avalon", I have a sister who adores it and reads it every year, but I agree with @poc, I loved the Mary Stewart books.

Both Rex and Orange had me laughing out loud with their flying cars and Sir Loin!

With Sky Chief I figured it had to be some catering firm, but of course that is Chef. Eyries is very var. to me, and @NDE, adding Jarrett to the clue would have helped me a lot, that "kombu"/Keiths area was a personal Natick.

Yet another Merc meaning; I always notice in England that Merc is used for Mercedes, and don't people use Merc for a Mercury (car)?

@Ulrich: that word, Kaiser, always reminds me of Franz Beckenbauer.

Good workout, Kevin, thanks!

retired_chemist 5:51 PM  

@ treedweller - we had SABOT recently I think. It's the root of SABOTAGE.

edith b 6:16 PM  

I realized what the rebus was at the ARAFAT clue and, despite the obscurity of several clues, finished this one in relatively short order.

I assumed - perhaps incorrectly - that the obscure clues were deliberate but that assumption helped me to solve this one. But that assumption also kept me from enjoying this puzzle as I do not care for that kind of willfulness or what I call "stunt puzzling."

Norm 6:27 PM  

Ooh. I am so on board with edith b's dislike for "stunt puzzling" (a much nicer term than I usually use). I move we add it to the vocabulary; has to be as useful as Natick. Do I hear a second?

Clark 6:51 PM  

@Pix -- Catholic school here, too. I don't remember hearing the word LATRIA until today, but after looking it up (in Aquinas) I recognize certain debates that I was aware of as a kid, having to do with the different levels of worship or praise or adoration appropriate to God, to Mary, to the other saints, etc. There are some scholastic distinctions going on there, and I remember the protestant kids making fun of the May procession, etc. That all comes up in connecction with this word I don't remember ever hearing.

poc 6:52 PM  

@Norm: before rushing to standardize on a new term, I think we'd need to agree on what it means. I'm not clear on exactly what EdithB was trying to say here. Surely it can't be simply that the puzzle is difficult (though it wasn't particularly). Does it refer to obscure references? If so, most nicknames of sports teams and many commercial product names would qualify in my book. If neither of these, what exactly?

XMAN 6:54 PM  

Sir Loin? What about the almost forgotten Sir Occo, the Italian philosopher (14th C.) who propounded that the number of angels on the head of a pin is infinitely divisible?

PIX 7:12 PM  

@Clark: you win this round...don't have the slightest recollection of this discussion in my 12 years of Catholic school...and that includes four years with the Jesuits.

fergus 7:21 PM  

You can trust your car
to the man who wears the star ...

Even with all the Arthur entries I bumbled through this one. Only just noticed that the symmetry is strictly about the vertical axis.

Rex Parker 7:22 PM  

The use of "stunt" to describe a puzzle that is ostentatiously ambitious without adequate payoff is in no way new. I've used it myself, on this blog, more than once (last time was July 10, or so google tells me - see also April 4). And I doubt the concept originated with me.

And today's puzzle is hardly a "stunt" puzzle. It's far, far more solid in concept and execution than some of the "look-at-me" nonsense we've seen this year.

I understand Mr. DER's puzzle today is not to some people's taste, and I really appreciate those critics who have offered evidence to support their displeasure. But this grid has no more "obscurities" than most Sunday puzzles. From where I sit, it has two: LATRIA and KOMBU. Not sure what else qualifies. I could be missing something. The grid's got a bunch of stuff I didn't know, but I've learned to distinguish (or to try to) between my ignorance and the puzzle's obscurity.


PS @kevin, Amy had to explain to me what your 104-Across reference meant. I had happily forgotten for OAR for TAR screw-up at the ACPT. Thanks for dredging that up.

Rex Parker 7:24 PM  

That's "*my* OAR-for TAR screw-up at the ACPT." Sorry.


Ulrich 7:26 PM  

@mac: ditto with me

BTW The Kaiser Franz who bestowed posthumously a sobriquet on Franz B. had a poem dedicated d to him--Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser (God save Franz the emperor), which Haydn set to music (he also wrote a lovely string quartet based on the melody, The Kaiserquartett). A century later, Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote a poem calling for political unification of all German-speaking sovereignties in the center of Europe. It's meter is the same as that of the poem Haydn set to music and therefore can be sung to the same melody, and that is the genesis of the present-day national anthem of Germany.

denise 7:30 PM  

I don't think this was answered -- TEMPLE DORM -- Temple University (Philadelphia). They have dormitories.

Yeah -- as fergus said, "You can trust your car to/the man who wears the star." The brand is Texaco and Sky Chief was an ad campaign.

PIX 7:41 PM  

@ULRICH..please correct my if I am wrong...but isn't that the catchy little tune known to most people as "Deutchland Uber Alles"?

also @ Ulrich...there's a one a day amoxicillin antibiotic pill now available called Moxatag...isn't that a play on German day=Tag?

PurpleGuy 7:49 PM  

No wonder I was asked to leave the seminary, I didn't practice LATRIA ! Who knew ?

Asz for YEANS- will think twice about goat cheese from now on.

@pednsg- I know the butchers at my Fry's Marketplace. Comes from the back when I ask for it. Are you in the Valley ?

@anonymous2:09- I also had hub for the longest time for 45a. Agree with you !

Otherwise, a fairly fun Sunday puzzle.

chefbea 8:07 PM  

@ Fergus. I remember that. Wasn't that on The Milton Berl show way back when. Texaco was the sponsor???

Ellen 8:09 PM  

The circle/no circle situation is totally my error. There are no circles in the printed version. While processing the puzzle, I solved in print and circled the rebus squares in red felt pen to highlight where I had to add the 1:SIR:S indicator and mistakenly didn't realize there were no printed circles underneath.

Very sorry about this! Didn't know it had happened until I saw the blogs.

Coincidentally (or is it?) I didn't have a chance to respond until now because I was seeing the final performance of "The Norman Conquests" at the CIRCLE in the Square Theater!

mac 8:09 PM  

@Ulrich: there seem to be 2 or 3 different sets of lyrics to that music!

@pednsg: I'm guessing: pediatric neurosurgeon?

mac 8:12 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
mac 8:12 PM  

@Ellen: Looooved the Norman Conquests years ago in London. Am sorry to miss another good play because of travelling to Holland:
"How the other half loves" by Alan Ayckbourn, at the Westport Playhouse.

Very decent of you to come to the blog to explain the circle problem.

Lisa in Kingston 8:19 PM  

Re Rex: "The grid's got a bunch of stuff I didn't know, but I've learned to distinguish (or to try to) between my ignorance and the puzzle's obscurity."
Hear, hear!
Praise whomever that we no longer have to deal with clues and fill a la Maleska, IMOO.

Off to feast on BBQ'd brisket and a cold beer.

pednsg 8:20 PM  

@mac - Good guess!

Anne 8:20 PM  

I remember loving Mists of Avalon when I read it but cannot really remember it now. And I went through a Mark Twain phase many years ago and read everything I could get my hands on. He wrote some really unusual stuff. I know I read A Connecticut Yankee but cannot remember it. I don't know what to make of that. And I watched a few minutes of that Ava Gardner film just a few days ago. I thought the acting was just awful, particularly Robert Taylor, a very well known actor of his time.

As for the puzzle, it was too ambitious for me, particularly some of the movies, and I resorted to Sir Google for help.

Ulrich 8:21 PM  

@PIX: Yes, and that's the poem I'm talking about. Only the third stanza is sung these days (Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit--"unity and justice (?) and liberty")'

And yes, it seems so...

Bryan 8:23 PM  

OFTENER than not, I'd have something to add here, but I'm still thinking about Saturday...

edith b 8:30 PM  

What I know or don't know doesn't necessarily qualify a puzzle as obscure: It is the willfulness that gets to me. YEANS LATRIA KOMBU EYRIES (var) JAVA the various EVE/EVAs . These made a mess of the Southern part of this puzzle IMO.

Perhaps "stunt puzzling" means different things to different people but I did allow as how I may have been incorrect about Mr Der's willfulness. All of what I said was my opinion only.

Ruth 8:39 PM  

"Texaco SKY CHIEF--

is LO-cal-ized

(2 beats silence)


I remember this little jingle sung by a very macho-sounding male chorus. Early '60s perhaps.

PurpleGuy 8:50 PM  

@chefbea, Fergus and Ruth-
Thanks for the great memories.
I remember watching the "Texaco Star Theater"
starring "Uncle Miltie" with my family,on our small b&w TVSET. Fun times !

Apednsg- another shop I've used and can recommend is Hobe Meats,on 16th street, N of Bethany Home Road on the W side.

Ulrich 9:28 PM  

@all night owls out there in need of some soothing music: here's the poco adagio from the Kaiserquartett by Haydn.

joho 9:29 PM  

Rex ... YEANS has to qualify, too. I'd never heard of it until today.

fikink 9:42 PM  

just finished reading Norman Conquests, The God of Carnage and Reasons To Be Pretty - Yes, I'd kill to be in New York City about now!

michael 10:11 PM  

not at all easy for a Sunday for me. I would have rated it as challenging, and not because I do the paper version.

pednsg 10:38 PM  

@PurpleGuy - I am in NE PHX, near Kierland. I've driven past Hobe many times, though I've never been in there! I may have to pop in soon. Thanks!

Lisa in Kingston 11:01 PM  

@edith b, IMO, this was not a willful puzzle, every fill that you pointed out was gettable via the crosses, for me, anyway, (and some were gimmes (neons)). I had shabu for 69d for the longest time. Latria crossing yeans was a big fat ick, but I guessed right, apparently. Java, same thing, got from the crosses and totally made sense.
Please don't take this wrong, dear, but this was not a "stunt puzzle."
PS Sorry for tooting a horn, Rex. Out for today.

edith b 11:28 PM  

@lisa in kingston-

Guessing correctly is why they run the races, I suppose. I said in my original post that I had little problem in solving but did question whether or not he went out of his way to be deliberately obscure and I still wonder if that is the case.

Thank you for using the word NEON as that warms the cockles of my heart, to coin a phrase, dear, and you never have to apologize for disageeing. After all, you were just expressing your opinion, I same as I was.

Three and out.

Lisa in Kingston 1:23 AM  

@edith b: ; )

acme 2:05 AM  

lots of catholics today! who nu?
this must be how they feel when we discuss whether kishkes should be eaten or kicked!

Stan 9:50 AM  

Completed in... just under 24 hours! (One square wrong.) So I did find this quite challenging. Maybe a few more 'neons' in the the South and Southwest would have helped.

But I did appreciate the extreme theminess and a lot of the little details, like NUB-not-HUB and FGS instead of the usual TDS.

Stan 11:12 AM  


Helen Mirren is clued in 2D.

Mirren starred in "Cal" (142A).

Mirren has portrayed Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II. Both queens bestowed knighthoods.

In "Prime Suspect," Mirren played Det. Supt. Jane Tennison. Alfred Tennyson wrote "Idylls of the King," based on Arthurian legend.

Tina 12:30 PM  

Whatever you call it, this was the first Sunday puzzle in almost as long as I can remember that was very little fun. I think there were several 'unfair' crosses, besides kombu/keith (and ics - what was with that plural?)and latria/yeans. Aoley/isao/leonora, Darias/Lan were two. Also, the strange use of nub as center. And, for me with my actual NYT in hand, the lack of circles (and this is the way it was meant to be?!) combined with the other theme fill meant I just never figured on the rebus, and had several other problem areas! Yes, I like a challenge, but not of this sort. Arthurian theme was fine, just not the tricks!
Altogether, this week I preferred Saturday.

Madfoot 6:36 PM  

There's the Daria in the Cake song, Mr. Parker of the vicious circles.

Anonymous 10:06 PM  

Rex you are right, NANS is not the plural of NAN. The only way the bread is referred to is NAN (which is both singular and plural in Hindi)

Steve 12:25 PM  

Agree that the puzzle would have been easier if the sirs had been circled, but it still would have been the hardest in this novice's limited experience. One quibble: who's this Yasir Arafat? I've only heard of Yasser Arafat.

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